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she was not an Israelitess, unto whom he was sent; yet she gives not over, but pressing into his presence, cries out for mercy; ver. 25. being come to that issue, to try and draw out her faith to the utmost, which was his design from the beginning, he reckons her among dogs, that were not to have children's bread given unto them. Had she now at last given over upon this severe rebuke, she had never obtained mercy; but persisting in her request, she at last prevailed, ver. 27, 28. It may be you have prayed, and cried, and resolved, and vowed, but all without success as you suppose; sin hath broken through all: however, if you give not over, you shall prevail at last; you know not at what time God will come in with his grace, and Christ will manifest his love unto you as unto the poor woman, after many a rebuke. It may be after all he will do it this day, and if not, he may do it another, do not despond. Take that word of Christ himself for your encouragement, Prov. viii. 34. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.' If you hear him, and wait, though you have not yet admission, but are kept at the gates and posts of the doors, yet in the issue you shall be blessed.
3. The rule in this case is, Hos. vi. 3. 'Then shall we know, if we follow on to know.' Are you in the way of knowing Christ in the use of means, hearing the word, and sincere endeavours in holy duties; though you cannot yet attain unto any evidence that you have received him, have closed with him, nothing can ruin you but giving over the way wherein you are; for then shall you know, if you follow on to know the Lord. Many can give you their experiences, that if they had been discouraged by present overwhelming difficulties, arising from their disappointments, breaking of vows, relapses into folly, they had been utterly ruined, whereas now they are at rest and peace in the bosom of Christ. On a great surprisal Christ lost at once many disciples, and they lost their souls, John vi. 66. 'They went back, and walked no more with him;' take heed of the like discouragements.
Thirdly, Some may say, yea, practically they do say, that these things indeed are necessary; they must come to Christ by believing, or they are undone; but this is not the season
of it; there will be time enough to apply themselves unto it when other occasions are past. At present they have not leisure to enter upon, and go through with, this duty: wherefore they will abide in their present state for awhile, hearing and doing many things, and when time serves, will apply themselves unto this duty also.
1. This is an uncontrollable evidence of that sottishness and folly which is come upon our nature by sin. A depravation that the apostle places in the head of the evils of corrupted nature, Tit. iii. 3. Can any thing be more foolish, sottish, and stupid, than for men to put off the consideration of the eternal concernment of their souls for one hour, being altogether uncertain whether they shall live another or no? to prefer present trifles before the blessedness or misery of an immortal state? For those who never heard of these things, who never had any conviction of sin and judgment, to put the evil day far from them, is not much to be admired; but for you who have Christ preached unto you, who own a necessity of coming unto him, to put it off from day to day upon such slight pretences, it is an astonishable folly. May you not be spoken unto in the language of the wisdom of God; Prov. vi. 9-11. You come to hear the word, and when you go away, the language of your hearts is; 'Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep;' we will abide a little while in our present state, and afterward we will rouse up ourselves. Under this deceit do multitudes perish every day. This is a dark shade, wherein cursed unbelief lies hid.
2. Consider that this is the greatest engine that Satan makes use of in the world among them that hear the word preached unto them, for the ruin of their souls. He hath other arts and ways, and methods of dealing with other men, as by sensual and worldly lusts; but as unto them who through their convictions do attend unto the preaching of the word, this is his great and almost only engine for their ruin. There needs no haste in this matter, another time will be more seasonable, you may be sure not to fail of it before you die; however, this present day and time is most unfit for it, you have other things to do, you cannot part with your present frame, you may come again to hear the word the next opportunity. Know assuredly, if your minds
are influenced unto delays of coming to Christ by such insinuations, you are under the power of Satan, and he is like enough to hold you fast unto destruction.
3. This is as evil and dangerous a posture, or frame of mind, as you can well fall under. If you have learned to put off God, and Christ, and the word for the present season, and yet relieve yourselves in this, that you do not intend, like others, always to reject them, but will have a time to hearken to their calls; you are secured and fortified against all convictions and persuasions, all fears; one answer will serve for all; within a little while you will do all that can be required of you. This is that which ruins the souls of multitudes every day. It is better dealing with men openly profligate, than with such a trifling promiser. See Isa. v. 7. 10.
4. Remember that the Scripture confines you unto the present day, without the least intimation that you shall have either another day, or another tender of grace and mercy in any day; 2 Cor. vi. 2. Heb. iii. 7. 13. xii. 15. Take care lest you come short of the grace of God, miss of it by missing your opportunity. Redeem the time, or you are lost for
5. As unto the pretence of your occasions and business, there is a ready way to disappoint the craft of Satan in that pretence, namely, to mix thoughts of Christ, and the renovation of your resolutions, either to come or to cleave unto him with all your occasions. Let nothing put it utterly out of your minds; make it familiar unto you, and you will beat Satan out of that strong hold; Prov. vii. 4. However, shake yourselves out of this dust, or destruction lies at the door.
Fourthly, It is the language of the hearts of some, that if they give up themselves unto a compliance with this exhortation, and go seriously about this duty, they must relinquish and renounce all their lusts and pleasures; yea, much of their converse and society, wherein they find so much present satisfaction, as that they know not how to part with them. If they might retain their old ways, at least some of them, it were another matter, but this total relinquishment of all is very severe.
Ans. 1. The Jesuits preaching and painting of Christ among some of the Indians, concealed from them his cross and sufferings, telling them only of his present glory and
power; so as they pretended to win them over to faith in him, hiding from them that whereby they might be discouraged; and so preached a false Christ unto them, one of their own framing. We dare do no such thing for all the world; we can here use no condescension, no compliance, no composition with respect unto any sin or lust; we have no commission to grant that request of Lot, Is it not a little one? let it be spared; nor to come to Naaman's terms, God be merciful to me in this thing; in all others I will be obedient.' Wherefore,
2. We must here be peremptory with you, whatever be the event; if you are discouraged by it, we cannot help it. Cursed be the man that shall encourage you to come to Christ, with hopes of indulgence unto any one sin whatever. I speak not this, as though you could at once absolutely and perfectly leave all sin in the root and branches of it; but only you are to do it in heart and resolution, engaging into a universal mortification of all sin, as by grace from above you shall be enabled; but your choice must be absolute, without reserves, as to love, interest, and design; God or the world, Christ or Belial, holiness or sin; there is no medium, no terms of composition; 2 Cor. vi. 15-18.
As unto what you pretend of your pleasures, the truth is, you never yet had any real pleasure, nor do know what it is; how easy were it to declare the folly, vanity, bitterness, poison of those things which you have esteemed your pleasures. Here alone, namely, in Christ, and a participation of him, are true pleasures, and durable riches to be obtained; pleasure of the same nature with, and such as like pleasant streams flow down into, the ocean of eternal pleasures above. A few moments in these joys are to be preferred above the longest continuance in the cursed pleasures of this world. See Prov. iii. 13—18.
Fifthly, It will be said by some, that they do not see those who profess themselves to be believers, to be so much better than they are, as that you need to press us so earnestly to so great a change; we know not why we should not be accounted believers already, as well as they. I shall in a few words, as well as I am able, lay this stumbling-block out of the way, though I confess at this day it is weighty and cumbersome. And I say,
1. Among them that profess themselves to be believers, there are many false, corrupt hypocrites; and it is no wonder that on various occasions they lay the stumbling-block of their iniquities before the faces of others; but they shall bear their own burden and judgment.
2. It is acknowledged, it must be bewailed, that some whom we have reason to judge to be true believers, yet through their unmortified pride, or covetousness, or carelessness in their conversation, or vain attire and conformity to the world, or forwardness, do give just occasion of offence. We confess that God is displeased herewith, Christ and the gospel dishonoured, and many that are weak are wounded, and others discouraged. But as for you, this is not your rule; this is not proposed unto you, but that word only is so that will never fail you.
3. The world doth not know, nor is able to make a right judgment of believers; nor do you so, for it is the spiritual man alone that discerneth the things of God. Their infirmities are visible to all, their graces invisible; the king's daughter is glorious within. And when you are able to make a right judgment of them, you will desire no greater advancement than to be of their society; Psal. xvi. 3.
These few instances of the pretences wherewith unbelief covers its deformity, and hides that destruction wherewith it is accompanied, may suffice unto our present purpose; they are multiplied in the minds of men, impregnated by the suggestions of Satan on their darkness and folly. A little spiritual wisdom will rend the veil of them all, and expose unbelief acting in enmity against Christ under them. But what hath been spoken may suffice to answer the necessity of the preceding exhortation on this occasion.