« PreviousContinue »
baptism; yet, Deut. vi. Ephes. vi. and oft in the Proverbs, you may find, that it is God's strict command, that parents should teach God's word to their children, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; yea, with a prediction or half promise, that if we “train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he shall not depart from it;" Prov. xxii. 6. Now it is certain that God will usually bless that which he appointeth to be the usual means, if it be rightly used. For he hath appointed no means to be used in vain.
I hope therefore by this time you see, that instead of being troubled, that the work was done on your soul by the means of education : 1. You had more reason to be troubled if it had been done first by the public preaching of the word; for it should grieve you at the heart to think, 1. That you lived in an unregenerate state so long, and spent your childhood in vanity and sin, and thought not seriously on God and your salvation, for so many years together. 2. And that you or your parent's sin should provoke God so long to withdraw his Spirit and deny you his grace. 3. You may see also what inconceivable thanks you owe to God, who made education the means of your early change. 1. In that he prevented so many and grievous sins which else you would have been guilty of. (And you may read in David's and Manasseh's case, that even pardoned sins have ofttimes very sad effects left behind them.) 2. That you have enjoyed God's Spirit and love so much longer than else you would have done. 3. That iniquity took not so deep rooting in you, as by custom it would have done. 4. That the devil cannot glory of that service which you did him, as else he might; and that the church is not so much the worse, as else it might have been by the mischief you would have done ; and that you need not all your days look back with so much trouble, as else you must, upon the effects of your ill doing ; nor with Paul, to think of one Stephen; yea, many saints, in whose blood you first embrued your hands; and to cry out, ' I was born out of due time. I am not worthy to be called a Christian, because I persecuted the church of God. I was mad against them, and persecuted them into several cities. I was sometimes foolish, disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures. Would you rather that God had permitted you to do this? 5. And
methinks it should be a comfort to you, that your own father was the instrument of your spiritual good; that he that was the means of your generation, was the means of your regeneration, both because it will be a double comfort to your parents, and because it will endear and engage you to them in a double bond. For my part, I know not what God did secretly in my heart, before I had the use of memory and reason; but the first good that ever I felt on my soul, was from the counsels and teachings of my own father in my childhood; and I take it now for a double mercy, being more glad that he was the instrument to do me good, than if it had been the best preacher in the world. How foul an oversight is it then, that you should be troubled at one of the choicest mercies of your life, yea, that your life was capable of, and for which you owe to God such abundant thanks!
Doubt 4. But my great fear is, that the life of grace is not yet within me, because I am so void of spiritual sense and feeling. Methinks I am in spiritual things as dead as a block, and my heart as hard as a rock, or the nether millstone. Grace is a principle of new life, and life is a principle of sense and motion; it causeth vigour and activity. Such should I have in duty, if I had the life of grace. But I feel the great curse of a dead heart within me.
God seems to withdraw his quickening Spirit, and to forsake me; and to give me up to the hardness of ny heart. If I were in covenant with him, I should feel the blessing of the covenant within me; the hard heart would be taken out of my body, and a heart of flesh, a soft heart would be given to me. But I cannot weep one tear for my sins. I can think on the blood of Christ, and of my bloody sins that caused it, and all will not wring one tear from mine eyes; and therefore, I fear, that my soul is yet destitute of the life of grace.'
Answ. 1. A soft heart consisteth in two things. 1. That the will be persuadable, tractable, and yielding to God, and pliable to his will. 2. That the affections or passions be somewhat moved herewithal about spiritual things. Some degree more or less of the latter, doth concur with the former; but I have told you, that it is the former, wherein the heart and life of grace doth lie, and that the latter is very various, and uncertain to try by. Many do much overlook the Scripture meaning of the word hardheartedness. Mark
it up and down concerning the Israelites, who are so oft charged by Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other
prophets, to be hardhearted, or to harden their hearts, or stiffen their necks; and you will find that the most usual meaning of the Holy Ghost is this, They were an intractable, disobedient, obstinate people; or as the Greek word in the New Testament signifieth, which we often translate unbelieving, they were an unpersuadable people; no saying would serve them. They set light by God's commands, promises, and severest threatenings, and judgments themselves; nothing would move them to forsake their sins, and obey the voice of God. You shall find that hardness of heart is seldom put for want of tears, or a melting, weeping disposition ; and never at all for the want of such tears, where the will is tractable and obedient. I pray you examine yourself then according to this rule. God offereth his love in Christ, and Christ with all his benefits to you. Are you willing to accept them? He commandeth you to worship him, and use his ordinances, and love his people, and others, and to forsake your known iniquities, so far that they may not have dominion over you. Are you willing to this? He commandeth you to take him for your God, and Christ for your Redeemer, and stick to him for better and worse, and never forsake him. Are you willing to do this? If you have a stiff, rebellious heart, and will not accept of Christ and grace, and will rather let go Christ than the world, and will not be persuaded from your known iniquities, but are loath to leave them, and love not to be reformed, and will not set upon those duties as you are able, which God requireth, and you are fully convinced of, then are you hardhearted in the Scripture sense. But if you are glad to have Christ with all your heart, upon the terms that he is offered to you in the Gospel, and you do walk daily in the way of duty as you can, and are willing to pray, and willing to hear and wait on God in his ordinances, and willing to have all God's graces formed within you, and willing to let go your most profitable and sweetest sins, and it is your daily desires, O that I could seek God, and do his will more faithfully, zealously, and pleasingly than I do! O that I were rid of this body of sin! These carnal, corrupt, and worldly inclinations, and that I were as holy as the best of God's saints on earth! And if when it comes to practice, whether you
should obey or no, though some unwillingness to duty, and willingness to sin be in you, you are offended at it, and the greater bent of your will is for God, and it is but the lesser which is towards sin, and therefore the world and flesh do not lead you captive, and you live not wilfully in avoidable sins, nor at all in gross sin. I say, if it be thus w you, then you have the blessing of a soft heart, a heart of flesh, a new heart; for it is a willing, obedient, tractable heart, opposed to obstinacy in sin, which Scripture calleth a soft heart. And then for the passionate part, which consisteth in lively feelings of sin, misery, mercy, &c. and in weeping for sin I shall say but this : 1. Many an unsanctified person hath very much of it, which yet are desperately hardhearted sinners. It dependeth far more on the temper of the body, than of the grace in the soul. Women usually can weep easily (and yet not all), and children, and old men. Some complexions incline to it, and others not. Many can weep at a passion-sermon, or any moving duty, and yet will not be persuaded to obedience; these are hardhearted sinners for all their tears. 2. Many a tender, godly person cannot weep for sin, partly through the temper of their minds, which are more judicious and solid, and less passionate; but mostly from the temper of their bodies, which dispose them not that way. 3. Deepest sorrows seldom cause tears, but deep thoughts of heart; as greatest joys seldom cause laughter, but inward pleasure. I will tell you how you shall know whose heart is truly sorrowful for sin, and tender; he that would be at the greatest cost or pains to be rid of sin, or that he had not sinned. You cannot weep for sin, but you would give all that you have to be rid of sin; you could wish when you dishonoured God by sin, that you had spent that time in suffering rather; and if
: it were to do again on the same terms and inducements, you would not do it; nay, you would live a beggar contentedly, so you might fully please God, and never sin against him, and are content to pinch your flesh, and deny your worldly interest for the time to come, rather than wilfully disobey. This is a truly tender heart. On the other side, another can weep to think of his sin ; and yet if you should ask him, What wouldst thou give, or what wouldst thou suffer, so thou hadst not sinned, or that thou mightest sin no more? Alas, very little. For the next time that he is put to it, he will
rather venture on the sin, than venture on a little loss, or
And now since my nature is decayed, and my body languished in consuming weakness, and my head more moistened, and my veins filled with phlegmatic, watery blood, now I can weep; and I find never the more tenderheartedness in myself than before. And yet to this day so much remains of my old disposition, that I could wring all the money out of my purse, easier than one tear out of my eyes, to save a friend, or rescue them from evil : when I see divers that can weep for a dead friend, that would have been at no great cost to save their lives. 5. Besides, as Dr. Sibbs saith, “There is oft sorrow for sin in us, when it doth not appear; it wanteth but some quickening word to set it a foot. It is the nature of grief to break out into tears most, when sorrow hath some vent, either when we use some expostulating, aggravating terms with ourselves, or when we are opening our hearts and case to a friend; then sorrow will often shew itself that did not before. 6. Yet do I not deny, but that our want of tears, and tender affections, and heartmeltings, are our sins. For my part, I see exceeding cause to bewail it greatly in myself, that my soul is not raised to a higher pitch of tender sensibility of all spiritual things than it is. I doubt not but it should be the matter of our daily confession and complaint to God, that our hearts are so dull and little affected with his sacred truths, and our own sins. But this is the scope of all my speech, Why do not you distinguish between matter of sorrow, and matter of doubting? No question but you should lament your dulness and stupidity, and use all God's means for the quickening of your affections, and