Page images
PDF
EPUB

not therefore say you have not the Holy Ghost. For the Holy Ghost often works regeneration and holiness before he works any sensible joys. 4. You have some hope of salvation by Christ left in you: you are not yet in utter despair; and is it no comfort to you to think that you have yet any hope, and are not quite past all remedy? It may be your sorrows may so cloud it that you take no notice of it; but I know you cannot have the least hope without some answerable comfort. And may not that comfort be truly the joy of the Holy Ghost ? 5. And for communion with God let me ask you; Have you no recourse to him by prayer in your straits ? Do you not wait at his mouth for the law and direction of your life? Have you received no holy desires, or other graces from him ? Nay, are you sure that you are not a member of Christ, who is one with him? How can you then say you have no communion with him? Can there be communication of prayer and obedience from you; yea, your own self delivered up to Christ; and a communication of any life of grace from God, by Christ and the spirit; and all this without communion ? It cannot be. Many a soul hath most near communion with Christ that knows it not.

Doubt 9. I have not the spirit of prayer : when I should pour out my soul to God, I have neither bold access, nor matter of prayer, nor words.'

Answ. Do you know what the spirit of prayer is? It containeth, 1. Desires of the soul after the things we want, especially Christ and his graces. 2. An addressing ourselves to God with these de sires, that we may have help and relief from him. Have not you both these? Do you not desire Christ and grace, justification and sanctification? Do you not look to God as him who alone is able to supply your wants, and bids you ask that you may receive ? Do you utterly despair of help, and so seek to none? Or do you make your addresses by prayer to any but God? But perhaps you look at words and matter to dilate

upon,

that

you may be able to hold out in a long speech to God, and you think that it is the effect of the spirit of prayer. But where do you find that in God's word? I confess that in many, and most, the Spirit which helpeth to desires, doth also help to some kind of expressions ; because if

[ocr errors]

a man be of able natural parts, and have a tongue to express his own mind, the promoting of holy desires will help men to expressions. For a full soul is hardly hindered from venting itself: and experience teacheth us, that the Spirit's inflaming the heart with holy affections, doth very much furnish both the invention and expression. But this is but accidental and uncertain; for those that are either men of unready tongues, or that are so ill bred among the rude vulgar, that they want fit expressions of their own minds, or that are of over-bashful dispositions, or especially that are of small knowledge, and of little and short acquaintance with those that should teach them to pray by their example, or that have been but of short standing in the school of Christ,-such a man may have the spirit of prayer many a year, and never be able, in full expressions of his own, to make known his wants to God; no, nor in good and tolerable sense and language, before others to speak to God, from his own invention. A man may know all those articles of the faith that are of flat necessity to salvation, and yet not be able to find matter or words for the opening of his heart to God at length. I would advise such to frequent the company of those that can teach and help them in prayer, and neglect not to use the smallest parts they have, especially in secret, between God and their own souls, where they need not, so much as in public, to be regardful of expressions; and in the mean time to learn a prayer from some book, that may most fitly express their necessities; or to use the book itself in prayer, if they distrust their memories, not resolving to stick here, and make it a means of indulging their laziness and negligence, much less to reproach and deride those that express their desires to God from the present sense of their own wants (as some wickedly do deride such ;) but to use this lawful help till they are able to do better without it than with it, and then to lay it by, and not before. The Holy Ghost is said (Rom. viii. 16.) to help our infirmities in prayer ; but how? 1. By teaching us what to pray for ; not always what matter or words to enlarge ourselves by ; but what necessary graces to pray for. 2. By giving us sighs and groans inexpressible, which is far from giving copious expressions ; for groans and sighs be not words, and if they be groans that we cannot express, it would rather seem to intimate a want of expression,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

than a constant abounding therein, where the Spirit doth assist ; though indeed the meaning is, that the groans are so deep, that they are past the expression of our words: all our speech cannot express that deep sense that is in our hearts. For the understanding hath the advantage of the affections herein ; all the thoughts of the mind may be expressed to others, but the feelings and fervent passions of the soul can be but very defectively expressed.

Lastly, All have not the spirit of prayer in like measure ; nor all that have it in a great measure at one time, can find it so at pleasure. Desires rise and fall, and these earnest groans.be not in every prayer where the Holy Ghost doth assist. I believe there is never a prayer that ever a believer did put up to God for things lawful and useful, but it was put up by the help of the Spirit. For the weakest prayer hath some degree of good desire in it, and addresses to God with an endeavor to express them; and these can come from none but only from the Spirit. Mere words without desires, are no more prayer, than a suit of apparel hanged on a stake, is a man. You may have the spirit of prayer, and yet have it in a very weak degree.

Yet still I would encourage you to bewail your defect herein as your sin, and seek earnestly the supply of your wants ; but what is that to the questioning or denying your sincerity, or right to salvation?

Doubt 10. “I have no gifts to make me useful to myself or others.

When I should profit by the word I cannot remember it: when I should reprove a sinner, or instruct the ignorant, I have not words: if I were called to give an account of my faith, I have not words to express that which is in my mind : and what

grace can here be then?

Answ. This needs no long answer. Lament and amend those sins by which you have been disabled. But know, that these gifts depend more on nature, art, industry and common grace, than upon special saving grace. Many a bad man is excellent in all these, and many a one that is truly godly is defective. Where hath God laid our salvation upon the strength of our memories, the readiness of our tongues, or measure of the like gifts? That were almost as if he should have made a law, that all shall be saved that

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

have sound complexions, and healthful and youthful bodies; and all be damned that are sickly, aged, weak, children, and most women.

Doubt. 11. 'O but I have been a grievous sinner, before I came home, and have fallen foully since, and I am utterly unworthy of mercy! Will the Lord ever save such an unworthy wretch as I? Will he ever.give his mercy and the blood of his Son, to one that bath so abused it?"

Answ. 1. The question is not, with God, what you have been, but what you are? God takes men as they then are, and not as they were. 2. It is a dangerous thing to object the greatness of your guilt against God's mercy and Christ's merits. Do you think Christ's satisfaction is not sufficient? Or that he died for small sins and not for great? Do you not know that he hath made satisfaction for all, and will pardon all, and hath given out the pardon of all in his covenant, and that to all men, on condition they will accept Christ to pardon and heal them in his own way? Hath God made it his great design in the work of man's redemption, to make his love and mercy as honorable and wonderful, as he did his power in the work of creation ? And will you after all this, oppose the greatness of your sins against the greatness of this mercy and satisfaction? Why, you may as well think yourself to be such a 'one, that God could not or did not make you, as to think your sins so great, that Christ could not or did not satisfy for them, will not pardon them, if you repent and believe in him. 3. And for worthiness, I pray you observe ; there is a two-fold worthi

I ness and righteousness. There is a legal worthiness and righteousness, which consisteth in a perfect obedience, which is the performance of the conditions of the law of pure nature and works. This no man hath but Christ; and if you look after this righteousness or worthiness in yourself, then do you depart from Christ, and make him to have died and satisfied in vain : you are a Jew and not a Christian, and are one of those that Paul so much disputeth against, that would be justified by the law. Nay, you must not so much as once imagine that all your own works can be any part of this legal righteousness or worthiness to you. Only Christ's satisfaction and merit is instead of this our legal righteousness and worthiness.

or

God never gave Christ and mercy to any but the unworthy in this sense. If you know not yourself to be unworthy and unrighteous in the sense of the law of works, you cannot know what Christ's righteousness is. Did Christ come to save any but sinners, and such as were lost? What need you a Savior, if you were not condemned? And how come you to be condemned, if you were not unrighteous and unworthy? But then, 2. There is an evangelical personal worthiness and righteousness, which is the condition on which God bestows Christ's righteousness upon us; and this all have that will be saved by Christ. But what is that? Why, it bath two parts : i. The condition and worthiness required to your union with Christ, and pardon of all your sins past, and your adoption and justification ; it is no more but your hearty and thankful acceptance of the gift that is freely given you of God by his covenant grant; that is, Christ and life in him; 1 John v. 10–12. There is no worthiness required in you before faith, as a condition on which God will give you faith ; but only certain means you are appointed to use for the obtaining it: and faith itself is but the acceptance of a free gift. God requireth you not to bring any other worthiness or price in your hands, but that you consent unfeignedly to have Christ as he is offered, and to the ends and uses that he is offered ; that is, as one that hath satisfied for you by his blood and merits, to put away your sins, and as one that must illuminate and teach you, sanctify, and guide, and govern you by his word and Spirit; and as King and Judge will fully and finally justify you at the day of judgment, and give you the crown of glory. Christ on his part, 1. Hath merited your pardon by his satisfaction, and not properly by his sanctifying you. 2. And sanctifieth you by his Spirit, and ruleth you by his laws, and not directly by his bloodshed. 3. And he will justify you at judgment as King and Judge, and not as Satisfier or Sanctifier. But the condition on your part, of obtaining interest in Christ and his benefits, is that one faith which accepteth him in all these respects (both as King, Priest and Teacher) and to all these ends conjunctly. But then, ii. The condition and worthiness required to the continuation and consummation of your pardon, justification, and right to glory, is both the continuance of your faith, and your sincere

a

« PreviousContinue »