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to a more experimental manner of preaching, as well as in many instances discover those, before unknown, tokens of success which may strengthen their hands in the work of their great Master.
It is by frequent conversations of this kind, that I have learnt many of the particulars on which I have grounded the preceding discourse. I hope therefore you will excuse me, if on so natural an occasion I have borne my public testimony to what has been so edifying to me, both as a minister and a christian. And the tender regard which I have for young persons training up for the work of the ministry, and my ardent desire that they may learn the language of Sion, and have “ those peculiar advantages which nothing but an acquaintance with cases, and an observation on facts can give," has been a farther inducement to me to add this reflection, with which I conclude my discourse ; humbly hoping that what you have heard upon this occasion will, by divine blessing, furnish out agreeable matter for such conversation as I have now recommended, to the glory of God, and to the advancement of religion among SERMON IX.
Directions to awakened Sinners.
Acts ix. 6.—And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what wilt thou
have me to do? THESE are the words of Saul, who also is called Paul*, when he was stricken to the ground as he was going to Damascus: And any one who had looked upon him in his present circumstances, and known nothing inore of him than that view, in comparison with his past life, could have given, would have imagined him one of the most miserable creatures that ever lived upon earth, and would have expected that he should very soon have been numbered amongst the most miserable of those in hell. He was engaged in a course of such savage cruelty, as can, upon no principle of common morality, be vindicated, even though the Christians had been as much mistaken, as he rashly and foolishly concluded they were. After having dragged Many of them into prison, and given his voice against some that were put to death, he persecuted others into strange cities; and had now obtained a commission from the Sanhedrim at Je. rusalem to carry this holy, or rather this impious war into Damascust, and to bring all the proselytes to the religion of the blessed Jesus, Bound from thence to Jerusalemi; probably that they might there be animadverted upon with greater severity than could safely have been attempted by the Jews in so distant a city, under a foreign governor.
But, behold, as he was in the way, Jesus interposes, cloathed with a lustre exceeding that of the sun at noon §. He strikes him down from the beast on which he rode, and lays him prostrate on The ground, calling to him with a voice far more dreadful than that of thunder, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me||?
Any one would have imagined, from the circumstances in which he now beheld Saul, that divine vengeance had already
* Acts xiii. 9.
Acts xxvi. 13.
Acts ix. 2.
+ Acts xxvi. 10-12.
begun to seize him, and that full execution would quickly have been done. But God's Ways are not as our ways, nor are his thoughts as our thoughts*. Christ laid him almost as low as hell, that he might raise him as high as the third heaven t; of which he afterwards gave him a view in vision, to anticipate his reception into it. This day of his terror and astonishment was, in a nobler sense than any other, the day of his birth ; for he is brought to bow himself at the foot of an injured Saviour, to offer him as it were a blank upon which to write his own terms of peace; and as soon as he heard that this glorious person was Jesus, whom, in his members he had so long persecuted, he makes his submission in these lively comprehensive words, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?- - This was not a time for a long speech; but he that discerns all the secret recesses of the spirit, knew these few words were full of a most important meaning, and expressed not only a grief of heart for all that he had before been doing against Christ and his kingdom, but the sincerest resolution for the future to employ himself in his service, waiting only the intimations of his wise and gracious will, as to the most proper and acceptable manner of beginning the attempt.
There is, methinks, a poignant kind of eloquence in this short expression, far beyond what any paraphrase upon it can give: And our compassionate Lord accepted this surrender. All his former rebellions were no more remembered against him; and before he rose from the ground to which he fell, on so terrible an occasion, Christ gave him an intimation, not only that his forfeited life should be spared, so that he should get safe into the city to which he was bound, but that he should there be instructed in that service which Jesus, whom he had persecuted, would now condescend to receive at his hands.
I represent the case thus largely, because I hope it is a case which in some measure suits the experience of some that hear me this evening. Paul tells us, it was For this reason, among others, that he himself obtained mercy, though he was the chief of sinners, that in him, as the chief, Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should afterwards believet.
Is there, then, in this assembly, any awakened and convinced sinner; any one that, apprised of his folly, and sensible of his misery, is desirous to fall at the foot of Christ, and say with Saul, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? That which I see not, teach thou me ; and wherein I have done iniquity I will do so no more*!—To such would I now especially address : And while I put the question, is there any such among us? I would fain persuade myself, there are several : For I humbly hope, that all the labours that have been bestowed in the preceding discourses are not in vain, nor all the prayers that have been offered for their success in vain ; prayers,
* Isa. lv, S.
+ 2 Cor. xii. 2.
1 Tim. i. 15, 16.
which I doubt not have been carried by many of you into your fami. lies and your closets, as well as jointly presented to God in this public assembly. Trusting therefore that it is thus with some, and praying that it may be a more frequent case, I proceed,
Sixthly, to give some directions to such, who are awakened by divine grace to a sense of their misery in an unregenerate state, and are brought to desire recovery from it.
To such I propose to give directions : And to what purpose would it be to undertake to offer them to any others? Who would pretend to teach those who are unconcerned about their salvation, what methods they are to take in order to their becoming truly regenerate ? This, methinks, would be like giving directions how those might learn to write who do not desire it, and will not take a pen into their hands. All I could say to such, while they continue in this character, would vanish into empty air : It would not, probably, be so much as observed and remembered. I speak therefore to awakened souls, and to such it is pleasant to address on this head. Ananias undoubtedly undertook this message to Saul with cheerfulness, to tell him what Christ would have him to do : And I would with pleasure and cheerfulness engage in the like work; humbly hoping that some will hear with observation and attention, will hear for themselves, and so Hear for their goodt. And to this purpose let me advise you,-to attend to the impressions that have been made upon you with great seriousness,—to break off every thing that is contrary to them,—to seek for further knowledge in religious matters,—to pour out your souls before God in earnest prayer, -to communicate the state of your case to some experienced christian,—to acquaint yourselves with such as are much in your own circumstances,-to fly immediately to Christ, as ready to receive all that come to him, -to dedicate yourselves to him, and to his service, in the most solenın manner,—to arm yourselves to encounter with the greatest difficulties in your christian
* Job xxxiv, 32.
+ Job v. 27.
course,—and finally, to take every step in this attempt with a deep sense of your own weakness, and a humble dependance upon
divine grace to be communicated to you as the matter requires.— These are the several directions I would offer to you: And may they be impressed in such a manner on your souls, that none of you may Lose the things that have been wrought *; but by the effectual Working of the mighty power of Godt, such as he graciously has been pleased to Bring to the birth, may be brought forths, and such as are awakened may be savingly renewed ! 1. I would advise you to attend to the impressions made upon
you with great seriousness.”
They may perhaps take you a little off the world, and its concernments; and some will blame you for suffering such an interruption : But regard not that censure. The time will come, if you pursue these things aright, when renewed diligence, prudence, and the divine blessing, will amply make amends for any present hindrance which these impressions may occasion. And if it should be otherwise, were there not a cause? If a man seized with a threatening distemper should choose for a little while to lay aside his usual business, that he might attend to the care of his health, before the symptoms grew incurable, would any body blame him for this? On the contrary, would it not be looked upon as acting a very wise, prudent, and necessary part? Much more may it be said here, It is not a light thing for you, because it is your life g: And if The life is more than meat, and the body than raiment ||, then surely the soul is more to be regarded than either. And therefore what you do in your worldly affairs, do moderately; and do not grudge that retirement which is so necessary in such a tender circumstance as this.-I may apply to you, on this occasion, those words of Solomon ; Through desire a man having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom. If you desire to attain divine wisdom, you must separate yourself from all other things to pursue it. And it is the more necessary to attend to this now, because the tempter may probably contrive to lay some more than ordinary avocation in your way, at a time when the interest of his kingdom requires you should be diverted from prosecuting those views which are presenting themselves to you, and by which you may
* 2 John, ver. 8.
| Deut. xxxii. 47. VOL. II.
+ Ephes. i. 19.
Isa. lxvi. 9.