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follow on to know the Lord ? Then we may learn,
(1.) That those who have not yet begun to look and seek after the Lord, they are neither prospering in their fouls, nor are they in the way to it. Hearken, Oye stupid souls, whose hearts within you are this day dead as stones, moving still towards the earth, but having no motion in thèm towards God. Your case is sad, and there is no appearance yet of its growing better; it is dark night with you, and there is no appearance of the morning-light. Your hearts are shut against Christ, and there is no putting in of his hand at the hole of the door ; you have not the smallest prospect of happiness. We may fee,
(2.) That it is no wonder though backsliders have lean souls. How many are there this day, who, comparing their own case with what it ha been formerly, may cry out, as in Ifa, xxiv. 16. « But I said, my leanness, My leanness, woe unto me.” They have lost the delight they sometimes had in God; there is now little or no communication between heaven and them. Whence does this take place? Why, they did not follow on, when they were once set fair off, but went backward. When the wind was fair for Immanuel's fand, they trifled away their time, and were busy here and there about other things; and their fair occasions were loft. - We may see,
(3-) That they are in no prospering case, who are at a stand in religion. There is a generation who think they have got as much grace as will carry them to heaven, and therefore they are not prefsing forward. Paul had more than ever they could pretend to, yet says he, Phil. iii. 12. “ Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may VOL. II.
apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Truly, if you continue thus, it wid be an evidence that you have no grace at all; for, Prov. iv. 18. “ The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”
(4.) You may see how the smallest spark which you now have, may be brought to a great flame. Do but follow on to know the Lord, and then you shall know, you shall make progress; and though your stock be but small, you may come to make that blessed account of it, which is in Luke, xix. 16. “ Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds." Hold your hands to what you have got here, when you are gone from this place, and you will find it will
grow your hands; it will increase in the using.–But here some may propose an
OBJECTION: “I am a fearful backslider, who have wasted my stock which fome time increased with me in that way, and can I think ever to recover it again ? Ans. Return, O prodigal ! there is yet room for thee in thy Father's house. The promise in the text concerns you as well as others. See also Hof. v. 15. and chapter vi. 1. and downwards, where there is great encouragement to returning backsliders. Are you convinced of your folly ? are you touched at the heart with your backsliding ? are your souls moving for a return? as in Jer. xxxi. 18. “ I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou haft chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord God.” Then it may yet be as well with
as ever it was, Joel, ii. 23.---27. Laftly, We may hence see what is the ruin of many communicants, and others who attend upon ordinances. It is not so much that they get no
thing at them, as that they carry nothing away with them; or if they do, they do not hold their hands to it when they are at home. You who think that your work is over when the commu. nion is over, you will make no good account of what
you have been doing. Would you not think him a foolish man, who would employ himself on the meadow sharping his scythe, and then lay it by when he has got it sharped ? Wherefore came you here, but to get a meal for your journey heaven-ward; and if so, then go in the strength of it, go from strength to strength unweariedly, till you appear before God in Zion. I come,
2. To an use of exhortation.
I would exhort you all to follow on, to hold your hands at religion, however small the beginnings of it may be with you; and to prevail with you, I would lay before you the following MoTIVES.
Mot. 1. The way to prosper in religion is, when we find the least moving, to bestir ourselves, and hold our hands to it, as David, 2 Sam. v. 24. 25. We would all take measures for improving our bodies and estates, why not also for improving our souls? I am sure, there are sad symptoms of a fpiritual consumption and decay on the generation in which we live; we have need to use the remedy for ourselves against it. These symptoms are such as the following. The stomach for our spiritual food is gone; ordinances are not prized ; we look generally as if we had got a surfeit of the gospel; farms and merchandise go much nearer people's hearts than opportunities of communion with God, for which they will be loth to lose a day's work; an evidence this that we may have to faft till we find our stomachs again.--Another fymptom is, that professors have generally lost
their colour ; their former beauty is gone. That heavenlinefs, fpirituality, and tenderness, that savour of godliness which was sometimes about them, is also gone; and formality, worldlymindedness, deadness, and lifelessness, have come in their room ; so that we may well say, "O our bones are dried ! Any growth there is, is in pride and self-conceit; like rickety children, a large head, but a poor lean body. Indeed, not a few are even turned the colour of the earth, that their profane neighbours may fay, Behold, the man is become like one of us. It is a day in which God is drawing the veil from off many faces; and all this is drawing on to a national apostasy from the Lord. The alarm is founded already to carry back this church into Egypt. Breaches are made to let in a deluge of superstition, error, and profanenefs. The ruin of this church, and the covenanted work of reformation, is threatened. It is high time we were bestirring ourselves to hold our hands to the truths and ways of the Lord, handed down to us from our fore-fathers, that we may transmit them also to our pofterity, by a faithful adherence to them, over the belly of all opposition, whether from open enemies or professed friends; and for that end, to be following on after the Lord's work in our own souls.
Mot. 2. Follow on, hold your hands to religion, however small a measure of it
you have; for
you shall know, if you follow on to know.
You shall know that a going foot in religion is always getting : Isa. xlv. 19. “ I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.” They who are hanging on about the Lord's hand, will always find some off-fallings. Though they do not soon get the very thing they would be at, they will always get something in the mean time, well worth all the pains. If you be following on for comfort, this may be denied for a while, but you will be ready to get a deeper convi&tion to prepare the way for it; if, for deliverance from temptation, you may, like Paul, get grace to wrestle against, and to overcome it.—Again,
You shall know that religion is a reward to itself: Psal. xix. 11.“ In keeping of them, (thy commandments), there is great reward.” There is a pleasure in attending the very posts of Wisdom's door: Pfal. Ixxxiv. 10. “ For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand : I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” There is a sweet peace in the Lord's way; the strictest ways of religion are a pleasure: Prov. iii. 17.
- Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” There is a great pleasure in seeing the bosom-idol on the cross, sin dying, and grace reviving in the foul.
You shall know, that the more you follow on, it shall be the easier; the more you walk in this way, you will be the more expert : Isa. xl. 31. “ They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as cagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint." That which makes religion fo difficult to us, is our not holding at it, our taking it but by fits and starts. Is it not al. ways the easier to you to seek the Lord, the oftener you are at his throne ?
But omit one occasion, you will find yourselves the less fit for the work.
You shall know, that some difficulties in relia gion, which are like mountains afar off, shall turn to mole-hills, when you resolutely come up to them, God will make iron gates open of their