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light and peace, on account of what was done so long ago, is not (as one might at first imagine) an instance of his severity, but rather a proof of his longsuffering and tender mercy. He waited all this time, if haply we would see, acknowledge, and correct what was amiss; and in default of this, he at length shows his displeasure, if thus, at last, he may bring us to repentance.
(II.] 1. Another general cunse of this darkness, is Ignorance ; which is likewise of various kinds. If men know not the Scriptures, if they imagine there are passages either in the Old or New Testament, which assert that all believers, without exception, must sometimes be in darkness; this ignorance will naturally bring upon them the darkness which they expect. And how common a case has this been among us! How few are there that do not expect it? And no wonder, seeing they are taught to expect it ; sceing their guides lead them into this way. Not only the Mystic writers of the Romish Church, but many of the most spiritual and experimental in our own, (very few of the last century excepted,) lay it down with all assurance, as a plain, unquestionable Scripture doctrine, and cite many texts to prove it.
2. Ignorance also of the work of God in the soul, frequently occasions this darkness. Men imagine, (because so they have been taught, particularly by writers of the Romish Commupion, whose plausible assertions too many Protestants have received without due examination,) that they are not always to walk in luminous faith; that this is only a lower dispensation; that as they rise higher, they are to leave those sensible comforts, and to live by naked fuith; (naked indeed, if it be stripped both of love, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost !) that a state of light and joy is good, but a state of darkness and dryness is better ; that it is by these alone we can be purified from pride, love of the world, and inordinate self-love; and that, therefore, we ought neither to expect nor desire, to walk in the light always. Hence it is, (though other reasons may concur,) that the main body of pious men in the Romish Church generally walk in a dark uncomfortable way, and, if ever they receive, soon lose the light of God
[III.] 1. A third general cause of this darkness, is Temptation. When the candle of the Lord first shines on our head, temptation frequently flees away, and totally disappears. All is calm within ; perhaps without too, while God makes our enemies to be at peace with us. It is then very natural to
supposc, that we shall not sce war any more. And there are instances wherein this calm has Curitibacd, not only for weeks, but for months or years. But commonly it is otherwise : 111 a short time " the winds blow, the rains descend, and the floods arise” anew. They who kino v not either the Son or the Father, and consequently hate his children, when God slackens the bridle which is in their leih, will show that hatred in various instances. As of chl, “me thai was born after the flesh persecuted bim that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now;” the same cause still producing the same effeci. The cvil which yet remains in the heart, will tlieu also niore afresh ; anger, and many other roots of bittern!('45, will endeavour to spring up. At the same time, Satan will not be vanting to cast in iis fiery darts; and the soul will have to wrestle, not only with the work!, noi rely with flesh and blood, big with principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with wicked spirits in high places.” How whicu so various assaults are made at once, and perhaps wich the utmost violence, it is not strange if it should occasion, not only heaviness, but even darkness, in a weak Velierer ;-more especially, if he was not watching; if these assaults are made in an hour when he looked not for them; if he especto lothing less, but had fondly told himseli,—“the day of evil would return no moro.”
2. The force of those temptations which arise from within, will be exceedingly heighicried, if we lictore thought too highly of ourselves, as if we had been cleased from all in. And how naturally do we imagine this, during the warmth of our first love? Liow ready are we to kliere', that God bus “inllilled in us the [whole) rork of faith with power?” That because we feel 10 sin, we have none in us; but the soul is all lore? And well may a sharp attack from an enemy, whom ve supposed to be not only conquerei), but slain, throw us into much licaviless ci soul; yca, sometimes, into utter darkness : particularly which we reuson with this enemy, instead of instantly calling ipon Gold, and casting ourselves upon Him, by simple faits, who "alene knoweth how to deliver [his] out of temptation."
III. These are the usual causes of this second darkness. Inquire we, Thirdly, 11 lat is the Cure of it?
1. To suppose that this is one and the same in all cases, is a Sieat and fatal missiles and pot estremely common, even 2nong many who pass for experienced Christians, yca, per
haps take upon them to be teachers in Israel, to be the guides of other souls. Accordingly they know and use but one medicine, whatever be the cause of the distemper. They begin immediately to apply the promises; to preach the Gospel, as they call it. To give comfort, is the single point at which they aim; in order to which they say many soft and tender things, concerning the love of God to poor, helpless sinners, and the efficacy of the blood of Christ. Now this is quackery indeed, and that of the worst sort, as it tends, if not to kill men's bodies, yet without the peculiar mercy of God, “to destroy both their bodies and souls in hell.” It is hard to speak of these “ daubers with untempered mortar,” these promise· mongers, as they deserve. They well deserve the title, which has been ignorantly given to others : They are spiritual mountebanks. They do, in effect, make “ the blood of the covenant an unholy thing.” They vilely prostitute the promises of God, by thus applying them to all, without distinction. Whereas, indeed, the cure of spiritual, as of bodily diseases, must be as various as are the causes of them. The first thing, therefore, is, to find out the cause ; and this will naturally point out the cure.
2. For instance: Is it Sin which occasions darkness? What sin ? Is it Outward Sin of any kind ? Does your conscience accuse you of committing any sin, whereby you grieve the Holy Spirit of God? Is it on this account, that he is departed from you, and that joy and peace are departed with him? And how can you expect thcy should return), till you put away the accursed thing? “Let the wicked forsake his way;” “cleanse your hands, ye sinners;” “put away the evil of your doings;” so shall your “light break out of obscurity;” the Lord will return and “abundantly pardon.”
3. If upon the closest search, you can find no sin of commission, which causes the cloud upon your soul, inquire next, If there be not some Sin of Omission, which separates between God and you. Do you“ not suffer sin upon your brother ? " Do you reprove them that sin in your sight ? Do you walk in all the ordinances of God? In public, family, private prayer ? If not, if you habitually neglect any one of these known duties, how can you expect that the light of his countenance should continue to sbine upon you ? Make haste to“ strengthen the things that remain ;” then your soul shall live. “ To day, if ye will hear his voice,” by his grace, supply what is lacking. When you hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk thou in it,” harden not your heart; be uo more " dis. obedient to the hearcnly calling.” Till the sin, whether of omission or commission, be removed, all comfort is false and deceitful. Ii is only skinning the wound over, which still festers and rankli's beneath. Look for no peace within, till you are at peace with God; which cannot be without “ fruits meet for repentance."
4. But perhaps you are not conscious of even any sin of omission, which impairs your peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Is there not, then, 5:)me Invard Sill, which, as a root of bitterness, springs up in your heart to trouble you? Is not your dryness, and barreness of soul, occasioned by your heart's "departing from the living God?" llas not “the foot of pride come against" yo!? Have you not thought of yourself “ more highly than you cute!it to think?" Have you not, in any respect, “sacrificed to your own act, and burned incense to your own draer??” Hare you not ascribed your success in any undertaking to your own courage, or strength, or wisdom? Have you uot boasted of something “ you have received, as though you had not received it?" Have you not gloried in any thing, “ save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ ?” Have you not songht after or desired the praise of men ? Have you not taken pleasure in it? If so, you see the way yon are to take. If you have fields oliy pride, « humble yourset urner ile bir bardacord, und be will call you in due time.” Dave not yoki livret him w apart from you, los giving place !0 aniper ? !ure ou noi “fretted yourself becalise of eie pere!" or "licen anvious against the cvil-c!ce ?"
:)??nci been iked at any of your bratrem, lokin at incir (1 comparinasived) sin, so as to sin puissief mainst the great low flo!', bis estranging your lieart from the in?' Te les auto the Lord, that you may reuer !(:r:rcretli; triat all its sharpness and colliness may be done way; that live, and peace, and joy, may return together, and you may be invariably lied to cach other, and solenner heartli', forgiving one another, even as God for Chrisi's sake bath forgiven you.” Have not you given way to any foolish desire? To any kind or degree of inordinate affection? Tlow then can the love of God have place in your heart, till you put away your idols?“ Be not deceived: God is not mocked:” he will not dwell in a divided heart. As lous, therefore, as you cherish a Delilah in your bosom, belias no place there. liin vain so hope for a recovery of his lighi, till ,1 pouch with the right eye, and cast it from you, O let there be no longer delay! Cry to Him, that he may enable you so to dol Bewail your own impotence and helplessness; and, the Lord being your helper, enter in at the strait gate; take the kingdom of heaven by violence! Cast out every idol from his sanctuary, and the glory of the Lord shall soon appear.
5. Perhaps it is this very thing, the want of striving, spiritual Sloth, which keeps your soul in darkness. You dwell at ease in the land; there is no war in your coasts; and so you are quiet and unconcerned. You go on in the same evep track of outward duties, and are content there to abide. And do you wonder, meantime, that your soul is dead ? Ostir yourself up before the Lord! Arise, and shake yourself from the dust; Wrestle with God for the mighty blessing ; pour out your soul uuto God in prayer, and continue therein with all perseverance! Watch! Awake out of sleep; and keep awake!-otherwise there is nothing to be expected, but that you will be alienated more and more from the light and life of God.
6. If, upon the fullest and most impartial examination of yourself, you canuot discern that you at present give way, either to spiritual sloth, or any other inward or outward sin, then call to mind the time that is past. Consider your former tempers, words, and actions. Have these been right before the Lord ? “ Commune with him in your chamber, and be still; ” and desire of him to try the ground of your heart, and bring to your remembrance whatever has at any time offended the eyes of his glory. If the guilt of any unrepented sin remain on your soul, it cannot be but you will remain in darkness, till, having been rencwed by repentance, you are again washed by faith in “the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.”
7. Entirely different will be the manner of the cure, is the cause of the disease be uot sin, but Ignorance. It may be, ignorance of the meaning of Scripture; perhaps occasioned by iguorant Commentators; ignorant, at least, in this respect, however knowing and learned they may be in other particulars, And, in this case, that ignorance must be removed, before we can remove the darknesslarising from it. We must show the true meaning of those texts which have been misunderstood. My design does not permit me to consider all the passages of Scripture which have been pressed into this service. I shall just mention two or three, which are frequently brought to