« הקודםהמשך »
wikeness between God and us. We see ourselves most opposite to Him; and that our inmost soul is entirely corrupted, depravedl, and full of all kind of evil aud malignity, of the world and the flesh, and all sorts of abominations.”-From hence it has been inferred, that the knowledge of ourselves, without which we should perish everlastingly, must, eren after we have attained justifying faith, occasion the decpest leavincss.
9. But upon this I would observe, (1.) In the preceding paragrapin, this writer says, “ Hearing I had not a true faith iu Christ, lettered myself up to God, and immediately felt his love.” It mar be so; and yet it does not appear that this was justification. It is mire probable, it was no more than what are lisually termed, the “ drawings of the Father.” And if so, the heaviness and darkuess which followed, was no other than conviction of sin, which, in the nature of things, must precede that faith whereby veare justified. (2.) Suppose she was justified almost the same moment she was convinced of wauting faitli, there was then no time for that gradually-jacreasing sell-knowledge which uses to precede justification: In this case, therefore, it came after, and was probably the prore serere, the less it was expected. (3.) It is allowed, there will be a far deeper, a far clearer and fuller knowledge of our iubred sin, of our total corruption by nature, after justification, than ever there was before it. But this nced not occasion darkuess of soul: I will not say, that it must bring us into heaviness. Here it so, the Apostle would not have used that expression, if necil be; for there would be au absolute, indispensable need of it, for all that would know theniselves; that is, in effect, for all that would know the perfect love of God, and be thereby “made meci to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” But this is by no means the case. On the contrary, Gumay increase the knowledge of ourselves to any degree, and increase, in the same proportion, the knowledge of himself and the experience of bis love. And in this case there would be no “ desert, no misery, no forlorn condition ; ” but love, and peal'l', and joy, gradually springing up into everlasting life.
IV. ). For what Euda tben, (which was the Fourth thing to be considered,) does God permit heaviness to befall so many of bis children? The apostle gives us a plain and direct answer to this important question : “ That the trial of their Pith, which is much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the Revelation of Jesus Christ.”. (Ver. 7.) There may be an allusion to this, in that well-known passage of the fourth chapter : (although it primarily relates to quite another thing, as has been already observed :) “Tbink it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you: but rejoice that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may likewise rejoice with exceeding great joy.” (Ver. 12, &c.)
2. Hence we learn, that the first and great end of God's permitting the temptations which bring heaviness on bis children, is the Trial of their Faith, which is tried by these, even as gold by the fire. Now we know, gold tried in the fire is purified thereby; is separated from its dross. And so is faith in the fire of temptation; the more it is tried, tha more it is purified ;-yea, and not only purified, but also strengthened, confirmed, increased abundantly, by so many more proofs of the wisdom and power, the love and faithfulness of God. This, then,-to increase our faith,-is one gracious end of God's permitting those manifold temptations.
3. They serve to try, to purify, to confirm, and increase that Jiving Hope also, whereunto “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath begotten is again of his abundant mercy." Indeed our hope cannot but increase, in the same proportion with our faith. On this foundation it stands : believing in his name, living by faith in the Son of God, we hope for, we have a confident expectation of, the glory which shall be revealed ; and, consequently, whatever strengthens our faith, increases our hope also. At the same time it increases our Joy in the Lord, which cannot but attend an hope full of imınortality. In this view the Apostle exhorts believers in the other chapter;" “ Rejoice, that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ." On this very account, “ happy are you ; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon yon:” And hereby ye are enabled, even in the midst of sufferings, to “ rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory."
4. They rejoice the more, because the trials, which increase their faith and hope, increase their Love also; both their gratitude to God for all his mercies, and their good will to all mankind. Accordingly, the more deeply sensible they are of the lovingkindness of God their Saviour, the more is their heart inflamed with love to Him who“ first loved <s.” The clearer and stronger evidence they have of the glory that shall be
revealed, the more do they love Him who hath purchased it for them, and “given them the earnest (thereof] in their hearts.” And this, the increase of their love, is another end of the temptations permitted to come upon them
5. Yet another is, their advance in Holiness; holiness of heart, and holiness of conversation ;-the latter naturally resulting from the former; for a good tree will bring forth good fruit. And all inward holiness is the immediate fruit of the faith that worketh by love. By this the blessed Spirit purifies the heart from pride, self-will, passion; from lore of the world, from foolish and hurtful desires, from vile and vain affections. Beside that, sanctified afflictions have, through the grace of God, an immediate and direct tendency to holiness. Through the operation of his Spirit, they humble, more and more, and abase the soul before God. They calm and meeken our turbulent spirit, tame the fierceness of our nature, soften our obstinacy and self-will, crucify us to the world, and bring us to expect all our strength from, and to seek all our happiness in God.
6, And all these terminate in that great end, that our faith hope, love, and holiness, “ may be found [if it doth not yet appear] unto praise, [from God himself,] and honour, (from men and angels,] and glory," assigned by the great Judge, to all that have endured unto the end. And this will be assigned in that awful day to every man, “ according to his works ;” according to the work which God had wrought in his heart, and the outward works which he has wrought for God; and likewise according to what he had suffered: so that all these trials are unspeakable gain. So many ways do these “light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!”
7. Add to this, the advantage which others inay receive, by secing our behaviour vinder affliction). We find by experience, example frequently makes a deeper impression upon us than precept. And what examples have a stronger influence, not only on those who are partakers of like precious faith, bot even on them who have not known God, than that of a soul calm and serene in the midst of storms; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; meekly accepting whatever is the will of God, however grievous it may be to nature; saying, in sickness and pain, “ The cup which my Father bath given me, shall I not drink it ? ”-in loss or want, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!"
V. 1. I am to conclude with some Inferences. And, first, how wide is the difference between Darkness of soul, and Heaviness; which, nevertheless, are so generally confounded with each other, even by experienced Christians! Darkness, or the Wilderness-state, implies a total loss of joy in the Holy Ghost : heaviness does not; in the midst of this we may “ rejoice with joy unspeakable.” They that are in darkness have lost the peace of God: they that are in heaviness have not; so far from it, that at the very time“ peace,” as well as “ grace,” may“ be multiplied ” unto them. In the former, the love of God is waxed cold, if it be not utterly extinguished; in the latter it retains its full force; or, rather, increases daily. In these, faith itself, if not totally lost, is, however, grievously decayed: their evidence and conviction of things not seen, particularly of the pardoning love of God, is not so clear or strong as in time past; and their trust in him is proportionably weakened : Those, thougb they see him not, yet have a clear, unshaken confidence in God, and an abiding evidence of that love, whereby all their sins are blotted out. So that as long as we can distinguish faith from unbelief, hope from despair, peace from war, the love of God from the love of the world, we may infallibly distinguish heaviness from darkness !
2. We may learn from hence, secondly, that there may be need of heaviness, but there can be no need of darkness,
There may be need of our being in “ heaviness for a season," in order to the ends above recited ; at least, in this sense, as it is a natural result of those “ manifold temptations,” which are needful to try and increase our faith, to confirm and enlarge our hope, to purify our heart from all unholy tempers, and to perfect us in love. And, by consequence, they are needful in order to brighten our crown, and add to our eternal weight of glory. But we cannot say, that darkness is needful in order to any of these ends. It is no way conducive to them : the loss of faith, hope, love, is surely neither conducive to holiness, nor to the increase of that reward in heaven, which will be in proportion to our holiness on earth.
3. From the Apostle's manner of speaking we may gather, thirdly, that even beaviness is not always needful. “Now, for a season, if need be:” so it is not needful for all persons ; nor for any person at all times. God is able, he has both power and wisdom, to work, when he pleases, the same work of grace in any soul, by other means. And in some instances, he does so; he causes those, whom it pleaseth him, to go on
from strength to strength, eren till they “perfect holiness in his fear,” with scarce any heaviness at all; as having an absolute power over the heart of man, and moving all the springen of it at his pleasure. But these cases are rare: God generally secs good to try "acceptable men in the furnace of affliction." So that manifold temptations and heaviness, nuore or less, are usually the portion of his dearest children.
4. M'e ought, therefore, lastly, to watch and pray, and u:c our utmost endeavours to avoid falling into darkness. But we need not be solicitous how to avoid, so much as how to improve by heaviness. Our great care should be, so to behare ourselves under it, so to wait upon the Lord therein, that it may fuily apsirer all the design of his love, in permitting it to come upon us; that it may be a means of increasing our faith, of confirming our hope, of perfecting us in all holiness. When cver it comes, let us have an eye to these gracious ends for which it is permitted, and use all diligence, that we may not “make void the counsel of God against ourselves." Let us carnestly work together with him, by the grace which lie is continually giving us, in “purifying ourselves from all pollution, both of flesh and spirit,” and daily growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, till we are received into his crerlasting kingdom!