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his unbelief, his cowardice, his murmuring, and his omission of prayer, reading, speaking, and hearing the word, all stared him in the face. The Lord will not be neglected nor slighted without giving us his sensible disapprobation thereof. The Lord's look upon Peter conveyed both reproof and pity, and Peter felt both when he wept bitterly.
But, notwithstanding all the faults of poor Prodigalis, the blessed Saviour visited him again with his great salvation, and sealed pardon and peace home on his heart afresh, to let him know that peace should be multiplied; which so established his faith in the unchangeable love of God, that he was ready to say in this his prosperity, “My mountain stands so strong I shall never be moved.” Satan now disappeared, and Prodigalis went on again in the work and worship of the Lord; and, if possible, he shone brighter, was more humble and more useful in it than usual. It was with Prodigalis, in a measure, as it was with his Master: “After Satan had ended all the temptations, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit;” and so did he: for he brought many comfortable discourses out of this fiery trial; and was more capable of sympathizing with and succouring the tempted, than ever he had been before.
Ahimaaz. Of all fathers, and of all friends, of all parental and conjugal affections, there is none that bears the least resemblance to that love and pity that flows to penitent sinners from the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort through Jesus Christ. It is so affecting to me that I never can feel it without the deepest contrition; nor can I even hear of the manifestation of it to others without finding my head furnished with water, and mine eyes a fountain of tears. God the Father's love, and the sufferings of Jesus Christ to procure so great salvation for the greatest of sinners, when applied by the Holy Ghost, strikes a man dead to sin, and to all the world. A soul in spiritual union with the Saviour, and favoured with a believing view of the benefits of his death, with a feeling sense of his interest in it, and with the enjoyment of pardon and peace procured by it, receives so deep an impression of divinity, and feels so weighty a sensation, that, if it were to continue, it would be impossible for an human soul in this life to sustain it. The soul dissolves in it as an ointment; all company is burdensome; and the body would be so neglected, that it would not be able to contain its heavenly inhabitant. Hence it is that we so often feel strong conflicts before we receive these kind indulgences; and have them generally counterbalanced with some succeeding affliction, which is to keep the soul in an even scale, it being part earthly and part heavenly. And it may be observed that the draft is daily felt in one or other of these balances.
Go on, my brother. – You must excuse my breaking in upon you; for, when any part of the narrative of Prodigalis agrees with my own experience of the Saviour's great mercy to me, my
yearn, and my heart is ready to burst; I am obliged therefore to imitate Elihu," speak, that I may be eased.”
Cushi. Why Prodigalis after this, went on in a very comfortable and successful way; and for a considerable time seemed well established, and was eminently useful; and, as he was remarkably fond of study and private retirement; he kept up a close com
munion with his God; and, being of an heavenly mind, his pleasing element was divine meditation: these, with the deep experience of his heart, furnished him, both with word and power for the ministerial work, better than all the universities and academies in the world. A graceless collegian understood no more of his celestial oratory than Prodigalis did of Arabic.
In process of time it happened that various errors began to spread and gain ground in those parts where his ministerial work lay; and, as Prodigalis had not been suffered to stumble into any of those errors, he was at a loss for argument to oppose them. Several of the false ambassadors challenged and often disputed with Prodigalis: you know there are none more daring, more confident, or more bold, than those that are hardened under the gospel, and blinded by the devil. In order to furnish himself with weapons for these champions, Prodigalis took to reading several books of their tenets, that he might dive into their errors, and overthrow their arguments. This dry, barren, and soul-destroying study, soon brought Prodigalis from his heavenly-mindedness; and the sweet refreshing dew that used daily to fall on his soul was sensibly withheld. These books brought an heavy gloom on his mind, which beclouded his understanding; and some of their subtle, cunning, artful, crafty, and sophistical, arguments at times puzzled his judgment, though his heart and soul heaved with indignation against the whole of their works.
Now was the time for Satan to work again; and, as Prodigalis had been somewhat lifted up through the abundance of the revelations, some of these errors were as thorns in his flesh; and as messengers of Satan
they buffeted him (which God permitted), lest he should be exalted above measure, 2 Cor. xii. 7. The devil set in with many of those errors, and gained a second advantage over him, until by buffeting his mind, by suggesting these errors perpetually to him, he sensibly wounded Prodigalis in his judgment, filled his soul with confusion, and kept truth and falsehood in a perpetual debate on his mind. This withered all his joys, banished peace and comfort from his heart, and left him to bemoan a sensible suspension of spiritual life and divine consolation.
Ahimaaz. O how dangerous are erroneous books ! What havoc have they made in the church of Christ! They are nets which the Lord permits the infernal fowler to spread, in order to catch hypocrites, who receive not the truth in the love of it, and to humble some of his own children, who, instead of trusting in the Lord with all their hearts, lean too much to their own understanding
Prodigalis had no business to fish in any such waters, but to dive deeper and deeper into the mystery and spirit of God's truth; truth being sufficient both for shield and buckler. Let a man arm himself with this, and through grace he will be able to stand and withstand. Nothing overthrows error like plain and simple truth, brought from God by prayer; and the knowledge, the experience, and the practice of it, insisted on by the power of the Holy Ghost. These things, delivered by one who has an experience of them, attended with a solemn appeal to God and conscience, carry all before them, except the presumptuous, whom God in just judgment, and to their own destruction, permits, like Jannes and Jambres, imperiously to stand their ground.
For my part, I hate to see a young Christian trying the strength of his judgment by an erroneous book or an erroneous ministry. I always think it is a daring presumptuous tempting of God, and provoking of him to leave us exposed to the temptations of the devil, as a proof of his disapprobation, and a just reproof for our presumption. “All that ever came before me," saith the Saviour, “ were thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them," John X. 8. And many such thieves and robbers are yet to come; but we are commanded not to follow them: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many," Matt. xxiv. 4, 5. “ And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many,” Matt. xxiv. 11. “Go not after them, nor follow them,” Luke xvii. 23. Take heed how ye hear. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees, which is hypocrisy." All these are warnings and cautions that we should not tempt God. He commands us to “ beware of dogs,” Phil. iii. 2; and not to be so fond of taking them by the ears, Prov. xxvi. 17.
The Lord grant that I may ever exercise my mind in the knowledge of good, and not stay the mysteries of sóspiritual wickedness," Eph. vi. 12. Adam and Eve were happy while they knew only good; but, when they attained to the knowlege of evil, they soon found the knowledge of evil got, and of good lost,' as saith the learned Milton: and so many happy souls have found it since, by diving into the infernal mysteries of ghostly iniquity: “ It is life eternal to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent;" while on
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