« AnteriorContinuar »
alone can speak to the heart, and make the outward call effectual. Nothing but the convincing Spirit of God can force a stupid sinner to exclaim, in the anguish of his soul, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy Son.' Neyertheless, it is highly necessary for us to know by what means the Spirit of God usually thus awakes drowsy sinners, that if we have been such, we may humble ourselves for having hardened our hearts against those means to this day, and pay them a due regard for the future.,, I shall therefore, first, consider what they are, and then conclude by exhorting you not to resist or abuse them any more.
Though the ways in which God awakens sinners are very numerous, yet they can be distinguished in general into extraordinary and ordinary ones.
A man may be awakened in an extraordinary way by an unexpected and terrifying sight, as was St. Paul on his journey to Damascus ; by a gracious thought darted into his heart on a sudden, thus was St. Peter stopped in the full career of his sin by a look from Christ, which confounded him, and caused him to retire and weep bitterly; by some extraordinary Providence, as the jailor at Philippi, who, feeling the prison tremble, came bimself trembling, and, falling down before Paul and Silas, cried out, What must I do to be saved ?' Or, as some who, hearing of the dreadful earthquake which destroyed Lisbon," and buried alive, in a heap of ruins, so many thousands, who, ten minutes before, thought themselves as safe as we do now, were immediately brought to consider, and say, “ Were God to lay his hånd upon me in the same manner now, should I be ready for death and judgment ?” And the Spirit of God, improving their fear, impressed on their hearts a lively sense of the necessity of their preparing to meet their God, and giving all diligence to make their calling and election sure. Some have been awakened in an un. common manner, by receiving an unexpected token of God's goodness and patience, by restoring them from a desperate fit of illness, or by wonderfully preserving them in some imminent danger. For though such mer. cies are generally overlooked and forgotten, yet one, per. haps, in a thousand, remembers them for good, and spends to the glory of God the life which his long-suffer. ing remarkably preserved. A few more have been awakened by feeling, when retired from the noise of the world, I know not what uneasiness and trouble of mind, whereby, perceiving that nothing had yet filled the boundless capacity of their minds, or 'satisfied their de. sites, and that the world could never make them happy, they were brought to conclude that they wanted Christ; and that nothing but the enjoyment of the favour and love of God could give them that peace and comfort which the world neither knows nor enjoys. Some again have been struck with a deep sense of their danger, and a true desire to flee frorn the wrath to come,' by read. ing something striking concerning the state of their souls in a book of devotion, or by opening the Bible on some threatening of the law, as "Cursed is he that doth not persevere in all the things that are written in the book of the law to do them ;' or some condition of the gospel, as * Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" which being applied to their hearts by the power of God, did not suffer them to rest till they rested in Christ.
* November 1. 17735.!
These, and many more, are the extraordinary ways in which sinners may be, and sometimes are, awakened out of their spiritual sleep, and made to consider their latter end ; but we may very well look on them as miracles of grace, which we have little room to expect God will work on our behalf; especially as his ordinary method is to work in a more common way; by affliction, by Christian conversation, and by the preaching of his word. 1. viet * Biessed be the mercy of God, many are those who can say with David, "It was good for me to be afflicted.? The loss of a husband, wife, parent, child, has engaged some to make their peace with God, that they might live and die in his favour, and meet their departed friends at
his right hand. Some unexpected and grievous calamity has opened the eyes of others to see their sinfulness and guilt, and give glory to God by confessing it. Thus Manasses, that monster of wickedness, who had filled Jerusalem with blood, when he was stripped of his royal robes, and carried away into captivity, cried out under a load of chains and sin, Spare me, spare me, O Lord,' till God answered in mercy, and made him as great a monument of repentance as he had been before of sin and iniquity. In the like manner proud Nebuchadnezzar, when he was reduced to the condition of a beast, and wandered in the fields forsaken of all, was brought at last to a true contrition and humiliation before the God of heaven and earth, and began to worship him in Spirit and in truth, issuing a decree that every knee should bow before him in all his dominions. Such is the power of afflictions to bring a fallen man to the knowledge of himself, and make him perceive his want of the favour and love of God.
The New Testament also affords us several instances of the truth of this observation : There the prodigal son, when reduced to so wretched a state as to have no clothing but rags, and no food but the husks intended for the swine, bethinks himself of returning to his father, with a penitent confession of his sin and folly, and an humble request for pardon and acceptance, not indeed to be treated as a son, but as a hired servant. Poor Lazarus, when the dogs licked his sores, and when he sees that no relief is to be expected at the hands of man, secures a place in Abraham's bosom, and thinks of feeding on God by faith, since he cannot feed on the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table. Thus the man, also, sick of the palsy, gets himself carried to Jesus, and hears those words, Go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee,' which he would not have heard had he not been afflicted with sickness. And the woman, who had spent all her substance upon physicians, presses at last after our Saviour, touches him and is healed both in soul and body, rejoicing that her faith had made her whole. Thus some of you, I hope, finding that you had nothing but troubles, sorrows, - disappointments, sickness, hard labour, and poverty for your portion here, may at last have thought of securing the better part with Mary, that better part never to be taken from you. For why should an afflicted soul choose to have tribulation here, and the everlasting miseries of hell hereafter ? Why should the poor refuse to be rich in grace? Why should he, who gets by the sweat of bis brow the clothes he has upon his back, reject the robe of Christ's righteousness? Why should he, that eats the bread of labour and affliction, refuse to eat the food of angels, the bread that comes down from heaven ? And yet, (0 amazing reflection ! O killing thought !) perhaps some of you that are poor, are even poorer in grace than in silver and gold. Perhaps, notwithstanding the mercy of God that has placed you in a state, where every thing invites you to make God your friend, and to take Christ for your portion, you are as attached to this world as if you had great possessions in it, and have not yet seriously endeavoured to fix your hearts where true joys and lasting riches are to be found. But if this be the case, blessed be the mercy of God, you are still poor and afflicted ; there is then still some hope, that you will consider, and that your heavenly Father will not give over striking you with the rod of his judgment, till you awake and give him all you have to give, and all he asks of you, your heart.
But if afflictions are such unspeakable blessings, let us stop a little, brethren, to pity the rich, the healthy, the young, with whom all things go according to their desires in the world, and who, because they want nothing for the body, do not feel the want of Christ for their souls. Sad, sad beyond expression, is your state, what. ever you may think of it. With Dives, you have your pleasure in this life mo may God grant that, with him, you may not have your torments in the next! O may he awaken you out of your sinful prosperity; may he lay some of his fatherly chastisements also upon you, ere it be too late, and save your immortal souls by afficting your mortal bodies ! May he smite
But the concern I have for you, carries me too far. Why should I form such a wish, since there are yet two other ways, by which God can bring you to a sense of that misery you do not feel, and stir you up to seek that true happiness which you leave unregarded, to pursue a vain shadow !
The first is Christian conversation. A chilă of God may, if you will suffer him to speak, show you the bottom of your heart, and the folly of your hopes, so that you will be forced to cry out as the woman of Samaria, Behold I have found one that has told me all things that ever I did ;' for one that has found Christ can, if you will hear him, tell you what the Lord has done for his soul, and what he must do for your's. Thus, in the gospel, Andrew told Peter, · I have found the Christ, the Son of God, come and see ;' and Peter, upon his word, went and followed Jesus until he could
say for himself, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou | knowest that I love thee.' May thus the Lord send you
one who has entered at the strait gate, to say to you with the demonstration of his Spirit, « This is the way, walk in it;' and may you, like Peter, take the advice and follow on till you are admitted into the heavenly Jerusalem. · But, brethren, suppose the natural man is not awakened by conversing with Christians alive to God, which he will seldom do, because such Christians are very rarely to be met with in these faithless times, and because his contempt for them will hardly permit him to give ear or credit to their words; yet there is another great means of conviction, by which the Lord may still call him to repentance and life, namely, the preaching of the gospel ; and this, indeed, is the most common way of all, a way that God has chiefly blessed in all ages, and still blesses in our days. A man comes to church as he has done a thousand times, because it is his custom so to do on Sundays, and he thinks he can squander away the remainder of the Lord's Sabbath with a good conscience, if he can but say, “ I was at church morning and evening ;” or, perhaps, he comes to indulge his