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love him, and we will come unto him, and make our aboda with him." The exercise of Christian virtues, or graces, is, that chain of the spouse, with which the heart of the Lord is ravished, Cant. iv. 9.“ The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever," Isa. xxxii. 7. compare Isa. lxiv. 5. 4thly. Because in this imperfect state of our sanctification, it cannot altogether be avoided, but at times the godly may fall, and turn a little either to the right hand, or to the left : they are in that case, presently to rise from their fall, and return to their God, unless they would greatly impair their familiarity with him. When he calls us, "return, ye backsliding children,
, and I will heal your backslidings;" we are directly to answer, “ behold, we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God," Jer. iii. 22. 5thly. It also contributes very much to preserve the sense of the divine friendship, if in all things you commit yourself to the conduct of his providence, always approving his will towards thee, to be just, holy, wise, and good; and saying with Job xxxiv. 12. “ yea surely, God will not do wicked.
, ly:" In whatever befalls thee, give him thanks; and denying all thy own desires, give up thy will to be swallowed his. “ Be careful for nothing and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus," Phil. iv. 6, 7.
XXI. Although it is not possible, that any who is admitted into peace and friendship with God, should altogether fall from it, (for the covenant of divine peace, which stands firmer than the mountains and bills, shall never be removed, Isa liv. 10.) yet the sense and relish thereof are often interrupted. For, 1st, God doth not always shew his pleasant countenance to his friends; sometimes he hides himself, Isa. viii. 17. standa eth afar off, Psal. x. 1. admits them not into familiarity with him, nor fills them with the abundance of his consolations; he hears not when they call, Psal. xxii. 2, S. as if he regarded them not. 2dly. Nay, he thrusts them from him with a kind of contempt, as if a father had disdainfully spit in the face of his daughter, Num. xii. 14. and is angry against their prayer, Psal. lxxx. 4. 3dly, He terrifies them with many sorrows; not only by hiding his face, without which there is no joy, Psal . xxx. 7. but
“ by his fierce anger going over them," Psal. lxxxviii. 16, 17, 18. Isa. lvii. 17. Athly. He seems to deal with them as an adversary, and holdeth them for his enemies, and pursues them, though become like the dry stub ble," writes bitter things against them, putteth their feet in the stocks, and setteth a print upon the heels of their
feet," Job xii. 24, 26, 27. 5thly. Gives them up sometimes to be vexed and buffeted by the devil, Job ü. 6. After that the light of the divine countenance is set, immediately the beasts of the forest come forth against the soul, “the young Lions roaring after their prey," Psal. cxiv. 20, 21,
XXII. The reasons of this conduct of God towards his friends are various : some respect God; others the friends of God. God thus deals with his people, Ist. In order to shew that he is the Sovereign Lord, and most free dispenser of his own grace, Mat. xx. 15. Thus himself owns that he afflicted Job i. 3. without cause. Not that Job had done nothing to deserve these, or even greater afflictions ; but that God had
s found nothing in him, for which to treat him with greater severity than his other friends. This was an act of mere sovereignty, “ that the works of God should be made manifest in bim," as is said in a similar case, John ix. 3. 2dly. Likewise, to shew the difference between heaven and earth. For here he will have all things subject to various vicissitudes, and accustom his people to the alternate changes of a rough winter and an agreeable spring; because in heaven they are to exult in a constant uninterrupted joy in his friendship and love, Rev. vii. 17. 3dly. That he may the more endear unto them the sweet. dess of his grace, which, when tasted at intervals, especially after a draught of a cup of bitterness, must be most delicious to the pious soul. 4thly. That he may give a demonstration of the exceeding greatness of his power and goodness, when he preserves the soul in its spiritual life, though oppressed with so many sorrows, restores him to his former vigour, makes him triumph over Satan, and gives him the more abundant comfort, the more distant he was from all the sense of his favour. “This is to shew.wonders to the dead," Psal. lxxxviii. 10. and to revive the wounded spirit, which Solomon, Prov. xviii. 14. declares, exceeds any created power. .
XXIII. The reasons with respect to the friends of God, are two fold; for either they regard the time past, or the future. As to the time past, God usually restrains the beams of his favour, 1st. When his friends have been guilty of some grievous sin : for, in that case, his holiness is concerned, that they feel the rod of his paternal displeasure, and not be suffered to have then familiarity with him, Psal. li
. 9, 11, 12. they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction : then he sheweth them their work," Job xxxvi. 8, 9. and really, as it were calls out to them; “ know therefore and see that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God," Jer. ii. 19. “When they rebelled and
vexed his holy Spirit, therefore he was turned to be their enemy," Isa. Ixiii. 10. 2dly. When abusing the goodness of God, they worship his majesty with less reverence and begin to flag in the exercise of devotion. Sdly. When carnal confidence, and vain glorying have seized upon them, Psal. xxx. 6, 7. “ and in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved: thou didst hide, thy face, and I was troubled.". 4thly. When the offer of divine grace is unworthily entertained through a kind of indolence and drowsiness, Song v. 3, 4, 5.
XXIV. The following reasons refer to the time to come. 1st. That God may try and exercise their faith, 1 Pet. i. 6, 7. which ought to be in exercise, even when nothing is to be seen; and their love, by which they are bound to love God for himself, though they are not sensible, that they themselves are loved: and the sincerity of their worship, which is not to proceed from a mere relish of the reward, but from an acknowledgment of the divine dignity or authority; and the constancy of their religion, by which they must keep close to God, even when he appears as a stranger to them. 2dly. That he may stir them up to the practice of prayer, in which Heman was fervent at such a time, Psal. lxxxviii. 1. “ O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee;" see also verses 9 and 13. 3dly. That he may instruct and bring his people to true wisdom; for this distress gives excellent understanding; “ tribulatiga worketh patience, and patience experience,” Rom. v. 3. 4. Heman was early introduced into this school, and such hard exercises were put upon him, that he was almost distracted; yet at length' he made so great a proficiency, as to be reckoned among the wisest in his day, *1 Kings iv. 31. 4thly. That they may, for the future, more carefully preserve the divine favour when they have once recovered it. When the spouse at last found her beloved, who had withdrawn himself, she held him, kept him fast, and would not let him go, until she bad brought him into her mother's house, into the chamber of her that conceived her,” Cant. iü. 4.
XXV. But what course is the soul now to take, in order to renew the interrupted friendship of God? For we are not to think, that God will be angry with his people for ever. “I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made," says the Lord, Isa. lvii. 16. see Isa. liv. 8. And 1st. We are, in order to this, carefully to enquire into the cause of this estrangement, that it may be removed: for
generally we have provoked God, to deal thus with us, either by some sin, or by our carelessness, Lament. Üï. 40. “ let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.” And should it be, that a person cannot find out the cause of that estrangement (which is rarely the case with the serious and careful enquirer), he is then to consult the word of God, and by repeated prayer, say,
« do not condemn me: shew me wherefore thou contendest with me," Job x. 2. 2dly. He is to renew his faith and repentance; promise God as by a solemn oath, that he will, for the future, improve his grace to better purpose, and keep it with greater care, if he may again enjoy it. Nay he is to protest, and that sincerely, that he will serve God, because God is worthy to be served, and because it is his gloty to serve him though he should never again, which God forbid, taste the sweetness of divine favour. Nothing can be done by man, more acceptable to God. 3dly. He is to be instant in continual prayer, pleading with the greatest earnestness possible, that he may not be cast away from his presence, but that he would have mercy upon him, according to his loving kindness, and restore again the joy of his salvation, Psal. li. 1, 11, 12. The Holy Spirit himself has dictated forms of prayer, Psal. Ixxxvii. and cii
. Athly. He is patiently to wait for the hour, in which God may be pleased to receive him into favour, not omitting his duty to God in the mean time, Lameat. iii. 26. “ it is good, that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."
XXVI. To him who acts in this manner, will come, at length will come, the blessed day, when God will change the bitter water of tears into the most delightful wine of consolation ; receive and entertain his friend with the greater familiarity, the longer and the more mournfully he had been deprived of the delightful sense of his love, and abundantly repay all with interest. Believers have generally experienced this: whose triumphant songs we remember to have read and heard, no less than their mournful complaints. And it scarce ever happens otherwise : but should there be no appearance of being restored on earth, to the sweet sense of divine love, all however is reserved to be fully bestowed upon them in heaven. The abundance of which, the former dry and parched state will render, beyond what can be either expressed or conceived, extremely sweet and delightful.
XXVII. From what has been said it is evident, this spiritval peace differs very much from carnal security. For, 1st. The latter arises from mere ignorance of one's own state, into
which he never made any serious enquiry, or in forming a judgment about it, he deceived himself by false reasoning. But the former rests upon a sure foundation, and is preceded by sorrow for sin, a sense of misery, a hunger and thirst after grace, diligent self-examination, and a sense of his union with Christ, 2dly. The latter makes a man well pleased with, and to have an inward joy on account of that imaginary good, though in other respects he neglects God; whereas the former ravishes the soul with admiration of the divine goodness, and makes him confess himself unworthy of so great an honour and favour. Sdly. By the latter men are swallowed up in pleasure, are dull and heavy in that which is good, and unhappily give themselves up to an irregular life, thinking " they shall have peace though they walk in the imagination of their heart," Deut. xxix. 19. But the former keeps the heart in safety, Phil. iv. 7. that they may be in the fear of God continually, and this is what nei ther can be obtained, nor preserved without a strict exercise of godliness. 4thly. Though the latter falsely imagines, that he is the object of God's love, yet he himself is destitute of all love to God. But the former consists in mutual friendship. The same Abraham, who Jam. ii. 23. is called the friend, is Isa. xli. 8. called the lover of God.
XXVIII. As spiritual peace is the consequence of justification, it was a blessing of the Old, as well as it is of the New Testament, as we shall sbew in its proper place, and consequently the ancient fathers were also partakers of it ; who by an unfeigned faith, believed that they were reconciled to God, on account of the Surety, the Messiah, that the enmity caused by sin was removed; they had a most delightful and experimental sense of this, and often gloried in the Lord. We indeed cannot deny, that peace was eminently promised to the New Testament-church, Psal. lxxii. 3. Isa. ix. 5, 6. Hag. ï. 10. Zech. ix. 10. But we are not to understand this of peace and friendship with God absolutely, which is a benefit of the covenant of grace, and not of the New Testament alone: Bat, 1st. Of the more abundant sense of the divine favour, with respect to believers in general. Adly. Of the agreement between the believe ing Israelites with the Gentiles, “having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances," Eph. ii. 15. Bdly. Of the peace of God granted like wise to the Gentiles. This is expressly mentioned Zech. ix. 10.