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base lust ? Hath he not extenuated sin at first to bring you to commit it, and afterwards aggravated it to drive you to despair ? Sin doth cheat us with golden mountains, as one saith, but leaves us in the mire at last. Though sin was delightful at the first, yet it always proved bitterness in the end. * Ask your own hearts, what fruit had you of those things whereof you are now ashamed? The awakened conscience will answer the end of those things is death ;t deadly pain, or eternal death ; repentance, or vengeance. Your wild oats sown in youth with delight, rose up in bitter hemlock and wormwood. Though wickedness was sweet in the mouth, yet it is turned to be as the gall of asps within, yea, the cruel venom of asps, as Moses testifies, that is, capital, deadly, biting poison; so it proves. I Oh, the dreadful stings and pangs that sin leaves behind it! With what fears and tears, terrors and horrors does it fill the poor penitent soul! What broken bones and affrighting cares had the offending prodigal before he was admitted into his father's sweet embraces ! How long did the humble suitor lie at the gates of mercy before he could get admission, or see the King's face? or obtain the joy of God's salvation ? Not that God is so hard to be entreated, or delights in a poor creature's malady or misery, but that he may affect the heart with the evil of sin, stir up more longings after grace, prize Christ and pardon, and learn to sin no more. Therefore, he keeps the soul long in suspense, even when his bowels yearn upon it, as Joseph's did
* Jam. i. 14, 15.
+ See the Slights of Sin opened in Capel on Temp. page 2136.
Rom. vi. 21. Job. xx. 12, 13, 14. Deut. xxxii. 33. 0877 et caput ; per metonym. venenum, quod capiti aut dentibus serpentis vel aspidis inest ; venenum capitale et mortiferum.
upon his brethren ; on the like ground, as he dealt with Miriam, in healing her body of the leprosy. If her father, saith he, had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days.-Num. xii. 14. Thus God would have us to know the worth of his favour, by the want of it for a season. Surely, sirs, if you would lay such sad experience in store, it would prove a notable antidote against the next assault; the burnt child will dread the fire. Oh, what sin-abhorring resolutions had the penitent soul in its deep humiliations! If you had come to David whilst he was bathing himself in briny tears, and said, what sayest thou now to murder ? How dost thou like thy fleshly lusts? Wilt thou buy repentance at so dear a rate, and fall again into uncleanness? Would he not have answered, “ Oh, no! God forbid that I should sin again ?” I will be racked, or torn in pieces, rather than dishonour my God, grieve his Spirit, and fill my poor soul with such tormenting troubles. Certainly, when poor David was roaring, by reason of the disquietness of his Spirit, when there “ was no rest in his bones because of his sin,” * he had other thoughts of his sin than when he was adventuring upon it. There is scarcely any man so brutish, but will abstain from that which experience tells him hath done him hurt. A wise man will forbear stale drink when he knows infallibly it will bring upon him excruciating pain. So the Christian that hath laid up experience of sin having cost him dear, will thus argue, “ I remember what an ill condition sin brought me into, I had need to sin no more lest a worse thing come unto me. Sin broke my bones, but now if I sin again, I fear it will break my neck ; sin filled my soul with heart-shaking fears, but I may expect it will now fill me with heart-desolating
* Psal. xxxviii. 3, 8.
despair ; it brought a hell into my conscience before, but now I fear it will cast my soul into hell.” Lay up and make use of such sad experience, and I may then almost say, Sin if you dare.
4. Lay up divine discoveries, which your souls have had sweet and satisfying experience of. If you be Christians, such you have had, I dare say, and you dare not deny. I find very many precious saints that have kept a diary of God's dealings with their souls, as the Rev. Mr. Carter, and many others. * There are · two sorts of experiences that I shall recommend to you to treasure up: special providences, and spiritual influences.
(1.) You are to lay up experiences of God's gracious providence about you. The wise God hath so disposed of affairs concerning his people, that one part of our lives may help us in another; the van and former part of our days may contribute to bring up the rear and remainder of them; as thus, the soul argues, the Lord hath helped in such a strait, directed in such a doubt, prevented such a fear, broken such a snare, and he is the same God still, and will help for the future. Let the saints set up some Ebenezer, † as a memorial of former goodness ; let them make use of the excellent Scripture logic, Hath delivered, doth and will deliver. Write down signal providences, or lock them up in the safe chest of a sanctified memory, and produce them when you are non-plused, and have your back to the wall. Sweet experiences of bye-past deliverances are not the least part of a Christian's treasure, though I would not have you dote upon them, or imagine that God can go no further than he hath gone, which may more daunt you in new and greater troubles; yet withal, do not despise them, and slight them, but lay * Clark's Collect. page 21.
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them up and plead them with the Lord as the church often doth. * One part of Psalm lxxiv. is a sad complaint of God's anger, and the church's affliction; the other part is an encouraging rehearsal of former providences. Thus, the assistance formerly vouchsafed, proves an argument for the saint's future encouragement.
(2.) You must also lay up experiences of soul-enlargement and refreshing comforts, as thus ; in such an ordinance I met with God, and beheld his reconciled face; in such a duty, my graces were quickened, exercised, increased ; in such a chamber, or closet, my heart was warmed, melted, and satisfied ; in such a company, with such a society, was my soul enlarged, resolved, and sweetly transported beyond myself. Oh! what a blessed day or night was that unto me, when I experienced the manifestations of God's favour, enjoyed the smiles of his face, and had a clear acquittance sealed to my conscience, ensuring the remission of my sins! I well remember it, and my heart danceth within me to think of the sweet days of mutual intercourse that God and I have had together! These are not always to be expected, such sweet-meats of divine joy are not a Christian's constant common fare; a pining time may come; I will make much of, and long store up, such sweet and secret hints of love against a time of need. God forbid that I should lose this token for good, this broken ring, this pledge from heaven. This may stand me in stead, in a dark and gloomy day, when the Lord may frown upon me as an enemy, and put me from him as though he would forsake me; then will I say unto God, as Job, “ Thou knowest that I am not wicked, + Lord, dost thou use to deal so with wicked men, or reveal thyself thus to them that know thee not ?" Art * Ica. li. 9, 10, chap. Ixiv. 1, 2, 3.
+ Job, x. 7.
thou wont to stir up in the careless world, such peninent bemoanings, such ardent breathings, and such vehement pantings after thyself? And hast thou ever given such familiar discoveries to unregenerate souls, as my heart hath had experience of many a time, and is this the manner of man, O Lord ? Are these thy ways with unsanctified souls? Wilt thou hold communion with those that never were united to thee ? Doth not such communion pre-suppose a union ? Either this experience is false and counterfeit, or I am thine, for whom thou “ lovest once, thou lovest to the end ;” though I be fickle and inconstant, yet thou art the same, and unchangeable in thy love. Now I dare not say that all these sweet experiences are mere fictions, dreams, and shadows; no, God forbid. I humbly hope they were genuine evidences of thy special love, arising from and built upon thy word ; yea, they carried their evidence along with them, and left such impressions upon my soul as can never be forgotten or worn off. I can appeal to thyself, O Lord, if such passages were not betwixt thyself and my heart, which no creature upon earth hath known, and since thou canst not deny thine own name, engraven on my heart and sealed sweetly to me, I commit the matter wholly to thee, though now thou seemest to carry strangely towards me, as though thou hadst quite cast me off, yet thou art my God still, my loving father, and only friend; I cannot part from thee, I will not let thee go. There was once love betwixt us, and though now in wisdom and faithfulness thou seemest to smother thy bowels of mercy, and restrain the effects of thy love; yet, thou hast the same heart now as thou wast wont to have; I know it by the workings I feel in mine own breast towards thee; and therefore, Lord, I hang upon thee, and plead with David,