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and his doubts and fears prevail against him, he has some ground to conclude, that he is better than he apprehends himself to be, if he be truly humbled for those sins that may be reckoned the procuring cause thereof, and determines to be still waiting, till God shall be pleased to discover to him his interest in forgiving grace, and thereby resolve his doubts, and expel his fears, which render him so very uneasy.
[2.] A person has some ground of hope, if he can say, that he unfeignedly desires Christ and grace above all things, and can find satisfaction in nothing short of him; in this respect it may be said, that Christ is precious to him, as he is to them that believe. And to this we may add, that if he desires to forsake all sin, as being offensive, and contrary to him; so that when he commits it, he can readily say with the apostle, That which I do I allow not of; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate that do I; and from hence he concludes himself wretched; and earnestly desires to be delivered from the body of this death, Rom. vii. 15, 24.
(2.) There are some promises which a weak Christian may lay hold on for his encouragement; as,
1st, If the guilt of sin lies as an heavy burden upon him, and is the occasion of his doubts about his being in Christ; there are promises of forgiveness, Mich. vii. 18, 19. Isa. 1v. 7, 8.
2dly, If he complains of the power of sin, and its prevalency over him, there is a promise that is suited to his case, in Rom. vi. 14. Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye
are not under the law, but under grace.'
3dly, If satan's temptations are very grievous to him, and such as he can hardly resist, there are promises suited to this case, in 1 Cor. x. 13. that God will not suffer his people to be
tempted above that they are able, but will, with the temptation, make a way to escape;' and in Rom. xvi. 20. The 'God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.' 4thly, If he wants enlargement, and raised affections in prayer, or other religious duties; which is very discouraging to him, that promise may afford him some relief, in Zech. xii. 10. I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication." And, in Psal. x. 17. Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: Thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.'
5thly If our doubts arise from frequent backslidings, and relapses into sin, we may apply that promise in Psal. xxiii. 3. He restoreth my soul, &c. And, Hos. xiv. 4. I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from them: And in Isa. Ívii. 17, 18. in which it is
supposed, that God was wroth, and hid himself from his people for their iniquity; and they are described as going on frowardly in the way of their heart; yet God says, I have seen ⚫his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore ⚫ comforts to him, and to his mourners' And, in Hos. xi. 7 -9. where God's people are described as bent to backslide from him; yet he determines not to destroy them, but says, in a very moving way, How shall I give thee up Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee Israel, &c. Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together? I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger; I will not return to de'stroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the holy One in 'the midst of thee.'
6thly, If we want communion with God, or his presence with us in his ordinances; which makes us conclude that we are not in Christ: Let us consider what is said in Isa. xlv. 19. ⚫ I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seck ye me in vain :' And, in chap. liv. 7, 8. For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee, for a moment; but with everlasting 'kindness will I have mercy on thee.'
7thly, If we are under frequent convictions, but they soon wear off, which occasions us to fear that we never experienced a thorough work of conversion, let us consider, Isa. Ixvi. 9. 'Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth, saith the Lord?' And, in Zech. iv. 10. Who hath despised the day of small things?' And, in Isa. lxv. 8. As they new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for ⚫ a blessing is in it; So will I do for my servants sake, that I ( may not destroy them all.'
8thly, If we are in a withering and declining condition, and want reviving; or, if we complain of barrenness under the means of grace, so that we may attend upon them, as we apprehend, to very little purpose; there are some promises that are suited to this case, as Hos. xiv. 7, 8. Isa. xlviii. 17.
9thly, If our doubts arise from the hardness of our hearts, so that we cannot mourn for sin as we ought to do, or would do, let us consider what God has promised in Ezek. vii. 16. Deut. xxx. 6. Acts v. 31.
10thly, If we are under the visible tokens of God's displeasure, so that we are ready to conclude, that he distributes terrors to us in his anger; and, as the consequence thereof, we walk in darkness, and are far from peace: There are many promises that are suited to this case, as Jer. iii. 5. Psal. ciii. 8, 10. Isa. xii. 1. Joel ii. 13. Isa. 1. 10. Psal. lxxix. 15. and xlii. 11.
2. We have a further account how such, who are at pre
sent, discouraged from coming to the Lord's table, ought to manage themselves in this case. And here it is observed, that they ought to bewail their unbelief, to labour to have their doubts resolved; and, instead of being discouraged, they should come to the Lord's supper, to be further strengthened. This advice is not given to stupid sinners, or such as are unconcerned about their state, or never had the least ground to conclude that they have had communion with God in any ordinance; and, especially if their distress of conscience arises rather from a slavish fear of the wrath of God, than a filial fear of him; or, if they are more concerned about the dreadful consequences of sin, than the, intrinsic evil that is in it, I say, this advice is not given to such, but those, as before described, who lament after the Lord, earnestly seek him, though they cannot, at present, find him; and have fervent desires of his presence, though no sensible enjoyment thereof, and appear to have some small degrees of grace, though it be very weak: In this case a few words of advice ought to be given to them; particularly,
(1.) That they should take heed of giving way to any hard thoughts of God; but, on the other hand, lay the whole blame hereof on themselves. Thus God says by the prophet, " Hast "thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast for"saken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way?" Jer. ii. 17.
(2.) They should give glory to, depend on, and seek relief from the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who glorifies himself by sealing believers unto the day of redemption; and, together with this, bestows those comforts on them which they stand in need of.
(3.) They must endeavour, to their utmost, to act grace, and so go forward in the ways of God, though they do not go on comfortably, and not say, "why should I wait on the Lord any longer? Are they sometimes afraid they shall not arrive safely to the end of their race, they should nevertheless resolve not to give out, or to run no longer in it; and because their way is attended with darkness, or hedged up with thorns, they should not determine, for that reason, to go backward, as though they had never set their faces heaven-ward.
(4.) They ought to lie at God's foot, acknowledging their mworthiness of that peace which they desire, but are destitute of, and plead for his special presence, that would give an happy turn to the frame of their spirits, as that which they prefer to all the enjoyments of life; as the Psalmist says,
There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?
Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us,' Psal. iv. 6.
(5.) It would be adviseable for such to contract an intimacy, and frequently converse with experienced Christians, who know the depths of Satan, and the deceitfulness of the heart of man, and the methods of divine grace in restoring comforts to those who are, at present, destitute of them, agreeably to what they themselves have experienced in the like case, 2 Cor. i. 4.
(6.) They ought, as a farther means for the strengthening of their faith, and establishing their comforts, to wait on God in the ordinance of the Lord's supper, hoping for Christ's presence therein; in which many have found that they have been enlivened, quickened, and comforted, while others, through the neglect hereof, have had their doubts and fears increased. And this leads us to consider,
II. What is contained in the latter of the answers we are explaining, which is applicable to those who desire to come to the Lord's supper, but are to be kept from it. Here it is taken for granted, that all are not to be admitted to this ordinance, though it may be, they make a general profession of the christian faith, and are not willing that any should question their right to it. These are described in this answer,
1. As being ignorant of the great doctrines of the gospel, and, consequently, unacquainted with Christ, whom they never truly applied themselves to, nor received by faith; and therefore they cannot improve this ordinance aright, or have communion with Christ therein.
2. They are to be excluded from the Lord's supper, who are scandalous or immoral in their practice, whatever preten. sions they make to the character of christians: These are described by the apostle, as persons who profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable and disobedient and unto every good work reprobate, Tit. i. 16 Such ought not to have communion with those whom the apostle describes as called to be saints, Rom. i. 7. nor can they partake of this ordinance aright, since they are not apprized of the end and design thereof, nor are they able, as the apostle expresses it, to discern the Lord's body, 1 Cor. ix. 27. for, if they are strangers to themselves, how can they apply the benefits of Christ's redemption to their own case? and, if they . neglect the preparatory duty of self-examination, so that they do not know their own wants, how can they go to Christ in this ordinance for a supply thereof? or, if they do not desire the spiritual blessings of the covenant of grace, what right can they have to make use of the seals thereof? and if they are openly and visibly of another family, under the dominion of the powers of darkness, what right have they to the privileges which Christ has purchased for those who are members of his family, and spiritually united to him?
Object. 1. To what has been said concerning those that are to be excluded from this ordinance, it is objected, that it appears, that both good and bad have a right to it, from what our Saviour says in the parable of the wheat and the tares, in Mat. xiii. 29. both which are said to grow together until the harvest, when the reapers will be sent to gather first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them, and the wheat into the barn: So that hypocrites, and sincere christians, are to continue together in the same church, and, consequently to par take of the same ordinances.
Answ. To this it may be replied; this is not the sense of the parable; for our Saviour explains it otherwise, when he says in ver. 38. The field is the world: the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the wicked one. And from hence we may infer, that good and bad men are, through the forbearance of God, suffered to live together in the world; but it gives no countenance to this supposition, that the wicked ought to be joined with the godly as members of the same church: Not but that hypocrites may, and often do intrude themselves into the churches of Christ; yet since this is not known to them, they are not to blame for it, the heart of man being known to God alone; and the judgment that we are to pass concerning those who are admitted into church-fellowship, or to the Lord's supper in particular, is to be founded on that credible profession which they make; in which, though it be possible for them to deceive others, yet the guilt and ill consequence thereof, will only affect themselves.
Object. 2. It is further objected, that Judas was at the Lord's supper when it was first instituted by our Saviour, though he knew him to be an hypocrite and a traitor, and that he would speedily execute what he had designed against his life; and if so, then all ought to be admitted to this ordiAnd the reason that is generally assigned why he was there at that time, is, because it is said, in Luke xxii. 14. When the hour was come, he sat down, and his twelve apostles with him; and afterwards we read, in ver. 19. that he took bread and brake it, &c. and also the cup after supper, &c. ver. 20. and then it is said, in ver. 21. Behold the hand of him that. betrayeth me is with me on the table. This is supposed, by some, to have been spoken by Christ when they were eating the Lord's supper; from whence it may be concluded that Judas was there.
Answ. But to this it may be replied; that it seems much more probable that he was not there when the Lord's supper was administered though he joined with Christ and the other apostles in eating the passover; for we must consider,