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X. CONVICTION OF SIN.
WHEN man is taken and laid under the day of God's power, when Christ is opening his ear to discipline, and speaking to him that his heart may receive instruction, many times that poor man is as if the devil had found him, and not God. How frenzily he imagines; how crossly he thinks; how ungainly he carries it under convictions, counsels, and his present apprehension of things! I know some are more powerfully dealt withal, and more strongly bound at first by the word; but others more in an ordinary manner, that the flesh and reason may be seen to the glory of Christ. Yea, and where the will is made more quickly to comply with its salvation, it is no thanks to the sinner at all. It is the day of the power of the Lord that has made the work so soon to appear. Therefore count this an act of love, in the height of love; love in a great degree.
"I heard thy voice in the garden." Gen. 3:10. It is a word from without that does it. While Adam listened to his own heart, he thought fig-leaves a sufficient remedy; but the voice that walked in the garden shook him out of all such fancies.
A man's own righteousness will not fortify his conscience from fear and terror, when God begins to come near to him to judgment.
Few know the weight of sin. When the guilt thereof takes hold of the conscience, it commands homeward all the faculties of the soul.
It was upon this account that Peter and James and John were called the sons of thunder, because in the word which they were to preach there were to be not only lightnings, but thunders-not only illuminations, but a great
seizing of the heart with the dread and majesty of God, to the effectual turning of the sinner to him.
Lightnings without thunder are in this case dangerous, because they that receive the one without the other are subject to miscarry: they were once enlightened, but you read of no thunder they had, and they were subject to fall into an irrecoverable state. Paul had thunder with his lightning, to the shaking of his soul; so had the three thousand, so had the jailer: they that receive light without thunder, are subject to turn the grace of God into wantonness; but they that know the terror of God will persuade men. So then, when he decrees to give the rain of his grace to a man, he makes a way for the lightning and thunder; not the one without the other, but the one following the other.
We have had great lightnings in this land of late years, but little thunders; and that is one reason why so little grace is found where light is, and why so many professors run on their heads in such a day as this is, notwithstanding all they have seen.
The method of God is to kill and make alive, to smite and then heal.
He that hath not seen his lost condition, hath not seen a safe condition; he that did never see himself in the devil's snare, did never see himself in Christ's bosom.
Grace proceeds from the throne, from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Wherefore, sinner, here is laid a necessity upon thee; one of the two must be thy lot: either thou must accept of God's grace, and be content to be saved freely thereby, notwithstanding all thy undeservings and unworthiness, or else thou must be damned for thy rebellion, and for thy neglecting of this grace. Wherefore consider with thyself, and think what is best to be done. Is it bet
ter that thou submit to the grace and mercy of God, and that thou accept of grace to reign for thee, in thee, and over thee, than that thou shouldst run the hazard of eternal damnation because thou wouldst not be saved by grace? Consider of this, I say, for grace is now in authority: it reigns, and proceeds from the throne. This therefore calls for thy most grave and sedate thoughts. Thou art in a strait; wilt thou fly before Moses, or with David fall into the hands of the Lord? Wilt thou go to hell for sin, or to life by grace? One of the two, as was said before, must be thy lot; for grace is king, is upon the throne, and will admit of no other way to glory. Rom. 5:2. In and by it thou must stand, if thou hast any hope, or canst at all rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
If thou do get off thy convictions, and not the right way—which is by seeing thy sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ—it is a question whether God will ever knock at thy heart again or no; but rather say, Such a one is joined to idols; let him alone. My spirit, my ministers, my word, my mercy, my grace, my love, my pity, my common providences, shall no more strive with him; let him alone." O sad! O miserable! who would slight convictions that are on their souls, which tend so much for their good?
In the creation of man, God began with his outside; but in the work of regeneration, he first begins within, at the heart.
Whoever receive the grace that is tendered in the gospel, they must be quickened by the power of God, their eyes must be opened, their understandings illuminated, their ears unstopped, their hearts circumcised, their wills also rectified, and the Son of God revealed in them.
THE DIFFICULTY OF CONVERSION.
CONVERSION to God is not so easy and so smooth a thing, as some would have men believe it is. Why is man's heart compared to fallow ground, God's word to a plough, and his ministers to ploughmen, if the heart indeed has no need of breaking in order to the receiving of the seed of God unto eternal life? Why is the conversion of the soul compared to the grafting of a tree, if that be done without cutting?
CONVERSION THE POWER OF GOD.
A broken heart is the handy-work of God, a sacrifice of his own preparing, a material fitted for himself. By breaking the heart he opens it, and makes it a receptacle for the graces of his Spirit; that is the cabinet, when unlocked, where God lays up the jewels of the gospel: there he puts his fear: "I will put my fear in their heart;” there he writes his law: "I will write my law in their heart;" there he puts his Spirit: "I will put my Spirit within you."
The heart God chooses for his cabinet: there he hides his treasure; there is the seat of justice, mercy, and of every grace of God.
Here is naught but open war, acts of hostility, and shameful rebellion on the sinner's side; and what delight can God take in that? Wherefore, if God will bend and buckle the spirit of such a one, he must shoot an arrow at him, a bearded arrow, such as may not be plucked out of the wound-an arrow that will stick fast, and cause that the sinner fall down as dead at God's foot. Then will the sinner deliver up his arms, and surrender up himself as one conquered into the hand of God, and beg for the Lord's pardon, and not till then sincerely.
And now God has overcome, and his right hand and his holy arm have gotten him the victory. Now he rides in triumph, with his captive at his chariot-wheel; now he glories, now the bells in heaven do ring, now the angels shout for joy, yea, are bid to do so: Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost."
Thou thinkest that thou art a Christian; thou shouldst be sorry else. Well, but when did God show thee that thou wert no Christian? When didst thou see that; and in the light of the Spirit of Christ see that thou wert under the wrath of God because of original sin? Rom. 5:12. Nay, dost thou know what original sin means? Is it not the least in thy thoughts? And dost thou not rejoice in secret that thou art the same that thou ever wert? If so, then know for certain that the wrath of God to this very day abideth on thee, John 3:36; and if so, then thou art one of those that will fall in the judgment, except thou art born again and made a new creature. 2 Cor. 5:17.
THE STRAIT GATE.
The porch, at which was an ascent to the temple, had a gate belonging to it. This gate, according to the prophet Ezekiel, was six cubits wide. The leaves of this gate were double, one folding this way, the other folding that. Ezek. 40: 48.
Now here some may object, and say, "Since the way to God by these doors was so wide, why doth Christ say the way and gate is narrow?"
ANSWER. The straitness, the narrowness, must not be understood of the gate simply, but because of that cumber that some men carry with them that pretend to be going to heaven. Six cubits! What is sixteen cubits to him who would enter in here with all the world on his back? The young man in the gospel who made such a noise for