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promises broken, like boxes of ointment, to the perfuming of the whole room. But alas, there is yet no fruit on this fig-tree. While his heart is searched, he wrangles; while the glorious grace of the gospel is unveiled, this professor wags and is wanton, gathers up some scraps thereof, tastes the good word of God and the power of the world to come, drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon him, but bringeth not forth fruit meet for him whose gospel it is; takes no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart, but counteth that the glory of the gospel consisteth in talk and show, and that our obedience thereto is a matter of speculation-that good works lie in good words, and if men can finely talk, they may think they bravely please God. He thinks the kingdom of God consisteth only in word, not in power; and thus proves ineffectual this fourth means also.
Well, now the axe begins to be heaved higher, for now indeed God is ready to smite the sinner: yet before he will strike the stroke, he will try one way more at last; and if that misseth, down goes the fig-tree.
Now this last way is to labor and strive with this professor by his Spirit. Therefore the Spirit of the Lord is now come to him; but not always to strive with man, Gen. 68; yet awhile he will strive with him, he will awaken, he will convince, he will call to remembrance former sins, former judgments, the breach of former vows and promises, the misspending of former days. He will also present persuasive arguments, encouraging promises, dreadful judgments, the shortness of time to repent in; and that there is hope if he come. He will show him the certainty of death and of the judgment to come, yea, he will pull and strive with this sinner. But behold, the mischief now lies here; here is laboring and striving on both sides. The Spirit convinces, the man turns a deaf ear to God; the Spirit saith, Receive my instruction and live, but the man pulls away his shoulder; the Spirit shows him whither he
is going, but the man closeth his eyes against it; the Spirit offers violence, the man strives and resists: he has "done despite unto the Spirit of grace.' Heb. 10:29. The Spirit parleyeth a second time and urgeth reasons of a new nature, the sinner answereth, No; I have loved strangers, and after them will I go. Amos 4:6-12. At this, God comes out of his holy-place, and is terrible; now he sweareth in his wrath they shall never enter into his rest. Ezek. 34:13. I exercised towards you my patience, yet you have not turned unto me, saith the Lord. I smote you in your person, in your relations, in your estate, yet you have not returned unto me, saith the Lord. "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?"
The second sign that such a professor is almost, if not quite past grace, is when God hath given him over, or lets him alone and suffers him to do any thing, and that without control; helpeth him not either in works of holiness, or in straits and difficulties: "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone." "Woe be to them when I depart from them." “I will laugh at their calamity; I will mock when their fear cometh."
Barren fig-tree, thou hast heretofore been digged about; God's mattock has heretofore been at thy roots; thou hast heretofore been striven with, convinced, awakened, made to taste and see, and cry, O the blessedness! Thou hast heretofore been met with under the word; thy heart has melted, thy spirit has fallen, thy soul has trembled, and thou hast felt something of the power of the gospel. But thou hast sinned, thou hast provoked the eyes of his glory, thy iniquity is found to be hateful; and now perhaps God has left thee, given thee up, and lets thee alone.
Heretofore thou wast tender; thy conscience startled at the temptation to wickedness, for thou wert taken off from the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. 2: 20-22; but
that very vomit that once thou wert turned from, now thou lappest up again.
Seest thou a man that heretofore had the knowledge of God, and that had some awe of majesty upon him; seest thou such a one sporting himself in his own deceivings, Rom. 1:30, 31, "turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and walking after his own ungodly lusts? His judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and his damnation slumbereth not." 2 Pet. 2:13.
Dost thou hear, barren professor? It is astonishing to see how those who once seemed sons of the morning, and were making preparations for eternal life, now at last, for the rottenness of their hearts, by the just judgment of God are permitted, being past feeling, "to give themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Eph. 4:18, 19. A great number of such were in the first gospel days; against whom Peter and Jude and John pronounce the just judgment of God. 2 Pet. 2:3-8; Jude 5-8. Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? These are beyond all mercy; these are beyond all promises; these are beyond all hopes of repentance; these have no intercessor, nor any more share in the one sacrifice for sin. For these there remains nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment.
These men go whither they will, do what they will; they may range from opinion to opinion, from notion to notion, from sect to sect, but are steadfast nowhere: they are left to their own uncertainties; they have not grace to establish their hearts; and though some of them have boasted themselves of this liberty, yet Jude calls them wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. They are left to be fugitives and vagabonds in the earth, to wander everywhere but to abide nowhere, until they shall descend to their own place, with Cain and Judas, men of the same fate with themselves.
Look thou certainly, fruitless professor, for an eternal
disappointment in the day of God; for it must be; thy lamp will be out at the first sound the trump of God shall make in thine ears; thou canst not hold up at the appearance of the Son of God in his glory; his very looks will be to thy profession as a strong wind is to a blinking candle, and thou shalt be left only to smoke.
Oh, the alteration that will befall a foolish virgin. She thought she was happy, and that she should have received happiness with those that were right at the heart; but behold the contrary: her lamp is going out, she has now to seek for saving grace, when the time of grace is over; her heaven she thought of has proved a hell, and her god has proved a devil. God hath cast her out of his presence, and closes the door upon her. She pleads her profession and the like, and she hath for her answer repulses from heaven. "So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish; whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be the spider's web: though he lean upon his house, it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure."
Take heed, therefore; thy soul, heaven, and eternity lie at stake; yea, they turn either to thee or from thee upon the hinge of thy faith, If it be right, all is thine; if wrong, then all is lost, however thy hope and expectations are to the contrary.
There are bare notions, there are common workings, and there is a work that is saving and that will do the soul good to eternity.
1. There are bare notions, and they that have them are such unto whom the gospel comes in word only, 1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Cor. 4:19, 20; such whose religion stands in word only, and is not attended with a power suitable: that is, there goes not with the word a power sufficient to subdue and work over the heart to a cordial and gracious close with that word that comes to them. Yet such is the noise
and sound of the word, that they are willing to become professors thereof; there is some kind of musicalness in it, especially when well handled and fingered by a skilful preacher. "And lo," saith God unto such preachers, when their auditory is made up of such kind of hearers, “lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not."
2. But then, besides these there is another sort, and they go further than these. For to them the word came, not in word only but also in power: though not in such a power as is sufficient, absolutely against all attempts whatsoever, to bring the soul to glory.
(1.) They attain light or illumination to see much of their state by nature. Heb. 6:4.
(2.) This light stands not in bare speculation, but lets fall upon the conscience convincing arguments to the bowing and humbling of the spirit. 1 Kings, 21: 27–29.
(3.) They submit to these convictions and reforms, and may for a time not only come out from them that live in error, but escape the pollutions of the world by the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Peter, 2:18-20; Gal. 3:4; 4:20.
(4.) Yea, so powerful will this dispensation be, that it will prevail with them to do and suffer many things for the vindication of the truth of that gospel which they profess. For the word will be sweet unto them; Christ, the gift of God, will be relished by them. Heb. 6:4, 5. The powers of the world to come will be in them; some workings of the Holy Ghost will be in them; and joy, which is as oil to the wheels, will be with their souls. Luke
Thus is it with some professors, who yet cannot be said to depart from iniquity, because the things that now are upon them abide with them but awhile: "For awhile they believe; they rejoice in the light for a season," and