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either a course of careless walking, and many little unlawful liberties taken to themselves, that will rise and gather as a cloud, and hide the face of God; or some one gross sin, especially if often reiterated, will prove as a firm stone-wall, or rather as a brazen-wall, built up by their own hands betwixt them and Heaven, and will not be so easily dissolved or broken down; and yet, till that be, the light of His countenance, who is the life of the soul, will be eclipsed and withheld from it.
And this considered, besides that law of love that will forbid so foul ingratitude, yet, I say, this considered, even our own interest will make us wary of sinning. Though we were sure not to be yet altogether separated from the love of God by it, yet, thou who hast any persuasion of that love, darest thou venture upon any known sin? Thou art not hazardless and free from all damage by it, if thou hast need of that argument to restrain thee. Then, before thou run upon it, sit down and reckon the expense; see what it will cost thee if thou do commit it. Thou knowest that once it cost the heart-blood of thy Redeemer to expiate it, and is that a light matter to thee? And though that paid all that score, nothing thou canst suffer being able to do any thing that way, yet, as an unavoidable present fruit of it, it will draw on this damage; thou shalt be sure for a time, it may be for a long time, possibly most of thy time, nearly all thy days, it may darken much that love of God to thee, which if thou dost but esteem, think on it. It changes not in Him, but a sad change as to thy sight and apprehension of it. blessed communion with thy God shalt be dead and stupid in that want, or mourn after Him, and yet find, though sighs and tears continue, the door shut, yea, a dead wall raised betwixt thee and Him, and at best much straitening and pains to take it down again; contrary to other walls and buildings, which are far more easily pulled down than built up, but this is a great deal easier built up than pulled down. True, thy God could cast it down with a word,
will sin bring on thee, Many a sweet hour of thou miss, and either
and it is His free grace that must do it, otherwise thou couldest never remove it: yet will He have thee feel thy own handywork, and know thy folly. Thou must be at pains to dig at it, and may be it will cost thee broken bones in taking it down, pieces of it falling heavy and sad upon thy conscience, and crushing thee; as David cried out at that work, for a healing word from God, Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice. Psal. li. 8. It will force thee to say, O fool that I was, what meant I! Oh! it is good, keeping near God, and raising no divisions. What are sins? False delights, by which a man but provides his own vexation. Now, this distance from God, and all this turmoiling, and breaking, and crying before He appears again, consider if any pleasure of sin can countervail this damage. Surely, when thou art not out of thy wits, thou wilt never make such a bargain for all the pleasure thou canst make out of any sin, to breed thyself all this pains, and all this grief, at once to displease thy God, and displease thyself, and make a partition between Him and thee. Oh, sweet and safe ways of holiness, walking with God in His company and favour! He that orders his conversation aright, he sees the loving-kindness of the Lord: it is shewn to him; he lives in the sight of it. Psal. 1. 23.
But if any such separation is made, yet, is it thy great desire to have it removed? Why then there is hope. See to it, labour to break it down, and pray to Him to help thee, and He will put forth His hand, and then it must fall. And in all thy sense of separation, look to him who brake down the middle wall of partition. Eph. ii. 14. There it is spoken of as betwixt men, Jews and Gentiles, but so as it was also between the Gentiles and God, who were separated from His people, and from Himself. See ver. 16. That he might reconcile both to God in one body; and ver. 18. Through him we have access by one Spirit to the Father. And then he adds, that they were no more strangers and foreigners, dwelling on the other side of the wall, apoixo, as the word is, but
fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.
Oh, that we knew more what it were to live in this sweet society, in undivided fellowship with God! Alas! how little is understood this living in Him, separated from sin and this world, which otherwise do separate from Him; solacing our hearts in His love, and despising the base muddy delights that the world admires; hoping for that New Jerusalem, where none of these walls of sin are, nor any one stone of them, and for that bright day wherein there is no cloud nor mist to hide our Sun from us.
Now, for the condition of the Church, know sin to be the great obstructor of its peace, making Him to withdraw His hand, and hide His face, and to turn away His ear from our prayers, and loath our fasts: as Isa. i. 15. and Jer. xiv. 12. The quarrel stands; sin not repented of and removed. The wall is still standing; oaths, and sabbath-breaking, and pride, and oppression, and heart-burnings still remaining. Oh, what a noise of religion and reformation! All sides are for the name of it, and how little of the thing! The Gospel itself is despised, grown stale, as trivial doctrine. Oh, my beloved, if I could speak many hours without intermission, all my cry would be, Repent and pray. Let us search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord our God. Oh, what walls of every one's sin are set to it! Dig diligently to bring down thine own; and for those huge walls of public national guiltinesses, if thou canst do nothing to them more, compass them about as Jericho, and look up to Heaven for their downfall. Cry, Lord, these we ourselves have reared, but without Thee who can bring them down? Lord, throw them down for us. A touch of Thy hand, a word of Thy mouth, will make them fall.-Were we less busied in impertinencies, and more in this most needful work, it might do some good. Who knows but the Lord might make His own way clear, and return and visit us, and make His face to shine, that we might be
ROMANS xiii. 11, 12, 13, 14.
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
Let us walk honestly as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the the lusts thereof.
THE highest beauty of the soul, the very image of God upon it, is holiness. He that is aspiring to it himself, is upon a most excellent design; and if he can do any thing to excite and call up others to it, he performs a work of the greatest charity.
This, St. Paul doth frequently and pressingly in his writings. This epistle, as it doth admirably clear the doctrine of justification, it doth not less earnestly urge the doctrine of sanctification. That one sentence about the middle thereof, does excellently unite them, and so is the summary of all that goes before, and all that follows: Ch. viii. ver. 1. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The present words are as an alarm, or morning watch-bell, of singular use, not only awaking a Christian to his day's work, but withal reminding him what it is. And these two shall be all our division of them. 1. Our awaking sounded. 2. Our walking directed. The former, ver. 11, 12, tells us, it is time to rise, and calls us up to put on our clothes, and being soldiers, our arms. The latter, ver. 13, directeth our behaviour and employment throughout the day. The last
verse doth shortly, and that fully and clearly, fold up both together. We shall take the words just as they lie.
And that knowing the time. This imports much in all actions, and here it is the Apostle's great argument. Now it is unfit to sleep, knowing the time: however it might have been before, now, it is very unseasonable and unsuitable, that you lie snoring as at midnight. Do you know what o'clock it is; (ga) It is time to rise; it is morning, the day begins to appear.
[Observation.] All the days of sinful nature are dark night, in which there is no right discerning of spiritual things. Some light there is of reason, to direct natural and civil actions, but no day-light. Till the sun arise, it is night still, for all the stars, and the moon to help them. Notwithstanding natural speculations, that are more remote, and all prudence and policy for affairs, that come somewhat nearer to action, yet, we are still in the night. And you do think that a sad life, but the truth is, we sleep on in it, and our heads are still full of new dreams which keep us sleeping. We are constantly drunk with cares or desires of sense, and so our sleep continues. Sometimes it is called death-dead in sins, &c. Now, sleep is brother to death; and so, by it not unfitly is the same state resembled. No spiritual life we have at all, and therefore in that sense are truly dead. But because there is in us a natural life, and in that, a capacity of spiritual life, therefore we are said to be asleep. As in a deep sleep, our soul is bound up and drowned in flesh, through a surcharge of the vapours of gross, sensible things that we glut ourselves withal; and the condition of our wisest thoughts, in relation to our highest good, are nothing but dreams and reveries. Your projectings, and bargainings, and buildings, these be a better sort of dreams; but your envyings, and mutual despisings and discontents, your detracting and evil-speaking, these are more impertinent, and to yourselves more perplexing. And your sweetest enjoyments in this life, which you think most real, are but shadows of delight, a more pleasant sort of dreams. All pomps and