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lay it waste: I will also command the clouds that they rain not upon it.” Isa. 5:5, 6. The hedge and the wall are the spiritual and providential presence of God; these are the defence and safety of his people : the clouds and the rain are the sweet influences of gospel-ordinances. If the hedge be broken down, God's pleasant plants will soon be eaten up; and if the clouds rain not upon them, their root will be rottenness and their blossom will go up as dust; our churches will soon become as the mountains of Gilboa; therefore see that you know and improve the time of your visitation.
I shall conclude this fourth doctrine by a few words of CONSOLẠTION to those who have answered, and are now preparing to answer, the design of Jesus Christ in all his patience towards them, by their compliance with his great design and end therein. O blessed be God, and let his high praises be for ever in our mouths, that at last Christ is like to obtain his end upon some of us, and that all do not receive the grace of God in vain. And there are three considerations which will raise your hearts to the height of praise, if the Lord has made them indeed willing to open to the Lord Jesus.
15. The faith and obedience of your hearts make it evident, that the Lord's waiting on you hitherto has been in pursuance of his design of electing love.
What was the reason God did not take you away by death, though you passed so often
brink of it, in the days of your unregeneracy ? Surely this was the reason : that you, and such as you, might be brought to Christ at last. Therefore, though the Lord allowed you to run on so long in sin, still he continued your lives and the means of your salvation, because he had a design of mercy and grace upon you. And now the time of mercy, even the set time, is come. “Praise ye the Lord.”
upon the very
16. You may also see the sovereignty and freeness of divine grace in your vocation. Your hearts resisted all along the most powerful means, and the importunate calls of Christ; and would have resisted still, had not free and sovereign grace prevailed when the time of love was come. Ah, it was not the tractableness of thine own will, or the easy temper of thy heart to be wrought upon ; the Lord let thee stand long enough in the state of nature to prove that there was nothing in thy nature but obstinacy and enmity. Thou didst hear as many powerful sermons and melting prayers, and didst see as many awakening providences, before thy heart was opened to Christ, as thou hast since, yet thy heart never opened till now; and why did it open now ? Because now the Spirit of God joined himself to the word; victorious grace went forth in the word to break the hardness and conquer the rebellions of thy heart. The gospel was now preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; "which things," says the apostle, “the angels desire to look into.” 1 Pet. 1 : 12. Ah, friends, it is a glorious sight, worthy of angelic observation and admiration, to behold the effects of the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; to see, when the Spirit is present with the word, the blind eyes of sinners are opened, and they are brought into a new world of ravishing objects; to behold fountains of tears flowing for sin, out of hearts lately as hard as rocks; to see all the bars of ignorance, prejudice, custom, and unbelief fly open at the voice of the gospel ; to see rebels against Christ laying down their arms at his feet, and on the knees of submission crying, “Lord, I will rebel no more ;" to see the proud heart, hitherto wrapt up in its own righteousness, now stripping itself naked, and made willing that its own shame should add to the Redeemer's glory. These are sights which angels desire to look into. Certainly your hearts were more tender, and your
wills more ready to yield and bend in the days of your youth, than they were when sin had so hardened them, and longcontinued custom riveted and fixed them; yet then they did not, and now they do yield to the calls and invitations of the gospel. Ascribe all to sovereign grace, and say, “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory." Psa. 115:1. The experience of our own hearts will furnish us with arguments enough to resist all temptations to self-glory. Certainly you “ were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13.
17. This is a comfortable consideration, that he who waited on you so long, and won your hearts at last, will not now forsake you. I question not but there are many fears and jealousies within you that all this will come to nothing, and that you will perish at last. Divers things foment these jealousies within your hearts: the weakness of your own graces, which, alas, are but in their infancy; the sense you have of your remaining corruptions, and the great strength they still retain ; the subtlety of Satan, who employs all his temptations to reduce you, sometimes roaring after his escaped prey with hideous suggestions, which make
souls tremble; sometimes the discouraging apprehensions of the difficulties of religion, feeling the spirituality of active obedience and the difficulty of passive obedience to be above your strength ; sometimes feeling within yourselves the hiding of God's face, and the withdrawment of sweet and sensible communion with him. These, and such things as these, cause many a sorrow in your hearts; but cheer up, Christ will not lose at last what he pursued so long : he that waited so many years for thy soul, will never cast it away now that he has the possession of it.
EVERY CONVICTION OF CONSCIENCE AND MO.
TION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT A KNOCK FROM CHRIST.
“BEHOLD, I STAND AT THE DOOR AND KNOCK." Rev. 3:20.
In the former chapter, we have seen the Redeemer's posture, a posture of condescending humility-rather the posture of a servant than of the Lord of all : " Behold, I stand at the door.” We now come to consider his action or motion for entrance : I stand and knock." This metaphorical action of knocking, signifies nothing else but the motions made by Christ for entrance into the souls of sinners; and affords us this fifth doctrine :
every conviction of conscience and motion on the hearts of sinners is a knock of Christ for entrance into their souls.
This action of knocking is sometimes ascribed to the soul, and is expressive of its desire to come into the gracious presence and communion of God : so Matt. 7:7, To him that knocketh, it shall be opened ;" that is, to him that seeks by importunate prayer, fellowship and communion with the Lord, it shall be granted. But here it is applied to Christ, and is expressive of his importunate desire to come into union and communion with the souls of sinners. Here I shall show what are the doors of the soul at which Christ knocks; what his knocking at these doors implies; by what instruments he knocks at them; and in what manner he performs this action.
I. What are THE DOORS OF THE SOUL at which Christ knocks. You all know that the term Christ here used cannot be literal, but metaphorical. It is a figurative speech;
“door” is introductory to the house, and whatever intro
duces into the soul is the door of the soul. In the soul of man there are many powers and faculties that have this use, to introduce things into the soul. Some are more outward, as we may speak comparatively; and some more inward, as the doors of our houses are. Christ knocks orderly at them all, one after another, for the operations of the Spirit disturb not the order of nature.
1. The first door that opens into the soul is the understanding. Nothing passes into the soul but it first comes through this door of the understanding ; nothing can touch the heart or move the affections, but what has first touched the understanding. Hence we read so often in Scripture of the opening of the understanding, that being, as it were, the front door of the soul.
2. Within this is the royal gate of the soul, namely, the will, that noble and imperial power. Many things may pass into the mind or understanding of a man, and yet be able to get no further; the door of the will may be shut against them. There were many precious truths of God let into the understandings of the heathen by the light of nature, but they could get no further; their hearts and wills were locked and shut up against them. They held the truths of God in unrighteousness, Rom. 1:18; that is, they bound and imprisoned the common notices which the law of nature impressed upon their minds concerning the being and nature of God, and the duties of both tables of the law. These truths could get no further into their souls : and, which is a sad and dreadful consideration, Christ himself stands between these two doors, in the souls of many persons; he has got into their understandings and consciences, and they are convinced of the necessity of receiving Jesus Christ, but still the door of their will is barred against him, which drew from him the sad complaint, “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.”
John 5:40. When this door of the will is once effectually opened, then all the inner doors of the affections