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ever ye may have such a favourable occasion again. away, death is hastening on, it is dangerous to delay. If ye be indifferent in the business, ye will never hang on.
2dly, Lay it down for a conclusion, ye must have Christ, or ye perish. Pinching need makes men importunate: if ye feel not that, ye will soon weary, and never bring the matter to a good issue, John vi. 67, 68, “ Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also
go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” The sinner will hang on at Christ's door when he sees all others shut against him.
3dly, Embrace Christ in the great promise of the gospel, believing the promise; taking a dead gripe of it, never to part. It is held out to you, and every one of you, Heb. iv. 1, "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” It is the report from heaven to be believed, Is. liii. 1. Without faith there is no eviting of fainting, Psal. xxvii 13, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
4thly, Take an eternal farewell of the vain world, and deceitful lusts; resvolving, that, come what will, ye will hang by Christ in the promise, if ye should die there; saying with Job, chap. xiii. 15, “Though he slay me yet will I trust in him.” None come aright to Christ but they that come resolutely.
Lastly, Be not hasty, but resolve to wait in expectation, setting no time to the Lord's comforting you, Is. xxviii. 16,—"He that believeth, shall not make haste.” Micah. vii. 9, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness." If all thy life long should pass uncomforted, peace and comfort in the end is well worth waiting on.
Use 2. Be not surprised, nor offended at the way of God, though in your addresses to the throne ye meet with apparent harsh entertainment. They have seemed to themselves to be boasted away, who taking the buffet, have got the bit too by waiting on, like the woman of Canaan, Matt. xv. 21,-28. The importunity of faith, that is, a continued trust in the promise, and an incessant use of the means, will prevail.
Secondly, I shall give you some reasons of that way, whereby to account for it in a suitableness to the divine perfections.
1. This way is taken with petitioners in the court of heaven; for thereby God is glorified, and his attributes more illustrated than otherwise they would be. In this view of it, Paul welcomes it in
his own case, though it was hard to sense, 2 Cor. xii. 9, And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” God treating his people thus, displays his wisdom, in guiding the broken vessel safely through many rocks and shelves to land without splitting; that afterwards they are made to say, None else but he could have done it, Is. ix. 6, “ His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor;" his power, in supporting them under a pressure that otherwise they would sink under, 2 Cor. i. 8, 9, “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life : but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead;" his grace, mercy, and goodness, in seasonable interposings thereof when their foot is ready to slip, Pal. xciv. 18,“ When I said, My foot slippeth : thy mercy, O Lord, held me up." 2 Cor. xii. 9, forecited.
2. Hereby the state of petitioners is tried, and a plain difference constituted between hypocrites and the sincere, Matt. xxiv. 13, “ He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” God's petitioners in the gross are like Gideon's army, Judges vii. far more than are to be trusted. So God brings them down to these waters of trial; and there is a heap of them that must have a fill presently, or they faint, cannot go forward ; so they are set on, like the men that bowed down on their knees to drink, Job xxvii. 10, “Will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God ?" Others are disposed to endure hardness, without fainting, like the men that lapped; and they are kept as meet to have their petitions granted at length, Luke xviii. 7,“ And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
3. Hereby the graces of believing petitioners are tried, both as to the reality and strength of them ; particularly their faith and patience, 1 Pet. i. 6, 7. “ Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations. That the trial of your faith being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ. James i. 12, “ Blessed is the man that endureth temptation : for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” Our Lord takes great pleasure in the faith and patience of his people,
and therefore he puts them sorely to it in these points, like the woman of Canaan, Matt. xv. that they may have occasion to exert themselves vigorously. Sometimes they meet with such a shock that they are foundered in them: anon there is a secret breathing, and they get to their feet again, and act more vigorously than before, like a giant refreshed with wine, Jonah ii. 4, “ Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple." Hereby they have a double benefit; they see the reality of their faith and patience better than in a calm, and the strength of them more than they could have expected, and withal that they are other things than efforts of natural abilities, no more to be their product, than roses of the desart: Rom. v. 3, 4, 5, “ And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
4. Hereby believers are humbled, and taught that they hold of free grace. The exalting of grace is the great design of the whole contrivance of the gospel. Therefore faith is made the turning point in it, the hinge of it as to us; Rom. iv. 16, “ Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace: to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed. Therefore this method used in the dispensation of Heaven's favours according to it, Deut. viii. 2, “ And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee, these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldst keep his commandments, or not.” They that buy with their money must be served presently; but beggars must be content to wait on. There are powerful remains or a legal spirit in the best, kything in requiring supply for their needs, with little sense of their unworthieness; and in a disposition to fret, if they be not quickly answered. It takes much hewing to bring down these ; to empty the man of himself, and to let him see that God is no debtor to him for any thing, great or small.
5. This way is taken for honour of the word, Psal. cxxxviii. 2, “ Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” There are many letters of God's name, but this Bible is the capital letter of it: and there is not one dispensation of providence, that magnifies the Bible more than this. It is even the thing that bears the head above, and keeps the heart from fainting, in this case, Rom. xv. 4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.” This treatment at the court of heaven sends the petitioner to the records, which gladden his heart, finding that it has been the ancient way of the court; and in a desert way it is no small comfort to the traveller, to find a track, and the print of some one's feet before him. It makes him mark narrowly, and greedily catch at a word; and to discover a treasure, where
many a time, when he went over it before, he saw nothing.
6. Lastly, It is taken to make them long to be bome. God's children are in this world, young heirs that are abroad out of their Father's country: they send their letters, and draw their bills on their Father: and while they are speedily answered, at every turn, they live at ease in the strange country, and are not solicitous to be home : but their Father cures them of that, letting them at length write over and over again, without an answer; and ceasing to answer their bills : and then they long to be home.
III. The third thing to be considered, is, The duty of the petitioners to hang on, and not to faint, whatever they meet with. We may view it in these things following.
1. They must never lift their process from the court of heaven, John vi. 67, 68,—“Lord, to whom shall we go ? thou hast the words of eternal life.” It was Saul's ruin, that when God answered him not, when he went to a witch; and the unbelieving Israelites when they heard of the giants of Canaan, that they would be back to Egypt again, Numb. xiv. 4; and it is the ruin of many, when they find not the sweet in religion that they expected, to go back to the world and their lusts, that will answer them, they think, sooner. But whatever be your sore, ye should protest that it shall run for you, till the Lord put forth his own healing hand, and that ye will not go to another for a cure, Lam. iii. 49, 50, “ Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission : till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven.”
2. They must never give over praying, but "pray always." They that will pray about the time of a communion, and afterwards leave it off by degrees, will lose all their pains, and prove themselves to be hypocrites, Job xxvii. 10, " Will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God?” And Satan sometimes plies distressed souls to give up with it, as what they may see they will do no good with, for that God will not hear them. But that is a deceit of hell which ye must never yield to; no not though God should continue to answer you not a word; nay not though your attempting to pray, should seem to serve for nothing but to set a-raging against you; for it is God's command, that “meu pray always." There is less ill in mismanaging prayer than in giving it over altogether; for that is tamely to yield your
selves to Satan's will. And though ye may be in such confusion, as to take the devil's whispers within you for your own voice, God will carefully distinguish the two, and not lay that to your charge wherein ye are pure sufferers. And continuing to pray, ye are in the way of duty, wherein ye may expect God will hear and pity at length.
3. They must insist on their tabled petitions, while their need' remains, whatever entertainment they seem to meet with, as the woman of Canaan did, Matt. xv. If ye insist not, ye will be construed to have fallen from it: but importunity will speed at long-run, Luke xi. 8, “I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend: yet, because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth. And indeed, need continuing to pinch, and the petitioner giving over his crying for supply, is fainting with a witness.
Case. But may it not be that the Lord may say Speak no more to me of this matter? Answer. It is true, it may be so, as the Lord did to Moses, Deut. iii, 26, “But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee, speak no more unto me of this matter. But in that case I conceive, (1.) The Lord shows his people they do not need that thing ; let it suffice thee, or thou hast much, or enough. And to quiet Moses in this case, he gave him a sight of the land from Pisgah, ver. 27. (2.) The help of the Spirit as to praying in that particular is withdrawn. There is an embargo laid on them in that point, “ Speak no more unto me of this matter."
4. They must carry all their incident needs in new petitions, to the same throne of grace, where the former petition may have been long lying, and still unanswered ; and so pursue all together. The latter must not drive out the former, nor the former keep back the latter. It is one of the ways how the Lord keeps his people hanging about his hand without fainting, by sending them several loads above their burden; which loads he takes off soon at their request; and so makes them go under their burden the more easily. These short incident processes, that get a speedy answer, confirm their faith and hope in waiting on for the answer of the main. I believe it will be found, that the Lord's children, who have had the most tedious process before the throne, have not wanted experience of very quick dispatches in the time, Isa. Ixv. 24," And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”
5. They must continue in the faith of the promise, never quit the gripe of it; but trust and believe that it shall certainly be accom