« AnteriorContinuar »
not the heavenly nature of the subject, but the abilities of the speaker that so affected him. And this was the case of Ezekiel's hearers. Chap. 33:32.
3. These motions of the affections may rather be a fit and mood, than the very frame and temper of the soul. There are seasons when the roughest and most obdurate heart may be pensive and tender: but that is not its temper and frame, but rather a fit, a pang, a transient passion. So the Lord complains of them, "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew, it goeth away." Hos. 6:4. And so he complains, "When he slew them, then they sought him and they returned and inquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their rock, and the most high God their Redeemer; nevertheless they did flatter him with their lips, and lied unto him with their tongues." Psalm 78: 34-36. Had this remembrance of God been the gracious temper of their souls, it would have continued with them; they would not have been thus wavering and lukewarm.
INFERENCE 1. If such as sometimes feel their hearts melted with the consideration of the sufferings of Christ, may yet be deceived; what cause have they to fear and tremble, whose hearts are unrelenting as the rocks, yielding to nothing that is proposed, or urged upon them! How many such are there, of whom we may say, as Christ said of the Jews, "We have piped unto you, but ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, but ye have not lamented!" Matt. 11: 17. If those perish that have rejoiced under the promises, and mourned under the threats of the word; what shall become of them that are totally unconcerned and unmoved by what they hear? who are given up to such hardness of heart, that nothing can affect them? One would think, the consideration of the sixth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews
should startle such individuals, and make them cry out, Lord, what will become of such a senseless, stupid, dead creature as I am? If they that have been enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, may, notwithstanding, so fall away, that it shall be impossible to renew them again by repentance, what shall we then say, or think, of the state of those to whom the most penetrating and awakening truths are no more than a tale that is told?
2. If such as these may eternally miscarry; then let all look carefully to their foundation. It is manifest from 1 Cor. 10: 12, that many souls stand exceeding dangerously, who are yet satisfied of their own safety. And if you consult the following scriptures, you shall find vain confidence to be a ruling passion among men, and one which is the utter overthrow and undoing of multitudes of professors. Gal. 6:3, 4; John, 8:54; Rom. 2: 18, 19, 21; Matt. 25: 11, 12; Matt. 7:22.
Now there is nothing more apt to beget this vain soul-undoing confidence, than the stirrings and meltings of our affections about spiritual things, whilst the heart remains unrenewed. For such a man seems to have all that is required of a christian, and herein to have attained the very end of all knowledge—its influence upon the heart and affections. Indeed (thinks such a poor deluded soul) if I heard, read, or prayed, without any inward affections, with a dead, cold, and unconcerned heart; or if I made a show of zeal and affection in duties, and had it not; well might I suspect myself to be a hypocrite: but it is not so with me, I feel my heart really melted many times when I read the sufferings of Christ; I feel my heart raised and ravished with strange joys and comforts when I hear the glory of heaven in the Gospel indeed if it were not so with me, I might
fear that the root of the matter is wanting; but if to my knowledge affections be added, a melting heart joined with a knowing head, then I may be confident all is well. I have often heard ministers cautioning and warning their people not to rest satisfied with idle and speculative notions in their understandings, but to labor for impressions upon their hearts. This I have attained. I have often heard it given as a mark of a hypocrite, that he has light in his head, but it sheds not down its influence upon the heart; whereas in those that are sincere, it works on their heart and affections: so I find it with me, therefore I am in a most safe estate.
O soul! of all the false signs of grace, none are more dangerous than those that most resemble true ones; and never doth the devil more surely and incurably destroy, than when transformed into an angel of light. What if these meltings of thy heart be but a flower of nature? What if thou art more indebted to a good temper of body than a gracious change of spirit for these things? Yet so it may be. Be not secure, but fear, and watch. Possibly, if thou wouldest but search thine own heart in this matter, thou mayest find that any other moving story will have like effects upon thee. Possibly, too, thou mayest find that, notwithstanding all thy raptures and joys at the hearing of heaven and its glory, thy heart is habitually earthly, and thy conversation is not there. For all thou canst mourn at the relation of Christ's sufferings, thou art not so affected with sin, which was the cause of them, as to crucify one corruption, or deny the next temptation, or part with any way of sin that is gainful or pleasurable to thee, for his sake.
Now, reader, if it be so with thee, what art thou the better for the glow of thy affections? Dost thou think in earnest that Christ hath the better thoughts of thee, because thou canst shed tears for him, when notwithstanding thou every day piercest and woundest him?
Oh! be not deceived. Nay, for aught I know, thou mayest find, upon a narrow search, that thou puttest thy tears in the room of Christ's blood, and givest the confidence and dependence of thy soul to them; and if so, they shall never do thee any good. Therefore search thy heart, cherish not, upon such poor weak grounds as these, a soul-undoing confidence. Always remember the wheat and tares resemble each other in their first springing up; that an egg is not more like an egg, than hypocrisy, in some shapes and forms into which it can cast itself, is like a genuine work of grace.
There be first, that shall be last; and last, that shall be first. Matt. 19: 30. Great is the deceitfulness of our hearts. Jer. 17: 9. And many are the subtleties and devices of Satan. 2 Cor. 11: 3. Many also are the astonishing examples of self-deceiving souls recorded in the word. Remember what you have read of Judas. Great also will be the strictness of the last judgment. And how confident soever you be that you shall stand in that day, still remember that trial is not yet past. Your final sentence is not yet come from the mouth of your Judge. This I speak not to affright and trouble, but to excite and warn you. The loss of the soul is no small loss.
We proceed to the supposition, that the sorrow of these women was the fruit of their faith, and hence observe,
The believing meditation of what Christ suffered for us, is of great force and efficacy to melt and break
It is promised, that "they shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son; and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born." Zech. 12: 10. Ponder seriously, here, the spring and motive, "They
shall look upon me;" it is the eye of faith that melts and breaks the heart. Mark also the effect of such a sight of Christ, "They shall look and mourn ;" be in bitterness and sorrow. True repentance is a drop out of the eye of faith; and the measure or degree of sorrow caused by a believing view of Christ is here expressed by two of the fullest instances of grief; that of a tender father mourning over a dear and only son; and that of the people of Israel mourning over Josiah, that peerless prince, in the valley of Megiddo.
Now to show how the believing meditation of Christ, and his sufferings, come kindly and savingly to break and melt down the gracious heart, I shall mention four considerations of the heart-breaking efficacy of faith, eyeing a crucified Jesus.
I. The viewing of Christ and his sufferings by faith, is in itself most affecting and melting. Faith is a true glass, that represents all his sufferings and agonies to the life. It presents them not as a fiction, or idle tale, but as a true and faithful narrative. This, says faith, is a true and faithful saying, that Christ was not only clothed in our flesh-even he that is over all, God blessed for ever, the only Lord, the Prince of the kings of the earth, became a man-but in this body of his flesh he bore the infinite wrath of God, which filled his soul with horror and amazement; that the Lord of life hung dead upon the cross; that he went as a lamb to the slaughter, and was as a sheep dumb before the shearer; that he endured all this, and more than any finite understanding can comprehend, in my room and stead; for my sake he there groaned and bled; for my pride, earthliness, lust, unbelief, hardness of heart, he endured all this. I say, to realize the sufferings of Christ thus, is of great power to affect the coldest, dullest heart. You cannot imagine the difference there is in presenting things as realities, with convincing and satisfying evi