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And so I have done with the third use, which was to stir you up to look upon your graces with caution.
4. The fourth duty is to persuade weak saints not to turn aside from the ways of God, nor from the service of God, because of any hardships or difficulties which they meet with in his ways or service.
There is a very great aptness in weak saints to take offence almost at every thing, and to be discouraged by the least opposition, affliction, and temptation, and so to turn aside from the good old way. Now that no difficulties nor hardships may turn you out of the way that is called holy, consider seriously these few things.
First; consider this—the Lord will sweeten more and more his services to you. He will make his work to be more and more easy to your souls. He will suit thy burden to thy back, and thy work to thy hand, O weak soul. Thou shalt find that his grace will be sufficient to hold thee up and carry thee on, notwithstanding any difficulties and discouragements that may be in the way. He will shed abroad that love which shall constrain thy soul, both to keep close to his service, and to delight in his service. He will make all his service to be easy to thee; he will vouchsafe to thee that assisting grace which shall keep up thy head and heart from fainting and sinking under discouragements, as you may see in Ezek. xxxvi. 25—28; And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them. So in Psal. lxiii. 8; My soul followeth hard after thee; but how comes this to pass? Thy right hand upholdeth me. 'I feel thy hand under me, drawing my soul after thee. 0 were not thy gracious hand under me, I should never follow hard after thee.' The Lord will put under thee his everlasting arms, O weak Christian; and therefore though thy feet are apt to slide, yet his everlasting arms shall bear thee up. Therefore be not discouraged; do not turn aside from those paths that drop marrow and fatness, though there be a lion in the way.
Secondly; consider this, O weak saint, that there is less danger and hardship in the ways of Christ, than there is in the ways of sin, Satan, or the world. That soul does but leap out of the frying-pan into the fire, that thinks to mend itself by turning out of the way that is called holy. O the horrid drudgery that is in the ways of sin, Satan, or the world. Thy worst day in Christ's service, is better than thy best days, if I may so speak, in sin or Satan's service. Satan will pay the sinner home at last with the loss of God, Christ, heaven, and his soul for ever. But in the way of righteousness is life, joy, peace, honour, and in the pathway thereof there is no death, Prov. xii. 28. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace, Prov. iii. 17. *
Thirdly; remember, O weak saint, that all those hardships which thou meetest with, do only reach the outward man. They only reach the ignoble, the baser part of man; they meddle not with, they touch not the noble part. Witk my mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin, Rom. vii. 25; and verse 22, I delight in the law of God, after the inward man. And indeed many of the heathen have encouraged themselves with this very consideration, against the troubles and dangers of this life. All the arrows that are shot at a Christian, stick in his buckler; they never reach his conscience, his soul. The raging waves beat sorely against Noah's ark, but they touched not him. The soul is of too noble a nature to be touched by troubles. Jacob's hard service under Laban, and his being nipped by the frost in winter and scorched by the sun in summer, did only reach his outward man; his soul had high communion, and sweet fellowship with God, under all his hardships. O Christian, bear up bravely; for whatever hardships thou meetest with in the ways of God, shall only reach thy outward man; and under all these hardships thou mayest have as high and sweet communion with God, as if thou hadst never known what hardships meant, Hosea ii. 14—23.
Fourthly ; tell me, O weak saints, have not you formerly enjoyed such sweet refreshing while you have been in the very service of God, as have outweighed all the troubles and hardships that your souls have met with? I know you have, and you know that you have often found this scripture made good in your hearts; Moreover by them is thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward, Psal. xix. 11. Mark, he does not say, For keeping of them there is great reward, though that is a truth; But, in keeping of them there is great reward. While the soul is at work, God throws in the reward. Do not you remember, O weak Christians, when you have been in the service and way of God, how he has cast in joy at one time, and peace at another? O the smiles, the kisses, the re discoveries, that your souls have met with, whilst you have been in his ways! Ah poor souls, do not you know, that one hour's being in the bosom of Christ, will make you forget all your hardships? Heaven at last will make amends for all; and the more hardship you find in the ways of God, the more sweet will heaven be to you, when you come there. O how sweet is a harbour after a long storm, and a sun-shine day after a dark and tempestuous night, and a warm spring after a sharp winter! The miseries and difficulties that a man meets with in this world, will exceedingly sweeten the glory of that other world.
Lastly; consider what hardships and difficulties the men of this world run through, to get the world and undo their own souls. They rise early, go to bed late; they go from one end of the world to another, and venture through all manner of dangers, deaths and miseries, to gain those things that are vain, uncertain, vexing, and dangerous to their souls. And wilt not thou, as a good soldier of Christ, endure a little hardship for the honour of thy Captain, and thine own internal and eternal good? Thou art listed under Christ's colours, and therefore thou must arm thyself against all difficulties and discouragements. The number of difficulties makes the Christian's conquest the more illustrious. A gracious man should be made up all of fire, overcoming and consuming all oppositions, as fire does the stubble. All difficulties should be but whetstones to his fortitude.
5. The fifth duty is this—you that are weak saints should observe how Christ keeps your wills and affections.
That man is kept indeed, whose will and affections are kept close to Christ; and that man is lost with a witness, whose will and affections are won from Christ. Weak saints are more apt to observe their own actions, than their wills and affections, and this proves a snare unto them; therefore observe your affections, how they are kept, for if they are kept close to Christ, if they are kept faithful to Christ, though thy foot may slide from Christ, all is well. The apostle in Rom vii. observes that his will and affections were kept close to Christ even then when he was tyrannically captivated, and carried by the prevalency of sin, from Christ; With my mind I serve the law of God, says he, and what I do I allow not; therefore it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 'My will stands close to Christ, and my affections are faithful to Christ, though by the prevalency of corruption, I am now and then carried captive from Christ.' It is one thing to be taken by an enemy, and another thing for a man to lay down his weapons at his enemy's feet. 'I am,' says the apostle, ' a forced man. I do what I hate. I do what I never intended.' The heart may be sound, when more external and inferior parts are not. The heart of a man may be sound towards God, and Christ, and holiness, when yet there may be many defects and weaknesses in his conversation. Now a weak Christian should be very studious to observe how his heart stands God-ward; for the man is as his heart is; if that be right with Christ, then all is well; therefore says Solomon, Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. The Hebrew runs more fully thus, before all or above all keepings, keep thy heart; for out of it is the going forth of lives. The heart is the spring and fountain of all natural and spiritual actions; it is the primum mobile, the great wheel, that sets other wheels going; therefore keep it with all custody and caution, or else bid farewell to all true joy, peace, and comfort. When the heart stands right towards Christ, Christ will pardon much and pass by much.
If the ravished virgin, in the time of the law, cried out, she was guiltless. So when a poor soul, ravished by the power of corruption, and strength of Satan's temptations, cries out, 'Lord, I would not for all the world sin against thee: I would not distrust thee; I would not be impatient under thy afflicting hand; I would not be proud under thy merciful hand; but, Lord, these sons of Zeruiah, these corruptions, are too hard for me; they rob me of my Jesus, and of my joy, and of my peace. Lord, help me; Lord, deliver me.' Now these weaknesses shall not be charged upon the soul. The ravished virgin under the law, if she cried out, was guiltless; and certainly God is not, and will not be less merciful and gracious to his people under the gospel, who are still crying out against their sins, and Satan's assaults. Surely those sins shall never be a Christian's bane, that are now his greatest burden. It is not falling into the water, but lying in the water, that drowns. It is not falling into sin, but lying in sin, that damns. If sin and thy heart be two, Christ and thy heart are one. If thy heart be Christ-ward, thou art so happy that nothing can make thee miserable.
6. Take heed of making sense and feeling a judge of your condition.
Though there is nothing more dangerous, yet there is nothing more ordinary, than for weak saints to make their sense and feeling the judge of their condition. Ah, poor souls, this is dishonourable to God, and very disadvantageous to yourselves. Sense is sometimes opposite to reason, but always to faith; therefore do as those worthies did in 2 Cor v. 8, 9; We walk by faith, and not by sight. For a man to argue thus, ' Surely God is not my God, for I am not enlightened, I am not quickened, I am not melted, I am not raised, I am not enlarged, as formerly. O! I have not those sweet answers and returns of prayer, that once I had. O! I cannot find the Lord's quickening presence, nor his enlivening presence, nor his humbling presence, nor his encouraging presence, as once I found; therefore surely my condition is not good. O ! I am more backward to good, than formerly; and more prone to evil, than formerly; therefore I am afraid that God is not my God, and that the work of grace is not genuine upon me. God does not look upon me as in the days of old; nor speak to me as in the days of old; nor carry it towards me, as in the days of old ; and therefore I am afraid that all is naughty Verily, if you will make sense and feeling the judge of your estate and condition, you will never have peace nor comfort all your days. Thy estate, O Christian, may be very good, when sense and feeling say it is very bad. That child cannot but be perplexed, that thinks his father does riot love him, because he does not always feel him smoothing and stroking him. Christians,