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breast whilst thou considerest them. In them God hath set before thee the possibility of overcoming all difficulties; thou seest men of the same mould, who had the same trials, discouragements, and fears that now thou hast, and yet overcame all. How is thy unbelief checked when thou sayest, Oh! I shall never reach the end, I shall one day utterly perish! Why dost thou say so? Why may not such a poor creature as thou art be carried through as well as they? Had not they the same temptations and corruptions with you? Were they not all troubled with an evil heart, an insnaring world, and a busy devil, as well as you? Alas! when they put on the divine, they did not put off the human nature; but complained, and feared, as you do; and yet were carried through all.
Oh what an advantage have you in this respect! They that first trusted in Christ had not such helps. You have the benefit of their experience. You, in these last times, have certainly the best helps to holiness; and yet, will not you live strictly and purely? Will you take the name and profession of christians, and yet be lofty in your spirit, earthly in your designs, negligent of duty, vain in your communications? Pray, from which of all the saints did you learn to be proud? Did you learn it from Christ, or any of his? From which of his saints did you learn to be earthly and covetous, passionate and censorious, overreaching and crafty? If you have read of such sins committed by them, have you not also read of their shame and sorrow, their repentance and reformation? If you have found any such blots in their lives, they were left there designedly, to prevent the same in yours. Oh what a help to holiness is this!
3. You have not only a principle within you, and a pattern before you, but you have also an omnipotent Assistant to help and encourage you throughout your feeble and infirm? and is every temptaway. Are you
tion, even the weakest, strong enough to turn you out of the way of your duty? Lo, God hath sent his Spirit to help your infirmity. Rom. 8:26. No matter then how weak you are, how many and mighty your difficulties and temptations are, as long as you have such an Assistant to help you. Great is your advantage for a holy life in this respect.
When a temptation to sin presses sore upon you, he pleads with your conscience within, whilst Satan is tempting without. How often hath he brought such Scriptures to your remembrance, as have saved you out of the temptation! If you attend to his voice, you may hear a voice within you, "Oh, do not this abominable thing which I hate." Jer. 44: 4. "Thine eyes shall behold thy teachers; and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.' Isa. 30: 20, 21. Here you have a twofold help to holiness, the outward teaching of the word, verse 20, and the inward teachings of the Spirit, verse 21.
When you walk holily and closely with God in duty, and the Spirit encourages you by those inward comforts, sealings, and joys you have from him at such times; how often does he refresh your spirits in public ordinances, and in private duties, with his hidden manna, with marrow and fatness, with incomparable and unspeakable comforts, and all this to strengthen and encourage you in your way.
When you are indisposed to duty, and find your hearts empty and dry, he is ready to fill, quicken, and raise them ; so that often the beginning and the end of your prayers, hearing, or meditations, are as unlike as if one man had begun and another ended the duty.
Oh then, what assistances for a holy life have you! Others indeed are bound to resist temptation as well as you; but, alas! having no special assistance from the
Spirit, what can they do? It may be, they reason with temptation a little while, and in their own strength resolve against it; but how easy a conquest doth Satan make where he meets no greater opposition than this! Others are bound to hear, meditate, and pray, as well as you; else the neglect of these duties would not be their sin; but, alas! what pitiful work do they make of it, being left to the hardness and vanity of their own hearts! When you spread your sails, you have a gale; but they lie wind-bound, heart-bound, and can do nothing spiritually in the way of duty.
4. You have a further advantage to this holy life, by all the chastisements with which God visits you. I might show you, in many particulars, the benefits you thus receive; but will now present only three:
By these he prevents your straying and wandering. Others may wander even as far as hell, and God employ no sanctified rod upon them, to reduce or stop them; but say, "Let them alone." Hos. 4:17. But if you wander out of the way of holiness, he will send some trial to keep you within bounds. "Lest I should be lifted up, a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, was sent to buffet me." 2 Cor. 12: 7. So David, "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word." Psalm 119: 67. Afflictions are used by God, as thorns by husbandmen, to stop the gaps and keep you from breaking out of God's way: "I will hedge up her way with thorns, and build a wall, that she shall not find her paths." Hos. 2: 6. Basil was sorely afflicted with an inveterate head-ache, and often prayed for its removal: at last God removed it, but in the room of it he was sorely exercised with temptation; which, when he perceived, he heartily desired his head-ache again, to prevent a worse evil. You little know the ends and uses of many of your afflictions. Are you exercised with bodily weakness? It is a mercy you are so; and if these
pains and infirmities were removed, these clogs taken off, you might, with Basil, wish for them again, to prevent worse evils. Are you poor? With that poverty God hath clogged your pride. Are you reproached? With these reproaches God hath clogged your ambition. Corruptions are prevented by your afflictions. And is not all this a most merciful help to holiness of life?
By your afflictions, your corruptions are purified. By these God dries up and consumes that spring of sin that defiles you: "By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin." Isa. 27: 9. God orders your wants to kill your wantonness; and makes your poverty slay your pride. "When they fall by the sword, and by famine, and by captivity, and by spoil, it is to try them, and to purge them, and to make them white." Dan. 11: 33-35. Others have the same afflictions that you have, but they are not sanctified to them. To you they are as fire for purging, and water for cleansing and yet, shall not your lives be clean? It is true, as one well observes, Christ's blood is the only fountain to wash away sin; but, in the virtue and efficacy of that blood, sanctified afflictions also purify us. A cross without Christ never made any man better, but with Christ, saints are much the better for the cross. Hath God put you so many times into the furnace, and yet is not the dross consumed? The more afflictions you have suffered, the more assistance you have had for this life of holiness.
By all your troubles, God hath been sundering your affections from the world, and drawing out your souls to a more excellent life and state than this. He makes your sorrows in this life give a lustre to the glory of the next. Be sure, he will never give you rest here; and all, that you may long more ardently for that to come. He often makes you groan, "being burdened, earnestly desiring to be clothed with your house from heaven."
2 Cor. 5: 2, 4. And yet will you not be weaned from the lusts, customs, and sins of this world? Oh what manner of persons should you be in heavenly and holy conversation!
You have, as it
You stand upon the higher ground. were, the wind and tide with you. None are assisted for this life as you are. Put all this together, and see what this second argument contributes to constrain you to a holy life. Have you received a supernatural principle, fitting you for, and inclining you to holy actions, resisting and holding you back from sin? Hath God also set before you such eminent patterns to encourage and quicken you in your way? Doth the Spirit himself stand ready in so many ways to help you in all difficulties, and hath God hedged up the way of sin with the thorns of affliction to prevent your wandering; and yet will you turn aside? Will you offer violence to your own principles and new nature? refuse to follow such leaders as have beaten the way before you? resist or neglect the gracious assistance of the blessed Spirit, which he offers you in every need; and venture upon sin, though God hath hedged up your way with afflictions? Oh, how can you do such great wickedness, and sin against such grace as this!
III. Another irresistible motive to a godly life appears in THE GREAT AND MANIFOLD USES God will make of the visible holiness and purity of your lives, both in this world and that to come. Among these are,
1. To win souls to Christ, and bring them in love with religion. Practical holiness is lovely, attractive, and constraining. If the heathen could say of moral virtue, that, were it visible to human eyes, all men would adore it, and fall in love with it; how much rather may we so say of true holiness, made visible in the lives of saints! So much of God as appears in men, so much excellency