Ralph Erskine Archive

Ralph Erskine

SERMON XLVII


THE COMER’S CONFLICT: OR, THE BEGINNER’S BATTLE WITH THE DEVIL, WHEN ESSAYING TO COME TO CHRIST BY FAITH.
[The Second Sermon on this Text]

This subject was handled in two Discourses: The first was delivered at an evening exercise, on Saturday, July 19, 1735, before the celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, at Kinglassie, on the 20th. The second was preached on the Monday, after the administration of that ordinance.

“And as he was yet a-coming, the Devil threw him down, and tare him.” Luke 9:42

This doctrine may be applied at the time, in an exhortation or advice, particularly to these that are tempted and torn of the devil, when they essay to come to the Lord Jesus. In order to your being fortified, through grace, against his assaults and fiery darts, there are only six sorts of temptations, I would, at present, endeavor to fortify you against. 1. With reference to heart blasphemy. 2. With reference to heart-wandering. 3. With reference to the com­mission of sin. 4. With reference to the omission of duty. 5. With reference to unworthy apprehensions of God. 6. With reference to self-murder. There are temptations with reference to all these that you need to be fortified against; while you are coming to Christ, Satan may attempt to throw you down, and tear you in all these, and many other respects; but I shall touch a little at each of these.

1st, There are temptations of Satan with reference to blas­phemy, whereby he would throw down and tear in pieces as it were, the souls of these that come to Jesus Christ. They may be tempted to dreadful blasphemous thoughts, which are not to be named, they are so detestable and abominable; they are fearful injections upon the mind, and very terrifying to a weak believer, that is coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to your being fortified against these, I would offer you the following advices

1. Be not terrified with them, since they harm you more by their horror, than by their guilt. It is true, the guilt of them is so great that it is unpardonable to whom it belongs. These are Satan’s sins, and not thine; and he shall answer for them, and not thou. Though he lay these blasphemous thoughts at your door, he is the father of them. Such thoughts are like lightnings cast into a room, they have a great deal of horror; but as the lightning springs not from any cause in the room, so these thoughts proceed not from anything in thee; not properly from thy corruptions, for unre­generate men themselves abhor them: and though the seed of all sin be in our nature, yet scarce, if ever, doth this sin spring up even in reprobates; nay, the devil himself doth not think of God, that which these thoughts signify. Since thou (lost not actually, nor did originally, in Adam, give consent to these thoughts, they are not thy sins. Suppose some villain should meet a chaste virgin in a field and ravish her, if she struggles and cries, she is innocent by the law of God; this is her affliction, not her sin. She may mourn for her suffering, not her guilt; especially she doing nothing to pro­voke him. It may be the villain finds her at a prayer, as the devil doth find thee, when he injects these thoughts. Therefore, be of good comfort, thou art more afraid than hurt; for a careless, wan­dering thought in prayer, hath more guilt in it than these have. If one attempt suddenly to strike our eye, though we know he doth not intend to strike it, yet it cannot but wink; so we can scarce but be terrified with these thoughts; but we must resist and conquer such fears. I say not, we should not abhor such thoughts, for then we should be worse than heathens: but we should not be terrified out of our faith, our duties, or comforts thereby.

2. Do not give over your duties for these blasphemous thoughts and injections; for, though these thoughts are not thy sin, yet they may be the cause of thy sinning, if they cause thee to abstain from prayer, reading the word, attending upon the ordinances, and the like duties. You may, perhaps, think it better not to pray than to have these thoughts; but thy prayers may do thee more good than these can do thee harm; and how wilt thou conquer, if thou cast away thy weapons? Neither hasten from duty; for thus you do the devil too much homage; his temptations should make you pray the more, not seldomer, or shorter.

3. Think not over these thoughts again, even when thou goest to God to complain of Satan and his dreadful assaults; for, if thou yield not unto the tempter, these blasphemies are not the matter of confession, but rather of complaint; as a woman that is ravished doth not confess, but lament her affliction. Neither speak them over when you go to a minister or Christian friend for advice or comfort; but only mention in general, that horrid thoughts and blasphemies trouble you; they will understand what you mean; but perhaps they had as good Satan should inject such thoughts as to hear you name them.

4. Pray much against these blasphemies, and thus study to be gainers by them, and to be avenged upon Satan, which you may, if you do as they did (Acts 19) when they heard that some would speak against their goddess Diana, they cried out for the space of two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians, (vv. 28, 34); so that whosoever should go about to speak against Diana, could not be heard. Do thou likewise: when Satan throws in blasphemous thoughts, break thou forth into blessing and praising of God; and if thou canst not do so, try to read or sing some psalm full of praises, as Psalm 103, 105, 116, 145, &c.; and if thou art private enough, read or sing them with a loud voice, and when Satan shall see that thou art the gainer by his temptations, he will be weary of tempting thee. These blasphemies are Satan’s railings and revil­ings against the God of heaven; therefore you are to do with them as Hezekiah did with Rabshakeh’s railing letter, (Isa. 36:21)—he went and spread the blasphemy before the Lord. He did not so much as read over the letter, but spread it before the Lord; so, without naming over that blasphemy, you should pray against it, that God would suppress this smoke that ascends out of the bot­tomless pit.

You may lawfully dispute and argue with Satan against some of his blasphemies; as when he tempts you to question the being of a God, and the truth of divine revelation, as the archangel disputed with the devil about the body of Moses; so when you are tempted, for example, to doubt if the Scripture be the word of God, you may consider the plain arguments that prove it, and ask Satan, Why dost thou fly before it? If the ark were not the ark of God, why doth Dagon fall before it? If it were not the word of God, why doth Satan tempt me not to believe it? But do not depend upon thy arguing; Satan is too strong for reasoning; betake thyself to the Lord Jesus by prayer. Though Satan may stand out against thy arguments, he will not be able to stand against the prayer of faith. The archangel said, “The Lord rebuke thee.” Though he will not fly at thy rebuke, yet he will and must at the rebuke of God. And by the way, see the excellence of Christ above the arch­angel: Christ rebukes Satan by his own power and authority; for he said not, “The Lord rebuke thee;” but, “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

2dly, There are temptations of Satan with reference to heart-wanderings in duty. Satan knows that if he can get these flies to come and rest in this precious ointment, they will putrefy it. He knows, if the thoughts wander, God regards not what the tongue says; and if he can spoil your prayers, he fears not any ordinance what good it can do thee. If your thoughts be earthly he cares not how heavenly your words are. Herein Satan gets assistance from the evil heart: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,” (Matt. 15:19). They arise out of the heart as sparks out of a furnace; they stay not in the heart, but are active, and ascend up to the head; and they come out of the heart, not as sparks out of a flint, by con­cussion and violence, forced out; but they proceed out of it, says Christ; they come out of themselves, and they proceed always in a continued act. Satan’s temptations to heart-wandering in duty are also furthered by a multitude of business, and that two ways.

(1.) If we come from a multitude of business; for our hearts are like the troubled sea, it must have some considerable time be­fore it be composed, though the winds that raised the storms cease; so when we come from business, there must be some time after our business is ended before our hearts can be sedate and quiet, and fit for prayer; nay, in this our hearts are worse than the sea, because,

(2.) Future business will distract us before it come. The sea is not tumultuous before the wind blow, but the business we have to do, will trouble us before it comes to be done. It is a hard thing to keep business out of our thoughts when we pray, and make it stay till our prayer be ended.

Now, to fortify against these, I offer the following four advices shortly:—

1. O study to mortify the love of the world: where our love is, there will our thoughts be. To set your love on the world, and your thoughts on God, you will find altogether impossible: “He that loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” O seek to mortify this.

2. Lay up your treasure in heaven: “For, where your trea­sure is, there will your heart be also,” (Matt. 6:21). The heart of the Jews went after their covetousness, (Ezek. 33:31); when they were hearing the word, they could not keep their hearts where their bodies were, but they would be where their love was, and where their treasure was.

3. Let not the world be your familiar friend, for familiar friends come in without knocking or asking leave; therefore be thou a stranger in this present world, (Heb. 11: 13). They were not strangers in this or that part of the earth, but in the whole earth; be a stranger to the world, and the world will not visit you in prayer.

4. Make prayer your delight, not your task. Children are subject to look off their books, because they delight not in them; but when they are playing, they are eager and earnest. The bird flutters in the cage, but sits quietly on the tree, and sings there. “I will go to God, says David, to God my exceeding joy,” (Ps. 43:4). When our thoughts find satisfaction, they set up their habitation and wander not.

3dly, There are temptations of Satan with reference to omission of duty: as for example, he represents to them the difficulty that there is therein: O I cannot pray nor hear aright, I cannot medi­tate nor mortify aright; therefore I may let it alone. Now, in order to fortify against these temptations, consider,

1. That this is necessary: you must be exercised unto godli­ness; exercised in keeping a conscience void of offence toward God and man; and “Be atedfast and immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord,” (1 Cor. 15:58). As for the wicked, who are otherwise disposed, having no heart nor will to the Lord’s service at all, what can they expect at his hand, but this: “Take these mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me. Yea, he will come in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel.” It is therefore absolutely necessary.

2. Consider, that it is possible to serve the Lord acceptably by his grace. Though duty be difficult to nature, yet, if you get the Spirit of God to help you, you will do well enough; and God hath promised his help.— “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength.” &c. “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,” (Isa. 40: 29-31). Hence all the saints of old, and of late too, have tried the Lord’s way, and found that the way of the Lord was strength to them; yea, that wisdom’s ways are pleasantness; their delight was in the law of the Lord; in keeping of his commands there is a great reward. One smile of God’s countenance is worth all your pains, though you were at a hundred times more. There is always something savory and sweet in religion that accompanies the sedulous exercise thereof. Though the soul hath nothing to claim on the account of its own works or duties, yet the Lord is graciously pleased to own and countenance his own way, when the soul is found in it, beside the glorious and gracious reward that abides it in heaven.

Therefore, let faith batter down this temptation of Satan, say, What though Satan present difficulties in the way, Christ under­went greater difficulties: He hath borne the burden and the heat of the day. I am not called to go and satisfy justice; Christ hath done that to my hand; I am not called to go and fulfill the law as a covenant of works; Christ hath done that to my hand; I am not called to work for life, but to work for love to him that worketh all my works in me, and for me; and who, as he calleth me to this work of love, so promiseth to work in me both to will and to do; and therefore, in his name and strength, I will go forward, making mention of his righteousness, and his only; and, in his name, I will encounter and grapple with the devil himself, for Christ hath con­quered him to my hand.

4thly, There are temptations of Satan with reference to the commission of sin: he will suggest to them that it is but a little sin, and God will not be angry for a little sin; such as a lie in a droll, an idle word, &c. Can such a little sin endanger the soul? Now, to guard you against this temptation, consider,

1. That the first sin which brought all mankind into a miser­able state, was, in appearance, but a small and little sin: it was but eating a little forbidden fruit, the tasting of an apple; yet, had it not been for Christ’s satisfaction, it would have destroyed irrecover­ably all the posterity of Adam. There was a man, sirs, that gathered a few sticks upon the Sabbath-day; you would have thought that was but a little sin, yet God’s thoughts are not your thoughts, for God thought that sin worthy of death, (Num. 15:32-33). Uzziah’s putting his hand to the ark, and touching it when it tottered, seemed to be but a small sin, and yet you know he was smitten instantly with death for it, (2 Sam. 6:7). It is dangerous to give even a little wrong touch to a tottering ark.

2. Consider the nature of every sin: though some are com­paratively small, and others greater; that is, by reason of several aggravations, more heinous in the sight of God than others; yet, in themselves, none are small. The least sin is against an infinite God, and infinite authority; and so, objectively considered, an in­finite evil; and therefore cannot be expiated without infinite satis­faction; and it is not little promises, or little threatenings, that your little sins do slight; yea, there is no little ingratitude towards God in little sins; there is great unkindness to God in little sins. To displease God, your best friend, for a little sin, O ungrateful thing! “Is this your kindness to your friend? The wages of every sin is death eternal.” It is not little misery that every sin doth expose you to. Will you make light of the wrath of the infinite God? Then do not make light of little sins. In a word, remember that boldness in little sins, will be an encouragement to greater. Sin is of an encroaching and bewitching nature; a little theft may open the way to a greater. The devil tempts people to go from one de­gree to another; he tempts them to the reverse of the blessed man mentioned, (Ps. 1:1). He tempts them to walk in the council of the ungodly; having taken a walk with them, he tempts them next to stand in the way of sinners, which is more; and then having stood a while with them, he tempts them last of all to sit in the seat of the scornful, even to the height of wickedness. The devil first makes you sit down with the drunkard, then to drink with him, and at last to be drunk. Thus he leads people from unclean thoughts to unclean looks, words, and actions: therefore, let faith resist this temptation, and set you upon your watch against that which you call a little sin. No man, that ever saw sin, can truly call any sin little or small, nor can it ever be, till there be a little law to break, a little God to offend, a little guilt to contract, a little wrath to incur; all which are impossible to be, blasphemy to wish, and mad­ness to expect.

5thly, There are temptations of Satan with reference to un­worthy apprehensions of God. Satan may suggest very strange thoughts of God, very base thoughts of God, most unsuitable appre­hensions of him, such as are not to be spoken of; and the prince of this world hath much in us, who are so ignorant of God, to farther these misshapen thoughts of God. And to fortify you against these assaults, there are these two directions I would offer concerning the way how we are to conceive of God.

(1.) We are to conceive of him as inconceivable: for the thoughts we are to have of him are overwhelming thoughts. As long as we are merely active, and are able to master our thoughts of God, they are utterly unworthy of him. Whatsoever we know, compre­hensively, I mean, except we see it to be infinitely beyond us, that is not God, nor to be adored. I have read a dialogue between a Christian and a Gentile: the Gentile seeing the Christian very fer­vent in prayer, and seeing no image before him, asked him, “Whom he worshipped: “he answered, “I know not.” “Why then do you worship him? ““I therefore worship him, says he, because I cannot know him.” “It seems strange, said the Gentile, to see one so seriously worship that he knoweth not.” “More strange it is for one, said the Christian, to worship that which we can compre­hend.” If we are not lost in our thoughts of God, our thoughts of God are lost. When we throw a stone into a pond, it makes circles larger and larger, and quickly they come to the shore: but if one should throw a millstone into the midst of the calm ocean, though it would make larger and larger circles, yet it would not reach shore, because the strength would be spent long before it come the length: So, when we think on the creature, we easily enlarge our thoughts so as to see an end of their perfection, and to be more than comprehensive of their excellency; but when we think of God, we can never know him to perfection, (Ps. 119:96). Here our knowledge must end in admiration, and our love in ecstasy. Nay, we must conceive of God as above all words, above all knowledge, and above all admiration; above all love, and above all ecstasy. But let us go to scripture, God knows best how to speak of himself, and we may safely acquiesce in scripture expressions, (Neh. 9:5). “Thy name is exalted above all praise, above the praise of men and angels.” This is a very high expression; but doth this reach him? Nay, if it did, God should not be exalted above all praise, since this would reach him.

(2.) We are to conceive of God in Christ; Christ must be eyed in our addresses and acts of worship. All the former considerations set us but a greater distance from God, and make us afraid of God, and fly from him if we go no further; and, indeed, human reason can go no further. The utmost it can do, is but to think of mercy without a promise, which is a very arbitrary thing; and we see that God hath not shown mercy to fallen angels; for never was any devil converted; therefore we must necessarily have thoughts of Christ: We are to honor the Son as we honor the Father; and to honor him,

1. As a King, God hath exalted Christ far above all heavens; and hath commanded us to do all in his name; “And whatsoever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” (Col. 3:17). He orders that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father, (John 5:23). I shall relate a history to this purpose; it is this, Theodosius the emperor having made an edict for the giving liberty for the Arians to preach; Amphilochius took this course for prevailing with the emperor to recall that edict. Theodosius having made Arcadius co-emperor and Caesar with him, several bishops came to salute the emperor, to congratulate Arcadius, and to signify their consent to Theodosius his act, and by their re­spect and honor done to Arcadius, to show that they took him for the successor of Theodosius in the empire; among others came this Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium, who, after he had done obeisance very submissively to Theodosius, was going away without showing any respect to Arcadius, though he sat by Theodosius in all his royal robes; Theodosius therefore called to Amphilochius, saying, “Know you not that I have made Arcadius, my son, emperor with me?” Upon which Amphilochius went to Arcadius, and striking him on the head, said, “He was a very hopeful boy.” Theodosius being very angry at this indignity done his son, commanded him to prison. Amphilochius, after he had gone a little way, turned back, saying, “O Theodosius, you are angry that I give not your son the same honor I give you, since you have made him equal in majesty to yourself; and think you God will be well-pleased that you suffer the Arians to abuse Christ, whom he hath set at his right-hand in glory, and will have all men to honor the Son, as they honor the Father.” Upon which the edict was reversed. I may say, Can you think that God will accept your worship to him, be it never so great, if you take no notice of Christ? be sure, God will reject you and your services. But then again,

2. As God will have Christ to have the glory of his kingly office, so also of his priestly. Thus suppose some great monarch, his son consenting, should lay upon his son the punishment due to, some rebellious subjects, intending the son’s honor as well as their pardon; the king sends forth a proclamation to them, to let them know that his son had satisfied justice, and procured a pardon: but many of them not trusting to this, would not come in, but would send the king gifts and presents to gain his favor: the emperor scorns their gifts upon that account; especially they thus robbing his son of the honor of making their peace, and thereby also plainly showing, that they thought their crime was not so great, but a small matter would make it up, such as their gifts. Surely, if gifts would have done the business, his son had greater gifts than theirs; so that he needed not have died or suffered. The rendition of this simile may be easily made; God abhors our prayers, alms, and all our services, if we bring them as satisfactory to his justice, and sprinkle our puddly waters, our tears, upon the mercy-seat, and fill the holy place with the stinking savor, the stinking vapors of our prayers, which are unperfumed with the incense of Christ’s righteous­ness, or that are no better than the reeking steams of a dunghill, the noxious vapors of an hollow cavern, or the smoke of some sulphureous volcano; I say, to go to the holy place with these, instead of the incense of Christ’s merit and intercession, is not to make atonement, but a provocation. This makes popish austerities to be acts of pride, instead of being acts of mortification.

3. God will have him get the honor also of his prophetical office; for it is by his Spirit that he instructs and teaches us how to pray as well as perform. By his merit we have acceptance, and by his Spirit assistance. If a child should write some excellent tract in the mathematics in Greek, we would infallibly conclude some did learn him, or dictate to him; so when you pray in the Spirit, and spiritually, for such or such spiritual blessings, who do you think dictates to you? This is not your mother-tongue; doubtless it is the Spirit of Christ that helps your infirmities. In a word, Christ, by his active and passive obedience, whereby he hath satisfied jus­tice, hath a wonderful interest with God, more than all the angels of heaven, insomuch, that God delights to pardon the greatest of sinners for Christ’s sake; therefore, in prayer, conceive of God as a great, an infinitely great God, and as a God in Christ. Look on God through Christ, keeping the humbling sense of your own dis­tance and provocation; looking upon God as through Christ the most compassionate fondest Father in the world; if he give thee not everything thou thus askest, it proceeds not from his unwillingness to give, but thine unfitness to receive.

6thly, There are temptations with reference to self-murder: Satan many times tempts people, particularly these that are coming to Christ he throws them down and tears them, urging them to tear themselves to pieces to make away themselves, and cut off the thread of their own life. This is a subject I seldom or never took occasion to speak in this manner upon; but now, I think it the more necessary that we are living in a time, wherein we are com­passed about with awful instances of professors being left under the power, and swallowed up with the violence of this temptation; yea, such instances thereof, as have perhaps made the hearts of many here present to tremble. And since what hath been, may be, and not knowing but in such a great company as is here, someone or other may be, under such temptation, I would offer these following advices shortly, to fortify you against these assaults:—

1. Consider that self-murder is a sin against the very light of nature, and the very letter of the law of God, “Thou shalt not kill,” (Ex. 20:13). And you may be sure, that no thought of this sort that enters into your heart, can be from God; for it hath the very image of the devil upon it; “He was a murderer from the beginning.”

2. Yield not to the tempter; for, though this is a temptation incident to God’s people, insomuch that, perhaps there are few of them that have not been thus tempted, as our Lord Jesus Christ himself was, to whom the devil said, “Cast thyself down from the pinnacle of the temple;” yet we read of no saint in scripture that yielded to the tempter. We are therein told of none but wicked wretches that destroyed themselves, such as Saul, Ahitophel, and Judas; and sure you would, not desire to be like them.

3. Consider the contrary practice of the saints in scripture, both in their best and worst time. Old Simeon got an armful of Christ, and did he now attempt to cut off his own life, that he might win away to heaven? No; he wishes to be away, but he puts himself in God’s will, “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” Paul is wrapt up to the third heaven, and his desire of death must have been very great; yet he is content to stay till he was dissolved. Again, on the other hand, if pains of body, and terrors of mind, might contribute to strengthen such a temptation, Job did not want his share of both; yet, instead of putting a period to his own days, though indeed he cursed the day of his birth, and wished for the day of his death, yet he says, “All the days of my appointed time, will I wait till my change come,” (Job 14:14).

4. Consider that by such horrid suggestions as these, you are tempted to assume to yourself a prerogative that belongs to God only. It is he that lives forever and ever that says, “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal,” (Deut. 32:39). Your life is not your own to dispose of; and as you cannot lengthen your life, so you may not shorten it. Therefore,

5. When you are thus tempted, keep not the devil’s counsels, nor be thou his secretary; go to some faithful minister, or ex­perienced Christian, and tell them how you are tempted; for this temptation is partly conquered, when it is revealed.

6. These who think they shall be damned, and go to hell when they die it is the greatest madness in the world for them to hasten their death. That the fear of hell should make them leap into hell, is so contrary to all common sense that it is a wonder that any one should so much cease to be a man, not to say a Christian, as to do a thing so contrary to nature, let be to grace. Let me ask you, Can you endure to be among blasphemers? Can you endure to blas­pheme God yourself for a year together, or an hour, and to spend it all in cursing and blaspheming? If your soul abhor this, why will you leap into hell, a place of everlasting blasphemy? I read of one, who having been a long time tempted to make away with herself, at last resolved to do it, for the thoughts of the torments of hell were not prevalent enough to deter her; but as she was going to de­stroy herself, it was brought to her mind, that in hell she should blaspheme God forever; which she abhorring to do, upon that very account forbore the wicked action. If you were to be only in a state of horror and torment, it were sad enough; but for to put thyself into a state of blasphemy, how canst thou endure to think of it?

7. Take heed of fighting against Satan with human reason, for this Leviathan laughs at the shaking of this spear: his scales are too close to be pierced by it: but take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, which divides between the joints and the marrow; say to Satan, “It is written, Thou shalt not kill.”

8. Pray, pray much; for the sword of the Spirit must be wielded by the skilful arm of the Spirit. If thou goest out in confi­dence of thy being able to manage scripture by thy own strength and skill, it will fare with thee, as it did with these; “They thought to cast out devils by the name of Jesus, but the devil rent them and wounded them, and made them to fly, saying, Jesus I know, and Paul I know: but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15-16).

The great argument that the devil uses to persuade thee to self-murder, is by persuading thee that thou art a reprobate; but thou mayest consider that Satan cannot know that thou art a reprobate; Was Satan, think you, on God’s council, when he made his eternal decrees? Satan, who is not so much as one of God’s hired servants, but a slave and a malefactor kept in chains, he is so far from being of God’s council, that he is not so much as one of his family. If thou sayest thy conscience tells thee that thou art a reprobate; know, that no man living can tell who are reprobates; nor can any man know himself to be a reprobate, except he hath committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, which no man hath committed, that is sorry to think he hath committed it: “For it is impossible that such a man should be renewed, either by or to repentance,” (Heb. 6: 6).

Ye that walk in darkness, and see no light, that are haunted with these temptations, consider what a God we have to do with; we serve such a great Lord, that all the monarchs of the world are beggars to him: and such a gracious Father is our God that the ten­ dearest parents in the world, and your dearest friends, are tyrants, yea, wolves and tigers, compared to him. And if we should provoke them, as we provoke him, and they could as easily crush us as God can, we would quickly find that their tenderest mercies are cruelty: whereas the several providences of God will be to thee, not like the gall of asps, bitter and deadly, but like God’s rhubarb and aloes, by which thine iniquity shall be purged, and all the fruit of it shall be to take away thy sin; and though for the present the afflicting hand of God upon thee, is not joyous, but grievous, yet if thou art exer­cised thereby, it will bring forth in thee the quiet fruit of righteous­ness. Lay aside therefore your fears of hell, and hard thoughts of God.

But now, to add no more particulars, let me exhort you and all that hear me, to come to our Lord Jesus Christ, whatever op­position from hell stands in your way; and though the devil should throw you down and tear you as you are coming, yet Christ will lift you up, and heal you. Oh! what offends the world at our Lord Jesus? Will you tell me, sinner, what ails you at Christ? What disobliges you at his person? Is he not the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the chief among ten thousand? Is he not the rose of Paradise, the heart of heaven? What ails you at his offices? Is he not a Prophet, that can teach you—a Priest, that can atone for you—a King, that can conquer for you? What ails you at his relations? Is he not a Shepherd, to feed you—a Physician, to heal you—a Father, to pity you—a Husband, to cherish you? What ails you at his doing, to fulfill the law for you; or his dying, to satisfy justice for you? What ails you at his yoke? Is not his yoke easy and his burden light? his ways pleasantness and his paths peace? What ails you at his grace and glory?

What ails you at him, sirs? O! is he not worth your while, though you should run through hell to come to him? Is there not a heart in all this company that would fain be at him? Alas would you rather go to the devil than come to Christ? That a comely Jesus cannot get two or three hearts in all this company, O pity, pity! and a thousand pities that the beauty of the Godhead cannot get a lover! Will you all be so mad as to run by Christ to other lovers, while he begs your love, as if he were upon his knees, and sends us to pray you in his stead to be reconciled with him, and come to him?

And therefore, sirs, in his blessed name, I pray you, go not by him. I beg it as the best favor you can do to my Master and me, that you come to him; I beseech you, by the mercies of God, and by the bowels of Christ, that you come to him. He will welcome the worst of you that will come to him; and if you but endeavor to stretch out the withered hand, or put out the withered heart to­ward him, he will help you to it, and embrace you with hand and heart both. He is content to come to you on any terms; and, will you not come to him? He stands at the door of your heart, and waits that you will but allow him to come in, and let him have access. Have you a hard heart? He would be in to soften it. Are you pleased? Have you a filthy heart? He would be in to wash it. Are you content? Have you a wicked heart? He would be in to renew it. Are you satisfied?

If you will not come to him, will you let him come to you that he may make you willing? Consider what is a-coming. O sirs, is not a day of calamity coming? And why will you not come to Christ? Is not a day of death coming? And why will you not come to him? Is not a day of judgment coming? And why will you not come to him? Or, why come you to anything else? Why come you to ordinances, if you will not come to Christ, for he is the life of ordinances? Why come you to sermons, if you come, not to Christ, who is the substance of all sermons? Why come you to a communion table, if you will not come to Christ; for he is the heart of the communion? Why do you hope for heaven, if you will not come to Christ, for he is the all of heaven, the heaven of heavens? A thousand heavens are lighter than a feather, when laid in the balance with him. Had I the tongue of a seraphim, I could not commend him enough to you; but, O may he commend himself to your heart, and cause you to throw your immortal soul into his saving arms, notwithstanding all the down-casting temptations of Satan, and whatever objections and oppositions stand in the way of your coming to him.

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