A short improvement of the general subject 2/2

4. Let this encourage thee who art sincere against the fears of final apostasy.  Though sincerity doth not privilege thee from falling, yet thy covenant-state which thou art in, if sincere, secures thee from final apostasy.  Because thy stock of grace in hand is small, thou questionest thy persevering.  ‘Can these weak legs,’ thinkest thou, ‘bring me to my journey’s end; these few pence in my purse’—little grace in my heart—‘bear my charges all the way to heaven, through so many expenses of trials and temptations?’  Truly no, if thou wert to receive no more than thou hast at present.  The bread thou hast in the cupboard will not maintain thee all thy life.  But, soul, thou hast a covenant will help thee to more when that grows low.  Hath not God taught thee to pray for thy ‘daily bread?’ and dost thou not find that the blessing of God in thy calling, diligently followed, supplies thee from day to day?  And hast thou not the same bond to sue for thy spiritual ‘daily bread?’ hast thou not a Father in heaven that knows what thou needest for thy soul as well as body? Hast thou not a dear Brother, yea Husband, that is gone to heaven, where plenty of all grace is to be had, and that on purpose on his children’s errand, that he might keep their souls, graces, and comforts alive in this necessitous world?  All power is in his hands; he may go to the heap, and send what he pleases for your succour.  And can you starve, while he hath fulness of grace by him that hath undertaken to provide for you? Luke 10:35.  The two pence which the Samaritan left were not enough to pay for cure and board of the wounded man; therefore he passeth his word ‘for all that he should need besides.’  Christ doth not only give a little grace in hand but his bond for more to the sincere soul, even as much as will bring them to heaven.  ‘Grace and glory he will give,’ and ‘no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,’ Ps. 84:11.

5. Take heed of resting on, or glorying in, thy sincerity.  It is true it will enable thee to resist temp­tations, and will recover you out, when in temptation; but who enables that? where grows the root that feeds thy grace?  Not in thy own ground, but in heaven.  It is God alone that holds thee and it in life; he that gave it is at cost to keep it.  The Lord is thy strength; let him be thy song.  What can the axe, though sharp, do without the workman?  Shall the axe say, ‘I have cut down?’ or the chisel, I have carved?’ is it not the skill and art of the workman rather?  When able to resist temptation say, ‘The Lord was on my side or else I had fallen.’  Set up an ‘Ebenezer,’ and write on it, ‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped me.’

           Though God promiseth in the psalm even now cited, to give ‘grace and glory’ to the upright, yet he will not give the glory of his grace to uprightness.  We have David asserting his uprightness, and how he was preserved by it: ‘I was also upright before him, and have kept myself from mine iniquity,’ II Sam. 22:24.  He declares the fruit of his uprightness, how God bare testimony to it by rewarding him for it, in vindi­cating him before, and giving him victory over his enemies: ‘Therefore the Lord hath recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to my clean­ness in his eyesight,’ ver. 25.  Now, lest he should set up himself, or applaud his own uprightness, to the prejudice of God’s grace, he sweetly corrects and bounds these passages, ‘God is my strength and power, and he maketh my way perfect,’ ver. 33. As if the holy man had said, ‘I pray, mistake me not; I do not ascribe the victory over my enemies within me or without, to myself and my uprightness.  No, God did all, he is my strength and power; yea, it is he that makes my way perfect.  If I be sincere more than others in my way, I must thank him for it; for he makes my way perfect.  He found me at first as crooked a piece, and walking in as crooked ways, as any other, but he made me and my way perfect and straight.’  Had God pleased he could have made Saul as perfect as David.  Had God left David, he would have been as crooked and false-hearted as Saul.  The last branch of the point was that sincerity hath a comforting strength in all sorts of affliction.  The applicatory improvement of which shall be only this—

           Use Second.  Let it teach us not to fear affliction but hypocrisy.  Believe it, friends, affliction is a harm­less thing to a sincere soul; it cannot be so great as to make it inconsistent with his joy and comfort.  A gracious soul in the most sharp affliction can spare his tears and pity, to bestow them on the hypocrite when in all his pomp and glory.  He hath that in his bosom that gives him more comfortable apprehen­sions of his own affliction, than standers-by have, or can have, of them.  This once made a holy man, when the pangs of death were on him, to ask a servant of his, weeping by his bedside for him, ‘What she meant by he fears,’ saying, ‘Never fear that my heavenly Father will do me any hurt.’  Indeed affliction is not joyous to the flesh, which hath made some of God’s dear children awhile to shrink, but after they had been acquainted with the work, and the comforts which God bestows on his poor prisoners through the grate, they have learned another tune, like the bird that at first putting into the cage flutters and shows her dislike of her restraint, but afterwards comes to sing more sweetly than when at liberty to fly where she pleased.  Be not therefore so thoughtful about af­fliction, but be careful against hypocrisy.  If the bed of affliction proves hard and uneasy to thee, it is thyself that brings with thee what makes it so.  Approve thy­self to God, and trust him who hath promised to be his saint’s bed-maker in affliction, to make it soft and easy for thee.  O what a cutting word will it be in a dy­ing hour, when thou art crying, ‘Lord, Lord, mercy on a poor creature,’ to hear the Lord say, ‘I know thee not.’  It is not the voice of a sincere soul, but the voice of a hypocrite, that howls on his bed of sorrow. What then wilt thou do, when fallen into the hands of God, with whom thou hast juggled in thy profession, and never sincerely didst love?  If that speech of Joseph was so confounding to the patriarchs—‘I am Joseph your brother, who you sold into Egypt’—that they could not endure his presence, knowing their own guilt, how intolerable will it be to hear from God’s own mouth such language in a time of distress. ‘I am God whom you have mocked, abused, and sold away, for the enjoyments of your lusts; and do you now come to me?  Have I anything for you but a hell to torment you in to all eternity?’

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