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he desires. Instead of that, by conversion are begotten in him new desires which he never had before. He now finds in him holy appetites, an hungering and thirsting after righteousness, a longing after more acquaintance and communion with God.So that he hath business enough still at the throne of grace; yea, his business there, instead of being diminished, is rather increased.
3. The hope which the hypocrite hath of his good estate takes off the force that the command of God before had upon his conscience; so that now he dares neglect so plain a duty.The command which requires the practice of the duty of prayer is exceeding plain; Matt. xxvi. 41. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Eph. vi. 18. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints." Matt. vi. 6. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." As long as the hypocrite was in his own apprehension in continual danger of hell, he durst not disobey these commands. But since he is, as he thinks, safe from hell, he is grown bold, he dares to live in the neglect of the plainest command in the Bible.
4. It is the manner of hypocrites, after awhile, to return. to sinful practices, which will tend to keep them from praying. While they were under convictions, they reformed their lives, and walked very exactly. This reformation continues, after their supposed conversion, while they are much affected with hope and false comfort. But as these things die away, their old lusts revive, and by degrees they return like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.They return to their sensual, worldly, proud, and contentious practices, as before. And no wonder this makes them forsake their closets. Sinning and praying agree not well together. If a man be constant in the duty of secret prayer, it will tend to restrain him from wilful sinning. So, on the other hand, if he allow himself in sinful practices, it will restrain him from praying. It will give quite another turn to his mind, so that he will have no disposition to the practice of such a duty it will be contrary to him. A man who knows that he lives in sin against God, will not be inclined to come daily into the presence of God; but will rather be inclined to fly from his presence, as Adam, when he had eaten of the forbidden fruit, ran away from God, and hid himself among the trees of the garden.
To keep up the duty of prayer after he hath given loose to his lusts, would tend very much to disquiet a man's conscience. It would give advantage to his conscience to testify aloud against him. If he should come from his wickedness into the presence of God, immediately to speak to him, his conscience would, as
it were, fly in his face. Therefore hypocrites, as they by degrees admit their wicked practices, exclude prayer.
5. Hypocrites never counted the cost of perseverance in seeking God, and of following him to the end of life. To continue instant in prayer with all perseverance to the end of life, requires much care, watchfulness, and labour. For much opposition is made to it by the flesh, the world, and the devil; and Christians meet with many temptations to forsake this practice. He that would persevere in this duty must be laborious in religion in general. But hypocrites never count the cost of such labour; i. e. they never were prepared in the disposition of their minds to give their lives to the service of God and to the duties of religion. It is therefore no great wonder they are weary, and give up, after they have continued for a while, as their affections are gone, and they find that prayer to them grows irksome and tedious.
6. Hypocrites have no interest in those gracious promises which God hath made to his people, of those spiritual supplies which are needful in order to uphold them in the way of their duty to the end. God hath promised to true saints that they shall not forsake him; Jer. xxxii. 40. "I will put my fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." He hath promised that he will keep them in the way of their duty; 1 Thess. v. 23, 24." And the God of peace sanctify you wholly. And I pray God, your spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."-But hypocrites have no interest in these and such like promises; and therefore are liable to fall away. If God do not uphold men, there is no dependence on their steadfastness. If the Spirit of God depart from them, they will soon become careless and profane, and there will be an end to their seeming devotion and piety.
The application may be in an use of exhortation, in two branches.
I. I would exhort those who have entertained a hope of their being true converts-and who since their supposed conversion have left off the duty of secret prayer, and ordinarily allow themselves in the omission of it-to throw away their hope. If you have left off calling upon God, it is time for you to leave off hoping and flattering yourselves with an imagination that you are the children of God. Probably it will be a very difficult thing for you to do this. It is hard for a man to let go a hope of heaven, on which he hath once allowed himself to lay hold, and which he hath retained for a considerable time. True conversion is a rare thing; but that men should be
brought off from a false hope of conversion, after they are once settled and established in it, and have continued in it for some time, is much more rare.
Those things in men which, if known, would be sufficient to convince others that they are hypocrites, will not convince themselves; and those things which would be sufficient to convince them concerning others, will not be sufficient to convince them concerning themselves. They can make larger allowances for themselves than they can for others. They can find out ways to solve objections against their own hope, when they can. find none in the like case for their neighbour.
But if your case be such as is spoken of in the doctrine, it is surely time for you to seek a better hope, and another work of God's spirit, than ever you have yet experienced; something more thorough and effectual. When you find by experience, that the seed which was sown in your hearts, though at first it sprang up and seemed flourishing, is withering away, as by the heat of the sun, or is choked, as with thorns; this shows in what sort of ground the seed was sown, that it is either stony or thorny ground; and that, therefore, it is necessary you should pass through another change, whereby your heart may become good ground, which shall bring forth fruit with patience.
Insist not on that as a reason why you should not throw away your hope, that you had the judgment of others, that the change, of which you were the subject was right. It is a small matter to be judged of man's judgment, whether you be approved or condemned, and whether it be by minister or people, wise or unwise. 1 Cor. iv. 3. "It is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment." If your goodness have proved to be as the morning cloud and early dew; if you be one of those who have forsaken God, and left off calling upon his name, you have the judgment, and sentence of God in the scriptures against you, which is a thousand times more than to have the judgment of all the wise and godly men and ministers in the world in your favour.
Others, from your account of things, may have been obliged to have charity for you, and to think that-provided you were not mistaken, and in your account did not misrepresent things, or express them by wrong terms-you were really converted. But what a miserable foundation is this, upon which to build a hope as to your eternal state!
Here I request your attention to a few things in particular, which I have to say to you concerning your hope.
1. Why will you retain that hope, which, by evident experience, you find poisons you? Is it reasonable to think, that a holy hope, a hope that is from heaven, would have such an influence? No, surely; nothing of such a malignant influence
comes from that world of purity and glory. No poison groweth in the paradise of God. The same hope which leads men to sin in this world, will lead to hell hereafter. Why, therefore, will you retain such a hope, of which your own experience shews you the ill tendency, in that it encourages you to lead a wicked life? For, certainly, that life is a wicked life wherein you live in the neglect of so well-known a duty as that of secret prayer, and in the disobedience of so plain a command of God, as that by which this duty is enjoined. And is not a way of disobedience to God a way to hell?
If your own experience of the nature and tendency of your hope will not convince you of the falseness of it, what will? Are you resolved to retain your hope, let it prove ever so unsound and hurtful? Will you hold it fast till you go to hell with it? Many men cling to a false hope, and embrace it so closely, that they never let it go till the flames of hell cause their arms to unclench and let go their hold. Consider how you will answer it at the day of judgment, when God shall call you to an account for your folly in resting in such a hope. Will it be a sufficient answer for you to say, that you had the charity of others, and that they thought your conversion was right?
Certainly, it is foolish for men to imagine, that God had no more wisdom, or could contrive no other way of bestowing comfort and hope of eternal life, than one which should encourage men to forsake him.
HYPOCRITES DEFICIENT IN THE DUTY OF PRAYER.
JOB XXVII. 10.
Will he always call
FROM these words, our doctrine was, That however hypocrites may continue for a season in the duty of prayer, yet it is their manner, after a while, in a great measure to leave it off. This was our subject in the preceding discourse, in which, after having shown-how hypocrites often continue for a season to call upon God-how it is their manner, after a while in a great measure to leave it off-and having given the reasons why this is their manner, I came at length to make application, which I proposed to do in an use of exhortation in two branches; and first to exhort those who entertain a hope of their good estate, and yet live in the neglect of secret prayer, to reject their hope. One particular consideration I have already laid before men of this character, to the end just mentioned; and I now proceed to say to them,
2. How is your conduct consistent with loving God above all. If you have not a spirit to love God above your dearest earthly friends, and your most pleasant earthly enjoyments; the scriptures are very plain, and full in it, that you are not true Christians. But if you had indeed such a spirit, would you thus grow weary of the practice of drawing near to him, and become habitually so averse to it, as in a great measure to cast off so plain a duty, which is so much the life of a child of God? It is the nature of love to be averse to absence, and to love a near access to those whom we love. We love to be with them; we delight to come often to them, and to have much conversation with them. But when a person who hath heretofore been wont to converse freely with another, by degrees forsakes him, grows strange, and converses with him but little, and that although the other be importunate with him for the continuance of their former intimacy; this plainly shows the coldness of his heart towards him.