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goeth to the house of the strange woman." The oppressor diggeth through houses in the dark. For “the morning is to them as the shadow of death.”—“They that are drunken, are drunken in the night.f.” Sins are of the nature of some sullen weeds, which will grow no where but in the side of wells, and of dark places. But works of Christianity are neither unclean, nor dishonourable ; they are beautiful and royal works, they are exemplary, and therefore public works; they are themselves light (“let your light shine before men "); and therefore they ought to be done in the light.
If we be children, we should express the affections of children
The innocency, humility, and dove-like simplicity of little children; as the sons of God, blameless ", pure, and without rebuke: “Children in malice, though men in understanding.”—The appetite of little children; “ As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby k.” In all impatiency, the breast will pacify a little infant; in all other delights, the breast will entice it and draw it away: even so should the Word and worship of God work upon us in all our distempers, and in all our deviations. Christ was hungry and faint with fasting; it was about the sixth hour, and he had sent his disciple to buy meat; and yet having an occasion to do his Father service, he forgat his food, and refused to eat!--The love of children; “He that is begotten, loveth him that did beget him ""--with a love of thankfulness; "We love him because he loved us ";" “I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice, and my supplication',”—with a love of obedience; “Faith worketh by love P;” “ Love is the fulfilling of the law 9;” “If a man love me, he will keep my words!." With a love of reverence and awful fear, “A son honoureth his father”;” “ If ye call on the Father,” &c. “ Pass the time of your sojourning here in feart.”—The faith of children: For whom should the child rely on for maintenance and supportance, but the Father? “Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed ? For your heavenly
d Prov. vii.9. h Phil. ii. 15. m 1 John v. 1. 9 Rom. xiii, 10.
e Job. xxiv. 16, 17. 11 Thes. v. 7. g Mark x, 15. il Cor. xiv. 20. k 1 Pet. ïi. 2, 3. 1 John iv. 6, 8, 34.
n 1 John iv. 19. o Psal. cxvi. I. p Gal. v. 6. r John xiv, 23. s Mal. i. 6. tl Pet. i. 17.
Father knoweth, that ye have need of all these things "?"
-- The hope, assurance, and expectation of children: For as children depend on their parents for present supply, so for portions and provisions for the future ; fathers lay up for their children, and God doth for his. There is "an inheritance reserved for us !.”—Lastly, The prayers and requests of children: “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father y."
Note, Secondly, The birth of a Christian is a divine and heavenly work. God is both father and mother of the dew : by his power and wisdom, a father; by his providence and indulgence, a mother ; • Progenitor, genitrixque:' therefore he is called in Clemens Alex. “Metripater,”-to note that those casualties, which are in the second agents divided, are eminently and perfectly in him united, as all things are to be resolved into a first unity. “ Hath the rain a father, or who hath begotten the drops of dew?” saith Job. « Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it?' None but God is the parent of the dew; ‘it doth not stay for nor expect any human concurrence, or causality 2: such is the call and conversion of a man to Christ; “A heavenly calling a," "the operation of God in us b," a birth “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God c." “ Paul may plant, and Apollos may water, but it is God” that must bless both ; nay, it is God who, by them, as his instruments, doth both; "of his own will begat he us d.” The ministers are 'a savour of Christe.' It is not the garment, but the perfume in it, which diffuseth a sweet scent; it is not the labour of the minister, but Christ whom he preacheth, that worketh upon the soul : --“I laboured more abundantly than they all ; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me f.”
It is not good, therefore, to have the faith of God in respect of persons: the seed of this spiritual generation cannot otherwise be given us, than in earthen vessels, by men of like passions and infirmities with others. Therefore, when pure and good seed is here and there sowed,
u Matt. vi. 31, 32. 11 Pet. i. 4. y Gal. iv. 6. Isa. lv. 10. a Heb. iii. 1.
b Col. ii. 12. d Jam. i. 18. e 2 Cor. ii. 15. 11 Cor. xv. 10.
2 Mic. v. 7. e John i. 13. ij. 9. $ John xyi. 12, 13.
any thing to persons, is to derogate from God : where gifts are fewer, parts meaner, probabilities less,--God may, and often doth, give an increase above hope as to Daniel's pulse, that the excellency of the power may be of him, and not of man. Though it be a lame or a leprous hand which soweth the seed, yet the success is no way altered: good seed depends not, in its growth, on the hand that sows it,-but on the earth that covers, and on the heavens that cherish it: so the Word borroweth not its efficacy from any human virtue, but from the heart which ponders, and the Spirit which sanctifies it.
When, then, thou comest unto the Word, come with affections suitable unto it. All earth will not bear all seed; some, wheat, and some, but pulse : there is first required a fitness, before there will be a fruitfulness. Christ had many things to teach, which his disciples at the time could not carry away, because the Comforter 8 was not then sent, who was to lead them into all truth: they who by use have their senses exercised, are fit for strong meath. The truth of the gospel is a heavenly truth : and therefore, it requires a heavenly disposition of heart to prosper it. It is wisdom to those that are perfect; though, to others, foolishness and offencei. The only reason why the Word of truth doth not thrive, is, because the heart is not fitted nor prepared unto it. The seed of itself is equal unto all grounds, but it prospers only in the honest and good heart: the rain in itself alike unto all, but of no virtue to the rocks, as to other ground, by reason of their inward hardness and incapacity. The Pharisees had covetous hearts, and they mocked Christ: the philosophers had proud hearts, and they scorned Paul: the Jews had carnal hearts, and they were offended at the gospel : the people in the wilderness had unbelieving hearts, and the Word preached did not profit them. But now a heavenly heart comes with the affections of a scholar, to be taught by God; with the affections of a servant, to be commanded by God; with the affections of a son, to be educated by God; with the affections of a sinner, to be cured by God. It considers, that it is the Lord from Heaven, who speaks in the ministry of the Word to him that is but dust and ashes; and therefore he puts his hand on his mouth, dares not reply against God, nor wrestle with the evidence of his holy Spirit; but falleth upon his face, and giveth glory unto God; believes when God promiseth, trembles when God threateneth, obeys when God commandeth, learns when God teacheth, bringeth always meekness and humility of Spirit, ready to open unto the Word, that it may incorporate.
i I Cor. ii. 6.
h Heb. v. 14.
Lastly, From bence we must learn to look unto God in all his ordinances, to expect his arm and Spirit to be therein revealed, to call on, and depend on him for the blessing of it. If a man could, when he enters into God's house, but pour out his heart in these two things ; A promise and a prayer ;—“Lord, I am now entering into thy presence, to hear thee speak from Heaven unto me, to receive thy rain and spiritual dew k, which never returneth in vain ', but ripeneth a harvest either of corn or weeds, of grace or judgement. My heart is prepared, O Lord, my heart is prepared, to learn and to love any of thy words. Thy law is my counsellor, I will be ruled by it; it is my physician, I will be patient under it; it is my schoolmaster, I will be obedient unto it. But who am I that I should promise any service unto thee? and who is thy minister that he should do any good unto me, without thy grace and heavenly call ? Be thou therefore pleased to reveal thine own Spirit unto me, and to work in me that which thou requirest of me;"-I say, if a man could come with such sweet preparations of heart unto the Word, and could thus open his soul when this spiritual manna falls down from Heaven, he should find the truth of that which the apostle speaketh, “Ye are not straitened in us," or in our ministry; we come unto you with abundance of grace; but ye are straitened only in your own bowels, in the hardness, unbelief, incapacity, and negligence of your own hearts, which receiveth that in drops, which falleth down in showers.
Note, Thirdly, As it is a divine, so it is a secret and undiscerned birth. “ As the wind blows where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth; So,” saith our Saviour, " is every one that is born of God.” The voluntary breathings and accesses of the Spirit of God unto the soul, whereby he cometh mightily, and, as it were, clotheth a man with power" and courage, are of a very secret nature ; and notwithstanding the power thereof be so great, yet there is nothing in appearance but a voice ",-of all other, one of the most empty and vanishing things. As dew falls in small and insensible drops, and as a child is born by slow and undiscerned progresses (as the prophet David saith, “ Fearfully and wonderfully am I made p"), such is the birth of a Christian unto Christ, by a secret, hidden, and inward call; “ Vocatione Altâ,” as St. Austin calleth it; by a deep and intimate energy of the Spirit of grace is Christ formed, and the soul organized unto a spiritual being. A man hears a voice, but it is behind him, he seeth no man; he feels a blow in that voice' which others take no notice of, though externally they hear it too. Therefore it is observable, that the men which were with Paul at his miraculous conversion, are in one place said to “hear a voice 5," and in another place, “not to have heard the voice” of him that spake unto Paul'. They heard only a voice, and so were but astonished; but Paul heard it distinctly as the voice of Christ, and so was converted u.
Deut. xxxii. 2. Anjos vii. 16.
| Tsa, lv. 10.
m John iii. 8.
Note, Fourthly, As it is a divine and secret, so is it likewise a sudden birth. In natural generations, the more vast the creature, the more slow the production ;-an elephant ten years in the womb. In human actions, “magnarum rerum tarda molimina," great works move like great engines, slowly and by leisure to their maturity. But in spiritual generations, children are born unto Christ like dew, which is exhaled, conceived, formed, produced, and all in one night. Paul to-day a wolf, to-morrow a sheep; to-day a persecutor, to-morrow a disciple, and not long after, an apostle of Christ. The nobleman of Samariacould see no possibility of turning a famine into a plenty within one night : neither can the heart of a man, who rightly understands the closeness and intimate radication of sin and guilt
Judg. xiv. 6. vi. 34. • Matth. X. 20. 2 Pet. i. 21. p Psal. cxxxix. 14. 9 Isa. XXX. 21.
r Acts ix. 8.
t Acts xxii. 9. u Glass. Philolog. Sacr. page 232.
* 2 Kings vii. 1, 2. Tarnov. Exerc. Biblic. Edit. 2. page 84, 85.