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sometimes as sheep for the altar, men thinking it a sacrifice. They that kill you, says our Saviour, shall think they do God service. Yet even this pulls not from him. They part with life; ay, why not? This life is but a death, and He is our life for whom we lose it.
All these things do but increase the victories and triumphs of love, and make it more glorious : as they tell of her multiplying labours to that champion, they are not only conquerors, but more than conquerors, by multiplied victories, and they gain in them all both more honour and more strength ; they are the fitter for new adventures, and so more than simple conquerors. We overcome, and are sure not to lose former conquests, but to add more, and conquer on to the end; which other conquerors are not sure of. Oftentimes they outlive their own successes and renown, and lose on a sudden what they have been gaining a whole lifetime. Not so here: we are secured in the Author of our victories. It is through Him that hath loved us ; and he cannot grow less, yea, he shall still grow greater, till all his enemies be made his footstool.
Having given the challenge, and finding none to answer, and that all, the most apparent, are in a most rhetorical accumulation silenced, tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, &c., he goes fidently in the triumph, and avers his assurance of full and final victory against all imaginable power of all the creatures : Neither death nor life, not the fear of the most terrible death, nor the hope or love of the most desirable life. And in the height of this courage and confidence, he supposes impossible enemies, Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers ;-unless you take it of the angels of darkness only; but if it could be possible that the others should offer at such a thing, they would be too weak for it. No sense of any present things, nor apprehensions of things to come ; not any thing within the vast circle of the world above or below; nor any creature can do it. Here sin is not specified, because
he is speaking of outward oppositions and difficulties expressly, and because that is removed by the former challenge, Who shall accuse? that asserting a free and final acquittance, of all sin, a pardon of the curse, which yet will never encourage any of those to sin who live in the assurance of this love. Oh, no; and these general words do include it too, Nothing present, nor to come, &c. So it is carried clear, and is the satisfying comfort of all whom Jesus Christ hath drawn after him, and united in his love.
It is enough ; whatsoever they may be separated from, the things or persons dearest in this world, it is no matter; the jewel is safe. None can take my Christ from me, and I am safe in him, as his purchase. None can take me from him, and being still in his love, and through him in the Father's love, that is sufficient. What can I fear? What can I want? All other hazards signify nothing. How little value are they of! And for how little a while am I in danger of them ! Methinks, all should look on a believer with an emulous eye, and wish his estate more than a king's.
Alas, poor creatures ! rich men, great men, princes and kings, what vain things are they that you embrace and cleave to! Whatsoever they be, soon must you part. Can you say of any of them, Who shall separate us ? Storms may arise and scatter ships that sail smoothly together in fair weather. Thou mayest be removed, by public commotions and calamities, from thy sweet dwellings, and societies, and estates. You may even live to see and seek your parting. At last you must part, for you must die. Then, farewell parks and palaces, gardens and honours, and even crowns themselves. Then, dearest friends, children and wife must be parted with. Linquenda tellus, et domus, et placens
And what hast thou left, poor soul, who hast not Christ, but that which thou wouldst gladly part with and canst not, the condemning guilt of all thy sins ?
But the soul that is in Christ, when other things are pulled away, feels little or nothing: he cleaves to Christ, and these VOL. III.
separations pain him not. Yea, when that great separatist, death, comes, that breaks all other unions, even that of the soul and body, yet, so far is it from separating the believer's soul from its beloved Lord Jesus, that, on the contrary, it carries it into the nearest union with him, and the fullest enjoyment of him for ever.
Isaiah lix. 1, 2.
Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, neither
His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your
sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.
Our vain minds are naturally fruitful in nothing more than in mistakes of God. For the most part we think not on Him, and when we do it, we fancy Him according to our own affections, which are wholly perverse and crooked.
Men commonly judge it a vain thing to spend much pains and time in worshipping Him; and if they are convinced of this, and tied to it by the profession of His name, then they
ink all religion is a shell of external diligences and observances, and count it strange if this be not accepted. In the former chapter we find this, in the Prophet's contest with the people about their fasting, and their opinion of it; he cuts up their sacrifices, and lets them see what was within; the skin was sound and looked well, but being opened, the entrails were found rotten. And here he enters into another contest, against the latent atheism of their hearts, who after their manner of seeking God, not finding Him, and not being delivered, are ready to think that He either cannot, or will not help, and rather rest on that gross mistake, than inquire into themselves for the true cause of their continuing calamities: they incline rather to think it is some indisposition in God to help, than what it truly is, a want of reformation in themselves that hinders it. It is not likely that they would say thus, or speak it out in plain terms; no, nor possibly speak it formally and distinctly within, not so much as in their thoughts; and yet, they might have a confused, dark conceit of this. And much of the atheism of man's heart is of this fashion ; not formed into resolved propositions, but latent", in confused notions of it, scarcely discernible by himself; at least, not searched out and discerned in his own breast; there they are, and he sees them not, not written assertions, but flying fumes, filling the soul, and hindering it to read the characters of God that are writ upon the conscience.
The impenitency of men, in any condition, and particularly under distress, is from the want of clear apprehensions and deep persuasions of God, of His just anger provoked by their sin, and of His sweetness and readiness to forgive and embrace a returning sinner; of His sovereign power, able to șid them out of the greatest trouble, His ear, quick enough to hear the cries, yea, the least whispering of a humbled heart in the lowest deep of his sorrow, and His arm, long enough to reach them, and strong enough to draw them forth. He that comes unto God, must believe that he is, says the Apostle, Heb. xj. 6. So, certainly, he who believes that, must come; it will sweetly constrain him: he cannot but come, who is so persuaded. Were men's hearts much impressed with that belief in all their troubles, they would eye men less, and God more, and with out delay they would fasten upon the Church's resolution, Hos. vi. 1: Come and let us return unto the Lord i for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. And this is the very thing that the Prophet would here persuade to by his present doctrine; and having
* Ezek. viii. 7. Behind the wall.
impleaded them guilty, he sets them a copy of humble confession, ver. 12, 8c. Hence the frequent complaints in the Psalms, Why hidest Thou Thyself? So Psalm xxii. 2: I cry, but Thou hearest not.
In the words of these two verses, these two things appear; a sad condition, and the true cause of it.
The condition, I think, I have reason to call sad : it is God hiding. His face that He will not hear. This may be either the personal estate of His children, or the public estate of His Church. From a soul, He hides His face, not so much in the withdrawing of sensible comforts and sweet tastes of joy, which to many are scarcely known, and to such as do know them, commonly do not continue very long, but it is a suspension of that lively influence of His Divine raising the mind in the contemplation of Him and communion with Him in prayer and meditation, which yet may be, where those relishes and senses of joy are not. And the returns of it appear in beating down the power of sin, or abating and subduing it, making the heart more pure and heavenly, making it more to live by faith in Christ, to be often at the throne of grace, and to receive gracious answers, supplies of wants, and assistances against temptations. Now, when there is a cessation and obstruction of these and such like workings, the face of God is hid; the soul is at a loss, seeks still and cannot find Him whom it loveth. And in this condition it cannot take comfort in other things; they are too low. It is a higher and nobler desire than to be satisfied, or diverted, with the childish things that even men delight in who know not God. It is a love-sickness, which nothing can cure but the presence and love of the party loved. Yea, nothing can so much as allay the pain, and give an interval of ease, or recover a fainting fit, but some good word or look, or at least some kind message, from Him. Set thee in a palace, and all delights about thee, and a crown on thy head, yet, if His love has ceased on thy heart, these are all nothing without Him. It was after David was advanced to his kingdom, and