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NOTES UPON PART I.
gelical professors look down with supercilious disdain on those who do not understand the doctrines of grace; and think themselves more enlightened, and better acquainted with the liberty of the gospel, than more practical christians : but io dark times such wanton professors often turn out damnable apostates, and the detection of their hypocrisy makes them ashamed to show their faces among those believers, over whom they before affected a kind of superiority. When convictions subside, and CHRIST has not set up his kingdom in the heart, the unclean spirit resumes his former habitation, and takes to himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, who bind the poor wretch faster than ever in the cords of sin and delusion; so that his last state is more hopeless than the first. Such apostacies make the hearts of the upright to tremble:—but a recollection of the nature of TURN-AWAY's profession and confidence explains the matter, and they recover their hope, and learn to take heed to themselves.
154..2. Then... The ensuing episode concerning LITTLE Faith was evidently intended to prevent weak christians being dismayed by the awful things spoken of loose profeso sors. In times of persecution, many professors openly return into the broad way to destruction: thus SATAN murders the souls of men, by threatening to kill their bodies: this is DEAD-MAN'S-LANE, leading back to BROAD-WAY-GATE. Believers indeed are preserved from thus drawing back to perdition: but the weak in faith, being faint-hearted and mistrusting the promises and faithfulness of God, are betrayed into sinful compliances or negligences: they lie down to sleep when they have special need to watch and be sober: they conceal, or perhaps deny, their profession, are timid and inactive in duty, or in other respects act contrary to their consciences, and thus contract guilt. So that FAINTHEART threatens and assaults them; MISTRUST plunders them; and GUILT beats them down, and makes them almost despair of life. As the robbery was committed in the dark
lane before mentioned, this seems to have been the author's precise meaning : but any unbelieving fears, that induce men to neglect the means of grace, or to adopt sinful expedients of securing themselves, which on the review must bring guilt and terror upon their consciences, may also be intended.
155..1. At last...As these robbers represent the inward effects of unbelief, and disobedience, and not any outward enemies, GREAT-GRACE seems to be the emblem of those believers, or ministers, who having honourably stood their ground, endeavour to restore the fallen in the spirit of meekness, by suitable encouragements. The remembrance of such persons, and their compassionate exhortations or honourable examples, help to drive away entire despondency, and to inspire the trembling penitent with some hope of finding mercy and grace in this time of urgent need. This may be allegorically represented by the flight of the robbers, when they heard that GREAT-GRACE was on the road.
.... Jewels... The believer's union with Christ, and the sanctification of the Spirit, sealing his acceptance and rendering him meet for heaven, are his invaluable and unalienable jewels. But he may by sin lose his comforts, and not be able to perceive the evidences of his own safety : and even if he be again enabled to hope that it will be well with him in the event, he may be so harassed by the recollection of the loss he has sustained, the effects of his misconduct on others, and the obstructions he hath thrown in the way of his own comfort and usefulness, that his future life may be rendered a constant scene of disquietude and painful reflections. Thus the doctrine of the believer's final perseverance is both maintained and guarded from abuse : and it is not owing to a man's own care, but to the Lord's free mercy, powerful interposition, and new covenant engagements, that unbelief and guilt do not rob him of his title to heaven, as well as of his comfort and confidence.
156..24. Wonder... Many profeffors, meeting with discouragements, give up their religion for the sake of this present
world: but, if any thence argue, that true believers will copy their example, they show that they are not well established in judgement, nor deeply acquainted with the nature of the divine life, or the objects of its supreme desires and peculiar fears.
158..27. Cowards... The young convert views temptations, conflicts, and persecutions, in a very different light than experienced believers do. Warm with zeal, and full of con. fidence which he imagines to be wholly genuine, and knowing comparatively little of his own heart, or the nature of the christian conflict, the young convert resembles a new recruit, who is apt to boast what great things he will do: but the old disciple, though much stronger in faith, and possessing habitually more vigour of holy affection, knows himself too well to boast, and speaks with modesty of the past, and diffidence of the future; like the veteran soldier, of approved valour, who has often been in actual service. They, who have boasted before-hand what they would do and suffer, rather than deny the faith, have generally either proved apostates, or been taught their weakness by painful experience. And when a real believer has thus fallen, the recollection of past boastings will add to his remorse and terror; and SATAN will attempt to drive him to despair: so that, indeed, ‘no man can tell . what in such a combat attends us, but he that has been in • the battle himself.'—Even they, who were most remarkable for strength of faith, have often been overcome in the hour of temptation ; and, when guilt got within them, they found it no easy matter to recover their hope and comfort: how then can the weak in faith be expected to overcome in such circumstances ?—The accommodation of the passages from Job to this conflict, seems merely intended to imply, that the assaults of SATAN, on these occasions, are more terrible than any thing in the visible creation can be: and that every possible advantage will be needful in order to withstand in the evil day.
162..16. Convoy... Instead of saying, “though all men deny
thee, yet will not I," it behoves us to use all means of grace diligently, and to be instant in prayer, that the Lord himself
may protect us by his power, and animate us by his presence, and then only shall we be enabled to overcome both the fear of man, and the temptations of the devil.
163..10. Put itself... This way, which seemed as straight es the right way, and in entering on which there was no stile to be passed, must denote some very plausible and gradual deviation from the simplicity of the gospel, in doctrine or practice. Peculiar circumstances may require the believer to determine how to act; when so much can be said in support of different measures, as to make him hesitate : and if he merely consider the subject in his own mind, or consult with his friends, without carefully examining the rule of scripture, and praying for divine direction; he will very probably be seduced into the wrong path: and, if he listen to the FlatTERER, he will certainly be misled. It is, therefore, requi. site to enquire what is meant by the FLATTERER.-It would be a manifest impropriety to suppose these pilgrims hearken. ing to such as preach justification by the works of the law; or flatter men's self-complacency by harangues on the dignity of human nature, and the unbiassed freedom of the will; the sufficiency of reason in matters of religion, or the goodness of the heart; for experienced christians cannot be thus imposed on. Nor would gross antinomianism engage the attention of those, who have been in DOUBTING-CASTLE, for turning aside into BY-PATH-MEADOW. But the human mind is always accessible to flattery, in one form or other; and there have in every age been teachers and professors, who have soothed men into a good opinion of their state on insúf. ficient grounds; or fed their spiritual pride by expressing too favourable thoughts of their attainments, which is often mistaken for a very loving spirit. This directly tends to unwatchfulness, and an unadvised way of deciding in difficult cases : and thus men are imperceptibly induced to consult their own inclination, ease, or interest, instead of the will
NOTES UPON PART I.
and glory of God. In the mean time, such flatterers commend their prudence, in allowing themselves a little rest; persuade them that they are entitled to distinction, and exempted from general rules; insinuate, that they are too well acquainted with SATAN's devices to be deceived ; and in short seem to make their opinion the standard of right and wrong.
Some excellent men, from a natural easiness of temper, united with spiritual love and genuine candour, thus undesignedly too much soothe their brethren : but the FLAT. TERER is ' a black man in a white robe;' a designing hypo. crite, who with plausibility, fluency of speech, talents, eloquence, or polite accomplishments, and very evangelical views of religion, “ serves not our Lord JESUS CHRIST, but “ his own belly; and by good words and fair speeches de. "ceives the hearts of the simple.” Such a man will not shock serious minds by gross antinomianism: but he will insist disproportionately and indiscriminately on privileges, promises, and consolatory topics; and thus put his auditors into good humour with themselves and consequently with him, in order to obtain advantages, not so easily acquired by other means. There are many other flatterers : but this description, coming far more in the way of evangelical pro. fessors than any other, seems emphatically to be intended. SATAN aims to lull men into a fatal security, wholly or in part: flatterers of every kind are his principal agents; and a smooth, undistinguishing gospel, united to a want of plaindealing in private, has immense influence in this respect, Too often, it is to be feared, the preacher uses flattery in the pulpit and the parlour, and is reciprocally flattered or rewarded: and what wonder is it, if ungodly men take up the business as a lucrative trade, and serve their own selfish purposes, by quieting uneasy consciences into a false peace, misleading unwary souls, entangling incautious believers in a net, and thus bringing a scandal on the gospel ? " SATAN " is transformed into an angel of light, and his ministers into " ministers of righteousness :" and if this were the case in