Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Lord ; and Jonah did the same in the fish's belly. Extraordinary cases require singular diligence; even as greater exertion is necessary to get out of a pit than to walk upon level ground. When believers, therefore, have brought themselves, by transgression, into great terror and anguish of conscience, it is foolish to expect that God will “ restore to them the joy of his salvation," till they have made the most unreserved confessions of their guilt, humbly deprecated his deserved wrath in persevering prayer, and used peculiar diligence in every thing that accompanies repentance and. faith in CHRIST, and tends to greater watchfulness, circum. spection, and self-denial. But they often seek relief in a more compendious way: and, as they do not wholly omit their customary religious exercises, or vindicate and repeat their transgressions, they endeavour to quiet themselves by general notions of God's mercy through Jesus Christ, and the security of the new covenant; and the storm in their consciences subsiding, they' find a little shelter,' and “ wait " for a more convenient opportunity” of recovering their former life and vigour in religion. Indeed the very circumstances which should excite us to peculiar earnestness, tend, through the depravity of our nature, to blind and stupify the heart: Peter and the other disciples slept for sorrow,' when they were more especially required “ to watch and

pray, that they might not enter into temptation." Such repeated sins and mistakes bring believers into deep distresses. Growing more and more heartless in religion, and insensible in a most perilous situation, they are led habitually to infer that they are hypocrites; that the encouragements of scripture belong not to them; that prayer itself will be of no use to them; and, when they are at length brought to reflection, they are taken prisoners by DESPAIR, and shut up in DOUBTINGCASTLE. This case should be carefully distinguished from CHRISTIAN's terrors in the city of DESTRUCTION, which induced him to "flee from the wrath to come;" from the

[ocr errors]

slough of DESPOND, into which he fell when diligently seeking salvation; from the burden he carried to the cross; from his conflict with APOLLYON, and his troubles in the valley of the SHADOW OF DEATH; and even from the terrors that seized him and HOPEFUL in BY-PATH meadow, which would have speedily terminated if they had not slept on forbidden ground, and stopped short of the refuge the Lord hath provided.--Despair, like a tremendous giant, will at last seize on the souls of all unbelievers: and when christians conclude, from some aggravated and pertinacious misconduct, that they belong to that company, even their acquaintance with the scripture will expose them to be taken captive by him in this world. They do not indeed fall and perish with VAIN-CONFIDENCE: but for a season they find it impossible to rise superior to prevailing gloomy doubts bordering on despair, or to obtain the least comfortable hope of deliverance, or encouragement to use the proper means of seeking it. Whenever we deliberately quit the plain path of duty, to avoid hardship and self-denial, we trespass on giant DESPAIR's grounds; and are never out of his reach till renewed exercises of deep repentance, and faith in CHRIST, producing unreserved obedience, especially in that instance where before we refused it, have set our feet in the high-way we had forsaken. This we cannot attain to, without the special grace of God, which he may not see good immediately to communicate: in the mean time every effort must be accompanied with discouragement and distress; but il we yield to another temptation, and, instead of persevering, amidst our anxious fears, to cry to him for help, and wait his time of showing mercy, endeavour to bolster up some false confidence, and take shelter in a refuge of lies, the event will be such as is here described. It will be in vain, after such perverseness, to pretend that we have inadvertently mistaken our way :

our own hearts will condemn us;" how then can “ we have confidence in God, who is greater than "our hearts and knoweth all things?" the grim giant will

1

prove too strong for us, and shut us up in his noisome dun. geon, and the recollection of our former hopes and comforts will only serve to aggravate our woe.-These lines are here inserted

• The pilgrims now, to gratify the flesh,
Will seek its ease; but, oh! how they afresh
Do thereby plunge themselves new griefs into!
Who seek to please the flesh themselves undo.

140..1. Here then...Perhaps this exact time was mentioned under the idea, that it was as long as life can generally be supported in the situation here described. The believer may be brought by wilful sin to such a condition, that, to his own apprehension, destruction is inevitable. If a man may sink so low as to have no light or comfort from God's word and Spirit, nothing to sustain his dying faith and hope, no help or pity from his brethren, but severe censures or more painful suspicions; the horrors of an accusing conscience, the dread of God as an enemy, connected with sharp and multiplied corrections in his outward circumstances; as the price of the ease or indulgence obtained by some wilful trans. gression: who, that believes it, will take encouragement to sin from the doctrine of final perseverance? Would a man, for a trivial gain, leap down a precipice, even if he could be sure that he should escape with his life? No, the dread of the anguish of broken bones, and of being made a cripple to the end of his days, would effectually secure him from such a madness.

..9. Now giant...Despair seldom fully seizes any man in this world; and the strongest hold it can get of a true believer amounts only to a prevailing distrust of God's promises, with respect to his own case; for this is accompanied with some small degree of latent hope, discoverable in its effects, though unperceived amidst the distressing feelings of the heart. Perhaps this was intended in the allegory by the circumstance

of Despair's doing nothing to the pilgrims, save at the instance of his wife DIFFIDENCE.--Desponding fears, when they so prevail as to keep men from prayer, make way for temptations to suicide, as the only relief to their miseries : but when true faith is in the heart, however it may seem to be wholly out of exercise, the temptation will be eventually overcome, provided actual insanity do not intervene; and this is a very uncommon case among religious people, whatever slanders their enemies may circulate, in order to prejudice men's minds against the truth. The giant's ' fits in sun-shiny . weather,' seem to denote those transient glimpses of hope, which prescrve believers from such dire extremities in their most discouraged seasons.

141..21. Brother... They, who have long walked with stable peace in the ways of God, are often known to be more dejected, when sin hath filled their consciences with remorse, than younger professors are; especially if they have caused others to offend, or brought any reproach on the gospel. Their conduct, as inconsistent with their former character and profession, seems a decided proof of self-deception in times past; they deem it hopeless to begin all over again; SATAN endeavours to the utmost to dishearten new converts by their example; and the Lord permits them to be overwhelmed for a time with discouragement, for a warning to others; to vindicate the honour of his truth, which they have disgraced; to counterpoise such attainments or services, as might otherwise “ exalt them above measure;” and to sbow that none has any strength independent of Him, and that he can make use of the feeble to assist the strong, when he sees good.-HOPEFU L's arguments against self-murder are conclusive: doubtless men in general venture on that awful crime, either disbelieving or forgetting the scripture doctrine of a future and eternal state of retribution; and it were sincerely to be wished, that all serious persons would avoid speaking of such as have put an end to theit existence; which certainly tends to mislead the mind of the

tempted into very erroneous apprehensions of this most important subject. The subsequent discourse aptly represents the fluctuation of men's minds under great despondency; their struggles against despair, with purposes at some future opportunity to seek deliverance; their present irresolution ; and the way in which feeble hopes, and strong fears of future wrath, keep them from yielding to the suggestions of the enemy.

143..12. My brother... Serious recollection of past conflicts, dangers, and deliverances, is peculiarly useful to encourage confidence in the power and mercy of God, and patient waiting for him in the most difficult and perilous situations : and conference with our brethren, even if they too are under similar trials, is a very important means of resisting the devil, when he would tempt us to renounce our hope, and have recourse to desperate measures.

144..4. Show them... The scripture exhibits some examples of apostates who have died in despair, (as king Saul and JUDAS ISCARIOT) and several intiinations are given of those to whom nothing “ remains but a certain fearful look" ing for of judgement and fiery indignation.” A few instances also have been noticed, in different ages, of noto. rious apostates, who have died in blaspheinous rage and despair: these accord to the man in the iron cage at the house of the INTERPRETER, and are awful warnings to all professors," while they think they stand, to take heed lest they fall." But the hypocrite generally overlooks the solemn caution; and the humble christian, having a tender conscience, and an acquaintance with the deceitfulness of his own heart, is very apt to consider his wilful transgression as the unpardonable sin, and to verge towards despair, from an apprehension that the doom of former apostates will at length be his own. This seems intended, by the giant showing the pilgrims the bones of those he had slain, in order to induce them to self-murder. ..29. Well on...Perhaps the author selected Saturday at

« ForrigeFortsett »