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begin to reason with him, more and more heaviness will undoubtedly ensue, if not utter darkness.
7. It has been frequently supposed, that there is another cause, if not of darkness, at least, of heaviness ; namely, God's withdrawing himself from the soul, because it is his sovereign will. Certainly he will do this, if we grieve his Holy Spirit, either by outward or inward sin ; either by doing evil, or neglecting to do good; by giving way either to pride or anger, to spiritual sloth, to foolish desire, or inordinate affection. But that he ever withdraws himself because he will, merely because it is his good pleasure, I absolutely deny. There is no text in all the Bible which gives any colour for such a supposition. Nay, it is a supposition contrary, not only to many particular texts, but to the whole tenor of Scripture. It is repugnant to the very nature of God: It is utterly beneath his majesty and wisdom, (as an eminent writer strongly expresses it,) “ to play at bo-peep
with his creatures." It is inconsistent both with his justice and mercy, and with the sound experience of all his children.
8. One more cause of heaviness is mentioned by many of those who were termed Mystic authors. And the notion has crept in, I know not how, even among plain people who have no acquaintance with them. I cannot better explain this, than in the words of a late writer, who relates this as her own experi
_“ I continued so happy in my Beloved, that, although I should have been forced to live a vagabond in a desert, I should have found no difficulty in it. This state had not lasted long, when, in effect, I found myself led into a desert. I found myself in a forlorn condition, altogether poor, wretched, and miserable. The proper source of this grief is, the knowledge of ourselves; by which we find that there is an extreme unlikeness between God and us. We see ourselves most opposite to him; and that our inmost soul is entirely corrupted, depraved, and full of all kind of evil and malignity, of the world and the flesh, and all sorts of abominations."—From hence it has been inferred, that the knowledge of ourselves, without which we should perish everlastingly, must, even after we have attained justifying faith, occasion the deepest heaviness.
9. But upon this I would observe, (1.) In the preceding paragraph, this writer says, Hearing I had not a true faith in Christ, I offered myself up to God, and immediately felt his
yet it does not appear that this was justification. It is more probable, it was no more than what are usually termed, the “ drawings of the Father.” And if so, the heaviness and darkness which followed was no other than conviction of sin; which, in the nature of things, must precede that faith whereby we are justified. (2.) Suppose she was justified almost the same moment she was convinced of wanting faith, there was then no time for that gradually-increasing self-knowledge which uses to precede justification: In this case, therefore, it came after, and was probably the more severe, the less it was expected. (3.) It is allowed, there will be a far deeper, a far clearer and fuller knowledge of our inbred sin, of our total corruption by nature, after justification, than ever there was before it. But this need not occasion darkness of soul: I will not say, that it must bring us into heaviness. Were it so, the Apostle would not have used that expression, if need be; for there would be an absolute, indispensable need of it, for all that would know themselves; that is, in effect, for all that would know the perfect love of God, and be thereby“ made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” But this is by no means
On the contrary, God may increase the knowledge of ourselves to any degree, and increase, in the same proportion, the knowledge of himself and the experience of his love. And in this case there would be no “desert, no misery, no forlorn condition ;” but love, and peace, and joy, gradually springing up into everlasting life.
IV. 1. For what ends, then, (which was the Fourth thing to be considered,) does God permit heaviness to befal so many of his children? The Apostle gives us a plain and direct answer to this important question : “ That the trial of their faith, which is much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Verse 7.) There may be an allusion to this, in that well-known passage of the fourth chapter: (Although it primarily relates to quite another thing, as has been already observed :) “ Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you: But rejoice that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ ; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may likewise rejoice with exceeding great joy." (Verse 12, &c.) 2. Hence we learn, that the first and great end of God's
permitting the temptations which bring heaviness on his children, is the trial of their faith, which is tried by these, even as gold by the fire. Now we know, gold tried in the fire is purified thereby ; is separated from its dross. And so is faith in the fire of temptation ; the more it is tried, the more it is purified ;-yea, and not only purified, but also strengthened, confirmed, increased abundantly, by so many more proofs of the wisdom and power, the love and faithfulness, of God. This, then,--to increase our faith,-is one gracious end of God's permitting those manifold temptations.
3. They serve to try, to purify, to confirm, and increase that living hope also, whereunto “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath begotten us again of his abundant mercy.” Indeed our hope cannot but increase, in the same proportion with our faith. On this foundation it stands : Believing in his name, living by faith in the Son of God, we hope for, we have a confident expectation of, the glory which shall be revealed; and, consequently, whatever strengthens our faith, increases our hope also. At the same time it increases our joy in the Lord, which cannot but attend a hope full of immortality. In this view the Apostle exhorts believers in the other chapter : “ Rejoice that ye are partakers of the sufferings of Christ."
On this very account, “happy are you ; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you :" And hereby ye are enabled, even in the midst of sufferings, to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
4. They rejoice the more, because the trials which increase their faith and hope increase their love also; both their gratitude to God for all his mercies, and their good-will to all mankind. Accordingly, the more deeply sensible they are of the lovingkindness of God their Saviour, the more is their heart inflamed with love to him who “ first loved us." The clearer and stronger evidence they have of the glory that shall be revealed, the more do they love Him who hath purchased it for them, and given them the earnest” thereof “ in their hearts." And this, the increase of their love, is another end of the temptations permitted to come upon them.
5. Yet another is, their advance in holiness; holiness of heart, and holiness of conversation ;—the latter naturally resulting from the former ; for a good tree will bring forth good fruit. And all inward holiness is the immediate fruit of the faith that
worketh by love. By this the blessed Spirit purifies the heart from pride, self-will, passion; from love of the world, from foolish and hurtful desires, from vile and vain affections. Beside that, sanctified afflictions have, through the grace of God, an immediate and direct tendency to holiness. Through the operation of his Spirit, they humble, more and more, and abase the soul before God. They calm and meeken our turbulent spirit, tame the fierceness of our nature, soften our obstinacy and selfwill, crucify us to the world, and bring us to expect all our strength from, and to seek all our happiness in, God.
6. And all these terminate in that great end, that our faith, hope, love, and holiness may be found,” if it doth not yet appear, “ unto praise" from God himself, “ and honour” from men and angels, “and glory," assigned by the great Judge to all that have endured unto the end. And this will be assigned in that awful day to every man, “according to his works ;” according to the work which God had wrought in his heart, and the outward works which he has wrought for God; and likewise according to what he had suffered : So that all these trials are unspeakable gain. So many ways do these “light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!”
7. Add to this the advantage which others may receive by seeing our behaviour under affliction. We find by experience, example frequently makes a deeper impression upon us than precept. And what examples have a stronger influence, not only on those who are partakers of like precious faith, but even on them who have not known God, than that of a soul calm and serene in the midst of storms; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; meekly accepting whatever is the will of God, however grievous it may be to nature ; saying, in sickness and pain, “ The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"_in loss or want, “ The Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord !”
V. 1. I am to conclude with some inferences.' And, First, how wide is the difference between darkness of soul, and heaviness; which, nevertheless, are so generally confounded with each other, even by experienced Christians! Darkness, or the wilderness-state, implies a total loss of joy in the Holy Ghost : Heaviness does not ; in the midst of this we may “ rejoice with joy unspeakable.” Thev that are in darkness have lost the
peace of God: They that are in heaviness have not; so far from it, that at the very time “ peace," as well as “grace," may “be multiplied" unto them. In the former, the love of God is waxed cold, if it be not utterly extinguished ; in the latter, it retains its full force, or, rather, increases daily. In these, faith itself, if not totally lost, is, however, grievously decayed: Their evidence and conviction of things not seen, particularly of the pardoning love of God, is not so clear or strong as in time past ; and their trust in him is proportionably weakened: Those, though they see him not, yet have a clear, unshaken confidence in God, and an abiding evidence of that love whereby all their sins are blotted out. So that as long as we can distinguish faith from unbelief, hope from despair, peace from war, the love of God from the love of the world, we may infallibly distinguish heaviness from darkness !
2. We may learn from hence, Secondly, that there may be need of heaviness, but there can be no need of darkness. There may be need of our being in “ heaviness for a season,” in order to the ends above recited ; at least, in this sense, as it is a natural result of those "manifold temptations," which are needful to try and increase our faith, to confirm and enlarge our hope, to purify our heart from all unholy tempers, and to perfect us in love. And, by consequence, they are needful in order to brighten our crown, and add to our eternal weight of glory. But we cannot say, that darkness is needful in order to any of these ends. It is no way conducive to them: The loss of faith, hope, love, is surely neither conducive to holiness, nor to the increase of that reward in heaven which will be in proportion to our holiness on earth.
3. From the Apostle's manner of speaking we may gather, Thirdly, that even heaviness is not always needful. “Now, for a season, if need be:” So it is not needful for all persons ; ror for any person at all times. God is able, he has both power and wisdom, to work, when he pleases, the same work of grace in any soul, by other means. And in some instances he does so; he causes those whom it pleaseth him to go on from strength to strength, even till they “perfect holiness in his fear," with scarce any heaviness at all; as having an absolute power over the heart of man, and moving all the springs of it at his pleasure. But these cases are rare: God generally sees good to try " acceptable men in the furnace of affliction."