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ately enter into “ the rest which remaineth for the people of God.” The greater part of them wander, more or less, out of the good way into which he hath brought them. They come, as it were, into a “ waste and howling desert,” where they are variously tempted and tormented: And this, some, in allusion to the case of the Israelites, have termed, wilderness state.”.

2. Certain it is, that the condition wherein these are has a right to the tenderest compassion. They labour under an evil and sore disease; though one that is not commonly understood ; and for this very reason it is the more difficult for them to find a remedy. Being in darkness themselves, they cannot be supposed to understand the nature of their own disorder; and few of their brethren, nay, perhaps, of their teachers, know either what their sickness is, or how to heal it. So much the more need there is to inquire, First, What is the nature of this disease ? Secondly, What is the cause ? and, Thirdly, What is the cure of it? · I. 1. And, First, what is the nature of this disease, into which so many fall after they have believed ? Wherein does it properly consist; and what are the genuine symptoms of it? It properly consists in the loss of that faith which God once wrought in their heart. They that are in the wilderness, have not now that divine “ evidence,” that satisfactory conviction, “ of things not seen,” which they once enjoyed. They have not now that inward demonstration of the Spirit which before enabled each of them to say, “ The life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.' The light of heaven does not now “ shine in their hearts, " neither do they “ see him that is invisible;" but darkness is again on the face of their souls, and blindness on the eyes of their understanding. The Spirit no longer “ witnesses with their spirits, that they are the children of God;” neither does he continue as the Spirit of adoption, “ crying” in their hearts, “ Abba, Father.” They have not now a sure trust in his love, and a liberty of approaching him with holy boldness. Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,” is no more the language of their heart ; but they are shorn of their strength, and become weak and feeble-minded, even as other men.

2. Hence, Secondly, proceeds the loss of love ; which cannot but rise or fall, at the same time, and in the same proportion, with true, living faith. Accordingly, they that are deprived of

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their faith, are deprived of the love of God also. They cannot now say, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” They are not now happy in God, as every one is that truly loves him. They do not delight in him as in time past, and “smell the odour of his ointments.” Once, all their “ desire was unto him, and to the remembrance of his name;"> but now even their desires are cold and dead, if not utterly extinguished. And as their love of God is waxed cold, so is also their love of their neighbour. They have not now that zeal for the souls of men, that longing after their welfare, that fervent, restless, active desire of their being reconciled to God. They do not feel those“ bowels of mercies” for the sheep that are lost,—that tender “ compassion for the ignorant, and them that are out of the way.” Once they were “ gentle toward all men," meekly instructing such as opposed the truth; and, “ if any was overtaken in a fault, restoring such an one in the spirit of meekness :" But, after a suspense, perhaps, of many days, anger begins to regain its power; yea, peevishness and impatience thrust sore at them that they may fall; and it is well if they are not sometimes driven, even to "render evil for evil, and railing for railing."

3. In consequence of the loss of faith and love, follows, Thirdly, loss of joy in the Holy Ghost. For if the loving consciousness of pardon be no more, the joy resulting therefrom cannot remain. If the Spirit does not witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, the joy that flowed from the inward witness must also be at an end. And, in like manner, they who once “ rejoiced with joy unspeakable,” “ in hope of the glory of God,” now they are deprived of that “hope full of immortality,” are deprived of the joy it occasioned; as also of that which resulted from a consciousness of the love of God," then 6 shed abroad in their hearts." For the cause being removed, so is the effect: The fountain being dammed up, those living waters spring no more to refresh the thirsty soul.

4. With loss of faith, and love, and joy, there is also joined, Fourthly, the loss of that peace which once passed all understanding. That sweet tranquillity of mind, that composure of spirit, is gone. Painful doubt returns ; doubt, whether we ever did, and perhaps whether we ever shall, believe. We begin to doubt, whether we ever did find in our hearts the real testimony of the Spirit ; whether we did not rather deceive.our own souls, and mistake the voice of nature for the voice of God; nay, and perhaps, whether we shall ever hear his voice, and find favour in his sight. And these doubts are again joined with servile fear, with that fear which hath torment. We fear the wrath of God, even as before we believed: We fear, lest we should be cast out of his presence; and thence sink again into that fear of death, from which we were before wholly delivered.

5. But even this is not all; for loss of peace is accompanied with loss of power. We know every one who has peace with God, through Jesus Christ, has power over all sin. But whenever he loses the peace of God, he loses also the power over sin. While that peace remained, power also remained, even over the besetting sin, whether it were the sin of his nature, of his constitution, of his education, or his profession ; yea, and over those evil tempers and desires which, till then, he could not conquer. Sin had then no more dominion over him ; but he hath now no more dominion over sin. He may struggle, indeed, but he cannot overcome; the crown is fallen from his head. His enemies again prevail over him, and, more or less, bring him into bondage. The glory is departed from him, even the kingdom of God which was in his heart. He is dispossessed of righteousness, as well as of peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

II. 1. Such is the nature of what many have termed, and not improperly, “The wilderness state.” But the nature of it may be more fully understood by inquiring, Secondly, What are the causes of it? These, indeed, are various. But I dare not rank among these the bare, arbitrary, sovereign will of God. He “rejoiceth in the prosperity of his servants: He delighteth not to afflict or grieve the children of men.” His invariable will is our sanctification, attended with “peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” These are his own free gifts; and we are assured “the gifts of God are," on his part, “ without repentance.” He never repenteth of what he hath given, or desires to withdraw them from us. Therefore he never deserts us, as some speak; it is we only that desert him.

(I.) 2. The most usual cause of inward darkness is sin, of one kind or another. This it is which generally occasions what is often a complication of sin and misery. And, First, sin of commission. This may frequently be observed to darken the soul in a moment; especially if it be a known, a wilful, or presumptuous sin. If, for instance, a person, who is now walking

in the clear light of God's countenance, should be any way prevailed on to commit a single act of drunkenness, or uncleanness, it would be no wonder, if, in that very hour, he fell into utter darkness. is true, there have been some very rare cases, wherein God has prevented this, by an extraordinary display of his pardoning mercy, almost in the very instant. But in general, such an abuse of the goodness of God, so gross an insult on his love, occasions an immediate estrangement from God, and a “ darkness that may be felt.”

3. But it may be hoped this case is not very frequent; that there are not many who so despise the riches of his goodness as, while they walk in his light, so grossly and presumptuously to' rebel against him. That light is much more frequently lost by giving way to sins of omission. This, indeed, does not immediately quench the Spirit, but gradually and slowly. The former may be compared to pouring water upon a fire; the latter to withdrawing the fuel from it. And many times will that loving Spirit reprove our neglect, before he departs from us. Many are the inward checks, the secret notices, he gives, before his influences are withdrawn. So that only a train of omissions, wilfully persisted in, can bring us into utter darkness.

4. Perhaps no sin of omission more frequently occasions this than the neglect of private prayer; the want whereof cannot be supplied by any other ordinance whatever. Nothing can be more plain, than that the life of God in the soul does not continue, much less increase, unless we use all opportunities of communion with God, and pouring out our hearts before him. If, therefore, we are negligent of this, if we suffer business, company, or any avocation whatever, to prevent these secret exercises of the soul, (or, which comes to the same thing, to make us hurry them over in a slight and careless manner,) that life will surely decay. And if we long or frequently intermit them, it will gradually die away.

5. Another sin of omission, which frequently brings the soul of a believer into darkness, is the neglect of what was so strongly enjoined, even under the Jewish dispensation : “ Thou shalt, in anywise, rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him : Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart." Now, if we do hate our brother in our heart, if we do not rebuke him when we see him in a fault, but suffer sin upon him, this will soon bring leanness into our own soul; seeing

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hereby we are partakers of his sin. By neglecting to reprove our neighbour, we make his sin our own: We become accountable for it to God: We saw his danger, and gave him no warning: So, “if he perish in his iniquity,” God may justly require “ his blood at our hands.” No wonder then, if by thus grieving the Spirit, we lose the light of his countenance.

6. A Third cause of our losing this is, the giving way to some kind of inward sin. For example : We know, every one that is “proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;" and that, although this pride of heart should not appear in the outward conversation. Now, how easily may a soul filled with peace and joy fall into this snare of the devil! How natural is it for him to imagine that he has more grace, more wisdom or strength, than he really has ! to “think more highly of himself than he ought to think !” How natural to glory in something he has received, as if he had not received it! But seeing God continually “resisteth the proud, and giveth grace” only “ to the humble,” this must certainly obscure, if not wholly destroy, the light which before shone on his heart.

7. The same effect may be produced by giving place to anger, whatever the provocation or occasion be; yea, though it were coloured over with the name of zeal for the truth, or for the glory of God. Indeed, all zeal, which is any other than the flame of love, is “earthly, animal, and devilish.” It is the flame of wrath: It is flat, sinful anger, neither better nor worse. And nothing is a greater enemy to the mild, gentle love of God than this: They never did, they never can, subsist together in one breast. In the same proportion as this prevails, love and joy in the Holy Ghost decrease. This is particularly observable in the case of offence; I mean, anger at any of our brethren, at any of those who are united with us either by civil or religious ties. If we give way to the spirit of offence but one hour, we lose the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit; so that, instead of amending them, we destroy ourselves, and become an easy prey to any enemy that assaults us.

8. But suppose we are aware of this snare of the devil, we may be attacked from another quarter. When fierceness and anger are asleep, and love alone is waking, we may be no less endangered by desire, which equally tends to darken the soul. This is the sure effect of any foolish desire, any vain or inordinate affection. If we set our affection on things of the earth,

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