The Method of Grace

by John Flavel


Inviting All Men to Apply Jesus Christ
 
"Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest." Matthew 11:28 
 
    The doctrine of our redemption by Jesus Christ, being
finished in the first part, and the way and means by which Christ is
applied to sinners in the foregoing part of this treatise; I am now
orderly come to the general use of the whole; which in the first
place shall be by way of exhortation, to invite and persuade all men
to come to Christ; who, in all the former sermons, had been
represented in his garments of salvations, and in his apparel,
prepared and offered to sinners as their all-sufficient and only
remedy: and in the following sermons, will be represented in his
perfumed garments coming out of his ivory palaces, Psalm 45: 8, to
allure and draw all men unto him.
    For a general head to this use, which will be large, I have
chosen this scripture, "Come unto me all you that labor, and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
    These words are the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ himself, in
which there is a vital, ravishing sound: It is your mercy to have
such a joyful sound in your ears this day. And in them I will
consider their dependence, parts, and scope.
    As to their dependence, it is manifest they have an immediate
relation to the foregoing verse, wherein Christ opens his
commission, and declares the fullness of this authority and saving
power, and the impossibility of comings to God any other way. "All
things are delivered to me of my Father, and no man knows the Son
but the Father: neither knows any man the Father save the Son, and
he to whoever the Son will reveal him," ver. 27.
    The 28th verse is brought in to obviate the discouragements
of any poor, convinced, and humbled soul, who might thus
object: Lord, I am fully satisfied of the fullness of your saving
power, but greatly doubt whether ever I shall have the benefit
thereof; for I see so much sin and guilt in myself, so great
vileness and utter unworthiness, that I am over weighed, and even
sink under the burden of it: My soul is discouraged because of sin.
This objection is prevented in the words of my text, "Come unto me,
all you that labor, and are heavy laden", q. d. Let not the sense of
your sin and misery drive you from your only remedy: Be your sins
never so many, and the sense and burden of them never so heavy, yet,
for all that, Come unto me: You are the persons whom I invite and
call. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
    In the words, three things are especially remarkable.
    1. The soul's spiritual distress and burden: Weary and heavy
laden.
    2. Its invitations to Christ under that burden: Come unto me.
    3. Its encouragement to that great duty: I will give you rest.
    First, The soul's spiritual distress and burden expressed in
two very emphatical words, "hoi kopiontes kai pefortismenoi", "You
that labor and are heavy laden." The word which we translate
labor, signifies a laboring even to faintness and tiring, to the
consumption and waste of the spirits; and the other word signifies
such a pressure by a burden that is too heavy to be borne, that we
do even sink down under it.
    There is some difference among expositors about the quality of
this burden. Chrysostom, and some others after him, expound it of
the burden of the legal rites and ceremonies, which was a heavy
burden indeed, such as neither they, nor their fathers could bear.
Under the task and burden of these legal observances, they did
sweat and toil to obtain a righteousness to justify them before God,
and all in vain: and this is a pious sense: But others expound it of
the burden of sin in general; the corruption of nature, and evils
of practice, which souls convinced have brought them under the
curse, anti will bring them to hell, and therefore labor and
strive, all that in them lies, by repentance and reformation, to
clear themselves from it; but all in vain, while they strive in
their own strength. Such are they that are here called to come to
Christ, which is the second thing; namely,
    Secondly, The invitation of burdened souls to Christ: "Come unto
me all you that labor, and are heavy laden: Come unto me," that is
believe in me, lean and rest your burdened souls upon me. I am able
to ease all your burdens; in me are that righteousness and peace -
which you seek in vain in all the legal rites and ceremonies; or in
your repentance, reformations, and duties; but it will give you no
ease, it will be no benefit to you, except you come unto me. Faith
is often expressed under this notion, see John 6: 37. and John 7:
37. and it is to be further noted, that all burdened souls are
invited to come, "All you that labor. What ever your sin or guilt
have been, whatever your fears or discouragements are, yet come,
that is believe in me.
    Thirdly, Here is the encouragement Christ gives to this duty,
And I will give you rest: "anapauso mas". I will refresh you, I will
give you rest from your labor, your consciences shall be pacified,
your hearts at rest and quiet in that pardon, peace and favor of -
God which I will procure for you by my death. But here it must be
heedfully noted, that this promise of rest in Christ is not made to
men simply as they are sinners, nor yet as they are burdened and
heavy laden sinners, but as they come to Christ, that is as they are
believers. For let a man break his heart for sin, let him weep out
his eyes, let him mourn as a dove, and shed as many tears for sin
(if it were possible) as ever there fell drops of rain upon the
ground, yet if he come not to Christ by faith, his repentance shall
not save him, nor all his sorrows bring him to true rest. Hence
note,
     
    Doctrine. 1. That some souls are heavy laden with the burdensome
         sense of sin.
     
    Doctrine. 2. That all burdened souls are solemnly invited to cone
         to Christ.
     
    Doctrine. 3. That there is rest in Christ for all that come to him
         under the heavy burden of sin.      
     
     
    Doctrine. 1. Some souls are heavy laden with the burdensome sense
         of sin.
     
    I do not say all are so, for "fools make a mock at sin," Pro. 14:9.
It is so far from being burdensome to some, that it is a sport to
them, Proverbs 10: 23. But when a man's eyes are opened to see
the evil that is in sin, and the eternal misery that follows it,
(sin and hell being linked together with such strong chains as
nothing but the blood of Christ can loose) then no burden is like
that of sin. "A wounded conscience who can bear?" Proverbs 18: 14. For
let us but consider the efficacy that the law of God has upon the
consciences of men, when it comes in the spirituality and power of
it, to convince and humble the soul of a sinner. For then,
    First, The memory of sin long since committed, is refreshed and
revived, as if it had been but yesterday: There are fresh
recognitions of sin long since acted and forgotten, as if they had
never been: What was done in our youth is fetched back again, and by
a new impression of fear and horror set home upon the trembling
conscience, Job 13. 26. "You write bitter things against me, and
make me to possess the sins of my youth." Conscience can call back
the days that are past, and draw up a new charge upon the score of
old sins, Gen. 42: 21. All that ever we did is recorded and entered
into the book of conscience, and now is the time to open that book,
when the Lord will convince and awaken sinners. We read in Job 14:
17 of sealing up iniquities in a bag, which is an allusion to the
Clerk of the assizes, that takes all the indictments that are made
against persons at the assizes and seals them up in a bag, in order
to a trial. This is the first office and work of conscience; upon
which
    The second, namely, its accusations, do depend. These
accusations of conscience are terrible things; who can stand before
them? They are full, they are clear, and all of them referring to
the approaching judgment of the great and terrible God.
    Conscience dives into all sins, secret as well as open, and
into all the circumstances and aggravations of sin, as being
committed against light, against mercy, against the strivings,
warnings, and regrets of conscience. So that we may say of the
efficacy of conscience, as it is said, Psalm. 19: 6. of the influence
of the sun, "nothing is hid from the heat and power thereof." "Come
(says the woman of Samaria) see a man that has told me all that
ever I did," John 4: 29. Christ convinced her but of one sin by his
discourse, but conscience, by that one, fetched in, and charged all
the rest upon her. And as the accusations of conscience are full, so
they are clear and undeniable. A man becomes self convinced, and
there remains no shift, excuse, or plea, to defend himself. A
thousand witnesses cannot prove any point more clearly than one
testimony of conscience does. Mat. 22: 12. "The man was speechless,
a mute; muzzled (as the word signifies) by the clear testimony of
his own conscience. These accusations are the second work of
conscience, and they make way for the third, namely,
    Thirdly, The sentence and condemnation of conscience: And truly
this is an insupportable burden: The condemnation of conscience is
nothing else but its application of the condemning sentence of the
law to a man's person: The law curses everyone that transgresses
it, Gal. 3: 10. Conscience applies this curse to the guilty sinner.
So that it sentences the sinner in God's name and authority, from
whence there is no appeal: The voice of conscience is the voice of
God, and what it pronounces in God's name and authority, he will
confirm and ratify, 1 John 3: 20. "If our hearts, (I. e.) our
consciences condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knows
all things. This is that torment which no man cam endure. See the
effects of it in Cain, in Judas, and in Spira; it is a real
foretaste of hell-torments: This is that worm that never dies, Mark
9: 44. For look, as a worm in the body is bred of the corruption
that is there, so the accusations and condemnations of conscience
are bred in the soul by the corruption and guilt that are there. As
the worm in the body preys and bites upon the tender, sensible,
inward parts, so does conscience touch the very quick. This is the
third enact, or work, to sentence and condemn; and this also makes
way for a fourth, namely,
    Fourthly, To upbraid and reproach the sinner under his misery:
and this makes a man a very terror to himself: To be pitied in
misery is some relief, but to be upbraided and reproached, doubles
our affliction. You know it was one of the aggravations of Christ's
sufferings to be reproached by the tongues of his enemies, while he
hanged in torments upon the cursed tree; but all the scoffs and
reproaches, the bitter jeers and sarcasms in the world, are nothing
to those of a man's own conscience, which will cut to the very bone.
    O! when a man's conscience shall say to him in a day of
trouble, as Reuben to his afflicted brethren, (Gen. 43:22. "Spoke I
not unto you, saying, do not sin against the child, and you would not
hear; therefore behold also his blood is required." So conscience,
did I not warn you, threaten you, persuade you in time against these
evils, but you would not hearken to me, therefore behold now you
must suffer to all eternity for it. The wrath of God is kindled
against your soul for it: This is the fruit of your own wilful madness
and obstinacy. Now you shall know the price of sinning against God,
against light and conscience. O, this is terrible! Every bite of
conscience makes a poor soul to startle, and in a terrible fright to
cry, O the worm! O. the bitter foretaste of hell! A wounded spirit
who can bear?
    This is a fourth wound of conscience, and it makes way for a
fifth; for here it is as the pouring out of the vials, and the
sounding of those woe-trumpets in Revelations; one woe is past, and
another comes. After all these deadly blows of conscience upon the
very heart of a sinner, comes another as dreadful as any that is yet
named; and that is,
    Fifthly, The fearful expectation of wrath to come, which it
begets in the soul of a guilty sinner: Of this you read, Heb. 10:
27. "A fearful looking for of Judgment, and fiery indignation." And
this makes the stoutest sinner faint and sink under the burden of
sin. For the tongue of man cannot declare what it is to lie down and
rise with those fearful expectations. The case of such sinners is
somewhat like that which is described in Deut. 28: 65, 66, 67. "The
Lord shall give you a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and
sorrow of mind. And your life shall hang in doubt before you, and
you shall fear day and night, and shall have no assurance of your
life. In the morning you shall say, would to God it were even: And
at even you shall say, would to God it were morning: For the fear
of your heart, wherewith you shall fear,- &c. Only in this it
differs, in this scripture you have the terror of those described,
whose temporal life hangs in doubtful suspense, but in the persons I
am speaking of, it is a trembling under the apprehensions and
expectations of the vengeance of eternal fire.
    Believe it, friends, words cannot express what those poor
creatures feel, that lie down, and rise up under these fears, and
frights of conscience. Lord, what will become of me! I am free among
the dead, yes, among the damned. I hang by the frail thread of a
momentary life, which will, and must, break shortly, and may break
the next moment, over the everlasting burnings: No pleasant bread is
to be eaten in these days, but what is like the bread of condemned
men.
    And thus you see what the burden of sin is, when God makes it
to bear upon the consciences of men, no burden of affliction is like
it: losses of dearest relations, sorrows for an only son, are not so
pungent and penetrating as these: For,
    First, to creature-enjoyment is pleasant under these inward
troubles: In other troubles they may signify something to a man's
relief; but here they are nothing; the wound is too deep to be
healed by anything but the blood of Jesus Christ; conscience
requires as much to satisfy it, as God requires to satisfy him. When
God is at peace with you, (says conscience) then will I be at
peace with you too; but, until then, expect no rest nor peace from
me. All the pleasures and diversions in the world shall never stop
my mouth: go where you will, I will follow you like your shadow: be
your portion in the world as sweet as it will, I will drop in gall
and wormwood into your cup, that you shall taste no sweetness in any
thing, until you have got your pardon.
    These inward troubles for sin alienate the mind from all former
pleasures and delights; there is no more taste or savor in them,
than in the white of an egg. Music is out of tune; all instruments
jar and groan. Ornaments have no beauty; what heart has a poor
creature to deck that body, in which dwells such a miserable soul!
to feed and pamper that carcass that has been the soul's inducement
to, and instrument in sin, and must be its companion in everlasting
misery!
    Secondly, These inward troubles for sin put a dread into death,
beyond whatever the soul saw in it before. Now it looks like the
King of terrors indeed. You read in Heb. 2: 15. of some that through
fear of death are all their life long subject to bondage. O what a
lively comment is a soul in this case able to make upon such a text!
They would not scare at the pale horse, nor at him that sits on him,
though his name be called Death, if it were not for what follows
him, Rev. 6: 8. but when they consider that hell follows, they
tremble at the very name or thoughts of death.
    Thirdly, Such is the nature of these inward troubles of spirit,
that they swallow up the sense of all outward troubles. Alas! these
are all lost in the deeps of soul sorrows, as the little rivulets
are in the vast sea; he who is wounded at the heart will not cry
Oh, at the bite of the smallest insect. And surely no greater is the
proportion between outward and inward sorrows. A small matter
formerly would discompose a man, and put him into a fret; now ten
thousand outward troubles are lighter than a feather: For, says he,
"why does the living man complain?" Am I yet on this side of eternal
burnings! O let me not complain then whatever my condition be. Have
I losses in the world, or pains upon my body? Alas! these are not to
be named with the loss of God, and the feeling of his wrath and
indignation for evermore. Thus you see what troubles, inward
troubles for sin be.
    Secondly, If you ask, in the second place, how it comes to pass
that any soul is supported under such strong troubles of spirit,
that all that feel them do not sink under them; that all that go
down into these deep waters of sorrow, are not drowned in them? The
answer is,
    First, Though this be a very sad time with the soul (much like
that of Adam, between the breach of the first covenant, and the
first promise of Christ made to him) yet the souls that are thus
heavy laden, do not sink, because God has a most tender care over
them, and regard to them; underneath them are the everlasting arms,
and thence it is they sink not: were they left to grapple with these
troubles in their own strength, they could never stand. But God
takes care of these mourners, that their spirits do not fail before
him, and the souls that he has made; I mean those of his elect, whom
he is this way preparing for, and bringing unto Christ.
    Secondly, The Lord is pleased to nourish still some hope in the
soul under the greatest fears and troubles of spirit. Though it have
no comfort or joy, yet it has some hope, and that keeps up the
heart. The afflicted soul does, in this case, as the afflicted
church, Lam. 3: 29. "He puts his mouth in the dust, if yet there
may be hope:" He says, "It is good for a man to hope, and quietly
to wait for the salvation of God." There are usually some
glimmerings or dawnings of mercy through Christ, in the midnight
darkness of inward troubles; non dantur purae, tenabrae. In hell,
indeed, there is no hope to enlighten the darkness, but it is not so
upon earth.
    Thirdly, The experiences of others, who have been in the same
deeps of trouble, are also of great use to keep up the soul above
water. The experience of another is of great use to prop up a
desponding mind, while as yet it has none of its own; and, in deed,
for the support of souls in such cases, they were recorded. 1 Tim.
1: 16. "For this cause I obtained mercy that in me first Jesus
Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern "to them
which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." For an
encouraging Pattern, an eminent precedent to all poor sinners that
were to come after him, that none might absolutely despair of
finding mercy through Christ. You know if a man be taken sick, and
none can tell what the disease is, none can say that ever they heard
of such a disease before, it is exceeding frightful; but if one and
another, it may be twenty, come to the sick man's bed side, and tell
him, sir, be not afraid, I have been in the very same case that you
now are in, and so have many more, and all did well at last; why
this is half a cure to the sick man. So it is here a great support
to hear the experiences of other saints.
    Fourthly, As the experiences of others support the soul under
these burdens, so the riches of free grace through Jesus Christ
uphold it. It is rich and abundant, Psalm. 130: 7, 8. plenteous
redemption; and it is free, and to the worst of sinners, Is. 1:18.
And under these troubles it finds itself in the way and proper
method of mercy, for so my text (a text that has upheld many
thousand drooping hearts) states it. All this gives hope and
encouragement under trouble.
    Fifthly, and lastly, Though the state of the soul be sad and
sinking, yet Jesus Christ usually makes haste in the extremity of
trouble to relieve it by sweet and seasonable discoveries of his
grace; cum duplicantur lateris, venit Moses, in the mount of the
Lord it shall be seen. It is with Christ as it was with Joseph,
whose affections yearned towards his brethren, and he was in pain until
he had told them, "I am Joseph your brother." This is sweetly
exhibited to us in that excellent parable of the prodigal, Luke 15,
when his father saw him, being yet a great way off, he ran and fell
upon his neck, and kissed him. Mercy runs nimbly to help, when souls
are ready to fall under the pressure of sin. And thus you see both
how they are burdened, and how upheld under the burden.
    Thirdly, If it be enquired, in the last place, why God makes
the burden of sin press so heavy upon the hearts of poor sinners? It
is answered,
    First, He does it to divorce their hearts from sin, by giving
them an experimental taste of the bitterness and evil that is in
sin. Men's hearts are naturally glued with delight to their sinful
courses; all the persuasions and arguments in the world are too weak
to separate them from their beloved lusts. The morsels of sin go
down smoothly and sweetly, they roll them with much delectation
under their tongues, and it is but need that such bitter potions as
these should be administered "to make their stomachs rise against
sin", as that word used by the apostle in 2 Cor. 7: 11. signifies,
in that you sorrowed after a Godly sort, what indignation it wrought?
It notes the rising of the stomach with rage, a being angry even
unto sickness; and this is the way, the best and most effectual way
to separate the soul of a sinner from his lusts; for, in these
troubles, conscience says, as it is in Jer. 4: 18. "Your way and your
doings have procured these things unto you; this is your wickedness,
because it is great, because it reaches unto your heart."
    Secondly, The Lord does this to make Jesus Christ most welcome
and desirable to the soul. Christ is not sweet until sin be made
bitter to us. Matthew. 9: 12. "They that be whole need not a
physician, but they that are sick." If once God wounds the heart of
a sinner, with the stinging sense of sin, then nothing in the world
is so precious, so necessary, so vehemently desired and panted for
as Jesus Christ! O that I had Christ, if I did go in rags, if I did
feed upon no other food all my days, but the bread and water of
affliction! This is the language of a soul filled with the sense of
the evil of sin.
    Thirdly, The Lord does this to advance the riches of his free
grace in the eyes of sinners. Grace never appears grace until sin
appear to be sin. The deeper our sense of the evil of sin is, the
deeper our apprehensions of the free grace of God in Christ will be.
The louder our groan have been under the burden of sin, the louder
will our acclamations and praises be for our salvation from it by
Jesus Christ. "To me (says Paul) the chief of sinners, was this
grace given," 1 Tim. 1: 15. Never does the grace of a prince so melt
the heart of a traitor, as when trial, sentence, and all
preparations for his execution have passed, before his unexpected
pardon comes.
    Fourthly, The Lord does this to prevent relapses into sin: "In
that you sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought!"
2 Cor. 2:7. The burnt child dreads the fire, the bird that is de of
the talons of the hawk, trembles afterwards at the noise of his
bells. "After such a deliverance as this, should we again break your
commandments?" Ezra 9: 13, 14. Ask poor penitent soul, that has been
in the deeps of sorrow for sin, Will you return to your former
course of sin again? And it sounds in his ears, as if you should ask
him, Will you run into the fire? Will you go to the rack again? O
no, it has cost him dear already.
    Fifthly, Lastly, This the Lord does, to make them both skillful
and compassionate in relieving others that are under like inward
troubles. None can speak so judiciously, so pertinently, so
feelingly to another's case, as he who has been in the same case
himself; this furnishes them with the tongue of the learned, to
speak a word in season to the weary soul; by this means they are
able to "comfort others with the same comforts wherewith they
themselves have been comforted of God," 2 Cor. 1: 4.
    Thus you have had a brief account, what the burden of sin is,
how souls are supported under that burden, and why the Lord causes
sin to lie so heavy upon the souls of some sinners. The improvement
of all will be in a double use, namely, Of information and direction.
     
                     First use for information.
     
    Inference 1. Is there such a load and burden in sin? What then
was the burden that our Lord Jesus Christ felt and bare for us, upon
whom the whole weight of all the sins of all God's elect lay! Isaiah
53: 6. "He has made the iniquities of us all to meet on him." Our
burden is heavy, but nothing to Christ's. O there is a vast
difference between that which Christ bare, and that which we bear.
We feel but the single weight of our own sins; Christ felt the whole
weight of all our sins. You do not feel the whole weight that is in
any one sin; alas, it would sink you, if God should let it bear in
all its aggravations and effects upon you. Psalm. 130: 2, 3. "If
you, Lord, should mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand!" You
would sink presently, you can no more stand under it, than under the
weight of a mighty mountain. But Christ bare all the burden upon
himself; his understanding was deep and large; he knew the extent of
its evil, which we do not: we have many reliefs and helps under our
burden, he had none; we have friends to counsel, comfort, and pity
us; all his friends and familiars forsook him, and fled in the day
of his trouble: we have comforts from heaven, he had frowns from
heaven: "My God, my God, (says he in that doleful day) why have
you forsaken me?" There is no comparison between our load and
Christ's.
     
    Inference. 2. If there be such a burden in sin, then certainly
sinners will pay dear for all the pleasure they find in sin in the
days of their vanity. "What one says of crafty counsels, we may say
of all sins; though they seem pleasant in their first appearance,
they would be found sad in the event:" they are honey in the mouth,
but the gall of asps in the belly; they tickle the fancy, but rend
the conscience. O sinner, your mirth will certainly be turned into
mourning, as sure as you live; that vain and frothy bosom of
your shall be wounded; you shall feel the sting and pain, as well
as relish the sweet and pleasure of sin. O that you would but
give yourself the leisure seriously to ponder those scriptures in the
margin; methinks they should have the same effect that the
handwriting upon the plaster of the wall had upon that jovial king
in the height of a frolic, Daniel 5: 5. Reason thus with your own
heart, and you will find the conclusion unavoidable; either I shall
repent for sin, or I shall not: If I shall not, then must I howl
under the wrath of God for sin, in the lowest hell for evermore. If
I shall, then by what I have now read of the throbs and wounds of
conscience, I see what this heart of mine, this vain heart of mine,
must feel in this world. O how much wiser was the choice that Moses
made, Heb. 11: 25. the worst of sufferings rather than the best of
sin, the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season!
    Inference. 3. Is there such a burden in sin, then the most tender
compassion is a debt due to souls addicted and heavy laden with sin.
Their condition cries for pity, whatever their tongues do; they seem
to call upon you, as Job upon his friends; "Have pity, have pity
upon me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me", Job
19: 21. And O let all that have felt the wounds and anguish of an
afflicted conscience themselves, learn from their own experience
tenderly to pity and help others. Gal. 6: 1. "You that are
spiritual, restore (it or set him in joint again) in the spirit of
meekness, considering yourself."
    Israel was commanded to be kind to strangers, for, says God,
you know the heart of a stranger. And surely if any case in the
world require help, pity, and all compassionate tenderness, this
does; and yet how do some slight spiritual troubles upon others?
Parents slight them in their own children, masters in their
servants; the more brutish and wicked they! O had you but felt
yourselves what they feel, you would never treat them as you do. But
let this comfort such poor creatures, Christ has felt them, and will
pity and help them; yes, he therefore would feel them himself, that
he might have compassion upon you. If men will not, God will pity
you; if men be so cruel to persecute him whom God has smitten, God
will be so kind to pour balm into the grounds that sin has made: if
they pull away the shoulder from you, and will not be concerned
about your troubles, except it be to aggravate them, God will not
serve you so: but certainly you that have passed through the same
difficulties, you cannot be without compassion to them that are now
grappling with them.
    Inference. 4. How inexpressible dreadful is the state of the damned,
who must bear the burden of all their sins upon themselves, without
relief, or hope of deliverance! Mark 9: 49. "where their worm dies
not, and the fire is not quenched."
    O! If sin upon the soul that is coming to Christ for
deliverance, be so burdensome, what is it upon the soul that is shut
out from Christ, and all hopes of deliverance forever! For, do but
ponder these differences between these two burdens.
    First, No soul is so capacious now, to take in the fullness of
the evil and misery of sin, as they are who are gone down to the
place of torments. Even as the joys of God's face above are as much
unknown to them that have the fore-tastes and first fruits of them
here by faith, so the misery of the damned is much unknown, even to
them that have in their consciences now, the bitterest taste and
sense of sin in this world: as we have the visions of heaven, so we
have the visions of hell also, but darkly through a glass.
    Secondly, No burden of sin presseth so continually upon the
soul here as it does there. Afflicted souls, on earth, have
intermissions, and breathing times; but in hell there are no lucid
intervals, the wrath of God there is still flowing; it is in fluxu
continuo, Isaiah 30: 33. a stream of brimstone.
    Thirdly, No burden of sin lies upon any of God's elect so long
as on the damned, who do, and must bear it: our troubles about sin
are but short, though they should run parallel with the line of
life; but the troubles of the damned are parallel with the endless
line of eternity.
    Fourthly, Under these troubles, the soul has hope, but there,
all hope is cut off: all the gospel is full of hope, it breathes
nothing but hope to sinners that are moving Christ-ward under their
troubles; but in hell the pangs of desperation rend their
consciences forever. So that, upon all accounts, the state of the
damned is inexpressibly dreadful.
    Inference. 5. If the burden of sin be so heavy, how sweet then must
the pardon of sin be to a sin burdened soul! Is it a refreshment to
a prisoner to have his chains knocked off? A comfort to a debtor to
have his debts paid, and obligations cancelled? What joy must it
then be to a sin-burdened soul, to hear the voice of pardon and
peace in his trembling conscience! Is the light of the morning
pleasant to a man after a weary, tiresome night? the spring of the
year pleasant after a hard and tedious winter? They are so indeed;
but nothing so sweet as the favor, peace, and pardon of God, to a
soul that has been long restless, and anxious, under the terrors and
fears of conscience. For, though after pardon and peace a man
remembers sin still, yet it is as one that remembers the dangerous
pits, and deep waters, from which he has been wonderfully delivered,
and had a narrow escape. O the inconceivable sweetness of a pardon!
Who can read it without tears of joy? Are we glad when the grinding
pain of the stone, or racking fits of the cholic are over? And shall
we not be transported, when the accusations and condemnations of
conscience are over? Tongue cannot express what these things are;
his joy is something that no words can convey to the understanding
of another, that never felt the anguish of sin.
    Inference. 6. Lastly, In how sad a case are those that never felt any
burden in sin, that never were kept waking and restless one night
for sin?
    There is a burdened conscience, and there is a benumbed
conscience. The first is more painful, but the last more dangerous.
O it is a fearful blow of God upon a man's soul, to strike it
senseless and stupid, so that though mountains of guilt lie upon it,
it feels no pain or pressure: and this is so much more sad, because
it incapacitates the soul for Christ, and is a presage and fore
runner of hell. It would grieve the heart of a man, to see a
delirious person in the rage and height of a fever, to laugh at
those that are weeping for him, call them fools, and telling them he
is as well as any of them: much so is the case of many thousand
souls; the God of mercy pity them.
     
                       Second use for counsel.
     
    The only further use I shall make of this point here, shall be
to direct and counsel souls that are weary and heavy laden with the
burden of sin, in order to their obtaining true rest and peace. And
first,
     
                           First counsel.
     
    Satisfy not yourselves in fruitless complaints to men. Many do
so, but they are never the nearer. I grant it is lawful in spiritual
distresses to complain to men, yes, and it is a great mercy if we
have any near us in times of trouble that are judicious, tender and
faithful, into whose bosoms we may pour out our troubles; but to
rest in this, short of Christ, is no better than a snare of the
devil to destroy us. Is there not a God to go to in trouble? The
best of men, in the neglect of Christ, are but physicians of no
value. Be wise and wary in your choice of Christian friends, to whom
you open your complaints; some are not clear themselves in the
doctrine of Christ and faith, others are of a dark and troubled
spirit, as you are, and will but entangle you more. "As for me
(says Job) is my complaint to mans and if it were so, why should
not my spirit be troubled?" Job 21: 4. One hour between Christ and
your soul in secret, will do more to your true relief than all other
counselors and comforters in the world can do.
     
                           Second counsel.
     
    Beware of a false peace, which is more dangerous than your
trouble for sin can be. Many men are afraid of their troubles, but I
think they have more cause to fear their peace a great deal. There
is a twofold peace that ruins most men, peace in sin, and peace with
sin: O how glad are some persons when their troubles are gone; but I
dare not rejoice with them. It is like him that rejoices his ague is
gone, that it has left him in a deep consumption. You are got rid of
your troubles, but God knows how you have left them; your wounds are
skinned over, better they were kept open. Surely they have much to
answer for, that help on these delusions, healing the hurt of souls
slightly, by crying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace. The false
peace you beget in them, will be a real trouble to yourselves in the
issue, Jer. 6: 14.
     
                           Third counsel.
     
    Let all that are under inward troubles for sin, take heed of
drawing desperate conclusions against themselves, and the final
state of their own souls. Though your case be sad, it is not
desperate; though the night be troublesome and tedious, keep on in
the way to Christ, and light will spring up. To mourn for sin is
your duty; to conclude there is no hope for you in Christ, is your
sin. You have wronged God enough already, do not add a further and
greater abuse to all the rest, by an absolute despair of mercy. It
was your sin formerly to presume beyond any granite, it is your sin
now to despair against many commands. I would say as the apostle in
another case, I would not have you mourn as men that have no hope:
your condition is sad as it is, but yet it is much better than once
it was. You were once full of sin and void of sense, now you have
the sense of sin, which is no small mercy. You were once quite out
of the way and method of mercy, now you are in that very path
wherein mercy meets the elect of God. Keep hope, therefore, at the
bottom of all your troubles.
     
                           Fourth counsel.
     
    Observe whether your troubles for sin produce ouch fruits and
effects in your souls as theirs do, which end at last in Christ and
everlasting peace.
    First, One that is truly burdened with sin, will not allow
himself to live in the secret practice of sin; either your trouble
will put an end to your course of sinning, or your sinning will put
an end to your troubles. Consult 2 Cor. 7: 11.
    Secondly, True sorrow for sin, will give you very low and vile
thoughts of yourselves; as you were covered with pride before, so
you will be covered with shame after God has convinced and humbled
you, Romans 6: 21.
    Thirdly, A soul really burdened with sin will never stand in
his own justification before God, nor extenuate and mince it in his
confessions to him, Psalm. 2: 8, 4.
    Fourthly, The burdens of sin will make a man set light by all
other burdens of affliction, Lam. 3: 22. Micah 7: 9. The more you
feel sin, the less you feel affliction.
    Fifthly, A soul truly burdened for sin will take no hearty joy
or comfort in any outward enjoyment of this world, until Christ come
and seek peace to the soul, Lam. 3: 28. Just so the soul sits alone
and keeps silence; merry company is a burden, and music is but
howling to him.
     
                           Fifth counsel.
     
    Beware of those things that make your troubles longer than they
ought to be. There be several errors and mistakes that hold poor
souls much longer in their fears and terrors than else they might
be; and such are,
    First, Ignorance of the nature of saving faith, and the
necessity of it. Until you come to believe, you cannot have peace;
and while you mistake the nature, or apprehend not the necessity of
faith, you are not like to find that path at peace.
    Secondly, Laboring to heal the wounds that the law has made
upon your consciences, by a more strict obedience to it for the
future, in the neglect of Christ and his righteousness.
    Thirdly, In observance of what God has already done for you, in
these preparatory works of the law, in order to your salvation by
Jesus Christ. O! if you would but compare what you now are, with
what you lately were, it would give some relief. But the last and
principal thing is this:
     
                           Sixth counsel.
     
    Hasten to Christ in the way of faith, and you shall find rest;
and until then all the world cannot give you rest. The sooner you
transact with Christ, in the way of faith, the sooner you shall be
at peace and enter into his rest; for those that believe do now
enter into rest. You may labor and strive, look this way and that,
but all in vain; Christ and peace come together. No sooner do you
come to him, and roll your burden on him, receive him as he offers
himself; but the soul feels itself eased on a sudden; "being
justified by faith, we have peace with God", Romans 5: 1. And thus in
finishing the first, we are brought home to the second observation.      
     
    Doctrine. 2. That sin-burdened souls are solemnly invited to come
         to Christ.
     
    This point sounds sweetly in the ear of a distressed sinner; it
is the most joyful voice that ever the soul heard: the voice of
blessing from mount Gerizim, the ravishing voice from mount Zion,
"You are come to Jesus the Mediator." In opening of it I will show,
    1. What it is to come to Christ.
    2. How Christ invites men to come to him.
    3. Why his invitation is directed to burdened souls.




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