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1. He gives them a deep sense of their condition, and makes them feel that they are weary. He kills before he makes alive. Without his interference they would continue dead and secure, dissipated and thoughtless. Drenched in the pleasures, or engrossed about the profits, of this world, they would never think to any purpose about the other. Without his efficacious teaching, they would continue ignorant of God and his law; strangers to themselves and their true condition; and unacquainted with their infinite debt, and approaching reckoning. Without him, like persons in an agreeable delusion, they would sleep on till in hell they should lift up
their eternity he thought on them in their low estate, and purposed their salvation. His love is immutable. The season of their deliverance approaches. He now undeceives them, and brings them to consideration. The commandment comes. He discovers the evil and danger of sin; and by his Spirit, as a spirit of bondage, makes them to tremble and fear. They have new and unthought-of discoveries. Many questions, which never occurred before, are now habitually and seriously revolved in their minds. They feel themselves as unhappy and restless in their present situation, as they apprehended themselves safe and comfortable in their former condition; and they wonder how they did not sooner discover their danger, and detect their delusion. Their former peace now aggravates their misery and distress. They are sensible that they had kindled a fire, compassed themselves about with sparks, and walked in the light of their own fire; and they are exceedingly astonished
that they have not received this of God's hand, to lie down in everlasting sorrow.
2. He makes a lively and impressing discovery that all others are comforters of no value. Brought to the condition already described, they need comfort, and cannot be without it. Many methods occur to their minds, and they try them all. Instead of giving satisfaction, every trial is a new disappointment, and proves vexation of spirit. They grow worse and
All refuge fails, and they have no help of man at all. The Lord allows them to continue seeking consolation at the broken cisterns of the creature, till they learn experimentally that these neither have nor can hold water. Like persons in absolute necessity, though they have been often disappointed, they make a fresh experiment. Hitherto unacquainted with the method of grace, they go about to establish a righteousness of their own, and, as we have seen already, attend to the external performance of many duties. All these courses, instead of atoning for the guilt, or breaking the power of sin, only discover the greatness of the one, and add fresh vigour to the other. Their sin and sorrow seem to keep pace with one another. With anxious and concerned eye they look to this and that duty-this and the other creature for relief: but every one of these makes answer, It is not in me.
3. He persuades them that he is well acquainted with their case, and that if He cannot or will not help them, no other can or will. There is something wrought within them which convinces and persuades them that he perfectly knows their condition. What it is
they cannot describe ; but they think more about him than formerly. They read and hear what he has done for others. They meditate on his great love displayed so illustriously in his sufferings. They turn their attention to his promises, and would rejoice if they could only venture to apply them. They conclude that, if ever they are delivered, their relief must come from him. They begin to see, that should others insinuate that they could work deliverance, it would be unsafe and dangerous to have the least dependance on them. They remember that they must meet him at his dread tribunal, that to Him they must give an account of all they have done, and that by him they must be finally acquitted or condemned. That last and important day engrosses their attention. Unless they have good hopes that matters are settled with him, their souls refuse consolation. They begin to consider if it is possible that he can save such guilty sinners as they are; and if there be the least degree of probability that he will do it. In this train of thought they are led to consider the character and conduct of those on whom he has bestowed mercy. In these they find an amazing display of long-suffering for a pattern and encouragement to them who should afterward believe. They consider the boundless nature of his merit and grace. They consider his strong assurances and gracious invitations. Thus exercised, they are dreadfully discouraged by unbelief, and opposed by Satan. These inveterate enemies of the salvation of sinners constantly upbraid them with every crime. Collecting all their sins, these cruel foes raise them up as an insurmountable barrier between the Sa
viour and their souls. Long do they stand here fearing that it will continue an insuperable obstacle. But while these enemies make powerful exertions in the hearts of the weary, there are other agents equally active, and still more powerful. Christ and his Spirit are pouring in divine influences, and shutting them up to the faith. About this period they are brought at least
66 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him!”
4. He now secretly inclines and enables them to spread their case before him, and cry for mercy. Before they apprehend in the least degree that he has spoken to them with the comforting tongue of the learned; he makes them cry to him with the weary tongue of the perishing sinner. In every conversion, Christ, by his Spirit, is the first agent and speaker in fact ; but the weary the first in his own apprehension. Destitute and starving, the prodigal thought of returning to his father's house. Little did he then apprehend that such a thought would never have occurred to him had it not been produced by his Father. The jailer never would have asked in such a manner, What shall I do to be saved ? had not the question been powerfully suggested by the Saviour. It is so with every sinner. The Lord works in their hearts, and constrains them to seek salvation. He humbles and convinces them, that they may see their necessity. He lays them low that they may cry for mercy. He pinches them on every side that they may seek the blessing even at a mere peradventure. He keeps them crying, that their hearts may be filled with insatiable desire ; and he waits a little, that they
may be fully sensible that he alone can bless the sinner, and speak a word in season to him that is weary.
5. The Lord Jesus constrains them to hearken and listen if any gracious words will proceed out of his mouth in return to their cries. However hopeless their condition may appear, now they wait and listen. If they cannot say, we will hear what God the Lord will speak; at any rate they determine to hearken if he will speak. They know he speaks peace to his saints; and to be among that number is their one desire; though hitherto they dare not presume that they are among these favoured ones. After all, they cannot but recollect that his saints were great sinners, when he first spake peace to their hearts; and a ray of hope begins to animate their souls. The least degree of rest and comfort at once refreshes and supports them. They continue crying; and the very thought that he may be gracious invigorates their souls, and reinforces their strength.
6. He commonly allows them to meet with some discouragement either from the wiles of the adversary, or a little well-timed delay on his own part. The more they are reduced, and the lower they are brought; the more are their minds qualified for receiving comfort, and they become as it were the more capacious. They will be the more certain too that their consolation comes from the right quarter. At such a crisis Satan is uncommonly active, and his exertions most vigorous. He furnishes unbelief with every possible argument, and adds every degree of strength and force he can to the reasoning. He musters up every objection against the Lord's mercv.