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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 any 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 to say, "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 mercy.
He acts as an angel of light. The objections he urges against believing become the more trying to the weary, as they seem to flow from a regard to the glory and honour of the Lord. Satan and unbelief suggest and insinuate that it would tarnish Divine holiness to take notice of such a sinner, and that an expectation of mercy would be presumption, and that were they better they might perhaps apply; but in their present sinful plight they ought to desist. Christ has the wisest reasons for his well-timed delays. These will be discovered in due time to the weary. The longer they cry, Divine mercy will have the greater relish. The more they are reduced to self-despair, the more directly will they come to Jesus. The lower they lie, the more will divine grace be exalted in lifting them up.
Lastly, he keeps them firmly resolved to listen to no discouragement, and at length with the tongue of the learned he speaks a word in season. Often their discouragements seem wholly to deject their souls, enervate their strength, and exhaust their patience. But however unconscious of it," they have hope as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail." Viewing a vessel at some distance, and ignorant of her lying at anchor, one would apprehend that, by the combined violence of the winds and waves, she would be dashed in pieces against the neighbouring rock, or sink beneath the swelling surge. But she rides safe at anchor. Many a storm has the weary soul endured. Already tempest-tossed, she fears the next will overwhelm her. But she has the anchor of hope fixed
within the vail. Apprehended by Christ, and supported by his omnipotent arm, she will weather every storm, listen to no discouragement, and in the Lord's time hear a word in season.
At length Christ speaks himself, and they listen to the tongue of the learned. The way they are led to conclude that he speaks is worthy of notice. They see no vision, nor hear any audible voice. In the duty of prayer, to which they are not now strangers, they begin to experience an assistance in their cries, a supply of suitable matter, a fervency of spirit, and gracious affections beyond their own power. Turning to the Lord's word their hearts are fixed. They are impressed with the majesty and grace of Jehovah. They discover that the vilest sinner has an immediate and full warrant to apply the richest promise; and they endeavour to apply it. In the very attempt they experience a strength superior to their own; and the effect is present support and peace. They resolve again to try the same course, and again they experience the same happy effects. Attending upon the Lord in the ordinances of his grace, they know experimentally the meaning of that gracious declaration, Isaiah lvii. 19, "I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off; and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him." They see their peace created by Jehovah, in the means of his own appointment. They now listen to the Lord's voice in his word, and experience effects evidently divine.