THE IMAGE OF GOD.
MAN is God's image, and to curse wickedly the image of God, is to curse God himself. Suppose that a man should say with his mouth, I wish that the king's picture were burned; would not this man's so saying render him as an enemy to the person of the king? Even so it is with them that by cursing wish evil to their neighbors or themselves; they contemn the image of God himself.
This world, as it dropped from the fingers of God, was far more glorious than it is now.
VALUE OF THE SOUL.
The soul is a thing, though of most worth, least minded by most. The souls of most lie waste, while all other things are inclosed.
Soul-concerns are concerns of the highest nature, and concerns that arise from thoughts most deep and ponderous. He never yet knew what belonged to great and deep thoughts, that is a stranger to soul-concerns.
The soul is capable of having to do with invisibles, with angels, good or bad, yea, with the highest and supreme Being, even the holy God of heaven. I told you before that God sought the soul of man to have it for his companion; and now I tell you that the soul is capable of communion with him, when the darkness that sin hath spread over its face is removed. The soul is an intelligent power, and it can be made to know and understand depths and heights and lengths and breadths, in those high, sublime, and spiritual mysteries that only God can reveal and teach; yea, it is capable of diving unutterably into them. And herein is God, the God of glory, much delighted -- that he hath made for himself a creature that is capable of hearing, of knowing and of understanding his mind, when opened and revealed to it.
The greatness of the soul is manifest by the greatness of the price that Christ paid for it to make it an heir of glory, and that was his precious blood. We do use to esteem things according to the price that is given for them, especially when we are convinced that the purchase has not been made by the estimation of a fool. Now the soul is purchased by a price, that the Son, the wisdom of God, thought fit to pay for the redemption thereof; what a thing then is the soul!
Suppose a prince, or some great man, should on a sudden descend from his throne or chair of state, to take up, that he might put in his bosom, something that he had espied lying trampled under the feet of those that stand by; would you think that he would do this for an old horseshoe, or for so trivial a thing as a pin or a point? Nay, would you not even of yourselves conclude that that thing for which the prince, so great a man, should make such a stoop, must needs be a thing of very great worth? Why, this is the case of Christ and the soul. Christ is the prince, his throne is in heaven, and as he sat there he espied the souls of sinners trampled under the foot of the law and death for sin. Now what doth he, but comes down from his throne, stoops down to the earth, and there, since he could not have the trodden-down souls without price, he lays down his life and blood for them.
In a word, Adam led mankind out of their paradise; that is one woe: and put out their eyes, that is another; and left them to the leading of the devil. O sad! Canst thou hear this, and not have thy ears to tingle and burn on thy head? Canst thou read this and not feel it, and not feel thy conscience begin to throb? If so, surely it is because thou art either possessed with the devil, or beside thyself.
O, this was the treasure that Adam left to his posterity, it was a broken covenant, insomuch that death reigned over all his children, and doth still to this day, as they come from him -- -both natural and eternal death. Rom.5.
DEPRAVITY OF NATURE.
Let a man be as devout as is possible for the law and the holiness of the law. Yet if the principles from which he acts be but the habit of soul, the purity, as he feigns, of his own nature -- principles of natural reason, or the dictates of human nature; all this is nothing else but the old gentleman in his holiday clothes: the old heart, the old spirit, the spirit of the man, not the spirit of Christ, is here.
LOVE OF SIN.
Sin has been delightfully admitted to an entertainment by all the powers of the soul. The soul hath chosen it rather than God; and also, at God's command, refuses to let it go.
If there be at any time, as indeed there is, a warrant issued out from the mouth of God to apprehend, to condemn and mortify sin, why then the souls of sinners do presently make these shifts for the saving of sin from things that by the word men arc commanded to do unto it:
1. They will, if possible, hide it, and not suffer it to be discovered.
2. As the soul will hide it, so it will excuse it, and plead that this and that piece of wickedness is no such evil thing, men need not be so nice.
3. As the soul will do this, so to save sin it will cover it with names of virtue, either moral or civil.
4. If convictions and discovery of sin be so strong and so plain that the soul cannot deny but that it is sin, and that God is offended therewith, then it will give flattering promises to God that it will indeed put it away; but yet it will prefix a time that shall he long first, saying, Yet a little sleep, yet a little slumber, yet a little folding of sin in my arms, till I am older, till I am richer, till I have had more of the sweetness and the delights of sin.
5. If God yet pursues, and will see whether this promise of putting sin out of doors shall he fulfilled by the soul, why then it will be partial in God's law; it will put away some, and keep some; put away the grossest, and keep the finest; put away those that can best be spared, and keep the most profitable for a help at a pinch.
6. Yea, if all sin must be abandoned, or the soul shall have no rest, why then the soul and sin will part -- with such a parting as it is -- even as Phaltiel parted with David's wife, with an ill-will and a sorrowful mind; or as Orpah left her mother, with a kiss.2 Sam.3:16; Ruth 1:14.
7. And if at any time they can or shall meet with each other again, and nobody never the wiser, O what courting will be between sin and the soul.
By all these, and many more things that might be instanced, it is manifest that sin has a friendly entertainment by the soul, and that therefore the soul is guilty of damnation; for what do all these things argue, but that God, his word, his ways and graces, are out of favor with the soul, and that sin and Satan are its only pleasant companions?
Sin so sets itself against the nature of God that, if possible, it would annihilate and turn him into nothing, it being in its nature point-blank against him.
What a thing is sin; what a devil and master of devils is it, that it should, where it takes hold, so hang that nothing can unclutch its hold, but the mercy of God and the heart-blood of his dear Son.
No sin is little in itself; because it is a contradiction of the nature and majesty of God.
O, sin, what art thou! What hast thou done! and what still wilt thou further do, if mercy and blood and grace do not prevent thee!
Sin is the living worm, the lasting fire;
Hell soon would loss its heat, could sin expire.
Better sinless in hell, than to be where
Heaven is, and to be found a sinner there.
One sinless with infernals might do well,
But sin would make of heaven a very hell.
Look to thyself then, keep it out of door,
Lest it get in and never leave thee more.
No match has sin but God in all the world;
Men, angels, has it from their station hurled,
Holds them in chains as captives, in despite
Of all that here below is called might.
Release, help, freedom from it none can give,
But even He by whom we breathe and live.
Watch therefore, keep this giant out of door,
Lest, if once in, thou get him out no more.
Fools make a mock at sin, will not believe
It carries such a dagger in its sleeve.
How can it be, say they, that such a thing,
So full of sweetness, e'er should wear a sting?
They know not that it is the very spell
Of sin, to make men laugh themselves to hell.
Look to thyself, then, deal with sin no more,
Lest He that saves, against thee shut the door.
There are sins against light, sins against knowledge, sins against love, sins against learning, sins against threatenings, sins against promises and vows and resolutions, sins against experience, sins against examples of anger, and sins that have great and high and strange aggravations attending them; the which we are ignorant of, though not altogether, yet in too great a measure.
Sins go not alone, hut follow one another as do the links of a chain.
A presumptuous sin is such a one as is committed in the face of the command, in a desperate venturing to run the hazard, or in a presuming upon the mercy of God through Christ, to be saved notwithstanding: this is a leading sin to that which is unpardonable, and will be found with such professors as do hanker after iniquity.
One leak will sink a ship; and one sin will destroy a sinner.
He that lives in sin and hopes for happiness hereafter, is like him that soweth cockle and thinks to fill his barn with wheat and barley.
Crush sin in the conception, lest it bring forth death in thy soul.
Some men's hearts are narrow upwards and wide downwards -- narrow as to God, but wide for the world.
Pride is the ringleader of the seven abominations that the wise man nameth. Prov.6: 16, 17.
Apparel is the fruit of sin; wherefore, let such as pride themselves therein remember, that they cover one shame with another. But let them that are truly godly have their apparel modest and sober, and with such shame-facedness put them on; remembering always, that the first cause of our covering our nakedness was the sin and shame of our first parents.
Mr. Badman's envy was so rank and strong, that if it at any time turned its head against a man, it would hardly ever be pulled in again. He would watch over that man to do him mischief, as the cat watches over the mouse to destroy it; yea, he would wait seven years but he would have an opportunity to hurt him, and when he had it, he would make him feel the weight of his envy. This envy is the very father and mother of a great many hid eous and prodigious wickednesses. It both begets them, and also nourishes them up till they come to their cursed maturity in the bosom of him that entertains them.
Drunkenness is so beastly a sin, a sin so much against nature, that I wonder that any who have but the appearance of men can give up themselves to so beastly, yea, worse than beastly a thing.
Many that have begun the world with plenty, have gone out of it in rags, through drunkenness. Yea, many children that have been born to good estates, have yet been brought to a flail and a rake through this beastly sin of their parents.
Yea, it so stupefies and besots the soul, that a man who is far gone in drunkenness is hardly ever recovered to God. Tell me, when did you see an old drunkard converted? No, no; such a one will sleep till he dies, though he sleep on the top of a mast; so that if a man have any respect either to credit, health, life, or salvation, he will not be a drunken man.
|And Noah was uncovered.| Behold ye now, that a little of the fruit of the vine lays gravity, grey hairs, and a man that for hundreds of years was a lover of faith, holiness, goodness, sobriety, and all righteousness, shamelessly as the object to the eye of the wicked.
|And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.| He lived, therefore, to see Abraham fifty-and-eight years old; he lived also to see the foundation of Babel laid, nay, the top-stone thereof; and also the confusion of tongues; he lived to see of the fruit of his loins, mighty kings and princes. But in all this time he lived not to do one, work that the Holy Ghost thought worthy to record, for the savor of his name or the edification and benefit of his church, save only, that he died at |nine hundred and fifty years:| so great a breach did this drunkenness make upon his spirit.
Usually in wicked families, some one or two are more arch for wickedness than are any other that are there. Now such are Satan's conduit-pipes; for by them he conveys of the spawn of hell, through their being crafty in wickedness, into the ears and souls of their companions.
|And she bare Cain:| the first sprout of a disobedient couple, a man in shape, but a devil in disposition.
The sinner, when his conscience is fallen asleep and grown hard, will lie like the smith's dog at the foot of the anvil, though the fire-sparks fly in his face.
Peace in a sinful course is one of the greatest of curses.
There is a wicked man that goes blinded, and a wicked man that goes with his eyes open, to hell; there is a wicked man that cannot see, and a wicked man that will not see, the danger he is in; but hell-fire will open the eyes of both.
The soul with some is the game, their lusts are the dogs, and they themselves are the huntsmen; and never do they more halloo and lure and laugh and sing, than when they have delivered up their soul, their darling, to these dogs.
I may safely say, that the most of men who are concerned in a trade, will be more vigilant in dealing with a twelvepenny customer, than they will be with Christ when he comes to make unto them by the gospel a tender of the incomparable grace of God.
'Tis true there is no man more at ease in his mind -- with such ease as it is -- than the man that hath not closed with the Lord Jesus, but is shut up in unbelief. Oh, but that is the man that stands convicted before God, and that is bound over to the GREAT ASSIZE! that is the man whose sins are still his own, and upon whom the wrath of God abideth; for the ease and peace of such, though it keep them far from fear, is but like to that of the secure thief that is ignorant that the constable standcth at the door: the first sight of an officer makes his peace to give up the ghost. Oh, how many thousands that can now glory that they were never troubled for sin against God -- I say, how many be there that God will trouble worse than he troubled cursed Achan, because their peace, though false and of the devil, was rather chosen by them than peace by Jesus Christ, than peace with God by the blood of his cross.
Awake, careless sinners, awake, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. Content not yourselves either with sin or righteousness, if you be destitute of Jesus Christ; but CRY, CRY, Oh cry to God for light to see your condition by. Light is in the word of God, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed; cry therefore for light to see this righteousness by: it is a righteousness of Christ's finishing, of God's accepting, and that which alone can save the soul from the stroke of eternal justice.
THE CHILD AND THE BIRD.
|My little bird, how canst thou sit
And sing amidst so many thorns?
Let me but hold vipon thee get,
My love with honor thee adorns.
Thou art at present little worth,
Five farthings none will give for thee,
But prithee, little bird, come forth,
Thou of more value art to me.
|'Tis true it is sunshine to-day,
To-morrow birds will have a storm;
My pretty one, come thou away.
My bosom then shall keep thee warm.
Thou subject art to cold o' nights,
When darkness is thy covering;
At day thy danger's great by kites;
How canst thou then sit there and sing?
|Thy food is scarce and scanty too,
'Tis worms and trash that thou dost eat
Thy present state I pity do,
Come, I'll provide thee better meat.
I'll feed thee with white bread and milk,
And sugar-plums, if them thou crave;
I'll cover thee with finest silk,
That from the cold I may thee save.
|My father's palace shall be thine,
Yea, in it thou shalt sit and sing;
My little bird, if thou'lt be mine,
The whole year round shall be thy spring.
I'll teach thee all the notes at court,
Unthought-of music thou shalt play,
And all that thither do resort
Shall praise thee for it every day.
|I'll keep thee safe from cat and cur,
No manner o' harm shall come to thee;
Yea, I will be thy succorer,
My bosom shall thy cabin be.|
But lo, behold, the bird is gone!
These charmings would not make her yield;
The child's left at the bush alone,
The bird flies yonder o'er the field.
The child of Christ an emblem is;
The bird to sinners I compare;
The thorns are like those sins of theirs,
Which do surround them everywhere.
Her songs, her food, her sunshine day,
Are emblems of those foolish toys
Which to destruction lead the way --
The fruit of worldly, empty joys.
The arguments this child doth choose
To draw to him a bird thus wild,
Shows Christ familiar speech doth use,
To make the sinner reconciled.
The bird, in that she takes her wing
To speed her from him after all,
Shows us vain man loves any thing
Much better than the heavenly call.
THE SINNER WARNED.
Thy bed, when thou liest down in it, preacheth to thee thy grave; thy sleep, thy death; and thy rising in the morning, thy resurrection to judgment.
Wouldst thou know, sinner, what thou art? look up to the cross, and behold a weeping, bleeding, dying Jesus; nothing could do but that, nothing could save thee but his blood: angels could not, saints could not, God could not, because he could not lie, because he could not deny himself.
What a thing is sin, that it should sink all that bear its burden; yea, it sunk the Son of God himself into death and the grave, and had also sunk him into hell-fire for ever, had he not teen the Son of God, had he not been able to take it on his hack and bear it away.
O this Lamh of God! Sinners were going to hell; Christ was the delight of his Father, and had a whole heaven to himself; hut that did not content him, heaven could not hold him, he must come into the world to save sinners.
Aye, and had he not come thy sins had sunk thee, thy sins had provoked the wrath of God against thee to thy destruction for ever. There is no man hut is a sinner; there is no sin hut would damn an angel, should God lay it to his charge.
Sinner, the doctrine of Christ crucified cries therefore aloud unto thee, that sin has made thy condition dreadful. See yourselves, your sins, and consequently the condition that your souls are in by the death and blood of Christ Christ's death gives us the most clear discovery of the dreadful nature of our sins.
I say again, if sin he so dreadful a thing as to break the heart of the Son of God, how shall a poor, wretched, impenitent, damned sinner wrestle with the wrath of God?
Awake, sinners; you are lost, you are undone, you perish, you are damned; hell-fire is your portion for ever, if you abide in your sins, and be found without a Saviour in the dreadful day of judgment.
Sinner, doth not all this discourse make thy heart twitter after the mercy that is with God, and after the way that is made by this plenteous redemption thereto? Methinks it should; yea, thou couldest not do otherwise, didst thou but see thy condition. Look behind thee, take a view of the path thou hast trodden these many years. Dost thou think that the way that thou art in will lead thee to the strait gate, sinner? Ponder the path of thy feet with the greatest seriousness; thy life lies upon it; what thinkest thou? But make no answer till in the night, till thou art in the night-watches; commune with thine own heart upon thy hed, and there say what thou thinkest of whither thou art going.
Oh that thou wert serious! Is not it a thing to be lamented, that madness and folly should be in thy heart while thou livest, and after that to go to the dead; when so much life stands before thee, and light to see the way to it? Surely men void of grace and possessed of carnal minds must either think that sin is nothing, that hell is easy, and that eternity is short; or else that whatever God has said about the punishing of sinners, he will never do as he has said; or that there is no sin, no God, no heaven, no hell, and so no good or bad hereafter; or else they could not live as they do. But perhaps thou presumest upon it, and sayest, I shall have peace, though I live so sinful a life. Sinner, if this wicked thought be in thy heart, tell me again, dost thou thus think in earnest? Canst thou imagine thou shalt at the day of account outface God, or make him believe thou wast what thou wast not; or that when the gate is shut up in wrath, he will at thy pleasure and to the reversing of his own counsel, open it again to thee? Why shall thy deceived heart turn thee aside, that thou canst not deliver thy soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
Friend, because it is a dangerous thing to be walking towards the place of darkness and anguish, and because notwithstanding, it is the journey that most of the poor souls in the world are taking, I have thought it my duty for preventing thee, to tell thee what sad success those souls have had that have persevered therein. Why, friend, it may be -- nay, twenty to one, thou hast had thy back to heaven and thy face towards hell ever since thou didst come into the world. Why, I beseech thee, put a little stop to thy earnest race, and take a view of what entertainment thou art like to have, if thou do in deed and in truth persist in thy course. |Thy ways lead down to death, and thy steps to hell.| It may he, indeed, the path is pleasant to the flesh, but the end thereof will he bitter to thy soul. Hark! dost thou not hear the bitter cries of them that are newly gone before thee, saying, |Let him dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame!| Dost thou not hear them say, |Send one from the dead, to prevent my father, my brother, my father's house, from coming to this place of torment!| Shall not these mournful groans pierce thy flinty heart? Wilt thou stop thine ears and shut thine eyes? And wilt thou NOT regard? Take warning, and stop thy journey before it be too late. Wilt thou he like the silly fly, that is not quiet unless she be either entangled in the spider's web or burnt in the candle? O sinner, sinner, there are better things than HELL to be had! There is heaven, there is God, there is Christ, there is communion with an innumerable assembly of saints and angels!
The poor, carnal, ignorant world miss of heaven, even because they love their sins and cannot part with them John 3:9, 20.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they stop their ears against convictions, and refuse to come when God calls. Prov.1: 24-29.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because the god of this world hath blinded their eyes, that they can neither see the evil and damnable state they are in at present, nor the way to get out of it; neither do they see the beauty of Jesus Christ, nor how willing he is to save poor sinners.2 Cor.4: 2, 3.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they defer coming to Christ until the time of God's patience and grace is over. Some indeed are resolved never to come; but some again say, |We will come hereafter;| and so it comes to pass, that because God called and they did not hear, so |they shall cry and I will not hear,| saith the Lord. Zech.7: 11-13.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they have false apprehensions of God's mercy. They say in their hearts, |We shall have peace, though we walk in the imagination of our heart.| Deut.29: 19-21.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they make light of the gospel that offers mercy to them freely, and because they lean upon their own good meanings and thinkings and doings. Matt.22: 1-5; Rom.9: 30, 31.
The poor carnal world miss of heaven, because by unbelief, which reigns in them, they are kept for ever from being clothed with Christ's righteousness, and from washing in his blood, without which there is no remission of sin nor justification.
Blush, sinner, blush! Ah, that thou hadst grace to blush.
My first word shall be to the openly profane. Poor sinner, thou readest that many that expect heaven will go without heaven. What sayest thou to this, poor sinner? If judgment begins at the house of God, what will be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? This is Peter's question: canst thou answer it, sinner? Yea, I say again, if judgment must begin at them, will it not make thee think, What shall become of me? And I add, when thou shalt see the stars of heaven tumble down to hell, canst thou think that such a muck-heap of sin as thou art shall be lifted up to heaven? Peter asks thee another question: |If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?| Canst thou answer this question, sinner? Stand among the righteous thou mayst not: |The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.| Stand among the wicked thou then wilt not dare to do: where wilt thou appear, sinner? To stand among the hypocrites will avail thee nothing: |The hypocrite shall not come before him,| that is, with acceptance, |but shall perish.|
Because it concerns thee much, let me over with it again. When thou shalt see less sinners than thou art bound up by angels in bundles to burn them, where wilt thou appear, sinner? Thou mayst wish thyself another man, but that will not help thee, sinner. Thou mayst wish, |Would I had been converted in time;| but that will not help thee neither. And if, like the wife of Jeroboam, thou shouldst feign thyself to be another, the prophet, the Lord Jesus, would soon find thee out. What wilt thou do, poor sinner? Heavy tidings, heavy tidings will attend thee, except thou repent, poor sinner!
Sluggard, art thou asleep still? art thou resolved to sleep the sleep of death? Will neither tidings from heaven nor hell awake thee? Wilt thou say still, |Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to sleep?|
O that I was one that was skilful in lamentation, and had but a yearning heart towards thee, how would I pity thee; how would I bemoan thee! Poor soul, lost soul, dying soul, what a hard heart have I that I cannot mourn for thee! If thou shouldst lose but a limb, a child, or a friend, it would not be so much; but, poor man, it is thy soul: if it was to lie in hell but for a day, but for a year, nay, ten thousand years, it would in comparison be nothing; but O it is for ever! O this cutting EVER!
Sinner, awake; yea, I say unto thee, awake! Sin lieth at thy door, and God's axe lieth at thy root, and hell-fire is right underneath thee. I say again, awake. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.
Poor sinner, awake: Eternity is coming, and his Son; they are both coming to judge the world: awake; art yet asleep, poor sinner? let me set the trumpet to thine ear once again. The heavens will he shortly on a burning flame; the earth and the works thereof shall be burned up, and then wicked men shall go into perdition: dost thou hear this, sinner?
Hark again: the sweet morsels of sin will then be fled and gone, and the bitter, burning fruits of them only left. What sayst thou now, sinner? canst thou drink hell-fire? will the wrath of God be a pleasant dish to thy taste? This must be thine every day's meat and drink in hell, sinner.
I will yet propound to thee God's ponderous question, and then for this time leave thee: |Can thine heart endure, or can thy hands be strong in the day that I shall deal with thee, saith the Lord?| What sayst thou? Wilt thou answer this question now; or wilt thou take time to do it; or wilt thou be desperate and venture all? And let me put this text in thine ear to keep it open, and so the Lord have mercy upon thee: |Upon the wicked shall the Lord rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and a horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup.| Repent, sinners.
Conscience hath its place in the soul, where it is as a judge to discern of things good or bad, and judge them accordingly. Romans 2: 14. This conscience is that in which is the law of nature, I Cor.11: 14, which is able to teach the Gentiles that sin against the law is sin against God.
Now this conscience, this nature itself, because it can control and chide them for sin who give ear unto it -- must it therefore be idolized and made a god of? O wonderful! that men should make a God and a Christ of their consciences because they can convince of sin.
Thou gayest, He that convinces of sins against the law, leads up to the fulfilling of the law.. Friend, thy conscience convinces of sins against the law: follow thy conscience, and it may lead thee under the curse of the law, through its weakness; but it can never deliver thee from the curse of the law by its power. For if righteousness come by obedience to the law, or by thy conscience either, then Christ is dead in vain. Gal.2: 21.
A GOOD CONSCIENCE.
This must needs be a blessed help in distress, for a man to have a good conscience when affliction hath taken hold on him; for a man then, in his looking behind and before, to return with peace to his own soul, that man must needs find honey in this lion.
This is the way to maintain always the answer, the echoing answer of a good conscience in thy own soul. Godliness is of great use this way; for the man that hath a good conscience to God-ward, hath a continual feast in his own soul: while others say there is casting down, he shall say there is lifting up; for God shall save the humble person. Some indeed, in the midst of their profession, are reproached, smitten, and condemned of their own heart, their conscience still biting and stinging them because of the uncleanness of their hands; and they cannot lift up their face unto God, they have not the answer of a good conscience towards him, but must walk as persons false to their God and as traitors to their own eternal welfare. But the godly upright man shall have the light shine upon his ways, and he shall take his steps in butter and honey. The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance for ever. |If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.|
A TENDER CONSCIENCE.
A tender conscience is to some people like Solomon's brawling woman, a burthen to those that have it; but let it be to thee like those that invited David to go up to the house of the Lord.
A GUILTY CONSCIENCE.
|And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.| These latter words are spoken, not to persuade us that men can hide themselves from God, but that Adam and those that are his by nature will seek to do it, because they do not know him aright. These words therefore further show us what a bitter thing sin is to the soul; it is only for hiding-work, sometimes under its fig-leaves, sometimes among the trees of the garden. O what a shaking, starting, timorous evil conscience is a sinful, guilty conscience: especially when it is but a little awakened, it could run its head into every hole, first by one fancy, then by another; for the power and goodness of a man's own righteousness cannot withstand or answer the demands of the justice of God and his holy law.
There is yet another witness for the condemning transgressors of these laws, and that is conscience: |Their consciences also bearing witness,| says the apostle. Conscience is a thousand witnesses. Conscience! it will cry amen to every word that the great God doth speak against thee. Conscience is a terrible accuser; it will hold pace with the witness of God, as to the truth of evidence, to a hair's breadth. The witness of conscience, it is of great authority; it commands guilt and fastens it on every soul which it accuses. Conscience will thunder and lighten at the day of judgment; even the consciences of the most pagan sinners in the world will have sufficient wherewith to accuse, to condemn, and to make paleness appear in their faces and breaking in their loins, by reason of the force of its conviction. O the mire and dirt that a guilty conscience, when it is forced to speak, will cast up and throw out before the judgment-seat. It must out; none can speak peace nor health to that man upon whom God has let loose his own conscience. Cain will now cry, |My punishment is greater than I can bear;| Judas will hang himself; and both Belshazzar and Felix will feel the joints of their loins to be loosened, and their knees to smite one against another, when conscience stirreth.
When conscience is once thoroughly awakened, as it shall be before the judgment-seat, God will need say no more to the sinner than Solomon said to filthy Shimei, |Thou knowest all the wickedness that thy heart is privy to.| As who should say, |Thy conscience knows, and can well inform thee of all the evil and sin that thou art guilty of.| To all which it answers even as face answers a face in a glass; or as an echo answers the man that speaks: as fast, I say, as God chargeth, conscience will cry out, |Guilty, guilty, Lord; guilty of all, of every whit; I remember clearly all the crimes thou layest before me.| Thus will conscience be a witness against the soul in the day of God.