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DIALOGUE VII.

Only Christ is to be applied to Souls truly contrite.

TIMOTHEUS.

BUT suppose the person in the minister’s apprehension heartily humbled for sin, what then is to be done?

PHIL. No corrosives, all cordials; no vinegar, all oil; no law, all Gospel must be presented unto him. Here, blessed the lips, yea,! beautiful the feet of him that bringeth the tidings of peace. As Elisha, when reviving the son of the Shunamite, laid his mouth to the mouth of the child; [2 Kings iv. 34.] so the gaping orifice of Christ’s wounds must spiritually, by preaching, be put close to the mouth of the wounds of a conscience: happy that skilful architect that can show the sick man that the head-stone of his spiritual building must be laid with shouts, crying, Grace, grace. [Zecha. iv. 7.]

326

TIM. Which do you count the head-stone of the building, that which is first or last laid?

PHIL. The foundation is the head-stone in honour, the top stone is the head-stone in height. The former the head-stone in strength, the latter in the stature. It seemeth that God’s Spirit, of set purpose, made use of a doubtful word, to show that the whole fabric of our salvation, whether as founded, or as finished, is the only work of God’s grace alone. Christ is the alpha and omega thereof, not excluding all the letters in the alphabet interposed.

TIM. How must the minister preach Christ to an afflicted conscience?

PHIL. He must crucify him before his eyes, lively setting him forth; naked, to clothe him; wounded, to cure him; dying, to save him. He is to expound and explain unto him the dignity of his person, preciousness of his blood, plenteousness of his mercy, in all those loving relations wherein the Scripture presents him: a kind father to a prodigal child, a careful hen to a scattered chicken, a good shepherd that bringeth his lost sheep back on his shoulders.

TIM. Spare me one question: why doth he not drive the sheep before him, especially seeing it was lively enough to lose itself?

PHIL. First, because though it had wildness too much to go astray, it had not wisdom 327enough to go right. Secondly, because probably the silly sheep had tired itself with wandering; Habakkuk ii. 13, “the people shall weary themselves for very vanity,” and therefore the kind shepherd brings it home on his own shoulders.

TIM. Pardon my interruption, and proceed, how Christ is to be held forth.

PHIL. The latitude and extent of his love, his invitation without exception, are powerfully to be pressed; every one that thirsteth, all ye that are heavy laden, whosoever believeth, and the many promises of mercy, are effectually to be tendered unto him.

TIM. Where are those promises in Scripture?

PHIL. Or rather, where are they not? for they are harder to be missed than to be met with. Open the Bible (as he who drew his bow in battle) [1 Kings xxii. 34.] at a venture. If thou lightest on an historical place, behold precedents; if on doctrinal, promises of comfort. For the latter, observe these particulars: Gen. iii. 15; Exo. xxxiv. 6; Isa. xl. 1; Isa. liv. 11; Mat. xi. 28; xii. 20; 1 Cor. x. 13; Heb. xiii. 5, &c.

TIM. Are these more principal places of consolation than any other in the Bible?

PHIL. I know there is no choosing, where all things are choicest. Whosoever shall select some pearls out of such a heap, shall leave behind 328as precious as any he takes, both in his own and others’ judgment; yea, which is more, the same man at several times may in his apprehension prefer several promises as best, formerly most affected with one place, for the present more delighted with another: and afterwards, conceiving comfort therein not so clear, choose other places as more pregnant and pertinent to his purpose. Thus God orders it, that divers men (and perchance the same man at different times) make use of all his promises, gleaning and gathering comfort, not only in one narrow, land, or furlong, but as it is scattered clean through the whole field of Scripture.

TIM. Must ministers have variety of several comfortable promises?

PHIL. Yes, surely: such masters of the assembly being to enter and fasten consolation in an afflicted soul, need have many nails provided beforehand, that if some for the present chance to drive untowardly, as splitting, going awry, turning crooked or blunt, they may have others in the room thereof.

TIM. But grant Christ held out never so plainly, pressed never so powerfully, yet all is in vain, except God inwardly with his Spirit persuade the wounded conscience to believe the truth of what he saith.

PHIL. This is an undoubted truth, for one 329may lay the bread of life on their trencher, and cannot force them to feed on it. One may bring them down to the spring of life, but cannot make them drink of the waters thereof: and therefore, in the cure of a wounded conscience, God is all in all, only the touch of his hand can heal this king’s evil: I kill and make alive, I wound and I heal, neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. [Deut. xxxii. 39.]

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