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Chapter XLII.

In This Concluding Chapter The Reasons For Adopting The Method Observed In Book I. Are Explained; The Duty Of Guarding Against Spiritual Pride Is Described, And The Truth Is Set Forth That True Spiritual Gifts Cannot Be Obtained Without Prayer.

What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?—1 Cor. 4:7.

I regard it as necessary, before I conclude this Book, to call the reader's attention to several points.

2. In this Book, repentance and its fruits, have, for various reasons, been explained at large, and in different ways. Most of the Chapters in this Book, accordingly, treat upon the fruits of true repentance; such as our renovation in Christ, the daily mortification 154 of the flesh, the practice of self-denial, contempt of the world, the exercise of charity, etc. For therein we find the beginning and foundation of true Christianity, of a holy life, and of salvation itself, through true faith. So, too, no solid comfort can ever be tasted in the heart of man, unless he be thoroughly acquainted with the nature of Original Sin, that dreadful, mortal, and diabolical evil, which is like an infernal poison (ah, it is impossible sufficiently to describe and deplore it!) and has proved the seed of a multitude of fatal and pernicious fruits. All the books of comfort, and all the promises with which the Gospel abounds, afford no substantial consolation to a man, except he be first thoroughly humbled by a sense of his misery, and of that awful evil, Original Sin. Man, in this fallen state, is too apt to flatter himself, and to look for comfort, before a thorough search has been made into his own sinful condition, degeneracy, and apostasy from God. Nature is concerned for comfort more than for a cure.

3. But this is very preposterous, and altogether against the tenor of Scripture, and the method of salvation therein explained. Our Lord says, “The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Matt. 9:12. No cure can be expected, no medicine can be prescribed, no comfort can be applied, nor can Christ himself, the great Physician of souls, be of any benefit at all, so long as a man, thinking himself well, is not sensible of those deep distempers that rage in his soul. Hence a true Christian's life consists in a daily crucifixion of the flesh, and of all its sinful propensities. O that every one might lay this earnestly to heart! No man can belong to Christ, or have a share in his merits, but he that regulates his life according to this rule. Now, such a soul shall not be left comfortless in the end; but, shall be refreshed with divine consolation. No sooner is a soul thoroughly humbled by a lively sense of inbred corruption, and the infectious influence it hath on all the actions, than it is raised again by those suitable grounds of comfort which the Gospel affords. In all this, the operation of the Divine Spirit, and man's meditation on the word of promise, concur, and bring over the soul to Christ, who is both willing and able to heal her, and to turn her mourning into permanent gladness. He who will enter upon this course of true and sincere repentance, must be careful, at the same time, not to be shaken by the foolish judgment which this impious world will be apt to pass upon the whole design of true Christianity. Let the profane worldling think ever so much of his own natural parts and wisdom, it is certain that he is altogether blind in the things of the Spirit of God, and most ignorant. And though he may exercise his reasoning faculty on things that are far above his reach and capacity, yet while he has no knowledge of the wretchedness of his own nature, and of those spiritual diseases that spring from it, he continues an utter stranger to spiritual concerns. He does not understand what Adam and Christ are, or how Adam is to die, and Christ to live in us again. And as he disdains to learn what he knows not, he must forever remain in darkness and ignorance. Nor will he ever be able in that state to obtain any insight into the grounds and properties of true repentance, faith in Christ, and the new birth, wherein true Christianity consists, and whereby he might be rescued from everlasting ruin.

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4. The next thing which I would mention at the close of this Book, and which thou art carefully to avoid, is the sin of spiritual pride, after God has begun to implant in thee, by his grace, spiritual gifts, new virtues, new habits of mind, and new knowledge. See that thou ascribe these attainments not to thy own power, wisdom, or industry, but to the grace of God. Carefully avoid taking up thy rest in those virtues and good dispositions that are formed within thee; and never confide in them as means of thy justification before God. For as they are yet marked by various defects and imperfections, so they can never pass for the perfect righteousness of God. Never seek thy own honor and glory by the gifts which God has been pleased to bestow upon thee. On the contrary, use them with humility and fear, divesting thyself of all selfish designs, and returning all thou hast unto Him, who is the true Disposer and Author thereof. Do not say in thy heart: “I have now a strong faith, fervent charity, much knowledge, many gifts;” for these suggestions are the tares, which the enemy of thy soul sows among the wheat while thou sleepest.

For, (a) none of these gifts are thine, but God's only, without whose illumination and all-quickening power, thou art but a lifeless lump of clay. These gifts are no more thine, than the light and heat of the sun are the earth's, which is warmed and penetrated by them. Thou art, at the best, but the casket to hold the jewels; and the glory of these no more belongs to thee, than the lustre of a precious stone belongs to the box in which it is kept. Is it not, therefore, great folly to boast of the goods of another, which are laid up in thee?

(b) Thou art to consider, that, as the lord of a treasure may lodge his treasure wherever he pleases, and remove it as he thinks fit; so God, in like manner, may deposit his heavenly treasure in thee, and take it away again, as he sees proper. Him, therefore, thou oughtest to fear with holy reverence, and at the same time carefully beware of spiritual pride and presumption: for this would issue in the inevitable loss of the celestial jewel committed to thy trust. “Be not high-minded, but fear.” Rom. 11:20.

(c) Thou art, further, to consider, that the righteous God will call thee to an exact account of all he has intrusted to thy care. The more thou hast received, the more will he require at thy hands.

(d) In the midst of all thy gifts, do not think that thou hast received all that the Lord has in store for his children. Ah! beloved Christian! be thy attainments ever so high and excellent, they are hardly the beginning; there is yet much which thou lackest.

(e) Seriously consider, that no good and perfect gifts are obtained or preserved except by prayer: for every good and perfect gift descendeth from God. James 1:17. Whatever thou seemest to possess without this, is but a lifeless shadow, a seed bearing no fruit, but withering away. For without prayer, no heavenly gift can descend into the heart of man. The reader is desired to peruse what is said on the subject of Prayer in the Second Book of this Work. There are two things which thou must chiefly regard in thy prayers and application to the Lord: first, That the Image of Satan be destroyed in thee; as unbelief, pride, covetousness, lust, wrath, etc.; secondly, That the Image of God be restored 156 in thee; in which are contained faith, love, hope, humility, patience, meekness, and the fear of the Lord. These two, that is, the destruction of the satanic, and the restoration of the divine image, are illustrated in the Lord's Prayer. This prayer makes both against thee, and for thee. If the name of God alone is to be hallowed, then thy name must be debased and thy haughtiness be pulled down. If the kingdom of God shall come, then certainly the devil's kingdom must be overthrown in thee. If thou desirest that the will of God should be done, then truly thine own must be renounced.

These are the two parts into which any useful prayer-book or method of prayer may be fitly digested; an order which is clearly exhibited in the prayer of our Lord, so far as it respects those heavenly and eternal benefits and gifts which we are directed to seek. Nay, in the Lord's Prayer, all the treasures both for soul and body, and all the things which we need both for this life and that which is to come, are summed up. And there is no question, but that the Father in heaven, according to his paternal compassion, will readily grant, what the Son of his love has so strongly commanded us to ask.

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