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rejoice to see a bit of dust and ashes overcome principal. ities, and powers, and mights, and dominions.
But when these come to be a little settled, they are prepared for helping others, and are great comforts unto them. Their great sins give great encouragernent to the devil to assault them; and by these temptations Christ takes advantage to make them the more helpful to the churches.
The biggest sinner, when he is converted and comes into the church, says to them all by his very coming in, “Behold me, all you that are men and women of a low and timorous spirit, you whose hearts are narrow--for that you have never had the advantage to know, because
your sins are few, the largeness of the grace of God—behold, I say, in me the exceeding riches of his grace. I am a pattern set forth before your faces, on whom you may look and take heart.” Christ Jesus makes of the biggest sinners bearers and supporters to the rest.
Christ saved the thief, to encourage thieves to come to him for mercy; he saved Magdalen, to encourage other Magdalens to come to him for mercy; he saved Saul, to encourage Sauls to come to him for mercy; and this Paul himself doth say: "For this cause,” saith he, “I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”.
When Christ was crucified and hanged up between the earth and heavens, there were two thieves crucified with him; and behold, he lays hold of one of them and will have him away with him to glory. Was not this a strange act and a display of unthought of grace? Were there none but thieves there, or were the rest of that company out of Iris reach ? Could he not, think you, have stooped from the cross to the ground, and have laid hold of some honester
Riches of Buoyan.
man, if he would ? Yes, doubtless. O, but then he would not have displayed his grace, nor have so pursued his own designs, namely, to get himself a praise and a name; but now he has done it to purpose.
For who that shall read this story but must confess that the Son of God is full of grace ? for a proof of the riches thereof he left behind him, when upon the cross he took the thief away with him to glory.
I have one thing more to offer for thy encouragement, who deemest thyself one of the biggest sinners; and that is, thou art as it were called by thy name, in the first place to come in for mercy. Thou man of Jerusalem, Luke 24:47, hearken to thy call: men do so in courts of judicature, and presently cry out, “ Here, sir ;” and then shoulder and crowd, and say, “ Pray give way, I am called into the court." Why, this is thy case, thou great, thou Jerusalem sinner; be of good cheer, he calleth thee. Why sittest thou still ? Arise. Why standest thou still ? Come, man, thy call should give thee authority to come. “Begin at Jerusalem,” is thy call and authority to come ; wherefore up and shoulder it, man; say, Stand away, devil, Christ calls me; stand away, unbelief, Christ calls me ; stand away, all ye discouraging apprehensions, for my Saviour calls me to him to receive of his mercy.” Men will do thus, as I said, in courts below; and why shouldst not thou approach thus to the courts above? The Jeru. salem sinner is first in thought, first in commission, first in the record of names; and therefore should give attendance with expectation that he is first to receive mercy of God.
Is not this an encouragement to the biggest sinners to make their application to Christ for mercy ? “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden,” doth also confirm this thing; that is, that the biggest sinner and he that hath the biggest burden, is he who is first invited. Christ
pointeth over the heads of thousands as he sits on the throne of grace, directly to such a man, and says, “Bring in hither the maimed, the halt, and the blind ; let the Jerusalem sinner that stands there behind, come to me.” Wherefore, since Christ
says to thee, Come, let the angels make a lane and let all men give place, that the Jerusalem sinner may come to Christ for mercy.
DESPAIR OF MERCY UNREASONABLE. Would Jesus Christ have mercy offered, in the first place, to the biggest sinners ? Then this shows how unreasonable a thing it is for men to despair of mercy.
I am concerned only with the despair of those that would be saved, but are too strongly borne down with the burden of their sins. I say, therefore, to thee that art thus, And why despair ? Thy despair, if it was reasonable, should flow from thee because found in the land that is beyond the grave, or because thou certainly knowest that Christ will not or cannot save thee.
But for the first, thou art yet in the land of the living ; and for the second, thou hast ground to believe quite the contrary. Christ is able to save to the uttermost them that come to God by him; and if he were not willing, he would not have commanded that mercy, in the first place, should be offered to the biggest sinners. Besides, he hath said, " And let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” that is, with all my heart. What ground, now, is here for despair? If thou sayest, " The number and burden of
my sins ;' I answer, Nay; that is rather a ground for faith ; because such a one, above all others, is invited by Christ to come unto him, yea, promised rest and forgiveness, if he come. Matt. 11:28. What ground, then, to despair ? Verily, none at all. Thy despair, then, is a thing unreasonable, and without footing in the word.
· But I have no experience of God's love; God has
given me no comfort or ground of hope, though I have waited
him for it many a day.” Thou hast experience of God's love, in that he has opened thine eyes to see thy sins, and in that he has given thee desires to be saved by Jesus Christ. For by thy sense of sin, thou art made to see thy poverty of spirit, and that has laid thee under a sure ground to hope that heaven shall be thine hereafter.
Also, thy desires to be saved by Christ have put thee under another promise, Matt. 5:3, 6; so there are two to hold thee up in them, though thy present burden be never so heavy. As for what thou sayest as to God's silence to thee, perhaps he has spoken to thee once or twice already, but thou hast not perceived it. Job 33 : 14, 15.
Besides, God says, “ They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles ;” but perhaps it may be long first. “I waited patiently,” says David, “I sought the Lord;" and at length his cry was heard: wherefore, he bids his soul wait on God, and says, “For it is good” so to do “ before thy saints." Psalm 40:1; 52:9; 62:5.
And what if thou waitest upon God all thy days ?. Is it below thee? And what if God will cross his book and blot out the handwriting that is against thee, and not let thee know it as yet? Is it fit to say unto God, Thou art hard-hearted ? Despair not; thou hast no ground to despair, so long as thou livest in this world. It is a sin to begin to despair before one sets his foot over the threshold of hell-gates. For them that are there, let them despair, and spare not; but as for thee, thou hast no ground to do it. What, despair of bread in a land that is full of corn ; despair of mercy, when our God is full of mercy; despair of mercy, when God goes about by his ministers, beseeching sinners to be reconciled to him ?
Thou scrupulous fool, where canst thou find that God was ever false to his promise, or that he ever deceived the soul that ventured itself upon him? He often calls upon sinners to trust him, though they walk in darkness, and have no light. Isa. 50 :10. They have his promise and oath for their salvation, that flee for refuge to the hope set before them.
Despair, when we have a God of mercy and a redeeming Christ alive! For shame, forbear; let them despair that dwell where there is no God, and that are confined to those chambers of death which can be reached by no redemption.
A living man despair, when he is chid for murmuring and comptaining! Lam. 3:39. Oh, so long as we are where promises swarm, where mercy is proclaimed, where grace reigns, and where Jerusalem sinners are privileged with the first offer of mercy, it is a base thing to despair.
Despair undervalues the promise, undervalues the invi. tation, undervalues the proffer of grace. Despair undervalues the ability of God the Father, and the redeeming blood of Christ his Son. Oh, unreasonable despair !
Despair makes man God's judge; it is a controller of the promise, a contradicter of Christ in his large offers of mercy; and one that undertakes to make unbelief the great manager of our reason and judgment, in determining about what God can and will do for sinners.
Despair! it is the devil's fellow, the devil's master; yea, the chains with which he is captivated, and held un der darkness for ever : and to give way thereto, in a land, in a state and time that flows with milk and honey, is an uncomely thing.
I would say to my soul, O my soul, this is not the place of despair; this is not the time to despair in. As long as mine eyes can find a promise in the Bible, as long as there is a moment left me of breath or life in this world, so long will I wait or look for mercy, so long will I fight against unbelief and despair.
This is the way to honor God and Christ; this is the