Page images

are quickly set open to receive and welcome him-desire, joy, delight, and all the rest, stand open to him. These are the doors at which the Redeemer knocks.

II. We must consider WHAT IS MEANT BY CHRIST'S KNOCKING at the door, and what that action implies. In the general, knocking is an action significant of the desire of one who is without, to come in; it is a sign appointed to that end. And what is Christ's knocking, but a signification to the soul of his earnest desire to come into it--a notice given to the soul of Christ's willingness to possess it for his own habitation? It is as if Christ should say, "Soul, thou art the house that was built by my hand, purchased and redeemed by my blood; I have an unquestionable right to it, and now demand entrance.” More particularly, there are divers great things implied in this gracious act of Christ's knocking at the door of the soul.

1. It implies the special favor and distinguishing grace and goodness of Jesus Christ, that he will stand and knock at our doors, when he passes by so great a part of the world, never giving one such knock or call at other men's doors. It is certainly the most admirable condescension and favor of heaven; and shows a man to be highly favored of God. O amazing! that when Christ passes by the souls of thousands and millions, and gives not one effectual knock or call at their doors all the days of their life, he will please to turn aside to thy soul, and wait and knock there for entrance. Here is one of the greatest acts of favor that can be shown to the soul of a sinner. How many souls there are in the world equal in natural dignity to yours, and of sweeter natural tempers, whom yet the Lord Jesus lets alone in the quiet possession of Satan. Luke 11:21. There is a deep silence and stillness in their consciences, no stirrings nor disturbances by convictions, but, through a dreadful judgment of God, they are left in a deep sleep; and if their consciences at any time begin to disturb them, how soon are they hushed

and quieted again by Satan! What the condition of the world was in former ages we know from the Scriptures, where we learn that God in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Acts 14:16. It is the greatest

mercy for the sleepy conscience of a sinner to be roused by convictions, because it is introductory to all other spiritual mercies. This act of grace is little appreciated by the sons and daughters of men : much rather would


sinners be let alone, than be thus disturbed by troublesome convictions; and when Christ disturbs their rest, how do they startle at the knocks of his word and Spirit. How angry are they that they cannot be let alone to enjoy their quiet sleep in sin till the flames of hell awaken them! Mr. Fenner, that great and eminent instrument of God in this work, tells us in one of his sermons how it fared with a certain man that came to hear him preach. It seems the word had got entrance into his conscience and gave it a terrible alarm, and as he was going home, some that followed him heard him thus blaming and bemoaning himself: “O what a fool, what a beast was I to come under this sermon to-day! I shall never have peace and quietness any more."

And what is the reason that smooth and general preaching is so much applauded in the world, and close convincing doctrine so much shunned and hated, but this, that sinners are very loath to be disquieted and have their consciences thoroughly awakened? Whatever your apprehensions be, certainly it is an unspeakable mercy for Christ to knock, and disquiet the souls of sinners by his calls.

2. The next thing implied in this action of Christ is, that the first motions towards the recovery and salvation of sinners begin not in themselves, but in Christ. We never knock at heaven's door by prayer till Christ has first knocked at our door by his Spirit. Did not Christ move first, there would be no motions after him in our hearts : we move towards him, because he hath first moved upon our souls. Alas, poor

Christ would ever be unsought and undesired, did he not make the first motion. All our motions are secondary and consequential motions. “I am found of them that sought me not.” Isa. 65:1. As “ we love him because he first loved us," 1 John, 4:19, so we seek him because he first sought us.

sinners are well satisfied to lie fast asleep in the devil's arms. When the Spirit of God goes forth with the word of conviction, he finds the souls of men in the same posture which the angels who had surveyed the world reported the whole earth to be in : “Behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.” Zech. 1:11. Every man was settled and satisfied in his own way. What a strange stillness and midnight silence is there among sinners. Not a sigh, not a cry to be heard for sin. So the psalmist represents the case of sinners : “ The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Psalm 14:2, 3. There is one thing peculiarly strange in this case: that even those whose earthly pleasures and delights, which brought them into this sleep and security, are taken away from them by the hand of Providence, I mean their estates, health, and children, even they awake not; they have no stirrings after God. O what a dead sleep hath sin cast the souls of sinners into. You have a notable scripture to this purpose in Job 35:9, 10; they are the words of Elihu concerning those under grievous oppression from the cruel hands of wicked men : “By reason of the multitude of oppressions they make the oppressed to cry; they cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty. But none saith, Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night ?” that is, comfort and refreshment to the afflicted. Here are men turned out of their estates, thrown into prison, cast on all extremities and miseries, and what do these poor creatures do? Why, they cry by reason of their oppression : O my father, my mother, my wife, my child, my estate, my liberty! But none saith, Where is my God? O my sin, or my misery by reason of sin! “Where is he who giveth songs in the night?” The people of God when they lie musing upon their beds under affliction, have their “songs in the night;" in the midst of the multitude of their troubled thoughts within them, the comforts of God delight their souls. These are their songs in the night, but no such words or thoughts have carnal men. How plain is it, that all the first motions of salvation have their spring and rise in God, and not in us.

3. Christ's knocking at the door of the heart shows the method of the Spirit in conversion to be in harmony with the nature of man's soul. Mark Christ's expression in the text; he does not say, Behold, I come to the door and break it open by violence.

Christ makes no forcible entries, whether sinners will or not; he will come in by consent of the will, or not at all. “I stand and knock; if any man open the door, I will come in to him.” There is a great difference between a friendly admission by consent, and a forcible entrance: in a forcible entrance, bars of iron are brought to break open the door; but in a friendly admission, one knocks and the other opens. Forcible actions are unsuitable to the nature of the will, whose motions are free and spontaneous ; therefore it is said, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." Psalm 110:3. It is true, the

power of God is upon the will of man in the day of his conversion, or else it would never open to Christ; but yet that

power of God doth not act against the freedom of man's will; God makes it willing, taking away the obstinacy and reluctance of the will by the efficacy of his grace—a sweet and pleasant victory; and so the door of the will still

opens freely : “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love." Hos. 11:4. “I drew them," there is almighty power ; but how did this power draw them? “With cords of a man,” that is, with rational arguments convincing the judgment. Beasts are driven and forced, but men are drawn by reason. It must be confessed that when the day of God's power is come for bringing home a poor sinner to Christ, the power of God's Spirit draws him effectually: “Every man that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me," John 6:45; yet the soul comes freely by the consent of his will, for this is the method of Christ in drawing souls to him. There is in the day of a sinner's conversion an offer made for the will, both by Satan and by Christ; Satan bids riches, honors, and pleasures, with ease and quietness to the flesh in the enjoyment of them.' Abide where thou art, saith Satan; remain with me, and thou shalt escape

all the

persecutions, losses, and troubles in which conscience entangles other men; thou shalt draw thy life through peace and pleasure to thy dying day. O, saith the flesh, this is good; what can be better for me? But then, saith Christ, dost thou not consider that all these enjoyments will quickly be at an end ! and what shall become of thee then? Behold, I offer thee the free, full, and final pardon of thy sins; peace and reconciliation with God; treasures in heaven; all these shall be thine, with troubles, reproaches, and persecutions in this world. The understanding and conscience of a sinner being convinced of the vanity of earthly things, and the indispensable necessity of pardon and peace with God—I say, when a convinced judgment hath duly balanced these things, and laid them before the will, and the Spirit of God puts forth his power in the renovation of it, it moves towards Christ freely, and yet cannot, according to its natural order, act otherwise than it doth. And doubtless this is the true meaning of that expression so often mistaken and abused in Luke 14:23, “Compel them to come in.” What, by forcing men against the light of their consciences? No; to the shame of many Protestants let us hear the explanation of Stella, a popish commentator upon this passage: "Christ compels men.

« PreviousContinue »