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For your conviction, consider these few things:

Regeneration is absolutely necessary to qualify you to do any thing really good and acceptable to God.  While you are not born again, your best works are but glittering sins; for though the matter of them is good, they are quite marred in the performance.

Consider, that without regeneration there is no faith and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).  Faith is a vital act of the newborn soul.  The evangelist, showing the different entertainment which our Lord Jesus had from different persons (some receiving Him, some rejecting Him) points at regenerating grace as the true cause of that difference, without which never any one would have received Him.  He tells us, that “as many as received him” were those “which were born of God” (John 1:11-13).

Unregenerate men may presume, but true faith they cannot have. Faith is a flower that grows not in the field of nature.  As the tree cannot grow without a root, neither can a man believe without the new nature, whereof the prin­ciple of believing is a part.   Without regeneration a man’s works are dead works.  As is the principle, so must the effects be: if the lungs are rotten, the breath will be unsavory; and he who at best is dead in sin, his works at best will be but dead works.  “Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, is noth­ing pure being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work repro­bate” (Titus 1:15, 16).  If we could say of a man, that he is more blameless in his life than any other in the world, that he reduces his body with fasting and has made his knees as horns with continual praying, if he is not born again, that exception would mar all.  As if one should say, “There is a well-propor­tioned body, but the soul is gone; it is but a dead lump.”  This is a melting con­sideration.  You do many things materially good; but God says, “All these things avail not, as long as I see the old nature reigning in the man.”  “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Galatians 6:15).

If you are not born again:

(1) All your reformation is naught in the sight of God. You have shut the door, but the thief is still in the house.  It may be you are not what once you were; yet you are not what you must be, if ever you see heaven; for “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

(2) Your prayers are an “abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 15:8). It may be, others admire your seriousness; you cry as for your life; but God accounts the opening of your mouth as one would account of the opening of a grave full of rottenness, “Their throat is an open sepulchre” (Romans 3:13).  Others are affected with your prayers, which seem to them as if they would rend the heavens; but God accounts them but as the howling of a dog: “They have not cried unto me with their hearts, when they howled upon their beds” (Hosea 7:14).  Why? — Because you are yet “in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniq­uity!”  All your struggles against sin in your own heart and life are naught.  The proud Pharisee afflicted his body with fasting, and God struck his soul, in the mean time with a sentence of condemnation (Luke 18).  Balaam strug­gled with his covetous temper, to that degree, that though he loved the wages of unrighteousness, yet he would not win them by cursing Israel: but he died the death of the wicked (Numbers 31:8).  All you do while in an unregenerate state is for yourself: therefore it will fare with you as with a subject, who having reduced the rebels, puts the crown on his own head, and loses all his good service and his head too.

Be convinced, then, that you must be born again.  The Scripture says that the Word is the seed, whereof the new creature is formed.  Therefore take heed to it, and entertain it, as it is your life.  Apply yourself to the reading of the Scripture.  You that cannot read, get others to read it to you.  Wait diligently on the preaching of the Word, as by divine appointment the special means of con­version; for “it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Receive the testimony of the Word of God concerning the misery of an unregenerate state, the sinfulness thereof, and the absolute necessity of regeneration.  Receive its testimony concerning God, what a holy and just One He is.  Examine your ways by it; namely, the thoughts of your heart, the expressions of your lips, and the tenor of your life.  Look back through the several periods of your life; see your sins from the precepts of the Word, and learn, from its threatening, what you are liable to on account of these sins.

By the help of the same Word of God, view the corruption of your nature.  Were these things deeply rooted in the heart, they might be the seed of that fear and sorrow, on account of your soul’s state, which are nec­essary to prepare and stir you up to look after a Savior.  Fix your thoughts upon Him offered to you in the Gospel, as fully suited to your case; having, by His obedience unto death, perfectly satisfied the justice of God, and brought in everlasting righteousness.  This may prove the seed of humilia­tion, desire, hope and faith; and move you to stretch out the withered hand unto Him, at His own command.

Let these things sink deeply into your hearts, and improve them dili­gently.  Remember, whatever you are, you must be born again; else it had been better for you that you had never been born.  Wherefore, if any of you shall live and die in an unregenerate state, you will be inexcusable, having been fairly warned of your danger.

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It is by the help of the Holy Spirit that we are able to pray, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6).   And, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

There Are Two Sorts of Prayers.

Firstly, a prayer wrought out by virtue of a gift of knowledge and utterance.  This is bestowed on many reprobates, and that gift may be useful to others, and to the church.  But as it is merely of that sort, it is not accepted, nor does Christ put it in before the Father for acceptance.

For, secondly, there is a prayer wrought in men by virtue of the Holy Spirit—“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (Zech. 12:10).  And that is the only acceptable prayer to God, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).  The word “effective” is from the Greek word “inwrought.”  Right praying is praying in the Spirit.  It is a gale blowing from heaven, the breathing of the Spirit in the saints, that carries them out in the prayer, and which comes the length of the throne.

Spirit Helps Us to Pray Two Ways

1. As a teaching and instructing Spirit, furnishing proper matter of prayer, causing us to know what we pray for (Romans 8:26), enlightening the mind in the knowledge of our needs, and those of others.  The Spirit brings into our remembrance these things, suggesting them to us according to the word, together with the promises of God, on which prayer is grounded, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).  Hence it is that the saints are sometimes carried out in prayer for things which they had no view of before, and carried by some things they had.

2. As a quickening, exciting Spirit (Rom. 8:26).  The Spirit qualifies the soul with praying graces and affections, working in the praying person sense of needs, faith, fervency, humility, etc., “Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear” (Psalm 10:17).  The man may go to his knees in a very unprepared attitude for prayer, yet the Spirit blows, [and] he is helped.  It is for this reason the Spirit is said to make intercession for us, namely, in so far as he teaches and quickens, puts us in a praying frame of mind, and draws out our petitions, as it were, which the Mediator presents.

Special Giftedness in Prayer?

This praying with the help of the Spirit is particular to the saints (James 5:16); yet they do not have that help at all times, nor always in the same measure; for sometimes the Spirit, being provoked, departs, and they are left in a withered condition.  So there is great need to look for a breathing, and pant for it, when we are to go to duty: for if there be not a gale, we will tug at the oars but heartlessly.

Let no man think that a readiness and flowing of expression in prayer is always the effect of the Spirit’s assistance.  For that may be the product of a gift and of the common operations of the Spirit, removing the impediment of the exercise of it.  And it is evident one may be scarce of words and have groans instead of them, while the Spirit helps him to pray (Romans 8:26).  Neither is every flood of emotions in prayer, the effect of the Spirit of prayer.  There are those which puff up a man, but make him never a whit more holy, tender in his walk, etc.  But the influences of the Spirit never miss to be humbling but sanctifying.  Hence, says David, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this?  For all things come from You, and of Your own, we have given You” (1 Chronicles 29:14).  And, says the apostle, “We have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).

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Several things are implied in Isaiah 34:16, “Search from the book of the Lord, and read:”

1.  That man has lost his way, and needs direction to find it, Psalm 119:176, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant.”  Miserable man has blurred vision in a directionless world, which is a dark place, and has as much need of the scriptures to guide him, as one has of a light in darkness, 2 Pet. 1:19.  What a miserable case is that part of the world in that lacks the Bible?  They are vain in their imaginations, and grope in the dark, but cannot find the way of salvation.  In no better case are those to whom it has not come in power.

2.  That man is in danger of being led farther and farther wrong. This made the spouse say, “Tell me, O you whom I love, Where you feed your flock, Where you make it rest at noon.  For why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of your companions?” Song 1:7.  There is a cunning devil, a wicked world, corrupt lusts within one’s own breast, to lead him out of the right way, that we had need to let go of, and take this guide.  There are many false lights in the world, which, if followed, will lead the traveler into a mire, and leave him there.

3.  That men are slow of heart to understand the mind of God in his word. It will cost searching diligently before we can take it up, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me,” John 5:39.

Our eyes are dim to the things of God, our understanding dull, and our judgment is weak.  And therefore, because the iron is blunt, we must put too the more strength.  We lost the sharpness of our sight in spiritual things in Adam; and our corrupt wills and carnal affections, that favor not the things of God, do blind our judgments even more: and therefore it is a labor to us to find out what is necessary for our salvation.

4.  That the book of the Lord has its difficulties, which are not to be easily solved. Therefore the Psalmist prays, “Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law,” Psalm 119:18.

Philip asked the eunuch, “Do you understand what you are reading?” and he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”  There are depths there in which an elephant may swim, and will exercise the largest capabilities, with all the expertise they may be possessed of. God in his holy providence has so ordered it, to stain the pride of all glory; to make his word the more like himself, whom none can search out to perfection, and to sharpen the diligence of his people in their inquiries into it.

5.  That yet we need highly to understand it, otherwise we would not be commanded to search into it. “Of the times and seasons,” says the apostle, “you have no need that I write to you;” and therefore he wrote not of them.  There is a treasure in this field; we are called to dig for it; for though it be hid, yet we must have it, or we will waste away in our spiritual poverty.

6.  That we may gain from it by diligent inquiry. The holy humble heart will not be always sent empty away from these wells of salvation, when it undertakes itself to draw.  There are shallow places in these waters of the sanctuary, where lambs may wade.

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The sense of the scripture is but one, and not many.  There may be several parts of that one sense subordinate one to another; as some prophecies have a respect to the deliverance from Babylon, the spiritual by Christ, and the eternal in heaven; and some passages have one thing that is typical of another: yet these are but one full sense, only that may be of two sorts; one is simple, and another compound.

Some scriptures have only a simple sense, containing a declaration of one thing only; and that is either proper or figurative.  A proper sense is that which arises from the words taken properly, and the figurative from the words taken figuratively.  Some have a simple proper sense, as, ‘God is a Spirit,’ ‘God created the heavens and the earth;’ which are to be understood according to the propriety of the words.  Some have a simple figurative sense, as, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away,’ and etc.  These have but one simple sense; but then it is the figurative, and is not to be understood according to the literal meaning of the words, as if Christ were a tree, and etc.  Thus you see what the simple sense is.

The compound or mixed sense is found wherein one thing is held forth as a type of the other; and so it consists of two parts, the one respecting the type, the other the antitype; which are not two senses, but two parts of that one and entire sense intended by the Holy Ghost: e.g. Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, that those who were stung by the fiery serpents might look to it and be healed.  The full sense of which is, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, that, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.’  Here is a literal and mystical sense, which make up one full sense betwixt them.  Those scriptures that have this compound sense, are sometimes fulfilled properly (or literally, as it is taken in opposition to figuratively) in the type and antitype both; as Hos. 11:1, ‘I have called my Son out of Egypt,’ which was literally true both of Israel and Christ. Sometimes figuratively in the type, and properly in the antitype, as Psa. 69:21, ‘They gave me vinegar to drink.’  Sometimes properly in the type, and figuratively in the antitype, as Psa. 2:9, ‘Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.’  Compare 2 Sam. 12:31.  Sometimes figuratively in both, as Psa. 41:9, ‘Yea, mine own familiar friend hath lifted up his heel against me; which is meant of Ahithophel and Judas.  Now the sense of the scripture must be but one, and not manifold, that is, quite different and nowise subordinate one to another, because of the unity of truth, and because of the perspicuity of the scripture.

Where there is a question about the true sense of scripture, it must be found out what it is by searching other places that speak more clearly, the scripture itself being the infallible rule of interpreting of scripture.  Now that it is so, appears from the following arguments.

(1) The Holy Spirit gives this as a rule, 2 Pet. 1:20, 21.  After the apostle had called the Christians to take heed to the scripture, he gives them this rule for understanding it, ‘Knowing this first that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation of our own exposition.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’  As it came, so is it to be expounded: but it came not by the will of man; therefore we are not to rest on men for the sense of it, but holy men speaking as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and so never erring; therefore we are to look to the dictates of the same Spirit in other places.

(2) There are several approved examples of this, comparing one scripture with another, to find out the meaning of the Holy Ghost, as Acts 15:15.  And to this agree the words of the prophet,’ and etc.  The Bereans are commended for this in Acts 17:11.  Yea, Christ himself makes use of this to show the true sense of the scripture against the devil, Matt. 4:6, ‘Cast thyself down,’ said that wicked spirit; ‘for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee,’  ‘It is written again,’ says Christ, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’  And thus our Lord makes out the true sense of that scripture, that it is to be understood only with respect to them who do not cast themselves on a tempting of God.

According to the Westminster Confession of Faith (chapter 1.9), “The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and, therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture which is not manifold but one, it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly (2 Pet. 1:20, 21; Acts 15:16).

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For your conviction, consider these few things:

Regeneration is absolutely necessary to qualify you to do any thing really good and acceptable to God. While you are not born again, your best works are but glittering sins; for though the matter of them is good, they are quite marred in the performance.

Consider, that without regeneration there is no faith and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is a vital act of the newborn soul. The evangelist, showing the different entertainment which our Lord Jesus had from different persons (some receiving Him, some rejecting Him) points at regenerating grace as the true cause of that difference, without which never any one would have received Him. He tells us, that “as many as received him” were those “which were born of God” (John 1:11-13).

Unregenerate men may presume, but true faith they cannot have. Faith is a flower that grows not in the field of nature. As the tree cannot grow without a root, neither can a man believe without the new nature, whereof the principle of believing is a part. Without regeneration a man’s works are dead works. As is the principle, so must the effects be: if the lungs are rotten, the breath will be unsavory; and he who at best is dead in sin, his works at best will be but dead works. “Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:15,16). If we could say of a man, that he is more blameless in his life than any other in the world, that he reduces his body with fasting and has made his knees as horns with continual praying, if he is not born again, that exception would mar all. As if one should say, “There is a well-proportioned body, but the soul is gone; it is but a dead lump.” This is a melting consideration. You do many things materially good; but God says, “All these things avail not, as long as I see the old nature reigning in the man.” “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Galatians 6:15).

If you are not born again:

(1) All your reformation is naught in the sight of God. You have shut the door, but the thief is still in the house. It may be you are not what once you were; yet you are not what you must be, if ever you see heaven; for “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

(2) Your prayers are an “abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 15:8). It may be, others admire your seriousness; you cry as for your life; but God accounts the opening of your mouth as one would account of the opening of a grave full of rottenness, “Their throat is an open sepulchre” (Romans 3:13). Others are affected with your prayers, which seem to them as if they would rend the heavens; but God accounts them but as the howling of a dog: “They have not cried unto me with their hearts, when they howled upon their beds” (Hosea 7:14). Why? — Because you are yet “in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity!” All your struggles against sin in your own heart and life, are naught. The proud Pharisee afflicted his body with fasting, and God struck his soul, in the mean time with a sentence of condemnation (Luke 18). Balaam struggled with his covetous temper, to that degree, that though he loved the wages of unrighteousness, yet he would not win them by cursing Israel: but he died the death of the wicked (Numbers 31:8). All you do while in an unregenerate state, is for yourself: therefore it will fare with you as with a subject, who having reduced the rebels, puts the crown on his own head, and loses all his good service and his head too.

Be convinced, then, that you must be born again. The Scripture says that the Word is the seed, whereof the new creature is formed. Therefore take heed to it, and entertain it, as it is your life. Apply yourself to the reading of the Scripture. You that cannot read, get others to read it to you. Wait diligently on the preaching of the Word, as by divine appointment the special means of conversion; for “it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Receive the testimony of the Word of God concerning the misery of an unregenerate state, the sinfulness thereof, and the absolute necessity of regeneration. Receive its testimony concerning God, what a holy and just One He is. Examine your ways by it; namely, the thoughts of your heart, the expressions of your lips, and the tenor of your life. Look back through the several periods of your life; see your sins from the precepts of the Word, and learn, from its threatening, what you are liable to on account of these sins.

By the help of the same Word of God, view the corruption of your nature. Were these things deeply rooted in the heart, they might be the seed of that fear and sorrow, on account of your soul’s state, which are necessary to prepare and stir you up to look after a Savior. Fix your thoughts upon Him offered to you in the Gospel, as fully suited to your case; having, by His obedience unto death, perfectly satisfied the justice of God, and brought in everlasting righteousness. This may prove the seed of humiliation, desire, hope and faith; and move you to stretch out the withered hand unto Him, at His own command.

Let these things sink deeply into your hearts, and improve them diligently. Remember, whatever you are, you must be born again; else it had been better for you that you had never been born. Wherefore, if any of you shall live and die in an unregenerate state, you will be inexcusable, having been fairly warned of your danger.

The current formatting and editing is copyrighted by Jim Ehrhard, 2000. You are permitted to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author; (2) any modifications are clearly marked; (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction; and (4) you do not make more than 100 copies without permission. If you would like to post this material to your web site or make any use other than as defined above, please contact Teaching Resources International

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1. Follow a regular plan in reading of them, that you may be acquainted with the whole; and make this reading a part of your private devotions. Not that you should confine yourselves only to a set plan, so as never to read by choice, but ordinarily this tends most to edification. Some parts of the Bible are more difficult, some may seem very barren for an ordinary reader; but if you would look on it all as God’s word, not to be scorned, and read it with faith and reverence, no doubt you would find advantage.

2. Set a special mark, however you find convenient, on those passages you read, which you find most suitable to your case, condition, or temptations; or such as you have found to move your hearts more than other passages. And it will be profitable often to review these.

3. Compare one Scripture with another, the more obscure with that which is more plain, 2 Pet. 1:20. This is an excellent means to find out the sense of the Scriptures; and to this good use serve the marginal notes on Bibles. And keep Christ in your eye, for to him the scriptures of the Old Testament look (in its genealogies, types, and sacrifices), as well as those of the New.

4. Read with a holy attention, arising from the consideration of the majesty of God, and the reverence due to him. This must be done with attention, first, to the words; second, to the sense; and, third, to the divine authority of the Scripture, and the obligation it lays on the conscience for obedience, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

5. Let your main purpose in reading the Scriptures be practice, and not bare knowledge, James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Read that you may learn and do, and that without any limitation or distinction, but that whatever you see God requires, you may study to practice.

6. Beg of God and look to him for his Spirit. For it is the Spirit that inspired it, that it must be savingly understood, 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” And therefore before you read, it is highly reasonable you beg a blessing on what you are to read.

7. Beware of a worldly, fleshly mind: for fleshly sins blind the mind from the things of God; and the worldly heart cannot favor them. In an eclipse of the moon, the earth comes between the sun and the moon, and so keeps the light of the sun from it. So the world, in the heart, coming between you and the light of the word, keeps its divine light from you.

8. Labor to be disciplined toward godliness, and to observe your spiritual circumstances. For a disciplined attitude helps mightily to understand the scriptures. Such a Christian will find his circumstances in the word, and the word will give light to his circumstances, and his circumstances light into the word.

9. Whatever you learn from the word, labor to put it into practice. For to him that has, shall be given. No wonder those people get little insight into the Bible, who make no effort to practice what they know. But while the stream runs into a holy life, the fountain will be the freer.

Search from the Book of the Lord. Several things are implied in Isaiah 34:16, “Search from the book of the Lord, and read:”

1. That man has lost his way, and needs direction to find it, Psalm 119:176, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; Seek Your servant.” Miserable man has blurred vision in a directionless world, which is a dark place, and has as much need of the scriptures to guide him, as one has of a light in darkness, 2 Pet. 1:19. What a miserable case is that part of the world in that lacks the Bible? They are vain in their imaginations, and grope in the dark, but cannot find the way of salvation. In no better case are those to whom it has not come in power.

2. That man is in danger of being led farther and farther wrong. This made the spouse say, “Tell me, O you whom I love, Where you feed your flock, Where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself By the flocks of your companions?” Song 1:7. There is a cunning devil, a wicked world, corrupt lusts within one’s own breast, to lead him out of the right way, that we had need to let go of, and take this guide. There are many false lights in the world, which, if followed, will lead the traveler into a mire, and leave him there.

3. That men are slow of heart to understand the mind of God in his word. It will cost searching diligently before we can take it up, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me,” John 5:39.

Our eyes are dim to the things of God, our understanding dull, and our judgment is weak. And therefore, because the iron is blunt, we must put too the more strength. We lost the sharpness of our sight in spiritual things in Adam; and our corrupt wills and carnal affections, that favor not the things of God, do blind our judgments even more: and therefore it is a labor to us to find out what is necessary for our salvation.

4. That the book of the Lord has its difficulties, which are not to be easily solved. Therefore the Psalmist prays, “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law,” Psalm 119:18.

Philip asked the eunuch, “Do you understand what you are reading?” and he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” There are depths there in which an elephant may swim, and will exercise the largest capabilities, with all the expertise they may be possessed of. God in his holy providence has so ordered it, to stain the pride of all glory; to make his word the more like himself, whom none can search out to perfection, and to sharpen the diligence of his people in their inquiries into it.

5. That yet we need highly to understand it, otherwise we would not be commanded to search into it. “Of the times and seasons,” says the apostle, “you have no need that I write to you;” and therefore he wrote not of them. There is a treasure in this field; we are called to dig for it; for though it be hid, yet we must have it, or we will waste away in our spiritual poverty.

6. That we may gain from it by diligent inquiry. The holy humble heart will not be always sent empty away from these wells of salvation, when it undertakes itself to draw. There are shallow places in these waters of the sanctuary, where lambs may wade.

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1. Beware of drawing an excuse for your sin from the providence of God. . . .

for it is most holy, and is in no way any cause of any sin you commit. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God; a breach of his holy law, and deserves his wrath and curse; and therefore cannot be authorized by an infinitely-holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity without detestation and abhorrence. Though he has by a permissive decree allowed moral evil to be in the world, yet that has no influence on the sinner to commit it. For it is not the fulfilling of God’s decree, which is an absolute secret to every mortal, but the gratification of their own lusts and perverse inclinations, that men intend and mind in the commission of sin.

2. Beware of murmuring and fretting under any dispensations of providence that you meet with; remembering that nothing falls out without a wise and holy providence, which knows best what is fit and proper for you. And in all cases, even in the middle of the most fflicting incidents that happen to you, learn submission to the will of God, as Job did, when he said upon the end of a series of the heaviest calamities that happened to him, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). In the most distressing ease, say with the disciples, “The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14).

3. Beware of anxious cares and fearfulness about your material well-being in the world.

This our Lord has cautioned his followers against (Matt. 6:31). “Take no thought, (that is, anxious and perplexing thought,) saying, what shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, wherewithal shall we be clothed?” Never let the fear of man stop you from duty (Matt. 10:28, 29); but let your souls learn to trust in God,who guides and superintends all the events and administrations of providence, by whatever hands they are performed.

4. Do not think little of means, seeing God works by them.

And he that has appointed the end, orders the means necessary for gaining the end. Do not rely upon means, for they can do nothing without God (Matt. 4:4). Do not despair if there be no means, for God can work without them, as well as with them (Hosea 1:7). “I will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.” If the means be unlikely, he can work above them (Rom. 4:19). “He considered not his own body now dead, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” If the means be contrary, he can work by contrary means, as he saved Jonah by the whale that devoured him. That fish swallowed up the prophet, but by the direction of providence, it vomited him out upon dry land.

Lastly, Happy is the people whose God is the Lord: for all things shall work together for their good.

They may sit secure in exercising faith upon God, come what will. They have good reason for prayer; for God is a prayer-hearing God, and will be inquired of by his people as to all their concerns in the world. And they have ground for the greatest encouragement and comfort in the middle of all the events of providence, seeing they are managed by their covenant God and gracious friend, who will never neglect or overlook his dear people, and whatever concerns them. For he has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

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