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come down from the heights of notable attainments, whether in respect of unsound experiences, natural graces, or gospel advantages. There are unsound experiences; some have convictions and awakenings, like these of Cain, Saul, and Judas; terrors and tremblings, like those of Felix, when Paul preached of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come; fears and sorrows, like these of Esau : joys and affections moving, like those of the stony ground hearers ; partial reformations, like those who, through the knowledge of Christ, escaped the gross pollutions of the world. These are slender branches to trust to and rest upon; you must come down from them. There are natural and common graces also, that people must quit the hold of, as well as false convictions ; some have a cradle faith, that they had all their days; this is so far from being of a saving nature, that men may have a temporary faith, like Simon Magus, who yet was in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity, Acts viii. 23.' They may suspect their graces, who were never humbled for their contraries; who have faith, and yet never were convinced of, nor humbled for their unbelief, who have love, but never were convinced of, nor humbled for their enmity; and have knowledge, but were never humbled for their ignorance. There are gospel-advantages that many have, and yet abuse; but, in as far as they are abused, they are rotten branches to hold by. Some abuse à gospel-prófession, contenting themselves with the form, without the power of godliness: they abuse gospel privileges ; and, in respect of these are exalted to heaven, and yet shall be brought down to hell. Many abuse gospel grace and turn the grace of God into wantonness, and to encourage them in their sin. Many abuse gospel-promises, by making a loose, carnal application of them; and of the blood of Christ, and of redemption purchased thereby, without seeking after the effectual application of it to us by his holy Spirit. Many abuse gospel liberty and freedom from the law, as a covenant, by taking liberty thence to sin, as if they were free from the law as a rule of life too. Many also abuse gospel principles, such as this, That without Christ we can do nothing: as true a word as in all the Bible, that without him we can do nothing spiritually, formally, and acceptably good, however, men may do things materially good ; but hence the carnal heart of many infer, Seeing the whole work is Christ's, in point of power : therefore they will do nothing, in point of means, but leave all to Christ; and so make Christ a lackey to their idleness, and a pillow to their sloth. Though the use of the means hath no casual influence in obtaining the good promised; yet there is a necessary connection of order, between using the means and gaining the blessing ; thus, though the Lord promises many signal blessings, in absolutely free promises, Ezek. xxxvi. 25.-29.; yet, “ For all these things he will be enquired off by the house of Israel, ver 37. That persons ought to be in the use of means, and have reason to expect a blessing in so doing, is evident from many places in scripture, particularly, Prov. viii. 32, 33, 34. Mat. vii. 7, 8. These are wicked abuses of gospel advantages, by these who receive the grace of God in vain. These and the like attainments, experiences, graces and advantages, are vain boughs and branches, from which they must come down.
8. I mention another height that men must come down from, that would answer the gospel-call, and that is the height of vain apologies and excuses for their sin. There are some shifts and
apologies that are very poor, mean, and low ones : but I will name two that are very high and proud apologies. And,
(1.) The one is drawn from the translation of sin upon others, as if they were not guilty, but only such as tempt and ensnare them : hence some blame the devil only for that which is their own sir. But, if you father your sin upon
the devil; it may be, indeed, he is the father begetting ; but the flesh is the mother conceiving and bringing them forth: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed,” James j. 14. Some father their sin upon God himself, as Adam did when he said, “ The woman which thou gavest me, gave me to eat," Gen. iii. 12. As if he had said, “ If thou hadst not given me this companion, I had not eaten.” But, says the apostle,“ Let no man say, when he is tempted, he is tempted of God,” James i. 13. Yet thus men are ready to justify themselves and condemn others: yea, and God himself.
(2.) Another proud and lofty apology is drawn from false comparison; men comparing themselves with others that are worse; like the Pharisee, that compared himself with the Publican ;;God, I thank thee, I am not like other men,” Luke xviii, 11. As if he had said,
Lord, I thank thee, I am not so ill as such a man, such sa rake, sucha debauchee, &c.; and so hiding themselves under the covert of a comparative righteousness. But, as runners in a race hasten their pace, by looking to those that are before them; but do not slackit, by looking to those that are behind them : what a folly is it, if we be running the Christian race, to look to those that are behind, and reckon we are fartherforward than they, and therefore we need make no more speed in religion! But rather we are to look to these that are before us, and be ashamed that we are so far behind, and put the spur to our dull and naughty flesh, that we may “ Run the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith," Heb. xii. 1, 2. You do not use to look to a poor beggar,' and say, richer than he; and need no more : and will you de: ceive yourself in the matter of religion, saying, I am better than such a man; and, therefore, I am right enough!- From these and the like heights, men are to come down." Come down Zaccheus."
II. The second thing proposed, was, To shew in what respects they come down, who answer the gospel-call. And here it may be enquired, by what steps they come down; and to what place or situation they come down.
1st, By what steps they come down. We name only these four.
1. The first step is consideration: none come down from the height of their vain confidence, till they be brought to consideration and thought ; " I thought on my ways, and then I turned my feet to thy testimonies, Psalm cxix. 59. God complains of men for want of
thought and consideration ; “ The ox knoweth bis owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider," Isa. i. 3. And it is the first thing God calls people to, when he wills them to come down to meet with him, Hag. i. 5. “Now, therefore saith the Lord of hosts, consider your
2. The second step by which they come down is Concern; people may make a little step by consideration, and presently step back again, and let the thoughts pass away; like these who are slight hearers of the word, that opens up and discovers their case; but like men beholding their natural face in a glass, and go away, and straightway forget what manner of persons they were : therefore the next step must be concern, deep concern about salvation, saying, with the jailor, . What shall I do to be saved ?" Or, with Peter's hearers, " Men and brethren, what shall we do ?” The man is awakened to à restless concern, in the use of appointed means, how to get down from that dangerous and dreadful height, whence he is ready to fall into utter ruin.
3. The third step is despair and disappointment: finding all his legal hopes and expectations failing him : all his legal endeavours vain and useless; yea, vanish. ing, dying, and giving up the ghost. When a man comes down to this step, viz. to despair of help in himself, and to despair of relief from creatures and means, of themselves, saying, as it is, Jer. iii. 23. “ Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, or from the multitude of mountains” By this step he just quits the grip of all those branches which he had hold on, and trusted to. He finds himself disappointed of these confidences, and that he cannot prosper therein; "The Lord hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them,” Jer. ii. 37. Some are wrathfully disappointed : for, the Lord destroys them and their confidences both, as the word here will read; “I will de stroy thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.” But others are mercifully disappointed; when God famishes their false confidences, it is a plague even
for a man to prosper in them, and a mercy to be starved out of them, and to be brought down by despair and disappointment.
4. The fourth step I mention is resolution : the soul now resolves through grace, to quit hold of all these lofty to-looks, and to come down and take hold of Christ alone, saying with the prodigal, when he came to bimself, “ I will arise, and go to my father,” Luke xv. 18.
If he had not been starved, but had got bread enough abroad, he would not have risen up to go to his father's house. Thus when the Lord hedges up our way with thorns, that we may not find our paths, then we come to say, "I will go and return to my first Husband,” Hos. ii. 6,7. Indeed, none would coine to thisresolution, if the Lord did not blast their vain confidences so as to make them ashamed of them; - Thou shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria ; yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head,” Jer. ii. 36, 37. This resolution to come down to Christ, though it be the best, yet it is the last shift that men take; see the disposition of man naturally, Hos. vii. 11. " Ephraim is like a silly dove, with out heart : they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria. The dove's young are taken from it every two months ; and yet, like a silly bird, as it is, it builds in the same place, where it was deprived of its young, never remembering it will be robbed again and again, even as oft as it builds there : just so do mep build their residence, where they cannot but be still bereaved till God bring them to put in practice this resolution to come down and build low, upon the sure foundation. This leads me to the next thing here ; as by these, and the like steps, they come down : so,
2dly, To what place or position do they coine down? I shall here but name these four things they come down to, when they answer the gospel-call; 6 Come down, Zaccheus.”
1. They come down to self-denial, Mat. vi. 24. “ If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, says Christ. Self must be abased, and Christ exalted; the soul that comes down to Christ, is brought to self