The distressed soul, being, truly humbled, takes notice of the beauty of holiness and the image of God stamped on the hearts of his children…
…and of all those precious promises which God hath made to all that are his; now the soul seeing these, begins thus to reason with itself, and saith, “surely if I were so holy and so gracious, then I might have hope to receive the pardon of my sins: or were my heart so perfect to perform Christian duties, and could my heart be so carried with power against my corruptions, to master them, then there would be some hope. But when I have no power against sin, nor a heart to seek timely for Christ, how dare I think that any mercy belongs to me, having so many problems?”
Thus they dare not come to the promise; and they will not venture upon it, because they have not that commitment to duties, and that power against corruption which sometimes the saints of God have. The Lord looks for no power or sufficiency from you, of yourselves; nor of yourselves any power against corruption, or commitment to duties. If you will be content that Christ shall take all from you, and use you and for his will; then take the Saviour, and you will have him.
But the poor soul says, if I go and I am wrong, how shall I know that I do not presume, and how shall I know that I have a true title to the promise?
I answer: there is no better argument in the world to prove that thou hast an interest in Christ, than this, which is your taking of the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour wholly, and as an husband only, John 1, 12. As many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. He does not say, to as many as had such commitment to duties, and such powers against corruption; but if you will take Christ upon those terms on which he offers himself. There is no better argument under heaven than that, to prove you have a title to the promise.
Indeed there is a desperate despair that often seizes upon the hearts of distressed sinners.
Therefore, though the sinner looks upon the excellency of Christ and of grace, he then looks upon his own insufficiencies whatever they are, and they make him not willing to venture forward upon the promise; he is looking altogether too much upon his own sinfulness and worthlessness. Why? Because he views the number of his sins so many and vile, and the continuance of them so long, and durable; and he sees the floods of abominations coming in so great upon his soul, with Satan to boot,(who helps him forward in his fears) therefore he dares not make a start out unto Christ.
And thus the soul is always poring, and always too focused upon his corruptions; ever stirring the sore, without ever going to the physician. Here note, that a man is kept just as well from looking to Christ because of despair, as he is by presumption. Before he sees his sins, he thinks his condition is good, and that he hath a sufficiency of his own, and needs not go to Christ, and when he sees his sin, then he beholds so much vileness in himself, that he dares not go to Christ, lest when he come before him, Christ sends him down to that ever-burning lake of fire and brimstone. Herein the devil is very subtle: but this does not hinder our title to Christ; neither ought it to discourage us from laying hold on salvation.
The fault therefore is your own, because you rest in your own performance and in the power that you understand…
…and you do not go to God. For, did a man depend upon God’s power and mercy in his grace, he would always find proportionate help. God sometimes gives,and sometimes delays to give. But God’s love is as constant when he gives not, as when he gives. Therefore labour to quit all carnal confidence in holy duties. Rest not in thine own performances, but look beyond all duties to God in Christ, and desire him to give you the success.
Many a man makes his services his saviours; for, he makes them to bear up his conscience. His grounds is this: he finds and feels by woeful experience what the fruits of sin are: he sees the venom of his corruptions, and the lamentable effects of all his sinful practices. He thought it before a fine thing to swear, and lie, and drink, and follow base company; but now they are gravel to his heart, and gall to his soul. His conscience flieth in his face, and he is ready to sink down to hell under the burden of his mis-ordered life. Conscience saith, “these be thy sins, and these will be thy damnation: they have been thy delight, but they will prove thy shame and confusion in the end; and shortly thou shalt find the smart of them: to hell therefore, be packing, and gone.”
Now this man hath no other cure for his conscience in such a case, but this; he entreats conscience to be quiet. He confesses he has lived in base courses, and his condition to be very miserable; but now he will reform all. He has neglected prayer before this, but now he will pray. He hath hated God’s servants, but now he will love them. His ways have been exceeding evil, but now he will reform them, and now he will turn over a new leaf. This he says, and this he thinks will serve his turn. And thus many poor souls use the means as mediators, and so fall short of Christ.
But a gracious heart does not only pray, and hear, and receive, and use all possible means to obtain Christ, but is restless and unsatisfied till he enjoys and possesses Christ. He rests not upon the bare performance of any duty, neither does he think that by the virtue of any such his endeavours he shall get to Christ. But when the infinite power of the Lord is considered, as able to overpower all his sins, this lifteth up the heart in some expectation that the Lord will show mercy to a man; though it is a hard thing to hope,when the soul is thus troubled.
“Can this heart be broken? Can these sins be pardoned? Can this soul be saved?”
Now comes in the power of God: God can pardon them. Never measure the power of God by that shallow conceit of thine. All things are possible to God, though not to men. And as it is said of Abraham, he hoped above hope; he looked to the Lord that was able to do what he had promised: he considered not that he had a dead body, but that he had a living God to hope on.
Justice cannot be so severe to revenge thee, as mercy is gracious to do good unto thee.
If thy sins be never so many, God’s justice never so great; yet mercy is above all thy sins, above all thy rebellions. This may support thy soul. So here you have the first ground to stir up hope; thy sins are pardonable. There is more power in God to show mercy to you, than power in sin to destroy you. The Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. It was the scope of his coming.
Now says the broken and humble sinner, “I am lost. Did Christ come to save sinners ? Then Christ must fail of his end, or I of my comfort. God says, come to me all ye that are weary and heavy laden: I am weary: unless the Lord intended good to me, why did he invite me, and bid me come? Surely he means to show mercy to me.”