CHAP.  9.

By what marks true Desires of Grace in us may be known.


BEFORE I come to the use of this comfortable point, lest any deceive themselves about it, as the notorious sinner, the mere civil man, and the formal professor may all do very easily, take notice of some marks of this saving desire. It is—

1. Supernatural; for it follows an effectual conviction of sin and co-operation of the spirit of bondage with the preaching and power of the law; for a thorough casting a man down in the sight of the Lord, showing and convincing him to be a sink of sin, abomination, and curse; to be quite undone, lost, and ruined in himself (which preparative work, precedent to the desire I speak of, is itself above nature); whereupon the soul thus enlightened, convinced, and terrified, being happily led unto and looking upon the glorious mystery of the gospel, the excellency and offer of Jesus Christ, the sweetness and freeness of the promises, the heavenly splendour arid riches of “the pearl of great price,” doth conceive by the help of the Holy Ghost this desire and vehement longing, which you may then know to be saving, when it is joined with a hearty willingness and unfeigned resolution to sell all, to part with all sin, and to bid adieu for ever to our darling delight. It is not then an effect only of self-love, not an ordinary wish of natural appetite, like Balsam's (Numb. xxiii, 10); of those who desire to be happy, but are unwilling to be holy; who would gladly be saved, but are loath to be sanctified.

2. It ever springs from a humble, meek, and bruised spirit; very sensible, both of the horror of sin and happiness of pardon; both of its own emptiness and of the fulness in Christ; never to be found in the affections of a self-ignorant, self-confident, unhumbled pharisee.

3. It must be constant, importunately greedy after supply and satisfaction. Not out of a pang or passion only, or begot by the tempest of some present extremity, like a flash of lightning, and then quite vanishing away when the storm of terror and tempation is over. For if a sincere thirst after Christ be once on foot, and takes root in a heart truly humbled, it never determines or expires in this life or the life to come.

4. It is ever linked and enlivened with a continued and conscientious use and exercise of the means; and draws [[272]] from them, by little and little, spiritual strength and vigour, much vital efficacy and increase. Not idle, ignorant, un-exercised. It were very vain and absurd to hear a man talk of his desire to live, and yet would neither eat nor drink, nor sleep, nor exercise, nor take physic, nor use those means which are ordinary and necessary for the maintenance of life. It is as fruitless and foolish for anyone to pretend a desire of grace after Christ, and to be, saved, and yet will not prize and use the faithful ministry, the word preached and read, prayer, meditation, conference, vows, days of humiliation, the use of good company and good books, and all divine ordinances and blessed means appointed and sanctified by God for the procuring and preserving a good spiritual state.

5. It is not a lazy, cold, heartless, indifferent desire, but earnest, eager, vehement, extremely thirsting, as the parched earth for refreshing showers, or the hunted hart for the water-brooks. Never was Ahab more sick for a vineyard; Rachel more ready to die for children; Sisera or Sampson for thirst, than a truly humbled soul after Jesus Christ, after bathing in his blood and hiding itself in his blessed righteousness. This desire deadens the heart to all other desires after earthly things, gold, good-fellowship, pleasures, fashions, even the delights of the bosom sin. All other things are but dross and dung, vanity and vile in respect of that object it bath now found out and affects. As Aaron's rod, managed miraculously by the hand of Divine power, swallowed up all the other rods of Pharaoh's sorcerers, so this spiritual desire, planted in the heart by the Holy Ghost, eats up and devours all other desires and over-eager affections after worldly contentments, as worthless, vain, transitory; as empty clouds, wells without water, comforters of no value. We that deal with afflicted consciences hear many times some expressions of this impatient, violent desire in troubled minds. “I have borne nine children,” said one, “with as great pain I think as other women. I would with all my heart bear them over again, and pass again through the same intolerable pangs every day, as long as I live, to be assured of my part in Jesus Christ.” Complaining another time that she had no hold of Christ, it was said unto her: But doth not your heart desire and long after him! “Oh!” says she, “I have a husband and children, and many other comforts; I would give them all, and all the good I shall ever see in this world or in the world to come, to have my poor thirsty soul refreshed with that precious blood of his.”

6. It is .growing from appetite to endeavour, from [[273]] endeavour to action; from action to habit; from habit to some comfortable perfection and stature in Christ. If it be quite quenched and extinguished when the spiritual anguish and agony is over, or stand at a stay, never transcending the nature of a naked wish, it is to be reputed rootless, heartless, graceless. There are Christians that lie as yet, as it were, struggling in the womb of the church, who, for a time at the least, live spiritually only by grievings and groans, by hearty desires, eager longings, and affectionate stirrings of spirit: there are also babes in Christ; young men in Christ; strong men in Christ; old Christians. A perpetual infancy argues a nullity of sound and saving Christianity. The child that never passeth the stature and state of an infant will prove a monster. Ile that grows not by the sincere milk of the word is a true changeling, not truly changed. lie that rests with contentment upon a desire only of good things, never desired them savingly. But here, lest any tender conscience be unnecessarily troubled,

I must confess, it is not so growing as I have said, or not so sensibly, at certain times—as while the pangs of the new-birth are upon us, in times of desertion, temptation, though even then it grows in a holy impatiency, restlessness, and longing, which is well-pleasing unto the Father of mercies, and which he accepts graciously until he give more strength.