And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee. The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. ~ Exodus 15:26, Zephaniah 3:17
I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.
~ Isaiah 57:18, Jeremiah 3:22
But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. ~ Psalm 78:38, Isaiah 12:1
Hosea 14:4, by Edward Reynolds. The following is written in old English.
Verse. 4. I will heale their back-sliding, I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned away from him.
In the former words we have considered both Israels Petition in time of trouble,* and the Promise and Covenant which thereupon they binde them∣selves in. In these and the consequent words unto the end of the 8. verse, we have the gracious answer of God to both, promising •oth in his free love to grant their petition, and by his fr•e grace to enable them unto the performance of the Covenant which they had made.
The Petition consisted of two parts. 1. That God would take away all iniquity. 2 That he would doe them good, or receive them graciously. To both these God giveth them a full and a gracious answer. 1. That he will take away all iniquitie by Healing their back-sliding. 2 That he would doe them good, and heape all manner of blessings upon them, which are expressed by the various metaphors of fruitfulnesse; opposite to the contrary expressions of judgement in former parts of the prophecie.
I will heale their back sliding.] This is one of the names by which God is pleased to make him∣sele knowne unto his people, I am the Lord that healeth thee, Exod. 15.26. and, returne O Back-sliding children, and I will heale your back-slidings, Jer. 3.22.
Now God Healeth sin four manner of waies.
First, By a gratious Pardon, burying, covering, not imputing them unto us. So it seems to be ex∣pounded, Psal. 103.3. and that which is called Healing in one place, is called forgivenesse in another, if we compare Mat. 13.15. with Mark 4.12.
Secondly, by a spirituall and effectuall Reformation, purging the conscience from dead workes, making it strong and able to serve God in new obedience; for that which Health is to the body, Holinesse is to the soul. Therefore the Sun of righteousnesse is said to a•ise with Healing in his wings, Mal. 4.2. whereby we are to understand the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit conveying the vertue of the blood of Christ unto the conscience, even as the beames of the Sunne doe the heat and influence thereof unto the earth, thereby calling out the herbs and flowers, and healing those deformities which winter had brought upon it.
Thirdly, by removing and withdrawing of judgements, which the sinnes of a people had brought like wounds or sicknesses upon them. So Healing is opposed to smiting and wounding, Deut. 32.39. Iob 5.18. Hos. 6.1, 2. Ier. 33.5, 6.
Fourthly, by comforting against the anguish and distresse which sinne is apt to bring upon the con∣science. For as in Physick there are Purgatives to cleanse away corrupt humours, so there are Cordials likewise to strengthen & refresh weak and dejected Patients; and this is one of Christs principal workes to binde and heale the broken in heart, to re∣store comforts unto mourners, to set at liberty them that are bruised, and to have mercy upon those whose bones are vexed, Psal. 147, 3. Isai. 57.18, 19. Luke 4.18. Psal. 6.2, 3. I am not willing to shut any of these out of the meaning of the Text.
First, because it is an answer to that rayer, Take away All iniquity. The All that is in it, The Guilt, the staine, the power, the punishment, the an∣guish, whatever evil it is apt to bring upon the con∣science, Let it not doe us any hurt at all.
Secondly, because Gods works are perfect; where he forgives sinne, he removes it, where he convinceth of righteousnesse, unto pardon of sinne, he convinceth also of judgement, unto the casting out of the prince of this world, and bringeth forth that judgement unto victory, Matth. 12.20.
Their Back-sliding] Their praier was against All iniquity, and God in his answer thereunto singleth out one kinde of iniquity, but one of the greatest, by name. And that first, to teach them and us, when we pray against sinne, not to content our selves with generalities, but to bewaile our great and speciall sinnes by name, those specially that have been most comprehensive, and the Semina∣ries of many others.
Secondly, to comfort them; for if God pardon by name the greatest sinne, then surely none of the rest will stand in the way of his mercy; if he par∣don the Talents, we need not doubt but he will pardon the pence too. Paul was guilty of many other sinnes, but when he will magnifie the grace of Christ, he makes mention of his great sinnes, A blasphemer, a persecutor, injurious; and comforts himselfe in the mercy which he had obtained against them, 1 Tim. 1.13.
*Thirdly, to intimate the great guilt of Apastacie and rebellion against God. After we have known him and tasted of his mercy, and given up our selves unto his service, and come out of Egypt and Sodome, then to looke back againe, and to be false in his Covenant, this God lookes on, not as a single sinne, but as a compound of all sinnes. When a man turnes from God, he doth as it were resume and take home upon his conscience All the sinnes of his life again.
Fourthly, to proportion his answer to their re∣pentance. They confesse their Apostasie, they had been in Covenant with God, they confesse he was their first husband, Hos. 2 7. and they forsooke him, and sought to Horses, to Men, to Idols, to vanitie and lies: this is the sin they chiefly bewaile: and therefore this is the sinne which God chiefly singles out to pardon and to heale them of. This is the great goodnesse of God toward those that pray in sincerity,* that he fits his mercy ad Cardinem desiderii, answers them in the maine of their desires, lets it be unto them even as they will.
I will love them freely.] This is set downe as the fountaine of that Remission, Sanctification and Comfort which is here promised. It comes not from our Conversion unto God, but from Gods free love and grace unto us. And this is added, first to Humble them, that they should not ascribe any thing to themselves, their Repentance, their prayers, their covenants and promises, as if these had been the means to procure mercie for them, or as if there were any objective grounds of lovelines in them to stirre up the love of God towards them. It is not for their sake that he doth it, but for his own, The Lord sets his love upon them because he loved them. Deut. 7.7, 8. not for your sakes doe I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you. Ezek. 36.22.32. He will have mercy because he will have mercy. Rom. 9.15.
Secondly, To support them, above the guilt of their greatest sinnes. Men think nothing more easie while they live in sinne, and are not affected with the weight and hainousnesse of it, then to be∣leeve mercie and pardon. But when the soule in conversion unto God, feeles the heavie burden of some great sinnes, when it considers its rebellion, and Apostacie, and backesliding from God, It will then be very apt to think God will not for∣give nor heale so great wickednesse as this; There is a naturall Novatianisme in the timerous conscience of convinced sinners, to doubt and question pardon for sinnes of Apostacie and falling after repentance. Therefore in this case God takes a penitent off from the consideration of himself by his own thoughts, unto the height and excellencie of his Thoughts who knowes how to pardon abundantly, Isay. 55.7, 8, 9. Ier. 29.11. Ezek. 37.3. Nothing is too hard for love especially free-love, that hath no foundation or inducement from without it self.
And because we reade before Hos. 8.5. That Gods Anger was kindled against them, therefore he here adds that this also should be turned away from them.*Anger will consist with love; we finde God Angrie with Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam, and Asa; and he doth sometimes visit with rodds and scourges, where he doth not utterly take away his love∣ing kindenesse from a people. Psal. 89.32.33. A man may be angrie with his wife, or childe, or friend, whom he yet dearly loveth. And God is said to be thus Angry with his people, when the effects of displeasure are discovered towards them. Now up∣on their Repentance and Conversion, God promiseth not onely to love them freely, but to clear up his Countenance towards them, to make them by the Removall of Judgements to see and know the ftuits of his free love and bounty unto them. When David called Absolom home from banishment, this was an effect of love; but when he said, let him not see my face, this was the continuation of Anger; but at last when he admitted him into his presence and kissed him, here that Anger was turned away from him too. 2 Sam. 220.127.116.11.
*These words then containe Gods mercifull an∣swer to the first part of Israels prayer for the Ta∣king away of all Iniquity which had beene the fountaine of those sad Judgements under which they languished and pined away. Wherin there are two parts, 1. The Ground of Gods answer, His free love. 2. A double fruit of that love. 1. In Healing their Backsliding, In removing his Anger and heavie Iudgements from them. We will breifly handle them in the order of the Text.
I will Heale their Backsliding.] When Gods people do returne unto him, and pray against sin, then God out of his free love doth heale them of it. First, he teacheth them what to aske, and then he tells them what he will give. Thus we finde Conversion and Healing joyned together, Isai. 6.10. They shall returne even to the Lord, and he shall be in∣treated of them, and shall heale them, Isai. 19.22. Return, Backsliding children, I will Heal your Backslidings, Ier. 3.22. a Men if they be injured and provoked by those whom they have in their power to undoe, though they returne, and cry peccavi, and are ready to aske forgivenesse, yet many times out of pride and revenge, will take their time and op∣portunity to repay the wrong. But God doth not so; His Pardons, as all his other Gifts, are without exprobrat•on; as soon as ever his servants come back unto him with teares and confession, he looks not upon them with scorn, but with joy; his mer∣cy makes more haste to embrace them, then their repentance to returne unto him, Luke 15.20. then out comes the wine, the oyle, the balme, the cor∣dials; then the wounds of a Saviour doe as it were bleed afresh to drop in mercy into the sores of such a Penitent. O though he be not a dutifull, not a pleasant childe; yet he is a childe; though I spake against him, yet I remember him still, my bow∣els are troubled for him, I will surely have mercy upon him, Jer. 31.20. The Lord greatly com∣plaines of the inclination of his people to back∣sliding, and yet he cannot finde in his heart to de∣stroy them, but expresseth a kinde of aConflict betweene Iustice and Mercy; and at last resolves, I am God and not man; I can as well heale their backsliding by my Love, as revenge it by my ju∣stice; therefore I will not execute the fiercenesse of mine anger, but I will cause them to walk after the Lord, Hos. 11.7.10. Yea, so mercifull he is, that even upon an hypocriticall conversion, when his peo∣ple did but flatter and lie unto him, and their heart was not right towards him, nor they stedfast in his covenant, yet the Text saith, he being full of compassion forgave their iniquity (not as to the ju∣stification of their persons, for that is never without faith unfained, but so farre as to the mitigation of their punishment, that he destroyed them not, nor stirred up all his wrath against them, Psal. 78.34.35.) for so that place is to be expounded, as appeareth by the like parallel place, Ezek. 20 17. Neverthelesse, mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wil∣dernesse.
Now the Metaphoricall word both here, and so often elsewhere used in this argument, leadeth us to looke upon sinners as Patients, and upon God as a Physician. By which two considerations we shall finde the exceeding mercy of God in the pardon and purging away of sinne set forth un∣to us.
Healing then is a Relative word, and leades us first to the consideration of a Patient who is to be healed, and that is here a grievous sinner fallen into a Relapse. Healing is of two sorts. The healing of a sicnesse by a Physician; the healing of a wound by a Chirurgian. And Sinne is both a sicknesse, and a wound. The whole head sick, the whole Heart faint, from the soale of the foot, even unto the Head, there is no soundnesse in it, but wounds and bruises, and putrifying sores Isai. 1.5.6. A sicknesse that wants healing, a wound that wants binding, Ezek. 34.4. A sick sinner that wants a Physician to call to repentance, Matth. 9.12, 13. A wounded sinner, that wants a Samaritan (so the Iewes called Christ Iohn 8.48.) to binde up and poure in wine and oyle, Luek 10.34.
Diseases are of severall sorts, but those of all other most dangerous that are in the vitall parts, as all the diseases of sinne are, and from thence spread themselves over the whole man. Igno∣rance, pride, carnall principles, corrupt judgement, diseases of the Head. Hardnesse, stubbornesse, Atheisme, Rebellion, diseases of the Heart: Lust, a dart in the Liver; Corrupt communication the effect of putrified lungs: Gluttony and drunken∣nesse the swellings and dropsies of the belly: despaire and horrour the griefe of the bowels: Apo∣stacie a Recidivation or Relapse into all. An Eare that cannot heare God speake, Ier. 6.10. An Eye quite dawbed up, that cannot see him strike, Ier. 44.18. Isai. 26.11. A palate out of taste, that cannot savour nor relish heavenly things, Rom. 8.5. Lips poisoned, Rom. 3.13. A Tongue set on fire, Iam. 3.6. Flesh consumed, bones stick∣ing out, sore vexed and broken to pieces Iob 33.21. Psal. 6.2. & 51.8. Some diseases are dull, others acute; some stupifying, others tormenting. Sinne is All. A stupifying palsie, that takes away feel∣ing Ephes 4.19. A pl•gu• in the Heart, which sets all on fire. 1 King. 8.38. Hos. 7.4.
*Let us consider a little the proper passions and effects of most diseases, and see how they suite to sinne.
First, Paine and distemper. This, first or last is in All sinne; for it begets in wicked and impenitent men the apain of guilt, horrour, trembling of heart, anguish of conscience, fear of wrath, expectation of judgement, and fiery indignation, as in Cain, Pharaoh, Ahab, Felix, and divers others, Gen. 4.13.14. Exod. 9.27.28. 1 King. 21.27. Acts 24.25. Isai. 33.14. Hebr. 2.15. Rom. 8 15. Hebr. 10.27. And in Penitent men it begets b the pain of shame, and sorrow, and inquietude of spirit, a wound in the spirit, a prick in the very heart, Rom. 6.21. Ezek. 16.61. 2 Cor. 7.10. Prov. 18.14. Acts 2.37. Penitency and Paine are words of one derivation, and are very neare of kin unto one another. Never was any wound cu∣red without paine, never any sinne healed without sorrow.
Secondly, weaknesse and Indisposednesse to the Actions of life. Sinne is like an unruly spleen, or a greedy wenne in the body that sucks all nourish∣ment, & converts all supplies into its own growth, and so exhausts the strength and vigor of the soul, making it unfit and unable to do any good. When ever it sets about any duty, till sinne be cured, it goes about it like an arm out of ioynt, which when you would move it one way,a doth fall back an∣other. It faints, and flaggs, and is not able to put sorth any skill, or any delight unto any good duty. Naturally men are Reprobate or void of Iudgement unto any good work. Tit. 1.16. Godlinesse is a mystery▪ a spirituall skill & trade; there is learning, and use, and experience, and much exercise required to be handsome and dextrous about it. Tim. 3.16. Phil. 4.11. Heb. 5.13-14. To be sinners and to be without strength, in the Apostles phrase, is all one. Rom. 5.6.8. And look how much flesh there is in any man, so much disability is there to performe any thing that is good. Rom. 7.18. Therefore the hands of sinners are said to hang downe, and their knees to be feeble, and their feete to be lame, that cannot make straight pathes till they be healed. Heb. 12.12, 13. If they at any time upon naturall dictates, or some suddaine strong conviction, or pang of feare, or stirrings of conscience, doe offer at any good worke, to pray, to repent, to beleeve, to obey, they bungle at it, and are out of their element; They are wise to doe evill, but doe good they have no knowledge: They presently grow wearie of any essaies and offers at well doing, and can∣not hold out or persevere in them.
Thirdly, Decay and consumption. Sinne wasts and wears out the vigour of soule and body, feedes upon all our time, and strength, and exhausts it in the services of lust. Sicknes is a chargeable thing, a consumption at once to the Person and to the E∣state. The poore woman in the Gospel which had an issue of blood, spent all that she had on Physicians, and was never the better: Luke 8.43. So poore sinners emptie all the powers of soule, of body, of time, of estate, every thing within their reach, upon their lusts, and are as unsatisfied at last as at the first, Eccles. 1.8. Like a Silke-worme which workes out his bowels into such a masse wherein himself is buried. It wearieth them out, and suck∣eth away the Radicall strength in the service of it, and yet never giveth them over, but as Pharaohs taskmasters exacted the brick when they had taken away the straw; so lust doth consume and weaken naturall strength, in the obedience of it: and yet when nature is exhausted, the strength of lust is as great, and the Commands as tyrannous as ever be∣fore. Isa 57.10. Ier. 2.25. We are to distinguish betweene the vitall force of the faculties, and the Activity of lust which sets them on work; that de∣cayes and hastens to death, but sinne retaines its strength and vigour still; nothing kills that but the bloud of Christ; & the decay of nature ariseth out of the strength of sinne; the more any man in any lust whatsoever, makes himselfe a servant of sinne, and the more busie and active he is in that service: the more will it eate into him and consume him, as the hotter the feaver is, the sooner is the body wasted and dried up by it.
Fourthly, Deformity. Sicknesse withereth the beauty of the body, maketh it of a glorious a ghastly and loathsome spectacle. Come to the comliest person living after a long and pining sicknesse, and you will not finde the man in his owne shape; a wan countenance, a shriveled flesh, a leane visage, a hollow and standing eye, a trem∣bling hand, a stammering tongue, abowed backe, a feeble knee a swelled belly: nothing left but the akes of the hedge, and a few finewes to hold them together. Behold here the picture of a sinner,*swel∣led with pride, pined with envie, bowed with earth∣lines wasted and eaten up with lust, made as stink∣ing and unsavoury as a dead Carcasse. Psal. 14.3. Ezek. 16.4. When thou seest an unmercifull man, that hath no compassion left in him, thinke thou sawest Iudas or King Iehoram, whose sore disease made his bowels fall out. 2. Chron. 21.19. When thou seest a worldly man whose heart is glu∣ed to earthly things, think upon the poore woman who was bowed together and could not lift up her selfe. Luke 13.11. When thou seest an Hypocrite walking crooked and unevenly in the wayes of God, think upon Mephibosheth or Asa, lame, halting, diseased in their feet. When thou seest a proud ambitious man, thinke upon Herod eat∣en up with vermine. O if the diseases of the soule could come forth & shew themselves in the body, and work such deformity there (where it would not doe the thousandth part so much hurt) as they doe within: if a man could in the glasse of the word see the uglinesse of the one, as plainly as in a materiall glasse the foulnesse of the other, how would this make him crie out, my head, my head: my bowels, my bowels: my leannesse, my leannesse: unclean, unclean? No man thinks any shape ugly enough to represent a divell by; yet take him in his naturals, and he was a most glorious Creature: it is sinne that turns him into a Serpent or Dragon. There is something of the monster in every sinne; the belly or the feet set in the place of the head or heart; sensuall and worldly lusts set up above Rea∣son, and corrupt Reason above Grace.
Now because the sicknesse here spoken of is a falling sicknes, and that the worst kinde of Fall not forward in our way or race, as every good man sometimes falls, where a man hath the help of his knees and hands to break the blow, to prevent or lessen the hurt, and to make him to rise againe; but old Elies fall, a falling backward, where a man can put forth no part to save the whole, and so doth more dangerously breake and bruise himselfe thereby:* Therefore as it is a sicknes which requires curing, so it is a wound which requires healing and binding. The Ancients compare it to falling into a pit full of dirt and s•ones: where a man doth not onely defile, but miserably breake and bruise him∣selfe. There is contritio, solutio continui, suppuratio, sanies &c. All the evils of a dangerous and mortall wound.
Adde to all this, That in this diseased and wounded condition, 1 A man hath no power to heale or to helpe himselfe, but in that respect he must cry out with them in the prophet, My wound is incurable and refuseth to be healed, Jer. 15.18.
Secondly, he hath no desire, no will,* no thought to enquire or send after a Physician who may heal him: but is well contented rather to continue as he is, then to be put to the paine and trouble of a cure, and pleaseth himself in the goodnesse of his owne condition, Rev. 3.17, Matth. 9.12.
Thirdly, He is in the hands of his cruell enemy, who takes no pity on him, but by flattery and tyranny, and new temptations, continually cherisheth the disease, 2 Tim. 2.26.
Fourthly, when the true Physician comes, he shuts the door against him, refuseth his counsell, rejecteth his receipts, quarrels with his medicines; they are too bitter, or too strong and purging; or too sharp and searching; he will not be healed at all except it may be his own way, Prov. 1.24, 25. 2 Chron. 36.16. Ezek. 24.13. Matth. 23.37. Ier. 13.11. Thus we have taken a view of the Patient, Sick, weake, pained, consumed, deformed, wounded, and sore bruised: without power or help at home, without friends abroad: no sense of danger, no desire of change: patient of his disease, impatient of his cure: but one meanes in the world to helpe him, and he unable to procure it; and being offered to him, unwilling to entertaine it; who can expect after all this, but to hear the knell ring, and to see the grave opened for such a sick person as this?
Now let us take a view of the Physician. Surely an ordinary one would be so farre from visiting such a Patient, that in so desperate a condition as this, he would quite forsake him: As their use is to leave their Patients when they lie a dying. Here then observe the singular goodnesse of this physician.
First, though other Physicians judge of the dis∣ease when it is brought unto them, yet the Patient first feels it and complaines of it himselfe; but this Physician giveth the Patient the very feeling of his disease, and is faine to take notice of that as well as to minister the cure. He went on frowardly in the way of his heart, saith the Lord, and pleased himself in his owne ill condition, I have seene his way, and will heale him, Isay. 57, 17.18.
Secondly, other Patients send for the Physici∣an, and use many intreaties to be visited and undertaken by him. Here the Physician comes un∣sent for, and intreates the sick person to be healed. The world is undone by falling off from God, and yet God is the first that begins the reconciliation; and the stick of it is in the world, and not in him: and therefore there is a great Emphasis in the Apostles expression, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not himself unto the world; He intreats us to be reconciled, 2 Cor. 5.19.20. He is found of them that sought him not, Isai. 65.1. and his office is not onely to save, but to seeke that which was lost.
Thirdly, other Physicians are well used, and entertained with respect and honour: but our Pat∣ent here neglects and misuseth his Physician, falls from him, betakes himself unto Mountebanks and Physicians of no value; yet he insists on his mercy, and comes when he is forsaken, when he is repel∣led.
I have spread out my hands all the day unto a Rebellious people, Isai. 65.2.
Fourthly, other Physicians have usually ample and honourable rewards for the attendance they give; but this Physician comes onely out of love,*heales freely, nay is bountifull to his Patient, doth not onely heale him, but bestows gifts upon him gives the visit, gives the physick, sends the ministers and servants who watch & keep the Patient.
Lastly, other Physicians prescribe a bitter potion for the sick person to take; this Physician drinketh of the bitterest himself; others prescribe the sore to be launced, this Physician is wounded and smitten himself: others order the Patient to bleed, here the physician bleeds himselfe: yea he is not onely the Physician but the Physick, and gives himselfe, his own flesh, his own blood, for a purgative, a cordiall, a plaister to the soul of his Patient; Dies himselfe, that his Patient may live, and by his stripes we are healed, Isai. 53.5.
We should from all this learne, First, to ad∣mire the unsearchable Riches of the mercy of our God, who is pleased in our misery to prevent us with goodnesse, and when we neither felt our dis∣ease, nor desired a remedy, is pleased to convince us of our sinnes, Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity; To invite us to repentance, O Israel returne unto the Lord thy God: To put words into our mouth, and to draw our petition for us, Take with you words, and say unto him, take away all iniquity, &c. To furnish us with arguments, we are fatherlesse, thou art mercifull: To incourage us with promises, I will heale, I will love; To give us his Ministers to proclaime, and his Spirit to apply these mercies unto us. If he did not convince us that iniquity would be a down∣fall and a ruine unto us, Ezek. 18.30. we should hold it fast, and be pleased with our disease, like a mad man that quarrels with his cure, and had ra∣ther continue mad then be healed, Joh. 3.19, 20, 21.
If being convinced, he did not invite us to repentance, we should run away from him as Adam did. No man loves to be in the company of an Enemy, much lesse when that enemy is a Iudge. They have turned their back unto me, and not their face, Jer. 2.27, Adam will hide himselfe from the presence of the Lord, Gen. 3.8. and Cain will goe out from the presence of the Lord, Gen. 4.16. Guilt can∣not looke upon Majestie; stubble dares not come neere the fire; If we be in our sins we cannot stand before God, Ezra 9.15.
If being invited, he did not put words into our mouthes, we should not know what to say unto him. We know not wherwith to come before the Lord, or to bow before the high God, if he do not shew us what is good. Mic. 6.6, 8. Where God is the Judge (who cannot be mocked or deceived, who knoweth all things; and if our heart condemne us, he is greater then our heart, and where ever we hide, can finde us out, and make our sinne to finde us too. Gal. 6.7. 1 Iohn 3.20. Num. 32.23.) where I say this God is the Judge, there guilt stoppeth the mouth, & maketh the sinner speechlesse. Matth. 22.12. Rom. 3.19. Nay the best of us know not what to pray as we ought, except the Spirit be pleased to help our infirmities. Rom. 8.26. When we are taught what to say, If God do not withdraw his anger, we shall never be able to reason with him. Iob. 9.13, 14. Withdraw thine hand from me, let not thy dread make me afraide, then I will answer, then I will speak. Job. 13.21, 22. If he doe not re∣veal mercie, if he doe not promise love or healing; if he do not make it appeare that he is a God that heareth prayers, flesh will not dare to come neere unto him. 2. Sam. 7.27. We can never pray, till we can cry Abba father; we can never call unto him but in the multitude of his mercies. As the earth is shut and bound up by frost and cold, and putteth not forth her pretious fruits till the warmth and heat of the Summer call them out: so the heart under the cold affections of feare and guilt, under the darke apprehensions of wrath and judgement, is so contracted that it knows not to draw neere to God; but when mercie shines, when the love of God is shed abroade in it, then also is the heart it selfe shed abroade and enlarged to powre out it self unto God. Even when distressed sinners pray, their prayer proceeds from apprehensions of mercy; for prayer is the childe of faith. Rom. 10.14. and the object of faith is mercy.
Secondly, The way to prize this mercie is to grow acquainted with our own sicknesse; to see our face in the glasse of the law: to consider how odi∣ous it renders us to God: how desperately miserable in our selves. The deeper the sense of misery, the higher the estimation of mercy. When the Apostle looked on himselfe as the cheif of sinners▪ then he accounted it a saying worthy of all Acceptation that Christ Iesus came into the world to save sinners. 1. Tim. 1.15. Till we be sicke and weary, we shall not looke after a Physician to heale and ease us. Matth. 9.12.11, 28. till we be pricked in our hearts, we shall not be hasty to enquire after the means of Salvation. Acts 2.37. Though the proclamation of par∣don be made to All, that will, Revel. 22.17. Yet none are willing till they be brought to extreami∣ties: as men cast not their goods into the sea, till they see they must perish themselves if they doe not. Some men must be bound before they can be cured. All that God doth to us in conversion, he doth most freely: but a gift is not a gift till it be received. Rom. 5.17. Iohn 1.12 and we natu∣rally refuse and reject Christ when he is offered. Isay. 53.3. John 1.11. because he is not offered but upon these termes, that we deny our selves, and take up a Crosse, and follow him. Therefore we must be wrought upon by some terrour or other. 2 Cor. 5.11. When we finde the wrath of God abiding up∣on us, and our souls shut under it as in a prison, Iohn 3.36. Gal. 3.22. and the fire of it working and boyling like poison in our consciences, then we shal value mercie, and cry for it as the Prophet doth, Heale me O Lord, and I shall be healed, Save me, and I shall be saved, for thou art my prayse. Jer. 17.14. Things necessary are never valued to their uttermost but in extremities. When there is a great famine in Samaria, an Asses head (which at another time is thrown out for carrion) wil be more worth, then in a plentifull season the whole body of an Oxe. Nay hunger shal in such a case overvote nature, and devour the very tender love of a mother; the life of a childe shall not be so deare to the heart as his flesh to the belly of a pined parent, 2 King. 6, 25, 28. As soone as a man findes a shipwrack, a famine, a hell in his soul, till Christ save, feed, deliver it, immediately Christ will be the desire of that soule, and nothing in Heaven or earth valued in comparison of him. Then that which was esteemed the foolishnesse of preaching before, shall be counted the power of God, and the wisdom of God; then every one of Christs ordinances (which are the waters of the Temple, for the healing of the Sea, that is, of many people, Ezek. 47.8. and the Leaves of the Tree of Life, which are for the healing of the Nations, Re∣vel. 22.2. and the streames of that Fountaine which is opened in Israel for sin and for uncleannesse, Zach. 13.1. and the wings of the Sun of righteousnesse, where∣by he conveyeth healing to his Church, Mal. 3:2.) shall be esteemed, as indeed they are, the Riches, the Glory, the Treasure, the feast, the physick, the salvation of such a soule, Rom. 11.12. Ephes. 3.8. 2 Cor. 3.8.11. 2 Cor. 4.6.7. Isai. 25.6. Revel. 19.9. Luke 4.18. Hebr. 2.3. Iames 1.21. Iohn 12.50. Acts 28.28. And a man will waite on them with as much diligence and attention, as ever the impotent people did at the poole of Bethesda, when the Angel stirred the water; and endure the healing se∣verity of them, not onely with patience, but with love and thankfulnesse; suffer reason to be captivated, Wil to be crossed, high imaginations to be cast down, every thought to be subdued, conscience to be searched, heart to be purged, lust to be cut off and mortified; in all things will such a sick soul be contented to be dieted, restrained and ordered by the Counsell of this heavenly Physician.