I come now to treat of this spirit of bondage, and the workings of it; and, when I have so done, shall appeal to the experience of all real believers; and I verily think that, where the redoubtable Mr. Hector has one believer’s voice against it, I shall have an hundred for it, because I know that God’s saints are in the path of tribulation, where Hector never was. In discoursing on the operation of this spirit of bondage, I shall

1. Treat of the darkness that attends it.
2. Of servile or slavish fear.
3. Of narrowness and contraction.
4. Of wrath and sensible anger.
5. Of suspicion and cruel jealousy.
6. Of rebellion and discontent.
7. Of despondency and desperation.
8. Of sensible dryness and barrenness.
9. Of backwardness and reluctance to all good.
10. Of legal striving against sin and corruption.
11. And of the miserable success of such labour.

First, of darkness.

There is a darkness upon all mankind that may be felt, which man by sin has brought upon himself. “Darkness has covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.” Under this dismal gloom Satan carries on his cursed works, and supports his infernal kingdom in the hearts of the children of men. “He rules in the hearts of the disobedient.” And mankind, being habituated to this darkness, and loving the works of it, hate the light, and will not come to it, because it discovers and brings to light their evil deeds; flashes convictions of sin, and gives cutting reproofs and rebukes for it. “All things that are reproved are made manifest by the light which doth appear, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” Hence it is that “men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” And Satan, the enemy both of God and man labours hard to “blind the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them, and they should be saved.” Hence all mankind are blinded by sin, and utterly in the dark about the things that make for their peace. There is a covering spread over the heart, mind, and understanding, of all mankind, and a veil upon all nations; which veil is one of the dreadful effects of Adam’s fall, and which he himself soon felt after his dreadful apostasy. It is plain that a glorious light of knowledge was upon him in his primeval innocence; which appears by his knowledge of things, by the suitable names that he gave them, and by the knowledge he had of Eve, of her origin, and by the name that he gave her, and the reason he assigned for it. But this figure of him that was to come; this man thus made upright, sought out many inventions; this man in honour abideth not; he sinned; and his light and knowledge of God, and of good, left him; and a sad knowledge of evil found him. The veil of ignorance soon gathered upon him, insomuch that he thought he could hide his sin in his bosom, Job, xxxi. 33, and his shame from God by a leaf, and himself from his approaching, Judge by setting behind a tree. This veil hides the soul from God; and God’s just displeasure at sin has hid his blessed face from man. There is-and Adam felt it-a dreadful lour, a dark, an awful, a dismal cloud of just displeasure and holy indignation to be found and felt the broken law; it worketh wrath still. Just judgment, which came upon all men to condemnation; death, that reigned from Adam to Moses;” Adam’s expulsion from Eden; the flaming sword; his labour and toil in the sweat of his brow; the curse that fell upon the earth for man’s sin, and the dismal effects of it; the sufferings threatened to child-bearing women; the sad calamities that befell Adam’s family by Cain; are all sad proofs of the just displeasure and wrath of God at sin, “who hides his face, and who can behold him?” And this God let Israel know when he came to revive, to promulge, and to set before them, this covenant or law that Adam, and all in him, had violated and broken. “He made darkness his secret pavilion,” and not without a cause, nor yet without a meaning; and of this he informed Moses, who was a believer, who had found grace in his sight, and stood high in his favour, and was faithful before him to whom he had appeared, and with whom he had used the most unparalleled familiarity; and to whom he had never paid such a visit, in such terrible majesty, before. He therefore prepares him for it, by informing him of it, that he might not be discouraged at it, nor sink under it. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud,” Exod. xix. 9. “And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was ” Exod. xx. 21. This dark cloud was to represent God’s dreadful wrath at sin, and to let sinners know that he had hid his face from man on that account. The thunder, the lightning, the sound of the trumpet, the fire, the smoke, the trembling of the mount, and the worse “trembling of the camp, the death and destruction that was threatened to man or beast that should touch the mount,” were all so many indications of the wrath of God at the sins of men. No way is open here to the blessed face of God but by the glory of Moses’s face, and the light of God’s countenance, promised at the mercy seat; both which point out the better Mediator, and the better throne of grace, Christ Jesus. Hence we need not wonder why the Saviour, when his disciples entreated him, saying, “Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us,” gave them this answer – “Have I been so long with you, and hast thou not seen me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” God, as a Father, can never be seen in this world out of Christ. In the law he is not a Father, but a Master; a terrible Lawgiver, a just Judge, a sin-avenging God, a consuming fire; and “it is a fearful thing to fall into to the hands of the living God” in a broken law. In Christ he is well pleased, in Christ he has “reconciled the world unto himself;” and in the face of Christ he will ever shine, “who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.”

But the law, when reflected on the mind of man, is blackness and darkness; and the spirit of it is vindictive vengeance, and nothing else, which genders to bondage, and works wrath, fear, torment, jealousy, death, and eternal damnation. And, that we may know the difference of the one covenant from the other, the preciousness of the glorious gospel, and the invaluable worth of that “life and immortality brought to light” by it; that we may see and feel the need of Christ, and know how to prize him; that we may know the sad state of them that are out of him, and the blessed state of those that are in him; and be grateful to God for that free sovereign, and discriminating grace that has made us to differ. We are often exercised with the darkness of this mount, and it is a darkness that may be felt; and those professors that deny this, are in a worse darkness; for Satan keeps them ignorant of themselves, of God, of Christ, and of the law; from which ignorance the light of the gospel has delivered every real believer; and God is the everlasting light of him, and his “son shall no more go down.” But it not said that his sun shall never be eclipsed.

Abraham, the father of the faithful, must feel a little of this darkness, and of the horrors of it. “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abraham; and lo an horror of great darkness fell upon him; and, when it was dark, a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between those pieces. In that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham,” Gen. xv. The beasts, which were here slain and divided by Abraham, were to lead Abraham’s faith to the death of Christ, and to the covenant, which was to be a covenant by sacrifice; as the offering up of Isaac did afterward; which shewed Abraham that the covenant was not to be confirmed by a brutal sacrifice, but by a sacrifice of human nature. This great darkness, horror, and smoking furnace, which went before the burning lamp, represented not only the affliction of the children of Abraham in Egypt, and their deliverance from that, but the wrath of God in a broken law, and salvation from it by Jesus Christ, as the prophet Isaiah applies it. Read Isaiah, lxii. 1.

The children of light have been often exercised under this dark cloud, or horror of great darkness. Hence Job, “He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my path,” Job xix. 8. “The Almighty troubleth me, because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.” And Jeremiah, “I am the man that hath seen affliction- by the rod of his wrath; he hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. Lord, why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me?” Psalm lxxxviii. 6, 14, “We wait for light, but behold, obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness; we grope for the wall like the blind, we grope as if we had no eyes.” Numerous are the complaints of good men under this dark cloud; and to a child of light it is indeed “a darkness that may be felt;” it beclouds and bewilders the mind; the brightest evidences are in a great measure hid; the Bible itself is sealed, and fast closed; “we see not our signs, nor our tokens for good;” every good thing is at a distance from us, behind the cloud, and we cannot get at it; there is a dismal gloom upon our path; we know not where we are, where to step, nor which way to steer; which way God is gone we know not, but he knoweth the way that we take, and such a prayer as this suits us well. – Seek thy servant, for we are lost; Christ is hid, and there is a frowning cloud upon the sweet countenance of God, in which he hides his blessed face or, as he did to the disciples, holds our eyes, that we should not see him. But, though this is often the case with believers, and they cannot see their path straight behind them; though all evidences are hid, and the light of the Lord’s countenance is withdrawn; though no signs nor love-tokens appear; and though the life- giving commandment is hid from us, and he shews us no wonder out of his law; yet these Israelites have light in their dwellings. – They have light to see the corruptions of their own hearts; to see the workings of unbelief, legal pride, enmity, rebellion, the double diligence of Satan, and the wretched advantages he takes of them in these dark seasons. Job looked backward to past experience, but all was dark; and forward to future hope, but he could not see it. He looked on the right hand and on the left; but length of days, riches, and honours, were all gone. He saw neither his advocate on the right hand, nor providence on the left. His corruptions, his accuser, his loss, and his misery, were the chief things that appeared in view. There is a remembrance of what he has done, and but little more; and there is a hope in him, and an expectation of the fulfilment of what he has promised to do: but Job complained that his hope was removed like a tree; and Jeremiah said that his hope was perished from the Lord. To be favoured, in this cloudy and dark day, but for one minute with faith in exercise, just enough to banter the enemy, and predict a future sun-rising, is a blessing indeed. “Rejoice not against me, O my enemy. If I fall I shall arise: if I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me, and he shall bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” Hence it appears plain that this cloud of darkness on the face of the Almighty, by which he hides himself from us, is his displeasure at sin. “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends,” Job, xlii. 7. Which displeasure, or wrath, is not revealed to us in Christ (for there it is done away) but in the law. “For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him; I hid me, and was wroth; I have seen his ways and will heal him, and will restore comforts unto him.” Isai. lvii. 17, 18. This healing and restoration of comfort is promised to them that fear God, and is effected by a fresh believing view of Christ, “Unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings,” Mal. iv. 2. This sun is Christ, and God the Father shining in his face restores comfort. The light dispels the cloud of displeasure, in which God says, I hid me, and the comfortable healing of these beams heals the stroke that a sense of wrath has given to the soul. “I smote him, and was wroth; I have seen his ways, and will heal him.” Therefore, while this cloud remains, let him that is under it turn his thoughts to the name of Jesus, if he has nothing else left. “He that walketh in darkness, and hath no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay himself upon his God.” I come now to treat,



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