3. To treat of the narrowness and contraction of soul that attends a believer under the influences of this spirit of bondage.

This legal spirit closes the heart, and bars it up against every warm, cheerful, savoury, and unctuous Christian; yea, such an one will even shun their company and their sight; finding a heart to embrace none, to receive none, to commune with none, no, nor even to seek fellowship with any but those that are in shackles, bondage and slavery, as well as himself. “Like love its like.” Hence the Galatians received the Judaizing teachers and their companions, who crept into houses, cordially; they were zealously affected by them, and zealously attached to them; even to the danger of excluding Christ himself. But, as for Paul, he had no place in their hearts: no, not as a friend, nor as an apostle, nor even as a true witness for Christ; for they counted him their enemy, and a false apostle. Hence he labours, in his epistle to them, to prove his apostolic office to be by the will of God; that his mission and commission was from God alone; his doctrine by immediate revelation, without learning it from man, or so much as seeing them that were apostles before him; and that when he did see them, they gave him the right hand of fellowship, as approving both of him and his doctrine. And he expresses his warmest love to them, calling them his little children, telling them that he travailed in birth again for them till Christ was formed in them; that is, he laboured in soul, in writing, and with God in prayer, to get them again out of that legal bondage into liberty; out of that legal fear into gospel love; that Christ might be formed in them; that is, dwell in their hearts by faith, and in their affections, as the only hope of future glory. But they called him their enemy for telling them the truth.

The Corinthians’ hearts were straitened, bound, and shut up, by these disciples of Moses, in the same manner. They could suffer these fools gladly to mislead them, being themselves so wise; but as for Paul, they wanted a “proof of Christ speaking in him;” though his voice, by Paul, was not weak in them, but mighty, even at the same time. Let their instructors be who, and as many as they might, it was Paul that had begotten them, yet this would not do. They cast the father, and the faithful ambassador, out of their affections; and embraced the ministers of Satan, who were nothing but deceitful workers, “enemies of the cross of Christ,” and who had no god but the god of this world and their own bellies. Paul sends letters to them. “His letters are weighty and powerful:” this even his enemies allowed; but his speech they said, was weak, and his bodily presence contemptible;” and they charge him with breaking his promise of coming to them, being puffed up with a vain conceit of themselves; while the believers, which were the seals of Paul’s own ministry, these suffered fools thus to ridicule their father in Christ; yea, “they suffered these fools gladly.” Thus were these Corinthians legalized, prejudiced, straitened, and as it were shut up under the spirit of bondage. But this was not the case with Paul toward them. “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged; ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompense in the same (I speak as unto my children) be ye also enlarged, 2 Cor. vi. 11, 12, 13.

Furthermore, As the heart straitened by a spirit of bondage, is barred up against the saints, and the ministers of the spirit, and against the evangelical doctrines of the gospel; so it is closed, straitened, and shut up against Christ himself; no extended thoughts are hovering about him, nor meditating on him; no extended views and fresh discoveries of his glorious person, offices, and wondrous undertakings; no faith in exercise, dealings with his blood for peace, with his obedience for righteousness, with his arm for strength, and with his fullness of grace for help in time of need; no affections running out after him, nor placed at the right hand of God, where he sitteth. Hence the kind and endearing entreaties, “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled,” Song v. 2.

A soul that has lain long in this bondage does not care to move or stir itself in wisdom’s ways. It gets cloyed with reading, hearing the word, and with private and family prayer. It is like a rickety child, ruined for the want of proper nursing; it is death to move it, much more to shake it; it had rather sit still all its days than move its limbs. A soul thus influenced walks not in the spirit, but in the wrath of the law. “O, thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? Are these his doings?” Micah, ii. 7. Job reasoned with “unprofitable talk, and restrains prayer before God,” instead of looking constantly to Jesus, confessing, and praying; which in order to obtain enlargement, ought to have been done. “Even so would he have removed thee out of the strait into a broad place where there is no straightness,” Job, xxxvi. 16.

A soul thus legalized is straitened at the throne of grace; he has not the whole church of God in his heart, nor yet in his mouth; he prays only for himself, and that in a very cold, lifeless, sparing manner, as if God was as poor, and his heart as narrow, as his own. Jehoshaphat seeks the Lord by Elisha only for water for his army. The prophet tells him to “dig the valley full of ditches, and there shall be neither dew nor rain, yet that valley shall be full of water: and this is but a light thing in the eyes of the Lord;” hinting thereby that the Lord had more weighty blessings to bestow than these. But this was all that was wanted. “Ask a sign of the Lord thy God” saith the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, “ask it either in the height, or in the depth. I will not ask, saith he, “neither will I tempt the Lord, Ye have wearied men,” saith the prophet, “and will ye weary my God also? Also, the Lord himself shall give you a sign,” without asking, “behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” Hence the kind exhortation to such a poor, straitened, narrow soul, “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt; open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it,” Psalm lxxxi. 10.

A soul thus straitened is barred against all good counsel, advice, and comfort. He thinks that every person who labours to enlarge him only wants to heal his wounds slightly, and to cry, Peace, peace, where there is no peace; and so to set him down short of the promised rest. They are even afraid of light, love, and liberty. “My soul refuses to be comforted,” says one, Psalm lxxvii. 2. “Look away from me, labour not to comfort me,” saith another, Isa. xxii. 4. I come now,



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