Distress of Mind
A. Hall, 1777
I am sorry to hear lowness of spirits continues to hang upon you—they have been your companions, though neither pleasant in themselves, nor profitable to the soul. Low spirits are the effects of sin —they are frequently the very workings of unbelief , refusing comfort in the Consolation of Israel through faith in the promises and declarations of the Gospel; and they are an engine by which our adversary the Devil gains more advantage against many serious Christians—than by any other of his numberless devices. To what purpose, you will say, are these things mentioned to one who has so much of the unhappy experience of this powerful disease, both in body and mind? I will tell you for what purpose I mention them.
1. I would have you consider them as your sinful infirmity , and that you feel them to be exceeding sinful.
2. Consider your low spirits as an occasion of much hurt and disquiet to your soul; they rob it of present peace and expose you to many temptations in that melancholy disposition. You cannot set a proper value upon the grace of God which brings salvation; you do not trust yourself upon the Lord and stay yourself upon your God; you do not in hope believe against hope. How much loss does your soul sustain as to its peace and spiritual interests, by such a disposition!
3. I mention these to stir you up under the felt sense of great guilt, deep pollution, utter unworthiness, weakness and treachery—to attempt taking hold of God's Everlasting Covenant made with His dear Son, and richly freighted with all the mercy your condition stands in need of, and all the grace your most enlarged wishes can desire. For this Covenant is the storehouse of all the mercy of God, this Covenant is the conveyance of all grace and of all spiritual blessings to you and I. Yes, to you and I, is the conveyance of the grace of God, as well-pleased in His Son to sinners, to enemies, to the stout-hearted, to backsliders, to the wretched and miserable. Are not these our characters? Surely they are! Is not the Covenant of Grace the conveyance of Christ and all spiritual blessings to sinners of these descriptions? Yes! it seems to be the design of the Scriptures to set wide open a wide door of hope for such wretched sinners, and so, for you and I.
Now in the consideration of all this good which the God of all grace is showing us—what does He require of us—to take hold of His Covenant? To take hold of His Covenant of free and rich grace, to approve of its infinitely wise and merciful constitution, to accept of and rest upon Christ as our righteousness, as the alone paymaster of all our enormous debt; to view the promises of the new Covenant as promises of eternal life in Christ to us; and to esteem this Covenant, whose condition Christ fully performed and whose promises God will surely fulfill all our salvation, resolving to hope in it, to live in it, to seek and expect comfort , holiness, grace and glory in no other way. Thus let us take hold of it and endeavor to keep hold of it.
The Christian life has a close connection with our keeping fast hold of this Covenant of Promise. It is not a continuous summer with our planet; yet we are sure, even in the coldest frost and in the longest nights of winter—that the spring and summer will return, because God has made a Covenant concerning their succession. Even so in the Christian life—it is very usual for the heirs of salvation to be in sorrow and fear, in great bondage—to have cold and dark winter nights. But when the saints live and walk by faith —they set their foot upon the stable rock of Jehovah's promise , and smile for joy in the pleasant assurance that His Word will be made good to them at last; and in the meantime that their strength shall be proportioned to the day of trial .
This is the way we should endeavor to live in this howling wilderness, until we have come to rest—in the immediate presence of God and the Lamb! Does iniquity abound with us? We have a sweet passage in Micah 7:18-20. Does Satan terrify us? We have some delightful expressions in Isaiah 59:16-20, and in 49:24-26. Have we treacherously departed from the Lord? And do we fear our case is so desperately bad that it shall never be better? Every syllable in Jeremiah 3 and Hosea 14 is sweetly suited to such a view of ourselves. Is Providence dark and lowering? Matthew 6:19-34 is remarkably comforting; so are Psalms 91 and 107. Whatever is our condition, the 119th Psalm is both a source and pattern of proper exercise.
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