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tain whether he be thy Father, or thy enemy, and grounded assurance that thou shalt escape it ? knowest not but all his perfections may be em- | Thy bed is very soft, or thy heart is very hard, ployed against thee? Or of Jesus Christ, when if thou canst sleep soundly in this uncertain thou knowest not whether his blood hath purged case. thy soul; whether he will condemn or acquit 3. If this general uncertainty of the world thee in judgment; or whether he be the founda- about their salvation were remediless, then must tion of thy happiness, or a stone of stumbling to it be borne as other unavoidable miseries. But, break thee, and grind thee to powder ? How alas! the common cause is wilful negligence. canst thou open the bible, and read a chapter, Men will not be persuaded to use the remedy. but it should terrify thee? Methinks every leaf The great means to conquer this uncertainty is should be to thee as Belshazzar's writing on the self-examination, or the serious and diligent trywall, except only that which draws thee to try ing of a man's heart and state by the rule of and reform. If thou readest the promises, thou scripture. Either men understand not the naknowest not whether they shall be fulfilled to ture and use of this duty, or else they will not thee. If thou readest the threatenings, for any be at the pains to try. Go through a congregathing thou knowest, thou readest thy own sen- tion of a thousand men, and how few of them tence. No wonder thou art an enemy to plain shall you meet with, that ever bestowed one hour preaching, and say of the minister, as Ahab of in all their lives in a close examination of their the prophet, • I hate hiin; for he doth not pro- title to heaven! Ask thy own conscience, Reader; phesy good concerning me, but evil.? How when was the time, and where was the place, canst thou without terror join in prayer ? When that ever thou solemnly tookest thy heart to task, thou receivest the sacrament, thou knowest not as in the sight of God, and didst examine it by whether it be thy bane or bliss. What comfort scripture, whether it be renewed or not? Whecanst thou find in thy friends, and honours, and ther it be holy or not? whether it be set most houses, and lands, till thou knowest thou hast on God or the creatures, on heaven or earth? the love of God with them, and shalt have rest When didst thou follow on this examination till with him when thou leavest them? Offer a pri- thou hadst discovered thy condition, and passed soner, before he knows his sentence, either sentence on thyself accordingly? But because music, or clothes, or preferment; what are they this is a work of so high importance, and so to him till he knows he shall escape with his commonly neglected, I will therefore show—that life? for if he knows he must die the next day, it is possible, by trying, to come to a certainty ; it will be a small comfort to die rich or honour-what hinders men from trying and knowing their ahle. Methinks it should be so with thee, till state; then offer motives to examine and dithou kpowest thy eternal state. When thou liest rections,—together with some marks out of scripdown to take thy rest, methinks the uncertainty ture, by which you may try, and certainly know, of thy salvation should keep thee waking, or whether you are the people of God or not. amaze thee in thy dreams, and trouble thy sleep. 4. (1.) Scripture shows, that the certainty of Doth it not grieve thee to see the people of God salvation may be attained, and ought to be la80 comfortable in their way to glory, when thou boured for, when it tells us so frequently, that hast no good hope of ever enjoying it thyself? the saints before us have known their justification How canst thou think of thy dying hour ? Thou and future salvation : when it declares, that knowest it is near, and there is no avoiding it, whosoever believeth in Christ, shall not perishi, nor any medicine found out that can prevent it. but have everlasting life :' which it would be in If thou shouldst die this day, (and who knows vain to declare, if we cannot know ourselves to what a day may bring forth ?') thou art not cer- be believers or not; when it makes such a wide tain whether thou shalt go to heaven or hell. difference between the children of God, and the And canst thou be merry, till thou art got out children of the devil : when it bids us 'give dili. of this dangerous state ? What shift dost thou gence to make our calling and election sure ;' make to preserve thy heart from horror, when and earnestly urges us to examine, prove, know thou rememberest the great judgment day, and our ownselves, whether we be in the faith, and everlasting flames ? When thou hearest of it, whether Jesus Christ be in us, except we be redost thou not tremble, as Felix? If the “keep probates : also when its precepts require us to ers shook, and became as dead men, when they rejoice always, to call God our Father, to live in saw the angel come and roll back the stone from his praises, to love Christ's appearing, to wish Christ's sepulchre,' how canst thou think of liv- that he may come quickly, and to comfort our. ing in hell with devils, till thou hast some well- ! selves with the mention of it. But who can do
any of these heartily, that is not in some mea- | preachers, they will drive you out of your wits. sure sure that he is the child of God.
Are not all men sinners? And did not Christ 5. (2.) Among the many hinderances which die to save sinners ? Never trouble your head keep men from self-examination, we cannot doubt with these thoughts, and you shall do well. 0 but Satan will do his part. If all the power he how many thousands have such charms kept hath, or all the means and instruments he can asleep in deceit and security, till death and hell employ, can do it, he will be sure, above all have awakened them! The Lord calls to the duties, to keep you from this. He is loth the sinner and tells him, “ The gate is strait, the way godly should have the joy, assurance, and ad- is narrow, and few find it: try and examine, give vantage against corruption, which the faithful diligence to make sure.' The world cries, ' Never performance of self-examination would procure doubt, never trouble yourselves with these them. As for the ungodly, he knows if they should thoughts. In this strait, sinner, consider, it is once earnestly examine, they would find out his Christ, and not your forefathers, or neighbours, deceits, and their own danger, and so be very or friends, that must judge you at last ; and if likely to escape him. How could he get so many Christ condemn you, these cannot save you: millions to hell willingly, if they knew they were therefore common reason may tell you, that it going thither? And how could they avoid is not from the words of ignorant men, but from knowing it, if they did but thoroughly try: hav- the word of God you must fetch your hopes of ing such a clear light and sure rule in the scrip- salvation. When Ahab would inquire among ture to discover it ? If the snare be not hid, the multitude of flattering prophets, it was his the bird will escape it. Satan knows how to death. They can flatter men into the snare, but angle for souls better than to show them the hook they cannot tell how to bring them out. Let and line, or fright them away with a noise, or no man deceive you with vain words: for because with his own appearance. Therefore he labours of these things cometh the wrath of God upon to keep them from a searching ministry; or to the children of disobedience. Be not ye there. keep the minister from helping them to search, fore partakers with them.' or to take off the edge of the word, that it may 7. But the greatest hinderances are in men's not pierce and divide; or to turn away their own hearts.—Some are so ignorant, that they thoughts: or to possess them with prejudice. know not what self-examination is, nor what a Satan knows when the minister has provided a minister means when he persuadeth them to try searching sermon, fitted to the state and neces- themselves : or they know not that there is any sity of a hearer; and, therefore, he will keep necessity for it, but think every man is bound them away that day, if it be possible ; or cast to believe that his sins are pardoned, whether it him into a sleep; or steal away the word by the be true or false, and that it is a great fault to cares and talk of the world ; or some way pre- make any question of it; or they do not think vent its operation.
that assurance can be attained ; or that there is 6. Another great hinderance to self-examina- any great difference between one
man and tion, arises from wicked men. Their examples ; another, but that we are all Christians, and theretheir merry company and discourse ; their con- fore need not trouble ourselves any further; or tinually insisting on worldly concerns; their at least they know not wherein the difference raillery and scoffs at godly persons ; also their lies. They have as gross an idea of regenerapersuasions, allurements, and threats, are each tion as Nicodemus had.-Some will not believe of them exceedingly great temptations to secur- that God will ever make such a difference beity. God doth scarcely ever open the eyes of twixt men in the life to come, and therefore will a poor sinner, to see that his way is wrong, but not search themselves, whether they differ here. presently there is a multitude of Satan's apostles -Some are so stupified, say what we can to ready to deceive and settle him again in the them, that they lay it not to heart, but give us quiet possession of his former master. • What the hearing, and there is the end.—Some are so say they, .do you make a doubt of your salva- possessed with self-love and pride, that they tion, who have lived so well, and done nobody will not so much as suspect they are in danger :
God is merciful ; and if such as like a proud tradesman, who scorns the prudent you shall not be saved, God help a great many! advice of casting up his books; as fond parents What do you think of all your forefathers ? And will not believe or hear any evil of their children. what will become of all your friends and neigh--Some are so guilty, that they dare not try, bours that live as you do? Will they all be and yet they dare venture on a more dreadful damned ? Come, come, if you hearken to these trial. Some are so in love with sin, and so dis
like the way of God, that they dare not try | instance : the weakness of grace. Small things their ways, lest they be forced from the course are hardly discerned. Most Christians content they love, to that which they lothe.—Some are themselves with a small measure of grace, and so resolved never to change their present state, do not follow on to spiritual strength and manthat they neglect examination as a useless thing. bood. The chief remedy for such would be to Before they will seek a new way, when they have follow on their duty, till their grace be increased. lived so long, and gone so far, they will put their Wait upon God, in the use of his prescribed eternal state to the venture, come of it what will. means, and he will undoubtedly bless you with Many men are so busy in the world, that they increase. O that Christians would bestow most cannot set themselves to the trying their title to of that time to getting more grace, which they heaven. Others are so clogged with slothfulness bestow in anxious doubtings whether they have of spirit, that they will not be at the pains of any or none; and lay out those serious affections. an hour's examination of their own hearts.—But in praying for more grace, which they bestow the most common and dangerous impediment in fruitless complaints ! I besecch thee, Chrisis that false faith and hope, commonly called tian, take this advice as from God; and then, presumption, which bears up the hearts of the when thou believest strongly, and lovest fergreatest part of the world, and so keeps them vently, thou canst no more doubt of thy faith from suspecting their danger.
and love, than a man that is very hot can doubt 8. And if a man should break through all of his warmth, or a man that is strong and lusty, these hinderances, and set upon the duty of self- can doubt of his being alive. Christians hinder examination, yet assurance is not presently at their own comfort by looking more at sigus, tained. Too many deceive themselves in their which tell them what they are, than at precepts, inquiries after it, through one or other of the which tell them what they should do : as if their following causes. There is such confusion and present case must needs be their everlasting darkness in the soul of man, especially of an case; and if they be now unpardoned, there unregenerated man, that he can scarcely tell what were no remedy. Were he not mad, that would he doth, or what is in him.-As in a house where lie weeping because he is not pardoned, when nothing is in its proper place, it will be difficult his prince stands by all the while offering him a to find what is wanted; so it is in the heart pardon, and persuading him to accept of it? where all things are in disorder.—Most men ac- Justifying faith, Christian, is not thy persuasion custom themselves to be strangers at home, and of God's special love to thee, but thy accepting too little observe the temper and motions of their Christ to make thee lovely. It is far better to own hearts.—Many are resolved what to judge accept Christ as offered, than spend so much time before they try ; like a bribed judge, who exam- in doubting whether we have Christ or not.. ines as if he would judge uprightly, when he is Another cause of distress to Christians is, their previously resolved which way the cause shall mistaking assurance for the joy that sometimes go.—Men are partial in their own cause ; ready accompanies it.— As if a child should take himto think their great sins small, and their sınall sins self for a son no longer than while he sees the none; their gifts of nature to be the work of smiles of his father's face, or hears the comfortgrace, and to say, all these have I kept from able expressions of his mouth ; and as if the my youth ; I am rich, and increased in goods, father ceased to be a father, whenever he ceased and have need of nothing.'—Most men search those smiles and speeches.—The trouble of souls but by the halves. If it will not easily and is also increased by their not knowing the ordiquickly be done, they are discouraged and leave nary way of God's conveying comfort. They think off. They try themselves by false marks and they have nothing to do but to wait when God rules; not knowing wherein the truth of Chris- will bestow it. But they must know, that the tianity doth consist ; some looking beyond, and matter of their comfort is in the promises, and some short of the scripture-standard. And fre- thence they must fetch it as often as they expect quently they miscarry in this work by attempt it, by daily and diligently meditating upon the ing it in their own strength : as some expect the promises ; and in this way they may expect the Spirit should do it without them, so others at- Spirit will communicate comfort to their souls. tempt it themselves, without seeking or expect- | The joy of the promises, and the joy of the Holy ing the help of the Spirit. Both these will cer- Ghost, are one; add to this, their expecting a tainly miscarry in their assurance.
greater measure of assurance than God usually be9. Some other hinderances keep even true stows. As long as they have any doubting, they Christians from comfortable certainty. As for think they have no assurance. They consider not
that there are many degrees of certainty. While fear thy joys are either carnal or diabolical. Bea they are here, they shall • know but in part.'- sides, grace is never apparent and sensible to the Add also, their deriving their comfort at first from soul, but while it is in action; therefore, want insufficient grounds. This inay be the case of of action must cause want of assurance. And a gracious soul, who hath better grounds, but the action of the soul upon such excellent obdoth not see them. As an infant hath life beforejects, naturally bringeth consolation with it. The he knoweth it, and many misapprehensions of very act of loving God in Christ is inexpressibly himself and other things, yet it will not follow sweet. The soul that is best furnished with that he hath no life. So when Christians find a grace, when it is not in action, is like a lute well flaw in their first comforts, they are not to judge stringed and tuned, which, while it lieth still, it a flaw in their safety. Many continue under maketh no more music than a common piece of doubting, through the exceeding weakness of wood; but when it is handled by a skilful musitheir natural parts. Many honest hearts have cian, the melody is delightful. Some degree of weak heads, and know not how to perform the comfort follows every good action, as heat acwork of self-trial. They will acknowledge the companies fire, and as beams and influence issue premises, and yet deny the apparent conclusion. from the sun. A man that is cold, should labour If God do not some other way supply the de- till heat be excited ; so he that wants assurance, fect of their reason, I see not how they should must not stand still, but exercise his graces, till have clear and settled peace. One great and his doubts vanish. The want of consolation in too common cause of distress is, the secret main the soul is also very commonly owing to bodily taining some known sin. This abates the de- melancholy. It is no more wonder for a congree of our graces, and so makes them more scientious man, under melancholy, to doubt, and undiscernible. It obscureth that which it des- fear, and despair, than for a sick man to groan, troyeth not; for it beareth such sway that grace or a child to cry when it is chastised. Without is not in action ; nor seems to stir, nor is scarce the physician in this case, the labours of the heard speak for the noise of this corruption. It divine are usually in vain. You may silence, puts out or dimmeth the eye of the soul, and but you cannot comfort them. You may
make stupifies it, that it can neither see nor feel its own them confess they have some grace, and yet cancondition. But especially it provokes God to not bring them to the comfortable conclusion. withdraw himself, his comforts, and the assistance All the good thoughts of their state which you of his Spirit, without which we may search long can possibly help them to, are seldom above a enough before we have assurance. God hath day or two old. They cry out of sin, and the made a separation between sin and peace. As wrath of God, when the chief cause is in their long as thou dost cherish thy pride, thy love of bodily distemper. the world, the desires of the flesh, or any un- 10. (3.) As for motives to persuade to the duty christian practice, thou expectest comfort in vain. of self-examination, I entreat you to consider If a man setteth up his idols in his heart, and the following :—To be deceived about your title putteth the stumbling-block of his iniquity before to heaven is very easy. Many are now in hell, his face, and cometh to a minister, or to God, that neversuspected any falsehood in their hearts, to inquire for comfort, instead of comforting him, that excelled in worldly wisdom, that lived in the God will answer him that cometh, according to clear light of the gospel, and even preached the multitude of his idols.'-—. Another very great against the negligence of others.
To be mis. and common cause of the want of comfort is, taken in this great point is also very common. when grace is not kept in constant and lively It is the case of most in the world. In the old exercise. The way of painful duty is the way world, and in Sodom, we find none that were in of fullest comfort. Peace and comfort are Christ's any fear of judgment. Almost all men among great encouragements to faithfulness and obe- us verily looked to be saved ; yet Christ tells us, dience; and, therefore, though our obedience does there be few that find the strait gate, and narnot merit them, yet they usually rise and fall row way which leadeth unto life.' And if such with our diligence in duty. As prayer must multitudes are deceived, should we not search have faith and fervency to procure it success, the more diligently, lest we should be deceived besides the blood and intercession of Christ, so as well as they ? -Nothing is more dangerous must all other parts of our obedience. If thou than to be thus mistaken. If the godly judge grow seldom, and customary, and cold in duty, their state worse than it is, the consequences of especially in thy secret prayers to God, and yet this mistake will be sorrowful; but the mischief findest no abatement in thy joys, I cannot but flowing from the mistake of the ungodly is unspeakable. It will exceedingly confirm them in promises when thou art sure they are thine own! the service of Satan. It will render ineffectual The very threatenings will occasion thy comfort, the means that should do them good. It will to remember that thou hast escaped them. What keep a man from compassionating his own soul. boldness and comfort mayest thou then have in It is a case of the greatest moment, where ever- prayer, when thou canst say, 'Our Father,' in lasting salvation or damnation is to be deter- full assurance! It will make the Lord's supper mined : and if you mistake till death, you are a refreshing feast to thy soul. It will multiply undone for ever. Seeing then the danger is so the sweetness of every common mercy. How great, what wise man would not follow the search comfortably mayest thou then undergo all afflicof his heart both day and night, till he were as- tions! How will it sweeten thy forethoughts of sured of his safety ? Consider how small the death and judgment, of heaven and hell! How labour of this duty is in comparison of that sor- lively will it make thee in the work of the Lord, row which followeth its neglect. You can en- and how profitable to all around thee ? What dure to toil and sweat from year to year, to pre- vigour will it infuse into all thy graces and affecvent poverty, and why not spend a little time in tions, kindle thy repentance, inflame thy love, self-examination, to prevent eternal misery? By quicken thy desires, and confirm thy faith, be a neglecting this duty, you can scarce do Satan a fountain of continual rejoicing, overflow thy heart greater pleasure, nor yourselves a greater injury. with thankfulness, raise thee high in the delightIt is the grand design of the devil, in all his ful work of praise, help thee to be heavenlytemptations, to deceive you, and keep you igno- minded, and render thee persevering in all! All rant of your danger, till you feel the everlasting these sweet effects of assurance would make thy flames ; and will you join with him to deceive life a heaven upon earth. yourself? If you do this for him, you do the 11. Though I am certain these motives have greatest part of his work. And hath he deserved weight of reason in them, yet I am jealous, so well of you, that you should assist him in such Reader, lest you lay aside the book, as if you a design as your damnation ? The time is nigh had done, and never set yourself to the practice when God will search you. If it be but in of the duty. The case in hand is of the greatest this life by affliction, it will make you wish moment, whether thou shalt everlastingly live in that you had tried and judged yourselves, beaven or hell. I here request thee, in behalf of that you might have escaped the judgment of thy soul ; nay, I charge thee, in the name of the God. It was a terrible voice to Adam, where Lord, that thou defer no longer, but take thy art thou ? Hast thou eaten of the tree?' And heart to task in good earnest, and think with to Cain,' where is thy brother?' Men consider thyself, · Is it so easy, so common, and so dannot in their hearts that I,' saith the Lord, re- gerous
be mistaken? Are there so many member all their wickedness : now their own wrong ways? Is the heart so deceitful ? Why, doings have beset them about ; they are before then, do I not search into every corner, till I my face. Consider also what would be the sweet know my state? Must I so shortly undergo the effects of this self-examination. If thou be up- trial at the bar of Christ? And do I not preright and godly, it will lead thee straight towards sently try myself? What a case were I in, if I assurance of God's love ; if thou be not, though should then miscarry? May I know by a little it will trouble thee at the present, yet it will tend diligent inquiry now; and do I stick at the to thy happiness, and at length lead thee to the labour ?' But perhaps thou wilt say, 'I know assurance of that happiness. Is it not a desir- not how to do it. In that I am now to give able thing to know what shall befal us here- thee directions ; but alas! it will be in vain, if after? especially what shall befal our souls ? and thou art not resolved to practise them. Wilt thou, what place and state we must be in for ever? therefore, before thou goest any further, here proAnd as the very knowledge itself is desirable, mise before the Lord, to set thyself upon the how much greater will the comfort be of that speedy performance of the duty, according to the certainty of salvation ? What sweet thoughts directions I shall lay down from the word of God. wilt thou have of God! All that greatness and I demand nothing unreasonable or impossible. It justice, which is the terror of others, will be thy is but to bestow a few hours, to know what shall joy. How sweet may be thy thoughts of Christ, become of thee for ever. If a neighbour, or a and the blood he hath shed, and the benefits he friend, desire but an hour's time of thee in conhath procured! How welcome will the word of versation, or business, or any thing in which thou God be to thee, and how beautiful the very feet mayest be of service, surely thou wouldst not of those that bring it ! How sweet will be the deny it; how much less shouldst thou deny this