Page images
PDF
EPUB

nadab. But though the work they were executing was the same, the different ends which they aimed at, made that which was an excellent duty in Jonadab an act of mere cruelty, and of vile hypocrisy, in Jehu. Jehu was impelled, not by zeal for the Lord, but by ambition to wear a crown. We must therefore retire into our own breasts, and carefully observe the various operations of our minds. We must consider the motives that influence our conduct; the ends we propose in our actions; and the temper and frame of spirit with which every duty is performed. For in vain do we know the rule, unless we also know the thing to which it must be applied; in vain do we read and study the Scriptures, unless we likewise read and study our own hearts. The duty I am recommending, consists in comparing them together, that we may discover how far they agree, and wherein they differ. This is indeed a work of great difficulty; but, though difficult, it is not impracticable. He who gave the command, will likewise grant bis assistance to those who, in a humble dependance on his grace, apply themselves heartily to this necessary duty. Let it then be your

First care, to get your minds thoroughly awakened when you enter upon this work. Never was time put to a higher improvement; never were thoughts spent upon a more important business. Compared with this, the trial of men for their lives at a human bar is a mere tri. fle; for here nothing less than an eternal interest depends on the issue. Summon up all the powers of your souls, bring your thoughts to the subject as intensely as you can, let your minds be divested of every other care; and abore all–O be honest with yourselves, and resolve to pass an impartial sentence, as the evidence shall appear, whether it should be in your favour or against you. Re.

VOL. II.

к

member that your great Judge knows the truth of your condition, and that therefore you can gain nothing by hiding it from yourselves.

When your hearts are once seriously engaged, ther fall down before God, and plead the assistance of his good Spirit, to enlighten and direct you in the knowledge of yourselves; to keep you from mistakes, both on the one hand and on the other; and to guide you to a just and an affecting view of your true condition.

Having thus prepared yourselves by meditation and prayer, proceed immediately to the inquiry itself, before your hearts begin to cool, or the impressions of the divine presence are effaced. Set the word of God before you as the rule, and then put the question, Do my actions and dispositions correspond to this rule, or are they inconsistent with it? Take your actions, and the sources of them, one by one, and bring them to this standard; suffer not your hearts, in any case, to start aside, till they have given an explicit answer; lay the command of God upon them, and charge them to obey upon pain of his wrath.

When, by these means, you have discovered the truth, then pass the sentence on yourselves, and labour' to have your hearts properly affected with it. Do not think it enough to have discerned your true condition, but endeavour to feel what God hath made you to know. If you find that you have been all along formal and hypocritical in your obedience; that instead of serving God, you have been serving yourselves; that instead of seeking bis approbation, you have been courting the applause of men ; that instead of sowing to the Spirit, you bare been sowing to the flesh;-0 lay this conviction home to your hearts. Think what a dreadful state you are in; unpardoned, ansanctified, and, if death should now surprise you, ruined for ever.

But, whilst you thus endeavour to know the very worst of your condition, beware, at the same time, of giving way to gloomy and desponding thoughts. Let none of you say, “ Because I am ungodly, I shall die so; because I am an bypocrite, I shall continue so;" for such despondence is no less unwarranted than your

former presumption. You have another work to do, which is to flee speedily to Christ, and to break off your hypocrisy and wickedness by repentance. If you find that you

have been hitherto out of the way, do not sit down and despair, but make the more haste to turn into it. Christ is still in your offer, and you cannot be more wil. ling to receive him than he is to accept of you.

But, on the other hand, if you find reason to conclude, after a strict and impartial examination, that you have been sincere in the practice of your duty, that your inward dispositions have corresponded to your outward actions, and that both have been according to the rule of Scripture, take the comfort of so happy a discovery. This is a good evidence that you are sanctified and renewed by the Spirit of God: This is a proof that you are united to Christ, who is “ the true vine;" for pone but those who are united to him can bring forth such good fruit. Consider into what a blessed state the Lord bath brought you; to be his children and his friends; to be pardoned, and sanctified, and sure of being saved. What more can you desire? Doth not the assurance of such a blessed condition deserve all the labour and pains wbich the inquiry can cost you? One caution, huwever, I must give you. Do not trust so much to one discovery of this kind as to give up all further trial. No. “ To prove your own works” must be your daily employment. Renew the inquiry often; make frequent proof of yourselves; compare the result of your obser.

vations at different times, and let them serve to rectify one another.

Thus, my brethren, I have given you the best directions which I could think of, with regard to the method of conducting this important inquiry. And here it might be proper to subjoin some of those Scriptural marks or characters by which every man ought to prove bis own works.” But this would lead me beyond the limits of one discourse. I mean therefore at present to confine myself to the circumstances or marks by which you ought to try the important duty in which you have been this day employed.

Allow me then, in the conclusion of this solemn service, to put a few plain, but necessary questions to you, and to call on you to answer them, as you hope to speed at the bar of God's judgment.

1st. By what motives were you determined to come here this day? Was it by a sense of duty, and in obedi. ence to the command of a crucified Saviour? Was it from a mind “hungering and thirsting" after Christ and bis righteousness ? Or was it only in compliance with the custom of the country, and from a desire of appearing religious in the eyes of men? Would to God there were less cause than there is for this question, gross and reproachful as it may appear!

2dly. What pains were you at in preparing yourselves for this near approach to God? Were you careful to stir up in yourselves those holy and humble dispositions which constitute the “ wedding garment” of those who are bidden to the feast? Or, have you, without any previous examination, or any regard to the awful fence which surrounds this table, fearlessly taken your seat anong faithful disciples, without asking the Master's welcome, or dreading his displeasure?

3dly. What benefit did you propose to reap from your attendance upon this solemn ordinance ? Did you only wish to pacify your natural conscience, by doing what you apprehended to be an acceptable duty ? Or did you mean to offer an outward compliment to the Almighty, in order to induce him to pardon what is past, that you might sin, as it were, on a new score ? Or, on the other hand, did you come here in the hope of meeting bim whom your soul loves, to take upon you “his yoke which is easy,

and his burden which is light?”-toimplore, over the pledges of your Saviour's love, his mercy to pardon, his Spirit to sanctify, and his grace to strengthen you ? Did you come that this holy service might have some influence to assist you in crucifying “the old man with his deeds,” and to confirm the image of God on your souls? Once more,

4thly. How were you employed while you sat at this holy table? Did you seek the Lord with your whole hearts ? Did your souls follow hard after bim ?” And if any vain intruding thought arose within you,

did

you instantly check it with abhorrence, and renew your repentance for that mixture of infirmity in your holy service? When you heard these affecting words, “ This is my body broken for you, this is my blood shed for the remission of your sins," were your hearts wrong with grief for the sins which were the cause of the Redeem. er's sufferings ? Did you give yourselves entirely up to him who gave himself for you an offering and a sacrifice to God? Did you accept of him as your only peace. maker with the Father, and resolve to build all your hopes of happiness upon the merits of his sufferings and obedience? Did you renounce all his enemies, and devote yourselves entirely to his service, to be governed by his laws, as your only Lord and King?

« PreviousContinue »