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overthrown by the supreme Judge, by whose law the deci. sion must be made.
6. Lastly, A close applying of that self-judging faculty for the trial of that point. Hence the Psalmist saith this was his practice, Psal. lxxyii. 6. “I commune with mine
own heart, and my spirit made diligent search. The man must rouse up himself, as peremptory to know his state; must inform himself of the rule he is to be judged by, set it before him, and apply his own case impartially to it, that he may see how they agree, and how the decision is to be made. Say not ye cannot do this. Ye can examine whether ye be in a wealthy or straitened condition; when something is laid to your charge, whether ye be guilty or not; and whether ye be in such a one's favour or Dot. Only ye cannot, because
because ye will not, examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. O! Sirs, rouse up your. selves to this important exercise, shake off all lazy delays, and set about it vigorously.
Secondly, Self-probation. Ye must prove yourselves. This speaks.
1. Ye must not take the matter of your state upon trust, hoping the best without due evidence, and stopping there, like the person of whom it is said, Isa. xliv. 20. He feed eth on ashes : a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?' That is an easy way indeed, but very unsafe; as was the case of Laodicea, Rev. iii. 17. unto whom our Lord says, “ Because thou sayest, I am rich, and encreased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.' Men entering on self-examination find it difficult and thorny, and they shrink back, contenting themselves to hope well, on they know not what grounds: so the examination is broken off ere the matter is brought to a proof. If the examination before the tribunal of God could be shifted that way, and the deci ion made in men's favour as superficially, the matter were the less. But there the examination must go through, and the decision must be made, according to, not men's groundless hopes, but the reality of things ; according to what Bildad says, Job yiii. 13, 14. So are the paths of all that forget God, and
the hypocrite's hope shall perish: whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.'
2. The matter may, through a close examination, bę brought to a decisive proof, however dark and intricate it may seem to be ; otherwise we would not be bid prove ourselves. Men may, by close examination of themselves, and thoroughly sifting their own hearts, discover that in and about them, which, according to the word, is decisive of their state, good or bad. Which will leave men inex. cusable, in not pursuing for it, but contentedly walking on in darkness. Closely ply the duty according to scripturerules, and
will find out how matters stand, 3. We must not stop, but pursue our self-examination, till we come to that proof, and so come to à point in the matter on trial. Thrust forward resolutely, looking to the Lord for light, and his help in the search ; He will roll away stones of difficulty, and make darkness light before you; remembering what Christ says, Matth. xi. 12.
Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.' And suppose ye should not reach that proof at one time, ye must carry on the examination at ano. ther time, and so from time to time, till ye reach the proof, This is your duty; and if ye stedfastly persist therein, ye will bring matters to a crisis.
4. Lastly, Having reached the proof of your state, whe, ther ye be in the faith or not, pronounce judgment thereon, whether it be good or bad. This is the end for' which the self-examination is gone through, and the proof was searched out, that you may thereon form a certain conclu- . sion, whether ye be in the faith or not. And it is necessary so to do, that if ye find ye are not in the faith, ye may give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber' to your eye-lids, till ye be brought into that happy state; and that if ye find yoų are in the faith, ye may give God the glory of it, and improve your blessed condition to his honour.
I shall conclude with an use of exhortation. O! Sirs, examine ye yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, and cease not till ye bring the matter to a proof, a decisive point.
Before I press this exhortation, with motives, I will take
notice of some impediments in the way that keep men back from self-examination.
1. Their being carried away with the things of this world, as with a flood, that they can mind nothing else, and have a heart for no other business, Some are so overwhelmed with worldly cares and secular business, that any solid care or concern about their salvation is quite warded off, and there is no access for the same. Hence our Lord cautions his disciples, Luke xxi. 34. ' Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.' Some are so drenched in the vanity and pleasures of the world, that they have neither mind of it, nor heart or hand for it. Madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead, and are at their place, before ever they have put this matter to a trial. O! Sirs, guard against this excessive attachment to the world, which will prove ruinous in the end.
2. Love to carnal ease predominant. Spiritual sloth is so masterly over those that give up themselves to it, that, in the midst of warnings from heaven, from without and from within, they must have their ease, and keep undisturbed, cost what it will. Hence says Solomon, Prov. vi. 9, 10, 11. • How long wilt thou sleep, Osluggard ? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy wants as an armed man. But what a risk is that, foreboding a fearful wakening! If
your own souls, strive against this sluggish disposition.
3. A false notion of the easiness of the way to heaven. Many in their thoughts of their getting to heaven, the ne. cessity of their being in the faith, regeneration, universal and unlimited obedience to God in the way of duty, and sparing no known sin, never comes in their head: only they believe God is a merciful God; and when the time comes, they must apply for his mercy. Hence,our Lord exhorts, Luke xiii. 25. Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.'
4. A secret fear that all is wrong. This frights them from self-examination; and they chuse rather to patch up their present case the best way they can, than fairly to open the wound that it may be healed. What is this but to chuse to die of the disease, rather than to lay it open for cure? But the eyes most closely shut now will be opened in the other world, as the rich man's were, Luke xvi. 23. Be not discouraged with fears, but be willing to know the worst as well as the best of your case ; for that is your safest course.
5. A general hopefulness as to one's state, got by some passing reflections on some good thing they imagine they have, without examining to the bottom. This men come at easily, as it were in passing: and being easy in this course, they never set themselves to go to the ground of the cause, like the church of Laodicea, Rev. iii. 17. forecited. This is a very dangerous state, and proves the ruin
6. Lastly, Satan has a mighty influence to the hinderance of it, both in saints and sinners. In the former he mars the comfort of the clear view of their state: in the latter he keeps them from waking out of their natural security, and so holds them back from Christ. And I know no duty he sets himself more against. For being an accomplished master in hellish subtlety, he well knows, that if sinners were at due pains in examining themselves, and discovered the damnable state they were in by nature, they would hasten an escape to the gospel city of refuge ; and therefore he lulls them in a sleep of profound security that they may not feel their misery, and the worse than Egyptian bondage they are in to sin and Satan. Awake then, ye that sleep, that Christ may give you light.
I shall now press the exhortation by some motives; and O that the Lord may carry it home with power on your hearts, as your eternal welfare is deeply concerned therein!
Mot. 1. God has given thee a faculty of examining thyself. He has set up a twofold candle for thee; one within thee, conscience, Prov. xx. 27. forecited; and another without thee, the written word, Psal. cxix. 105. And will ye venture to walk on in darkuess as to your state, while ye have these lights to let you into it? Sirs, if ye will not bring in that light, and use it for this purposse, a light will be let in, whether ye will or not, that will set the matter in due light, either in mercy, as in the case of the prodigal, Luke xv. 17. or in wrath, as in that of the rich man, chap. xvi. 23.
Mot. 2. To be bound up from this duty still, is next door to a desperate case, Isa. xliv. 20. above quoted. While a person is inquiring about his state, there is some hope; but while men are unconcerned about it whether good or bad, that is like the case of men sleeping to death in their bleeding wounds. Publicans and harlots entered into the kingdom of heaven before self-righteous Pharisees, because the former were more ready by far to admit the conviction of the badness of their state, than the latter, who were blinded with delusive ideas of their own righteousness.
Mot. 3. It is certain ye were once not in the faith, not in a gracious state, as the Ephesians were, Eph. ii. 3, 12; Now, dare ye pawn your eternal salvation on it, that ye are now in the faith, in a state of grace? No; but ye hope the best, and are easy. But one would think, that in all reason, according to the weight of the matter, one should labour for a proportional certainty. And to leave a matter of the utmost importance at an uncertainty, and make a leap in the dark into the other world, is a most miserable affair, and argues the greatest instability. Surely then this requires a most solemn and deliberate trial; and if ye were wise for yourselves, ye would bring it to a point.
Mot. 4. There are many false pretenders to religion, from off whose faces Christ will draw the mask. Hence he says, Matth. vii. 22, 23; Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity,' Luke xiii. 25, 26, 27. When once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not, whence you are, then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
But he shall say, I VOL. III.