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from the dominion of melancholy, he would pass, not into the thoughtlessness of the world, but into the peace and joy of the true Christian.
Two brief remarks, by way of inference, will conclude the discourse.
1. Our subject exposes two opposite errors, both of which, it is believed, are common, in the treatment of awakened sinners.
The first is the error of those who limit themselves to the simple direction to repent, or believe, or submit to God. Any thing beyond this they consider as putting the sinner upon the use of the means of grace; and they ask how they can consistently do this, when the sinner is liable to die every moment, and thus be alike beyond repentance and beyond mercy? And then again, they say that all that he does while he remains impenitent is sinful ; and that by exhorting him to do any thing before repentance, they exhort him to sin. But it is not difficult to see where lies the mistake in this matter. All will admit that it is the duty of a sinner to repent without delay. But he can. not repent until he knows what repentance is, and until he understands those great truths in view of which repentance is exercised. And to this end, if he be ignorant, he must be instructed out of God's word; either by reading the Bible himself, or hearing its truths presented by others; in other words, he must be put upon the use of the means of grace. True it is that he may die before he has know. ledge enough to exercise evangelical repentance; but even if it should be so, they who direct him are not responsible for the event; because some degree of knowledge is essential to repentance. And can it reasonably be said that any thing is sinful, which is necessarily involved in a compliance with God's command ? If he commands the sinner to repent, he commands him to do all that is necessary to
enable him to repent; and as some knowledge of his truth is necessary, if he do not possess it already, he is bound to gain it; and surely there can be nothing in that to excite the divine displeasure.
The other error is that of directing inquiring sinners to use the means of grace, without, at the same time, enforcing the obligation of immediate repentance. This direction is fitted to abate a sense of guilt, and finally to bring back to the soul its accustomed spiritual torpor. One of two results from such a direction you may confidently expect ;-either that the sinner will lull himself to sleep in the use of means, and will soon be disposed to abandon them, or else that he will put himself upon a course of self-righteous effort, and imagine that he is going rapidly towards heaven, when he has totally mistaken the path that leads thither. Means are nothing to an awakened sinner, except to bring before him those truths which are necessary to the exercise of repentance. To exhort him to the use of means with reference to any other end than this, were undoubtedly to mistake their design, and to expose him to be dangerously and fatally misled. Take heed then, brethren, that you avoid both these
Before you put off the sinner with the simple direction to repent, be sure that you are not speaking to him a language which he does not understand. Be sure that he understands those truths without a knowledge of which, your direction, though true and good, would leave him to grope in the dark. And on the other hand, when you direct him to study his Bible and attend on the various means of religious instruction, take care that you do not leave the impression that this is a substitute for repentance, instead of the means of it; or at least that repentance will by and by come along in the train of these means without any more direct personal effort. In short, endeavor to put
him in the best way for understanding those truths which are involved in the exercise of repentance; but at the same time, let him distinctly know, that it is of such vital im. portance and such immediate obligation, that if he dies a stranger to it, he must reap the fruit of his neglect in a scene of interminable anguish.
2. Finally: Our subject teaches us what are the best qualifications for directing and counselling awakened sinners.
It is essential that a person who undertakes this office should have a good knowledge of God's word; for this is the great instrument by which the whole work is to be accomplished. It will not suffice that there should be a mere superficial acquaintance with divine truth; but it should be deep and thorough: the doctrines of the Bible should be understood in their various bearings and connections. There should also be an intimate knowledge of the human heart—the subject on which this work is to be performed. There should be an ability to guide the sinner in the work of self-examination ; to ferret sin out from its various lurking places; to bring principles and motives to
the various faculties and affections of the soul, with discrimination and good effect. In short, there should be an intelligent and devoted piety; for this secures a knowledge of divine truth on the one hand, and an acquaintance, with the springs of human conduct on the other. I hardly need say that the knowledge necessary to the right discharge of this office, is especially of an experimental character; for he who undertakes to direct an inquiring sinner in a path in which he has never walked, is as the blind leading the blind. A man may be destitute in a great degree of human learning, he may be a babe in the wisdom of the world, and yet he may have that divine and spiritual knowledge which shall render him a compe
tent guide to inquiring souls. And on the other hand, he may be a proficient in every branch of human knowledge, he may have even studied thoroughly the philosophy of the mind, and the criticism of the Bible, and yet, from having never felt the power of divine truth upon his own heart, he may be a most unskilful and unsafe guide in the concern of the soul's salvation.
Wherefore, Christian brethren, be exhorted to larger attainments both in knowledge and in piety. I might urge you to this on the ground that it will increase your comfort here, and brighten your crown hereafter. I might urge you to it also on the ground of general usefulness; for there is no department of benevolent action for which such attainments would not better prepare you. But I exhort you now to aim at these attainments from the consideration that your lot is cast at a period, when much devolves upon you in the way of directing inquiring souls ; and while on the one hand, they may keep you from being instrumental, even in your well-meant efforts, of great evil; on the other, they may secure to you the blessing of accomplishing great good. Go then, Christian, often into your closet, and study your own heart. Open God's blessed word, and apply yourself to its precious truths. Keep your soul constantly imbued with its spirit. Then the inquiring sinner may find in you a safe and skilful guide. Then you may hope that God will honor you as an instrument of saving souls from death, and hiding a multitude of sins.
This exhortation was addressed by the Apostle to professed Christians. It takes for granted that they were not absolutely assured of their discipleship, and were liable to be deceived in the views which they formed respecting their own character. It enjoins the duty of referring their character to the proper test; proving whether Christ is in them by the sanctifying influences of his Spirit, or whether they are mere nominal Christians, finally to be cast off as reprobate.
The advice contained in the text was addressed to the Corinthian church indiscriminately; and it may properly apply to all Christians, without any reference to age or standing. It is, however, especially applicable to those who have just entered, or professedly eniered, on the Christian life ; for if they mistake their own character then, there is reason to fear that the mistake will be fatal.. It therefore becomes every minister, and every private Christian, who undertakes the office of a counsellor and guide, during a revival of religion, to make much use of the exhortation" Prove your own selves."
It is, if I mistake not, becoming a somewhat popular notion, that nearly all the efforts which are made during a