mine, whether we be in the faith or not. And this speaks the following things.

1. The neceffity of the knowledge of the faith, both of the doctrine of faith in fundamentals, and the grace of faith as to the nature of it, though it be not an experimental knowledge. No body can examine themselves on a point they have no notion of: so that those who are grossly ignorant of the nature of faith, are quite incapable of self-examination in this point, but just walk on in darkness and confusion to their own ruin, 1 John ii. 11. How much then does it concern all to cultivate the knowledge both of the doctrine and grace of faith?

2. Men profeffling faith may yet be void of it. They may seem to be in the faith, in a gracious state, who are yet in unbelief, and in the gall of bitterness : otherwise there would be no need of self-examination on that head. There is no need of it in heaven or hell; for there are no false colours 'worn there; nor do any there seem to be any more but what really they are. But here in the visible church are foolish virgins as well as wise, and foolish builders as well as thole who are not so. Great is the need then of self-examination,

3. The certain knowledge of our estate, whether we be in the faith or not, gracious or graceless, may be attained in the use of ordinary means, without extraordinary revelation. Self.examination and probation is that means, 2 Pet. i. 10. Give all diligence to make your calling and election fure Many complain they can never get to a point in that matter : but let them inform their judgement as to the nature and evidences of faith ; let them lay alide their laziness, and their untender walking, fhewing a precise regard to the duties of morality; and it will not be to hard. But when people remain in confusion as to the nature and evidences of faith, cannot bring themselves to the bar, and continue un ender in their walk, what can be expected ? Hence our Lord says, Matth. vi. 23. If tkine eye

be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the



light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkuess! And says the wise man, Prov. x. 4. He becometh poor that dealeth with a pack hand. Whereas diligence in the Christian walk, and tender walking in the way

of the Lord, are happy means of getting marks of faith. Hence Christ says, John xiv. 21. He that hath

ту prandments, and keepeth them, be it is that loveth me : and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 4. There is a rule of trial and self-examination gi

That we are bid examine ourselves, says there is a rule given we are to examine ourselves by, Hence the beloved disciple says, 1 John v. 13. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. God's word is a looking-glass wherein good and bad may see their true image, if they will. It is a fire that se. parates the good metal and dross; it is our way mark, fhewing where we are for the present, whither we are going, and pointing to the right way, This scars many at the Bible, and it is but few that make this proper use of it, but fcurf it over, ( Sirs, regard God's word, and try your state by it, for it is a lure and infallible rule, nay the only rule for it,

5. There is a faculty of self-judging in man, other: wile he were incapable of examining himself. Hence the wise man says, Prov. xx. 27. The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly. This candle, whether shining with the light of reason orly, or with the light of grace also, is ca. pable to make the discovery. Even the foolish virgins jaw at length that their lamps were gone out, And all are made to see they are not in the faith, before they are brought into it. So then you may, if ye will, crećt this court of examination within your own breaft, your own soul and conscience being both judge and party ; but it is only a subordinate judge, whole sen,

wrong will not stand, but be overthrown by

gence if

the fupreme Judge, by whose law the decision must be made.

6. Lastly, A clofe applying of that felf-judging faculty for the trial of that point. Hence the pfalmist faith this was his practice, Pfal. lxxvii. 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 ; muft inform himself of the rule he is to be judged by, set it before him, and apply his own cafe impartially to it, that he may fee 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 fomething is laid to your charge; whether ye be guilty or not; and wheiher ye be in such a one's favour or not. Only ye cannot, because ye will not examine yourselves, whicther ye be in the faith. O Sirs, roufe up yourselves 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 stops ping there, like the person of whom it is said, If. xliv. 20. He feedeth of asbes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his foul, nor fayy Is there not a lie in my right hand? That is an easy way indeed, but very untate; as was the case of Laodicea, Rev. iii. 17. unto whom our Lord says, Because thou Sayest, I am ric?), and increased with goods, and have need of nothing ; and knoweft not that thou art, wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, Men entering on self-examination find it difficult and thorny, and there shrink back, contenting themselves to hope well, on they know not wliat grounds : fo the examination is broken off, ere the inatter is brought to a proof. If the examination before the tribunal of God could be shifted that way, and the decifion made in mcns favour as fuperficially, the

[ocr errors]

matter were the less. But there the examination must go through, and the decision must be made, according to, not mens groundless hopes, but the reality of things; according to what Bildad says, Job viii. 13. 14. So are the paths of all that forget God, and the hypocrite's hope shall perish : Whose hope Mall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.

2. The matter may, through a close examination, be 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 examina. tion of themselves, and thoroughly lifting 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 inexcusable, in not pur. fuing for it, but contentedly walking on in darkness. Closely ply the duty according to scripture-rules, and ye

will find out how matters stand.

3. We must not flop, but pursue our self-examination, till we come to that proof, and so come to a poipt in the matter on trial. Thrust forward refolutely, 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. xiii. 12. Whosoever hath, ta him fhall be given, and be shall have more abundance. And suppose ye should not reach that proof at one time, ye must carry on the examination at another time, and so from time to time, till ye reach the proof. This is your duty; and if ye stedfastly perfift therein, ye will bring matters to a crisis.

4. Lastly, Having reached the proof of your state, whether


be in the faith or not, pronounce judge inent thereon, whether it be good or bad. This is the end for which the self examination is gone thro', and the proof was searched out, that you may thereon form a certain conclufion, whether ye be in the faith or not. And it is necessary fo to do, that if ye find ye are not in 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 you 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 fame. Hence our Lord cautions his disciples, Luke xxi. 34• Take heed to yourselves, left 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 fo 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 peep, O Nuggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? ret a little Jeep, a little Number, a little folding of the bands to sleep. So fall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. But O what a

Vol. III.

3 F

« VorigeDoorgaan »