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the bar, and continue untender in their walk, what can be expected? Hence our Lord says, Matth. vi. 23. • If thine 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 darkness!' And says the wise man, Prov. x. 4. He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack 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 my commandments, and keepeth them, he 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 given. 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 separates the good metal and dross; it is our way-mark, shewing 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 scurf it over. O! Sirs, regard God's word, and try your state by it, for it is a sure and infallible rule, nay the only rule for it.
5. There is a faculty of self-judging in man, otherwise 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 only, or with the light of grace also, is capable to make the discovery. Even the foolish virgins saw 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, erect this court of examination within your own breast, your own soul and conscience being both judge and party; but it is only a subordinate, judge, whose sentence, if wrong, will not stand, but be
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, 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; 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 not. Only ye cannot, 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 feedeth 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 decision 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, 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 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 inexcusable, in not pursuing for it, but contentedly walking on in darkness. Closely ply the duty according to scripturerules, and ye 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 a 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. xiii. 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 another 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 conclusion, 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 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 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, O sluggard? 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 O what a risk is that, foreboding a fearful wakening! If ye love 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 necessity 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 of many.
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 darkness as to your state, while ye have these lights to let you into it? Sirs, if ye will not