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cannot see its own condition; and it benumbs and stupefies the heart, that it cannot feel its own case.

4. But especially it provokes God to withdraw him. self, his comforts and the assistance of his Spirit, without which we may search long enough before we have assurance. God has made a separation between sin and peace. Though they may consist together in some degree, yet so far as sin prevails in the soul, so far will the peace of that soul be defective. As long as thou dost favour or cherish thy pride and selfesteem, thy aspiring projects and love of the world, thy secret lust, or any like unchristian practice, thou expectest assurance and comfort in vain. God will not encourage thee by his precious gifts in a course of sinning. This worm will be gnawing upon thy conscience; it will be a fretting, devouring canker to thy consolations. Thou mayest steal a spark of false comfort from thy worldly prosperity or delight; or thou mayest have it from some false opinions, or from the delusions of Satan; but from God thou wilt have no more comfort, whilst thou makest no conscience of sinning.

VIII. Another very great and common cause of want of assurance and comfort is, that men grow sluggish in the spiritual part of duty, and keep not their graces in constant and lively action. Dr. Sibbs says truly, “ It is the lazy Christian commonly that lacks assurance.” The way of painful duty is the way of fullest comfort. Christ carries all our comforts in his hand. If we are out of that way where Christ is to be met, we are out of the way where comfort is to be had.

This sluggishness debars us of our comforts in these three ways:

1. By stopping the fountain, and causing Christ to withhold this blessing from us. So far as the Spirit is grieved, he will suspend his consolations. Assurance and peace are Christ's great encouragements to faithfulness and obedience; and, therefore, though our obedience do not merit them, yet they usually rise and fall with our diligence in duty.

2. “Grace is never apparent and sensible to the soul, but while it is in action;" and therefore want of action must needs cause want of assurance. The fire that lies still in the flint is neither seen nor felt; but when you smite it, and force it into action, it is easily discerned. The greatest action forces the greatest observation; whereas the dead and inactive are not remembered or taken notice of. That you have a habit of faith or love, you can no otherwise know but as a consequence by reasoning; but that you have acts you may know by feeling. As Dr. Sibbs observes, “ There is sometimes grief for sin in us when we think there is none;" it wants but stirring up by some quickening word. The like may be said of every other grace. So long as a Christian has his graces in lively action; so long, for the most part, he is assured of them. How can you doubt whether you love God in the act of loving? Or whether you believe, in the very act of believing? If therefore you would be assured, whether this sacred fire be kindled in your hearts, blow it up; get it into a flame, and then you will know. Believe till you feel that you do believe; and love till you feel that you love.

3. This sluggishness in spiritual duties occasions a want of that consolation which the action of the soul upon such excellent objects naturally produces. The very act of loving God brings inexpressible sweetness with it into the soul. The soul that is best furnished with grace, when it is not in action, is like a lute well tuned, which, while it lies still, makes no more music than a common piece of wood; but when it is taken up and handled by a skilful musician, the melody is most delightful. « Some degree of comfort,” says Dr. Sibbs, “ follows every good action, as heat accompanies fire, and as beams and influence issue from the


Lastly, Another ordinary cause of doubtings and discomfort, is the prevalence of melancholy, or of bodily disease. It is no more wonder for a conscien tious man that is overcome with melancholy, to doubt

and fear, and despair, than it is for a sick man to groan, or a child to cry when he is beaten. This is the case with most that I have known lie long in doubting and distress of spirit. With some, melancholy, produced by crosses or distempers of body, afterwards brings in trouble of conscience as its companion. With others, trouble of mind is their first trouble, which hanging long about them, at last brings the body also into a diseased state. And then the trouble of mind increases the disease of body, and the disease of body again increases the trouble of mind. This is a most sad and pitiable state : for as the disease of the body is chronic and obstinate, and physic seldom succeeds where it has far prevailed; so, without the physician, the labours of the divine are usually in vain. You may silence such persons, but you cannot comfort them. You may make them confess that they have some grace, and at present abate a little their sadness, yet as soon as they are left to their own reflections, all your convincing arguments are forgotten, and they are as far from comfort as ever. man that looks through a black, or blue, or red glass, thinks every thing which he sees to be of the same colour; and if you would persuade him to the contrary, he will not believe you, but wonder that you should offer to persuade him against his eye-sight, so a melancholy man sees all things in a sad and fearful light, because he looks at them through a dark and distempered medium. The chief part of the cure of these men must be on the body, because there is the chief part of the disease ; yet how to effect this is osten no easy matter.

Thus I have shown you the chief causes, why so many Christians enjoy so little assurance and consolation.


Motives to Self-Examination. HAVING thus stated to you the hindrances of selfexamination and of assurance, I shall proceed, thirdly, to set before you some motives to self-examination.

Many love to hear of marks of grace by which they may try themselves; but few will be brought to spend an hour in applying them when they have them. They would like to have their doubts resolved; but when they find that the work lies chiefly upon their own hands, and what pains it must cost them to search their hearts faithfully, then they give it up, and go no further.

This is the case not only of the ungodly, who commonly perish through this neglect; but multitudes of the godly themselves, who spend days and years in sad complaints and doubtings, but will not be brought to spend a few hours in serious self-examination. I entreat all such persons to consider the following arguments, which I propound to them in the hope of persuading them to this duty.

1. To be deceived about your title to heaven is exceedingly easy; and not to be deceived is exceedingly difficult.

Multitudes who never suspected any falsehood in their hearts; yea, many that were confident of their integrity and safety, have yet proved unsound in the day of trial. How many poor souls are now in hell, that little thought of coming thither!

Many that excelled in worldly wisdom, have yet been deceived in this great business. They that had wit to deceive their neighbours, were yet deceived by Satan and their own hearts. Yea, those that have lived in the clear light of the gospel, and heard the difference between the righteous and the wicked clearly explained, and many a mark for trial laid down, even these have been, and daily are, deceived.

Yea, those that have preached, against the negligence of others, and pressed them to try themselves, and showed them the danger of being mistaken, have yet proved mistaken themselves.

And is it not then time for us to search our hearts to the very quick ?

II. To be deceived about our title to heaven is very common, as well as very easy; so common that it is the case of most in the world. Almost all men among us hope to be saved, and yet Christ says to us, Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: but strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Now, if such multitudes are deceived, should not we search the more diligently, lest we should be deceived as well as they?

III. To be deceived about our title to heaven is very dangerous. The consequences of it are lamentable and desperate.

1. It will exceedingly confirm them in the service of Satan, and fix them in their present way of death. They will never seek to be recovered, as long as they think their present state may serve.

As the prophet says, “ A deceived heart will turn them aside, that they cannot deliver their own soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand ?"

2. It will destroy the efficacy of the means of grace that should do them good; nay, it will convert them into the means of their hardening and ruin. If a man mistake his bodily disease, and think it to be the opposite of what it is, he will be apt to use remedies which will increase it. So when an ungodly man should apply the threatenings and terrors of the Lord, a mistake on this head will make him apply the promises. Now, there is no greater strengthener of sin, and destroyer of the soul, than Scripture misapplied.

3. It will keep a man from compassionating his own soul. Though he be a sad object of pity to every

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