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understanding man that beholds him, yet will he not be able to pity himself, because he knows not his own misery. Oh! is it not a pitiful .sight to see a man laughing, when his understanding friends stand by weeping for his misery? Paul speaks of the voluptuous men and of the worldlings of his time even weeping; but we never read of their weeping for themselves. Christ stood weeping over Jerusalem, when they knew not of any evil that was to befal them, nor gave him thanks for his pity or his tears.
4. It refers to matters of the greatest moment, and therefore to mistake here must be most important. Surely, in such a weighty case, where our everlasting salvation or damnation is in question, every mistake is insufferable and inexcusable, which might have been prevented by any cost or pains. Men choose the most able lawyers and physicians, because mistakes of the one may lose them their estates, and mistakes of the other may lose them their lives. But mistakes about the soul are of a higher nature,
and are attended by more momentous consequences.
5. If you should continue your mistakes till death, there will be no time afterwards to correct them for your recovery. Mistake now, and you are undone for ever. Men think, that to see a man die quietly or comfortably, is to see him die happily; but if his comfort proceed from a mistake of his condition, it is one of the most painful and pitiable sights in the world. To live mistaken in such a case is lamentable, but to die mistaken is desperate, indeed.
Seeing, then, the case is so dangerous, what wise man would not follow the search of his heart, both night and day, till he be assured of his safety ?
IV. Consider how small the labour of this duty is in comparison of the sorrow which will follow its neglect. A few hours' or days' work, if it be closely followed, and with good direction, may do much to resolve the question. There is no such trouble in searching our hearts, nor any such danger, as should deter men from it. What harm can it do to you to try or to know your state and your prospects for eternity ? If you cannot find time to make sure of hea ven, how can you find time to eat, or drink, or sleep? You can toil from day to day and from year to year, in the hardest labours, and can you not endure to spend a little time in inquiring what shall be your everlasting state? What a deal of sorrow and after complaining might this small labour prevent !
V. Thou canst scarcely do Satan a greater pleasure, or thyself a greater injury, than by neglecting selfexamination. It is the main scope of the devil, in all his temptations, to deceive thee, and keep thee ignorant of thy danger; and wilt thou join with him to deceive thyself? If he did not deceive thee, he could not destroy thee: and if thou do this for him, thou dost the greatest part of his work, and art the chief destroyer of thyself. Among all the multitudes that perish, this is the most common cause of their undoing, that they would not be brought to try their state in time.
VI. The time is near when God will search you, and that will be another kind of trial than this. If it be but in this life by the fiery trial of affliction, it will make you often and earnestly wish that you had spared God that work, and yourselves the sorrow. Men think God regards their state and ways no more than they do their own. “ They consider not in their hearts," says the Lord, that I remember all their wickedness. Now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.” O what a happy preparation would it be for that last and great trial, if men would but thoroughly try themselves, and make sure work beforehand! When a man, by faith, thinks of that day, and especially when he shall see 6 the judgment set, and the books opened,” what a joyful preparation will it be, if he can truly say, “I know the sentence will be in my favour! I have examined myself by the same law of Christ which now shall judge me, and I have found that I am acquitted of all my guilt, having washed my robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'»
Lastly, Consider the blessed effects of self-examination. If thou be upright and godly, it will lead thee towards assurance of God's love; and if ever God shall bestow this blessing of assurance on thee, thou wilt account thyself one of the happiest men on earth, and wilt feel that it is not a notional or empty mercy. For,
(1.) What sweet thoughts wilt thou then have of God! All the greatness, holiness, and justice, which are the terror of others, will be a matter of delight and joy to thee. When the thunder roars, and the lightnings flash, and the earth quakes, and the signs of dreadful Omnipotence appear, thou wilt be able to say, All this is the effect of my Father's power.
(2.) How sweet will be every thought of Christ ! Then will the name of a Saviour be to thee 6 as ointment poured forth ;” and the thoughts of his gentle and loving nature, and of the gracious design which he has carried on for thy salvation, will delight thy heart.
(3.) What comfort will every passage in the word of God afford thee! How sweet will be the promises, when thou art sure they are thine own! The gospel will then be indeed glad tidings to thy soul. The very threatenings will be to thee a source of comfort, when thou rememberest that thou hast escaped them. Then wilt thou cry with David, “O how I love thy law! More to be desired is it than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb."
(4.) What boldness and comfort wilt thou have in prayer! When thou canst say, OUR FATHER, in full assurance;
and knowest that thou art welcome and accepted through Christ, and that thou hast a promise to be heard whenever thou askest, and that God is readier to grant thy requests than thou to make them, with what comfortable boldness mayest thou approach the throne of grace! This assurance in prayer will be a sweet privilege indeed, particularly when the case is weighty, and thy necessity urgent.
(5.) How will it multiply the sweetness of every mercy thou receivest, when thou art sure that all proceeds from love, and is the beginning and earnest of everlasting mercies! Thou wilt then have more comfort in a morsel of bread, than the world has in the greatest abundance of all things.
(6.) How comfortably mayest thou undergo all afflictions, when thou knowest that God means thee no hurt in them, but has promised, that “All things shall work together for thy good," when thou art sure that he chastens thee, because he loves thee, and scourges thee, because thou art a son whom he will receive, and that out of very faithfulness he afflicts thee! What a support will this be to thy heart; and how will it abate the bitterness of the cup !
(7.) This assurance will sweeten to thee the forethoughts of death, and make thy heart glad to think of thy entrance into everlasting joy; while a man that is uncertain whither he is going, must needs die with horror.
(8.) It will sweeten thy fore-thoughts of judgment, when thou art sure that it will be the day of thy absolution and coronation.
(9.) The very thoughts of the flames of hell will administer consolation to thee, when thou canst certainly conclude thou art saved from them.
(10.) The fore-thoughts of heaven will also be inconceivably delightful, when thou art certain that it is the place of thine everlasting abode.
(11.) It will make thee exceedingly lively and strong in the work of the Lord. With what courage wilt thou run, when thou knowest thou shalt win the prize ; and fight, when thou knowest thou shalt gain the victory. It will make thee always abound in the work of the Lord, when thou knowest that thy labour will not be in vain in the Lord.
(12.) It will make thee more profitable to others. Thou wilt be a more cheerful encourager of thy fellowmen from thine own experience. Thou wilt be able to refresh the weary, and to strengthen the weak, and to speak a word of comfort in season to troubled souls.
(13.) It will put life into all thy affections and graces. It will help thee to repent and melt over thy sins, when thou knowest how dearly God did love thee, whom thou hast abused. It will inflame thy soul with love to God, when thou once knowest thy near relation to him, and how tenderly he is affected toward thee. It will quicken thy desires after him, when thou art once sure of thy interest in him. It is the most excellent fountain of continual rejoicing, Hab. iii. 17-19. It will confirm thy trust and confidence in God in the greatest straits, Psalm xlvi. It will fill thy heart with thankfulness, and raise thee high in the delightful work of praise. It will be a most excellent help to a heavenly mind. It will exceedingly tend to thy perseverance in grace. He that is sure of the crown will hold on to the end, when others will be tired, and give up through discouragement.
All these blessed effects of assurance would make thy life a kind of heaven on earth. Seeing then that examination of our state is the way to this assurance, and the means without which God does not usually bestow it,—does it not concern us to engage in this searching work?
Directions for Self-Examination. I PROCEED, fourthly, to give you some directions for self-examination.
I. Form not too peremptory conclusions concerning yourselves beforehand. Do not judge too confidently before you try. Many godly dejected souls come to the work prejudging themselves, concluding that their state is miserable before they have tried it; and most wicked men, on the other hand, conclude most confidently that their state is good, or at least tolerable. No wonder if these both miscarry in judging, when they pass the sentence before the trial.
II. Be sure to be so well acquainted with the Scripture, as to know what are sound marks by which to try thyself, and wherein the truth of grace, and essence of the Christian character, consist. And it will be