Page images
PDF
EPUB

useful to write out some of the chief, and particularly those Scriptures which hold them forth, when you proceed to examine yourself.

III. Be a constant observer of the temper and motions of thy heart. Almost all the difficulty of the work consists in the true and clear discerning of this. Be watchful in observing the actings both of grace and corruption, and the circumstances of their actings; as how frequent they are, how violent, how strong or weak were the outward incitements, how great or small the impediments, what delight, or loathing, or fear, or reluctance, accompany these acts. By these and similar observations, you may come to a more accurate knowledge of yourselves.

IV. Be sure you engage in the work with a serious, awakened soul, apprehensive of how great importance it is.

V. Resolve to judge thyself impartially, neither better nor worse than thou art, but as the evidence shall

prove thee.

VI. Empty thy mind of all other cares and thoughts, that they may not distract or divide thy soul. This work will of itself be enough at once, without connecting others with it.

VII. Then fall down before God, and in hearty prayer desire the assistance of his Spirit, to discover to thee the reality of thy condition, and to enlighten thee in the whole progress of the work.

VIII. Make choice of the most convenient time and place. 1. Let the place be private, that you may be free from distractions. 2. Choose a time when you are at leisure, and have nothing to interrupt you. You cannot cast up accounts, especially of such a nature as these, either in a crowd of company, or of employment. 3. If possible, let it be the present time, especially if thou hast been a stranger hitherto to the work. There should be no delaying in a matter of such weight. 4. Beware, especially, of delaying, when you have a special call to search yourselves; as before the sacrament, in times of public calamities, or of sickness, when God is trying you by some affliction, and, as Job says, is searching after your sin; then search after it yourselves. Lastly, you should specially choose a time when you are most fit for the work, when you are not secure and stupid, on the one hand, nor yet under deep desertion or melancholy, on the other; for else you will be unfit judges of your own state.

IX. Proceed, then, to put the question to thyself; but be sure to state it right. Let it not be, whether there be any good in thee at all; for so thou wilt err on the one hand : nor yet, whether thou have such or such a measure of grace; for so thou wilt err on the other hand. But, whether such or such a saving grace be in thee at all, in sincerity, or not?

X. If thy heart draw back, and be loath to the work, suffer it not so to give thee the slip; but force it on. Lay thy command upon it; let reason interpose, and use its authority ; look over the foregoing arguments, and press them home upon it: yea, lay the command of God upon it, and charge it to obey on pain of his displeasure. Set conscience to work also; let it do its office till thy lazy heart be spurred up to the work; for if thou suffer it to break away once and again, it. will grow so headstrong, that thou wilt not be able to master it.

XI. Let not thy heart trifle away the time, when it should be diligently at the work. Put the question to it seriously, Is it thus and thus with me, or no? Force it to give an answer; suffer it not to be silent, nor to think of other matters. If the question be hard, through the darkness of thy heart, yet do not, on this account, give it over, but search the closer, and study the case more exactly : and if it be possible, let not thy heart give over till it has resolved the question, and told thee in what case thou art. Do as David, when he said, “ My spirit made diligent search.” If thy heart strive to break away before thou art resolved, wrestle with it till thou hast prevailed, and say, “ I will not let thee go, till thou hast answered.” He that can prevail with his own heart, will also prevail with God.

XII. If thou find the work beyond thy strength, then seek for help from others. Go to some godly, experienced, able, faithful Christian, and tell him thy case, and desire his best advice. Not that any can know thy heart so well as thyself; but if thou deal faithfully, and tell him what thou knowest of thyself, he can tell thee whether it be sound evidence or not, and show thee Scripture how to prove it so; and direct thee in the right use of such evidence; and show thee what to conclude from it. But be sure thou do not make this a pretence to neglect or delay thy own duty of examining thyself; but only use it as one of the last remedies, when thou findest thy own endeavours will not serve. Neither be thou forward to open thy case to every one, or to a carnal, flattering, unskilful person; but to one that has prudence to conceal thy secrets, tenderness to compassionate thee, skill to direct thee, and faithfulness to deal truly and plainly with thee.

XIII. When by these means thou hast discovered the truth of thy state, then pass sentence on thyself according to the nature of thy discovery. A mere examination will do thee little good, if it proceed not to a judgment. Conclude as thou findest, either that thou art a true believer, or that thou art not. But pass not sentence on thyself rashly, or with self-flattery, or from melancholy fears and terrors; but do it deliberately, and truly, as thou findest, according to thy conscience. Do not conclude, as some do, “ I am a Christian;" or, as others do, “I am a reprobate, or an hypocrite, and shall be damned ;" when thou hast no ground for what thou sayest, but thy own fancy, or hopes, or fears; nay when thou mayest be convinced by Scripture and reason of the contrary, and hast nothing to say against the arguments. Let not thy judgment be any way biassed, or bribed, or forestalled from pronouncing a just sentence.

XIV. Labour to get thy heart deeply affected with its condition, according to the sentence passed on it. Do not think it enough to know, but labour to feel, what God has made thee see. If thou find thyself graceless, O get this impressed on thy heart Think what a doleful condition it is to be an enemy of God, to be unpardoned and unsanctified, and if thou shouldst so die, to be eternally damned! One would think such a thought should make a heart of stone quake! On the contrary, if thou find thyself renewed and sanctified, O bring this home to thy heart. Bethink thyself, what a blessed state the Lord has brought thee into! To be his child ! his friend! to be pardoned, justified, sanctified, and savad! What an inconceivable mercy! Why, wha' needest thou fear but sinning against him? Come war, or plague, or sickness, or death, thou art sure they can but thrust thee into heaven.

XV. Be sure to record the sentence so passed, Write it down, or at least write it in thy memory: at such a time, upon thorough examination, I found my state to be thus or thus. This record will be very useful to thee hereafter. If thou be ungodly, what a damp will it be to thy presumption and security, to go and read the sentence of thy misery under thy own hand! If thou be godly, what a help it will be against the next temptation to doubting and fear, to go and read under thy hand this record! Mayest thou not think, If at such a time I found the truth of grace, is it not likely to be now the same, and that these doubts come from the enemy of my peace ?

XVI. Yet would I not have thee so trust to one discovery, as to try no more ; especially if thou hast made any foul defection from Christ, and played the backslider. See then that thou renew the search again.

XVII. Neither would I have this hinder thee in the daily search of thy ways, or of thy increase in grace and fellowship with Christ. It is an ill sign, and a vile sin, for a man, when he thinks he has found himself gracious, and in a happy state, to let down his watch, and grow negligent of his heart and ways, and scarcely look after them any more.

XVIII. Neither would I have thee give over in discouragement, if thou canst not at once, or twice, or ten times trying, discover thy case; but follow it on till thou hast discovered. If one hour's labour will not serve, take another. If one day, or month, or year be too little, follow it still. There should be no sitting down discouraged in a work of so much importance, and which must be done.

Lastly, above all take heed, if thou find thyself to be yet unregenerate, that thou do not conclude of thy future state by thy present; nor say, “ Because I am ungodly, I shall die so; or, because I am a hypocrite, I shall continue so." No, thou hast other work to do. Thou hast to resolve to break off thy hypocrisy and thy wickedness, and to flee to Christ without delay. If thou find thou hast been all this while out of the way, do not sit down in despair, but make so much the more haste to turn into it. If thou hast been an hypocrite, or an ungodly person all thy life, yet Christ still offers himself to be thy Lord and Saviour. Neither canst thou possibly be so willing to accept of him, as he is to accept thee. Though thou hast hitherto abused him, and dissembled with him, yet has he not restrained his Spirit or promises to any set time; or said to thee, “ Thou shalt find grace, if thou sin but so much, or so long.” If thou be heartily willing at any time, I know not who can hinder thy happiness; yet this is no diminution of the sin or danger of delaying.

SECTION V.

Marks by which to examine Ourselves. Having thus given you some directions for self-examination, I shall proceed, lastly, to point out some marks by which you may try your title to the heavenly rest.

I. Every soul that has a title to this rest, places his chief happiness in it, and makes it the great and ultimate end of his being. This is the first mark; and it is so plain a truth, that I need not prove it; for this

« PreviousContinue »