« AnteriorContinuar »
shall befall us hereafter? And is it not then most especially to know what shall befall our souls; and what place and state we must be in for ever? Why, this you may know, if you will but faithfully try.
2. But the comforts of that certainty of salvation, which this trial doth conduce toward, are yet for greater. If ever God bestow this blessing of assurance on thee, thou wilt account thyself the happiest man on earth, and feel that it is not a notional or empty mercy. For,
1. What sweet thoughts wilt thou have of God! All that greatness, and jealousy, and justice, which is the terror of others, will be matter of encouragement and joy to thee. As the son of a king doth rejoice in his father's magnificence and power, which is the awe of subjects, and terror of rebels; when the thunder doth roar, and the lightning flash, and the earth quake, and the signs of dreadful omnipotency do appear, thou canst say, 'All this is the effect of my Father's power.
2. How sweet may every thought of Christ, and the blood which he hath shed, and the benefits he hath procured, be unto thee who hast got this assurance! Then will the name of a Saviour be a sweet name; and the thoughts of his gentle and loving nature, and of the gracious design which he hath carried on for our salvation, will be pleasing thoughts. Then will it do thee good to view his wounds by the eye of faith, and to put thy fingers, as it were, into his side ; when thou canst call him, as Thomas did, "My Lord and my God.”
3. Every passage, also, in the word will then afford thee comfort. How sweet will be the promises when thou art sure they are thy own! The Gospel will then be glad tidings indeed. The very threatenings will occasion thy comfort, to remember that thou hast escaped them. Then wilt thou cry, with David, “O how I love thy law! it is sweeter than honey, more precious than gold,” &c.; and with Luther, that thou wilt “not take all the world for one leaf of the Bible.” When thou wast in thy sin, this book was to thee as Micaiah to Ahab, “It never spoke good of thee, but evil;” and therefore, no wonder if then thou didst hate it; but now it is the charter of thy everlasting rest, how welcome will it be to thee; and, how beautiful the very feet of those that bring it! (Rom. x. 15.).
4. What boldness and comfort then mayst 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 knowest that God is readier to grant thy requests than thou to move them! With what comfortable boldness mayest thou then approach the throne of grace; (Heb. x. 22, 29 ;) especially when the case is weighty, and thy necessity great! This assurance in prayer will be a sweet privilege indeed. A despairing soul, that feeleth the weight of sin and wrath, especially at a dying hour, would give a large price.to be a partaker of this privilege, and to be sure that he might have pardon and life for the asking for.
5. This assurance will give the sacrament a sweet relish to thy soul, and make it a refreshing feast indeed,
6. It will multiply the sweetness of every mercy thou receive est. When thou art sure that all proceeds from love, and are the beginnings and earnest of everlasting mercies. Thou wilt then have more comfort in a morsel of bread than the world hath in the greatest abundance of all things.
7. How comfortably then mayest thou undergo all afflictions, when thou knowest that he meaneth thee no hurt in them, but hath promised, “that all shall work together for thy good;" when thou art sure that he chasteneth thee because he loveth thee, and scourgeth thee, because thou art a son whom he will receive, and that out of very faithfulness he doth afflict thee ! (Rom. viii. 28; Heb. xii. 6, 7; Psal. lxxv.) What a support must this be to thy heart; and how will it abate the bitterness of the cup! Even the Son of God himself doth seem to take comfort from this assurance, when he was, in a manner, forsaken for our sins, and therefore he cries out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And even the prodigal, under his guilt and misery, doth take some comfort in remembering that he hath a father,
8. This assurance will sweeten to thee the forethoughts of death, and make thy heart glad to forethink of that entrance into joy; (Num. xxiii. 10 ;) when a man that is uncertain whither he is going must needs die in horror.
9. It will sweeten also thy forethoughts of judgment, when thou art sure that it will be the day of thy absolution and coronation.
10. Yea, the very thoughts of the flames of hell, will admiA It is a terrible thing for the stoutest heart alive to look such a danger in the face, as, for aught he knows, may at one blow kill him, and damn him; or in a moment send hiin both to his grave and to hell. Mr. Vines' Sermon on Numb, xiv. 24. p. 9.
*nister matter of consolation to thee, when thou canst certainly conclude thou art saved from them.
11. The forethoughts of heaven also will be more incompara ably delightful, when thou art certain that it is the place of thine everlasting abode. · 12. 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 have the prize; and fight, when thou knowest thou shalt conquer! It will make thee always abound in the work of the Lord, when thou knowest that thy labour is not in vain. (1 Cor. xv. 58.)
13. It will also make thee more profitable to others. Thou wilt be a most cheerful encourager of them from thine own ex·perience; thou wilt be able to refresh the weary, and to
strengthen the weak, and to speak a word of comfort in season to a troubled soul; whereas now, without assurance, instead of comforting others, thou wilt rather have need of support thyself: so that others are losers by thy uncertainty as well as thyself.
14. Assurance will put life into all thy affections or graces. 1. It will help thee to repent, and melt over thy sins, when thou knowest how dearly God did love thee, whom thou hast abused. 2. 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. (Psal. cxvi. 1, and xviii. 1, 2.) 3. It will quicken thy desires after him, when thou art once sure of thy interest in him. (1 Thess. iv, 17, 18; Psal. cxviii. 28; Isai, xxv. 1.) 4. It is the most excellent fountain of continual rejoicing. (Hab. iii. 17-19.) 5. It will confirm thy trust and confidence in God in the greatest straits. (Psal. lxxxix. 26, and xlvi. 1-3, &c.) 6. It will fill thy heart with thankfulness. 7. It will raise thee in the high, delightful work of praise. 8. It will be the most excellent help to a heavenly mind. 9. It will exceedingly tend to thy perseverance in all this. 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 sweet effects of assurance would make thy life a kind of heaven on earth. Seeing, then, that the examining of our state is the way to this assurance, and the means without which God doth not usually bestow it, doth it not concern us to fall close to this searching work? · Seçt, IX. I would not have bestowed this time and labour in
urging you with all these foregoing considerations, but that I know how backward man is to this duty. And though I am certain that these motives have weight of reason in them, yet experience of men's unreasonableness in things of this nature, doth make me jealous lest you should lay by the book, when you have read all this, as if you had done, and never set yourselves to the practice of the duty. Reader, thou seest the case in hand is of the greatest moment. It is to know whether thou shalt everlastingly live in heaven or hell. If thou hast lived hitherto in dark uncertainty, it is a pitiful case; but if thou wilfully continue so, thy madness is inexpressible: and is it not wilfully, when a thorough trial might help thee to be resolved, and thou wilt not be persuaded to be at so much pains ? What sayest thou now? Art thou fully resolved to fall upon the work? Shall all this labour that I have bestowed in persuading thee, be lost, or no? If thou wilt not obey, I would thou hadst never read these lines, that they might not have aggravated thy guilt, and silenced thee in judgment. I here put this special request to thee in behalf of thy soul; nay, I lay this charge upon thee in the name of the Lord; that thou defer no longer, but take the next opportunity that thou canst have, and take thy heart to task in good earnest, and think with thyself, 'Is it so easy, so common, and so dangerous, to be mistaken? Are there 80 many wrong ways ? Is the heart so guileful? Why then do I not search into every corner, and ply this work till I know my state? Must I so shortly undergo the trial at the bar of Christ? And do I not presently fall on trying myself? Why, what a case were I in, if I should then miscarry! May I know by a little diligent inquiry now, and do I stick at the labour?' And here set thyself to the duty. Object. But it may be, thou wilt say, I know not how to do it. Answ. That is the next work that I come to, to give directions herein; but, alas ! it will be in vain if thou be not resolved to practise them. Wilt thou, therefore, before thou goest any further, here promise before the Lord, to set thyself, to thy power, upon the speedy performing of the duty, according to these directions, which I shall lay down from the word ? I demand nothing unreasonable or impossible of thee: it is but that thou wouldest presently bestow a few hours' time, to know what shall become of thee for ever. If a neighbour, or common friend, desires but an hour's time of thee, in conference, or in labour, or any thing that thou mayst help them in, thou wouldst not, sure, deny it. How much less shouldst thou deny
is the hous, to be with thyseld to
atate? Mus into every
this to thyself in so great a case ?. I pray thee take this request from me, as if upon my knees, in the name of Christ, I did prefer it to thee; and I will betake me upon my knees to Christ again, to beg that he will persuade thy heart to the duty: and, in hope that thou wilt practise them, I will here give thee some directions, bo
CHAP. X. Containing Directions for Examination, and some .. ii
.. . Marks for Trial. . Sect. I. I will not stand here to lay down the directions ne. cessary for preparation to this duty, because you may gather them from what is said concerning the hinderances : for- the contraries of those hinderances will be most necessary helps. Only before you set upon it, I advise you moreover to the observation of these rules. 1. Come not with too peremptory conclusions of yourselves beforehand. Do not judge too confidently before you try. Many godly, dejected souls come with this
b I cannot but English (though I mar it) one passage in Seneca, to show some Christians, to their shame, what heathens did : “ The soul is daily to be called to an account. It was the custom of Sextius, that when the day was past, and he betook himself to his rest at night, he would ask his soul, · What evil of thine hast thou healed to-day? What vice hast thou resisted ? In what part art thou better?' Anger will cease and become more moderate, when it knows it must every day come before the judge. What practice is more excellent than thus to sift or examine 'over the whole day? How' quiet, and sound, and sweet a sleep must needs follow this reckoning with ourselves; when the soul is either commended or admonished, and, as a secret observer and judge of itself, is acquainted with his own manners! I use this power myself, and daily accuse myself, or plead my cause before myself. When the candle is taken out of my sight, and my wife holds her tongue, then, according to my custom, I search over the whole day with myself; I measure over again my doings and my sayings; I hide nothing from myself; I pass over nothing; for why should I fear any of my errors, when I can say, "See that thou du so no more; I now forgive thee; in such a disputation thou spakest too contentiously ; engage not hereafter in disputes with them that are ignorant. They that have not learned will uot learn. Such a man thou didst admonish more freely than thou oughtest; and therefore didst not amendhim, but offend him. Hereafter see, not only whether it be truth which thou speakest, but whether he to whom it is spoken can bear the truth.'"-Senec. de Ira, lib. iii.c. 36. If an heathen can keep a daily reckoning with his soul, methinks a Christian might follow on the work of exainination once till he kuow his condition; and when that is done, he shall find this daily reckoning well managed, to be of inconceivable advantage, for subduing corruption, and for growth in grace.