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How to discern our Title to the Saints Rest.
1. The folly of men in not inquiring after a title to the saint's rest ; § 2. and their cause for terror as long as they are destitute of a title. § 3. Self-examination is urged upon them; § 4 (1) from the possibility of arriving at a certainty ; $ 5—9. (2) from the hinderances which will be thrown in our way by Satan, sinniers, our own hearts, and many other causes ; § 10. (3) from considering how easy, common, and dangerous, it is to be mistaken ; that trying will not be so painful as the neglect ; that God will soon try us; and that to try ourselves will be profitable : § 11. and therefore the reader is entreated no longer to delay the trial. $ 12. Then (4) directions are given how to try; § 13. (5) marks for trial are added : particularly, § 14. Do we make God our chief good ? $ 15. Do we heartily accept of Christ for our Lord and Saviour? § 16, 17. The chapter concludes with illustrating the great importance of these two marks.
§ 1. Is there such a glorious rest so near at hand; and shall none enjoy it but the people of God? What mean most of the world then, to live so contentedly without assurance of their interests in this rest, and neglect the trying of their title to it? When the Lord hath so fully opened the blessedness of that kingdom, which none but obedient believers shall possess; and so fully expressed those torments, which the rest of the world must eternally suffer; methinks they that believe this to be certainly true, should never be at any quiet in themselves, till they were fully assured of their being heirs of the kingdom. Lord, what a strange madness is this, that men who know they must presently enter upon unchangeable joy or pain, should yet live as uncertain what shall be their doom, as if they had never heard of any such state; yea, and live'as quietly and merrily in this uncertainty, as if all were made sure, and there were no danger! Are these men aliwe or dead? Are they
because God wpe that is in them ask most men
awake or asleep? What do they think on? Where are their hearts? If they have but a weighty suit at law, how careful are they to know whether it will go for or against them! If they were to be tried for their lives at an earthly bar, how careful would they be to know whether they should be saved or condemned, especially if their care might surely save them! If they be dangerously sick, they will inquire of the physician, What think you, sir, shall I escape or not? But in the business of their salvation, they are content to be uncertain. If you ask most men a reason of the hope that is in them, they will say, “ because God is merciful, and Christ died for sinners," and the like general reasons, which any man in the world may give as well as they: but put them to prove their interest in Christ, and in the saving mercy of God, and they can say nothing to the purpose. If God or man should say to them, What case is thy soul in, man? Is it regenerate, sanctified, and pardoned, or not? He would say, as Cain of Abel, “ I know not; am I my soul's keeper? I hope well; I trust God with my soul; I shall speed as well as other men do; I thank God, I never made any doubt of my salvation.”_Thou hast cause to doubt, because thou never didst doubt; and yet more, because thou hast been so careless in thy confidence. What do thy expressions discover, but a wilful neglect of thy own salvation? As a ship-master that should let his vessel alone, and say, “I will venture it among the rocks, and waves, and winds; I will trust God with it, it will speed as well as other vessels.” What horrible abuse of God is this, to pretend to trust God, to cloke their own wilful negligence! If thou didst really trust God, thou wouldest also be ruled by him, and trust him in his own appointed way. He requires thee to give diligence to make thy calling and election sure,(6) and so trust him. He hath marked thee out a way in scripture, by which thou art charged to search and try thyself, and mayest
(6) 2 Pet. i. 10.
arrive at certainty. Were he not a foolish traveller, that would hold on his way, when he does not know whether he be right or wrong? and say, “ I hope I am right; I will go on, and trust in God?” Art thou not guilty of this folly in thy travels to eternity? Not considering that a little serious inquiry, whether thy way be right, might save thee a great deal of labour, which thou bestowest in vain, and must undo again, or else thou wilt miss of salvation, and undo thyself.
§ 2. How canst thou think or speak of the great God without terror, as long as thou art uncertain whether he be thy Father, or thy enemy, and knowest not but all his perfections may be employed against thee? or, of Jesus Christ, when thou knowest not whether his blood hath purged thy soul; whether he will condemn or acquit thee in judgment; or whe ther he be the foundation of thy happiness, or a stone of stumbling to break thee and grind thee to powder? How canst thou open the Bible, and read a chapter, but it should terrify thee? Methinks every leaf should be to thee as Belshazzar's writing on the wall, except only that which draws thee to try and reform. If thou readest the promises, thou knowest not whether they shall be fulfilled to thee. If thou readest the threatenings, for any thing thou knowest, thou readest thy own sentence. No wonder thou art an enemy to plain preaching, and say of the minister, as Ahab of the prophet, I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. How canst thou without terror join in prayer? When thou receivest the sacrament, thou knowest not whether it be thy bane or bliss. What comfort canst thou find in thy friends, and honours, and houses, and lands, till thou knowest thou hast the love of God with them, and shalt have rest with him when thou leavest them. Offer a prisoner, before he knows his sentence, either music, or clothes, or preferment; what are they to him, till he knows he shall escape with his life for if he knows he must die the next day, it will be small comfort to die rich or honourable. Methinks it should be so with thee, till thou knowest thy eternal state. When thou liest down to take thy rest, methinks the uncertainty of thy salvation should keep thee waking, or amaze thee in thy dreams, and trouble thy sleep. Doth it not grieve thee to see the people of God so comfortable in their way to glory, when thou hast no good hope of ever enjoying it thyself? How canst thou think of thy dying hour? Thou knowest it is near, and there is no avoiding it, nor any medicine found out that can prevent it. If thou shouldest die this day, (and who knows what a day may bring forth ?) thou art not certain whether thou shalt go to heaven or hell. And canst thou be merry, till thou art got out of this dangerous state? What shift dost thou make to preserve thy heart from horror, when thou rememberest the great judgment-day, and everlasting flames? When thou hearest of it, dost thou not tremble, as Felix? If the keepers shook, and became as dead men, on seeing the angel roll back the stone from Christ's sepulchre; how canst thou think of living in hell with devils, till thou hast some well-grounded assurance that thou shalt escape it? Thy bed is very soft, or thy heart is very hard, if thou canst sleep soundly in this uncertain case.
3. If this general uncertainty of the world about their salvation were remediless, then must it be borne as other unavoidable miseries. But, alas! the common cause is wilful negligence. Men will not be persuaded to use the remedy. The great means to conquer this uncertainty is self-examination, or the serious and diligent trying of a man's heart and state by the rule of scripture. Either men understand not the nature and use of this duty, or else they will not be at the pains to try. Go through a congregation of a thousand men, and how few of them shall you meet with, that ever bestowed one hour in all their lives in a close examination of their title to heaven! Ask thy own conscience, Reader, when was the time, and where was the place, that ever thou solemnly tookest thy heart to task, as in the sight of God, and didst examine it by scripture, whether it be renewed
or not? whether it be holy or not? whether it be set most on God, or the creatures, on heaven or earth? And when didst thou follow on this examination till thou hadst discovered thy condition, and passed sentence on thyself accordingly? But because this is a work of so high importance and so commonly neglected, I will therefore show,- that it is possible, by trying to come to a certainty :—what hinders men from trying and knowing their state ;then offer motives to examine ;-and directions ; together with some marks out of scripture, by which you may try and certainly know, whether you are the people of God or not.
$ 4. (1) Scripture shows, that the certainty of salvation may be attained, and ought to be laboured for, when it tells us so frequently, that the saints before us have known their justification and future salvation: when it declares, that whosoever believeth in Christ shall not perish, but have everlasting life; which it would be in vain to declare, if we cannot know ourselves to be believers or not: when it makes such a wide difference between the children of God, and the children of the devil; when it bids us give diligence to make our calling and election sure, and earnestly urges us to examine, prove, know our own selves, whether we be in the faith, and whether Jesus Christ be in us, except we be reprobates: also when its precepts require us to rejoice always, to call God our Father, to live in his praises, to love Christ's appearing, to wish that he may come quickly, and to eomfort ourselves with the mention of it. But who can do any of these heartily, that is not in some measure sure that he is the child of God?
$ 5. (2) Among the many binderances which keep men from self-examination, we cannot doubt but Satan will do his part. If all the power he hath, or all the means and instruments he can employ, can do it, he will be sure above all duties to keep you from this. He is loth the godly should have the joy, assurance, and advantage against corruption, which the faithful performance of self-examination would pro
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