« הקודםהמשך »
cure them. As for the ungodly, he knows if they should once earnestly examine, they would find out his deceits and their own danger, and so be very likely to escape him. How could he get so many millions to hell willingly, if they knew they were going thither? And how could they avoid knowing it, if they did but thoroughly try; having such a clear light and sure rule in the scripture to discover it? If the snare be not hid, the bird will escape it. Satan knows how to angle for souls, better than to show them the hook and line, or fright them away with a noise, or with his own appearance. Therefore he labours to keep them from a searching ministry; or to keep the minister from helping them to search; or to take off the edge of the word, that it may not pierce and divide; or to turn away their thoughts; or to possess them with prejudice. Satan knows when the minister has provided a searching sermon, fitted to the state and necessity of a hearer; and there, fore he will keep him away that day, if it be possible; or cast himn into a sleep; or steal away the word by the cares and talk of the world; or some way prevent its operation.
§ 6. Another great hinderance to self-examination arises from wicked men. Their examples; their merry company and discourse; their continually insisting on worldly concerns; their raillery and scoffs at godly persons; also their persuasions, allurements, and threats; are each of them exceeding great temptations to security. God doth scarce ever open the eyes of a poor sinner to see that his way is wrong, but presently there is a multitude of Satan's apostles ready to deceive and settle him again in the quiet possession of his former master. “What!” say they, “ do you make a doubt of your salvation, who have lived so well, and done nobody any harm? God is merciful; and if such as you shall not be saved, God help a great inany! What do you think of all your forefathers? And what will become of all your friends and neighbours that live as you do?
it, thee, give doubt,
Will they all be damned? Come, come, if you hearken to these preachers, they will drive you out of your wits. ' Are not all men sinners? And did not Christ die to save sinners? Never trouble your head with these thoughts, and you shall do well.” O how many thousands have such charms kept asleep in deceit and security, till death and hell have awakened them! The Lord calls to the sinner, and tells him, The gate is strait, the way is narrow, and few find it: Try and examine, give diligence to make sure. The world cries, Never doubt, never trouble yourselves with these thoughts. In this strait, Sinner, consider, it is Christ, and not your forefathers, or neighbours, or friends, that must judge you at last; and if Christ condemn you, these cannot save you: therefore common reason may tell you, that it is not from the words of ignorant men, but from the word of God, you must fetch your hopes of salvation. When Ahab would inquire among the multitude of flatter. ing prophets, it was his death. They can flatter men into the snare, but they cannot tell how to bring them out. Let no man deceive you with vain words ; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience : be not therefore partakers with them.(c)
§ 7. But the greatest hinderances are in men's own hearts.Some are so ignorant, that they know not what self-examination is, nor what a minister means, when he persuadeth them to try themselves : or they know not that there is any necessity for it; but think every man is bound to believe that his sins are pardoned, whether it be true or false, and that it is a great fault to make any question of it: or they do not think the assurance can be attained : or that there is any great difference between one man and another, but that we are all Christians, and therefore need not trouble ourselves any further; or at least they know not wherein the difference lies. They have as gross an idea of regeneration as Nicodemus had.-Some will not believe that God will ever make such
(c) Ephes. v. 6, 7.
a difference betwixt men in the life to come, and therefore will not search themselves whether they differ here.—Some are so stupified, say what we can to them, that they lay it not to heart, but give us the hearing, and there is the end.—Some are so possessed with self-love and pride, that they will not so much as suspect that they are in any danger. Like a proud tradesman, who scorns the prudent advice of casting up his books; as fond parents will not believe or hear any eyil of their children.-Some are so guilty, that they dare not try; and yet they dare venture on a more dreadful trial.--Some are so in love with sin, and so dislike the way of God, that they dare not try their ways, lest they be forced from the course they love, to that which they loathe.--Some are so resolved never to change their present state, that they neglect examination as a useless thing. Before they will seek a new way when they have lived so long, and gone so far, they will put their eternal state to the venture, come of it what will. Many men are so busy in the world, that they cannot set themselves to the trying their title to heaven, Others are so clogged with slothfulness of spirit, that they will not be at the pains of an hour's examination of their own hearts.--But the most common and dangerous impediment is that false faith and hope, commonly called presumption, which bears up the hearts of the greatest part of the world, and so keeps them from suspecting their danger.
$ 8. And if a man should break through all these binderances, and set upon the duty of self-examination, yet assurance is not presently attained.Too many deceive themselves in their inquiries after it, through one or other of the following causes : There is such confusion and darkness in the soul of man, especially of an unregenerate man, that he can scarcely tell what he doeth, or what is in him. As in a house, where nothing is in its proper place, it will be difficult to find what is wanted; so it is in the heart, where all things are in disorder. Most men, accustom themselves to be strangers at home, and too little observe the temper and motions of their own hearts. -Many are resolved what to judge before they try; like a bribed judge, who examines as if he would judge uprightly, when he is previously resolved which way the cause shall go.-Men are partial in their own cause; ready to think their great sins small, and their small sins none; their gifts of nature to be the work of grace, and to say, All these have I kept from my youth; I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing.–Most men search but by the halves. If it will not easily and quickly be done, they are discouraged, and leave off, They try themselves by false marks and rules; not knowing wherein the truth of Christianity doth consist, some looking beyond, and some short of, the scripture standard. And frequently they miscarry in this work, by attempting it in their own strength. As some expect the Spirit should do it without them, so others attempt it themselves without seeking or expecting the help of the Spirit. Both these will certainly miscarry in their assurance.
$ 9. Some other hinderances keep even true Christians from comfortable certainty. As for instance:-The weakness of grace. Small things are hardly discerned. Most Christians content themselves with a small measure of grace, and do not follow on to spiritual strength and manhood. The chief remedy for such would be, to follow on their duty, till their grace be increased. Wait upon God in the use of his prescribed means, and he will undoubtedly bless you with increase. O! that Christians would bestow most of that time to getting more grace, which they bestow in anxious doubtings whether they have any or none! and lay out those serious affections in pray ing for more grace, which they bestow in fruitless complaints! I beseech thee, Christian, take this advic! as from God; and then, when thou believest strongly, and lovest fervently, thou canst no more doubt of thy faith and love, than a man that is very hot can doubt
for more, beseech the hen thou
of his warmth, or a man that is strong and lusty can doubt of his being alive. Christians hinder their own comfort by looking more at signs, which tell them what they are, than at precepts, which tell them what they should do. As if their present case must needs be their everlasting case; and if they be now unpardoned, there were no remedy. Were he not mad, that would lie weeping because he is not pardoned, when his prince stands by all the while offering him a pardon, and persuading him to accept of it?--Justifying faith, Christian, is not thy persuasion of God's special love to thee, but thy accepting Christ to make thee lovely. It is far better to accept Christ as offered, than spend so much time in doubting whether we have Christ or not.-Another cause of distress to Christians is, their mistaking assurance for the joy that sometimes accompanies it. As if a child should take himself for a son no longer than while he sees the smiles of his father's face, or hears the comfortable expressions of his mouth; and as if the father ceased to be a father, whenever be ceased those smiles and speeches.—The trouble of souls is also increased by their not knowing the ordinary way of God's conveying comfort. They think they have nothing to do but wait when God will bestow it. But they must know, that the matter of their comfort is in the promises, and thence they must fetch it as often as they expect it, by daily and diligently meditating upon the promises : and in this way they may expect the Spirit will communicate comfort to their souls. The joy of the promises, and the joy of the Holy Ghost, are one.-Add to this, their expecting a greater measure of assurance than God usually bestows. As long as they have any doubting, they think they have no assurance. They consider not that there are many degrees of certainty. While they are here, they shall know but in part.And also, their deriving their comfort at first from insufficient grounds. This may be the case of a gracious soul who hath better grounds, but doth not