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they were truly gracious, while yet they were utterly graceless. To prevent the fatal consequences of this, he commands every man among them to make a careful trial and proof of his own character and practice, and not to rely on the favourable opinion of others. Thas the deceived would be apprised of his danger ; and the genuine saint would have the comfort arising from the well grounded knowledge of his gracious state.

These commands, thus addressed to those primitive churches, are equally applicable to all the churches of Christ in every age and country. They are not of a peculiar and local nature, and intended to be of use to those only to whom they were first delivered. On the contrary, they obviously belong to the decision of a question which is universally and permanently interesting. In all churches there are some who stand as much in need of them,

professing believers in Corinth and Galatia-Above all, let it be remembered, they are commands divinely authoritative. Written as they were under the infallible guidance of the Spirit of God, they have the high sanction of him who is supreme Governor of the universe. As certainly as if you heard them spoken in awful majesty from heaven, they are unequivocal charges to you from the Lord God of hosts, to examine and prove your spiritual state. This consideration, therefore, apart from every other which can be urged, ought to have the weight of a thousand arguments and motives. God requires it ; consequently there is no room to dispute your obli.

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gation to perform it, unless you presume to reject his authority.

2. God not only has commanded you to try your character, but also furnished you with means suited to this investigation.—God is not a hard master who requires difficult services from you, without imparting any help for their performance. Had this been the case in regard to self-examination, the task would have been impracticable. Accompanied as it is with so many

difficulties, had you been left without a sure guide, you could not have known, after the most diligent investigation, whether you did, or did not, possess the character of God's children. But so far from this, he has provided you with the test by which you are to try yourself; and he has brought it near to you, and set it clearly before you in the sacred scriptures. Here numerous, minute, and explicit delineations are given of the characters both of the righteous and the wicked. Here they are

. described with respect to their widely different principles, dispositions, tempers, views, aims, hopes, fears, joys, sorrows, experience, and practice. Here these portraitures are drawn for the express purpose that they may be used as mirrors, in some of which every man may perceive his own likeness, and ascertain to which class of characters he belongs.--No man, therefore, who has access to this holy volume, and who is capable of perusing it with understanding, can excuse himself from the performance of this duty, on the ground that he has nothing to assist him in it--no plain and infallible marks by which he may know with certainty what is his spiritual state. Here, they are furnished in rich abundance and variety, suited to the condition, circumstances, and capacity of every child of Adam.-Since, therefore, you are commanded by God to search and try your character, and furnished with the means suited to assist you in this investigation, you are doubly inexcusable if you persist in the neglect of this duty.

3. God has promised his Holy Spirit to assist you in self-examination.-Valuable beyond all estimation though his written word be, and essentially necessary as it is, as the grand test of character in this trial, without divine illumination and guidance we could not rightly understand and apply it to ourselves. From the darkness of our minds, we cannot know aright the things of God, which are all spiritually discerned. We are prone to put good for evil, and evil for good,—to put light for darkness, and darkness for light,—to substitute the outward semblance of godliness, in place of its vital reality. And from the deceitfulness of our hearts, and the partiality of self-love, we are ever ready to judge too favourably of our state and actions, and to claim that honour and comfort to which we have no just title. To guard you against mistakes so dangerous in this difficult investigation, you are encouraged to ask, and to expect, the supernatural aids of the Holy Ghost.

When our blessed Lord, in compliance with the request of his disciples, gave them a pattern for their help in prayer, he urged them to the frequent and

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importunate practice of this duty, by various considerations, and apposite similitudes.

“ Ask,” says he, “ and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall opened unto you.


every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a fatber, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent ? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion ?" Now mark well the encouraging inference which he draws from this ;“ If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children ; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?” * This is no dark and equivocal promise. It is as plain as language can make it; and it is as encouraging as it is plain. They who ask the Holy Spirit shall obtain him, in his divine influences, for all the gracious purposes for which he is promised. Supernatural illumination is one of these. This blessing Christ promised to his disciples ;—“ The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.”+ And the beloved disciple,

+ writing to those whom he designates his “ little children," or the followers of Christ at large, explicitly affirms concerning them, “ Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things;"I that is, by the Holy Ghost, ye have a spiritual, experimental, and saving knowledge of all the revealed truths of the gospel. * Luke xi, 9–13.

1 1 John ii. 18, 20.

# John xiv. 26.

discover to you

With this assistance, therefore, how difficult soever the work of self-examination may be, you shall be fitted for its performance. “ The Spirit who searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God," if you fervently and believingly supplicate his illumination and guidance, will enable you to search and to know yourself. On the one hand, he will

the real state of your heart, and the true character of your general deportment. And, on the other, he will qualify you to understand the spiritual import of those marks of his children, which are delineated in his word; and consequently will fit you accurately to compare your attainments with them, and to discern your real condition. With his word, therefore, in your hand, humbly bow at his throne of grace, and pour forth the Psalmist's prayer, “O send forth thy light, and thy truth ; let them lead me and guide me.”

4. Amid these advantages, ignorance of your spiritual state, or self-deception respecting it, must be dishonouring and offensive to God.-Since he has plainly commanded the duty of self-examination, furnished you with means for its performance, and promised the assistance of his Spirit, if you ask it aright; how dishonouring to God must it be to treat this duty with neglect! Would not you yourself be greatly offended with a dependant whom you had strictly charged, and that for his own advantage, to execute a piece of work, if, after you had provided him with all that was requisite for it, and engaged to give him all needful assistance, you found him

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