« PreviousContinue »
illumination and guidance of the Spirit of all truth, that none of these difficulties may draw you into self-deception; but that you may be enabled to arrive at the true knowledge of what you are, in the reckoning of the omniscient Jehovah. To aid you in this important inquiry, I shall endeavour to give you a few plain directions in the following Chapter.
DIRECTIONS FOR SELF-EXAMINATION,
Directions to be observed preparatory to self-examination, 1. You must seriously view it both as your duty, and your interest.–2. You must be persuaded that, though difficult, it is practicable.-3. You ought to fix on suit. able scripture marks of Christian character, that you may have them ready for your assistance.-4. You should choose a proper time.-5. You should go to a suitable place of retirement.-Directions respecting the manner in which this duty should be performed, 1. This exercise should be commenced with a deep sense of your inability to perform it aright, and with prayer for the assistance of the Spirit of God. --2. It should be executed with much care and diligence.--3. With patient deliberation.-4. With all possible impartiality.-5. Repeatedly.—6. The word of God must be the standard of trial.7. Throughout the whole process you must look up for the aids of the Spirit of God, and act as in his presence.
In attempting to assist you in an undertaking of such magnitude and difficulty, I shall lay down a few plain and practical directions,-some of them preparatory to self-examination, and others relating to the manner in which it should be observed.
1. Before you can profitably engage in self-examination, you must seriously view it both as your duty, and your interest. If it be not your duty, then the neglect of it cannot be offensive to God. But if it be sanctioned by the authority of his word, your disregard of it must expose you to his righteous displeasure. That God has explicitly and repeatedly
commanded you to sit in judgment on your own spiritual state, and, by a minute, and impartial investigation of your heart and life, to endeavour to ascertain whether you really are, or are not, a believer in Christ, has already been proved. The language of his word is,—“ Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith ; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates.”* “ If any man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”+
Nor is it less your interest, than it is your duty. It lies at the very foundation of your safety and comfort. Without observing it, and observing it aright, for aught you can know to the contrary, you may, notwithstanding your religious profession, be living in the most dangerous self-delusion. For want of it thousands are lulled into fatal security. By practising this duty, if you are indeed the children of God, you will experience the peace and joy arising from the knowledge of this; and be excited to give him the glory of what he has done for you, and wrought in you. But if, on the contrary, you be deceiving yourself, the sooner you are apprized of this the better; and it is only by careful self-scrutiny, that you can be apprized of this dangerous error.
2. Before you engage in self-examination, you ought to be persuaded that, difficult though it be, it
+ Gal. vi. 3, 4.
2 Cor. xiii. 5.
is notwithstanding practicable.—That it is attended with
many difficulties, and some of them truly formidable, has already been shown. But though this work be far from being so easy as some represent it; yet, blessed be God, it is not beyond the reach of any man who sincerely, and diligently, and in a proper manner, addresses himself to its performance. Were it a thing impossible for any person, or even for the majority of mankind, who are favoured with the sacred volume, to arrive at the true knowledge of their religious character, it would be useless to make the attempt. Were this the case, where would be the propriety of enjoining self-examination as a duty, and of promising advantage from its careful observance ? The very fact that every man is unequivocally commanded to perform this exercise, and assured that, as the favourable result of it, " then he shall have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another,” is a proof of its practicability. No man could “have rejoicing in himself alone,” or in the testimony of his own conscience, after having made trial of his own work, were he still to remain ignorant of his character.
Besides, no person acquainted with the Bible, can doubt the fact that it sets before us numerous marks of genuine godliness. It describes the peculiar and characteristic features, both of the righteous and the wicked, in various forms, and in the most explicit terms. But what purpose could these serve, if it be not to enable us to distinguish the former from the latter, and to ascertain to which class we belong ?
The language of the beloved disciple on this point, speaking not only in his own name, but in that of all believers, is clear and decisive :-“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him: and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life.”*
3. Before you engage in self-examination, you ought to fix on suitable scripture marks of Christian character, that you may have them ready for your assistance. That many professing Christians do not possess such a stock of knowledge, and particular acquaintance with the sacred volume, as can enable them on any occasion, without assistance, to select and apply to themselves suitable passages for this purpose, will scarcely be denied. A little reflection, therefore, might convince every one of this description, how absurd it would be for him to sit down professedly to try whether he be, or be not, a genuine believer in Christ, without having any definite criterion in view, by which he may determine this important inquiry. Unless he previously fix on the marks by which he is to try himself, and have them ready by him, he may spend the time, allotted for self-examination, in unsuccessfully searching for them ; or he
those which cannot afford him proper assistance.--If, therefore, you
• John iii. 14, 24. ; v. 13.