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of our state, that there is not a day nor an hour, in which we do not fall short of God's requirements, and sin in his sight. The reasonableness of God's law, his tender grace and mercy, redemption by Jesus Christ, the proffered aid of the Holy Spirit, and the long-suffering and forbearance of God, are all powerful and plain arguments why we should keep his commandments, and therefore aggravate our disobedience. In enquiring, then, as to the reality of our repentance, each of us should ask himself-What are my thoughts of my sins? Do they grieve me as being committed against God? Have I another thought of sin to what I once had ? · Do I loathe and hate sin as the worst of all evils ? Have I thus an habitual mourning for sin? a broken and contrite heart? It is the first work of the Holy Spirit to convince us of sin; have I sought the gift of that Spirit?
Our repentance, if sincere, will be proved by “stedfast purposes to lead a new life.” Has the conviction, then, of your sinfulness, led you to see your need of a new heart and a new spirit, without which you can never lead a new life? Under a deep conviction of the infinite importance of fleeing from the wrath to come, have you determined to do so ? Have you, in retirement, seriously reflected on these things? Have you, in short, come to a deliberate and solemn resolution to give yourself up to God? Your examination as to this point should include uot only an enquiry as to godly sorrow for sin, but as to the determination to walk in newness of life.
Another material subject of enquiry is, as to your PAITH. Have you a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ? Has the conviction of your sinfulness led you to seek, as a poor and lost sinner, those mercies which
are treasured up in Christ Jesus? It is only those who know and trust in Christ the Saviour, that are in a state of meetness for the Lord's Supper. And here you have need to watch against self-deception. Many think that they have faith in Christ when they have it not. If we were to ask them, Do you believe in Christ? they would be ready to take offence at the question, and to reply, “ Do you take me for an infi
, del ! I am a Christian, and of course believe in him.” But, alas ! this is not of course. Would to God that all that are called Christians were trusting in Christ Jesus! Real faith is not, as you will have seen in a former chapter, a mere uninfluential assent of the understanding to the truths of Christianity; but such a belief of the Gospel as leads us to a daily and hourly trusting in Christ for a supply of all our necessities." It does not only produce a mere outward profession of Christianity, but a reliance on Christ as our Saviour, a personal
* The nature of faith may be illustrated by the following circumstance. In the late winters in London, when distress has been general, a place was fitted up for the reception of the houseless poor. Bills were pasted up in different parts of the town, directing persons were to find this refugé. Many read them out of mere curiosity, and fully assented to the truth of the fact, and thought nothing more about it; but the poor and destitute read them as having a deep interest in them, as a guide to direct them where to go for food, and lodging, and all they needed. Is our faith in God's word such as this? Does it lead us to Christ? The same image will further illustrate this subject. If any who were poor and destitute read the bills to which we have alluded, but did not believe them, or thought that if they applied they would not be accepted; or if they did not come, because they loved better to prowl about in the streets, practise violence, and commit licentiousness; such persons act the very same part with unbelievers in Christ, who may acknowledge the truth of what the Gospel declares, but still do not individually come to Christ for the blessings which he has promised to those who apply to him.
reliance on him for ourselves, a coming to him individually in our own case, as our Teacher, and an obedience to him as our Governor. There is another very common error, that of trusting in a vague notion that God is merciful, and all will be well. Is this a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ ? far from it. Let not a mere idle fancy, or uncertain notion like this, built on no solid foundation, satisfy you. You want a lively faith, a faith that leads you to rely on the Saviour, that influences the heart, moves the affections, and excites us to work for God; and yet renounces all hope but in Christ Jesus, as the channel through which every blessing flows, the treasury of spiritual riches, and the fountain of every good. Enquire then, Where am I fixing my hopes ? On whom do I depend for salvation ? Is it not in part on my own goodness, my OWb prayers and endeavours? You must indeed strive, and labour, and pray, or you will never be saved; but even if you did all required, you are an unprofitable servant; and with our manifold transgressions, we are also but as condemned criminals. God's mercies in Christ are our only refuge. “ So far as you think of doing any thing, call it what you may, with a hope of being pardoned and justified for its sake, so far you reject the only way of salvation, (Rom. iii, 4, 5.) and have reason to expect your portion with unbelievers." We must fix every hope on the atonement of Christ; then we shall discern the Lord's body, we shall eat his flesh, and drink bis blood, and be in a prepared state of mind duly to improve this ordinance.
We should further enquire as to our GRATITUDE. Have we a thankful remembrance of the death of our gracious Redeemer? If your mind is awakened to a
due sense of your sinfulness and ruin, and enlightened with a knowledge of the way of salvation by Christ Jesus, then the next point of enquiry should be- Is the love of God shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost ? Am I ever ready to say, Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift? Contemplate for a moment that wonderful love of God, which, before time began, planned the way of salvation. Contemplate the way in which this love was manifested. The eternal Word, the Lord of Glory, was made flesh, and dwelt among us. Consider how much it cost. God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all. Contemplate the amazing benefits, pardon, peace, salvation, and eternal life, which thereby come to us; and then you may better judge what a thankful remembrance we ought to have. Ask yourselves, then, Have these things deeply affected my heart? Have they kindled within me any warm emotions of gratitude, and called forth my
devout thanksgivings? If we love Christ, we shall think much of Christ. Those things concerning which our thoughts most abound, mark the state of the soul. Dr. Owen remarks, “Let a man profess what he will, if his thoughts are generally conversant about worldly and seasual things, he has an earthly and worldly mind; as he thinks, so he is; there is the image and likeness of the soul. If then we are affected with the love of Christ, it will beget in our souls many thoughts of Christ, in our lging down and in our rising up, in our beds, in our ways, on our occasions, as well as in ordinances. If indeed our hearts are affected with the love of Christ, our thoughts of Christ will abound, and those thoughts will work again on our affections, and conform us more and more to the injage of Christ.”
Enquire thus, if gratitude for the gift and love of a dying Saviour be a permanent and prevailing feeling in your mind, inducing you to forsake those things which would displease God, and zealously to seek his glory. Is it in this view you go to his table, saying with David, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy?
There is yet another very important subject of enquiry-What is your LOVE TO MAN? Are you in charity with all men? The greatest knowledge, a faith that could work miracles, and the most excellent gifts, are all vain without charity. This love to man is of such importance, that our Lord gives an express rule equally applicable here as to the Jewish sacrifices, and doubtless principally designed for the use of the Christian Church-If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, * leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Matt. v, 23. An unforgiving temper, and a prevailing spirit of selfishness, a spirit of enmity and ill will, even towards our worst enemies, are utterly unsuitable to this solemn occasion. Enquire then whether you really love your
and what proofs you have of this love. Do you make sacrifices of your own ease, and will, and comforts, for them?
* Augustine notices a point here, which, as it may relieve the anxiety of a timid mind, I gladly insert: he says, “ the precept is, if we call to mind that our brother has ought against us : that is, if we have any way injured him, for then it is that he has something against us. For if he have injured us, then we have something against him; in which case there is no occasion to go to him for reconcilement. You would not ask pardon of the man who has done you an injury. It is sufficient that you forgive him as you desire forgiveness.”