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quicken my own mind, and yours, my brethren, and to assist, by the blessing of God, in the performance of the duty enjoined, suffer me to add to what has been already suggested, the following things.
1. In examining and proving ourselves, it is important that we bring ourselves to the right test, and that is the word of God. Let us compare ourselves with the scriptures, and not with our brethren, to judge of our moral state. Many seem to adopt the latter as their test. They compare themselves with their neighbors, and not with the scriptures, and the example of Christ. They look to the conversation and walk of professing Christians, and if they find it externally as lax as their own, they seem to feel safe; at least a greater safety, than if it were otherwise. And as such are willing to have the standard as low as possible, and feel safe in proportion as others depart from the path of duty, they are prepared to watch the conduct of their brethren and neighbors, with a critical and partial eye; and even to hearken to slander and detraction, and lend a help-ing hand. This is not only the practice of a great number of persons, who make no pretensions to re-ligion, and who take a peculiar pleasure in getting something against those who do; and in reporting it with exaggeration; and who in their social visits make this their whole employ, and seem to be dedelighted with nothing else; but it is too much the case, with some professing Christians, that, like the Corinthians, they seek a proof of Christ, in their brethren, rather than in themselves. And their favorable conclusions of themselves, are drawn rather from comparing themselves with others, than the word of God. Let us beware, my brethren, of such conduct. Let us seek rather to know ourselves than others, and let the word of God be the standard. For the testimony of the apostle is, that they "who
measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves are not wise."
2. In examining and proving ourselves, with a view to know our state, and attain to an assurance of salvation, let us be careful to understand the nature of Christian assurance. Let us remember that the highest, or most full assurance, is consistent with great remaining corruption, and a deep and affecting sense of sin and vileness, and is always accompanied with such a sense. Though there must be evidence of a work of sanctification, being begun in the heart, in order to an assured hope of salvation, yet it is not necessary to such a hope and confidence, that we should suppose sanctification completed, or that we should have a high opinion of our spiritual attainments, or feel that we are eminent Christians. A person may have an assured pe of salvation, and yet at the same time have a very low opinion of himself, and be deeply affected with a sense of his vileness, and low attainments in grace; and view himself as among the least of God's children, and not worthy to be numbered among them, on account of the weakness and imperfection of his graces: and this is ordinarily the case. And when there is a different appearance in a person, it is a strong sign that he is deceived, and that his assurance is a presumptuous
3. In looking for marks of grace, and evidences of being in the faith, and entitled to eternal life, let us look to those things which are distinguishing, and which are not common to true Christians, and to hypocrites. There are many things, possessed by all real Christians, which are also very often possessed by hypocrites. Though the want of these, therefore, is evidence against a person, and ought to be set down as such, yet the possession of them is no evidence in his favor. For instance, a strict attend
ance on the external duties of religion, this of itself, is no certain evidence that we are in a state of grace, but the want of it, is full evidence that we are not.
I will here, by way of specimen, mention two or three things, which it is very important we should pay particular attention to, in order to prove and know our own selves, and whether Christ be in us.
(1.) Love to the brethren. This is particularly pointed out in scripture as an evidence of grace. Says the apostle, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren." Let us try ourselves, therefore, by this, Let us, my brethren, examine whether we love the children of God; and whether we have a complacency in them, on account of the image of God, which is renewed in them. We profess to love the people of God but do we love in word only, or in deed and in truth? Says the apostle, when pointing out a way to attain assurance, "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, i. e. in profession only, but in deed, and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him."
Let us examine ourselves, my brethren, whether we have this ground of assurance, that the love of God dwelleth in us.
With a view to this, suffer me to put a few questions to your consciences and my own.
Are you willing to communicate this world's goods to your brethren, as they, by the providence of God, have need, and you have
Are you willing, when a brother is slandered and abused, in respect to his reputation, to speak for him, and support his good name, frowning upon backbiters and tatlers? Do you love the brethren so well, that when any of them neglect plain duty, or transgress plain commands, and walk unbecoming their profession, you can go to them, and in a spirit of meek
ness, endeavor to restore them even when you have reason to fear that it will not be well received, but may make them your enemies; and when you know that it will bring an odium upon you, and a charge from the world, and perhaps from some of your brethren, of being precise and superstitious, and intermeddling with that which is not your business. Yea, do you love them so well, that when all other steps have been taken without effect, you can hold up your hand, to cut them off from the communion of the visible Church, and treat them afterwards with a peculiar neglect, refusing all such intercourse with them, as may look like complacency in them, or desiring to associate with them? If we can do this, my brethren, we may hope that we love, not in word only, but in deed and in truth. But if we cannot do this; if we can see our brother have need, whether temporal or spiritual, and not oper: our bowels of compassion to him; if we can open our ears to back-biters and slanderers, or assist in spreading the tale of scandal; if we can suffer sin upon a brother, and not reprove him in any wise; and where incorrigible, can through fear of opposition, or trouble, or reproach, refuse to cut him off, and treat him with neglect, where is the evidence of our love to him? Surely there is none at all. We act an unfriendly part to him, and that contrary to our most solemn VOWS. And how in such case dwelleth the love of our brother, or the love of God in us? If this point of trial, viz. love to the brethren, and the proper expressions of this love, were thoroughly understood, and faithfully applied to themselves by professing Christians, many, it is to be feared very many, would see less reason to think favorably of their state, than they imagine they now see!
(2) Love to the word. It is essential to the true children of God, to love his word; to delight in divine truth; and to desire "the sincere milk of the
word." They take the word of God for their heritage. Their language is, as expressed by the inspired Psalmist, "Oh, how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. How sweet are thy words to my taste, yea sweeter than honey to my mouth! Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever, they are the rejoicing of my heart."
Let us examine, therefore, whether we thus love God's word. Do we take it for the man of our counsel? Do we delight to meditate in it, day and night, and find it as sweet food to our souls?
(3.) A respect to all the divine commands. "If ye love me," says Christ "keep my commandments. Ifa man love me he will keep my words." The children of God view all his requirements as reasonable, and desire to obey them. To live in the allowed and habitual neglect of any, is inconsistent with having the love of God. Chistians, it is true, are imperfect; but their imperfection consists in the defective manner, in which they perform duty; and in such sins as are the effect of sudden temptation, or of their inattention to examine what, in particular cases, their duty is, and not in the known and habitual practice of any sin. The apostle testifies, that " Whosoever offendeth in one point," i, e. allowedly and habitually, "is guilty of all." By such offending he shows himself destitute of love to God. Agreeably to this, is the prayer of David in the xix Psalm, that God would not suffer presumptuous sins to have dominion over him: to which he adds, " then shall I be upright," i. e. in a state of acceptance with God: implying that otherwise he should not.
It is important, therefore, brethren, that in proving curselves, this day, and this week, we should examine whether we do not live in the allowed and habitual, or frequent practice of some known sin. If we do, whatever other marks we may imagine we discover