Page images

evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things." As the most regular conversation and commendable actions, without a good heart to support and animate them, are in truth but vile hypocrisy, and a false disguise; so, while such an outward appearance of goodness is maintained, it must all be an unnatural and unpleasant force upon a man, and for that reason cannot be expected to last long.

5. As ever we would secure inward peace and tranquillity of mind, we should carefully attend to the tempers of our souls. A mind under the government of passion, and appetite, has many springs of uneasiness and disquiet within itself: according to the elegant description of the prophet, Isa. lvii. 20. "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." If they have nothing to trouble them from without, their own distempered spirits will not suffer them to be at rest. And if we consider inward peace farther, as resulting from reflection, and the approbation of conscience; there can be no room for it, without an acquaintance with our own spirits. We cannot justly approve a particular action, unless we are conscious to ourselves, that we were governed in it by good motives, as well as that it was good for the matter of it; nor can we entertain a safe hope of eternity, without being able to discern a congruity of temper to the happiness in reversion. "But let every man prove his own work, then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another," Gal. vi. 4.

6. As we are in an ensnaring world, we are concerned to know the bent of our souls. When we know the sins which most easily beset us, whether pride, or passion, or sensuality, or covetousness; we see, where our principal and most constant guard is necessary; what irregular inclination we should. most set ourselves to mortify, where Satan is most like to gain an advantage over us. The more ignorant we are of our weak part, the more likely he is to prevail; for we have given that watchful enemy too many opportunities to discern this, though for want of attention we should remain ignorant of it ourselves. And indeed the general knowledge of the imper-, fection of our own hearts, of their instability, their constant proneness to one evil or other, is of great consequence to us in the Christian life; that we may not be confident in ourselves, but may maintain a constant dependence on divine grace to

keep us from failing, which is absolutely necessary to our safety: And God will probably take some way to make us sensible that it is so, if we forget it; as he "left Hezekiah to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart," 2 Chron. xxxii. 31.

7. As ever we would attend on God's ordinances, and perform religious exercises with advantage, it is necessary we should know the spirit we are of. For want of this, those instructions, which are most apposite to the case of men, lose their effect. Ill men escape conviction, and lose the benefit of the aptest means for their everlasting welfare, because they know not themselves. Christ is not entertained by them, because they see not their need of him: "For the whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick," Luke v. 31. As long as the Laodiceans continued to flatter themselves that they were rich, and increased with goods, and had need of nothing, and knew not that they were wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; so long Christ's counsel would be little regarded by them, when he calls upon them, "to buy of him gold tried in the fire, that they might be rich; and white raiment, that they might be clothed," &c. Rev. iii. 17, 18. And sometimes even good men deny themselves the comfort offered them for want of a fuller acquaintance at home. This occasions a wrong application of the word of God, either to encourage presumption, or unreasonably to increase despondencies. The same self-ignorance, carried into our prayers or praises, or confessions, must prevent their being performed with understanding. How can we ask of God the blessings most proper for us, unless we are sensible of our present spiritual wants? How should we praise God in a right manner for spiritual benefits received, unless we know what he has done for our souls; or manage our confessions suitably to our own case, unless upon a search into our spirits we discern what is amiss there?

Let us all then be persuaded to make this our concern and business, to know what spirit we are of. This must decide the great question, whether we are in a state of acceptance with God, and whether we are tending towards heaven or hell? Here begins the great discrimination between good and bad men through the world, whether the disposition of their souls be prevailingly good or bad, Christian or unchristian. And yet,

though it be a matter of the greatest importance, men are apt to be mistaken in the case; to think themselves to be something when they are nothing, or at least to think of themselves above what they ought to think. But think a little, how prejudicial a mistake here must be; and that whether your state be good or bad.

If you are still in a state of sin, and alienated from God, you deceive yourselves with vain hopes, which must fail you. You judge differently of yourselves from what God does; and what must that issue in at last but dreadful disappointment, if you should come to see your mistake too late to rectify it? And by this self-flattery, you are prevailed upon to neglect the proper season, the present, one, for rectifying that which is amiss. It is impossible, that at any time you should come to yourselves, and have your state made safe, without beginning here, at the knowledge of your spirits.

On the other hand, if your state should now be good, you are enemies to your own comfort, in neglecting the strictest scrutiny of yourselves; for that would give you a more satisfactory view of your sincerity, and scatter the doubts, which must remain, till you discern distinctly the work of God in your hearts. And you must greatly obstruct an improvement and progress in the divine life; while for want of a fuller acquaintance with yourselves, you are insensible of many wants which still need to be supplied, and of many infirmities to be out


I will close this discourse with the mention of three directions.

1. Be not afraid to know the plague of your own heart; the worst of your case, and whatever is amiss in your spirits. Our Saviour observes, John iii. 20. "That every one that doth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." To be averse to bring ourselves to the light, is at once a very bad symptom, and of dangerous tendency. It must either absolutely shut us up in a fatal selfignorance, or prevent our being impartial in our searches.

2. Often take a view of yourselves in the glass of the gospel. A good and a bad spirit are very fully and plainly distinguished there. Bring your own tempers to the test by that rule. Do this with the utmost seriousness as under the eye of

God and frequently review the matter, lest you should have committed a mistake.

3. Accompany all your rational inquiries with earnest prayer to God, that he would search and try you, and enable you by the grace of his holy Spirit to discern the true state of your own case. The apostle says in another case, 1 Cor. ii. 11. "What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God." So I may say, in this case; no other man is conscious of what passes within our own spirits but ourselves; and therefore the review of that must be our own province; the Spirit of God on the other hand, who best knew the mind of God, has drawn the lineaments of that spirit and temper, which is truly pleasing to God in scripture. But in comparing these two, we need his gracious agency, in concurrence with the actings of our own spirits. That will produce the fullest satisfaction, when he "witnesseth with our spirits, that we are the children of God," Rom. viii. 16.



EPH. iv. 23.

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.


HE apostle had exhorted these Ephesians, in ver. 17. "not to walk as other Gentiles walked," who had not embraced Christianity. He describes their sad case to the end of ver. 19. And expresses his better hope of those to whom he wrote, who had known and professed the Christian doctrine, ver. 20, 21. "But ye have not so learned Christ: If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus." Your temper and character is become quite of another kind from that of other Gentiles, and from that which was once your own in the days of your ignorance; if you have been well acquainted with the design of Christianity, and have heartily embraced it with that view.

Now what is the great design and scope of Christianity, which all, who hear of it, should learn; and which all who have been taught by Christ, as the truth is in Jesus, do learn? An account of that follows in the three next verses. It is, "to put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts," ver. 22. It is to abandon the old corrupt practices, to which you were accustomed by the governing influence of depraved nature, while you pursued its irregular inclinations and lusts: " And to be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and thereupon to put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness," ver. 23, 24.

« PreviousContinue »