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ACTS iii. 8.
And he, leaping up, stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple; walking and leaping, and praising God..
MOTIVES TO USEFULNESS.
MARK XIV. 8.
She hath done what she could..
THE LAST PASSOVER.
LUKE Xxii. 11, 12.
Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall show you a large upper room, furnished.. 97 SERMON XV.
LUKE V. 8.
Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, oh Lord! ·
MATT. ii. 8.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said Go, and search diligently for the young child : and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also...
RECONCILIATION TO GOD.
2 COR. v. 20.
We pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God...
2 TIM. iii. 2.
Men shall be lovers of their ownselves..
JOHN viii. 9.
Being convicted by their own conscience.
EXCELLENCE OF THE LAW
I have believed thy commandments..
PSALM CXXXxix. 23.
Search me, oh God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.
THIS excellent Psalm, so descriptive of the greatness and majesty, glory and excellency of God, concludes with a pathetic address to him: Search me, oh God! Do it thoroughly: search into my actions, and all their springs; into the temper of my mind, and every crevice of my soul. Take full cognizance of me: examine me as an artist does his work, to see whether there be any flaw or defect in it; as a physician does the pulse, or a surgeon the wounds of his patient; as a merchant his book of accompts, or a shopkeeper his stock in trade. Try me, as we try gold in a balance, or by the touchstone; or as candidates for honour and preferment, to see whether their talents be equal to the station. they are designed to occupy. Thus Daniel and his companions were tried before they stood in the presence of the Persian monarch. It is added: and know my heart-know my thoughts. Not that God could be ignorant of either; for he is the searcher of hearts, and knows our thoughts afar off; but the meaning is, that by enlightening our understanding, awakening our conscience, by the instrumentality of his word, and the agency of his Spirit, he would make both known to us.
The petition in the text is suitable at all times, and to all conditions and characters; but especially,
(1.) To young converts, who are doubtful of the truth of their convictions, the soundness of their conversion, and the sincerity of their graces. They were formerly confident and credulous: they are now fearful and jealous. Their frames being so fluctuating, and their comforts so unabiding, that they are sometimes greatly distressed lest they should be mistaken, and rest in the form of godliness instead of the power-pass for believers now, and be found amongst hypocrites at the last day.
(2.) To recovered backsliders. Such was David. himself. He had fallen into great sins; and though assured of his pardon, yet he might look upon the news as too good to be true: nay, finding so much sin and corruption remaining in him, he might be jealous of a relapse; or fear that the wound being slightly healed, might break forth afresh, to the reproach of religion, and the dishonour of God. Hence the language of Job: That which I see not, teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.
(3.) To those who are conscious of their own uprightness and integrity. The omniscience of God, which is a terror to wicked men, is a comfort to the sincere christian, who, though he knows nothing by himself, as Paul expresses it, that is, is not conscious of any secret indulged iniquity, yet is not satisfied therewith; but desires to submit himself to the scrutiny of that God whose knowledge is infinite, and whose judgment is always according to truth. Judge me, oh Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity— Examine me, oh Lord, and prove me; try my reins, and my heart. Psal. xxvi. 1, 2.
What I shall farther attempt from these words will be to shew what is implied in this request, and whence it might proceed.
I. What is implied in the request thus made by David?
1. That he had searched and tried himself. An upright spirit is a prying and inquisitive spirit, not into those mysteries which it is the glory of God to conceal, but those which are recommended to us in the scriptures as the proper subjects of human enquiry, and which when known will contribute to our real advantage. Thus Ezra and the jews sat down to examine the matter, a matter which very much concerned the glory of God and their own interest. (Ezra x. 16.) Asaph also communed with his own heart, and his spirit made diligent search. (Psal. lxxvii. 6.) A good man will bring his graces and duties to the touchstone of God's word, and impartially enquire whether his faith be that of God's elect, his hope that which purifies the heart, and makes not ashamed in a word, whether his profession and conduct be such as will bear the test of the great day. It would be no better than solemn mockery for any one to desire to be searched of God who never searched himself.
2. That his own searching was ineffectual, or at least not perfectly satisfactory. Some christians have spent nights and days in this important work, and have not been able to come to any satisfaction respecting themselves, while others have been mistaken in the conclusion they have formed. The former of these conditions may be very uncomfortable, but the latter is more dangerous. That self-examination, though absolutely necessary, is not sufficient, appears from that darkness and ignorance in which we are involved, that self-love and self-flattery to which we are prone. There is that maketh himself rich, and yet hath nothing; as well as that maketh himself poor, and yet hath great riches. However, whether our own hearts condemn us or not, it is good to have recourse to God: for he is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things.
3. This request implies in it a firm belief of God's omniscience. This was largely treated of in the beginning of this Psalm; and faith in it, not only excites, but gives life and vigour to every duty. Without a persuasion of it we cannot truly put up this prayer; because it is this perfection of the divine Being which capacitates him for the performance of the thing desired. Oh Lord, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee-Thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. He knows the true state of our souls, however it may be questioned by others, or doubted by ourselves: and it is the joy of a real christian that he is made manifest unto God. 2 Cor. v. 11.
II. We notice what are the springs of this desire. 1. We are liable to be mistaken. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness. And thus the Laodiceans thought themselves to be quite different persons from what they really were. In their own apprehensions they wanted nothing: in God's esteem they wanted every thing, but self-conceit; and of that they had not only a sufficiency, but a redundancy. Thus also the foolish virgins dwelt with the wise, enjoyed the same privileges, and were not distinguished from them till they sought to enter with them into heaven, and to their unspeakable surprise found that the door was shut! The hypocrite thinks that he has a good heart: the christian knows that he has a very wicked and deceitful one; and therefore desires that God would search it. (Jer. xvii. 9.) He knows that many things which are not religion look like it, and therefore is willing to undergo the strictest examination.
2. As we may be easily mistaken in the ideas we entertain of our state, so such mistakes are very dangerous, Those who labour under them are in a very unhappy condition in this world: for however they may seek after inward rest and satisfaction, they will