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When a man is awakened to serious consideration; when he examines his character and condition; when he looks and sees what he is, what he wants, what he deserves; when he perceives the vastness and certainty of his danger; when he finds himself perfectly unable to effect his own deliverance, and knows also that the help of men and angels united could not reach the desperateness of his case, then how inexpressibly desirable appears a connexion with Him who is able to save to the uttermost ! who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification! in whom it hath pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell! Then how delightful to hear him say, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavyladen, and I will give you rest!" Then how blessed, by believing, to enter into rest, and "joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he has now received the atonement !"
The second is the day of trouble. And this may always be expected; for man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards. And what, in the wreck of property, in the loss of relations and friends, in the failure of health and comfort-what will you do without the consolation of Israel ?" While your cisterns are broken, the fountain of living water is far off; while your lamps are extinguished, no Sun of Righteousness rises with healing under his wings. But if you had an interest in him who is the hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in the time of trouble, your trials would all be sanctified and alleviated; at what time you were afraid, you would trust in him ; in the multitude of your thoughts within you, his comforts would delight your soul. "I am cast down, but not destroyed. I feel my losses, but I am not
lost. The waters are bitter, but this tree heals them. The cross takes away the curse; yea, turns the curse into a blessing. It is good for me that I am afflicted. I know this shall turn to my salvation, through prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ."
The third is an hour that awaits you all. The day of trouble may come-the hour of death must come. The one is probable, the other is absolutely certain. For what man is he that liveth and shall not see death? The living know that they shall die. But though death be a universal event, it is not a universal privilege. It would be the most dreadful delusion in many of you to say, "It is better for me to die than to live;" for however severe your present sufferings may be, they are only the beginning of sorrows. If death find you out of Christ, it would have been good for you if you had never been born. There will be nothing to screen you from the power with which it is armed by sin. It will deprive you of all you hold most dear; it will terminate your space for repentance; it will close all your opportunities of mercy; it will put a seal upon your character and condition forever: it will arrest, and deliver you to the judge, and the judge will deliver you to the officer, and you will be cast into prison, and you shall not come out thence till you have paid the uttermost farthing. But hear the voice from heav"Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord." He in whom they are found, has abolished death, by the final destruction of the state, and the present removal of the sting; by the change of its nature and office; by turning it into a departure, a sleep; by making it gain. If death finds you in Christ, it will be the angel of the covenant; it will wipe away all
your tears; it will lead you to the altar of God, to God your exceeding joy.
You may continue to neglect and despise the Friend of sinners now, but you will have other thoughts soon. Death will discover and display the errors of life. How will you then wonder that the trifles and vanities which now engross you, should ever have acquired such an ascendancy! How will you be amazed that you constantly disregarded him who alone can befriend you when all other helpers fail! Then you will learn, but in vain, that an interest in Christ is the one thing needful. Cannot you look forward? Cannot you foresee this, before the knowledge can result only in despair?
For, fourthly, There is another day, and from which the former derives its greatest dread-it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment. I do not ask you what are your thoughts now ?-but what will they be, when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? when all that are in their graves shall come forth? when the dead, small and great, shall stand before God, and the books shall be opened? What will you then do without a friend, an advocate? Then the tribes of the earth will mourn and wail because of him. Then they who have despised him. and rejected him, will cry to the rocks and mountains to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. But the believer in Jesus lifts up his head with joy, for his redemption draweth nigh. Here he looked for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life, and now he enjoys it. He is found in him, and therefore he is found of him in peace and hears him say, "Come, ye blessed of
my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." To which we may add, that all this admits of anticipation by faith; and now, even now, he can say "I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day."
But all that renders the state important pleads in favour of inquiry and decision.-Let us, therefore,
III. Consider the EVIDENCE of our being in Christ.
There is no doubt but it is very desirable to know this; and it would be strange to suppose that it is impossible to ascertain it; especially since we are not only required to examine ourselves, and prove whether we are in the faith, but also to rejoice in the Lord always. Paul, we see, was assured of this
"I knew a man in Christ" and he knew himself to be so, not as he was an Apostle, (for a man might have been an Apostle, and not in Christ-this was the case with Judas,) but, as a believer. Official service is very distinguishable from personal experience, and gifts do not pledge the existence of grace. John does not say, we know that we have passed from death to life because we can prophesy or speak with new tongues, but "because we love the brethren."
When, however, we speak of this confidence, a little explanatory caution may be necessary. People often call it, the full assurance of faith. This is indeed a scriptural expression, but it occurs only once; and then it is used to denote, not a certainty of appropriation and experience, but a full persuasion of
our being allowed, by the new and living way which he has consecrated, to enter the presence of God in prayer, and partake of all the blessings of his salvation. There is, therefore, an expression we prefer to this-it is "the full assurance of hope." Our present confidence is the confidence of hope, and of hope only. This hope may be considered in a state of conflict with doubts and fears; or in a state of victory and triumph over them: in the one case, there will be anxiety and uneasiness, and in the other, joy and repose; but the degree does not alter the nature of the thing itself.
On what, then, is this confidence founded? Dreams? Visions? Voices in the air? Sudden impulses? Passages or promises accidentally presented on opening the Bible? and applied, regardless of the connexion from which they are taken, or the characters of those by whom they are adopted? On what strange, what dubious, what unauthorized evidences, do some rest their eternal hope! "To the law and to the testimony. If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
All the errors, however, in judging ourselves, are not on one side. There are mistakes also on the right hand and though they are not dangerous like those on the left, they may be distressing and even injurious, and therefore we must guard against them.
In deciding your condition, you should not make the experience of others too much the standard of your judgment; for though, as in water, face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man, yet, along with a general conformity, there is frequently much difference, especially in the degree and duration of those spiritual exercises which commonly precede the joy