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timations of forgiveness, the light of his heavenly Father's countenance, and assistance to walk thenceforth in newness of heart and practice. And when the cause of his disquietude has been removed, then, but not till then, can he expect to examine impartially the evidences of his spiritual state.
9. Another cause of difficulty springs from the temptations of Satan.—That the people of God are exposed to the fiery assaults of this crafty and malignant adversary, is not, as some represent it, a matter of mere superstitious fancy. It is a painful certainty, attested alike by the word of God, and the experience of saints in every age and country. In reference to this fact, Paul thus exhorts believers at Ephesus," Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits, in high concerns."* To the same purpose Peter addresses the persecuted followers of Christ,—"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”+ And in unison with the voice of inspiration has ever been the testimony of God's people, whether we consult their written memoirs, or listen * Eph. vi. 10–12.
+1 Pet. v. 8, 9.
to their verbal declarations. All of them have felt, in a less or greater degree, the bitter enmity of this arch-foe; and been made to endure much disquietude and alarm from his suggestions.
When Satan, and his powers of darkness, are thus permitted to try the people of God for their chastise ment and improvement, though certain that they cannot pluck one of them out of the Redeemer's hand, and effect his eternal ruin ; yet they do all in their power to strip them of their comfort, and to distract them with terrors. By numberless artifices they endeavour to drive them to doubts and despair ; -to disbelieve the reality of their religious experience,--to view their sins as too great to be pardoned,—to conclude that they are not of the number of the elect,to entertain unholy and blasphemous thoughts,—or to question the inspiration of the Bible, and the very existence of God. But wisely or. dered, for their spiritual profit, as such fiery trials are; and certain as it is that “God will not suffer any of them to be tempted above what they are able to bear, and in due time will make a way for their escape;" yet, while under them, such considerations can afford them no comfort. Incapable, as they usually then are, of tracing in themselves any feature of God's children, they refuse to be comforted.
A moment's reflection must show, how impracticable it would be for any Christian, in such circumstances, to judge impartially concerning his character; and how improper, therefore, it would then be for him to make the attempt. Instead of unprofitably perplexing themselves with self-examination, all who are under distressing temptation, ought importunately and incessantly to cry to God for support and deliverance. By patiently waiting on the Lord in the frequent perusal of his word, regular attendance on the public ordinances of religion, and fervent and persevering secret prayer ; he will, sooner or later, accomplish their release, and give each of them cause to join with the Psalmist in thus praising his name ;-"He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them who hated me; for they were too strong for me."*
10. The last difficulty to which I shall advert, is a state of melancholy. This consists in a gloomy frame of mind, filled with dark forebodings, and commonly arising from bodily distempers. The soul and body are so closely united, and so mutually dependent, that the one can hardly be long subjected to suffering, and the other remain unaffected. When the mind is deeply distressed, soon does it impair the health of the body. And when the body is disordered by latent and lingering maladies, it cannot fail to have some influence on the temper, affections, and operations of the mind. Often do the distempers of the body unfit the mind for its accustomed exertions, fill it with gloomy apprehensions, and incline it to brood over dejected and desponding views and anticipations, till it settle in a fixed melancholy. When this is the case with any person who is piously disposed, the gloom of his mind will soon affect, in some degree, all his religious meditations, hopes, and experience. Like a person whose eye is jaundiced, and to whom all objects appear tinged with a yellow hue,-every subject to which he directs his attention, will be seen through a distempered medium, and will assume a cloudy aspect. Then, in his estimation, every thing seems to be against him. All the denunciations of divine wrath, mentioned in the Bible, appear pointed at him. No promise, or invitation of the gospel, can apply to his case. Every dispensation of providence, and almost every word and action of those around him, appear intended for his hurt, and remind him of his awful doom. His incessant complaint is, that God has for ever cast him off,—that Satan has obtained power over him, or perhaps already taken possession of him,—and that soon, by some visible and terrible judgment, he must everlastingly perish.
* Psalm xviii. 16, 17.
It were absurd to suppose that any child of God, under such melancholy, could form an accurate estimate of his religious character. Even though the degree of this disease should be less than we have supposed, it must have a perverting influence on his judgment, and unavoidably induce him to decide against himself. - All who are in this distressing condition, therefore, ought, by early rising, plain nourishment, much exercise in the open air, and cheerful society, to seek after the improvement of their bodily health. And, while they slight not the prescriptions of their earthly physician, above all let
them have recourse to Jesus, the physician of souls. Let them think much of his amiable character,-of his coming to seek and to save that which is lost,of his inviting all without exception to come to him, and assuring them, that “ him who cometh, he will in no wise cast out;"—and, instead of brooding over their miseries, let them listen to his gracious call, and cry to him to heal their wounded spirit,—“ to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heavi.
Thus I have endeavoured briefly to set before you, several of the difficulties which lie in the way of your forming an impartial and just estimate of your religious character. Some of them, it is true, are to be met with only occasionally, particularly the last three. But there are others of them with which all must struggle ; and which continually have a tendency to lead the unregenerate to judge favourably of their state, while they frequently hinder genuine believers from perceiving clearly and satisfactorily their gracious evidences.—Beware of either treating them lightly, as if they were unworthy of your notice; or of being discouraged by them from making any attempt to ascertain your present standing, in the view of death and eternity. Study to obviate those of them, to which, in some measure, you may rise superior, by increasing acquaintance with the word of God, and by circumspection and activity in the way of holiness. And fervently implore the
• Isa. lxi. 3.