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respecting sin. It will not be denied, that sin disqualifies the soul for communion with Jesus, for “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” It equally unfits it for his service. " I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me."
This double effect of sin ought to excite the believ: er to institute a close scrutiny into his own heart, lest an Achan, lest the accursed thing, lie concealed in it, provoking the displeasure of his God, and keeping him at a distance. The heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked ; and much attention, impartiality, and perseverance, will be necessary to search it thoroughly. The injunction, " Let a man examine himself," with respect to this ordinance, must have a special relation to sin. Were the believer free of all sin self-examination would be unnecessary. The difficulty of this work, and the necessity of having it done, induced David to put it into the hand of God.
66 Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm cxxxix. 23, 24.
Whoever adopts this method will be successful in his work. But the believer must review his life-as well as his heart. The sorrowing prophet urged this duty. “ Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.” Lam. ii. 40. it in practice. “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies." Psalm cxix. 59. If this work is neglected or superficially performed, iniquity will be regarded in the heart, and the Lord will not hear.,
The design of this enquiry is to produce a right disposition of the heart about sin, and to have it destroyed. Nothing is more criminal in the sight of God,
nor is any thing more offensive to him, than to allow sin a place in the heart. When it has been allowed this, it must be dispossessed of its place, and imbittered to the soul as the object of its greatest hatred. It is the abominable thing which God's soul hateth; and on that account he commands us to do it not. The believer, after the example of God, should also hate it. Wherever he has seen it to be an evil thing and a bitter, his heart has been filled with godly sorrow,
and he has poured out his soul unto God in holy confession. Such an exercise is acceptable to God.
66 the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Psalm li. 17. “ The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart." Psalm xxxiv, 18.
This frame of the heart about sin is obtained by a proper discernment of the body of Jesus. In his sufferings the holiness of God and of his law is seen, in its opposition to sin, to great advantage: its demerit also is seen.
It is here seen dreadfully aggravated as against that astonishing love which Jesus displayed, in dying for it.
“ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned." Psalm li. 4. Till sin is seen as against God, it is not seen at all: nor can it be so seen, until just conceptions are formed of his character. When this is done the believer is truly humbled, and appears vile in his
Now," said holy Job, “mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job xlii. 5. “Wo is me; for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips:-for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Isaiah vi. 5. Such contrite and humble souls may expect communion with God. as I dwell," says the Holy One, “ with him that is of a contrite and humble
spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah lvii. 15.
5. This frame implies holy spiritual desires to enjoy Christ in the ordinance. There is nothing more necessary than this.
There is not a doubt, however, that many professors celebrate the ordinance without ever seeking to have such desires. Such can never enjoy Jesus in it.
These desires are not naturally in the soul. “ Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways, is the native language of the heart. They exist only in such hearts as are renewed by grace, and are lively only under present operations of the Spirit. " And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba Father.” Gal. iv. 6.
Prayer is the expression of the desires of the heart to God, in which “ The Spirit helpeth our infirmities—making intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The Spirit of grace and supplication is God's promise, and when he fulfils it to his people “ The desire of their souls is to his name, and to the remembrance of him."
These desires are excited by various considerations as means accompanied by the Spirit. A proper discovery of the superior excellence of Jesus, as one alto. gether lovely, and in whom is to be found every enjoyment, calculated to improve the soul, and yield it the highest satisfaction, produces these desires. Such a view of her beloved, as “ white and ruddy,” &c. prompted the spouse to charge the daughters of Jeru. salem, if they found her beloved, to tell him, That she was sick of love; that her desires were exceedingly strong, and the absence of the object made her very unhappy. When David felt his own want and
weakness, and contemplated the wisdom, fulness, and power of his God, he exclaims, " Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Psalm xxiii. 25. To be near unto him, to contemplate his beauty, to learn the secrets of his covenant, and to be kept in safety from enemies was the holy man's grand object, which he desired, above every thing else, to obtain. thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple." Psalm xxvii. 4.
It is principally in the ordinances of grace, that the believer : wishes to have his desires gratified; because he knows this to be the way appointed by God for that purpose. “ O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth for thee,--to see thy power and thy glory, as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.”. Psalm Ixiii. 1, 2.
Such as have these desires are fit for holding fellowship with Jesus in his ordinances; and they have the promise that it shall be according to their desires, “ Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righte. ousness: for they shall be filled.” Mat. v. 6. These desires are often expressed in language taken from the naiural appetites of hunger and thirst, and as these natural sensations are necessary to the taking of food and drink, and produce strong inclinaticns for them; so holy desires in the believer imply a sense of want, fit him to receive his spiritual nutritient, and impel him to apply for it.
“My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my
cry out for the living God." Psalm lxxxiv. 1. In this frame he is prepared to receive and relish his spiritual
provision at the holy table; to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God. Jesus will receive him most cordially, and entertain him with the best in his house. “ For he satisfieth the longing soul; and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm cvii. . 9. To such souls Jesus will say at his table, “ Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” Song v. 1.
6, This frame of soul does not rest in these external symbols, by which Christ is exhibited. Many will be found who understand, and approve of, the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel, and who punctually attend the dispensation of these ordinances, and regularly sit down at the Lord's table, who have no farther object in view than the ordinance. They consider the observation of the ordinance as a duty, and so attend upon it; though many have not even such a view but act merely from custom. The nature and design of it are overlooked, consequently that preparation of the heart, necessary to a suitable and profitable discharge of the duty, is never thought of. Such characters seem to “ Seek God daily, to delight to know his ways, as a people that do righteousness, and forsake not the ordinances of their God:” But they only “ draw near with their mouth, and with their lips do honour him, while they remove their heart far from him, and their fear towards him is taught by the precept of men.”
The believer highly respects the ordinance, and attends conscientiously to the observation of it, but he considers it of no farther use than to exhibit Christ to him, and to be a means of enjoying fellowship with him. As often as he attends it, and meets not with Jesus, he considers himself as disappointed; whereas