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the same course, and was not disappointed. The saints should always act in this manner, and often do it. The proof which they make of God when they pour out their hearts in faith, never disappoints, but always exceeds, the most sanguine expectation. Could we rely on the Divine veracity pledged in the promise, God would see to the accomplishment. It is his part to perform, and ours to believe.
6. This exercise includes a high valuation of the blessing concerning which we prove God, and a waiting on him for it. Unless we value the blessing, see the want of it to be misery, and are sensible that we can have it nowhere but from God; we will never heartily engage in this exercise. The Jews by this time might have learnt that their own endeavours could never give them plenty, remove want, or rebuke the devourer. Every spiritual blessing is from God alone. Experience will soon convince all who are in earnest that they can do nothing of themselves for their own salvation; and faith, which alone brings any person to prove God, discovers that with him only there is mercy.
Valaing the blessing, believers are to wait for it. Though they may apprehend the time long, they are to wait till God send mercy, as they that watch for the morning. The night may be long and stormy, and waiting very irksome; but the morning will come. Nothing is more glorifying to God than to wait on him, and nothing more beneficial to the saint. Waiting on God is most comprehensive, and includes faith, hope, and prayer. He who waits will not be
idle. He walks on in the middle path between presumption and despair, and is constantly on the outlook for the blessing.
7. Having once begun the glorious exercise of proving God, we are to persevere in it to the end. As long as we stand in need of mercies and interpositions, as long as trials are measured out, while we have cruel and cunning enemies within or without, and have no strength of ourselves, proving God is our only resource. We are to prove him one year after another, and we are to come up through every part of this wilderness engaged in this exercise. We are to make the last great proof at Jordan. There we should collect all God's promises and interpositions, and all our own wants and experiences, and put God in mind of what he has said to us, and done for us. Above all, we should then fix the eye and heart upon the merit of Christ, grasp it by new and vigorous believing, and once for all bring God to the great touchstone of mercy and faithfulness, and importune him for salvation.
Proving in its present mode must end there. In heaven, having received complete salvation, we can no more hope for it. There we shall know as we are known, and see Christ as he is. That which is in part will be done away, and attainment and happiness will be perfect. We will then enjoy that God whom we have now proved, and cry out with unspeakable rapture, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice
in his salvation." The beatific vision of which we have often heard will be then fully enjoyed, and our Happiness will be as complete as endless!
In fine, faith must pervade the whole exercise. We must beware of proving God as we do persons of whose dispositions we are ignorant, or who may not have it in their power to help us, however much they might be inclined. Far less are we to prove God as some, in a time of extreme necessity, are obliged to apply to an enemy. No; we must believe that he is a rewarder of them that seek him, that he is rich in mercy to all who call on him, and that with him there is plenteous redemption. Some have been tried in human courts by their sworn enemies, and could not prevent it. The event was, as might have been expected. Unbelief is the sworn enemy of God and man, and if allowed to have place in proving God, has not a single good word to say of him. It speaks ill of his promises. It makes haste. It urges the saint to apply to another quarter, and wait no longer. Faith alone discovers the object to be proved, the touchstone to which it should be brought; and it alone can compare them together. Faith only can draw a proper conclusion. Indeed this precious grace itself, as exerted in prayer, constitutes the glorious exercise of proving God. It takes encouragement from such words as these, "What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them: If ye shall ask any thing in my name I will do it." Relying on his faithfulness, it wrestles, and will have them accomplished.
Having endeavoured to illustrate the exercise of proving God, before leaving this part of the subject, we might speak a little concerning the call, which God gives to his Church and people to engage in it. He says prove me.
1. This gracious call implies, that whatever was wrong with Israel no blame could be imputed to God. Sincerity and uprightness love the light. It was God's design to bring his people to compare his conduct to them with theirs to him. There was much wrong with them. They omitted duty, and neglected the tithes. The Lord was provoked, and threatened them with famine. Inattentive to the cause, they complained much of the effect. In this, as in other cases, unbelief laid all the blame on God. To discover to them where it really lay, God called them to prove him. He was willing that his conduct should undergo the narrowest scrutiny, well knowing that the decision would be, "My ways are equal, and yours unequal."
Some often blame the Lord's providence, when, upon proper inquiry, it would clearly appear, that fools are afflicted because of their transgression and iniquities; that the Lord punishes less than our iniquities deserve; that all things work together for good to the saints; and that all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to such as keep his covenant. And, which is more strange still, some are ready to blame God for restraining his grace and Spirit, and lay their deadness in duties at his door instead of their own. They grudge with him for not giving them greater measures of consolation, liberty,
and liveliness in duties. On impartial examination, they would be fully convinced that if they are dead, lifeless, and unsavoury in duty, it is wholly owing to themselves, and not to God. They would find that they have grieved the Spirit, and either quenched his motions, or not cherished them; and that, instead of improving his grace, they have misimproved and sinned it away. Whatever our strait or difficulty be, proving God will evince that we are not straitened in him, but in our own bowels. Well does God know this; and that we may know it, he calls us to do duty, and prove him. To have matters rectified, it is of great importance to know where the failure lies. When men smart for their wrong conduct, nothing brings them so soon to observe and rectify it as close dealing with God, which always brings us to search and try our ways, and issues in a turning to the Lord.
2. God's call to prove him is expressive of his desire to be importuned for the blessing, and his willingness to bestow it. Like the whole of salvation, every revival and all suitable exercise originate with God. Observing those who have wrestled with him and prevailed, we will find, as with Jacob, that their desire for the blessing was from his grace, their importunity and perseverance from his upholding power, and their refusing to take any denial from his amazing condescension. God's call to prove him is of the same nature, and with the same kind design, with the benevolent and gracious question put to the impotent man who had lain thirtyeight years at the pool, Wilt thou be made whole ?