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heaven that he may keep it; but heaven and earth shall
pass away before he break it! The believer also proves God by his known conduct, and what he has formerly done. He remembers the years of the right-hand of the Most High. For this, among other reasons, his wonderful works are recorded. He insists that God would do to him as he has done to others, and cries in the language of the prophet, “ Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon ? Art thou not it which dried the sea, the waters of the great deep, that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?” (Isaiah li. 9, 10.) He dwells upon the great interpositions of God in behalf of his people when they were in the utmost distress. These inform him what God can do and has done, encourage him as to what he may expect, and incite him to prove him in prayer. He urges that now, as formerly, in the mount of the Lord it may be seen. These great deliverances have been a most comforting touchstone to the saints in every age, and have been transmitted by them to succeeding generations, as an unfailing source of comfort in all their trials.
2. In proving God we bring in every circumstance which tends to make the trial decisive. This is well known among men. Proving one another about a matter of importance, every thing which appears to be of any weight is collected. Proving God about the blessing, the saints follow the same course.
It is astonishing to hear the eloquence and fluency of
many poor persons when engaged in this exercise, who can scarcely open their mouths on any other subject. This is owing to the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit helping their infirmities, and to the ingenuity of faith, which is quick-sighted, full of invention, and scarcely lets any thing escape its notice which would be advantageous. An instance of this we have in the Syrophenician woman: when Christ was silent, instead of giving up her plea, she drew nearer, and urged it with more importunity. When he intimated that the children's meat should not be given to dogs, her faith discovered a plea even in this title-if the children were entitled to meat, the dogs had a right to the crumbs.
In proving God, the saints urge the free manner in which the promises were made. They plead that if God, without any solicitation, moved by nothing without himself, but only by his own grace and good will, made the promises; their guilt and pollution, which he well foresaw, can be no obstruction to their accomplishment.
They urge likewise Divine power. In proving a person about what he has said, his ability to accomplish is of great weight. They are persuaded that God is able to do as he has said, and that whatever their case be, nothing is too hard with him, who is almighty. God proved Abraham's faith when he called him to offer up Isaac, and he proved God's faithfulness and ability, when he bound his only sonthe son of the promise, and was about to strike the fatal blow. Persuaded that God could raise him up
from the ashes, he staggered not. Daniel too had the strongest persuasion both of the grace and almighty power of God, when he chose rather to be cast into the den of lions than either omit the worship of the true God, or give it to any other; and God shut the mouths of the lions, and preserved Daniel. The three children, believing that their God was able to deliver, preferred the hottest furnace to the greatest worldly enjoyments at the expense of sinning against God. Trusting to Christ's ability, Peter walked on the water; and many a believer, since that day, has ventured on the boisterous element of arduous duty, and severe difficulty, with nothing to carry him out, but-God is able--it may be he will be gracious—and who knows but he will return. He has argued thus, “ I am weak, but God is strong; he calls, and I shall try; many who have entered on great duty, with vast discouragements, have been supported, and it will glorify his grace to support me."
It is impossible to name all that the saints adduce to add weight to their cause, when proving God. They urge the bad effects if they do not prevailthat enemies will reproach, friends hang down their heads, and the good ways of the Lord be evil spoken of. They insist on the good effects if God mercifully interpose : he will get a revenue of glory, they the benefit, and others great encouragement. But it is of the last importance to observe here, that, whatever they adduce to support their cause, and encourage their heart, when proving God, Christ is their
Alpha and Omega, the beginning, end, and amount of all their hope, and of every plea they urge at the throne of grace.
3. When proving is with a view to obtain something of which we stand in need, as it is always in this case, it consists in asking with importunity, and urging every possible argument that we may prevail. Proving God always includes an ardent desire that he may act like himself, and bestow the blessing. We cannot prove
prayer. Some think it enough to sit still, and leave God to do or not do, give or not give, as he pleases. Not so the believer. He opens his heart wide in desire, and with his mouth cries to the Lord; and in this manner proves if he will pour out the blessing. God cannot be proved but as he is on a throne of grace. From the word of grace we have all our encouragement, and from the throne of grace every blessing.
The saints ask with great importunity. Not satisfied with faint wishes and languid desires, they cry with vehemency and fervency, and their souls follow hard after God. We well know what it is to prove a friend, or fellow-creature, if he will grant us some object we greatly need, or anxiously desire. Dissatisfied with barely asking it once, we make repeated application. Frequently and with importunity the Lord's people apply to him for salvation and deliverance from particular straits. Never did a man on the brink of destruction cry more vehemently for relief proving what others would do for him, than they with God for mercy.
While most importunate the believer urges his plea by every argument. To the praise of grace, he urges his petition for pardon both from the greatness of his sin, and the magnitude of divine mercy.
The psalmist uses the former argument, Psal. xxv. 11, “O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great:" and the latter, Psal. li. 1, “ Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness; according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” The boundless nature of Christ's merit, and the infinite efficacy of his blood to cleanse from all sin, are urged as the strongest arguments for justification and sanctification. To obtain the blessing, like the spouse, the saint urges the greatness of his desire, saying, I am sick of love; and like the psalmist, the greatness of his necessity, saying, “ Bow down thine ear, O Lord: hear me, for I am poor and needy.” Not to name many other arguments adapted to particular situations, the wrestling saint urges
his plea from this consideration, that if he is pitied, God will get a revenue of glory, and heaven will resound with endless songs of praise.
4. Having proved God, we are to allow and rest in just evidence. Proving is always with a view to collect evidence, and come to some decision; and we should not in this case, more than in others, be ever learning without coming to the knowledge of the truth. When we have proved God by the touchstones already mentioned, and find satisfying evidence that he cannot be worse than his word (which faith will always do,) we are to consider the proof as made, the trial over