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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 ?
or what he asked at the blind men, What will ye that I should do unto you? It is opening his heart, that we may importune him to open his hand and bless. He promises, that we may pray and ask. He invites, that we may come; and he offers, that we may receive. Till brought to be importunate, we neither have just views of the value of the blessing, nor are our hearts in a right frame for receiving it. The Lord delays and hides, that we may be prepared. His time for bestowing the blessing is always ready; not so the time of our preparation for receive
3. God's call to prove him opens a door for the greatest familiarity and boldness, and lays a solid foundation for the strongest faith. For sinful dust and ashes to wrestle with God and prove him, is truly great and arduous work; but his own call is the warrant. Venturing on it, the poor believer cannot use too much freedom and familiarity. This encouraged Abraham in his fervent and repeated supplication for Sodom. Impressed with his own sinfulness, he thought he had used much freedom when he had spoken once; but God's condescension convinced him that his familiarity was scarcely begun. Those only who have some experience of it, can form any suitable ideas of that astonishing boldness and intimacy, which the believer uses with God when wrestling for the blessing. Never did earthly friends make so free with one another. In this solemn exercise often the Christian is ready to faint; but he considers the grounds of faith, renews his strength, takes
fresh courage, and perseveres in wrestling till he obtain.
4. The Divine call is also the great mean of bringing the Lord's people to the glorious exercise of proving him. While it is expressive of his willingness to give, it is the appointed mean of influencing them to apply. As the Gospel call is the mean of awakening the dead sinner, so the frequent and kind invitations to prayer and proving, are the means of reclaiming the straying, and quickening the declining saint. It is on this account that God so often addresses his people in such language as this, “ Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” These calls have not power and virtue in themselves to produce the effect; but they are the channel for conveying those gracious influences, which infallibly bring the saints to proper exercise. Though morally dead in our natural state, the Lord addresses us as rational creatures; and though all the efficacy be from the Holy Ghost alone, still he exerts it in the use of means. He never works upon the soul but in and by the word. This method sweetly joins these truths—that the strongest exertions on the believer's part are duty, and that all the efficacy is of grace. Thus at God's call, the Christian works out his own salvation, and God works in him both to will and to do. While grace inclines to duty, it also crowns it with success.
In fine, when complied with, God's call ensures success. The Lord never calls to fruitless exercise. As sure as his promise and oath are true, right
proving of God will open the windows of heaven, and draw down the blessing. Engaging cordially and conscientiously in any duty, we have no reason to fear that our labour shall be in vain in the Lord.
This part of the subject is practical in itself, and the less application is necessary. It directs our attention to three things, calculated to fill the mind with astonishment-God's condescension, the believer's doubting, and the carelessness of the sinner. God is willing to bestow every blessing. He wants to be importuned. He beseeches and entreats. When his people are importunate he hears them, and when backward he bears with them. Their best frames are owing to his grace, and he loves them in their worst. He admits them to great intimacy and nearness. He is never kinder than when they are most familiar. If he frowns, it is for their benefit. If he withdraws, it is that they may follow. If he delays, it is that they may prove him. He will not give up with them. He is determined to save them, and will take every method to promote their spiritual interest.
The murmuring and doubting of the saints is astonishing. God's word and oath are pledged that they shall not want. They are called to pour out their hearts, and ask all they need. They should seek, and not be afraid. He has given Christ unto them, and will withhold nothing. They should prove and wrestle, and they shall be successful. They should not call his word in question, but be strong in faith. Other creatures may want, but goodness and mercy shall follow them. In what a glorious light does