He that has no searchings of soul whether he is in the way, no chilling doubts nor sinking fears ever saddening his spirit, no secret groan nor sigh to have his heart right before God, no solemn midnight cries, no anxious prospects nor gloomy retrospects, no trembling apprehensions how it will be with him at the last, no dread of self-deceit, nor suspicions of Satan’s delusions-he, I say, who glides securely on without these deep exercises, manifests by his very ease that he is not in the narrow path that leads to eternal life.
By one who is spiritually sincere every step will be more or less weighed, every experience sooner or later brought to the touchstone, and every part of the road anxiously tried. He will love to be searched through and through. He will uncover his bosom to every arrow that flies from the pulpit, to see if it be aimed at him. He will love a searching ministry, and in his right mind cannot be probed too deeply. He will hate the daubers with untempered mortar, and those who sew pillows to all armholes. He will love heart and conscience work, and cleave most to him who most “commends himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God”. He desires to have his path traced out, his stumbling-blocks removed, his temptations entered into, and the dealings of God with his spirit described.
It is through these very doubts that the evidence is obtained. Doubts lead to cries and groans after a divine testimony; and in answer to these cries the heavenly witness is given. A man without, doubts is without testimonies. Doubts are to testimonies what the mortise is to the tenon, the lock to the key, the enigma to the solution. Testimonies are Ebenezers, “stones of help” 1Sa 7:12, marg.; but the stone must have a hole dug for it to stand in, and that hole is doubt. Doubts of salvation are to manifestations of salvation what hunger is to food, nakedness to clothing, a thunderstorm to a shelter, a gallows to a reprieve, and death to a resurrection. The one of these things precedes, prepares and opens a way for the other. The first is nothing without the last, nor the last without the first.
Thus, next to testimonies, the best thing is spiritual doubts. To know we are right is the best thing; to fear we are wrong is the second best. To enjoy the witness of the Spirit is the most blessed thing this side of the grave; to pant after that enjoyment is the next greatest blessing. I am speaking, mind, only of spiritual doubts; that is, doubts in a spiritual man, for natural doubts are as far from salvation as natural hopes. The path through the valley of Baca is “from strength to strength”; that is, according to the eastern mode of travelling, from one halting place to another, where wells are dug, and “the rain also filleth the pools” Ps 84:6,7. We do not learn God or ourselves, sin or salvation, in a day.
The question is, Have we set one step in the way? “Watchman, what of the night?” Is it even, midnight, cock-crowing or morning? Mr 13:35. Is it spring, summer, winter or harvest? The question is not so much whether you have much faith, but whether you have any. It is not quantity, but quality; not whether you have a very great religion, but whether you have any at all. A grain of true faith will save the soul; and I have known many, many seasons when I should be glad to feel certain that I had the thousandth part of a grain.