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advances in knowledge and holiness, and thus discover a source of encouragement, or a stimulus to greater diligence. Your conscience will be rendered tender and faithful; and you will thus be on the alert, that you be not tempted, or drawn aside from your duty. You will walk softly amid the thorny path, nor feel the bleeding wounds which are inflicted on so many careless and worldly-minded professors.
Besides this daily process which I am recommending, there is one special season of self-examination, which you should by no means omit. The Apostle enjoins on every Christian, to examine himself before he partakes of the Lord's supper. “Let a man examine himself; and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” This is indispensable to a profitable attendance on this interesting and significant ordinance. If you are in the habit of daily self-examination, you will find the observance of this special season by no means difficult or laborious. You will have acquired, by your daily introspection, so much self-knowledge, such a tact, if I may be allowed the expression, at seizing upon evidence, and analyzing feelings and motives, that, instead of proving an unwelcome task, it will constitute a satisfactory, comforting, and delightful duty.
Be assured, my young friend, that, if ever you arrive at an elevated standard of piety, you will attribute it, as much to a strict and persevering self-examination, as to any other means, which it is, under God, your privilege to use. It is through a neglect of this, that Christianity makes, in most of us, such a dwarfish appearance. It is for the want of this, that hypocrisy vaunts itself in the habiliments of piety. It is for the want of this, that doubts, and fears, and disquietude, and backslidings, are so prevalent. I entreat you, therefore, as you value your peace and your improvement, to persevere in the faithful discharge of this duty. You will be abundantly rewarded. Faith will walk arm in arm with the promises ; hope, instead of a flickering light, will become a steady radiation from an unclouded sun ; love will grow to a flame, that “many waters cannot knowledge, will hold on, until death, its vigorous and untiring career.
I say not, that you will at once arrive at this lofty elevation. Ah, no; you may have many a thorny path to tread, many a rugged way to traverse, many a difficult hill to climb. Nights of weeping, and days of darkness and of tempest, may intervene. But God will interpose in your behalf: he will “ temper the wind to the shorn lamb.”
Recollect, for your encouragement, that the farther you proceed, the easier and the more delightful will be the passage. As it approximates heaven, it partakes of celestial beauty. Like the fine, free avenue to a noble metropolis, the proximity of this road to the heavenly Jerusalem, opens wider, and becomes clearer, and almost admits the eager eye to catch the spires of glory, as they glitter in the light of heaven. Take up your cross, and march forward. While you may encounter difficulties, you may also partake of many pleasures ; pleasures which are as much superior to the sickly joys of earth, as the river of life is purer than the green waters of an offensive and stagnant pool.
“ The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets,
Or walk the golden streets,” To me, it has ever appeared strange, that when so much depends on the duty of self-examination, it should be so generally neglected.
We do not thus act in cur temporal affairs. If the claim to an estate be attended with any degree of doubt or embarrassment, we spare no pains to give it a thorough investigation. If the body be disordered, we are alive to every symptom, and we watch every new aspect of the disease. But in respect to the soul, we are at little pains to substantiate its hope, by actual examination. We live along, as if the matter were settled ; as if we had a guarantee for our heavenly inheritance; when, in fact, all is doubt and embarrassment; when, perhaps, we may have only to live, whilst we are dead."
Let this duty, my young friend, be viewed by you as altogether indispensable. Set about it with diligence. Should your enemy, knowing its usefulness and importance, attempt to discourage you, listen not to the voice of the tempter. Renew your labour ; call upon God to fix your thoughts, and to give you success. Persevere, even unto death, in a duty so necessary to your safety, and essential to your comfort.
Since the duty of self-examination is so intimately connected with your hope of salvation, your advancement in holiness, and your general elevation of character ; you will bear with me a little longer, even though the subject should appear to be destitute of those incidental attractions which are peculiar to the ordinary accomplishments of life. You must first lay the solid column ; the Corinthian capital may then be superadded. My conscience would condemn me, were I to speak first of external conduct, when the piety of the soul is paramount, and demands the first and deepest consideration. Let this be obtained, and, I doubt not, your manners and deportment will take that elevated and noble character, which will secure to you the love of the virtuous, and the respect and admiration of all.
Fixing the attention on manners and deportment, before the heart is rectified, is like profusely adorning the exterior of a building, when it is all unfinished and comfortless within. You are allured, by the imposing aspect which it presents ; but upon entering, how great is your disappointment, to find, not only, no correspondence in the interior, but every thing cheerless and forbidding! It is certainly more pleasing, to view even a homely exterior, an outside that promises but little, and to perceive within, beauty, symmetry, and elegance. Happy will you be, if you can so irradiate your mind with knowledge and holiness, as make your soul approximate to the comeliness of an unfallen spirit.
racter does not arise from any deficiency or obscurity in evidence, as recorded in the word of God; but from the manner of applying that evidence to ourselves. The liability to deception lies here. We cannot say that we have the evidence, because we may have spurious and hypocritical feelings, which our self-love may mistake for genuine Christian emotions. The word of God is full, clear, and explicit. It marks out the true disciple of Christ, with unerring exactness. The evidence is direct and indirect, positive and negative, in example or embodied principle.
The direct evidence is that which consists in a record of the feelings which every Christian must possess. The Bible is full of this. The indirect is that which may be inferred from precepts and principles. The positive is exhibited in all those commands which relate to doing the will of God. The negative, from example or embodied principle, is that which is derived from the conduet of the patriarchal and primitive saints.
Thus you see the Bible is full of evidence relating to the character of the genuine follower of Christ. That evidence is clear and explicit, presented under various forms, and couched in the simplest phraseology. Where, then, lies the difficulty of correctly ascertaining, at once, our true character? I will tell you. It lies in the depravity of the human heart. That heart, as I have already observed, is “deceitful above all things ;” and this is the true reason, why we cannot appropriate this evidence, with the certainty of its application.
But I will enter into a few particulars, for your farther satisfaction, to show you that self-examination is as difficult as it is important; and that nothing but a long course of painful, persevering effort, will bring you to a confidence, unshaken by doubt, of your being a child of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. You do not wish to have a name to live and still be dead. You do not desire to go into eternity, with a profession only. No, you wish not to be deceived in so momentous an affair : for the world, you would not be deceived. You have counted the cost; you your Lord. You will not then be discouraged, when I inform you, that to deal with your own heart, in close examination, is a great and difficult work. But the difficulty, as I before observed, will diminish with diligence.
One great reason why so little satisfaction is obtained in the work, is that our investigation is not complete. We do not come to it with a determination to be thorough in its performance. Although we acknowledge that there is no duty so difficult, nor any more important; yet there is none, perhaps, more superficially performed. Although our hopes, our peace of mind, our growth in grace, are intimately connected with close self-examination ; yet, how easily are we discouraged by obstacles which the enemies of our souls may interpose ; and how hastily do we run through the duty, deriving no satisfaction, but only enveloping the mind in still deeper gloom! After one or two such superficial trials, some will give up the duty as impracticable, and live along in doubt, and die, perhaps, in distressing uncertainty.
We are less thorough in this spiritual investigation, than we should be in almost any other subject. No wonder, then, that we make such slow advances in self-knowledge; no wonder that it is generally viewed as impracticable, when so superficially performed. When you, my young friend, enter upon this duty, make, I entreat you, sure work with your soul ; explore the secret motives, and analyze the evanescent feelings. If it cost years of persevering labour, ascertain if possible whether you have an inheritance on high. May God, by his Spirit, assist you, and make you successful.
I OBSERVED in my last that we were in danger of being superficial in the work of self-examination. There will be a strong temptation to this, from our natural indolence, as well as the difficulties to be overcome. Hence you will find few Christians who make this duty a serious and indispen