Page images

and your reward. O then, forgetting the things which are behind, reach forth; press onward ; and the prize, the glorious prize, shall be soon and for ever yours.


Self-EXAMINATION respects both feeling and conduct. A difficulty occurs in ascertaining whether the former is according to the spirit, and the latter correspondent with the precepts, of the Bible. I am persuaded that you are already impressed with the importance of the duty, and are resolved that it shall occupy a prominent place in the daily exercises of the closet.

But methinks I hear you inquire, in what way you are to proceed; how you are to know that you pursue the duty to advantage ; and whether you are not, after all, liable to deception. I have already forewarned you of difficulties which will appear formidable, and which, at the very threshold of your Christian course, will be thrown in your way, to arrest your progress, and frighten you froin the discharge of duty. But be not discouraged nor intimidated. Repeated efforts in prayer to God will enable you to overcome the opposition ; and that which at first appeared fraught with difficulties will be found, after a few incipient discouragements, easy and delightful.

Satan will exert his utmost power to hinder you from this all-important duty. He knows how much your hopes, and your advancement in holiness, depend upon the faithful discharge of it. Having, in so many other cases, succeeded in hindering its performance, he will hope in yours to succeed. May the grace of God enable you to disappoint him. May you persevere, even amid discouragements, until the duty shall become to you a most precious privilege.

When you enter upon this work, you will first look upward to heaven, in a few short petitions, that God would grant you his Holy Spirit ; that he would fix your attention on the immediate duty before you ; that he would keep you from a superficial investigation; and enable you to deal closely and thoroughly with your heart.

We are very liable, in our retirement, to wandering thoughts; and I doubt not, that hours have been wasted in the closet, in a vain attempt to fix the mind, while it eluded the effort, and sported itself in fanciful and foolish visions.

It is important, therefore, that we at once counteract this desultory state of mind, by fervent prayer to God. We should then, in a measure, anticipate Satan, who is always most busy with the children of God, when they are the nearest to duty, and are about to receive some great spiritual benefit.

Our self-examination, I have already said, respects our state of feelings, and our external conduct. Has the former partaken of the spirit of Christ? Has the latter corresponded with his precepts? It is no very difficult matter for a conscientious and reflecting individual to retrace the occurrences of a single day. But, if the business be deferred for weeks and months, his sins will be multiplied and forgotten, amid the fluctuating scenes of life. Conscious that there has been much, in both heart and life, to condemn, but forgetting the particulars, he is obliged to repent

in the gross.

[ocr errors][merged small]

he who daily calls himself to an account, will, after a few trials, find the employment both easy and edifying. With what feelings, he will ask, did I awake? Did my gratitude for nocturnal repose and protection rise with the rising light to Him who is the Watchman of Israel, and who never slunbereth nor sleepeth? or was I, like the brute, indifferent to the kindness of my heavenly guardian? Did I arise with the breath of praise on my lips, and the spirit of devotion in my heart? or were my thoughts scattered and desultory? In my morning devotions, can I say that I enjoyed a near access to God, so that I communed with him, even as it were, from the mercy-seat? Did I wrestle? did I agonize? Was this the spirit, or were my prayers

formal and forced ? Was my frame of mind sluggish and cold?

desire the blessings I sought; or did I only mention them as a necessary part of prayer? Had I a deep sense of my unworthiness, and a full conviction of the necessity of my Mediator's blood and merits? In my petitions, was my soul drawn forth in solicitude for others; or did I confine them to myself?

Having left my closet, did I watch unto prayer? I besought God to keep me from sin ; but has my conduct this day been in unison with my prayers? I prayed for sanctification; but have I detected and suppressed the first risings of secret iniquity? I entreated God for more light and knowledge; but have I meditated on his works, and studied his word? I deprecated my easily besetting sin ; but have I endeavoured to avoid it? I prayed for Zion, and for the salvation of the impenitent; but have I spoken a word of warning or exhortation to any person this day? Have I watched the leadings of Providence ? Have I advanced in the knowledge of God ? Have I made any new discoveries of his glory? Have I learned more of the machinations of Satan ; or seen deeper into the deceitfulness of my own heart?

These are a few general questions, which may serve as a guide to one who wishes an outline of daily selfexamination.


In my last communication, I instituted some inquiries, which, as I supposed, would be profitably connected with a retrospect of the day. I am aware, my young friend, that one person cannot lay down rules on this subject, which shall apply precisely to the feelings and circumstances of others. I give you, therefore, only a sketch, by which your inexperience may possibly be benefited.

The questions which one would wish to propose, in taking a retrospect of the day, must of course vary, according to circumstances.

must inquire, more particularly, into my fidelity. Have I wrestled this day for the souls of my beloved people? Have I improved every opportunity to do them good? Have I preached the truth as it is in Jesus?

But you, in inquiring into your conduct, must adapt those inquiries to the circumstances by which you are surrounded. You have personal and relative duties which are peculiar. Parental esteem and obedience are obligatory. How, you should inquire, have I conducted myself towards my dear parents this day? Have I alleviated any of their cares? Have I been obedient and affectionate ? I have sisters : have I done my duty towards them, instructing them, and exhibiting an example which they might with safety follow? I am surrounded by companions, some of whom profess the same hopes as myself; but others are yet in “the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity:" have I, so far as opportunity would permit, encouraged the former, and warned the latter ? What studies have I pursued, or what books perused ? What benefit have 1 derived from either? Have I done any thing this day for the glory of God? These are some of the questions which I should suppose would occur to one in your circumstances.

If, upon such a daily review, you find that you have advanced in holiness; that you have gained an advantage over your spiritual enemies; that

you have profited by the means which a kind Providence has given for your improvement; it will afford matter for praise and thanksgiving. It will kindle up a lively gratitude in your soul, and give a zest to your devotions. If you discover much to condemn, many sins and failures, as you undoubtedly will, it will afford subject for humiliation, and prostrate the soul in penitential confession before God. Thus, while you advance in the knowledge of your own heart, you will have all the ingredients of acceptable worship. Your prayer will be full of praise, and full of contrition. Your mercies will call forth the one, and your transgressions prompt the other. Prayer, with you, will then be, not a cold formality, but a deep spiritual intercourse with God and your own heart.

precious, the merits and intercession of Jesus, your High Priest and Saviour. A review, even of a single day, must, if it be close and careful, ever cover you with confusion of face. The sins committed, even in that short period, will appear numerous. The soul would sink under their heavy load, were it not for the encouraging promise, “ If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” As your sins appear numerous and aggravated, Jesus must ever appear proportionably precious. You willcast yourself all guilty in his arms, and find that “though sin has abounded, grace doth much more abound.” After such a review as I have recommended, will a new application be made, and a new pardon supplicated, from the hand of the Saviour. He will thus be brought constantly in view, and made increasingly precious and delightful.

You see, then, how many and great are the advantages connected with frequent and close self-examination. Can you, then, live without it a single day? Are you not resolved, that, under all ordinary circumstances, it shall be entered upon and performed with as much punctuality, as prayer and the reading of the word of God ? I am persuaded, that, after what has been said, you will by no means omit it. I think you must perceive, too, that the difficulties, though great, may, by the plan which I propose, be all surmounted. They arise, as I have before observed, from neglect. Days, weeks, and months roll away ; and the soul immersed in the busy cares of life contracts a defilement, and collects a rubbish, which a momentary and hurried examination may render visible, but can never remove.

The soul of the delinquent is neglected, - shamefully neglected. He deserves to have his hope obscured, his faith weakened, his doubts increased. He may be left amid these perplexities, until he is suddenly called to a death-bed, and compelled to take a direct look at his case. It is then a fearful scene. Clouds and darkness curtain his dying pillow; anguish insupportable heaves his dubious bosom. There is no clear sunshine upon his soul; but he lies on the fluctuating wave, uncertain whether he shall

« PreviousContinue »