« PreviousContinue »
repeated by Christ, although conscious that his affection was sincere, yet ashamed of having, by his late conduct, so basely for. feited his former professions, he replies with grief and regret, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." Most nobly indeed did he evince that love to the last moment of his life, which he sacrificed on the cross, for the sake of that Master he had once denied. May you learn, my young friend, from this singular instance, that the best saints and servants of God are subject to temptation, and liable to fall from their principles, unless supported by the Divine Grace; and therefore it must be the highest presumption to depend on your own strength when such Christians have been found unequal to the trial. But let it likewise be an encouragement to you to search and examine yourself, that where you may be in danger from your natural temper, or the prevalence of violent pas. sions, you may particularly implore the aid of that Holy Spirit," which shall lead you into all truth," and establish you in every good work.
ON THE MOTIVES TO SELF-EXAMINATION.
To suspect an honest heart of the commis. sion of crimes which it holds in the greatest abhorrence, is an insult which it can scarcely forgive, and it must excite the utmost displeasure in a susceptible mind; yet God, all-seeing and all-wise, may frequently discern the seeds of evil in those who themselves have no present suspicion that they shall ever deviate from the paths of virtue. But were we frequently to examine the secret motives which influence our actions, we might discover the lurking poison, whose malicious venom will diffuse itself through our future conduct. Had Cain been assiduous to search the reason of his first dissatisfaction against his innocent brother, and checked the risings of envy fore they grew too powerful to be subdued, it might have spared him the guilt of fratricide, and have saved him that just weight of punishment, of which he so bitterly complained. Nor had the brethren of Joseph proceeded to such flagitious crimes, if they had sought the cause of that anger with which
they heard the account of his dreams. The fear of his future advancement, and jealousy of his rising merit, inspired them with a scheme of wickedness, at the thoughts of which they would perhaps a little while before have been shocked. The vilest criminal that ever met the public execration, or suffered by offended justice, was once innocent, and held vice in abhorrence. Let this reflection incite the most presuming "to take care lest they fall." The progress of the passions is unperceived. They advance with silent rapidity, and acquire an unlimited dominion, while we fancy ourselves free from their pow. er. If there is one object whom you dislike, watch over your heart, my young friend, lest that dislike should increase to hatred. You will imagine that you are but giving a fair representation of their actions, while your inclinations will contrive to cast a dark shade of disgrace over the account; their virtues will imperceptibly lessen in your hands, and their faults and failings will swell to a prodigious amount. They will disgust you by the same actions which would please in others, and you will by degrees allow yourself to dismiss all candour, when the disagreeable object of your disfavour is considered. The
great enemy of mankind is ever watchful to second, by strong temptation, the first impulse to evil. If we do not resist the Devil, he will not flee from us, but by solicitations, suited to our case, will endeavour to lead us astray from our duty. The only way to elude his snares is, by constant attention to the usual disposition of our hearts. If you find the person you dislike is become the object of your envy, if you repine at their success, and lament their improvement, be assured you are in a situation highly dange. rous. Those whose prosperity is displeasing to us, would be deprived of that advantage if the power acompanied our will. And as an ardent wish to do good will be accepted by God, where the ability is wanting to afford further assistance, so may we suppose that these malicious desires will be remarked by him, which were unable to do harm, but were equally unkind in the intention. The envious and black design of Saul, when he threw his javelin at David, with the expectation of striking him to the wall, and instantly ending his life, was equally wicked, though it was frustrated by his immediate escape. If we nourish the seeds of vice, they will in time shoot forth into bad actions; nor is it possible we can
be too cautious to suppress the first emotions of any wrong disposition. Many incidents may arise, which, suiting with your leading passion, will produce such actions as seem to merit high commendation. But you should be careful to distinguish the principle which determined you on such occasions, whether your good deed arose from a love of virtue, and a desire of pleasing God, or if it flowed solely from a design to obtain the praise of men. Those who are naturally avaricious will find no inconvenience in the practice of economy, nor will the prodigal require any exertion to be generous. But the religion of Christ is designed to regulate all the different tempers of mankind, and to rectify what is amiss in each. An obedience to his precepts should be without reserve, if you are his disciples: the indolent will learn to be active in the discharge of every incumbent duty; the impetuous will seek to restrain, within the bounds of moderation, the improper sallies of ungoverned ardour ; the timid assume a new courage, animated with a sense of that cause in which he is engaged; while the confident and assuming will be humbled, by a consciousness of their frequent offences,