« PreviousContinue »
Spells that film the eye of Faith, Hiding the present God; whose presence lost, The moral world's cohesion, we become An anarchy of Spirits ! Toy-bewitched, Made blind by lusts, disherited of soul, No common centre Man, no common sire Knoweth."--S. T. Coleridge. “ There is so much falseness and iniquity in man's heart, that it defiles all the members : it makes the eyes lustful, and the tongue slanderous ; it fills the head with mischief, and the feet with blood, and the hands with injury, and the present condition of man with folly, and makes his future state apt to inherit eternal misery.”—Bp. Jer. Taylor. The topic of this chapter may at first sight appear to you as one that is very repulsive: but I would intreat you to exercise becoming candour and seriousness in the examination of it. The period will come when every one shall know himself: and surely it is far better for us to know ourselves when such knowledge may be useful, than to obtain it when it will be of no avail. True self-knowledge is a thing that is most important, and altogether invaluable. Without this we know nothing aright. A wise and good man is always becoming more fully acquainted with
himself. Self is, to speak so, a large volume; and it has many a page in it of intricate lore: but if it be properly studied, it is always studied with large advantage: and it is only in proportion as we understand it that we can enter into the doctrines and spirit of the gospel of Christ.
Be not startled, my young readers, at the plain and explicit declaration, that to know ourselves, as to salvation, is to know our sinfulness. You may think that you know yourselves, because you have read some of those volumes which treat of the nature and faculties of man. But I am not writing about mental science, but about religion : and in the view of this subject I maintain, that we do not know ourselves, because we can fluently speak about our various powers or endowments as intelligent creatures ; and that we know ourselves only when we have a right apprehension of our state and character in relation to a holy and righteous God.
Perhaps your friends, and relatives, and the world, regard you as being the most lovely, and charming, and innocent, and excellent beings that ever breathed the air. In their estimation, you want nothing but a little experience to inform your judgments, or to cool your ardour, or to inspire you with confidence. They are delighted with your warmth, freedom, simplicity, frankness, and generosity. They form high expectations of you : they are frequent and abundant in their eulogies of your virtue and amiableness.
And how do you regard yourselves? Perhaps with entire complacency. You have been guilty of nó gross sin ; you have not formed any vicious habit; your anger has been only a passing cloud ; your pursuits are very harmless; and you feel a glow of satisfaction in your bosoms, because you are loved, caressed, admired, extolled, and valued by all around you. Others are pleased with you ; and you are not less pleased with yourselves.
I will readily admit that you may have the virtue and amiableness which are ascribed to you. I put you in comparison with thousands of your fellow-creatures, and I admit that you excel them. But I think of the Holy God whose you are, of the law which is our rule of duty, of the spirit of the gospel with which you ought to be pervaded ; and then I am compelled to say that you are sinful creatures ; and I call upon you to examine yourselves, not to see your virtues and to cherish selfcomplacency, but to see your sinfulness and to cherish an humble frame of mind.
I can see as clearly as others, and admire as warmly as others, your pleasing and virtuous qualities. But I contemplate you as immortal beings, as spiritual agents, as persons who are inheritors of an eternal existence in happiness or in misery. I see in you a part of the sinful human family.
Man was created in the image and likeness of God; but he is now a sinful, corrupt, disordered creature. The following lines contain more than poetry: they contain truth.
“ Not at rest or ease of mind,
Our intellect is clouded; our judgment is perverse ; our will is depraved; our conscience is stupified or erroneous; our affections are worldly or carnal; our fancy is gay and trifling; our me
is faithless or foolish; our taste is low and vitiated. Sin has disordered all our faculties. The moral machinery is in confusion.
But in the midst of this moral ruin we are apt to mistake our rags for robes, the wand of folly for the sceptre of wisdom, and our flippant boasting of power and virtue for the real possession of true moral majesty and grandeur. We plant a few flowers in a wilderness, and we think that we walk in a paradise. Having the decorations of fashion, and the accomplishments of elegance, and the inge: nious arts of courtesy and politeness, we conceal even from ourselves the 'moral defilement that be
longs to our nature. Our sinfulness is thrown into the shade: nothing meets the eye but the exterior fascinations. We have no time, no inclination, to look within, and to study the nature of principles and the movements of affections. We have nothing to do with sin ; at least we have nothing to fear from its consequences. Such is the fair and fatal illusion which prevails among, it is to be feared, myriads of the young and of the aged.
But, my young friends, a wise person makes a personal application of truth. He does not say, “ We are sinners all :" but he says, “I am a sinful man, O Lord.” It is here, then, that I would call upon you to consider your own case, each individually for himself. This may be a humiliating, or even painful task: but it is one that is essential to your welfare.
You are not stained with gross sin. You attend on the ordinances of religion. You do not plunge with greedy avidity into the pleasures of the world. You are dutiful to your parents. You are kind to the poor. Let this be the case : and still it is true, that you are sinful creatures in the eye of the Holy God.-But let me here propose a few questions.
Do you fear and love God, and find your supreme delight in Him ? He is awful, and is to be feared. He is good, and is to be loved. He is Perfection, and the Fountain of happiness, and is to be delighted in. The soul of man ought to be filled with Him ; ought habitually to cherish