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tion to profit by it. Of what avail is it, that we come before the Lord, and ask his assistance in the examination of our hearts; and discover the places where amendment is necessary, and then go away and neglect to do the needed work ? Such a course will not profit us.
We must follow our examination with exertion. into the work of rooting up the evils we have seen; nor must we cease this work till our most ardent wishes are accomplished. Indolence and slackness have no part nor lot in the business of self-examination.
V. We must be determined to overcome our secret sins. Here is one of the great essentials of self-examination, to overcome those sins which are kept from the world, and are known only to ourselves. “ Who can understand his errors ? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” So said the Psalmist; and his prayer should be ours. It is not enough, that we appear without glaring faults before men. We ought to strive against little ones in secret. If we enter into our closet to pray, we should enter there to examine also. The dark places should be searched, and our eye kept on the lookout for the temptations that beset us in our retirement from the world. 66 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."
VI. In self-examination we must have the true standard before us. It is not enough, that we compare ourselves with professors of other religious denominations, and remain content with the belief, that we equal them in goodness. This is a sad mistake. Do we not believe, that ours is the best faith? Surely ; else why have we embraced it? And if it is the best, should it not lead us to live better than others ? I do not mean, that we should
be led into the extreme of self-righteousness, but that we be just as our better faith commands. Every one, therefore, should be careful how he compares himself with others, either of differing sects or of his own; with strangers or acquaintances, opponents or friends. Nor should we judge by our former actions how we may have improved in our conduct, or what degree of amendment is yet requisite. Some, who have to a certain degree overcome a few evil habits and propensities, conclude, in comparing the present with the past, that the work of reformation is complete. Another sad mistake. The Scriptures are to be our only guide in this case. God's word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. In its holy light we need not deceive ourselves. Let this be our standard, and we have reason to believe, that the work of self-examination will be true and salutary. Our fervent prayer, coming from the inmost recesses of the soul, should be, “Search me, O God, and know my heart ; try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way that is everlasting.”
The duty of self-examination has been thus briefly considered. It is a duty which every gospel believer must observe, or forfeit his claim to Christian discipleship. It is idle to talk of a real Christian, who has not looked within his own heart, and made himself acquainted with its weaknesses and corruptions; and who is not willing to seek that aid, in eradicating its besetting evils, which the Bible affords. He who does not examine and watch himself, is like a heedless charioteer, who, instead of carefully guiding the steeds before him, gazes continually and thoughtlessly about, at the risk of being thrown to the
ground; or like the mariner, who, instead of guiding his bark according to the rules of navigation, suffers it to go onward without special direction, till it is stranded, or dashed in pieces.
If we are Christians in name, let us be so in deed and in truth; and that so desirable an end be attained the work of self-examination is to be rigidly practised by us all. And however hard this duty may seem in the outset, perseverance, with the divine blessing, will soon render it more easy of accomplishment. Let the reader then ask himself if he cannot adopt the truly Christian thoughts
of the poet ;
“ My God, permit me not to be
A stranger to myself and thee;
WATCHFULNESS AND PRAYER.
ALTHOUGH the mind, in most instances, may discern truth and duty, yet the propensities incident to the flesh too often lead it astray ; so that a powerful, continued exertion and watchfulness is needed, in order to escape " the corruption that is in the world.” We are called upon to exercise our powers, to shake off all indolence of soul, and work while our earthly day lasts. What is more abhorrent than indolence? What more commendable than vigorous exertion in any honorable calling ? If the religious life consisted in nothing more than mere passive belief; a quiet assent of the mind to certain theological dogmas, without being called upon to act, of what advantage would it be? It is “he that worketh righteousness," and not he that talketh or thinketh it, who is accepted of God.
It is a cause of thanksgiving, that our heavenly Father has so connected religious enjoyment with exertion. If the husbandman finds the reward of his toil in the benefit here received for his labors; if the student finds that delight in the attainment of knowledge, which inspires him to be continually seeking it; yea, if all, in every other department of life, are called upon to labor for enjoyment, why should not the citizen of God's moral kingdom ? Especially, when we behold in this kingdom one of the greatest possible reasons for continual, vigilant exertion, viz. the weakness of the flesh. Our Saviour had this in view
when he said to his disciples, “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation ; the spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” And the apostle had a deep sense of the power of temptation over him, when he represented the contention of flesh and spirit. He writes in his letter to the Romans, “For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law, that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth
I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members."
Human nature is the same now as it was in the days of Paul. There are in man the same evils to meet, the same passions to encounter and subdue, the same temptations to resist, and the same watchfulness to be practised. The same advice, and the same description of the works of the flesh and the Spirit as were written to the Galatian Christians, will apply to us at the present day. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that