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6. Christians ! frequently recollect the covenant. which you
made with Christ at your baptism. You then avowed yourselves to be His servants, and
professed that you would seek for happiness in his favour alone. When you look back on that solemn transaction, let it remind you both of your vows and your privileges. It binds you, in an especial manner, to renounce the world, deny yourselves, bear the cross, endure persecution, and, as faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, fight against sin and Satan, to the end of your days. A due reflection on such an engagement would tend exceedingly to confirm your faith, excite your love to Christ, strengthen and fortify your minds against temptation, and to encourage your hope of entering into “the rest which remaineth for the people of God.”
ON SELF-EXAMINATION. 2 Cor. xiii. 5. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith ; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates. Our behaviour in the present life is of much more consequence than we are generally disposed to imagine; since our happiness or misery in the next world essentially depend on the state of our minds, and our conduct in this.
The heart is the seat of action, from whence all that is virtuous or vicious in practice proceeds. “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things ; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." How important, when seen in this light, is the
• Mat. xii. 34, 35.
advice of Solornon: "Keep thy heart with all diligence ;- 'for out of it are the issues of life.” Our comfort now, and our felicity hereafter, hinge upon the proper cultivation of the heart, and the due regulation of the affections. On this ground, the absolute expediency of looking narrowly into our souls cannot be called in question.
God urges the duty upon us : “ Commune with your own heart, and in your chamber; and be stin" ós Thus saith the Lord of Hosts ; Consider your ways.
“ Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith ; prove your own selves.
:). The standard by which we should try ourselves, is the Word of God, which is the lamp of truth to light us on the road to heaven". Its infallible dictates, and not the erroneous opinions of worldly men, however fashionable, must be the test of right or wrong. Whatever deed we perform, or maxim we hold, or word we speak, which does not accord with the Divine will, is to be rejected, as false and
mischievous, and calculated to lead us astray from · God. “ To the Law, and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
All our words, thoughts, and actions, must therefore be referred to the Scriptures, that we may be able to determine whether they are such as God will approve or condemn.
And we ought to abide by His unerring decision; and not prefer to it' our perverse imaginations, or even those of the wisest men, who are not qualified to judge correctly of good and evil
, until they are enlightened by the Spirit of truth and wisdom os. • Proy.iv:23. Ps.iv. 4.
Hag. i. 7. e 2 Cor. xiii. 5.
Ps. cxix. 105. 85 1 Cor. ii. 14.
& Isa. viii. 20.
2. Self-examination is to be made touching our principles. We are to inquire, whether our souls are governed by the love and fear of God and the faith of Christ, or by the directions and examples of men.
Even where the mind may be in some degree under the dominion of truth, there may still be, in its profession of godliness, a mixture of improper motives. Our apparent zeal for the glory of God mạy spring from selfish, and not from religious feelings; from pride, and not from humility; from a self-righteous and ostentatious spirit, and not from a desire simply to honour Jehovah. Jehu boasted greatly, when he had exterminated the worshippers of Baal; saying, 'Come, see my zeal for the Lord !' though his “heart was not right in the sight of God".” Saul, and Herod, and Simon Magus, made great professions of piety towards God; but they were unsound professors, who sought not his glory, but their own advantage.
Now, as dross and alloy will adhere to the precious metals, whilst in their unrefined state ; so grace, even in the best of men, will sometimes be mingled with much that is sinful and erroneous. Hence the need we all have to search our souls to the bottom, in order to prevent any evil principle or motive, which may lurk within them, from impelling us to such a course of action as will displease God and prove an impediment to our salvation.
If good men should daily examine themselves, to discover their errors and reform them; how necessary must it be for unrenewed sinners to submit to this ordeal, that they may know their lost condition, and, before it be too late, apply to Christ to save them!
! 2 Kings x. 16. VOL. II.
Look then, O impenitent souls ! within yourselves. See the secret abominations of your hearts; and pray, that, through grace, you may be disposed to cast away your iniquities, lest they should prove the cause of
endless perdition'. 3. The next point to which our self-examination should be directed, is our general practice. Men's natural blindness and self-love prevent them from discerning the state of their hearts, and the springs which set them in motion. They may, through ignorance of their real condition, be unable to determine whether their religious principles coincide with Scripture or not. But none of us can labour under this uncertainty, in inspecting his life and conduct. If we will but examine ourselves honestly by the light of Sacred Truth, we shall soon perceive whether our actions are of a suspicious and doubtful complexion, whether they are glaringly opposite to the commands of God, or whether they are of such a nature as he will approve.
Palpable sins will never bear examination by " the word of God, which is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart ii." 5. A faithful scrutiny into our whole demeanour will set our characters in a just light. Are our actions illegal, fraudulent, impure ? Are our dispositions inhuman, unholy, and carnal? Do we allow ourselves to indulge in passion, pride, resentment, malevolence, revenge, covetousness, love of wicked pleasures ? These things prove the soul to be in a diseased condition, requiring an examination to de Ezek. xviii. 30.
11 Heb. iv. 12.
tect its errors, and constant prayer for grace to renovate and purify it from all uncleanness. Or, do we find our evil tempers subdued? Are we humble, penitent, prayerful ? Do we long to be conformed to God in all things, “ by casting off the works of darkness, and putting on us the armour of light ?” If it be, indeed, thus with us, we need not be afraid to inspect the state of our minds; for such experience affords satisfactory evidence of our conversion from sin to righteousness, and a comfortable hope of everlasting life.
4. The professed end to be answered by this trial of our spirits and conduct, is two-fold.
First, that we may ascertain whether there be any sin in which we are living, which, if persisted in, may prove as hurtful to our souls, as the use of the most destructive poison to our bodies. Every man, who is anxiously desirous to be right, will utter the prayer of the devout Psalmist, Search me, o God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any
way me; and lead me in the way everlastingk!"
Let us pry, then, into our bosoms, that we may be acquainted with ourselves and all our besetting sins. Such knowledge, though it will humble us, may be the means of our salvation ; for, if it should produce a consciousness of our misery and danger, it will compel us to resort to Christ for deliverance. And is it not better to be aware that the enemy has made a breach in the camp, that we may instantly arm ourselves to expel him, than indolently to suppose that all is in safety, and to find ourselves surprised into a surrender, at the very moment when we should defend it to the last extremity ?
* Psalm cxxxix. 23, 24.