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confusion at yourself, as would, in all probability, make you exceedingly desirous of greater perfection.
In the case of repeated sins, this would be the certain benefit, which we should receive from this examination and confession; the mind would thereby be made humble, full of sorrow and deep compunction, and by degrees forced into amendment.
Whereas a formal, general confession, which is only considered as an evening duty, which overlooks the particular mistakes of the day, and is the same, whether the day be spent ill or well, has little or no effect upon the mind; a man may use such a daily confession, and yet go on sioning and confessing all his life, with. out any remorse of mind, or true desire of amendment.
For if your own particular sins are left out of your confession, your confessing of sin in general has no more effect upon your mind, than if you had only confessed, that all men in general are sinners. There is nothing in any confession to show, that it is yours, but so far as it is a self-accusation, not of sin in general, or such as is common to all others, but of such partic
ular sins, as are your own proper shame and reproach.
No other confession, but such as thus discov. ers and accuses your own particular guilt, can be an act of true sorrow or real concern at your own condition. A confession, which is without this sorrow and compunction of heart, has nothing in it, either to atone for past sins,or to produce in us any true reformation and amendment of life.
In order to make this examination still further beneficial, every man should oblige himself to a certain method in it. As every man has something particular in his nature, stronger inclinations to some vices than others, some infirmities, which stiek closer to him, and are harder to be conquered, than others, and as it is as easy for every man to know this of him . self, as to know, whom he likes, or dislikes ; so it is highly necessary, that these particularities of our natures and tempers should never escape a severe trial at our evening repentance; I say, a severe trial, because nothing but a rigorous severity against these natural tempers is sufficient to conquer them.
They are the right eyes, which are not to be spared ; but to be plucked out, and cast from Us. For as they are the infirmities of nature,
so they have the strength of nature, and must be treated with great opposition, or they will soon be too strong for us.
He therefore, who knows himself most of all subject to anger and passion, must be very ex, act and constant in his examination of this tem. per every evening. He must find out every slip, that he has made of that kind, whether in thought, or word, or action ; he must shame, and reproach, and accuse himself before God, for every thing, which he has said or done in obedience to his passion. He must no more allow himself to forget the examination of this temper, than to forget his whole prayers.
If you find, that vanity is your prevailing tem per, which is always putting you upon the adornment of your person, and catching after. every thing, that compliments or flatters your abilities, never spare nor forget this temper in your evening examination ; but confess to God every vanity of thought, or word, or action, which you have been guilty of, and put your. self to all the shame and confusion for it, which
In this manner should all people act with regard to their chief frailty, to which their nature most inclines them. Though it should not
immediately do all, which they could wish, yet, by a constant practice, it would certainly, in a short time, produce its desired effect.
As, also, all states and employments of life have their particular dangers and temptations, and expose people more to some sins, than others, so every man, that wishes his own improvement, should make it a necessary part of his evening examination, to consider, how he has avoided or committed such sins, as are most common to his state of life.
For as our business and condition of life have great power over us, so nothing but such watchfulness as this can secure us from those temptations, to which they daily expose us.
The poor man is always in danger of repining and uneasiness. The rich man is most exposed to sensuality and indulgence; the tradesman to lying and unreasonable gains ; the scholar to pride and vanity. So that in every state of life, a man should always, in the examination of himself, have a strict eye upon those faults, to which his state of life most of all exposes him.
As it is, moreover, reasonable to suppose, that every good man has proposed to himself some method of holy living, and set himself some rules to be observed; so it should be a
constant part of his night recollection, to exam. ine how, and in what degree he has observed them, and to reproach himself before God for every neglect.
By rules, I here mean such rules, as relate to the well-ordering of our time, and the business of our common life ; such rules, as prescribe a certain order to all, which we are to do, our business, devotion, mortifications, readings, retire. ments, conversation, meals, refreshments, sleep, and the like.
Now as good rules, relating to all these things, are certain means of great improvement,
and such as all serious christians must needs propose to themselves, so they will hardly ever be observed to any purpose, unless they are made the constant subject of our evening examination.
Lastly, you are not to content yourself with a hasty general review of the day, but you must enter upon it with deliberation, and let no time, place, nor action be overlooked.
An examination thus managed promises to be attended with beneficial effects. It will serve, by a divine blessing, to give you a just knowledge of yourself, and to perfect you in the exercises and habits of virtue and holiness.