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Accordingly we find that the people of God, in all ages, have cherished a deep sense of the difficulty attending self-examination; and, when about to observe it, have implored the assistance of the Spirit of God. The psalmist, David, when he looked into his heart, was constrained to exclaim before the Lord,—“ Who can understand his errors ? cleanse thou me from secret faults.”

“ Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and


“ Search me, O God, and know my heart ; try me, and know my thoughts ; and see if there be




me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”* After all his endeavours to examine himself, to know his errors and secret faults, and to become acquainted with the plagues of his heart, he humbly confesses, that the omniscient Jehovah alone could effectually aid him in this search, and therefore earnestly supplicates his assistance.—The prophet Jeremiah manifested a similar spirit, when he thus expressed himself, “ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked : who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”+

If such were the sentiments of these eminently wise and holy men,—these prophets of the Lord,—if they were compelled to admit the matchless deceitfulness of the heart, and their inability to know it aright, without divine aid ; much more does it become us to be impressed with the difficulties of this * Psal. xix. 12. ; xxvi. 2. ; cxxxix. 23, 24.


# Jer. xvii. 9, 10.

work, and our need of supernatural direction. And if they fervently besought the help of God, that they might be preserved from self-delusion; much more do we require ardently to implore that we may be kept from this ruinous danger.-As soon, therefore, as you enter the place where you intend to engage in self-examination, bow the knee to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and beseech him by his Spirit to shine into your heart, and to enable you, by means of his word, to see what you truly are in his estimation. Fervently cry to him that he would make you willing to know the worst, as well as the best, of your state and character ; and that he would effectually undeceive you, if you are deceiving your

, self. Or, if indeed he has begun a good work in you, though grace should be small and weak, humbly beg that he would enable you to discern it; and impart to you that peace and joy which flow from a well grounded interest in his love.

2. This duty should be performed with much care and diligence.—There is cause to fear that many

who attempt something like self-examination, do it simply as a matter of form, and to quiet the remonstrances of conscience. They know that it is their commanded duty; and especially they are aware that it is required of them, when they have the near prospect of commemorating the death of Christ; and therefore they cannot satisfy themselves without doing something of this nature. Very little, however, is sufficient to silence their conscience, and to pass for an endeavour to examine themselves. If they look

back at a few of the most striking actions and incidents of life, and read a passage or two of the Bible, or of some other religious book ; they conceive that nothing more is requisite. They cannot take the trouble to investigate their heart and practice minutely; and to compare them with a considerable number of scripture tests of godliness. Such a conduct betrays a want of true concern about the state of the soul; and, in no instance in which the outward conduct is decent and irreproachable, can be followed by a convincing and humbling detection of sin.

If you would be successful in judging yourself, you must bring your whole mind and soul to this important trial, and go through it with all the care and diligence which you can command. Viewing yourself as in the presence of your omniscient Judge, and impressed with the belief that to him you must soon account for every thought, and word, and deed; you must commence this work with a fixed determination, to spare no pains that you may arrive at the truth. And as you proceed to try yourself by any mark of character, whether it be indicative of a gracious, or of a graceless state, study to view it in all its various aspects and bearings, both as it relates to your principles and your practice. After you have come, if possible, to some convincing decision on-one point of inquiry, then proceed to investigate another, with similar care and diligence; and so on in succession, till you have applied, to your heart and life, a number sufficient to prevent mistake. Thus, and


thus alone, you will show that you are in good earnest, that you are persuaded that this trial is both difficult and important, and that you are resolved to know on what ground you stand, in the prospect of death, judgment, and eternity.

3. You should perform this duty with patient deliberation.-This is of vast importance to your success. On this account, though in some degree it is necessarily involved in the former particular, I have chosen to give it a separate and distinct specification. Should you limit yourself to a few minutes, in the view of laying aside your inquiry, as soon as they are elapsed; it is scarcely possible that you can succeed, Almost unavoidably you will be in danger of circumscribing your trial to one or two things at most, and of omitting many points essential to a satisfactory and just decision. Or should you run quickly over a great number of marks of character, in so little time ; from the nature of such an investigation, it is impracticable to see any of them clearly, unless you be either eminent for holiness or impiety.

You ought to set it down as an established and incontrovertible rule, that in self-examination, as in every other difficult and important inquiry, patient deliberation is necessary. A rash and hasty judgment, in such a case, is generally faulty, and always hazardous and imprudent. Sufficient time must be devoted to it. How difficult soover it may be to command an hour for this purpose, you ought to set yourself on its attainment. An hour is readily found by almost every one, who has something of a worldly

can you

nature in view, accounted either entertaining or ad. vantageous. And

find time to attend to matters pertaining to the body, or to the trifling amusement of the mind, while you cannot take from the world an hour, to inquire whether you are going to heaven or hell? Far be an inconsistency so palpable from you! Blush at the very thought! Rather than want sufficient time for a business in which you are so deeply concerned,—a business of such superlative magnitude, take it from the season usually allotted for sleep. When

you have set apart a suitable and sufficient portion of time for this purpose, let it be conscientiously devoted to it. Do not, if possible, appropriate it to any thing else, or allow intruding cares, and vain imaginations, to occupy its greater part. When disturbed by them, cry to the Lord for deliverance. And, when you find it difficult to decide on any point

, of trial, guard against impatience. With calm deliberation, endeavour to keep your mind to this work, till you can appeal to God, that you have not willingly trifled in it, nor hurried it past.

4. You should examine yourself with all possible impartiality. This is the most difficult part of selfexamination. Many circumstances, as was formerly shown, contribute to render it often deeply perplexing, and have a tendency to lead to self-deception. But difficult though it be, you have cause to bless God that it is practicable; and, that by pursuing the proper course, you may be guarded against the misguiding influence of every thing which has a ten

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