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lives, shamefully ignorant of themselves. Their minds are always at the windows, looking out this way for impertinent speculations, and that way for the follies and vices of their neighbours; while all within the house is in disorder and confusion. These ramblers in knowledge spend their lives in inquiries made at a vast distance from themselves, and come at last to be wonderfully knowing in every thing, but that which it concerns them most to know, the necessary means of their own present quiet, and future happiness, that is, the knowledge of God and his will, as set forth in the Christian covenant; and the knowledge of themselves, of their capacities, and dispositions. Knowledge, however, like charity, should begin at home. A man ought first to know himself, and his duty, together with all the helps necessary to the performance of his duty; and then it will be time enough for him to go a sporting with his curiosity.
We see how much pains they, who govern kingdoms, are at, in reading the histories of various countries, more especially their own; how they study the talents and tempers of men; how they labour to find out what in human nature requires restraint; what, encouragement; what, direction; what, amendment; what, total suppression. And does any man think he shall be able to govern himself, without making himself his study? Is he so stupid an idiot, as not to have perceived, that this, which is really a great and mysterious branch of knowledge, requires some application? Surely he cannot hope to govern himself rightly for the future, if he knows not what sort of a man he hath hitherto been, is now, or may be hereafter. It is of all things, most necessary he should be well skilled in the history of himself, of his passions, his weakness, his defects of understanding, his depravity of will, his corruption of heart, which have hitherto betrayed him into all the sins and miseries of his life. If he retained a feeling sense of his former miscarriages, he would not be so ready to throw himself in the way of those snares, in which he hath already smarted. A bird once caught, preserves a useful memory of the gin: in vain is the same net, at least, spread in the sight of the same bird. But the man who knows not himself, is not so cautious. He derives no advantage from his years. While his back bends,
and his head whitens with age, he is still young and green in point of prudence, because after a thousand experiments, he hath laid up no stock of experience, is still unacquainted with himself.
Whosoever knows not the principles of those he trusts, or deals with, hath nothing, but his good fortune, to thank for it, if he knows them not at last to his cost.
Whosoever knows not the state of his own accounts and affairs, can never regulate his expenses; may starve in plenty, or riot in want; and, when necessity at length forces him to look into his circumstances, how must he be shocked to find his whole conduct utterly unconformable to the state of his affairs!
But whosoever knows not himself, is the most despicable and miserable sort of fool, because he is ignorant of one with whom he is to consult and transact every thing, and on whom he must of necessity rely. How he is grieved to find his judgment imposed on, his measures baffled, his resolutions broken, and all his schemes defeated, not by another, not by an enemy, but by himself; may he not say, on such occasions, 'Had mine enemy done this, I could have borne it?" Nay, he may go farther than the psalmist; for he may justly say, 'Had my familiar friend betrayed me, and magnified himself against me,' I might have taken care to guard against his treachery for the future, and hid myself from him. But it was thou,' my inseparable companion, my guide, ' with whom I took sweet counsel' (sweet indeed but destructive), with whom I walked to the house of God,' who prescribed all my desires and designs, who dictated even my devotions to me, it was thou, my own heart, that hast undone me. Thou art deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; how shall I know thee?' When the conduct, necessary to my happiness, requires courage in thee, thou art fearful and irresolute; when it requires caution, thou art rash and giddy; when perseverance, thou art fickle and unsteady; when change and reformation, thou art obstinate and hardened. With what light shall I search into thy dark corners? Or with what armour shall I defend myself against an enemy, that lurks within the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation,' and 'the breast-plate of righteous
ness?' Thus grievously hath he reason to exclaim against himself, who knows not himself, whose heart is a stranger to his head.
It is far otherwise with him who knows himself, because he can oblige his faculties and passions to act in concert; or if there are some that will dissent, and grow refractory, he knows how to be on his guard against them. He knows how far he can safely trust to the strength of his understanding, and where instruction becomes necessary. He knows where his inward traitors are wont to hold a dangerous correspondence, and how to keep a watchful eye on their motions. He can see the faithful friend through the frowns of conscience, and can even court its admonitions. He can see the treacherous enemy through the smiles of desire and pleasure; and, armed with a lively remembrance of past lapses, past corrections, past remorses, can shun the ruinous delusion.
But it may now be asked, how the necessary knowledge of ourselves is to be acquired? Phylosophy only bids us know ourselves, as supposing every man acquainted with the methods whereby this may be effected; such, in particular, as attention to what passes within him, and reflection on what he thought, spoke, or did, under such or such circumstances. But the Scriptures go farther. They advise us to search and try our own ways, and to examine ourselves. They also propose to us the articles of our covenant as the rules by which this examination is to be managed. And lest care and diligence should be wanting in creatures so averse to the severities of a religious self-examination, likely as often as made, to end in repentance and mortification, they tell us, every one of us shall give an account of himself to God;' which we know cannot be done, as becomes reasonable beings under covenant, if we do not often call ourselves to a fair and strict account before our consciences for the performance or non-performance of what we vowed when we made peace with God. But that a matter of so much consequence as self-examination may be enforced with something more than precept, our Lord hath appointed a solemn and sacred commemoration of his death in the holy eucharist; which we are, as often as we possibly can, to celebrate, from the time we come to the
years of discretion, until he removes us from this world; which, however, we cannot celebrate otherwise, than at the risk of our own salvation, without a careful and thorough examination of ourselves, as the apostle tells us in the passage of which my text makes a part.
Now, although he does not there point out to us how, or in what particulars, we are to examine ourselves, in order to a worthy participation of our Lord's body and blood; yet we can be at no loss for directions on the occasion, since we cannot fail to perform the intention of the Holy Spirit, if we examine ourselves on the articles of our baptismal covenant, which contain all our religion requires of us either to believe or practise. Besides, this method of examination is plainly enough hinted to us by our blessed Saviour, who said, when he gave the cup, 'This is my blood of the new testament,' or covenant. If it is to us that blood by which he purchased the covenant of peace for us, if it is called the blood of the covenant, of the everlasting covenant; then does it loudly call on us, as often as we purpose to receive it, to think seriously on that covenant; to found the examination, recommended by the apostle on the articles of that covenant; and, whereinsoever we find our past lives unconformable to it, no doubt it must be our duty to repent, and resolve on a more strict observance of our vow for the time to come.
There is no separating the two sacraments, which flowed together from Christ's side, pierced by the spear, in the form of blood and water; because our covenant is equally contained in both. The sacrament of baptism introduces us to a covenant of peace with God. The sacrament of the Lord's supper keeps up our attention to this covenant, and enables us to stand fast in it. How can any man presume to say, the former is, and the latter is not the covenant, when the former is nowhere expressly called by that name, whereas Christ, when he instituted the latter said, This cup is the new covenant in my blood;' when the death of Christ, by which God is reconciled to us, is the very thing applied to us in both; for if, by the one, we shew forth the Lord's death till he come,' by the other we are buried with him in death; and when that peace, which is begun in the first, is improved into a union with God in the last? Merely as to
the business of covenanting, the second sacrament is no more than the first continued on, under a different form; for in both we are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Christ, and restored to peace and favour in the sight of God; the examination, therefore, preparatory to the second, must turn on the articles stipulated in the first. In this behalf they are but one and the same thing, and require the same preparation.
As therefore, self-examination, by the rule of the Christian covenant, is either the very remedy prescribed by the apostle, against the sin of an unworthy receiving, and the danger of damnation or equivalent to it; we cannot help looking on it as the first necessary step to the performance of that solemn duty, which seals, applies, and confirms to us all the benefits of Christ's death on God's part; and on ours ratifies and renews the covenant of peace, which by our sins, after baptism, we had transgressed. As the natural enmity between God and us is recalled by such sins, either there is no instituted act whereby peace may be restored, after the covenant hath been broken which would give us a frightful idea of Christianity; or the sacrament of the Lord's supper is such an act. I say frightful, because there is no man that sinneth not; insomuch that if we Christians, not excepting the very best of us, 'say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' Now, as the peace is daily broken by our sins, does it not require some institution equivalent to baptism, a sacrament that cannot be repeated, to assure the restoration of peace, if it may be at all restored? And what other institution is there, on which we may build the hope of such a restoration, but the sacrament of the Lord's supper, in which that blood whereby remission of sin was obtained, and whereby the covenant is confirmed to us is received? If the covenant once broken cannot be renewed, then it is a dreadful covenant of works only, and not of grace, mercy, and peace. But if it may be renewed, common sense will tell us it must be by a solemnity as sacred, and as important, as that of the covenant itself, to which a thorough resolution of amendment, particularly as to the act of transgression, must, of necessity, be preparatory; and nothing but a strict and severe examination of ourselves can lead the way to such a resolution. Now the