« ForrigeFortsæt »
lity should outstrip his growth in holiness, then to his own eye may there be a fuller and more affecting manifestation of his worthlessness than before. While the sin of his nature is upon the decay, there may, at the very time, be a progress in his sensibility to the evil of it. Just in proportion to the force of his resistance against the carnality of the old man, does he come more pressingly into contact with all its affections and its tendencies; and so, these being more deeply felt, are also more distinctly recognized by him. It was thus with Paul, when he found the law in his members, that warred against the law of his mind; and when he complained of his vile body; and when he affirmed of the struggle between the opposite principles of his now compound nature, that it not only harassed, but hindered him from doing the things which he would. He did not grow in corruption, but he grew in a more touching impression, and a clearer insight of it; and so of the Christian still, that more in heaviness though he be, under the felt and conscious movements of an accursed nature, which is not yet extinct, though under a sure and effectual process of decay, it is not because he is declining in religious growth, but because he is advancing in religious tenderness; striking bis roots more profoundly into the depths of self-abasement, and therefore upwardly shooting more aloft than ever, among the heights of angelic sacredness.
We say this, partly for comfort, and to remind the Christian that it is good for him, in every stage of his career, to keep himself weaned from his own righteousness, and wedded to the righteousness of Christ. But he will also perceive how it is, that just as he grows in positive excellence, so does he become more feelingly alive, and more intelligently wakeful to the soil and the sinfulness wherewith it is still tarnished; and thus will every new accession to his Christianity facilitate the work which we have prescribed for him., on the second stage of self-examination.
It is thus then, that we would introduce him to the business of making search and entry into the recesses of the inner man. Let him begin with the evil affections of his nature, for these are at first far more discernible than the others; and even though under the power of grace they are withering into decay, still from the growth of his moral and spiritual delicacy, may they remain more discernible to the very end of his history in the world. They are therefore more easily recognized, than are the features of the new character, and should, of consequence, have an earlier place in the course of self-examination, that important branch of Christian scholarship. As the habit of reviewing the handy-work, prepared him for entering on the review of the heart, so the habit of reading those more palpable lineaments which are graven thereupon, may prepare him for scrutinizing that more hidden workmanship, which, under the processes of the economy of grace, is carried forward in the soul of every be. liever. And agreeably to this, we would have him to take account, on each successive evening, of every uncharitable feeling that hath arisen through the day, of every angry emotion wherewith he has been visited, of every impure thought that he either loved to cherish, or did not rebuke with a prompt and sensitive alarm away from him, of every brooding anxiety that seemed to mark how much the crosses of time preponderate with him over the cares and concerns of eternity-withal, of that constant and cleaving ungodliness which compasses us about with all the tenacity and fulness of a natural element, and makes it so plain to the enlightened conscience, that though the heart were exempted from all the agitations of malice or licentiousness, yet still that Atheism, practical Atheism, is its kindly and congenial atmosphere. In taking such a nightiy retrospect as this, how often may he be reminded of his preference for self in the negotiations of merchandise-of the little temptations to deceit, to which he had given a somewhat agreeable entertainment of the dominant love of this world's treasure, and how it tends to overbear his appetite for the meat that endureth, his earnestness for being rich towards God!_These, and many like propensities as these, will obtrude themselves as the mementoes of nature's remaining frailty; they will be to him the indications of a work that is still to be done, the materials for his repentance every night, the motives and the impulses for his renewed vigilance on the morrow.
We now enter on the third and last stage of selfexamination, at which it is that we take cognizance of a past work of grace that is going on in the soul; and read the lineaments of our new nature; and from the fruits of the Spirit having now become distinct and discernible within us, can assuredly infer, that now we are possessed of the earnest of our inheritance, and have the witness within ourselves, that we are indeed the children of God. And we think, that the humbler exercises which we have now insisted on, may prepare the way for this more subtle and recondite part of the work of self-examination. Certain it is, that it might subserve the object of bringing the Spirit of God into closer and more effectual fellowship with the soul. Only, let the notice which one takes of his evil affections, be the signal to him, for entering, and that immediately, into a war of resistance, if not of extermination, against them. Having learned the strength and number of his enemies, let him forthwith be more determined in his guardianship; and, in proportion as he succeeds, in that very proportion does he invite the approach of the Spirit of all grace, and will have the benefit of his power and workmanship upon the soul. “ Grieve not the Spirit,” says the Apostle, and quench not his influences. Just as the disciple mortifies the pride, or the peevishness, or any of those evil propensities which are the works of the flesh, does he take away those topics of offence and discouragement which keep the Holy Ghost at a distance-does he remove the obstacles that lie in the way of his operation-does he begin, in fact, that good work which the Spirit will carry on-does he cease to do evil, and learn from the Spirit, and is enabled by the Spirit, to do well. Thus it is, that he is made to advance from one degree of grace to another; and, in
stead of mystically waiting for an illumination and a power which he has no reason to believe will ever come upon him, idly looking forward to it in the shape of a sudden and auspicious visitation, let him enter, even now, on that course of new obedience, along which a disciple is conducted from the first elements of his spiritual education, to those brightest accomplishments which a saint on earth has ever realized.
There is one very immediate result that comes out even of this earlier part in the work of self-examination. If one be led, from the discovery of what is evil, to combat it, then is he led to be diligent, that he may be found without spot, and blameless in the great day of reckoning. He is working out his salvation from sin. He embarks on the toils of the Christian warfare. Ile fights the good fight, and forthwith makes a busy work, a strenuous conflict of his sanctification. And he should not linger another day, ere he commence in good earnest this purification for eternity. He should remember that the terms which the Bible employs, are all expressive of rapidity :-To flee from the coming wrath; and flee from those evil affections which war against the soul; and make haste to keep the commandments; and tarry not in turning to Christ, and turning from all his iniquities.
There is nothing of which the earnest and aspiring disciple is more ready to complain, than that, while all alive to the sense of his corruptions, he is scarcely sensible of the work of grace that should be going on. The motions of the flesh are most distinct and most discernible, while, on the question of the Spirit's operation upon his heart, he is in a state of utter blindness and bewilderment. He feels weighed down by the remaining carnality of his nature, while he
not within him any growing positive conformity to the character of one of heaven's children. There is a more galling sensation than before of all about him that is evil, but often without any thing to alleviate the oppressive thought, by the consciousness of much that is truly and unequivocally good. And thus a discomfort in the mind of many an incipient Christian
an apprehension that he has not yet tasted of the Spirit of God, nor has any part in that which is called the seal of his redemption, the earnest of his inheritance.
Now it may comfort him to know, that this very dejection of his heart may, of itself, be a fruit and an evidence of the Holy Ghost having been at work with him. This painful sensibility to what is wrong, may evince him to be now at the place of breaking fortii, now at the very turning point of his regeneration. The very heaviness under which he labours, is perhaps as decisive a symptom as can be given, that he is now bending his upward way along the career of an ardiious, but still advancing sanctification. When the Psalmist complained of himself that his heart clave unto the dust, and therefore prayed that God would quicken him, he perhaps did not know that the quickening process had begun with him already, and that even now he was actuated by the spirit of grace and of supplication--that ere the lineaments of an affirmative excellence could come visibly forth upon his character, it was for him to supplicate the new heart and the right spirit, because for all these things God must be inquired after, and that he now had come the length of this inquiry--that so far from this despondency being a proof of the destitution of the Spirit, one of the first fruits of the Spirit, in the Apostle and his converts, was that they groaned inwardly, being burdened, being now touched as they never were before with a feeling of their infirmities. To the now renovated eye, the soil that is upon the character is more painfully otientsive than before; and to the now softened heart, there is the grief of a moral tenderness because of sin, that was before unfelt, but now is nearly overwhelming. The dead know not that they are dead, and not till the first moments of their returning life, can they be appalied by the feeling of the death-like paralysis that is upon them.
And let us not then refuse that, even under the burden of a heavy-laden ccnsciousness, the reviving Spirit may be there that like as with the chaos of matter, when he moved upon the face of the waters he troubled and bedimmed them, so his first