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who believes in a state of future ourselves, and of very much exand eternal retributions, has cusing and mitigating the evil of powerful motives to attend to his those things which we cannot own situation ; he will therefore justify. We are accustomed and examine himself. There may disposed to view our actions in a be those also, who have without too favorable light, and especialjust reasons, imbibed a hope, ly to think well of our hearts and that they are interested in the intentions, and to say to our promises, and being sensible that selves, that we meant little or no they may have mistaken their harm, and that there were some case, are prompted to search special circumstances, which in. and try themselves. And both fluenced to that, which other, believers and unbelievers may wise we should not have done. receive much benefit from this It should also be considered, exercise. The self-deceived may that in proving our own hearts be, and sometimes are by this and conduct, we ourselves are means, convinced of their sinful called to sit as judges in our and miserable condition, and own case, for we are the party to this is sometimes used by the be tried. And it is probable that Holy Spirit, as the instrument of if malefactors were to sit as the turning them to God: and be-judges in their own trials, few lievers are in this way comfort of them would be led to execued, reformed, encouraged in tion. It is difficult to be impartheir duty, and excited to ad- tial and candid in such circummire, praise and give thanks to stances. This is to be carefully God for his distinguishing mer- | noticed, to caution us against a cy to them. But self-examina- dangerous mistake. tion will be of little or no service, We are not only the judges in it may even confirm one in a this matter, but we are the wit, false idea of himself, unless it is nesses too; or at least we are to conducted in a proper manner, summon and bring forward the and upon right principles. Be- witnesses, which are to testify lievers may be led to conclude, for or against us. Here again is that they are not real believers, a field for all our partiality for and unbelievers may determine, ourselves to exercise itself, which that they have an interest in requires great care ; for a para Christ, and be led to it by a tial or false decision, may be atwrong method of examining tended with the most fatal conthemselves concerning this mat-sequences. This is a serious difter. The reader must now feel ficulty even to a pious man, and the importance of attending to a often influences him to misjudge short essay on self-examination. concerning himself: how much
I. There are a number of dif- more are those in danger of deficulties in the way of a profita-luding themselves, who are ble trial of ourselves, which de- wholly under the power of a serve our serious attention. One selfish spirit? of these is the strong prejudice, II. That a man may exam. which people usually have in fa- ine himself to any good effect, it vor of themselves, and of their is necessary, that he should fix own hearts and conduct. We are upon some standard, by which to . naturally fond of thinking well of ( try himself, and compare his
heart, life and conversation. In-f both calculated to influence us;
external exactness in dealing But if our ideas of this stand with his neighbor, the only stanärd be loose and obscure, and we dard of his character, another, undertake to try ourselves by kindness to the sick and the poor, these vague and indeterminate another, an external pharisaicideas of truth and duty, our ex-al attendance on ordinances,amination must be very uncer- another, a mere doctrinal knowltain and unsatisfactory, and may edge of a system of religious be ruinous. We might as well truth, and another, universal hoperhaps have neglected to exam- liness of heart and life, it is plain, ine ourselves at all, and shall re- that all of them examining themmain uncertain concerning our selves by their respective ideas true condition. Such an ill con- of the rule, may be approved as ducted examination may very true Christians in their own much discourage and depress a eyes : but only those, who exreal believer, or it may inspire amine by the standard, by which an unbeliever with a presumptu- they will be finally judged, will ous hope, to his destruction. receive any
benefit from the triIt is of importance, therefore, al; the others will be deluded. that people, when about to ex- This standard must respect amine themselves, first of all fix truth, as well as practical duties, upon the rule of trial, and obtain for God as much requires the clear and definite ideas of it; so belief of his testimony, as obethat they may determine with dience to his precepts; and it is precision whether they corres- no less criminal, virtually to give pond with it. And though this him the lie, by rejecting revealmay cost much labor, and close ed truth, than to disobey his application, yet it may abundant commands. ly recompense their faithfulness.
III. The examination should Besides, it is of the utmost always be conducted with the consequence
that we fix
upon the most cool deliberation, and the true standard, by which we are most careful comparison of ourto be judged at the last day ; selves with the rule. If, instead otherwise the result will certain- of a careful and deliberate comly be false, and the consequences parison of our faith and practice, may be fatal. If a quantity of with the standard of truth, we any thing be weighed in a false are hasty and superficial, and balance, and be estimated by it, content ourselves with the result will be wrong ; in the faint resemblance of conformity same manner, and from a like to it, our negligence concerning cause, a trial of ourselves by a our own exercises, will expose false rule will give a false result. us to self-deception, however acHere there is much danger, be- curate our ideas may be of the cause every man will form his standard itself. It is probable own ideas of the rule of trial, and that many mistake here. The our partiality and ignorance are I wicked are not disposed to bring
themselves to the light ; they | influenced us on such occasions. hate the light, and will not come A sordid miser, if on two or three to the light, lest their deeds occasions he should chance to do should be reproved. They are something, which might have disposed to justify themselves on the air of generosity, by continuany distant resemblance to the ally examining himself, by these rule ; and may mistake zeal for instances of his dealings, might love, party warmth for godliness, think himself a generous man, the effects of conscience for those and mistake his wish at such of holiness, natural compassion times to appear liberal, for a re. for pure benevolence, and a fair ally liberal spirit. So there are appearance for real innocence. many people, who have some Men must search out the work-serious contemplations on reliings of their own hearts, and gious subjects, with an apparent consider the principles and se- resemblance to devotional exer: cret springs, by which they are cises ; they may think these influenced. The Pharisee and true devotion ; and by continu: the Publican both prayed, and ally confining their examinations both in the temple, whichwas the principally to these, may believe appointed place; but they were themselves pious ; though the influenced by very different mo general tenor of their lives is a tives ; and therefore, one return- scene of worldly-mindedness and ed to his house rather justified unbelief. Their seriousness, at than the other.
| times, may be no more than the IV. The examination in ques- ordinary effects of natural contion should respect our general science. Believers too, whose line of conduct. We are to en- general conduct is greatly influ. quire what we usually do, and enced by the Spirit of Christ, how we usually think and feel, may at times, like Peter, do some and by what principles we are notorious wickedness, or become permanently actuated ; for this comparatively stupid and regardwill best determine what we are ; less of their duty, and be unable and we are less liable to mistake on such occasions to perceive concerning our general conduct, any holiness in their hearts, and than about our feelings, exercis- if they examine themselves chiefes and principles of action, in ly by such detached parts of their some insulated and particular lives, they may conclude, that parts of our lives, or frames of they are altogether destitute of raind on uncommon occasions. godliness. This will dishearten If we make such particular and render them incapable of frames the principal subject of praising God for giving them our examinations, there will be a a new heart, which is the greattwo-fold danger. One is the dan- est blessing they ever received ger of singling out some of our from him. It is therefore manimost specious frames, or instan- fest, that in our examinations we ces of practice, which have the are to regard our general state nearest apparent resemblance to s of mind and practice. the standard ; for we are prone V. In seasons of self-examito partiality in favor of ourselves. nation, it is necessary that our The other is the danger of mis- minds be solemnized, by a sense taking the true motives, which I of the presence of an holy and all-seeing God. We should con- | that we are believers, when we sider ourselves as immediately are not, is extremely dangerous. before him : for many things, For when a selfish man thinks which appear well, when we he has secured eternal life, he have not the presence and puri- will naturally compose himself, ty of God in view, will not bear to rest in his present condition. our own inspection, when we He will not be alarmed by the think of bringing them into his awful threatenings of God, besight. Nothing so effectually cause he concludes, that they do does this as prayer, and especial. not respect him. Nor does he ly, as imploring God himself to wish for more religion than is search us. By such prayers we necessary to secure him a place also call in the aid of the Holy | in heaven. Thus the Scribes and Spirit, to give us a true discern- | Pharisees depended on their ment of ourselves, and of the false hopes, and by their fancied standard by which we are to be security hardened themselves tried. Therefore David prayed against convictions ; while pubto God to search him, and try (licans and sinners, who had not him-to search his heart and his thus deluded themselves, entered reins, and see if there was any | into the kingdom of God. This wicked way in him. This had examination should therefore be a direct tendency in itself, to conducted with great care. And render him more faithful and if any one finds, that he can be impartial in his review. And satisfied with a measure of holiin answer to his prayer, he had ness, which might merely acalso encouragements to expect quit him at the judgment, he the influences of the Holy Spirit, may consider this as an evidence, to enlighten his mind, respect that he has no delight in holiing the rule, and his own life, ness, and no wish to serve God, and assist him to compare them except for the sake of a reward. together to advantage. Prayer The other object to be sought then, and a solemn sense of the and obtained by self-examination presence of God, and that our | is different. A man may be well decision must be re-judged by satisfied that he is a true believinfinite rectitude, are of the uter, but not contented with that most importance to self-exami- only, he may desire to know nation.
how far forth he is sanctified, VI. There are two objects to what progress he has made in be sought after in trying our holiness, in what he is deficient, selves. The first is, that we and in what respects and by what may know, whether we are true means, he may reform his heart believers in Jesus Christ, and so and life, what sins to repent of are entitled to the promises į or and guard against, and what whether we are in a state of im- particular graces require special penitence and condemnation cultivation. This is a very im
This is a question of infinite portant end of the Christian's importance to us, as the answer examination, and very useful. to it will at the general judg- We are commanded to watch, ment determine our everlasting and this watchfulness is derived, destiny. A wrong determination in a great measure, from searchof this question, so as to conclude ) ing ourselves. Without it, a beVol. V. No. 11.
liever would be very much ex- | what state of sanctification he is. posed to have some sin, which By comparing himself with the easily besets, and insensibly scriptures, he may detect all his grow upon him ; some grace or wickedness of heart and life, duty would be imperceptibly trace out his real character, see neglected ; religion might in wherein he is conformed to duty, some of its branches greatly de- provided he faithfully examines cay, and he would grow lax in himself in the way just pointed some duties. But when a Chris- out. And by comparing his pretian calls himself to a frequent sent with some past examinaand strict aceount, concerning tion, he may ascertain what his whole course of faith and proficiency he has made, and duty, he will discover his defi- wherein to repent and amend. ciencies, and see what to repent “ The word of God is quick and of, and what is to be done, that powerful.” he may be delivered from sin, The holy scriptures have also grow in grace, and be to the given us the real character of glory of God. A true Christian true believers, as they are in this desires to press forward for per- imperfect state, and have taught fection, and may derive great us what things are essentially advantage from proving himself necessary, to constitute a true in this way, and be more useful believer. They are the standard to the church of God. This ap- by which we are to prove ourpears to have been the object of selves, and know whether we David, when he prayed to God are believers or unbelievers. to search and try him, and dis- The history of many of the saints cover to him every wicked thing, is given, and their characters which should be foun in him. delineated in the scriptures; and There is reason to fear, that ma so they teach us by example. ny real Christians fear much, by And Christ has expressly infornot bringing themselves to a medus, what the essential things more frequentand strict account. are, that we may know them by Believers, however, are willing his description. He has explainto come to the light. When ed to us repentance, faith, obepeople examine themselves fre- dience, submission and holy love: quently for these purposes, and he has also taught us the great are faithful to make all the a- doctrines to be believed, and has mendments, which their exami- left nothing unnoticed, which nations show to be necessary, it could be of any benefit to us, as may be expected, that they will a rule of self-examination, or to be growing Christians.
instruct us how we may profit VII. After all that has been by it. The word of God is adwritten concerning self-examina- mirably full and explicit on this tion, it will be expected, that the subject. standard, by which we are to That we may be able in the try ourselves, will be pointed best manner to prove our docout. The holy Bible is the only | trines, hearts and lives by the rule of trial. This is a perfect rule God has given us in his standard of holiness, and gives a word, we must diligently acjust representation of sin, and so quaint ourselves with the Bible, enables the Christian to know in carefully observe and treasure