« VorigeDoorgaan »
however much the invitation of companions or the example of the world might seem to afford encourage. ment for so doing. Keep constantly in your minds this short maxim: that resolution at your age for a few years, is probably to fix your character for life, and your fate for ever. Young men and young women, think not that it is too early to be religious. Take heed for whether you would ensure yourselves against the greatest of all dangers, the danger of being cut off in the midst of your sins, from which no age, no health, no constitution is a security or protection; whether you will take warning by the thousands and tens of thousands, who, having been drawn at an early age into vicious courses, have never all their lives got out of them; whether you will credit those who have gone before you in the path of life, as to the danger of once yielding to temptations of sin, or will believe indeed your own eyes and observations as to the same thing; whether you would avoid that bitter repentance, those sore struggles which every sinner must undergo before he can possibly bring himself back to the right way, which are always painful, and often it is to be feared unsuccessful, that is, are not sufficiently persisted in; whether, finally, you hope to reach, as you proceed in life, that holiness of heart and temper which the steady practice of virtue produces, and which is sure of receiving from God a crown of proportionable glory and happiness in heaven: whichever of these considerations move and prompt you to a life of re
ligion, begin it in time: hold fast your innocency: step into the right way. Look not aside to the guilty indulgences which many take delight in; they will fail you, they will forsake you; they will ruin you both soul and body, both your comforts in this world and your salvation in the next. Religion has great things in store for you; it will fill you with peace and joy, and hope and courage to your latest moment; and it will place you amongst the blessed in heaven, in the presence of your Father and Redeemer.
THE DUTY OF SELF-EXAMINATION.
1 COR. XI. 31.
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
It is true that these words, together with the exhortation two verses before, "Let a man examine himself;" are spoken particularly of the Lord's supper. The Corinthians having strongly abused that institution, and lost sight of its religious nature entirely, St. Paul here bids them consider and reflect with themselves what they were about, what they were going upon, when they come together to eat the Lord's supper. I think, nevertheless, that these words may in the present day be taken in a general sense, because whatever reason there was for the Corinthians to examine themselves and judge themselves in relation to coming to the Sacrament, there is the same or greater reason for the duty in every other part or point of obligation in which we are apt to go wrong. St. Paul says, "if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged;" but as a man cannot judge without first examining himself and making a search into his own heart, I shall take oc
casion from these words to treat of the duty of selfexamination, in which duty there are three things to be considered; its use, its neglect, and the seasons for it.
Now as to its use for it is seldom a pleasant task, and therefore, unless useful, one would decline it— the end of all religion is a good life; but a good life is no such easy thing to be compassed. We stand in need of all the aids and helps which we can procure either from religion or our own reason. Experience proves that they are all often too little. Now of all the instrumental parts of religion, there is none in its nature so likely-none that in fact, I believe, does influence men's behaviour so effectually, as this one of self-examination; as it is in the first place a man's own doing-what the man does for himself. And in religion, as in many other things in the world, what a man does for himself is of much more avail than what others do, or can do for him. In every religious ordinance, in baptism, in the Lord's supper, in public worship, in reading, in hearing, there is the ministry of others; but in the business of self-examination, every man is his own minister. He must do it for himself and not another. The other services may be perhaps gone through with a small share of thought and attention; but this is properly and entirely the business of thought.
Secondly; self-examination, from the nature of it, is private which is a circumstance of consequence. I do not mean to dispute or undervalue the use or
obligation of public worship, or of public ordinances ; but I do say, that for influence and effect upon a man's self, there is nothing comparable to what passes in private. There is no hypocrisy, for there is no one to see you. There is no restraint; no being tied down to forms, which, be they ever sogood, cannot reach every man's private and particular circumstances. There is nothing to disturb or take off your attention. For which reason the impression is always the deepest which a man fastens upon himself in his own meditations. But upon the subject of the use of self-examination, the fact itself may be relied upon; for I believe that it may be said of self-examination with the same truth that it was said of prayer-that self-examination will either make us leave off sinning, or sin will make us leave off selfexamination. It is an exercise, which, if honestly persisted in, will make the worst man in the world grow better; consequently, the generality of us, who are mixed characters, composed of some good with a great deal of bad, will be sure of amending and improving ourselves by it. Our good properties will be strengthened and increased, and our bad ones gradually got rid of.
I have said that any sinful course, if not got the better of, makes a man tired of self-examination. It perfectly resembles a case which is common enough in life. When a man's worldly affairs go wrong, when they grow perplexed and involved, and are become desperate and irretrievable, we can never