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count of the dreadful punishment to which it subjects the sinner in the world to come? Or do you hate it on account of its opposition to the divine character and will, and because it rendered necessary the sore rows, and agonies, and death of your dear Lord ? Do you hate all sin, even that to which, from constitution, habit, or interest, you are most strongly inclined ? Do
consider liableness to sin as the greatest evil of your present situation and are you disposed to exclaim, with the apostle, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death ?”
What is the state of your affections with regard to this world ? Do you “love the world and the things that are in the world ?” Is the love of pleasure, of honour, or of wealth, the animating principle of your conduct ? Are your chosen companions the men of the world? Or is the “ world crucified to you, and are you crucified to the world ?" Are you mortifying your members, which are upon the earth,” and crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts? Do you regard the world as a state you are to fly from, and a place in which you are to have no settled rest, no continued abode ?
What is the state of your affections with regard to yourselves ? Are you “lovers of your ownselves," disposed to make your own pleasure, or honour, the grand ends of your existence ? Or have you learned to sink your own interests in the more important concerns of the divine glory, and the general happiness of mankind ? Are you loving yourselves, so as to make the salvation of your soul your principal object, in subservience to the glory of God ?
What is the state of your affections with respect to your fellow-men ? Do
love and honour all men or are you still "hateful and hating each other?”
Have you an enlightened and fervid benevolence for all who wear the nature of man; a deep felt pity for all the miserable, and especially the morally miserable ; and a tender love to all who bear the image of our Redeemer ? -"We know,” says the Apostle John, " that we are passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” Do you account the truly pious the “excellent ones of the earth ?” and do you prefer the poor despised child of God, though learned only in his Bible, and wise only for eternity, to the accomplished but depraved possessor of riches, learning, and genius ? Are your religious affections not merely transient feelings, but fixed principles ?-By allowing conscience to answer these and similar questions, you may easily ascertain the true state of your affections.
3d, In the prospect of observing the Lord's Supper, a man ought to examine himself respecting the state of his conduct. A man's general deportment is, of all species of evidence, the most satisfactory, both to himself and others, of his real character. Following a plan similar to that adopted in the preceding subjects of inquiry, I shall suggest a few questions respecting conduct, by giving honest answers to which you may be assisted in acquiring the knowledge of yourselves.
In what manner do you conduct yourselves towards God? Are you regular and conscientious in the discharge of the duties of religion, public, domestic, and secret? Dare you not “forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of too many is ?" Is there an altar erected in your dwelling ? and is the morning and evening sacrifice of prayer and praise regularly presented? And do you frequently and regularly enter into your closet,” and pour out your hearts before your God? Is your attention to reli.
gious duty the effect of principle, or of habit merely? Does the mere performance of such duties satisfy you? or are you uneasy unless, through their medium, you enjoy fellowship with God? Do you walk before God “with a perfect heart, and serve him with a willing mind?”
In what manner do you behave yourselves in what directly regards your personal concerns ? Do you. consider your body as a temple of the Holy Ghost? Do you attend to the apostolic injunction, “Be sober?” Do you refrain “from wine, wherein there is excess ?” Do you “ use this world as not abusing it ?" Are you following out that first law of our nature, self-love, according to the directions given in Scripture; seeking your true happiness next to the divine glory; preferring the improvement of the mind to the gratification of the body; and, while not neglecting the concerns of time, prosecuting, with supreme ardour, the interests of eternity?
In what manner do you behave towards your fellowmen? Is your conduct regulated by the laws of justice and benevolence? Do you "render to all their due? and do you do good to all as you have opportunity ?" Are you, according to your different stations and talents, relieving the distressed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, instructing the ignorant, warning the unwary, and comforting the afflicted ?
look, not only at your own things, but also at the things of others ?” Is there, in one word, a general conformity between your conduct, and that enjoined by the divine law ?
What are the principles of your conduct ? Does the principle of regard to interest or reputation, form your chief motive? or is it respect to the divine authority, and love to the divine law? What is the rule of your conduct? Is it the opinion of the world,
or your own inclinations ? or is it the unerring law of God? What is the great end of your conduct ? Is it self in some form or other ? or is it the divine glory in your own true happiness, and that of others ? Par. ticular questions might easily be multiplied ; but to a mind, even of very ordinary powers, these are sufficient to suggest a train of reflection, which must, if honestly pursued, lead to a discovery of the true state of character.
II. The manner in which the exercise of self-examination should be conducted, is the second topic to which your attention is to be directed. Here we shall shortly consider, in their order, the criterion by which our judgment is to be guided; the temper in which the examination should be conducted ; and the assistance which is necessary to its being carried on with suc
1st, The word of God is the criterion according to which we ought to form our judgments of every subject of a religious or moral nature. It is the infallible test by which we are to try doctrines and practices. It is the sure touchstone by which we ought to examine ourselves. In the Holy Scriptures we have the characters of sinners and saints drawn by the pencil of inspiration. The distinguishing features of these two classes are very distinctly marked ; and were it not for the prevalence of inconsideration, and the strange influence of self-love, it would be impossible for any man to read the Scriptures without discovering his own moral likeness.
In judging of their own characters, men often fall into important and fatal mistakes, by taking up with a false criterion, adopting the general run of human character, or, at any rate, of the character of professional Christianity, as the standard by which they try themselves. And they think well or ill of themselves, as they rise above, or fall below this standard. "They measure themselves by themselves; they compare themselves among themselves, and are not wise.” In religion, we have to do with God. In endeavouring, then, to ascertain our religious character, the prime object ought to be, to discover whether it corresponds to what is right, not in man's estimation, but in God's.
There is a very large portion of the word of God characteristic ; indeed there is comparatively but little of it which may not be improved for leading us into a more extensive and accurate acquaintance with ourselves. There are, however, some passages peculiarly fitted for answering this purpose. I shall mention a few of them, which you can consult in your
retirements ; The law of the ten commandments; the fif, teenth, and twenty-fourth, and twenty-sixth Psalms; the beatitudes, and indeed the whole of of our Lord's Sermon on the Mount; and the practical parts of the apostolical epistles. In this point of light, the first Epistle of John possesses uncommon value. It may, indeed, be termed an inspired directory for self-examination. It is scarcely conceivable how a person, wishing to know his real character, can attentively read that epistle without coming to a decided opinion before he concludes the perusal.
2d, The tempers, which are absolutely necessary, in order to conduct a course of self-inquiry with the probability of final success, are principally seriousness and impartiality. It is well remarked, by a pious writer, that half the difficulties that are met with in the
prosecution of religious inquiry, and the performance of religious duty, would evanish, if men would but attend to the advice “ BE SERIOUS *." Without this, nothing