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of God; to assure them of final vic tory, if they faint not in the day of trial; and to encourage them, as soldiers of Jesus Christ, to fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life.
souls the peace of God, and all the other blessings which the Son of God freely gives to all who will receive his word. Knowing that there is no true happiness to be found here below, they wish us not 5. But this is not all. Man re- to be deceived by the vanities of the mains to be considered as a member world, or deluded by the temptaof Christ, and an heir of the kingdom tions of Satan. They travail in of heaven. The ordinances of pub- birth till Christ is formed in our lic worship are designed to commu- souls, till the chains of sin are nicate, to those who will attend broken, and we enjoy the glorious them, the blessings of the Gospel. liberty of the sons of God. They There Christ, the Head of the church, ardently desire to see us possessing meets his servants, who are the a peaceful mind amid all the trou members of his body. There his bles of life, rising superior to the ministers explain to a ruined world evils which overwhelm others, and the invaluable blessings purchased prizing as we ought the worth of by the blood of a dying Redeemer. our souls, the excellency of divine They set before men the rich pro- things, and the favour and blessing mises he hath given to all who be- of God. In prosperity they wish to lieve. They entreat the trembling see us not vainly puffed up, but humpenitent to rely on the all-sufficient ble and thankful, and enjoying our grace and infinite mercy of a Sa- prosperity with a double relish, as viour. They encourage the feeble- receiving it from the hands of God, minded to come boldly to him who They wish to see us useful and acwill not break the bruised reed, nor tive in our stations, a blessing to quench the smoaking flax; who was all around us, the delight of those himself tempted in all points like connected with us. They wish, fias we are, sin only excepted, that nally, to see us, when on a dying he might know how to succour them bed, animated with lively hope, and that are tempted. They tell of the supported by divine comforts; to power which his Spirit exerts in hear us, in that solemn hour, expresspurifying the hearts of believers bying our knowledge of Him in whom his grace, and subduing in them the dominion of every evil and corrupt affection. They labour to establish their hearers in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Saviour, to cherish a spirit of communion with him as their Lord and Master, to enlighten their souls with the beams of divine truth, and to comfort their bearts with the sense of his care and love; that so they may joyfully pass through the troubles and trials of this mortal life, and always be cheered by the bright prospect of eternal glory above, secured to them by the promise and grace of their Lord and Saviour.
Oh blessed end of the ministry! In this light, then, let us look on the end of the labours of those who minister among us. They earnestly desire that we may enjoy in our
we have believed, and our full confidence that he is able to keep that which we have entrusted to him to that day.
What important objects are these! Let us join with our ministers in endeavouring to obtain them. Are the blessings I have spoken of real, and are they to be attained? Yes: the mercy of our heavenly Father has richly provided all these blessings in Christ, and has offered them freely to all. O, then, let it be our endeavour to obtain them. God has appointed his ordinances as the means of obtaining them. Nor is it only the preaching of the Gospel, which is useful to this end: the prayers in which we join while we offer up holy worship, and the sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord received by faith, serve
equally to raise our thoughts to heavenly things, and to purify our desires. Nothing indeed can be better suited than the excellent Liturgy of our church, to those who are hungering and thirsting after salvation. It breathes the desires of their souls. It agrees entirely with the feelings of their hearts. And in this view our public worship will always be found an admirable means of edification; because, whatever be the defects of the preacher, having this Liturgy, we may always worship God in his house, in spirit and in truth.
Let us ever then attend on the worship of God, with seriousness and earnestness. Many fail of receiving advantage, because they either expect none, or they expect none that is of much importance. If, for instance, we only expect to be entertained in the house of God, our object is most unworthy. The point at which we should aim, is, to have our consciences touched, and our hearts interested against sin, and impressed with horror at the very thought of transgressing the commandments of God. We ought to go up to the house of God, not to be amused, but profited; and that sermon alone is useful, that worship alone is acceptable, after which we retire home, more separated from the world, and more alive to God; more deeply humbled by a sense of our sins, and more comforted by the knowledge of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
There is one point of view in which the ordinances of public worship are particularly interesting. God has promised them his blessing. It is God, therefore, not the preacher, whom we are to meet. It is God speaking to our consciences by the voice of his minister. Christ hath promised, that wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, there will he be in the midst of them. In this sense, we may justly say of public worship,This is no other than the house of God and the gate of heaven." In this respect, the
advantage of public over private worship is manifest. A man may possibly be much more learned, and more religious than his minister; but he would not on that account be justified in withdrawing from publicworship. We go to church not merely to be taught by a fellowcreature, but to meet the assembly of saints; to join with them in prayer and praise, and to receive the truth of God, conveyed to our souls through the mouths of his ministers.
But would we effectually profit by the ordinances of public worship, we must prepare ourselves beforehand. We must not engage in them with a vain, light, and trifling mind. We must pray earnestly that God may be with us. We must consider the great work we have to do, and the great blessings which God is willing to bestow. We must go as into the presence of the great God, to hold communion with him, and to receive from his bounty blessings of unspeakable value. The time is lost, if we do not enjoy a spirit of real prayer and praise. The house of Godwill be a witness against many. It will testify against them, that there they mocked God by bowing the knee, while the heart was far from him. It will testify, that there they heard the offers of Divine mercy, but rejected them. It will also be a witness, blessed be God, in fayour of many: it will testify the sincerity of their prayers, and the warmth of their devotion, and their attention to the word of God. God grant that there may be many found at the last day, and that we may be of their number, who can appeal to the Sabbaths here spent, and tell of the benefits derived from them; who, from the joy which they found in the temples of God below, can look forward with holy rapture to his paradise above, and apply the words of the text in their highest and noblest sense. "How amiable are thy tabernacles O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my
beart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." Now unto the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, the only wise God, our Saviour, be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. In answer to the request expressed in your number for January last, p. 19, by a constant reader of your useful work, I beg leave to offer the following familiar thoughts on the duty of self-examination. Should they prove sufficiently correct for the pages of the Christian Observer, I hope their insertion will excite a more serious attention to this important part of personal piety; and I should be happy to see this too much neglected subject receive, from the pen of some abler correspondent, a more enlarged and complete illustration. Wishing your judicious miscellany may increasingly promote the principles of pure aud practical religion,
I am yours, &c.
A SUMMARY VIEW OF THE DUTY OF
"Man know thyself," is one of the most useful and comprehensive precepts in the whole compass of Christian morals. Among the many highly important and interesting subjects which religion presents to our serious consideration and study, God and our own hearts are the chief. If men continue ignorant of their Creator, and strangers to themselves, of what avail will be the acquisition of all other kinds of knowledge, however highly esteemed among men? The fathers, and early reformers of our Christian church, express the high estimation they entertained of the value and utility of self-acquaintance, in the Homily on the Misery of all Mankind, which says, "a true knowledge of ourselves is very necessary, to come to a right knowledge of God." It is in retirement, and by self-converse, that we gradually gain the best ac
quaintance with ourselves, and are thereby disciplined for the duties and difficulties of the world. Selfknowledge ought, therefore, to be the chief study, and self-government the great business of life. These are essential branches of personal piety.
The consolation, stability, and peace of the Christian depend, in a considerable degree, on an intimate and proper acquaintance with himself; but an accurate knowledge of our true character and spiritual state, is not to be attained without frequent, serious, and impartial investigation. The appointed means of attaining this knowledge is self-examination; which has for its object a just acquaintance with ourselves, particu larly with our moral or spiritual state before God. The object of examining the spiritual state of our souls before God is to ascertain whether we are renewed or unrenewed in the spirit of our minds, in a state of holiness or sin. It is of the utmost importance to know this; because our happiness or misery, both here and hereafter, is inseparably connected with it. Here the first
inquiry is not, what measure or degree of holiness or piety we possess; but whether we are at all the subjects of the regenerating and transforming grace of God. On the commencement of self-scrutiny, the question which it most behoves us to ask, is not, whether we are "strong in the faith;" but simply, whether, judging by a faithful comparison of our hearts and lives with Scripture, we are possessed, in any degree, of that divine principle which purifies the heart, operates by holy love, and produces a life devoted to God. If this distinction be kept in view, it will secure the mind from much perplexity and indecision in the performance of this duty. It should be remembered, however, that satisfactory evidence of the true state of our souls is not to be attained on a single scrutiny, however solemn and impartial. This is ordinarily the result of much experience and earnest prayer, of frequent and vigilant
self-observation, and of an anxious study of the word of God. The Scriptures are the only infallible test of true religion; and when we have ascertained from this unerring standard, that we are partakers of the grace of God, and have commenced the Christian course, it is then incumbent on us to examine daily what progress we have made and are making in the divine life, to inquire whether we are advancing or declining in practical piety. The duty, as it is here laid down, comprehends, of course, an examination of the temper and conduct we main tain in the ordinary intercourse of society, and of the consistency and correspondence of our practice with our profession.
The obligation which all profess ing Christians are under to the practice of this duty, arises from the Divine command. The duty of selfexamination is clearly and expressly enjoined in the word of God, 2 Cor. x. 5. 1 Cor. ii, 28-31. It stands therefore, in this respect, on the same footing as repentance, faith, or obedience to the Divine will: we bave also the example of the holiest men in every age of the church, to incite us to the performance of it.
But even if no express command had been given to us, the obligation of self-scrutiny would hardly have been less binding than it is. The indispensible necessity of it would have been sufficiently evident, bad we only considered the depravity and deceit. fulness of the human heart, the great tendency there is in us to flatter our selves, our proneness to form our estimate of ourselves from the opinion which others may express. But, above all, the dreadful and irreparable ruin which must attend a mistake with respect to our real character before God, establishes the necessity of this duty, on the most unquestionable grounds.
Let us consider also, in this view, the advantages attending it. By enabling us to penetrate into the inmost recesses of our minds, selfinspection will prove the best means
to subdue our pride, our prejudice, and self-conceit, and to promote true humility, circumspection, and Chris-, tian candour, It will also lay a ram, tional and solid foundation for holy. hope and joy, in the immediate prospect of an eternal world. The almost overwhelming sense of past sins, which, not unfrequently, rushes on the conscience in a dying hour, will, at least, be greatly moderated, if not prevented, by a stated devout regard to the duty of self-examination through life. Nor is there any thing which will more effectually diminish, if not entirely remove, the fear of death, than a solid scriptural evidence of the right state of our souls before God; so that when called to encounter with the last enemy, his terrors will be removed, and we shall be enabled, through Divine grace, to triumph over death and the grave. Besides this, by frequently bringing ourselves to the test of God's word, and impartially comparing our heart and life with its divine precepts, we shall more effectually escape the snares of satan, more consistently maintain a conversation becoming the Gospel, and walk more worthy of the holy voca Lion wherewith we are called.
But, in urging the necessity and importance of this duty, it is not to be understood, that the most diligent and scrupulous examination will ever place any one in a holy and safe state of mind, or be the means of imparting a devout or spiritual frame of heart. It is rather to be viewed as the means of ascertaining our defects, and thus leading us to humble ourselves before God in repentance, and to implore his grace; of ascertaining also our progress in the divine life, and thus exciting our gratitude to Him who has, by his grace, thus far conducted us on our way to the heavenly rest.
Though the Scriptures prescribe no particular rules by which we must proceed in the discharge of this duty, they afford sufficient information to direct and decide all our inquiries. Unquestionably, it should
be entered on with the utmost seriousness and deliberation, and always accompanied with earnest prayer for the Divine assistance, and for the special direction and blessing of God; without which, all our efforts will be vain and fruitless. The most general complaint among Christians in the practice of this duty is, the want of sufficient stedfastness of thought. Indeed, we have too much cause to deplore the instability of our minds in all the duties of devotion; especially in those which are most spiritual, and which call for the most fixed attention.
In this duty, especially, we find the absolute necessity of the promised agency of the Holy Spirit, to preserve the mind in an intent, and still more in an impartial, frame. But while we earnestly implore the effectual influence of Divine grace, we should on no account omit the use of all the other means which are adapted to secure the proposed end; such as selecting the most convenient time that our circumstances will allow for retirement, taking care to preserve a faithful recollection of those failures in duty, or tendencies to failure, which call for peculiar vigilance, and more earnest supplication; avoiding places and persons, which expose us to temptation; availing ourselves of the counsel of judicious friends, &c. &c.
In every part of the proposed investigation, the Holy Spirit of God must be our guide, and the Scripturés our only rule of judgment; and the scrutiny, to be effectual, must be careful, impartial, and rigorous. A transient glance, or a casual view, will be insufficient and unavailing. The human heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," and must be examined in every variety of aspect, and especially in respect to the tendency of its prevailing desires, and prevailing habits, both of thought and action.
We can never form a right judg. 'ment of ourselves, from partial and detached views of our feelings, character, and conduct. We must pay
an universal regard to the will of God. Instead of comparing ourselves in all the parts of faith and duty with the whole of the Divine law, we are apt to rest on some one line or course of conduct, or some separate set of actions, as an evidence that all is well with us. This, however, will not do. We must honestly aim to know, from a careful comparison of our whole spirit, temper, and conduct, with the directions and requisitions of Scripture, what it is which may be fairly said to distinguish our character, and to give a decided denomination to our moral and religious state.
With the view of still more satisfactorily ascertaining, whether a radical change has been effected in our hearts and lives, we ought impartially to compare our present with our former moral condition and habits; particularly at the time when we had no serious concern about the salvation of our soul. In this scrutiny, we should well weigh the difference between the predominant principles and pursuits of our heart and life, now and formerly, as well as the motives which have influenced the change. Do we conscientiously abhor and abstain from whatever gratified our carnal propensities in the days of our ignorance and sin? Have we relinquished the world, as our ultimate rest and portion, as the prevailing object of our cares and anxieties; and are we now seeking our supreme satisfaction in the favour and service, and everlasting enjoyment of God? Are we so enlightened as to perceive the infinite value and importance of divine and spiritual things, and to prefer and delight in them above all the pleasures and possessions of the present life? In these respects, has a perceptible change been effected in the deliberate assent of our understanding, the determination of our will, and the delight of our af fections? If so, a Divine renovation has been wrought in us; we are truly renewed in the Divine image. This is a plain and safe rule, by which to judge of our moral charac