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IN TWO PARTS.
REV. WILLIAM GUTHRIE,
LATE MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL, FENWICK.
AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY,
THOMAS CHALMERS, D. D.
PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH.
PRINTED FOR WILLIAM COLLINS;
R. M. TIMS, AND WM. CURRY, JUN. & CO. DUBLIN;
THERE are few subjects or exercises more deeply important to professing Christians, than that which forms the principal topic in the following admirable Treatise—the work of self-examination. But self-examination is a work of great difficulty, and is accordingly shrunk from, or altogether declined by the great body of professing Christians. It is more the habitual style of the mind's contemplations to look at that which is without, than at that which is within--and it is far easier to read the epistles of the written Record, than to read the tablet of one's own heart, and so to ascertain whether it be indeed a living epistle of Christ Jesus our Lord. There is something so shadowy and evanescent in the phases of the human spirit-such a want of the distinct and of the tangible, in its various characteristics—such a turmoil, and confusion, and apparent incoherence in the rapid succession of those thoughts, and impulses, and emotions, which find their way through the avenues of the inner man—that men, as if lost in the mazes of a labyrinth, deem the world which is within to be the most hopeless and impracticable of all mysteries--nor in the whole range of their varied speculations, do they meet with that which more baffles their endeavours to seize upon, than the busy principle that is lodged within them, and has taken up its residence in the familiar intimacies of their own bosom.
The difficulty of knowing our own heart is much enhanced, if we are in quest of some character or some lineament which is but faintly engraven thereupon. When the thing that we are seeking for is so very dim, or so very minute, as to be almost indiscernible, this makes it a far more fatiguing exercise—and, it may be, an altogether fruitless one. Should then the features of our personal Christianity be yet slightly or obscurely formed, it will need a more intense and laborious scrutiny ere we can possibly recognise them. Should there be a languor in our love to God-should there be a frailty in our purposes of obedience-should there be a trembling indecision of principle, and the weakness or the wavering of a mind that is scarcely made up on the question of a preference for time or for eternity, let us not marvel, though all disguised as these seeds and elements of regeneration within us may be, amid the vigorous struggles of the old man, and the remaining urgencies of a nature which will not receive its death-blow but with the same stroke that brings our bodies to the dust—let us not marvel, if in these circumstances, the hardships of the search should deter many from undertaking it—and though after months, or even years of earnestness in religion, the disciple may still be in ignorance of himself, as if blindfolded from the view of his own character; or, if arrested at the threshold by a sense of its many difficulties, the work of self-examination has not yet been entered on.