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If, as we have repeatedly observed, the principle is the test of the action, we are hourly furnished withi oca casions of shewing our piety by the spirit in which the quietunobserved actions of life are performed. The sacri. fices may be too little to be observed except by him to whom they are offered. But small solicitudes, and demonstrations of attachment, scarcely perceptible to any eye but his for whom they are made, bear the true ciar. acter of love to God, as they are the infallible marks of affection to our fellow creatures.
By enjoining small duties, the spirit of which is every where implied in the Gospel, God, as it were, seems contriving to render the great ones easy to us. He makes the light yoke of Christ still lighter, not by abridging duty, but by increasing its facility through its familiarity, These little babits at once indicate the sentimeut of the soul and improve it.
It is an awful consideration and one which every Chris
tian should bring home to his own bosom, whether small . faults wilfully persisted in, may not in time not only dim ::: the light of conscience, but extinguish the spirit of grace:
: whether the power of resistance against great sins may not be finally withdrawn as a just punishment for having neglected to exert it against small ones.
Let us endeavour to maintain in our minds thic awful impression, that perhaps among the first objects which
may meet our eyes when we open them on the eternal We world, may be that tremendous book, in which, together
with our great and actual sins, may be recorded in no less prominent characters, the ample page of omissions, of neglected opportunities, and even of fruitless good in
tentions, of which indolence, indecision, thoughtlessness, Divanity, trifling and procrastination concurred to frustrate **. the execution.
In this age of general inquiry, every kind of ignorance is.esteemed dishonourable. In almost every sort of know
ledge there is a competition for superiority. Intellectual 11 attainments are never to be undervalued. Learning is the best human thing. All knowledge is excellent as far as it goes, and as long as it lasts. But how short is the pegjod before “tongues shall cease, and knowledge shall vanish away!"
Shall we then esteem it dishonourable to be ignorant in any thing which relates to life and literature, to taste and science, and not feel ashamed to live in ignorance of our own hearts?
To have a flourishing estate and a mind in disorder; to keep exact accounts with a steward and no reckoning with our maker; to have an accurate knowledge of loss or guin in oirr business, and to reinain utterly ignorant whether our spiritual concerns are improving or declining; to be cautious in ascertaining at the end of every year how much we have increased or diminished our fortupe, and to be careless whether we have incurred profit or loss in faith and holiness, is a wretched miscalculation of the comparative value of things. To bestow our attention on objects in an inverse proportion to their importance, is surely no proof that our learning has improved ons judg. ment.
That deep thinker and acute reasoner, Dr. Barrow, has remarked that “ it is a peculiar excellency of human nature, and which distinguishes man from the inferior creatures more than bare reason itself, that he can reflect upon all that is done within him, can discern the tendencies of his soul, and is acquainted with his own purpo.
This distinguishing faculty of self-inspection would not have been conferred on man, if it had not been intended that it should be in habitual operation. It is surely, as we before observed, as much a common law of prudence, to look well to our spiritual as to our worldly possessions. We have appetites to control, imaginations to restrain, tempers to régulate, passions to subdue, and how can this internal work be effected, how can our thoughts be kept within due bounds, how can a proper bias be given to the affections, how can " the little state of man" be preserved froin continnal insurrection, how can this reStraiving power he maintained, if this capacity of dis. cerving, if this facnlty of inspecting be not kept in regular exercise? Without constant discipline, imagination will become an outlaw, conscience an attaisted rebel.
Internet. This ivward eye, this power of introversion, is given us
vigilance over its interior motions, those fruitful seeds of itistin action those prolific principles of vice and virtue, will
depend both the formation and the growth of our morál
and religious character. A superficial glance is not e det enough for a thing so deep, an unsteady view will not suf
fice for a thing so wavering, nor a casual look for a thing : so deceitful as the human heart. A partial inspection on
any one side, will not be enough for an object wllich must
be observed under a variety of aspects, because it is al. Tere . Ways shifting its position, always changing its appearan
1ons; pot only our faults but our prejudices, not only our FETTE propensities but our judgments. Our actions themselves
will be obvious enough ; it is our intentions which require the scrutiny. These we shonld follow up to their remo.
test springs, scrutinize to their deepest recesses, trace 12 through their most perplexing windings. And lest
We should, in our pursnit, wander in uncertainty and blindness, let us make use of that guiding cloe which * the Almighty has furnished by his word, and by his spirit, for conducting us through the intricacies of this labyrinth.
“What I know not teach ihon me," should be our con''stant petition in all our researches.
Did we turn our thoughts inward, it would abate
much of the self complacency with which we swallow 7 the flattery of others. Flattery hurts not bim who Hat.
ters not himself. If we examined our motives keenly, ;" we should frequently blush at the praises our actions re..
ceive. Let us then conscientiously inquire not only what we do, but whence and why we do it, from what motive and to what end. * Self-inspection is the only means to preserve us from self conceit. We could not surely so very extravagantBy value a being whom we ourselves should not only see,
but feel to be so full of faults. Self-acquaintance will give
errors than we can possibly have, with all the inquisitive-
virtues will be acquired by the same act, humility, and candour; an impartial review of our own infirmities, be ing the likeliest way to make us tender and compassionate to those of others.
Nor shall we be liable so to over-rate our own judgment when we perceive that it often forins such false es. timates, is so captivated with trifles, so elated with petty successes, so dejected with little disappointments. When we hear others commend our charity which we know is so cold; when others extol our piety which we feel to be So dead; when they appland the energies of our faith, which we nust know to be so faint and feeble; we cannot possibly be so intoxicated with the applauses which never would have been given had the applauder knows us as we know, or ought to know ourselves. If we contradict him, it may be only to draw on ourselves the imputation of a fresh virtue, humility, which perhaps we as little deserve to have ascribed to us as that which we have been renouncing. If we kept a sharp look out, we sbonld not be proud of praises which cannot apply to us, but should rather grieve at the involuntary fraud of imposing on others, by tacitly accepting a character to which we have so little real pretension. To be delighted at finding that people think so much better of us than we are conscious of deserving, is in effect to rejoice in the success of our own deceit.
We shall also become more patient, more forbearing and forgiving, shall better endure the barshe judgwent of others respecting us, when we perceive that their opinion: of us nearly coincides with our own real though unacknowledged sentiments. There is much less injury in- t curred by others thinking too ill of us, than in our think.' ing too well of ourselves.
It is evident then, that to live at random, is not the life of a rational, much less of an immortal, least of all of an accountable being. To pray occasionally, without a deliberate course of prayer; to be generous without proportioning aur means to our expenditure; to be liberal without a plan, and charitable without a principle; to let the mind float on the current of public opinion, lie at the mercy of events for the probable occurrence of which we have made no provision; to be every hour liable to death without any habitual preparation for it; to carry within us a principle which we believe will exist through
all the countless ages of eternity, and yet to make little inquiry whether that eternity is likely to be happy or miserable--all this is an inconsiderateness which, ifadopt. ed in the ordinary concerns of life, would bid fair to rnin a man's reputation for common sense; yet of this infatualion he who lives witlout self-examination is abso. lutely guilty.
Nothing more plainly shews us what weak vascillating creatures we are, than the difficulty we find in fixing ourselves down to the very self-scrutiny we had deliberately resolved on. Like the worthless Roman Emperor we rea tire to our closet under the appearance of serious occupa. tion, but might now and then be surprised, if not in catching flies, yet in pursuits nearly as contemptible. Some trifle which we should be ashamed to dwell upon at any time, intrudes itself on the moments dedicated to serious thought ; recollection is interrupted; the whole chain of reflection broken, so that the scattered links cannot again be united. And so inconsistent are we that we are sometimes not sorry to have a plausible pretence for interrupting the very employment in which we had just before made it a duty to engage. For want of this home acquaintance, we remain in utter ignorance of our inability to meet even the ordinary trials of life with Cheerfulness; indeed by this neglect we confirm that inability. Nursed in the lap of luxury, we have an indefinite notion that we have but a loose hold on the things of this world, and of the world itself. But let some accident take away, not the world, but some trifle on which we thought we set no value while we possessed it, and we find to our astonishment that we hold, vot the world only, but eveu this trivial possession with a pretty tight grasp. Such detections of our self-ignorance, if they do not serve to wean, ought at least to humble us.
There is a spurious sort of self-examination which does not serve to enlighten but to blind. A person who has · left off some notorious vicé, who has softened some shades
of a glaring sin, or substituted some outward forms in the place of open irreligion, looks on his change of character with pleasure. He con pares himself with what he was, and views the alteration with self-complacency. He de ceives himself by taking his standard from his former conduct, or from the character of still worse men, instead of taking it from the unerring rule of scripture, He