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one describes the Christian character, the other reports whether we are conformable to it or not; the one exhibits the principles and actions which we should adopt, the other declares that we are either endeavouring to acquire them, or living in neglect of them altogether. If, therefore we set apart some time every sabbath for self examination; let us proceed in the following manner. Thus, if we should read such passages as the following; “ thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul, and strength and mind, and thy neighbour as thyself :" “ to him that believes Christ is precious :" “they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts :” “ love not the world neither the things that are in the world :” “ set your affections on things above, not on things in the earth :” “repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out:" "be stedfast and immoveable and abound in the work of the Lord." --Let us ask our own hearts, do we love the Lord, and believe in Christ? Have we crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts? Do we look not so much at the things which are seen and temporal as at those which are unseen and are eternal? Have we repented of our evil habits, and do we walk in newness of life? and are we endeavouring to abound more and more in the fruits of righteousness ?-Such an application of scripture to our own hearts will, if continued regularly every Sabbath, soon discover to us what manner of spirit we are of, and whether we have reason to think that we are living as becometh the gospel. We may indeed allege that this is a laborious task which is by no means necessary to undertake; but do we not deem it requisite to examine from time to time our worldly affairs, that we may discover in what state they are ? we may be assured that it is no less needful to ascertain whether our hearts are right in the sight of God by adopting some such method for pondering the path of our feet that our spiritual ways may be established.
In addition to this weekly examination, which should be regularly performed, the sincere Christian will avail himself of the opportunity afforded by the days of fasting and preparation for the reception of the sacrament, to take a general review of his past life, and call to mind the several imperfections of character and errors of conduct, which still prevail against him. He will recollect, that he performs such a duty in an unbecoming manner; that he neglects such an office which he ought to discharge; that he is not careful to improve his understanding by reading and reflection, nor to spend his leisure moments in useful occupations, nor to improve his dispositions in doing good; that such a corruption which has long gained a predominating influence, still retains its strength unimpaired, and that his purposes of amendment have not hitherto produced any alteration in his life and conversation. Therefore, on such a day, he will not fail to think of his ways, that he may turn his feet unto the divine testimonies; that he may make haste and delay not to keep God's commandments. He will consider, that “
now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation,” and that if he delay from one season to another to work out his salvation, and make his calling and election sure, his " heart may be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and he may be cut off before he has time for repentance, though he seek it carefully with tears. Therefore, he should resolve, that through assistance from on high, he will endeavour for the future to walk circumspectly, not as a fool, but as a wise man, “ redeeming the time because the days are evil.”
Finally, as he knows not what a day nor an hour may bring forth, nor what trials are awaiting him in the future period of his life, he will devote the first sabbath of every returning year, to set before his view those scenes of distress which may befal him in his person or his family, and that final event which must ensue at his dissolution from the body. It were well that we accustomed ourselves to contemplate the probable casualties of our condition; to imagine ourselves stretched on a bed of languishing, or our friends afflicted with disease, and bidding an eternal adieu to every thing under the sun. Let us reflect, how We would bear these dispensations of our lot when they must occur to us all, either sooner or later during our earthly pilgrimage. Let us now fortify our minds with
such considerations, as may support us when walking through the valley and the shadow of death; let us fix in our thoughts those consolations of the gospel, which are fitted to soothe our spirits under the loss of our bosom friends; that when we or they are about to go the way whence we shall not return, we may, by recollecting the sentiments which inspired us with hope and comfort, sustain the load of suffering which we must one day endure, with becoming resignation. Let us at such seasons meditate on the happiness of that unseen world, “ where there
, is no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither is there any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Thus let us ponder the path of our feet, that our ways may be established.
Such being the manner in which this duty should be performed, we should be induced to the practice of it by considering,
III. The advantages arising from such a course of discipline.
By these means we shall gain that knowledge of ourselves which maketh wise unto salvation ; for if we enquire what are the ruling principles which prevail in our souls, we shall soon discover whether the grace of God be in us of a truth, or whether we have only a name to live while we are dead in trespasses and sins. We shall perceive, from this self-acquaintance, what is the state of our religious feelings and attainments; what are the blemishes which cleave to our characters, and be induced to labour after such amendment as is requisite to approve ourselves to our consciences, and obtain the approbation of God who judgeth righteously.-—By these means also, we shall be assisted in discharging our religious services in sincerity and truth; we shall be taught what sins to confess, what graces to implore, for what mercies to be thankful, and thus maintain that communion with God which proceeds from a due sense of our spiritual condition.-By these means we shall learn whether we are proceeding in the way of duty which he hath pointed out in his holy word; for by the constant perusal of it we shall acquire a knowledge of his righteous statutes; and by representing to our minds the reasonableness and propriety of upright obedience, we shall be constrained to act according to our several obligations. By meditating daily on religious truths, our hearts shall be imbued with religious principles; by preparing ourselves every morning for discharging the duties and resisting the temptations of life, we shall act our part with integrity and innocence; by reviewing in the evening the actions of the day, we shall learn circumspection, and maintain a conscience void of offence.-By comparing, on the sabbath, our hearts and lives with the rule of God's commandments, we shall discover wherein we transgress, and wherein we observe them; —by taking a retrospect of our past behaviour on days of fasting and humiliation, we shall form resolutions of new obedience ;—and by anticipatinig at certain seasons the trials which await us during the remainder of our days, we shall be enabled to undergo them with Christian fortitude. And when we come to die, we shall then have the comfort to look back upon a well spent life with satisfaction, and have nothing then to do but wait till our change come, and at the hour of our departure resign our souls into the hands of our Redeemer, with the joyful expectation of everlasting life. If such be the issue of considering our ways, let us all be persuaded to live the life of the righteous, that our latter end may be peace.
ON READING THE SCRIPTURES.
JOHN V. 39.
MANKIND are a race of beings, who, from accidental circumstances, are both ignorant and wicked. faculties, when unimproved by education, are incapable of making any advances in the discovery of truth; and their hearts, when uninfluenced by religious principles, become the seat of corruption and depravity. Accordingly we find, that the barbarous nations of the world, who have had nothing but the light of nature to direct them, have remained in a state of ignorance respecting every species of knowledge both human and divine, and are little superior in mental excellence to the beasts that perish. Unacquainted with the character of God, who is the object of religious homage; they conceive the most preposterous ideas of his nature, and institute superstitious observances in the mode of his worship. Uninstructed in right principles of morals; they are void of those sentiments of justice and benevolence, which are universally adopted in countries where Christianity has introduced civilization and refinement.
While the heathens are thus destitute of knowledge and virtue; we can boast of superior excellence in these valuable attainments, and almost regard ourselves as a different species of beings. Now, what is the cause that has made this distinction betwixt intelligent creatures capable of the same improvement? It is in a great mea sure owing to the influence which the scriptures have had