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WE formerly observed, in our Essay to "Guthrie's Christian's Great Interest," that such is the great difficulty of self-examination, that it were well, if, instead of attempting at first the more arduous, the Christian disciple should begin with the more elementary of its exercises. And for this purpose, at his entrance upon this most useful work, he might commence with a daily review, if not of the affections of his heart, at least of the actions of his visible history. These are far more palpable than the others, and have somewhat of that superior facility for the observation of them, which the properties of matter have over those of the hidden and unseen spirit. The great thing wanted is, that he should be encouraged to make the attempt in any way—and therefore do we repeat our admonition, that on each evening, ere sleep has closed his eyes, he should summon to his remembrance those deeds of the day that have passed over him, which else might have vanished from the mind for ever, or at least till that eventful occasion when the book of their imperishable record shall be opened. And it is good also that he should sit in judgment as well as in memory over them. Let him thus judge himself, and he shall not be judged. The daily remembrance of the one great sacrifice will wash away the guilt of those daily aberrations that are faithfully
recalled and truly repented of; and if there be a reality in that sanctifying influence which faith is said to bring along with it, then will the very act by which he confesses the remembered sins of the day, both bring peace to his conscience, and purity to his conduct.
And this mere cognizance not of the heart, but of the handy-work, brings us to the faith and spirituality of the gospel by a shorter path than may be apprehended. It is true, that the mind is the proper seat of religion; and however right our actions may be in the matter of them, they are of no account in Christianity, unless they have proceeded from a central and spontaneous impulse which originates there. They may be moulded into a visible propriety by an influence from without, or have arisen from secondary motives, which are of no account whatever in the estimation of the upper sanctuary; and hence it is a possible thing that we may delude ourselves into a treacherous complacency, because of the many deeds of integrity, and courteousness, and beneficence in which we abound. Still, however, it will speedily be found, that in the midst of all our amiable and constitutional virtues, there are the outbreakings of evil upon our conduct, and such as nothing but a spiritual principle can effectually restrain. In taking cognizance of these, then, which we do in the first stage of self-examination, we are brought to feel the need of something higher than any of those powers or properties wherewith nature has endowed us-we are taught the nakedness of our moral condition-we are convinced of sin, and thrown upon those resources out of which pardon is administered, and help is made to descend upon us. We are not therefore to underrate the examination of our doings, or think that when thus employed, we are only wasting our thoughts on the bare and barren literalities of that bodily exercise which profiteth little. Even on this lower walk we shall meet with many deficiencies and many deviations; i and be often rebuked into a sense of our own worthlessness; and shall have to lament in the many offences of the outer man, how dependent we are both on a
sanctifying grace and an atoning sacrifice. Or, in other words, by a regular habit of self-examination, even in the rudest and most elementary branch of it, may we be schooled into the doctrines of sin and of the Saviour, and from what is most observable in the outer path, may gather such intimations of what we are, and of what we need, as will conduct us to the very essence of vital Christianity.
Now, after this, there is what we would call the second stage in the work of self-examination. Our reason for advising a Christian to begin first with a survey of the handy-work, ere he proceeds to a search and scrutiny of the heart is, that the one is greatly more manifest than the other. Now it is said in Scripture," that the works of the flesh are manifest ;" and what we would have him to remark is, that, in the enumeration of these works, the Apostle takes account of wrong affections as well as of wrong actions. Wrath, for example, and hatred, and envythese, in the estimation of the Apostles, are alike manifest with drunkenness, and open quarrelling, and murder. It would appear that there are certain strong and urgent feelings of the inner man, which may be as distinctly taken cognizance of, as certain glaring and palpable misdeeds of the outward history. And therefore, while, for the first stage of self-examination, we proposed, as the topics of it, the doings of the visible conduct, we would suggest, for the second stage, the evil desires of the heart, which, whether they break forth or not into open effervescence, at least announce, and that most vividly, their existence and their power, to the eye, or rather to the sense of conscience, simply by the felt emotion which they stir up within, by the fierceness wherewith they rage and tumultuate among the secrecies of the bosom.
It is certainly worth adverting to, that while it is said of the works of the flesh, that they are manifest, the same is not said of the fruits of the Spirit. And this, we are persuaded, will meet the experience even of the most spiritual and advanced Christian. Is there any such, who can say of his love to God, that it is a
far more intense and sensible affection with him, than the anger which he often feels at the provocations of insult or dishonesty? Or will he say, that his joy in spiritual things has in it the power of a more noticeable sensation, than his joy in the fame or good fortune of this world? Or is the gentleness of his renewed heart a thing that can so readily meet the eye of observation, as the occasional violence, or even as those slighter touches of resentful and uncharitable feeling wherewith he at times is visited? Has he not often to complain, that in searching for the evidences of a work of grace, they are scarcely, if at all, discernible; whereas, nothing is more manifest than the constant risings of a sinful affection, and that weight of a carnal and corrupt nature, wherewith the inner man is well nigh overborne? Is it not distinctly his experience, that while the works of his flesh are most abundantly manifest, the fruits of the Spirit are of such slender or questionable growth, as well nigh to escape his observation? And does not this furnish a ground for the distinction, that whereas the former might well constitute the topics for the second stage of self-examination, the latter has their more befitting place as a higher and more advanced stage of it.
And here will we make another appeal to the experience of a Christian. Does he not feel of his evil affections, that not only are they more manifest to his own conscience, than his gracious and good ones; but is it not further true, that they are more manifest even now than they were formerly-that he has a more distinet feeling both of their existence and their malignity at this moment, than he had years ago that he is greatly more burdened with a sense of their besetting urgency, and is hence apt to infer, that of themselves they are surely more aggravated in their characterand that he is getting worse, perhaps, instead of advancing, as he heartily and honestly wishes to do, in the course of his sanctification? The inference is not a sound one; for both to the eye of the world, and to the eye of witnesses in heaven, he is growing both in humility and in holiness. But if his growth in humi