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resolve firmly against any evil, we must feel it. : To resolve with efficacy on the pursuit of any good, we must realize, that in an important sense it is good to us.
Finally, some of the most affecting views of the Divine character grow out of this employment. God is never seen in the most interesting manner, except when seen in relation to ourselves. Whether we regard his hatred of sin, and his determinations to execute vengeance on the impenitent; or his boundless goodness in forgiving, redeeming, and sanctifying mankind; we see these things in a far clearer light, and feel them with far greater strength, as exercised directly about ourselves, than as employed about others. When we come to discern our own sins, their guilt, and their aggravations, we first begin to form proper views of the awful justice of God in our condemnation. At the same time, the first sound and affecting apprehensions, which we entertain of the goodness of God, are awakened by a strong sense of our own need of his mercy, and a humble hope of our own interest in his forgiving love.
The omnipresence of God is then only realized, when we consider him as present with ourselves ; as dwelling with us, and around us. The Omniscience of God is never brought to the view of the mind, until it regards him as exploring its own recesses, tracing all its secret windings, and accompanying itself with his all-seeing eye, while employed in unravelling the mysteries of its own iniquity. Generally, God is seen, and realized, in our religious meditations, particularly in those which are directed to our own hearts, to be a vastly different Being from that, which we imagine for ourselves in loose contemplation, and lukewarm inquiry.
From these observations it is evident, that Religious Meditation is not only the effect, but the cause also, of that soberness of mind, exhibited in the Scriptures as indispensably necessary to sound wisdom. Of this character, it scarcely needs to be observed, the benefits are numberless, and surpassing estimation.
3. Self-examination is a principal source of Self-government, and, therefore, of Peace of mind, and solid Enjoyment.
On the knowledge of ourselves, obtained in this manner only;
the knowledge of our imperfections, passions, appetites, sins, temptations, and dangers; and an acquaintance with such means, as we possess, of strength, encouragement, and safety ; our selfgovernment almost entirely depends. In acquiring the knowledge of these things we both learn how to govern ourselves, and gradually obtain an earnest and fixed desire to perform this duty.
Without self-examination there can be little self-government : without self-government there can be no peace of mind. Peace of mind is the result only of a consciousness of having done our duty. But of this duty self-government is one of the three great branches : the other two being piety to God, and beneficence to mankind. These can never be separately performed. Evangelical virtue, the only spirit, with which either was ever truly performed, is a thing perfectly one; without any variety, or division, in its nature. Towards all the objects of our duty, whether God, our neighbour, or ourselves, it operates in the same manner.
Besides, self-government is indispensable, in its very nature, 10 the performance of all other duty. This might be evinced with respect to every case, in which duty can be performed; but may be sufficiently illustrated in the following. If we do not control our envy, wrath, or revenge; we cannot be contented, meek, or forgiving. If we do not subdue our selfishness; we can never, in the sense of the Gospel, love either God, or mankind.
But, without recurrence to these proofs, the case is perfectly plain in its own nature. In the experience of every man it is abundantly evident, that, so long as his passions and appetites are unsubdued, they keep the mind in a continual agitation. The appetites are syrens, which sing, only to deceive; and charm, only to destroy. He, who listens to them, is certain of being shipwrecked in the end. The passions are equally dangerous, equally fatal, by their violence, and toss the soul with tempestuous fury on billows which never rest. Without a pilot, without a compass, without a helm, no hope of safety remains for the unhappy voyager, but in the hushing of the storm, and the subsidence of the tumultuous ocean.
tution exists, he, who is the subject of it, will cease to keep his body and spirit in subjection; to grow in grace; to acquire peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Why do sinners refuse to examine themselves; and to gain the blessings, to which this conduct gives birth? Plainly because they are too slothful, or too much alarmed at the thought of uncovering the mass of sin and guilt in their hearts. Thus they would rather decline every hope of good, than encounter the labour of searching themselves, or turn their eyes upon the dismal prospect within. The latter is the usual and predominant evil. The picture is too deformed; too dreadful; and, sooner than behold it, they will run the hazard of damnation. But is not knowledge always better than ignorance? Is not truth always more profitable than delusion? To know the truth, in this case, might prove the means of eternal life. To continue ignorant of it cannot fail to terminate in their ruin. What folly can be more complete than to hazard this tremendous evil, rather than to encounter the pain of looking into ourselves : a pain, abundantly overpaid by the profit, which is its certain consequence. Such persons hoodwink themselves; and then feel safe from the evils of the precipice, to which they are advancing, because they cannot see their danger. They make the darkness in which they grope, and stumble, and fall.
3. These observations also teach us, that this neglect is inexcusable.
Meditation on every moral and religious subject is always in our power. Every man is able to look into himself; and into every moral subject, concerning which he has been instructed. Nor is the performance of this duty attended with any real difficulty. The motives to it are infinite. God has required it: our own temporal and eternal interest indispensably demands it. The benefits of it are immense. Sloth only, and a deplorable dread of knowing what we are; can be alleged in behalf of our neglect.
But to how low a situation must he be reduced, how forlorn must be his condition, who can plead for his conduct in so interesting a case no reasons but these. Can these reasons excuse him even to himself? Will they excuse him before the bar of God? What can even self-Aattery, with her silver tongue, al. lege in his behalf, but that he is too slothful, or too indifferent to the command of God. This is worse than the wretched plea of the unprofitable servant in the parable. Even he was able to say, that he thought his Master was an austere man, and hard in his requisitions.
But, whatever may be thought of these excuses, let no sinner pretend, that he has laboured for eternal life, until he has thoroughly examined his heart, and devoted himself to religious contemplation. This is a duty, which every man can perform ; a duty, to which every man is bound; a duty, in the way of which, reason can find no obstacle. He, who will not perform it, ought therefore to say, that he will not; and to acknowledge, that he values the indulgence of his sloth, or the sluggish quiet of self-ignorance, more than the salvation of his soul.
THE ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.
THE DUTY OF EDUCATING CHILDREN RELIGIOUSLY.
PROVERBS xxii. 6.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he
will not depart from it.
The next subject of inquiry, in the order proposed, is
The Religious Education of Children.
In a former discourse, I observed, that the word, train, originally denotes to draw along by a regular and steady course of exertions; and is, bence, very naturally used to signify drawing from one action to another by persuasions, promises, and other efforts, continually repeated. The way in which a child should go, as was also observed in that discourse, is, undoubtedly, the way, in which it is best for him to go; particularly, with respect to his eternal well-being. With this explanation, the text will be seen,
1. To enjoin upon parents the Religious Education of their Children.