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best interests to pass unnoticed. It is a fact, , that if the body, or organs of the body, be debilitated, and the vessels overloaded, though in only a small degree, the action of the mind is clogged or impeded: experience proves, both with reference to food and sleep, that a slight indulgence, beyond the measure and time which nature requires, induces a lassitude, which fails not to affect the whole man. Whether the philosopher can account for this or not, the Christian ought to bear it in mind, and turn it to his own advantage. In a land where commerce has accumulated immense wealth, and where luxury has spread its bane, not only among many who nominally sustain the profession of religion, but also some who feel its power, it were to be wished that this subject were more frequently and ably brought forward. Persons who have no cause to fear the charge of intemperance, among the people with whom they associate, and who would redden with indignation at the gentlest hint which conveyed such an idea, can yet give so much time and expense to the indulgence of the mortal part, as necessarily to cripple both their charity and devotion, and leaves the immortal mind depressed and enfeebled. Wherever this is the case, the faithful testimonies and unbending precepts of the Gospel may appear hard sayings; but an entire compliance with them is
indispensable. The excision of the right hand, and the right eye, must not be refused when necessary to preserve life.
What! you may say, is it a part of the design of Christianity to subject us to privations, to lay us under galling restraints, to confine us to coarse fare, and mean apparel, and scanty accommodations? Are the rules of life and religion to be borrowed from the cloister of a convent, or the cell of a hermit? By no means. But he that would live to God, must crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. It was needful, that the candidate for honour at the Olympic Games should submit to previous restrictions: How much more requisite is it, that he who aspires to an unfading crown, should keep under his body, and bring it into subjection, in order so to run as to obtain, so to fight as to conquer and win the triumph!
II. Self-examination is in all cases necessary, to revive and promote prayer.
It is on all hands allowed to be a matter of great difficulty, but of unutterable consequence, to attain an intimate knowledge of our own characters. We early habituate the mind to think, and the tongue to speak, so much about others, and decide so peremptorily on the tendency and motives of their conduct, that we
forget to exercise the judgment in forming an estimate of ourselves, or of the principles by which we are actuated. If this observation should be questioned by the superficial and inconsiderate, those who have seriously turned their attention to themselves, will own its force and justice. “ Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves." (2 Cor. xii. 5.) No man can savingly know God, or even sincerely seek God, who is grossly ignorant of his own state. And how many disguises must be tom away, how many fond illusions detected, before this affecting, yet salutary discovery, is made! The knowledge of our own characters is slowly acquired, yet, without it, all other knowledge is of little use, and often proves injurious. It is really surprising, how imperfectly men are acquainted with the nature and origin of the opinions and principles they espouse and maintain, or with the quality and tendency of their habitual dispositions and tempers. And as in other cases it is impossible to know any subject which we do not take the trouble to examine, the same may be said with much more emphasis in this instance. Self-examination is essential to selfknowledge, and self-knowledge to devotion. It is preposterous to inform ourselves concerning the customs and institutes, the rise and fall of kingdoms, while we remain ignorant of our
own eventful history, the moral relations in which we stand, and the bearings of our present views, motives, and pursuits, on our future destiny. It is vain and idle to sound the depths, and scale the heights of natural science, if the heart continues to be a region unknown and unexplored. It is by examination only that we ascertain our guilt and depravity as sinners, the strength and direction of our passions, and the silent and gradual process on which depends the formation of our habits. How necessary is such a. scrutiny, and how intimately connected with the most important duties of religion, must be obvious to every
“Of prayer," says Dr. Dwight, “ it may be truly said, that its nature is very imperfectly understood by him, who does not know that to a considerable extent it is employed in the most solemn, the most intimate, and the most effectual examination of ourselves. The advantages which prayer furnishes for this employment, are singular and supreme. But no man will ever avail himself of them, who does not more or less
the intervals between the seasons of prayer, in communing diligently with his own heart.” It is by this kind of mental scrutiny that we awake to perceive and feel the relations which subsist between God and our own souls; that we attain just and affecting views of the Divine character and
government of Jehovah; that we learn the emptiness, insufficiency, and futility of the world; that we measure and compare, weigh and calculate, comprehend and feel, the interests of time and of eternity.
Self-examination precedes prayer ; but it precedes not merely as a pioneer, to remove obstacles, but as a skilful general, to prescribe and direct the march. We must become acquainted with our nature, character, and condition, our relative duties, our multiplied and aggravated sins, our common and special mercies, our dangers and difficulties, or we cannot address God in a suitable and acceptable manner.
If we neither know what we are, nor what we should be, nor what we need; if we have neither learnt our weaknesses, nor marked our wanderings and deviations, nor traced the dealings of God and the dispensations of his providence and grace towards us, with the effects produced by them; our prayers will necessarily be vague, indefinite, cold, and formal. How can we confess sins we have not noticed, or, if slightly noticed, never seen in the light of the divine law, which exhibits their malignant nature and ruinous tendency?
They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” No man will sincerely prostrate himself before God, and, like Job,