Imágenes de páginas

knows it will not go very deep; he turns from his avarice to that sobriety of which his very avarice is perhaps the source. Another, who is the slave of passion, fondly rests upon some act of generosity, which he considers as a fair commutation for some favourite vice, that would cost him more to renounce than he is willing to part with. We are all too much disposed to dwell on that smiling side of the prospect which pleases and deceives us, and to shut our eyes upon that part which we do not choose to see, because we are resolved not to quit. Self-love always holds a screen between the superficial self-examiner and his faults. The nominal Christian wraps himself up in forms which he makes himself believe are religion. He exults in what he does, overlooks what he ought to do, nor ever suspects that what is done at all can be done amiss.

As we are so indolent that we seldom examine a truth on more than one side, so we generally take care that it shall be that side which shall confirm some old prejudices. While we will not take pains to correct those prejudices and to rectify our judgment, lest' it should oblige us to discard a favourite opinion, we are yet as eager to judge, and as forward to decide, as if we were fully possessed of the grounds on which a sound judgment may be made, and a just decision formed.



We should watch ourselves whether we observe a simple rule of truth and justice, as well in our conversation, as in our ordinary transactions ; whether we are exact in our

of commendation and censure ; whether we do not bestow extravagant praisc where simple approbation alone is due; whether we do not with-hold commendation, where, if given, it would support modesty and encourage merit ; whether what deserves only a slight censure as imprudent, we do not repro. bate as immoral; whether we do not sometimes affect to over-rate ordinary merit, in the hope of securing to ourselves the reputation of candour, that we may on other occasions, with less suspicion, depreciate established excellence. We extol the first because we fancy that it can come into no competition with us, and we derogate from the last because it obviously eclipses us.

Let us ask ourselves if we are conscien. tiously upright in our estimation of benefits ; whether when we have a favour to ask we do not depreciate its value, when we have one to grant we do not aggravate it.

It is only by scrutinizing the heart that we can know it.

It is only by knowing the heart that we can reform the life. Any careless observer indeed, when his watch goes wrong,

may see that it does so by casting an eye on the dial-plate ; but it is only the artist who takes it to pieces, and examines every spring and every wheel separately, and who, by ascertaining the precise causes of the irregularity, can set the machine right, and restore the obstructed movements.

The illusions of intellectual vision would be materially corrected, by a close habit of cultivating an acquaintance with our hearts. We fill much too large a space in our own imaginations ; we fancy we take up more room in the world than Providence assigns to an individual who has to divide his allotment with so many millions, who are all of equal importance in their own eyes ; and who, like us, are elbowing others to make room for themselves. Just as in the natural world, where every particle of matter would stretch itself, and move out of its place, if it were not kept in order by surrounding particles; the pressure of other parts reduces this to remain in a confinement from which it would escape, if it were not thus pressed and acted upon on all sides. The conscientious practice we have been recommending, would greatly assist in reducing us to our proper dimensions, and in limiting us to our proper place. We should be astonished, if we could see our real diminutiveness, and the

speck we actually occupy. When shall we learn from our own feelings of how much consequence every man is to himself ?

Nor must the examination be occasional, but regular. Let us not run into long arrears, but settle our accounts frequently. Little articles will run up to a large amount, if they are not cleared off. Even our innocent days, as we may chuse to call them, will not have passed without furnishing their contingent. Our deadness in devotion-our eagerness for human applause-our care to conceal our faults rather than to correct them-our negligent performance of some relative duty-ur imprudence in conversation, especially at table—our inconsideration--our driving to the very edge of permitted indulgences-let us keep these-let us keep all our numerous items in small sums. Let us examine them while the particulars are fresh in our memory, otherwise, however we may flatter ourselves that lesser evils will be swallowed up by the greater, we may find when we come to settle the grand account, that they will not be the less remembered for not having been recorded.

And let it be one subject of our frequent inquiry, whether since we last scrutinized our. hearts, our secular affairs, or our eternal concerns have had the predominance there.

but on

We do not mean which of them has occupied most of our time, the larger portion of which must, necessarily, to the generality, be absorbe ed in the cares of the present life ; which our affections have been most bent ; and especially how we have conducted ourselves when there has arisen a competition between the interests of both.

That general burst of sins which so frequently rushes in on the consciences of the dying, would be much moderated by previous habitual self-examination. It will not do to repent in the lump. The sorrow must be as circumstantial as the sin. Indefinite repent. ance is no repentance. And it is one grand use of self-enquiry, to remind us that all unforsaken sins are unrepented sins.

To a Christian there is this substantial comfort attending a minute self-inspection, that when he finds fewer sins to be noted, and more victories over temptation obtained, he has a solid evidence of his advancement, which well repays his trouble,

The faithful searcher into his own heart, that " chamber of Imagery,” feels himself in the situation of the Prophet*, who being conducted in vision from one idol to another, the spirit at sight of cach, repeatedly exclaims,


« AnteriorContinuar »