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reflections, and prayer, as above: then to read a hymn, or psalm: after this to enter on self-examination, to be followed by a longer prayer than that which followed reading, to be formed on this review of the day: in this address to the throne of grace it will be highly proper, to intreat that God would pardon the omissions and offences of the day; to praise him for mercies temporal and spiritual; to recommend ourselves to his protection for the ensuing night; with proper petitions for others, whom we ought to bear on our hearts before him ; and particularly, for those friends with whom we have conversed or corresponded, in the preceding day. Many other concerns will occur, both in morning and evening prayer, which I have not here hinted at; but I did not apprehend that a full enumeration of these things belonged, by any means, to our present purpose. §. 22. Before I quit this head, I must take the liberty to remind you, that self-examination is so important a duty, that it will be worth our while to spend a few words upon it. And this branch of it is so easy, that when we have proper questions before us, any person of a common understanding may hope to go through it with advantage under a divine blessing. I offer you, therefore, the following queries, which I hope you will, with such alterations as you may judge requisite, keep near you for daily use. "Did I awake as with God this morning, and rise with a grateful sense of his goodness ? How were the secret devotions of the morning performed? Did I offer my solemn praises, and renew the dedication of myself to God, with becoming attention and suitable affections? Did I lay my scheme for the business of the day, wisely and well? How did I read the scripture, or any other devotional or practical piece, which I might afterwards conveniently review? Did it do my heart good,or was it a mere amusement ?—How have the other stated devotions of the day been attended, whether in the family or in public? Have I pursued the common business of this day with diligence and spirituality ; doing every thing in season, and with all convenient dispatch, and as unto the Lord*? What time have I lost this day, in the morning or the forenoon, in the afternoon, or the evening r" (for these divisions will assist your recollection ;) "and what has occasioned the loss of it? With what temper, and under what regulations, have the recreations of this day been pursued? Have I seen the hand of God in my mercies, health, cheerfulness, food, clothing, books, preservation in journles, success of business, conversation and kindness of friends, &c.; Have I seen it in afflictions, and particularly in little things, which had a tendency to vex and disquiet me 2 And with regard to this interposition, have I received my comforts thankfully, and my afflictions submissively How have I guarded against the temptations of the day, particularly against this or that temptation which I foresaw in the morning Have I maintained an humble dependance on divine influences Have I lived by faith in the Son of God", and regarded Christ this day, as my teacher and governor, my atonement and intercessor, my example and guardian, my strength and forerunner Have I been looking forward to death and eternity this day, and considered myself as a probationer for heaven, and through grace an expectant of it Have I governed my thoughts well, espepecially in such or such an interval of solitude How was my subject of thought this day chosen, and how was it regarded ? Have I governed my discourses well, in such and such company Did I say nothing passionate, mischievous, slanderous, imprudent, impertinent Has my heart this day been full of love to God, and to all mankind 2 And have I sought, and found, and improved opportunities of doing, and of getting good – With what attention and improvement have I read the scripture this evening How was self-examination performed the last night; and how have I profited this day by any remarks I then made on former negligences and mistakes With what temper did I then lie down, and compose myself to sleep ’’’ §. 23. You will easily sce, sir, that these questions are so adjusted, as to be an abridgment of the most material advices I have given in this letter; and I believe I need not, to a person of your understanding, say anything as to the usefulness of such enquiries, Conscience will answer them in a few minutes; but if you think them too large and particular, you may make a still shorter abstract for daily use, and reserve these, with such obvious alteration as will then be necessary, for seasons of more than ordinary exactness in review, which I hope will occur at least once a week. Secret devotion being thus performed, before drowsiness render us unfit for it, the interval between that and our going to rest must be conducted by the rules mentioned under the next head. And nothing will farther remain to be considered here, but §. 24. (2.) The sentiments with which we should lie down and compose ourselves to sleep. Now here it is obviously suitable to think of the divine goodness, in adding another day, and the mercies of it, to the former days and mercies of our life; to take notice of the indulgence of providence in giving us commodious habitations and easy beds, and continuing to us such health of body, that we can lay ourselves down at ease upon them, and such serenity of mind as leaves us any room to hope for refreshing sleep; a refreshment to be sought, not merely as an indulgence to animal nature, but as what our wise Creator, in order to keep us humble in the midst of so many infirmities, has been pleased to make necessary to our being able to pursue his service with renewed alacrity. Thus may our sleeping, as well as our waking hours, be in some sense devoted to God. And when we are just going to resign ourselves to the image of death, (to what one of the ancients beautifully calls its lesser mysteries,) it is also evidently proper to think seriously of that end of all the living, and to renew those actings of repentance and faith, which we should judge necessary if we were to wake no more here. You have once, sir, seen a meditation of that kind in my hand, I will transcribe it for you in the postscript; and therefore shall add no more to this head, but here put a close to the directions you desired.
* Colo,. Hi. IX
§. 25. I am persuaded the most important of them have, in one form or another, been long regarded by you, and made governing maxims of your life. I shall greatly rejoice, if the review of these, and the examination and trial of the rest, may be the means of leading you into more intimate communion with God, and so of rendering your life more pleasant and useful, and your eternity, whenever that is to commence, more glorious. There is not a human creature upon earth, whom I should not delight to serve in these important interests; but I can faithfully assure you, that I am, with particular respect,
S. 26. This, reader, with the alteration of a very few words, is the letter I wrote to a worthy friend, (now I doubt not with God,) about sixteen years ago: and I can assuredly say, that the experience of each of these years has confirmed me in these views, and established me in the persuasion, “that one day thus spent is preferable to whole years of sensuality, and the neglect of religion.” I chose to insert the letter as it is, because I thought the freedom and particularity of the advice I had given in it, would appear most natural in its original form; and as I propose to enforce these advices in the next chapter, I shall conclude this with that meditation, which I promised my friend as a postscript; and which I could wish you, to make so familiar to yourself, as that you might be able to recollect the substance of it, whenever you compose yourself to sleep.
A serious View of Death.
“OH my soul, look forward a little with seriousness and attention, and learn wisdom by the consideration of thy latter end”. Another of thy mortal days is now numbered and finished: and as I have put off my clothes, and laid myself upon my bed for the repose of the night; so will the day of life quickly come to its period, so must the body itself be put off, and laid to its repose in a bed of dust. There let it rest; for it will be no more regarded by me, than the clothes which I have now laid aside. I have another far more important concern to attend. Think, Oh my soul, when death comes, thou art to enter upon the eternal world, and to be fixed either in heaven or in hell. All the schemes and cares, the hopes and fears, the pleasures and sorrows of life, will come to their period, and the world of spirits will open upon thee. And Oh, how soon may it open Perhaps before the returning sun bring on the light of another day. To-morrow's sun may not enlighten mine eyes, but only shine round a senseless corpse, which may lie in the place of this animated body. At least the death of many in the flower of their age, and many who were superior to me in capacity, piety, and the prospects of usefulness, may loudly warm me not to depend on a long life, and engage me rather to wonder that I am continued here so many years, than to be surprised if I am speedily removed.
“And now, Oh my soul, answer as in the sight of God; art thou ready ? Art thou ready ? Is there no sin unforsaken, and so unrepented of, to fill me with anguish in my departing moments, and to make me tremble on the brink of eternity Dread to remain under the guilt of it, and this moment renew thy most earnest applications to the mercy of God, and the blood of a Redeemer, for deliverance from it.
“But if the great account be already adjusted, if thou hast cordially repented of thy numerous offences, if thou hast sincerely committed thyself, by faith, into the hands of the blessed Jesus, and hast not renounced thy covenant with him, by returning to the allowed practice of sin, then start not at the thought of a separation: it is not in the power of death to
hurt a soul devoted to God, and united to the great Redeemer. It may take from me my worldly comforts; it may disconcert and break my schemes for service on earth: but, Oh my soul, diviner entertainments, and nobler services wait thee beyond the grave. For ever blessed be the name of God and the love of Jesus, for these quieting, encouraging, joyful views ' I will now lay me down in peace, and sleep*, free from the fears of what shall be the issue of this night, whether life or death may be appointed for me. Father, into thine hand I commit my spiritt, for thou hast redeemed me, O God of trutht, and therefore I can cheerfully refer it to thy choice, whether I shall awake in this world or another.”
A serious Persuasive to such a Method of spending our Days as is represented in the former Chapter.
Christians fix their Views too low, and indulge too indolent a Disposition, which makes it more necessary to urge such a Life, as that under Consideration, §. 1, 2. It is therefore inforced, (1.) From its being apparently reasonable, considering ourselves as the Creatures of God, and as redeemed by the Blood of Christ, S. 3, (2.) From its evident Tendency to conduce to our Comfort in Life, S. 4. (3.) From the Influence it will have to promote our Usefulness to others, $.5. (4.) From its Efficacy to make Afflictions lighter, Š. 6. (5.) From its happy Aspect on Death, §. 7. And, (6.) On Eternity, Ś. 8. Whereas not to desire Improvement would argue a Soul destitute of Religion, Ş. 9. A Prayer suited to the State of a Soul, who longs to attain the Life recommended above.
§. 1. I HAVE been assigning, in the preceding chapter, what I fear, will seem to some of my readers so hard a task, that they will want courage to attempt it; and indeed it is a life in many respects so far above that of the generality of christians, that I am not without apprehensions, that many who deserve the name, may think the directions, after all the precautions with which I have proposed them, are carried to an unnecessary degree of nicety and strictness. But I am persuaded, much of the credit and comfort of christianity is lost, in consequence of its professors fixing their aims too low, and not conceiving of their high and holy calling in so elevated and sublime a view as the nature of religion would require, and
3: Psal. iv. 8. + Luke xxiii., 46. † Psal. xxxi. 5. WOL. I. Z2