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DUTY OF SELF-EXAMINATION.
“ Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith.”—2 Cor. xi. 5. SELF-EXAMINATION, it is to be feared, , and felt of the Word of Life, ye will is a duty which has fallen into very have evidence enough of the Divinity great and very undeserved disuse. There of my mission. I give you a simple are the evidences on all hands, of a test, a plain piece of evidence, by which superficial, lukewarm piety. People you may judge,-evidence, moreover, seem to take for granted, that if they which is within the immediate reach of are not living in the habitual practice all of you: Examine yourselves, whether of some flagrant sin, or if they have but ye be in the faith." the outward characteristics of piety, all
I. LET US EXPLAIN AND ENFORCE THE is well; and never for one moment imagine that it is necessary to subject
II. SHow ITS DESIGN. the inner man to a close and constant 1. Self-examination must have respect scrutiny. Such books as those of Mason to the thoughts and feelings within. on Self-knowledge, are among the anti- The mind of man is the source of life : quated things upon which our fore- it is the fountain of being. Perhaps it fathers might set great store; but we, is quite impossible for the best and the forsooth, are wiser than to spend our wisest to have a thorough acquaintance time in self-inspection, and flatter our with the windings and labyrinths of his selves that if we do but act with out- own heart. There is so much of cunning, ward decency and decorum, the springs of subtlety, of deceit, in the human of action may be left untouched, the heart, that holy Scripture may well proinner house will keep itself in order. It nounce it “ deceitful above all things ;** was customary for the first teachers of and we may well exclaim, in the words religion to tell their disciples to look of the psalmist, “Who can understand within for the evidences of the truth of his errors ? cleanse thou me from secret Christianity; convinced that, if the faults.” For a person to know himself Holy Spirit dwelt in the mind, and if has always been regarded as the highest truth was operative there, they might knowledge. Indeed, the injunction, "put to silence" all anxious doubt, and “Know thyself,” was held by the old unbelief, and fear. They were com- Greeks to be heaven-descended, — so manded to look for the "witness in much importance did they attach to that themselves;" and then they would be vast and complicated world within. In enabled to overcome the sneer of the a busy mercantile age like this, men are scornful, and the laugh of the sceptical, prone to content themselves with but a by the assurance, "I know whom I have smattering of any kind of knowledge believed.” St. Paul was here seeking they may require; but we fear the great to convince these Corinthians that his bulk of men have not even a smattering mission was not of man but of God. of knowledge about themselves. The To prove his Divine legation, what plan habits of these times, it is admitted, are does he adopt? He does not, as we not favourable to the acquisition of this should suppose, or as they, perhaps, high knowledge. Too many pursuits desired, bring forth some extraordinary seem to occupy men's attention, all bearmanifestation of Divine agency, but ing them away from themselves. There contents himself with an appeal to them- are busy worlds without — worlds of selves :-" What sort of response do commerce, of science, of art-worlds of your hearts give? If ye have, indeed, pleasure, of dissipation, of amusement; tasted of the grace of God, and handled and each seems to vie with the other to
make man as oblivious of himself as he first uttered by the apostles or prophets. can possibly be. Still, we say to each It is as much a book for these times as man, “Know thyself, and thou art wise. for the first century of the Christian Be ignorant of thyself, and whatever It is as much adapted to a comother knowledge thou mayest have, thou mercial country like England, as to a wilt be a fool.” To examine and closely pastoral country like Judea. Now, if scrutinise all your prejudices, and evil all this be true, how important it is thoughts, and corrupt feelings—to pry that we should each be continually reinto the dark and secret recesses of those volving such questions as these—How chambers of imagery, where foul pas- close a resemblance do I bear to the sions sport and riot-to look yourself | holy men who are described for me by fully and fairly in the face, and be your the pen of inspiration? How much own bold and faithful interpreter-this, am I below the standard of Scripture ? it is confessed, requires much strong How far do the principles of the sacred nerve, and much Almighty grace. But volume operate upon my heart and life? banish all fear, and bravely and un. Let me compare the" spiritual things” in flinchingly "examine yourselves." my bosom with the "spiritual things” in
2. Self-examination must have respect this book. Let me not be continually to the inner state, as compared with the measuring myself with myself, or meaWord of God. It is an incalculable suring myself with some professed fel. blessing that we have “a sure word of low Christian, whose piety is as feeble prophecy,” to which we can always re and sickly as my own; but let me see pair. We have no irregular and fluc- whether I come up to the apostolic tuating standard of appeal, such as the standard and pattern. It is easy to say, voice of tradition, or the voice of the “I am not more irregular in my at church; but we have a constant, infal- tendance at the sanctuary, I am not lible guide, the Word of God. We con more remiss in my devotional duties, I ceive that we have the strongest war am not colder in my love to Christ, than ranty for taking Scripture as our guide, many of my fellow.disciples;" just as it in the fact, that “all Scripture is given is easy, and as it is common, for a bad by inspiration of God, and is profitable man to say, “O, I am not worse than for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, my neighbour, and I shall stand quite for instruction in righteousness, that as good a chance as he;" but neither the man of God may be perfect, the one plea nor the other will find acthoroughly furnished unto
every | ceptance at the hands of God. “Exagood work." In Scripture we have mine yourselves” by the light of holy great principles enunciated, we have Scripture. the lives of good, and even bad men, 3. Self-examination must have respect drawn for us by an unerring finger; we unto the life. It is well to subject our have the mind laid bare as it is unbared hearts to scrutiny, and to compare our nowhere else; we have light for the inner state of thought and feeling with understanding, for the conscience, for the teachings of revelation ; but after all, the heart; we have the broad compre- the proof of piety will be found in the hensive law of God, which relates to all life. After the closest scrutiny and selftimes, to all countries, to all races of inspection within, a person may be mis
One of the peculiarities of the taken; but the evidence of a lifetime Bible is, that it is not only an inspired, is so plain and palpable, that no one, but that it is also a universal book. It except the most perverse and obstinate, can never become antiquated. It can can be mistaken thereby. Our piety never grow obsolete. It speaks as truly cannot better be proved than by subto the heart of humanity now, as when Ijecting it to all the duties and respon
sibilities of life. We should subject our fine ourselves to the one view of the piety to exactly the same test as we matter presented in these words of Scrip. would apply to anything else. A piece ture, “ Examine yourselves, whether ye of machinery, for instance, may look be in the faith.” Self-examination is to very well on examination—it may seem relate to our being in the faith. To be to be fitted up according to approved in the faith, means to be in the faith of rules—it may apparently correspond to Christ, to have faith in his atonement, every treatise that has been written on to be constantly relying upon his death. the subject; and yet, when put to actual It means, to be a believer. There are trial, by some strange oversight, or un three thoughts presented to us here: foreseen casualty, it may prove in the 1. The design of self-examination is working an absolute failure. That reli- to show whether we have ever been in the gion is genuine which will enable a faith. There are changes in our states person to resist temptation, to fight of mind, and points in our history, against evil in all its forms, to trample which it is of the utmost importance sin and Satan beneath our feet. That for us to examine and classify. There religion is genuine which will enable us are particular circumstances in the life to endure persecution for righteousness' of every person, to which we delight to sake, to bear calumny and reproach recur, or of which we think with sorwithout a murmur, to return a blessing row and sadness. Now there can be no for a curse, and love for hate. That period to the Christian so important as religion is genuine which makes a man that which witnessed his surrender to humble, and conscientious, and faithful, the claims of the Divine Redeemer, his and honest in all bis dealings with man renunciation of self, and his faith in the kind, and which prompts a man to pre
cross of Christ. There is nothing in the fer death to disgrace. That religion is history of any man comparable in real genuine which makes its possessor substantial importance to that change resigned to the will of Heaven, whatever which we denominate conversion. In that will may be: which uncomplain- Scripture it is called "putting off the ingly receives every stroke of the Divine works of the flesh and the devil, coming hand; which exclaims, “Though He out of darkness into marvellous light, slay me, yet will I trust in Him." That transformed by the renewing of the religion is genuine which nerves for toil mind, putting on the new man, being in the kingdom of Christ, which enables born again.” Every Christian should us to endure hardship as good soldiers, recur to this period as one of incalcuwhich prompts us to self-sacrifice, which lable importance, bearing, as it does, fires us with the zeal of a martyr and the upon its bosom, the issues both of time love of a seraph. “ Examine your- and of eternity. The exact time or place, selves," brethren, in all these respects. or circumstances of our conversion, may Remember, that in all these respects not in all cases be easy of discovery, others may examine you too; and whe- nor is it necessary too minutely to scruther you pronounce a verdict upon tinise them. There will, however, be yourselves or not, a verdict will be pro. some days of joy, of exultation, of trannounced. " Examine yourselves, whe- sport, to which we may look back with ther
profit. We may think of the vows we II. LET US SHOW THE DESIGN OF SELF. then made, and ask how have we ful. EXAMINATION.-Of course, the design of filled them ? We may think of the self-examination is various. Were we promises we made to God, and ask, to take in the whole of its design,--all have they been redeemed? We may the valuable results flowing therefrom, – think of the attachment we then prowe might occupy much space. We con. fessed to the Saviour, and ask, has time,
the test of all things, proved that at- | The angels who kept not their first estate tachment to be steady and true ? Look might reply to the great God, as he drove back, reader-it is a profitable exercise them out of heaven, "Were we not the -upon the time when God first called sons of the morning? Did we not live you by his grace, when Christ first re in thy life, and shine with thy lustre, vealed himself as an all-sufficient Sa- and dwell in thy blessed home?
Reviour, when you found the pearl of great member what we were, and spare us, price, and obtained the peace which I thou terrible Avenger!” But who passeth all understanding.
does not see the utter absurdity of such 2. The design of self-examination is arguments as these? Nor are they less to show whether we are in the faith now.
absurd when used by you. The quesWe read in Holy Scripture of some tion is not, “ Did I once believe?" It churches and Christians who have "lost is, “Am I a believer now?” It is not, their first love," of some who are warned “ Was I once united to Christ?" It lest they make a shipwreck of faith and is, “ Am I united to Christ now?” It a good conscience,” and of some who are is not, “ Was I in the faith formerly ?" commanded " not to frustrate the grace It is, “ Am I in the faith at this present of God." We know it is a nice question moment?" for casuists, of which simple-minded 3. The design of self-examination is to people lay hold and say, " But if we had show whether we are growing in the faith. faith once, can we lose it?" To which Faith is progressive. Religion is a we would reply by another of far greater growth. “The path of the just is as practical importance, " Have you lost the shining light, which shineth more it?" It is very easy for men to argue and more unto the perfect day." Let about this and the other doctrine, and your eye wander abroad over nature. all the time be in " the gall of bitter. You see the grass, the flower, the tree, ness, and in the bonds of iniquity," and are all growing. There is life, teeming, to be hastening onwards with rapid rejoicing life, everywhere. The dew, the strides towards perdition. It is very sun, the shower, are all contributing of easy to say, “ O, but I think I once had their riches to fill the earth with animafaith, and right feeling, and real attach- tion, and to make man grateful to the ment to my Lord and Saviour; but all-bountiful Giver. Nor is it, at least, somehow I do not feel my interest in nor ought it to be less so, in the kingChrist so strong as formerly: may I not dom of grace than in the kingdom of rest on what I once was? Will not my past nature. But, alas! these plants, the conversion do, whether I have the present plants of grace, which ought to know no proof of it in a holy life or not?" Why, winter, but which ought to rejoice in the the very worst men may use such argu- ever-during sunshine of heaven, and to ments as these. The thief, when he is be continually yielding their ripe, mel. arraigned at the bar of justice, may say, low fruit, are stunted, and faded, and "O, I was once honest : spare me on dwarfish, and dying. Where do we find account of the past." The profligate the healthy, robust, vigorous Christian? may say, “0, I was once amiable, and Alas! brethren, our“ piety is sicklied o'er chaste, and consistent, when I lived be too much with worldliness and sin." We neath my father's honoured roof; but, have a name to live, but life is wellalas ! sad, sad scenes have I witnessed nigh extinct. We have a form of godlisince.” The first man, as he was driven ness, but where is its mighty, all-subout of Paradise, might say to the angel duing, all-controlling power? with the flaming sword, “ Think of what We might have given some directions I once was a companion of angels, the for attending to this important duty, friend of God—and treat me not thus." | but we must pause. “Examine your
selves, whether ye be in the faith.” Let membering how terrible, how fatal, the your self-examination be sincere, not consequences of mistake. Examine pretended; let it be thorough, not par- yourselves in the light of Scripture, of tial; let it be constant, not occasional; conscience, of eternity, and with a conlet it be prayerful, not in your own
viction that the full blaze of the
of strength, but in the strength and by the God is upon you; and then you will aid of Him who knows what is in man, not have discharged the duty in vain. and who has promised to help in every
J. B. L. time of need. Examine yourselves, re Northallerton.
Of all the vices indigenous to the confining ourselves to the Word of human heart, perhaps the most to be God, we there read of occasions no fewdreaded is envy; not only on account er than four-and-twenty, on which this of the torment it inflicts on its posses- hell-lighted torch blazed forth with the sor, but also because of the baneful and fury of a consuming fire. We make no wide-spreading evils consequent on its apology for using strong language: we pernicious influences. Did it stop have the sanction of the apostle James, short in its effects, and prove rotten. who employs the same figure in referness of the bones only to the frame ence to the tongue: “It is set on fire of work of the spirit which cherishes it, hell.” we would not so much care to exhibit We have an instance of envy in the the odiousness of this monster crime. Israelites, towards Moses and Aaron, But, when we consider, that instead of because the favour of the Almighty was this being the case, it is a polluted apparent towards them. Another is fountain, whose streams infect every that of the brethren of the patriarch object with which they come in contact, Joseph, who through envy delivered -a moral pestilence, which infuses its him into the hands of the Ishmaelites : deadly poison into the very heart's he being better than they. Their envy core of its victims,-a consuming fire, was so fiercely excited, that even murwhich spares not, but rushes on, in der was suggested by one or two of creasing in its fury, until its rapacious them: their father's just preference for maw is sated by having devoured what- Joseph instigating them to the foul ever came within its reach,—we can. deed. Gaunt Envy's weapons not but feel it our duty to fully exhibit always aimed against great and good its disgusting deformities.
persons, or great and good actions. What the power of envy is, we infer Who envies the despised? Who envies from the language of inspiration. poverty, or evil of any kind ? "Envy “ Wrath,” says Solomon, “is cruel, and delights to suck poison from the fairest anger is outrageous, but who can stand flowers." Its victims are Heaven's before envy?” It is a pestiferous virus, favourites. Towards such it directs its infecting man's very life-blood. The most envenomed darts ! Among these apostle James says, “The spirit that is are detraction, censoriousness, slander; in us lusteth to envy.” Profane history all which are sent forth with unsparing also, as well as individual observation and merciless hand. Sometimes, in the and experience, furnishes examples disguise of pity, it will insinuate its fully demonstrative of this fact. But, nauseous drugs. If the character be