« FöregåendeFortsätt »
repetition. He, who has been accustomed to watch the motions of his own mind, and to scrutinize the character of his own actions, will, in general, judge with more justice, and always with more candour, of the conduct of others, than any of those, who value themselves on their knowledge of life. There is something, which passes in the world for penetration and sagacity, which consists in always finding fault, where fault may be found ; in suspecting baseness, wben integrity is not clear; in condemning without scruple, where others hesitate to decide; and in predicting the worst, when the prudent doubt, or the timid are alarmed. But the man, who knows bimself, will be ready to pardon mistakes, to conceal absurdities, to inform ignorance, to pity folly, and to account, at least, for vices, which he cannot excuse. When he censures, he censures qualities in others, which he has not failed to reproach in himself; and when he applauds, he applauds what he knows how to value, either from the struggles, which it has cost him to acquire it, or from the wretchedness, which he suffers from its absence. He will not strike without mercy, who feels himself the tingling of every stroke. It is ignorance of ourselves only, which makes us the libellers, or the self-constituted judges of others.
4. Self-knowledge will preserve us from being deceived by flattery, or overborne by unmerited censure. The language of adulation sounds in the ears of a man, who knows himself, like the language of reproach. He receives it, as a gentle admonition of what he ought to be, rather than as a description of what he is. He is humbled, rather than elated by extravagant praise; and is disposed to pity the ignorance, or suspect the designs of the man, who, whenever he approaches him, holds out a compliment, or whispers an encomium. Even when he is sensible, that, in any in. stance, he merits approbation, yet, when he considers
his innumerable deficiencies, failings, wants, unknown to all but himself, the praise, which he receives, seems to him to have little more foundation, than the enthusiastic anticipations, which travellers sometimes ex. press of a country, which they have never seen, where they expect a cloudless sky, a temperate climate, a luxuriant soil, a happy people but, upon exploring which, they find the same vicissitudes of weather, as at home, similar ravages of disease, similar miseries of poverty, and equal, though different vices, prejudices and defects of society. The man, too, who knows himself, learns to bear reproach. If he knows, that it is merited, he is silent, but suffers not the op. portunity of improvement to escape him. He puts on no empty airs of resentment, or affected surprise. If it is unmerited, he can look up, with humble eye, to heaven, and say, My record is on high; or, if he suspects himself, he will ask, like the anxious disciples, Lord, is it I ?
5. He, who examines himself, will learn to profit by instruction. Philosophy and revelation, moralists and friends, the press and the pulpit, are perpetually holding up characters for our detestation, and yet we profit not by the picture, we see not the resemblance, till some Nathan, bolder than the rest, exclaims, Thou art the man. Then we turn round in surprise, and wonder at the insolence of the prophet. We. attend upon the public institutions of religion. The · preacher portrays a character. We listen and ad. mire. We recall the picture. What prominence of figure; what liveliness of expression ; what strength of colouring ! We are asked, for whom it was intend. ed. In a moment we answer, it is this man. Does it resemble no other? Yes. And we instantly point, with much complacency, to a second, and a third, and then sit down in unsuspecting possession of the original. O Lord, examine me, and prove me, try
my reins and my heart; and that which I see note teach thou me.
Lastly, if we will judge ourselves, we shall not be judged, at least, by the Judge of heaven and earth; that is, we shall not be unprepared for the judgment seat of Christ. It is impossible to imagine a more solemn and yet miserable object, than a presumptuous, unreflecting, thoughtless man, standing at the bar of God. All the gay and gaudy trappings of self-applause fall off, and leave a poor, miserable, naked and shrivelled body of worthlessness, depravity and folly. He turns from the view of his own deformity; he shrinks in vain to avoid the eye of omniscience. He thought himself innocent. Guilty of few open vices, he passed through the world unreproached. He now sees, that his innocence was nothing but inaction; and that he was unreproached, because unknown or despised. He thought himself pious; he finds, that he has been only a formal repeater of solemn words. He thought himself temperate; he finds, that he was often a cowardly ventur. er to the brink of excess, whence the danger of his health only called him. He thought himself just; but he sees, that he has been unequitable within the limit of the law. He thought himself charitable ; but finds, he never made a disinterested sacrifice; hospitable, but he was only ostentatious; compassionate, but he was only childish. He thought himself zealous for truth, but he finds it was only for system; patriotic, but he was only a partizan; for. giving, but he was only cowardly. Think, then, can you bear to be stripped hereafter of so many fancied excellencies ? Are you ready now to submit your motives to the eye of omniscience? Have you ever ventured to look with a steady eye into your own hearts ? Dare you read to the bottom of the page? Are you not afraid to find there the sentence
limite sees, that he him. He then the danger Centur.
of your condemnation ? Do you know what manner of spirit you are of ?
The time will not allow us to consider, minutely, the means, by which this knowledge may be attained. A few general precepts must conclude. First, then, suspect yourselves. Do not be afraid of doing youri selves injustice. When you suspect, watch your
conduct; and detect, if you can, your predominant motives. Depend upon it, you will struggle hard to deceive yourselves. Compare yourselves, then, with the word of God, and with one another. Recollect, that what appears disgraceful in others, cannot be honourable in you; and what diminishes your esteem of them, ought to diminish your esteem of yourself. Find, if you can, some disinterested and sensible friend, who will have the courage to disclose to you your faults, and the goodness to assist you in correcting them. But, above all, look up to the Father of lights, lay yourself open to the eye of almighty mercy, and cry, Lord, who can understand his errours ? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
EPH. 11. 5.
BY GRACE YE ARE SAVED.
This simple proposition, though often in the mouth of christians, is yet not without its difficulties. Every believer in the gospel acknowledges its truth; and yet there are very few men, who would entirely coincide in their interpretation of the passage.
It is not to excite your surprise, that we shall now proceed to enumerate some of the most popular senses, in which this proposition has been understood, but only to guard you against being carried away by the dogmatical assertions of men, who are contented with detaching a form of scripture words from the place where it is found, and insisting, that it means only what they choose to understand by the phrase.
What then is the meaning of grace ? When spoken of God, it means simply, gratuitous kindness, and thus is it often applied to any thing, in which his favour is discovered. Thus the gospel is called the grace of God. The terms saved, or salvation, origi. nally mean deliverance from danger, from disease, or evil of any kind, and hence, are often used with a latitude, which embraces all the benefits, derived
of God. Overed. To any thitous kindhen spok.