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Psalm iv. 4.
COMMUNE WITH YOUR OWN HEART, AND IN YOUR CHAMBER, AND BE STILL.
THO commune with our own hearts is, in the language of Scripture, to retreat from the world, and give ourselves up to private meditation and reflection. But as the subjects of our meditation may be very different, in order to know what kind of self-communion is here meant, we must consider the purposes which the Psalmist had in view. These purposes are specified in the former part of the verse, "Stand in "awe, and sin not;" to which is immediately subjoined, as the means of impressing this sacred awe upon the mind, " Commune "with your own heart, and in your cham"ber, and be still." The design, therefore, of the self-communion here recommended is, to restrain us from vice; to cherish and improve the seeds of virtue; to give us leisure for examining into the state of our souls; to stamp upon our hearts a love of God and a reverence for his laws; to make us, in short, "stand in awe, and sin not."
Such is the purport of the injunction in the text; and a more important one it is not easy to imagine: it is, indeed, an essential and indispensable requisite towards our well-being, both here and hereafter. For if we will never stand still and consider, how is it possible we should ever go on well? Yet, notwithstanding the evident necessity of reflection to an intelligent and accountable being, a very large part of mankind seem to have formed a resolution never to think at all. They take the utmost pains that they may never experience the misfortune of finding themselves alone and still, may never have a single moment left for serious recollection. They plunge themselves into vice; they dissipate themselves in amusement; they entangle themselves in business; they engage in eager and endless pursuits after riches, honours, power, fame, every trifle, every vanity that strikes their imagination ; and to these things they give themselves up, body and soul, without ever once stopping to consider what they are doing and where they are going, and what the consequence must be of all this wildness and folly. In vain does Reason itself sometimes represent to them, that if there really be another state of existence, it is insanity never to concern themselves about it : in vain does God command them “to watch “ and pray, and to work out their salvation “with fear and trembling;” in vain does Religion call upon them to withdraw a little from the busy scene around them, to retire to their own chamber, to be there quiet and still, to commune with their own hearts, to prostrate themselves before God, to lament their sins, to acknowledge their wretchedness, and entreat forgiveness through the merits of their Redeemer. Against all these admonitions they shut their ears, and harden their hearts; and press forward with intrepid gaiety in the course they are embarked in, which they insist upon to be the only wise one. To that wisdom then, and the fruits of it, we must leave them with our earnest prayers to God, that they may see the things that belong to their peace before they are for ever hid from their eyes. But whatever may become of this giddy unthinking multitude, we, my brethren, who are brought here by a sense of duty, must see, that if we hope either to understand that duty, or to fulfil it, we must sometimes retire and think of it. Even the best and greatest of men, have found this self-communion necessary to preserve them from sin and error. The royal Psalmist more especially, who gave us the precept, enforced it powerfully by his own example. Though no one was more attentive to the interests of his people, and good government of his kingdom, had a greater variety of weighty objects to engage his thoughts, more difficulties to encounter, or more temptations to combat than he; yet he never suffered either business, grief, or pleasure, so entirely to possess his soul, as to exclude the great concerns of Religion ; but wherever or however situated, he found time to commune with himself; he frequently retired at morning, and evening, and noon-day, to review his conduct, to examine into the state of his soul, and search out his spirits, to bless God for his past mercies, or implore his future protection. Those animated compositions he has left us under the name of Psalms, are, in general, nothing more than the fervent expressions of his piety on these occasions, the conversations he held with his own heart. It is in these he unbosoms himself without reserve, and pours forth his whole soul before God. We are admitted into the deepest recesses, and see the most secret workings, of his mind. We see him possessed alternately with hopes and fears, doubt and confidence, sorrow and joy; and agitated, by turns, with all those different passions and emotions which the different aspects of his soul, on the most careful review, would naturally excite. By these well-timed retreats he prevented any presumptuous sin, if not from accidentally surprising him, yet at least from getting the dominion over him; and though he sometimes slipt, and sometimes even fell, yet he instantly rose again, more vigorous and alert to the discharge of his duty. But we have this practice of self-communion recommended to us by a still holier and brighter example, that of the blessed Jesus himself. The nature of his mission, indeed, and the boundless benevolence of his temper, necessarily led him to mingle in society; to listen to every call of human