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where we very seldom think of looking for them, in the follies and miscarriages of our own conduct. And if we are so happy as to discover, and so wise as to correct them, we shall then have fulfilled the end which these sorrows were probably designed to answer, and " it will be even good for us 6 to have been in trouble.”
How absolutely necessary recollection is to those who are immersed in vice, is too obvious to be insisted on. If, indeed, they have cast off all thoughts of Religion, and are determined to sin on to the last, they are then in the right of it to avoid this selfcommunion, and to decline all conversation with a friend that might tell them very disagreeable truths. Their only business is then, not to encourage, but to stifle, reflection; and, after forgetting their Maker, and every thing they ought to remember, to forget themselves too, if they can. But if they are touched with a sense of their danger, and a desire of amendment, their first step is certainly to retire and recollect themselves. This, indeed, in general, is all that is necessary. “ I called mine own ways “ to remembrance,” says David; and immediately adds, as an almost necessary consequence, and “turned my feet unto thy teso timonies.” “I made haste, and pro“ longed not the time to keep thy command“ ments.” This must ever be the result of a serious deliberation. The truths of Religion, more especially of the Christian Religion, are so clear and convincing; the contrast between vice and virtue, good and evil, so striking; the disproportion between a moment of pleasure and an eternity of pain, so glaring and undeniable, that they want nothing more than consideration to give them their proper weight, insomuch, that to think is to believe and to be saved. · To such as are already entered on the paths of virtue, but are yet at a great distance from Christian perfection, it will be highly useful to stop sometimes, and consider what they have already done, and what they have still to do; sometimes, to prevent despair, by looking back on the dangers they have past, and sometimes to excite vigilance, by looking forwards to those before them ; to renew, from time to time, their petitions to the Throne of Grace, for that succour and assistance which is so neces
sary to support them; and above all, to refresh their hopes and invigorate their resolutions, by frequently looking up to that crown of glory, which will so amply recompense all their labours.
Nor does even the highest degree of perfection that human nature can arrive at, place a man above the necessity of calling his ways to remembrance. Nay, perhaps, recollection is then peculiarly necessary, because we are apt to think it least so. “Let 66 him that thinketh he stands, take heed “ lest he fall.” No sooner do we suppose ourselves out of the reach of danger, than we cease to be so. It becomes us, therefore, to be jealous of our very virtues, and to let our vigilance and circumspection keep pace with our improvements. Our condition in this life is represented in Scripture as a continual warfare; and we have a very subtle adversary to deal with, who is always upon the watch to take advantage of our security. The good soldier of Christ, therefore, will use the same caution in his spiritual as he would in a temporal warfare ; he will observe the same discipline after a victory, as when success was dubious; for no stratagem
has been so often practised, and has so often succeeded, as that of surprising a victorious, and therefore unguarded enemy.
It must be observed too, that virtue as well as knowledge is progressive, and if we do not gain ground, we lose it. There is always some perfection to be acquired, or some imperfection to be amended. If we are not constantly strengthening the barriers opposed to our passions, by successively accumulating one good principle upon another, they will grow weaker every day, and expose us to the hazard of some sudden and violent overthrow. It is astonishing how much the very best men find to do, even when they are regular and punctual in reviewing their conduct; how many errors they have to rectify, how many omissions to supply, how many excesses to retrench, how many growing desires to control. The more frequently they do this, the more they will see the necessity and feel the advantage of. it. They will have the pleasure too of observing, how much they increase in goodness and grow in grace, and this will animate them to still higher attainments. They will never think themselves sufficiently advanced
in holiness; but “ forgetting those things “ that are behind, and reaching forth to “ those things that are before, they will go “ on from strength to strength, and press “ forward towards the mark, to the prize of “ the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” *
Universally, therefore, to every person, in every condition of life, in every stage of his spiritual progress, frequent SELF-COMMUNION is an indispensable duty. If we are accountable beings, and that we are, not only the sacred Writings declare, but our faculties, our feelings, our consciences, irresistibly prove to us; if we cannot, without the utmost hazard, go on at random, as appetite prompts or accident leads us; if every step we take in our moral conduct must bring us nearer to heaven or to hell; surely it behoves us to call our ways seriously and frequently to remembrance; to consider them with the utmost care and circumspection, and observe where they terminate, and to what point they will carry us. Should we find ourselves in the right way, we shall have the satisfaction of going on in the consciousness of being right, and of acting well upon
* Phil. iii. 13. Psal. Ixxxiv. 7.