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belief of this, that the combined universe could not drive them out of it. Hence it comes to pass that they are for ever taking the lead in society, exacting attention, courting admiration, pronouncing, deciding peremptorily, and seeming to say at every turn, Am not I a most extraordinary personage? But you have never had the advantage of a course of eda ucation, or of regular study. No matter ; talents supply every deficiency. But no one presents incense to you, yourself only excepted. Still it signifies nothing : it is the wretched taste of the present age. But you are actually a laugbing-stock to mankind. No matter still; it has always been the lot of great men to be the object of envy and calumny.
We practise illusion upon ourselves in favour of our heart. Should you chance to be in a circle of slanderers, and bear your testimony against slander, the whole company will instantly take your side: The most criminal will endeavour to pass for the most innocent. They will tell you that it is the most odious, abominable, execrable of vices. They will tell you that the severest punishments ought to be adjudged against the offender, that he ought to be excluded from all human society. And the very persons who are themselves actuated by this detestable passion, who are themselves diffusing the baleful poison of their malignity, apprehend not that they are, in the slightest degree, chargeable with such a vice. Have you no knowledge, my brethren, of such a portrait ? Have I been depicting to you manners which have no existence in real life? If there be any among you incapable of discovering him
self under such similitudes as these, it is a demonstration of what I wish to prove, that it is a very difficult thing for a man to know himself.
But though this knowledge be extremely difficult it is by no means of impossible attainment. The believer employs two methods, principally to arrive at it. 1. He studies his own heart. 2. He shrinks not from the inspection of the eyes of another.
1. First, the believer studies his own heart. Let it not appear matter of astonishment that the generality of mankind are so little acquainted with themselves. They are almost always from home external objects engross all the powers of their mind; they never dive to the bottom of their own conscience. Does it deserve the name of searching the heart, if a man employs a rapid and superficial self-examination, by reading a few books of preparation, on the eve of a communion-solemnity : if he devote a few moments attention to the maxims of a preacher, much more with a design to apply them to others, than to make them a test of his own conduct? How is it possible, by means of an examination so cursory, to attain a knowledge which costs the most eminent saints so much application? A real Christian studies himself in a very different
With the torch of the gospel in his hand, he searches into the most secret recesses of conscience. He traces his actions up to their real principles. When he has performed an act of virtue, he scrupulously examines whether he had been actuated by some merely human respect, or whether it proceeded from a sacred regard to the law of God, When he unhappily is overtaken, and falls into sin, he carefully examines whether he was betrayed into it by surprise, or whether, by the prevalence of corruption in his heart, and from the love of the world still exercising dominion over him. When he abstains from certain vices, he examines whether it proceeded from real self-government, or merely from want of means and opportunity; and he asks himself this question, What would I have done, had I been placed in such and such circumstances? Would I have preserved my innocence, with Joseph, or lost it, as David did? Would I, with Peter, have denied Jesus Christ, or have endured martyrdom in his cause, like Stephen?
2. The second method which the believer employs to arrive at the knowledge of his own heart, is to permit others to unveil it to his eyes: this is done particularly, either by the public instructions of the faithful ministers of the gospel, or by the private admonitions of a judicious and sincere friend: two articles very much calculated to explain to us the reasons why most men attain such an imperfect knowledge of themselves.
It is with difficulty we can digest those addresses from the pulpit in which the preacher ventures to go into certain details, without which it is impossible for us to acquire self-knowledge. We are fond of dwelling on generals. Our own portrait excites disgust, when the resemblance is too exact. It is a circumstance well worthy of being remarked, that what we admire the most in the sermons of the dead, is the very thing which gives most offence in the ser
mons of the living. When we read, in discourses pronounced several ages ago, those bold strictures in which the preachers unmasked the hypocrites of their times, reproved the vices of the great as freely as those of the little, attacked adultery, extortion, a tyrannical spirit, in the very presence of the offenders, we are ready to exclaim, What zeal! What courage! What firmness! But when a preacher of our own days presumes to form himself after such excellent models; when he would copy the example of Elijah, who said to Ahab, I have not troubled Israel : but thou and thy father's house, 1 Kings xviii. 18. when he would follow the example of Nathan, who said to David, Thou art the man, 2 Sam. xii. 7. or that of John Baptist, who said to Herod, It is not lanful for thee to have thy brother's wife, Mark vi. 18. then the cry is, What audacity! What presumption! It would be improper, my brethren, to extend any farther my remarks on this subject at present ; but I may be permitted, at least, to borrow the words of Jesus Christ, addressed to his disciples; “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now," John vi. 12.
If we are unable to digest public discourses of the description which we have been giving, much less are we disposed to bear with the private admonitions of a judicious and sincere friend, who is so faithful as to unveil to us our own heart. What a treasure is a friend, who keeps constantly in view, I do not say our honour only, our reputation, but more especially our duty, our conscience, our sal. vation! What a treasure is a man, who employs the influence which he may have over us, only for the purpose of undeceiving us when we are in an error ; of bringing us back when we have gone astray ; of assisting us to unravel and detect the
pretences which the deceitfulness of the human heart uses to justify to itself its wanderings and weaknesses! What a treasure is a man, who has the honesty to say to us, according as circumstances may require : “Here it was your want of experience that misled you; there, it was the prejudice of a faulty education : on that accasion you was betrayed, through the seduction of those flatterers, in whose society you take so much delight; on this, it was the too favourable opinion which you had formed of yourselves, which would persuade you, that you are ever sincere in your conversation ; ever upright in your intentions ; ever steady in your friendships!"
Nevertheless, we usually look upon this precious treasure not only with disdain, but even with horror. It is sufficient to make us regard a man with an eye of suspicion, that he has discovered our weak side. It is sufficient for him to undertake to paint us in our true colours, to be perfectly odious to us. A real Christian employs all the means with which he is furnished, to unveil his own heart to himself. By dint of study, he acquires the knowledge of himself. Having acquired this important knowledge, he seriously and resolutely sets about personal reformation; and he makes progress in it. He examines this new state into which divine grace has introduced him; and finding within himself the charac