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You will see from these specimens how the Bible, in all its fulness and variety, is adapted for a perpetually varied, interesting, and infallible test of our character. Any one particular set of questions, or list of sins and duties for self-examination, will in time become a mere matter of form, and cannot bring before us all those graces, tempers, and duties, to which we are called in the sacred Scriptures.
The Effect which our self-examination should have upon us, deserves consideration. Examination is in order to our conviction of sin on the points in which we have failed, to our comfort in those which God has in his mercy enabled us to fulfil, and to the quickening us better to discharge our duties subsequently. We are not the better merely for asking ourselves questions. In those particulars in which you find yourselves to be guilty, you should see fresh cause for humbling yourself before God, for eagerly applying to Christ, and simply relying on him, and for future watchfulness and prayer. In those particulars in which your heart does not condemn you, you will doubtless see fres'ı cause for gratitude to God who has preserved you, and for faith in him still to keep you.
The CHRISTIAN SHOULD STRENGTHENED. He should come, after self-examination, to a comfortable conclusion, a good hope through grace, that, with all his failings, he is a Christian, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heą.
He may say, ' I know that I bave experienced a : change of lieart; for my views, my feelings, 'and my
affections are quite different to what they once were. I hate sin. I desire holiness. I see an infinite magoi. tude in salvation, an infinite value in Christ. I love
his word, his day, and his service, and would not give up my hope in him for all the world. These are views and feelings of which I once knew nothing. The Christian may say, ' I know that I am passed from death to life, because I love the servants of Christ; in proportion as I see them to be his, I love them wherever they are, or whoever they be ; and once I either despised, or cared nothing for them, or knew them not. The conversion of a soul to God fills me with gladness. I find God drawing my heart to himself, so that I desire his presence, and cannot be content with the means of grace without communion with him in them. He is my portion; and though it is not with me as I would it were, and I fall vastly short of what I ought to be, yet blessed be God for these marks of his grace. My views of happiness shew me I am his child. To be free from sin, and like God; to know, and love and serve him perfectly--this is my view of happiness. Communion with him is my highest joy, a joy which far exceeds all the earthly pleasures I have ever experienced.' Let the Christian, then, take the comfort which this view gives. It will fill him with gratitude and love; it will not lead him to pride, presumption, or a fancied superiority over others; but to self-abasement, tenderness, compassion, and unwearied benevolence.
But one important and great result should be, a firm purpose, by the grace of God, to an end what has been amiss. Such purposes should be made seriously, prudently, and sincerely; asking ourselves if we are likely to perform what we promise, and never intend in any circumstances, for any argument, or under any temptation, to yield to sin. Bishop Beveridge, speaking of Christians discharging this duty, says, “ they must consider what sort of temptations they have been most subject to, and oftenest overcome by, and must resolve never to give way to them any more, but to withstand them with all their might. They must consider what place, what company, what employment, what recreations, or other circumstances of their life, have exposed them most to such temptations, and have been the chief occasions of their falling into sin; and must resolve for the future to avoid and forsake them.”
Nor let all this be counted a vain labour. A period will arrive when we shall review our whole life, and we may even now be quite assured that “ those days and hours which were spent in prayer, in fasting, in examination of the heart, and the exercises of faith and repentance, will bring more true peace and comfort upon our death bed, than all other times of our life besides.
The following Confession and Prayers may close our self-examination.
CONFESSION OF SINS AFTER SELF-EXAMINATION.
O Lord God Almighty, the Judge of all the earth, keeping covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments, have mercy upon me, a miserable sinner, coming back to thee in the name of Jesus Christ. My conscience accuses me of many transgressions, and much disobedience. If in any thing I have not greatly sinned, or have in a measure fulfilled thy will, this was thy work, and to thee alone be praise. But, О how unfaithful have I been to my engagements, and how often have I transgressed thy law, and been disobedient to thy holy will!
I desire especially to confess and bewail those sins for which my own heart more particularly condemns me.
[Here enumerate those sins, and omitted duties, which have been brought to your mind by self-examination.]
And how much of my sinfulness is unknown to myself! But Thou art acquainted with all my ways: 0 cleanse Thou me from my secret faults, and from all my known transgressions. Wash me through that precious blood which cleanses from all sin. Give me grace to look to Him who was pierced for my sins, and to mourn for them with that godly sorrow which works repentance unto salvation. O vouchsafe unto me a holy compunction of heart, a lively faith in Christ, and a sure hope of thy mercy through him, that I may, with a pacified conscience, a believing and penitent heart, and a grateful and thankful spirit, commemorate his death at his table. Hear me, for his name's sake. Amen.
PRAYER FOR REPENTANCE,
O Thou, who by the right hand of the Father art exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance and forgiveness of sins: now, in this accepted time, I come to thee, for those great blessings. My heart is hard and impenitent, and little affected by my many sins and thy great goodness; I beseech thee take away the stony heart, and give me an heart of flesh. Vouchsafe unto me that broken and contrite spirit which the high and Holy God will not despise. May thy sufferings, gracious Redeemer, touch and melt my
soul. Let the goodness of God lead me to repentance. Never leave me to myself and my own perverse, wayward, and wandering heart. O now bring me back, hy thy Holy Spirit, to my heavenly Father; and, returning to him, may I obtain his mercy, and find that he does abundantly pardon.
PRAYER FOR FAITH.
Almighty God, Father of mercies, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift, give unto me, I beseech thee, grace 10 belive on the name of Christ. I believe; Lord, help thou my unbelief; let me be strong in faith, giving glory to thee, and having a full persuasion that thou wilt perform all that thou hast promised. O help me to count all things but loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. Enable me so to believe, that Christ may dwell in my heart; and I may supremely love thee, my God, and unfeignedly love all my fellow-creatures. Hear me for Christ's sake.
PRAYER FOR GRATITUDE TOWARDS GOD.
O Lord, whose tender mercies are over all thy works, and who hast chosen thy people to shew forth thy praises, circumcise my heart so that I may love thee, my God, with all my heart, and with all my soul. By thy Holy Spirit fill me with such a lively sense of thy love to me, as displayed in the death of thy Son, that I may ever so gratefully remember that inestimable benefit, as to love thee and cleave unto thee, abound in thanksgiving, and keep all thy conamandments. This I ask for Jesus Christ's sake.