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The only means, properly speaking, by the agency of which these important ends can be accomplished, are the ILLUMINATION AND GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. It is the instruction of that blessed Spirit which shows us our real character, and enables us to understand and correct our errors. The bright splendour of his light reveals to us the trụe state of our habits, our motives, our declines, our dangers. And only the communication of inward strength from him can make us resolute and successful in detecting and opposing our habitual sins and infirmities. For, as is intimated in the text, He alone supplies both that quickened perception by which we discover whether there be
wicked way in us, and that heavenly guidance by which we may be led in the way everlasting.
But the expectation of this light and assistance must not preclude the use of subcrdinate means directed to the end in view; and, indeed, it is only in the diligent use of such means, that the aid of the Holy Ghost can be expected. Of such subordinate means, the first and the last, -that which must accompany and render effectual every other,-is FERVENT PRAYER. It is to this method that the Psalmist has ręcourse in 'our text. He addresses himself to God by earnest supplication. He entreats him to search and know him, and see if there was any wicked way in him. Prayer, more than most
other religious duties, brings us into the immediate presence of God, humbles the whole soul, silences the excuses of pride, and quickens the testimony of conscience. Prayer therefore most directly opposes every evil habit, and best exercises eyery holy one; independently of the divine grace and mercy which it is the means of obtaining. If we would at all prosper, therefore, as Christians, we must pray without ceasing : we must pray in the solitude of our own chambers, and in the assemblies of the faithful : and we must attempt ever to keep our minds in that humble, lowly, and teachable frame, which is the proper attitude of supplication.
To prayer should be joined a DILIGENT STUDY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, with a view of examining our own habits of thought, feeling, and action, by the standard of that unerring rule. Instead of comparing ourselves with our neighbours, or (what is a still less efficacious method of detecting our evil habits) comparing ourselves with ourselves, we sbal} here have the opportunity of comparing ourselves with the requisitions of the perfect law of God. Nor ought this comparison only to be general, or confined to first principles. It ought to be accurate; extending to our thoughts, words, and deeds; to our motives and to our conduct; to our behaviour in public and in private, in our families and in society. By
persevering in such a course of reading, we shall indeed find that the word of the Lord is a light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path ; that his commandment is pure, enlightening the eyes, that his testimony is sure, making wise the simple.
Closely allied to the study of the Scriptures, thus explained, -or rather, indeed, a part of it,-is the duty of WATCHFULNESS AND SELFEXAMINATION. By these terms, I would be understood to imply an actual and minute study of our character and a series of efforts in forming it; a strict attention to our prevailing tendencies of mind; a careful investigation of the probable causes of our past failures; a serious consideration of the dangers to which, from our peculiar tempers, dispositions, or circumstances, we are most exposed; and a diligent endeavour, under the divine blessing, to fortify ourselves with additional motives and principles, on what appears to be our weak side. In carrying this rule into effect, we should be particularly attentive to what were our characteristic sins or failings in the former part of our lives, when we paid little or no serious attention to the concerns of religion. For it is probable that, in this quarter, our greatest danger still lies. Conversion by divine grace, is a gradual work. What we were, therefore, before that great change which awakened us to
a sense of our spiritual interests, we may bo disposed in some measure to become again after it. Old sins, though broken off in the main, may attempt to revive; and they will attempt this, and will succeed in the attempt, unless by a jealous guard of our vulnerable part, and a humble reliance on the help of the Holy Spirit, we prevent them.
Let it not be supposed that, by thus recommending to the Christian, active efforts in the formation of his own character, we disparage that divine grace from which all our strength and all our improvement must undoubtedly proceed. To make such efforts, indeed, in a reliance on our own power or good intentions, would be highly presumptuous and unwarrantable; and this is the common fault of irreligious persons, who, desirous perhaps of quieting conscience by an aim at some moral amendment, but not duly apprehending the need of divine grace, set about the enterprise on mistaken principles, and therefore usually fail of attaining even that limited degree of amelioration which they pursue. But not to make the endeavour at all, is evidently to tempt God to his face. Strenuous exertion and humble dependence on the Holy Spirit is the scriptural rule, and can alone lead to a knowledge of ourselves, and an actual growth in holy principles and habits.
In connexion with the means I have already mentioned, and as auxiliary to them, I would particularly advise you to cultivate the habit of a perpetual IMPRESSION OF THE
The idea is suggested by the Psalm of which the text is the conclusion ; and surely no stronger prevention or remedy can be conceived for any of the evil habits to which we may be liable, than this holy practice of acting, as if under the constant inspection of an all-seeing and all-perfect Being. Nothing can be better calculated to rouse us from unpropitious courses of conduct, than the reflection that God knows our down-sitting and our up-rising, and understands our thoughts afar off: that he compasses our path and our lying down, and is acquainted with all our ways; that there is not a word in our tongue, but he knows it altogether. This reflection will tend to disturb us when in an indodent or indifferent frame of mind, will quicken our attention to our smallest acts, and will excite us to watch against even the beginnings of improper habits. The impression of the sensible objects around us will become weaker, the effect of human example less seductive, and even the strongest of our evil babits will relax their hold on us, while we recollect that we are ever under the scrutiny of Him'who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and that