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The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his : master's crib ;--but Ifrael doth not know, ..-my people doth not consider. '
I S a severe but an affectionate re
proach of the prophet's, laid against i the Israelites,—which may safely be applied to every heedless and unthankful people, who are neither won by God's mercies, nor terrified by his punishments. There is a giddy, thoughtless, intemperate spirit gone forth into the world, which possesses the generality of mankind ;-and the reason the world is undone, is, because the world does not consider, considers neither awful regard to God, nor the true relation themselves bear to him.
Could they consider this, and learn to weigh the causes, and compare the consequences of
things, and to exercise the reason which GOD has put into us for the government and direction of our lives,—there would be some hopes of a reformation :- but, as the world goes, there is no leisure for such enquiries, and so full are our minds of other matters, that we have no time to ask, or a heart to answer the questions we ought to put to ourselves.
Whatever our condition is, 'tis good to be acquainted with it in time, to be able to fupply what is wanting,—and examine the state of our accounts, before we come to give them up to an impartial judge.
The moft inconsiderate see the reasonableness of this,—there being few, I believe, either fo thoughtless, or even so bad, but that they fometimes enter upon this duty, and have fome fhort intervals of felf-examination, which they are forced upon, if from no other motive, yet at least to free themselves from the load and oppression of spirits they must neceffarily be fubject to without it. But as the fcripture frequently intimates,--and observation confirms it daily, that there are many mistakes attending the discharge of this duty-I cannot
make the remainder of this discourse more useful, than by a short enquiry into them. I shall therefore, first, beg leave to remind you of some of the many unhappy ways by which we often set about this irksome talk of examining our works, without being either the better or the wiser for the employment.
And first, then, let us begin with that whicfy is the foundation of almost all the other false measures we take in this matter, that is, the setting about the examination of our works, before we are prepared with honest dispositions to amend them.-This is beginning the work at the wrong end. These previous dispositions in the heart, are the wheels that should make this work go easily and successfully forwards,
and to take them off, and proceed without them, 'tis no miracle if, like Pharaoh's chariots, they that drive them,-drive them heavily along.
Besides, if a man is not fincerely inclined to reform his faults,--'tis not likely he should be inclined to see them,----nor will all the weekly preparations that ever were wrote, bring him nearer the point ;- so that, with
how serious a face soever he begins to examine,
he no longer does the office of an enquirer,-but an apologist, whose business is not to search for truth,— but skilfully to hide it.
So long—therefore, as this pre-engagement lasts betwixt the man and his old habits, —there is little prospect of proving his works to any good purpose-of whatever kind they are, with so strong an interest and power on their side. - As in other trials, so in this,'tis no wonder if the evidence is puzzled and confounded, and the several facts and circumstances so twisted from their natural shapes, and the whole proof so altered and confirmed on the other side, – as to leave the last state of that man even worse than the first.
A second unhappy, though general mistake in this great duty of proving our works,-is that which the apostle hints at ; in the doing it, not by a direct examination of our own actions, but from a comparative view of them, with the lives and actions of other men.
When a man is going to enter upon this work of self-examination, there is nothing Lo common, as to see him-look round him
instead of looking within him.-- He looks round,-finds out some one who is more malicious,—sees another that is more covetous, a third that is more proud and imperious than himself,—and so indirectly forms a judgment of himself, not from a review of his life, and a proving of his own works, as the apostle directs him, but rather from proving the works of others, and from their infirmities and defects drawing a deceitful conclusion in favour of himself. In all competitions of this kind -one may venture to say, there will be ever so much of self-love in a man, as to draw a flattering likeness of one of the parties and 'tis well-if he has not so much malignity too, as to give but a coarse picture of the other,— .. finished with so many hard strokes, as to make the one as unlike its original as the other.
Thus the pharisee, when he entered the temple,-no sooner saw the publican, but that moment he formed the idea to himself of all the vices and corruptions that could possibly enter into the man's character, and with great dexterity stated all his own virtues and good qualities over-against them. His abftinence and frequent faftings, exactness in the