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superior knowledge, which in this manner they scarcely fail to gain of experimental religion, hold undoubtedly the first place.
Fourthly. It consists, also, in what is appropriately called Selfexamination.
After all that can be done by others; after all that can be gained from books, even from the Scriptures themselves; the Application of the whole mass of evidence, acquired by the candidate, must be made to his own case by himself. This is the Task: here lies the difficulty. Books, and other men, may furnish him a complete summary of the evidences of personal piety; and he may possess it without any material error : but they cannot make the application to his own case with such precision, as it demands. Books furnish it only in the abstract. Men, aided by his inquiries and representations, may assist him, while employed in making the application to himself. But after all, which they may have done, or can do, the principal labour will still remain ; and this he must do.
That he may do it successfully, it will be indispensable, that he become acquainted with his own character. He must watch his views, affections, purposes, and life ; must mark the motives, which he feels, and by which he is governed ; the objects, on which he loves to dwell, and which he chooses to pursue; the persons, with whom he delights to converse, and whose characters he regards with complacency; the resolutions of reformation, which he forms, and the manner in which they are executed; and the progress, which, upon the whole, he appears to make. He must examine diligently, and, so far as may be, without partiality, the manner, in which he regards God; the Father, the Redeemer, the Holy Spirit; the Scriptures; the Sabbath; and the worship of the Sanctuary, the family, and the closet. He must inquire faithfully concerning his obedience to all the precepts of the Scriptures ; particularly to those, which require of him the duties of piety, and self-denial; the estimation, in which he holds Christians; the estimation, in which he holds himself; his attachment to the world, to sense, and sin; his disposition to resist, or yield to, temptation; his spirituality ; his views of heaven; his disposition to lay up his treasure in that glorious world, and to converse with the persons, and objects, found in its delightful
regions ; his love of justice, truth, and kindness; his performance of the duties, which they require ; and his desire to become a blessing to those around him; his zeal to promote the religion of the Gospel, and the salvation of men; his humility; his reliance on the righteousness of Christ for justification; and his dependence on the free grace of God for pardon, acceptance, and eternal life. These may serve as specimens of the subjects, on which he is to dwell; and out of which, he will find, if he should ultimately find it, a solid and evangelical hope, that he is a Christian.
Fifthly. To all these must be added constant and fervent Prayer to God, to guide him aright.
Prayer is the best single mode of self-examination. At the same time, nothing else will secure to us the guidance of our Maker. He, who would prosper in the great duty, which has been discussed, must ask faithfully, and fervently, for the immediate blessing of God upon all his endeavours : for without this blessing they will be in vain. It is not enough that we ask once, or twice, or thrice. We must ask continually. We must importune. We must wrestle. We must pray always, and never faint.
Such are the views, which I have formed concerning this most interesting subject. When it is remembered, that the covenant into which we enter, when we make a profession of religion, is in the Scriptures frequently styled an Oath, that it has all the obligation of an oath ; that the subject is the most important, and the transaction the most solemn, of all those, with which we are concerned on this side of the grave: I am persuaded, that my audience will confess the high import of the duty itself, and realize the indispensable necessity of performing it, whenever it is professedly performed in a faithful and Evangelical manner.
DANGER OF OPPOSING RELIGION.
Acts V. 38, 39.
And now I say unto you: refrain from these men, and let them
alone: for if this counsel, or this work, be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
The story, of which these words are a part, is summarily the following:
After the remarkable deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, and apparently through the solemnity, and alarm, diffused by these awful events throughout the multitudes, who were informed of it; many converts were added to the Lord by the miracles, and preaching, of the Apostles. Nor was the impression confined to the city of Jerusalem. A great number of persons from the neighbouring cities brought the ir diseased friends and neighbours to the Apostles. All these, together with such as were afflicted in the same manner, in Jerusalem itself. were healed. The agitation became general, and soon reached the Sanhedrim. The High priest accordingly, summoning this body together, composed chiefly of the licentious, opulent, and voluptuous sect of the Sadducees, laid violent hands upon the Apostles, and put them into the common prison, where the viiest malefactors were confined. The Angel of the Lord, however, opened the prison doors by night; and, bringing them out, directed them to go into the temple, and preach the Gospel to the people of Jerusalem. They went, and preached, accordingly,
The next morning the High priest called together the great Council of the Jews; and sent the proper officers, to bring the Apostles before them. The officers went to the prison ; but, not finding the Apostles, returned to the high priest, and told him, that they had found the prison shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the door; but that, when they had opened the door, they found no man within. This story alarmed the Council; and agitated their ininds with a variety of doubts, and fears, concerning the event.
While they were in this situation, a person came, and told them, that the Apostles were in the temple, preaching to the people. Immediately they sent the officers again ; and brought them; but without any violence, for fear of those, who had assembled to hear them.
When the Apostles came before the Council; the High priest imperiously asked them, “ Did not we straitly command you, that ye should not teach in this name? and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." To this charge Peter, and his companions, firmly replied. 66 We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers hath raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince, and a Saviour; for to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things : and so is, also, the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."
By this information, St. Luke informs us ; they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay their prisoners. But Gamaliel, a Phariser, a doctor of the law, the instructor of St. Paul, and had in Teputaliom among all the people, having commanded the Apostles to be sent out of the council chainber for a short time, addressed to his companions a series of observations, which persuaded them to dismiss their prisoners. They accordingly recalled them; and, having ordered them to be beaten in their presence, and charged them to preach no more in the name of Christ, they let them go.
The text is the conclusion of Gamaliel's address to the Sanhedrim ; and is plainly the substance of the whole: the observations, preceding it, being little more than an introduction, and an
illustration, of the sentence, which it contains, and of the arguments, by which that sentence is here enforced.
The Apostles were vigorously employed in preaching the Gospel, and in converting mankind to the religion of the cross. To this work the Sanhedrim with an obstinate spirit of unbelief, and with the malevolence, always generated in the hearts of unbelievers, when seriously engaged in resisting Christianity, strenuously opposed themselves. They hated the Redeemer : they hated the Gospel, which he taught: they hated the religion, which the Gospel unfolded, and which it is the great means of spreading among mankind. So violent was their hatred, that they ordered the Apostles, for preaching this religion, to be beaten with rods before them in the senate chamber; forgetting their character, and shamelessly violating decency, as well as justice. Nor was this all. From the story of St. Luke it is evident, that they were on the point of imbruing their hands in the blood of these excellent men; as, a little time before, they had actually imbrued them in the blood of the Redeemer. At the same time, the Apostles had done nothing to provoke their resentment; nor interfered in any of their concerns. Nor could the high priest and his companions charge them with a single violation of any law, either Jewish or Roman.
The unreasonableness of this conduct is palpable ; and it has accordingly been reprobated by men of sobriety in every christian age, and country, as being flagrantly opposed to every principle both of righteousness and humanity. We are not, however, to suppose,
that it is at all uncommon. Christ foretold antecedently to his crucifixion, that such sufferings from their fellow-men were to constitute an important part of their allotments in the present world. “In the world,” said he, "ye shall have tribulation.” And again, “ If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own : but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word, that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." What the Saviour thus taught to the Apostles, as their own desti