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into others as full of hindrances. Some, after having been earnest with imperfect light, on gaining greater light, grow, not without cause, dissatisfied with their state. Others, again, from various causes, voluntary and involuntary, sometimes slacken their speed, or they fall into a scrupulous, fearful, and self-vexing mood, in which their very earnestness becomes a danger. If they had less fear, they would have less scruple, and more peace in God. Such people are very apt to use this complaint. They remember what they were; they feel what they are: it is as joy to heaviness, strength to weakness, the light of God's countenance to coldness and desolation. What, then, shall they do?
1. First, it is most necessary that they should learn to look out of themselves.
This sounds strange advice. How, then, they ask, can we examine our own hearts? And if we do not examine them, how shall we either correct our faults, or even know them? It is not to be denied that there is a difficulty in this. And yet we know that we may take a wise and sufficient care of our bodily health, without becoming fearful or fanciful, or, as we commonly say, valetudinarian. It all depends upon the manner and the tone of mind. We all know that fancies beget diseases, nay, are diseases in themselves. So it is
with the spiritual health. Self-examination will be healthy or unhealthy just as we make it. One person will use it with a perfect habit of self-forgetfulness, and another will be haunted by a perpetual self-contemplation.
There is no doubt that the habit of looking into ourselves, and dwelling upon ourselves, produces a train of spiritual evils, such as scruples, sadness, fearfulness, misgiving, doubting of God, shrinking, depression, despondency, weakness, religious egotism, and the like. For in truth, many look into themselves when they ought to be looking to the Sacrifice upon the cross.
Some do so from want of faith, some from self-trusting, some from self-love, some from mere natural feelings, — from the simple emotions of flesh and blood, chafing at themselves, and resenting their own faults, forgetting what they are, and why redeemed. There is no doubt that much of the sadness and depression people indulge, has its root in self-love. They are vexed to find themselves such poor creatures after all. They have been aiming high, and their pride ill brooks such falls. They have been passing themselves off, at least in their own eyes, for mature and advanced Christians, and their vanity is mortified to find sins and follies of which even worldly people might be ashamed. Then they grow saddened, sullen with themselves, disheartened, and sensitive to every vexation. But it is not always for such reasons.
Sincere and humble minds often give way to fears at the clearer insight into their own sinfulness. It is a depth which we can hardly bear to look into. They who know the most of it know but little. Who can tell what he is in the sight of God, or even of holy angels? We cannot hold, all at once, in our consciousness even the acts of sin which we have committed in our past life; how much less our sins of word, thought, and imagination ; least of all, the secret sins of our will. In God's presence, what a sight is a diseased soul, what soils, stains, and wounds; what distortions and running sores; what a mixture of darkness and fire are the passions and the intellect! What a miracle of sin is ingratitude, hardness, selfishness, sloth, lukewarmness, infidelity even at the foot of the cross! No one really knows himself as he is. God alone can measure and endure this revelation of our personal sinfulness. The most we see of it is but a little. There are two things which man cannot see and live, the Divine Majesty and his own sin. God in His tenderness veils us from ourselves, lest we should see ourselves, and die. Therefore it is not to be wondered at, if earnest and self-searching minds should, by poring into their sinfulness, at last prey upon them
selves. They do it with a pure intention, and with a zealous hatred of sin. The more keenly they hate evil, the less they spare themselves. It is a zeal which eateth them up. And they continually mourn over some golden age which is past; soine season when all was fair and bright; when they think they were less soiled and darkened, and God was more sensibly about them. But this, indeed, is not the truth. They were always what they are, only they knew not then what they know now. There has been no change, except in their consciousness of sin. What then slumbered is now awakened; all the change that has passed on them has been, not for the worse, but for the better : when they were unconscious of their sin, they were further from God; they are nearer now, because they see themselves to be exceeding sinful. It is He who is revealing it to them: it is His very nearness which awakens their consciousness. And they see not His light, but their own shadow, and this affrights them.
Now, for such persons, it is most necessary that they should be drawn out of themselves. A sincere conscience will never fail to keep up a sufficient self-examination; it may be left in a kind of passive sovereignty, to act in defence and as a safeguard. But the active powers of their mind, the intellect and reason, need to be drawn outward. As in the wilderness the people of God were bid to gaze, not upon their burning wounds, but upon the serpent of brass which was lifted up to heal them, so these self-vexing spirits must look out upon the cross.
2. And for this it is needful that they should realise more and more the objects of faith. While we look into ourselves, these become faint and dim. They must be fixedly and intently gazed upon to be habitually realised. When I
When I say the objects of faith, I mean especially the presence and love of God, the sympathy and passion, the patience and tenderness, of our Blessed Lord, the presence and long-suffering of the Holy Ghost, the heavenly court, the communion of Saints, the love and ministry of angels; the whole world unseen and eternal. These are the changeless realities of faith, by which souls are drawn from this earthly and sensual life into harmony with the will and kingdom of God. They have a power to cleanse, sanctify, transfigure; to the sight of habitual faith, they become more near, visible, and real than the world we see.
For all that we here behold are forms, shapes, and shifting outlines. This material world is not eternal, neither is it our home. It cannot endure for ever; we shall soon pass from it; itself shall soon pass away. Our home is in a supernatural order lifted above this world,