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CHAP. X. Fervent' and frequent Prayer, the most ef- fectual Means for attaining true Self
Knowledge. “ T ASTLY : The last means to self" I knowledge which I shall mention “ is, frequent and devout applications to " the Fountain of light, and the Father “ of our spirits, to alift us in this im“ portant itudy, and give us the true knowo ledge of ourselves."
This I mention last, not as the least, but, on the contrary, as the greatest and 7 best means of all to attain a right and thorough knowledge of ourselves, and the way to render all the rest effectual. And therefore, though it be the last means mentioned, it is the first that should be used.
Would we know ourselves, we must of. ten converse not only with ourselves in meditation, but with God in prayer. In the Jowliest proftration of foul, beseeching the Father of our fpirits to discover them to us; in whose light we may see light, where before there was nothing but darkness; to make known to us the depth and de
vices of our heart. For without the grace and influence of his divine illuminations and instructions, our hearts will, after all our care and pains to know them, most certainly deceive us. And self-love will so prejudice the understanding, as to keep us still in self-ignorance.
The first thing we are to do in order to self-knowledge is, to assure ourselves that our hearts are deceitful above all things. And the next is, to remember that the Lord searcheth the hearts, and trieth the reins, Jer. xvii. 9. i.e. that He, the (Kaedlogvegins) searcher of all hearts; (: Chron. xxviii. 9.) hath a perfect knowledge of them, deceitful as they are. Which consideration, as it suggesteth to us the strongest motive to in luce us to labour after a true knowledge of them ourselves, so it directs us at the same time how we may attain this knowledge ; viz. by a humble and importunate application to him, to whom alone they are known, to make them known to us. And this, by the free and near access which his Holy Spirit hath to our spirits, he can effectually do various ways; viz. by fixing our attentions ; by quickening our apprehensions; removing our prejudices, (which, like a false medium before the eye of the mind, prevent its seeing
things things in a juft and proper light); by mora. tifying our pride ; strengthening the intellective and reflecting faculties, and enforcing upon the mind a lively sense and knowledge of its greatest happiness and duty; and so awakening the soul from that carnal security and indifference about its best interests, which a too serious attention to the world is apt to betray it into.
Besides, prayer is a very proper expedient for attaining self-knowledge, as the actual engagement of the mind in this devotional exercise is in itself a great help to it. For the mind is never in a better frame, than when it is intently and devoutly engaged in this duty. It has then the best apprehensions of God, the truest notions of itself, and the justest sentiments of earthly things; the clearest conceptions of its own weakness, and the deepest sense of its own vileness; and consequently is in the best disposition that can be, to receive a true and right knowledge of it
And, oh! could we but always think of ourselves in such a manner, or could we but always be in a disposition to think of ourselves in such a manner, as we Cometimes do in the fervour of our hu
miliations before the throne of grace, how great a progress should we foon make in this important science? Which evidently shows the necessity of such devout and humble engagements of the foul, and how happy a means they are to attain a just jelf-acquaintance.
AND NOW, Reader, whoever thou art that haft taken the pains to peruse these sheets, whatever be thy circumItances or condition in the world, what ever thy capacity or understanding, whatever thy occupations and engagements, whatever thy favourite sentiments and principles, or whatever religious sect or party thou espouseft, know for certain that thou haft been deeply interested in what thou haft been reading; whether thou hast attended to it or no. For it is of no less concern to thee than the security of thy peace and usefulness in this world, and thy happiness in another; and relates to all thy interests both as a Man and a Chri. itian.--Perhaps thou hast feen fomething of thine own image in the glass that has now been held up to thee; and wilt thou go away, and soon “ forget what manner " of person thou art ?”-Perhaps thou hast met with some things thou dost not well
understand or approve ; but shall that take off thine attention from those things thou doft understand and approve, and art convinced of the neceffity of ?-If thou hast received no improvement, no benefit from what thou hast been reading, read it over again. The same thought, you know, often impresses one more at one time than another. And we sometimes receive more knowledge and profit by the second perusal of a book than by the first. And I would fain hope that thou wilt find something in this that may set thy thoughts on work, and which, by the blessing of God, may make thee more observant of thy heart and conduct ; and in consequence of that, a more solid, serious, wife eftablished Christian.
But will you, after all, deal by this book you have now read, as you have dealt by many sermons you have heard ? pass your judgment upon it according to your received and established set of notions; and condemn or applaud it only as it is agree- . able or disagreeable to them; and commend or censure it, only as it suits or does not suit your particular taste; without attending to the real weight, importance, and necessity of the subject abstracted from those views? Or will you be