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The mind and body, invigorated by rest, feel new life and animation, and are the more ready to follow out the unfinished plans of the by-gone week, or to originate and enter upon new schemes. The men of the world are on the alert; and the temptation to the Christian, engaged in business, is strong to hasten his preparation to enter the field, the store, or the workshop, as early as his neighbor.
The consequence of this worldly feeling, in some families, , is, that not only is family prayer omitted, or signally shortened; but, what is probably more common, and equally, if not still more injurious, the closet is either not visited at all, or its devotions are so hurried, that God is as greatly dishonored as if the service were not performed at all; and the soul itself is even more injured. The conscience may, indeed, seem to be quieted, but its sensibilities are blunted; and no marvel, if, before Monday evening, that neglect of a throne of grace should be followed by wounds still more grievous. Nay, this neglect, thus once begun, the soul commences its descent, as it were, upon an inclined plane; and happy, thrice happy, if some providence, some friendly admonition, or some religious meeting occurs, during the week, by which that descent is stayed. It is dangerous for the Christian to seel, on a Monday morning, that he is “rich, and increased n goods;"' that he has received spiritual food sufficient for he week; that the momentum imparted will keep the spirtual bark in motion, against worldly currents, without furher impulse. The Christian, who thus feels and reasons, is 20 credit to his profession; is making no progress in the livine life, and does not find his religion, as it might be, a source of “joy unspeakable, and full of glory."
Such Christians, the example of the Savior rebukes. He had a day of toil before him; and, though it was to be spiritual toil, yet, as it would open early, he was up, and ready to attend to the annunciation of his disciples—“All men seek for thee.”
The poet has said:
Few bring back at eve,
With equal, and, perhaps, with more truth, he might have said this in relation to the close, compared with the beginning, of the week. A morning begun without prayer, is usually followed by a day devoid of spiritual improvement and spiritual joy; or, as a writer has better expressed it: “ the pious feelings, the religious enjoyment through the day, will be according to the state of the heart in the morning; and can, therefore, be measured by our faithfulness in early secret prayer.”
Christian reader! are you rebuked by this example of your Lord? Receive it, I pray you, in the spirit of meekness, and profit by it. Your first, your last, your highest business, is to seek the glory of God in the fulfillment of duty. “ Seek first the kingdom of God." Do all for the glory of God.
And mark it, and remember it, as a truth, to which there is no exception—there never was, and never will be, to the end of time, an exception-no individual, and no family, were ever the poorer-none ever the less thriving, for being faithful to God in prayer.
There is one class of Christians, who, I fear, are particularly obnoxious to the charge of neglecting morning prayer : I mean those who reside in large cities, and who, through the forms and customs of society, keep so late hours, that, through midnight weariness and fatigue, they are compelled to trench greatly upon the hours of morning for needful rest; and, consequently, after rising, all is hurry and bustle, in preparation for the business of the day. Such Christians, I fear, make their visits to their closets, if they visit them at all, as short and ceremonious as are their fashionable calls upon their
acquaintances. “How different was the conduct of the Savior from such! He knew the value of the morning
hours; he rose, while the world was still; he saw, when the light spread abroad from the east, with fresh tokens of his Father's presence; and joined with the universal creation in offe praise to the every-where-present God.” The good rule to adopt, and practice upon, is that so beautifully expressed by the Psalmist, as versified by Watts :
Early, my God, without delay,
I haste to seek thy face;
Without thy cheering grace.
PRAYER FOR ENEMIES A DUTY.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them
that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.Matt. v. 44. (See also Luke vi. 28.)
THE Levitical law required the Israelites to love their neighbors as themselves. Lev. 19: 18. The inference drawn from it by the Jews was, that enemies might be hated; and this was a prevalent opinion among them in the time of Christ. It was, however, a perversion of the command, and Jesus here explains the spirit and intention of it. 66 Love for love,” says an old divine,“ is but justice and gratitude: love for no love is favor and kindness; but love for hatred is a most divine temper.” But this is the temper which Christianity inculcates, and which our Savior avers should show itself in loving, blessing, and praying for enemies.
But what is meant by love to an enemy, which leads one to bless and pray for him ? Am I bound, of course, to approve his conduct ? No; it is impossible to approve of that man's conduct, who, to gratify his selfish ambition, would crush a rival in the dust; or who, greedy of inordinate gain,
would reduce a fellow-being to a pallet of straw. By no moral principle, can such conduct be approved ; but his
person need not, must not be hated ; his soul must be loved, and his well-being pursued.
“ There are two kinds of love," observes a writer, “involving the same general feeling, or springing from the same fountain of good-will to all mankind; but differing still so far, as to admit of separation in idea. The one, is that feeling, by which we approve of the conduct of another, commonly called the love of complacency; the other, by which we wish well to the person of another, though we cannot approve his conduct. This is the love of benevolence; and this love we are to bear towards our enemies."
“It is impossible," continues the same writer, “to love the conduct of a man that curses and reviles us, and injures our person and property, or that violates the laws of God. But, though we may hate his conduct, and feel deeply that we are affected by it, yet we may still wish well to his person. We may pity his madness and folly; we may speak kindly of him, and to him; we may aid him in time of trial, and seek to do him good here, and promote his eternal welfare."
"Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." To use one despitefully, is wantonly and unjustly to accuse, or injure in any way. To persecute one, is to vex or oppress one on account of his religion. For such, the law of Jesus Christ is, to pray. And, as acceptable prayer can proceed only from a sincere and honest heart, the rule is, honestly and sincerely to desire God to forgive, favor, and bless those who may have injured us in any manner, or who have vexed or oppressed us on account of our religious faith and practice.
Such an exposition of the divine law went counter to the interpretation of the Jewish doctors ; such a sentiment is not to be found in all the profane writings of antiquity. Rules they had for the subjugation of the passions, and the endur
ance of the evils of life with fortitude. But the essence of these rules was stoical indifference: men were taught 10 have no feeling. But Christianity admits of deep feeling-a sense of insult and injury; but bids its professors triumph over it, and, at the same time, wish well, and do good, and pray for the person who injures. In the doctrine of the Stoics, there was nothing generous and compassive; in that of Christianity, there is all that is noble and disinterested.
“ Love your enemies,” says Jesus Christ; “bless” them“pray” for them—" that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
God does as he requires of man. Upon a world of sinners, who are perpetually in hostile attitude against him, and whose hatred would dethrone him, he sends the blessings of his providence and grace; they flow as wide as that world, and as incessantly as the minutes that roll.
I might here speak of the love and prayers of Jesus for his enemies—all in perfect accordance with his directions to mankind; but, reserving remarks on this subject for another place, let me conclude by putting the inquiry-Reader! have you the evidence which springs from love to, and prayer for, your enemies, of your adoption into the family of God? Nothing is more like God than a spirit of forgiveness. Nothing is more like Jesus Christ than prayer for enemies. “ He that can meet a man kindly who is seeking his hurt; who can speak well of one that is perpetually slandering and cursing him; that can pray for a man that abuses, injures, and wounds him; and that can seek heaven for him that wishes his damnation, is in the way of life. This is religion, beautiful as its native skies; pure, like its source; kind, like its Author; fresh, like the dews of the morning; clear and diffusive, like the beams of the rising sun; and holy, like the feelings and words that came from the bosoni