« السابقةمتابعة »
edgement of the mystery of God, even of the Father, and of Christ.
Intimately acquainted with the duty of searching the scriptures, is that of maintaining the spirit of prayer. In vain do we otherwise hope to preserve the life of religion. With our knowledge we may please and edify others; but all must be cold and dark within. Backslidings from the ways of God usually begin in the careless performance of closet devotion; and, our spiritual prosperity may be judged of by our regard or aversion to private prayer. Be advised then, my dear fellow traveller, often to retire for the purpose of enjoying sweet fellowship with your heav enly Father. Fear not that he will refuse to manifest him. self unto you. Remember his promise, Before they call, I will answer; and whilst they are yet speaking, I will hear. All the delights of the sons of men are no compensation for the loss of even one moment's real fellowship with God. Blessed are they who know the joyful sound; They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. Certainly, they bid fairest to attain the highest degrees of spiritual delight and improvement, who are men of prayer and devotion. Let not any thing, then, hinder you from this high enjoyment; and endeavor to acquire a habit of lifting up your soul to God by pious ejaculations. Thus you shall go on your way rejoicing.
But, while I urge the propriety of conscientiously observing secret duties, public ordinances are no less useful and necessary. They have a mutual influence on each other. A lover of Christ loves also his tabernacles. soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord.
Young Christians, however, seldom need to be urged upon this head. It is more reasonable to remind them, that they must be careful of the spirit in which they attend ordinances. From my own feeling, and that of many others, I would humbly warn you, my dear reader, to beware of placing too much confidence in means. Your soul will flourish under the gospel in proportion as you attend simply upon the Lord himself. Sitting thus at the feet of Jesus,and receiving the truth from his mouth, it will ever be new, savoury, and refreshing to you. Sensible that the richest variety of means are ineffectual in themselves, you will look to Jesus for his presence and blessing. Thus ordinances become wells of salvation and pastures where our souls are nourished. Very different, however, must be the effects of that carnal manner of observing divine institutions, with which many are contented. Higher de grees of speculative knowledge they may attain indeed, but must remain strangers to its vital power and influence. Their ignorant admiration of men will probably be succeeded by disaffection and disgust; and their apparent love of ordinances converted into contempt, even into the form of godliness; so dangerous is it to rest satisfied with the means without enjoying the power of religion!
Sometimes you are perplexed, as is usual with young converts, with the many distinctions, which maintain among professing Christians. Let not this, however, in the smallest degree discourage you. You will soon learn, that a perfect agreement in lesser external matters, is incompatible with our present imperfect state. When our knowledge of the word of God is enlarged, you will discern no such differences among real Christians, as at first you imagined. Only be patient, humble, and teachable, and
God will guide you through every difficulty. You shall be directed to associate with that body of his people, where he hath determined to prepare you for glory; and shall, I trust, enjoy so much of the Spirit of Christ, as will deter. mine you to love his members, however they may be dis tinguished from each other by names or parties.
Unexperienced, as you still must be, in the ways of Providence, permit me to suggest a few thoughts on that delightful subject. Settle it as an indubitable maxim, that the Lord hath appointed all your steps through this wilder. ness; and that it is, therefore your duty simply to follow him as he is pleased to lead you. Perhaps, in nothing does the true spirit of Christianity discover itself more evidently than in this. We are naturally selfwilled and hasty. Grace, as it gains the ascendency, subdues this propensity. Tired by numberless disappointments, the fruit of our un warrantable frowardness, we at length become willing to submit ourselves implicitly to divine wisdom. My young reader, I hope, hath taken the Lord as his guide, and given himself up to his direction. O, let the reality of your hav ing done so, appear in your whole deportment! Pray that the Lord may check the impetuosity of your temper, and make you able to distrust yourself. However men, wise in their own conceits, may judge, such a frame of spirit is an inestimable blessing. If you acknowledge the Lord in all your ways, you discover the truest wisdom, and shall undoubtedly find that he directeth your steps. Follow this plan, especially when proposing any change in your lot, and you shall not be suffered to stumble. Let all your affairs be conducted by prayer, and by laying yourself ope to the direction of God in his word. Comforts enjoyed in this way acquire a double relish; and, even crosses and
difficulties are comparatively easy and pleasant. Thus you shall advance in solid religion. Freed from much pain and anxiety, you will possess your soulin patience, satisfied in the Lord, as the portion of your inheritance, and the maintainer of your lot.
With regard to your social intercourse, let your conduct be marked by modesty and meekness. How essential are these graces in the Christian character, and how comely when eminently possessed by a young Christian! The Spirit of Jesus is inconsistent with every appearance of supercilious or conceited behavior. Humility and self. denial, notwithstanding the highest increase in knowledge and gifts, are its leading features. What pity when young Christians give occasion for such reflections as these: "He seems to be zealous and lively, and his conduct is, upon the whole, changed; but, there is something so imprudent and offensive in his manner, that it always pains me to observe him." Far be it from me to discourage honest zeal and affection; nor do I expect to find in a babe what I look for in a young man, or in a father; I only wish to give the friendly hint, and hope it will be seriously attended to. Every species of self-seeking is below the dignity of a Christian. Nothing tends more directly to offend our brethren, or to mar our own comfort, than this base corruption. If we walk as in the sight of God, we shall be afraid of yielding to it, even in the most se
I hope you are concerned to maintain the utmost integ. rity of character. Simplicity and godly sincerity are the peculiar ornaments of Christianity. Dissimulation of any kind is a flat contradiction to the profession of the gospel. The smallest departure from strict veracity must wound
your conscience, and detract from your respectability. Above all, it brings a reproach upon that worthy name by which you are called. In this matter, the eye of the world is particularly watchful; and every failure is urged as an argument against the truth. Any thing gained by dissim ulation, is a poor recompense, indeed, for what is lost by it. Fair and open uprightness of conduct recommends our profession as amiable and inviting. If we behave otherwise, we belie the truth.
What has been said on the necessity of maintaining the spirit of religion, is, by no means, intended to slacken your attention to your occupation. This were to exhibit a very limited view of our holy profession. That we serve the Lord Christ by diligence in business, as well as by fervency of spirit, is a comfortable reflection. Be it your study to act consistently in both. Negligence in either marks an unfinished character. He is the most advanced Christian, who approves himself faithful in whatever Providence calls him to do; and, it is a noble testimony to religion, when his neighbors are forced to acknowledge, that now he acts with a propriety and regularity to which he was formerly a stranger. Your affections, my dear young friend, are now warm and lively in divine things, and satan may tempt you to slight relative duties. Be not ignorant, however, of this device. Your lawful business is an important part of your religion. If you neglect it, you re proach your profession, and open the mouths of the profane. Regular habits of industry are beneficial to soul and body.
These hints are thrown out on the supposition that you are acquainted, in some measure, with the nature of living VOL. I.