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sonable allusion to serious subjects; a caution for its own guidance, even by conscience requiring the nicest judgment and discrimi-Jitself. nation, most particularly where he felt the Certainly much allowance, perhaps resentiments or the zeal of his company to be spect, is due in cases of very doubtful decinot congenial with his own. This would be sion, to those fcelings which, after the utthe spirit of the prudent mariner, who does most self regulation of mind, are found to be not even approach his native shore without irresistible. And certainly the habits and carefully watching the winds, and sounding modes of address attached to refined society, the channels; knowing well that a tempo- are such as to place personal observations rary delay, even on an unfriendly element, on a very different footing to that on which is preferable to a hasty landing his compa- they stand by nature. A frown, even a cold ny, on shore indeed, but upon the point of a and disapproving look, may be a reception rock.
which the profane expression or loose action Happily for our present purpose, the days of a neighbour' of rank and opulence, may we live in, afford circumstances both of have never before encountered from his flatforeign and domestic occurrence, of every terers or convivial coinpanions. A vehepossible variety of colour and connection, soment censure in his case might inflame his as to leave scarcely any mind unfurnished resentment without amending his fault, with a store of progressive remarks by Whether the attempt be to correct a vice or which the most instructive truths may be rectify an error, one object should ever be approached through the most obvious to- steadily kept in view—to conciliate rather pics. And a prudent mind will study to than to contend, to inform but not to insult, make its approaches to such an ultimate ob- to evince that we assume, not the character ject, progressive; it will know also where of a dictator, but the office of a Christian to stop, ratherindeed out of regard to others friend ; that we have the best interests of than to itselt. And in the manly avowal of the offender, and the honour of religion at its sentiments, avoiding as well what is cant-heart, and that to reprove is so far from a ing in utterance as technical in language, it gratification, that it is a trial to ourselves, will make them at once appear not the the effort of conscience, not the effect of ebullution of an ill educated imagination, choice. but the result of a long exercised under- The feclings, therefore, of the person to standing.
be admonished should be most scrupulously Nothing will be more likely to attract at- consulted. The admonition, if necessarily tention or secure respect to your remarks, strong, explicit and personal, should yet be than the good taste in which they are de- friendly, temperate, and well bred. An oflivered. On common topics, we reckon fence, even though publicly committed, is him the most elegant speaker whose pro- generally best reproved, in private, perhaps nunciation and accent are so free from all in writing. Age, superiority of station, prepeculiarities, that it cannot be determined vious acquaintance, above all, that sacred to what place heowes his birth. A polished profession to which the honour of religion is critic of Rome accuses one of the finest of happily made a personal concern, are cirher historians of provinciality. This is a cumstances which especially call for, and fault obvious to less enlightened critics, sanction the attempt recommended. And since the Attic herb-woman could detect he must surely be unworthy his Christian the provincial dialect of a great philosopher. vocation, who would not conscientiously use Why must religion have her Patavinity? Jany influence or authority which he might Why must the Christian adopt the quaint-chance to possess, in discountenancing or ness of a party, or a scholar the idiom of rectifying the delinquency he condemns. the illiterate? Why should a valuable truth! We are, indeed, as elsewhere, after the be combined with a vulgar or fanatical ex- closest reflection and longest discussion often pression ? If either would offend when se-forced into the general conclusion, that a parate, how inevitably must they disgust good heart is the best casuist.'-And doubtwhen the one is mistakingly intended to set less where true Christian benevolence tooff the other. Surely this is not enchasing wards man meets in the same mind with an our apples of gold in pictures of silver,' honest zeal for the glory of God, a way will
We must not close this part of our sub- be found, let us rather say will be opened, ject without alluding to another, and still for the right exercise of this, as of every virmore delicate introduction of religion, in the tuous disposition. way of reproof. Here is indeed a point in Let us ever remember what we have so religious conduct to which we feel it a bold- often insisted on, that self-denial is the ness to make any reference at all. Bold in- ground work, the indispensable requisite for deed, is that casuist, who would lay down every Christian virtue; that without the general rules on a subject where the consci- habitual exercise of this principle, we shall ences of men seem to differ so widely from never be followers of him 'who pleased not each other: and feeble too often will be its himself.' And when we are called by conjustest rules, where the feelings of timidity science to the largest use of it in practice, or delicacy rush in with a force which we must arm ourselves with the highest sweeps down many a land-mark erected / considerations for the trial; we must consi
der him, who (through his faithful reproofs) |ence becomes general, that all religious men
endured the contradiction of sinners against are equally unsound or equally deluded, onhimself.' And when even from Moses we ly that some are more prudent, or more forhear the truly evangelical precept, thou tunate, or greater hypocrites than others. shalt in any wise rebuke thy brother, and After the falling away of one promising chanot suffer sin upon him ;' we must duly racter, the old suspicion recurs and is conweigh how strongly its performance is en-firmed, and the detection of others pronounforced upon ourselves, by the conduct of ced to be infallible. one greater than Moses, who expressly 'suf-! There secms to be this marked distincfered for us, leaving us an example that we tions in the different opinions which religious should follow his footsteps.
and worldly men entertain respecting hųman corruption. The candid Christian is contented to believe it, as an indisputable
general truth, while he is backward to susCHAP. XVI.
pect the wickedness of the individual, nor
does he allow himself to give full credit to Christian Watchfulness.
particular instances without proof. The
man of the world, on the contrary, who deOf all the motives to vigilance and self- nies the general principle is extremely prone discipline which Christianity presents, there to suspect the individual : Thus his knowis not one more powerful than the danger, ledge of mankind not only furnishes a proof, from which even religious persons are not but outstrips the truth of the doctrine : exempt, of slackening in zeal and declining though he denies it as a proposition of Scripin piety. Would we could affirm, that cold-ture, he is eager to establish it as a fact of ness in religion is confined to the irreligious! experiment. If it be melancholy to observe an absence of But the probability is, that the man by his Christianity where no profession of it was departure from the principles with which ever made, it is far more grievous to mark he appeared to set out, so much gratifies its declension, where it once appeared not the thoughtless, and grieves the serious only to exist, but to flourish. We feel on mind, never was a sound and genuine Chris the comparison, the same distinct sort of tian, His religion was perhaps taken up compassion with which we contemplate the on some accidental circumstance, built ou pecuniary distresses of those who have been some false ground, produced by some evaalways indigent, and of those who have fal- nescent cause; and though it cannot be fairlen into want from a state of opulence. Our ly pronounced that he intended by his for concern differs not only in degree but in ward profession and prominent zeal, to dekind.
ceive others, it is probable that he himself This declension is one of the most awa- was deceived. Perhaps he had made ico kening calls to watchfulness, to humility and sure of himself. His early profession was self-inspection, which religion can make to probably rather bold and ostentatious; he him who thinketh he standeth ;' which it had imprudently fixed his stand on ground can make to him who, sensible of his own so high as to be not easily tenable, and from weakness, ought to feel the necessity of which a descent would be but too observastrengthening the things which remain that ble. While he thought he never could be are ready to die.'
too secure of his own strength, he allowed If there is not any one circumstance which himself to be too censorious on the informi ought more to alarm and quicken the Chris-ties of others, especially of those whom he tian, than that of finding himself grow lan- had apparently outstripped, and who, guid and indifferent, after having made not though they had started together, he had only a profession but a progress, so there is left behind him in the race. not a more reasonable motive of triumph to Might it not be a safer course, if in the the profane, not one cause which excites in outset of the Christian life, a modest and him a more plausible ground of suspicion, self-distrusting humility were to in pose a either that there never was any truth in the temporary restraint on the forwardness of profession of the person in question, or which outward profession? A little knowledge of is a more fatal, and, to such a mind, a more the human heart, a little suspicion of the natural conclusion—that there is no truth in deceitfulness of his own, would not only religion itself. At best, he will be persua- moderate the intemperance of an ill-underded that this can only be a faint and feeble stood zeal, should the warm convert be principle, the impulse of which is so soon come an established Christian, but would exhausted, and which is by no means found save the credit of religion, which will resufficiently powerful to carry on its votary ceive a fresh wound, in the possible event of throughout his course. He is assured that his desertion from her standard. piety is only an outer garment, put on for Some of the most distinguished Christians show or convenience, and that when it in this country began their religious carrer ceases to be wanted for either it is laid aside, with this graceful humility. They would In these unhappy instances the evil seldom not suffer their change of character, and ceases with him who causes it. The infer-Itheir adoption of new principles, and a new course to be blazoned abroad, as the affec-grown affluent. Or it might be assumed as tionate zeal of their confidential friends something wanting to his recommendation would have advised, till the principles they to that party or project by which he wished had adopted were established, and worked to make his way; as something that would iuto habits of piety ; till time and experi-beiter enable him to carry certain points ence had evinced that the grace of God had which he had in view ; something that, with not been bestowed on them in vain. Their the new acquaintance he wished to cultivate, progress proved to be such as might have might obliterate certain defects, in his forbeen inferred from the modesty of their out-mer conduct, and white-wash a somewhat set. They have gone on with a perseve- sullied reputation. rance which difficulties have only contribu-l. Or in his now more independent situation, ted to strengthen, and experience to con- it may be he is surrounded by temptations, firm; and will, through divine aid, doubtless softened by blandishments, allured by pleago on, shining more and more unto the per sures, which he never expected would arise fect day.
to weaken his resolutions. These new enBut to return to the less steady convert, chantments make it not so easy to be pious, Perhaps religion was only, as we have hint as when he had little to lose and every thing ed elsewhere, one pursuit among many to desire, as when the world wore a frownwhich he had taken up when other pursuits ing, and religion an inviting aspect. Or he failed, and which he now lays down because, is perhaps by the vicissitudes of life, transhis faith not being rooted and grounded, ferred from a sober and humble society, fails also ;-or the temptation arising from where to be religious was honourable, to a without might concur with the failure with-more fashionable set of associates, where, in. If vanity be his infirmity, he will shrink as the disclosure of his piety would add nofrom the pointed disapprobation of his supe- thing to his credit, he set out with tariors. If the love of novelty be his besetting king pains to conceal it, till it has fallen inweakness, the very peculiarity and strict to that gradual oblivion, which is the naness of religion, the very marked cleparture tural consequence of its being kept out of from the 'gay and primrose path' in which sight. he had before been accustomed to walk, But we proceed to a far more interesting which first attracted, now repels him. The and important character. The one indeed attention which his early deviation from the whom we have been slightly sketching, may manners of the world drew upon him, and by his inconstancy do much harm; the one which once flattered, now disgusts him. on whiclı we are about to animadvert, might The very opposition which once animated, by his consistency and perseverance effect now cools him. He is discouraged at the essential good. Even the sincere, and to all near view, subdued by the required practice, appearance, the established Christian, espeof that Christian self-denial which, as a specially if his situation in life be easy, and his culation, had appeared so delightful. Per-course smooth and prosperous, lad need haps his fancy had been fired by some act of keep a vigilant eye upon his own heart. For Christian heroism, which he felt an ambi- such a one it will not be sufficient that he tion to imitate : a feeling which tales of mar-keep his ground if he do not advance in it, tial prowess, or deeds of chivalry, some- Indeed it will be a sure proof that he has gone thing that, promising celebrity and exciting back, if he has not advanced. emulation, had often kindled before. The In a world so beset with snares, various truth is, religion had only taken hold of his are the causes which may possibly occasion imagination, his heart had been left out of in even good men a slow but certain decline the question.
in piety. A decline scarcely perceptible at Or he had in the twilight of his first first, but which becomes more visible in its awakening, seen religion only as something subsequent stages. When therefore we susto be believed; he now finds that much is to pect our hearts of any declension in piety, be done in the new life, and much which we should not compare ourselves with what was habitual to the old one left undone, we were in the preceding week or month, Above all, he did not reckon on the consis- but what we were at the supposed height of TENCY which the Christian life demands. our character. Though the alteration was Warm affections rendered the practice of not perceptible in its gradual progress, one some right actions easy to him ; but he did shade melting into the next, and each losing not include in his faulty and imperfect its distinctness, yet when the two remote scheme, the self-denial, the perseverance, states are brought into contrast, the change the renouncing of his own will and his own will be strikingly obvious. way, the evil report as well as the good re- Among other causes, may be assigned the port, to which every man pledges himself, indiscreet forming of some worldly connexwhen he enlists under the banner of Christ, ion, especially that of marriage. In this conThe cross which it was easy to venerate, he nexion, for union it cannot be called, it is to finds it hard to bear.
be lamented that the irreligious more freOr religion might be adopted when he was quently draw away the religious to their in affliction, and he is now happy :-when side, than that the contrary takes place; a he was in bad circumstances, and he is now circumstance easily accounted for by those
who are at all acquainted with the human practice. He may gradually lose some
what of the dignity of his professional, Or the sincere but incautious Christian and of the sobriety of the Christian characmay be led by a strong affection which as- ter. He may be brought to forfeit the insumes the shape of virtue, into a fond desire dependence of his mind; and in order to of establishing his children advantageously magnify his fortune, may neglect to magniin the world, into methods which if not ab- fy his office, solutely incorrect, are yet ambiguous at the Even here, from an increasing remissness best. In order to raise those whom he loves in self-examination, he may deceive himto a station above their level, he may be self by persisting to believe-for the films tempted, while self-deceit will teach him to are now growing thick over his spiritual sanctify the deed by the motive, to make sight-that his motives are defensible, some little sacrifices of principle, some little Were not his discernment labouring under abatements of that strict rectitude, for which a temporary blindness, he would reprobate in the abstract, no man would more strenu- the character which interested views have ously contend. And as it may be in general insensibly drawn him in to act. He would observed, that the most amiable minds are be as much astonished to be told that his most susceptible of the strongest natural af character was beconie his own, as was the fections ; of course the very tenderness of royal offender, when the righteous boldness the heart lays such characters peculiarly of the prophet pronounced the heart-appailopen to a danger, to which the unfeeling and ing words, • Thou art the man. the obdurate are less exposed.
Still he continues to flatter himself that · If the person in question be of the sacred the reason of his diminished opposition to order, no small danger may arise from his the faults of his friend, is not because he has living under the eye of an irreligious, but a more lucrative situation in view, but berich and bountiful patron. It is his duty to cause he may, by a slight temporary conmake religion appear amiable in his eyes. - cession, and a short suspension of a severity He ought to conciliate his good will by every which he begins to fancy he has carried too means which rectitude can sanction. But far, secure for his future life a more exterithough his very piety will stimulate his dis- sive field of usefulness, in the benefice which cretion in the adoption of those means, he is hanging over his head. will take care never to let his discretion in- In the mean time hope and expectation trench on his integrity.
so fill his mind, that he insensibly grows If he be under obligations to him, he may cold in the prosecution of his positive duties, be in danger of testifying his gratitude, and He begins to lament that in his present situfurthering his hopes by some electioneer-ation he can make but few converts, that he ing mancuvres, and by too much election- sees but small effects of his labours, not pereering society. He may, unawares beceiving that God may have withdrawn his tempted to too much conformity to his blessing from a ministry, which is exercised friend's habits, too much conviviality in his on such questionable grounds. With his society. And when he witnesseth so much new expectations he continues to blend his kindness and urbanity in his manners, pos- old ideas. He teasts his imagination with sibly so much usefulness and benevolence in the prospect of a more fruitful harvest on his life, he may be even temipted to suspect an unknown, and perhaps an unbroken sol that he himself may be wrong; to accuse -as if human nature were not pretty much himself of being somewhat churlish in his the same every where ; as if the labourer own temper, a little too austere in his lia- were accountable for the abundance of his bits, and rather hard in his judgment of a crop, and not solely for his own assiduity; as man so amiable. He will be still more like-if actual duty, faithfully performed, even in ly to fall into this error if he expects a fa- this circumscribed sphere in which God vour than it he has obtained it ; for though has cast our lot, is not more acceptable to it is not greatly to the honour of human na- him, than theories of the most extensive ture, we daily' see how much kecner are the good, than distant speculations and improfeelings which are excited by hope than bable projects, for the benefit even of a those which are raised by gratitude. The whole district; while, in the indulgence of favour which has been already conferred, these airy schemes, our own specific and apexcites a temperate, that which we are pointed work lies neglected, or is performied looking for, a fervid feeling.
without energy and without attention. These relaxing feelings and these soften- Self-love so naturally infatuates the judged dispositions, aided by the seducing luxu- ment, that it is no paradox to assert that we ry of the table, and the bewitching splen- look too far, and yet do not look far enoughi. dour of the apartment; by the soft accom- We look too far when passing over the acmodations which opulence exhibits; and tual duties of the immediate scene, we form the desires which they are too apt to awa- long connected trains of future projects, and ken in the dependant, may, not impossibly, indulge our thoughts in such as are must relead y degrees to a criminal timidity in mote, and perhaps least probable. And we main ining the purity of his own princi- do not look far enough when the prospective plus, il supporting the strictness of his own mind does not shoot beyond all these little
carthly distances, to that state, falsely call- the test of truth-'A great cause of comed remote, whither all onl' steps are not the misseration truly, to be transferred from a less tending, because our eyes are confined starving curacy to a plentiful benefice, or to the home scenes. But while the preca- from the vulgar society of a country parishi, T'iousness of our duration ought to set limits to be a stalled theologian in an opulent to our designs, it should furnish incitements town!' to our application Distant projects are too We are far from estimating at a low rate apt to slacken present industry ; while the the exchange from a state of uncertainty to magnitude of schemes, probably impracti- a state of independence, from a life of penucable, may render our actual exertions cold ry to comfort, or from a barely decent to an and slugglish.
affluent provision.-But does the ironical reLet it be observed that we would be the marker rate the feelings and affections of last to censure any of those fair and honour- the heart at nothing? If he insists that moable means of improving his condition which ney is that chief good of which ancient phievery man, be he worldly or religious, owes losophy says so much, we beg leave to insist to himself, and to his family, Saints as well that it is not the only good. We are above as sinners have in common, what a great the affectation of pretending to condole with genius calls, certain inconvenient appetites any man on his exaltation, but there are of eating and drinking;' which while we are feelings which a man of acute sensibility, in the body must be complied with. It would rendered more acute by an elegant educabe a great hardship on good men, to be de- tion, values more intimately than silver or nied any innocent means of fair gratifica- gold. tion. It would be a peculiar injustice that Is it absolutely nothing to resign his local the most diligent labourer should be esteem- comforts, to break up his local attachments, ed the least worthy of his hire, the least fit to have new connexions to form, and that to rise in his profession,
frequently at an advanced period of life? The more serious clergyman has also the Connexions, perhaps less valuable than same warm affection for his children with those he is quitting? Is it nothing for a faithhis less scrupulous brother, and consequent- ful minister to be separated from an affecly the same laudable desire for their com- tionate people, a people not only whose fortable establishment; only in his plans for friendship, but whose progress has constitutheir advancement he should neither en- ted his happiness here, as it will make his tertain ambitious views nor prosecute any joy and crown of rejoicing hereafter? views, even the best, by methods not con- Men of delicate minds estimate things by sonant to the strictness of his avowed prin-their affections as well as by their circumciples. Professing to seek first the king-stances : to a man of a certain cast of chadom of God and his righteousness,' he racter, a change however advantageous, ought to be more exempt from an over may be rather an exile than a promotion, anxious solicitude than those who profess it While he gratefully accepts the good, he less zealously. Avowing a more determin- receives it with an edifying acknowledged confidence that all other things will, as ment of the imperfection of the best human far as they are absolutely necessary, be things. These considerations we confess add added unto him, he should, as it is obvious the additional feelings of kindness to their he commonly does, manifest practically, a persons, and of sympathy with their vicissimore implicit trust, confiding in the gracious tudes, to our respect and veneration for their and cheering promise, that promise ex- holy office. pressed both negatively and positively, as it To themselves, however, the precarious
God who is both his light and defence, who tive emblem of the uncertain condition of will give grace and worship, will also with-human life, of the transitory nature of the hold no good thing from them that live a world itself. Their liableness to a sudden godly life.'
| removal, gives them the advantage of being It is one of the trials of faith appended to more especially reminded of the necessity the sacred Office, that its ministers, like the and duty of keeping in a continual posture father of the faithful, are liable to go out, of preparation, having 'their loins girded, 'not knowing whither they go ;' and this not their shoes on their feet, and their staff in only at their first entrance into their profes- their hand.' They have also the same pro- i sion, but through life; an inconvenience to mises which supported the Israelites in the which no other profession is necessarily lia- desert.-The same assurance which cheerble; a trial which is not perhaps fairly esti- ed Abraham, may still cheer the true sermated,
vants of God under all difficulties.- Fear This remark will naturally raise a laugh not-I am thy shield and thy exceeding among those who at once hold the function great reward." in contempt, deride its ministers, and thinkBut there are perils on the right hand and their well-earned remuneration lavishly and on the left. It is not among the least, that even unnecessarily bestowed. They will I though a pious clergyman may at first have probably exclaim with as much compla- tasted with trembling caution of the delicious cency in their ridicule, as if it were really cup of applause, he may gradually grow, as