« 上一页继续 »
opportunities of benefitting them by his example and by friendly admonition, would be lost : yet great caution and watchfulness is necessary when in presence of the ungodly. They are ever watching with an eagle eye the deportment, and listening with the utmost care to the conversation of one who professes attachment to the cause of Christ; and where they discover any thing incorrect, they plead this precedent as an excuse for their wilful acts of impiety. The language of every christian should be that of the Psalmist, “ I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.”
Č. But do you imagine there is any thing wrong in visiting with our friends who are not hopefully pious, and passing an evening in cheerful conversation with them, although they may not profess religion?
F. P. Our estimate of what is morally wrong ought not always to be made from the intrinsic turpitude of the action, but from the effect it produces upon those with whom we associate, and the habit which it brings upon ourselves. Besides, many things which are not in themselves sinful, a christian ought to avoid, lest his conduct in reference to those things, should lead others who may be ignorant of his motives, or may be disposed to put an unfavourable construction upon it, to pursue a course leading directly into the grossest sins.
C. It appears to me you are drawing the reins rather hard, and do not allow that liberality of sentiment, which many at the present day claim as their privilege. There are many of my acquaintances, who are as pious christians as you will find, that do not hesitate, in the least, to join in parties of pleasure, and pass whole evenings in trifing conversation, without even introducing the subject of religion; and some there are, who provide for, and invite promiscuous assemblies at their houses. I suppose you would at once anathematize these, and strike them from your choice list of christian worthies ?
F. P. How it is, that a pious devout christian can thus devote his hours, without saying any thing for the cause which he professes to have nearest his heart, I confess myself unable to determine. That there are men who profess the temporizing worldly spirit of which you speak, I do not dispute ; but that an ardent christian, whose heart beats high with gratitude to the Saviour, who redeemed his soul from death; whose bosom glows with compassion for the perishing souls around him ; how such an one, can live in the course you mention, is, I confess, a mystery. I do not say such persons are not christians, but I do say, that they do not live near to God, that they do not feel the immense obligation resting upon them by the command of our Saviour, “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me ;" they do not live for the glory of God, and in such a manner as to review in a dying hour, with composure and satisfaction, the events of their life.
C. Really, Sir, you are quite warm on this subject : why, if you were in many circles of professing christians, and respectable peo
ple, and advance these opinions, you would be called “ methodistical.”
F. P. “ It is a very small thing that I should be judged of man's judgment." I am to answer for my conduct at another tribunal, wher the earth and the things that are therein shall have passed away; and did many of those “ professing christians” whom you mention, act with a more direct reference to this scene, I very much question whether they would long indulge in practices so inconsistent with scripture, so unlike the example of Christ.
C. But laying aside the consideration of one's own enjoyment, there are cases in which I am unable to decide what is my duty, in regard to associating with the world. If I am invited by a friend to be one of a social circle composed principally of professors of religion, and I have reason to expect the conversation will be of a serious nature; shall I decline the invitation, and thus offend my friend ? Or if, when I arrive there, I find the company is not what I anticipated, and the conversation is trifling ; shall I be so rude as to withdraw, or sit as a statue through the whole evening?
F. P. The case you mention is attended with some difficulty to the fashionable christian, who wishes to quiet his conscience and secure the approbation of the world ; but the humble follower of Christ, who would follow the example of bis Master through evil as well as through good report, will, I apprehend, be able to determine what is duty even in a case so doubtful as you consider this. In reference to almost every case of this nature there are circumstances which will make one of the courses appear more decidedly the path of duty than the other. If one side of the question appears doubtful, that is, if it is uncertain whether you can be instrumental of any good by going, and it is certain that you will do no injury by not going, then your duty is clear. Never take the doubtful side of the question, when either is certain.
C. But did not our Saviour accept of invitations like this which I have mentioned ?
F. P. True, he went among all classes, and at all seasons; but what was his design in going, and his conduct while there ? He came to the “ lost sheep of the house of Israel," and in every situation he aimed at the spiritual welfare of those to whom he was sent, and did not hesitate to reprove the conduct even of those who invited him. You cannot bring the subject to a better rule than this, “ What would Jesus Christ do in similar circumstances : How would be conduct ?" And that you may know his will, carry the subject to the throne of grace, and pray that he would “ guide you into the way of all truth." Let this be the practice of all christians, and we should find the line of distinction, between saints and impenitent sinners, drawn with more clearness and those who love the Lord Jesus, would take a more decided stand on the side of their Master, and would let their light so shine before an ungodly world, that all would take knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. Then would the children of God live as heirs of glory, and through the whole of their pilgrimage, would shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.
THE AGED SINNER CONVERTED.
IT was in the fall of the last year that I visited my friends, who reside near the banks of the Hudson, and at no great distance from the city from which that majestic river, justly esteemed the ornament and pride of a sister state, derives its name. The Hudson was well calculated to fill the soul with gratitude, and to inspire within the bosom of man a realizing sense of his dependance upon the goodness of God ; for the bounties of his Providence were profusely scattered over the wide bosom of nature, and the labours of the husbandınan were every where crowned with the most plentiful success. Yet, to the labourer in the vineyard of the Almighty, there was exhibited a harvest, that far exceeded the rich harvest of nature ; and to hin was addressed a still small voice,' as of the whisperings of the Spirit, that invited him to join the few, but faithful few, who laboured for the salvation of souls, and the advancement of the Redeemer's cause. Yes, plentiful were the effusions of the Spirit, and great indeed were the multitudes who seemed eager to make their calling and their election sure. But as a pilgrim, I was peculiarly interested in the situation of an aged man, who served as a ferryman across the waters of the Hudson. The frosts of three score years and ten had whitened the few remaining locks that still glistened upon his hoary head. But the substance of those years had been devoted to the vilest of pleasures, and he had now, on the verge of eternity, been brought to acknowledge the sovereignty of his Saviour and his God. He had followed the last remains of multitudes of his associates as they were borne before hiin to the cold and silent tomb, and only here and there could he now point you to a surviving companion of his early days. He had beheld the providences of his Maker as they were continually manifested in the works of creation around him, and had himself frequently met with the chastening dispensations of an offended God, for once he had those whom he could venture to call his owna tender wife and a circle of affectionate children. But all his hopes of happiness upon earth had long since been forever blighted; for he had consigned them one after another to an untimely grave. He indeed felt the rod, but had never been brought to kiss the hand that afflicted him, and in his heart to exclaim, “ though he slay me yet will I trust in hin: ;" for he knew not the Lord. He had often too, in his early life, sat teneath the droppings of the sanctuary, and listened to the exposition of the word of God, but he had listened merely to despise ; for, at that period of life, when he should have been alienated from the world and prepared to pass the waters of Jordon, he rejected his Master, and denied the existence of an approaching eternity. Yes, he trusted that his immortal Spirit would finally perish with his frail body in the grave; he believed in the dissolution of the soul. Such was once the character of this aged man-but now, how astonishing the contrast !-0! it could not but rejoice the heart of the believer in Jesus to behold this once vilest of men, so deeply, so completely humbled beneath the feet of that Saviour, whom he once delighted to despise. Ic could not but rejoice the heart of the believer in Jesus, to listen to the grateful accents of those lips, and to catch the holy effusions of that Spirit, which once was filled with blasphemy; and which once, like the spirit of Saul, breathed forth nothing but threatenings and slaughter against the people of the Lord.
Here then was a man, whose whole character in the highest degree exemplified the power and the grace of God, in his conversion. During the long space of seventy years he had lived, absolutely lived under the bondage of satan, held down by chains of the vilest degradation. But, just previous to the extinction of the last glimmering ray, that was to mark the termination of his mortal existence, and which, it was feared, would seal his soul over to eternal perdition, it pleased the Almighty to select him from among thousands, who were far better than himself, as a chosen vessel of his mercy. And he now stands, in the eves of the world, an astonishing evidence of the grace of Almighty God.
« A HAUGHTY SPIRIT BEFORE A FALL."**
NOTWITHSTANDING man has justly been described “2 creature of yesterday, knowing comparatively nothing,” and his reason, when properly exercised, always recognizes this description as truth; still there are many, who show, by their appearance and conduct, that they regard themselves in a very different light. There are not a few who would be thought of too much consequence to be looked upon as beings “ crushed before the moth ;" and who are oiten so obstinate in an erroneous opinion of themselves, that they seldom if ever know what they really are. In short they are proud. Although it would puzzle a candid observer, and even themselves, to describe the real cause and support of their pride, still, in spite of the perplexity of the question, they go forward, as if its foundation were perfectly secure, building thereon their visionary fabrics of grandeur and applause, and never dreaming that all is as liable to destruction as the bubble on the breeze. Their own good sense, though it may be scanty, might teach them the absurdity of being proud of any thing which they call their own. If bodily strength or personal beauty has fostered their passion, let them go to the beasts of the field, and to the birds and flowers of spring; and they cannut jut blush at the folly of thinking so highly of their own excellent qualities. Or, if they are elated in view of their great attainments in knowledge, certainly, if they know any thing, they must know, that their ignorance, compared with their knowledge, is beyond calculation the greater. For they are conscious that there is not an object of sense or thought about which questions cannot be immediately raised, to answer which the powers of man are wholly inadequate. If a fortunate concurrence of events has raised some one above his fellows, and thus made him the
* See frontispiece.
object of their applause and envy, still the question may be asked with propriety, what mighty deeds has he performed with which his pride and vanity have been so fully fed? If the world does look upon them as great and illustrious, are they such as required the exercise of any peculiarly eminent powers either of body or mind ? No; this great man himself must be convinced, if he reflects at all, that almost any other person, circumstanced as he was, would have done all that he has done. It is indeed strange, that when there are ten thousand things to make man humble, and few, if any, to foster his pride, humility should, notwithstanding, be the least prominent feature in his character.
But similar, and frequently allied to pride, is a haughty spirit, which, as the scripture declares, goeth before a fall, and which it was our intention to consider with reference to that declaration.
It is undoubtedly true that feelings of pride exist in a greater or less degree with all persons, even with those who have been most successful in vanquishing their spiritual foes; and that this spirit of haughtiness, is an imaginary being, daily observation presents us with too many instances of its reality to justify the belief. How often are we compelled to see one, who, if he converses with another, does it as if he belonged to a superior order of beings, who engages in the necessary concerns of life, as if his sphere of action was far above these ; who walks the earth as if it was too filthy for his steps, and who would show, by his discontent and uneasiness, that even this atmosphere is not his native element. If some should think this an overdrawn picture, it is nevertheless confidently affirmed that there are not a few, who carry with them many of its peculiar delineations; who recognize themselves only as eminences which diversify the otherwise dead level of the human race, who might be searched in vain for a discovery of any thing like genuine modest humility, and who disagree with all the world in the estimation of themselves. Are there not many whose vanity is continually inflated by a kind of complacency in their own worth, incompatible with that docility of mind which creatures ignorant as man, should always possess; and without which their progress in learning must be slow in the extreme! Do not the actions of many evince that they have not the meekness of the gospel, that they have never learned contrition of heart at the cross of Christ, and that self-abasement, the necessary attendant of true piety, is the object of their most cordial aversion ? Such there have been, and they were brought low; such there are, and they too will be abased.
This haughty spirit is inconsistent with the nature of man, and therefore it must end in destruction. It is indeed consistent with his depraved inclinations; but what is implied by the assertion, is, that it has no connection with his natural endownients. He, at best, is a weak, ignorant, and dying creature, wholly dependent on his creator for all that supports him in existence, and that ministers to his necessities and enjoyments. Nor can he be independent of his fellow beings. Their aid and sympathy and instruction he must have, or the spark of life will go out as soon as kindled, or, if it awhile survive, will only glimmer on the darkness of misery. And