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sin of attending places of diversion, would it not be better first to endeavour to excite in them that principle of Christianity with which such diversions seem not quite compatible; as the physician, who visits a patient in an eruptive fever, pays little attention to those spots which to the ignorant appear to be the disease, except, indeed, so far as they serve as indications to let him into its nature, but
goes straight to the root of the malady ? He attacks the fever, he lowers 'the pulse, he changes the system, he corrects the general habit; well knowing that if he can but restore the vital principle of health, the spots, which were nothing but symptoms, will die away of themselves.
In instructing others, we should imitate our Lord and his apostles, and not always aim our blow at each particular corruption; but should make it our business to convince our pupil that what brings forth the evil fruit she exhibits cannot be a branch of the true vine; we should thus avail ourselves of individual corruptions, for impressing her with a sense of the necessity of purifying the common source from which they flow a corrupt nature. Thus making it our grand business to rectify the heart, we pursue the true, the compendious, the only method of producing universal holiness.
I would, however, take leave of those amiable and not ill-disposed young persons, who complain of the rigour of human prohibitions, and declare, 6 they meet with no such strictness in the Gospel,” by asking them, with the most affectionate earnest
» if they
ness, if they can conscientiously reconcile their nightly attendance at every public place which they frequent, with such precepts as the following: “ Redeeming the time:" -- “ Watch and pray:”
—“ Watch, for ye know not at what time your Lord cometh: 66 Abstain from all appearance of evil:” —"Set your affections on things above:” - “ Be ye spiritually minded:” — “ Crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts?" And I would venture to offer one criterion, by which the persons in question may be enabled to decide on the positive innocence and safety of such diversions ; I mean, provided they are sincere in their scrutiny, and honest in their avowal. If, on their return at night from those places, they find they can retire
commune with their own hearts; find the love of God operating with undiminished force on their minds; if they can “ bring every thought into subjection;" if they can subdue every wandering imagination; if they can soberly examine into their own state of mind :
I do not say if they can do all this perfectly and without distraction; (for who almost can do this at any time?) but if they can do it with the same degree of seriousness, pray with the same degree of fervour, and renounce the world in as great a measure as at other times; and if they can lie down with a peaceful consciousness of having avoided in the evening 6 that temptation ” which they had prayed not to be “ led into” in the morning, they may then more reasonably hope that all is well, and that they are not speaking false peace to their hearts. But if we cannot beg the blessing of our Maker on whatever we are going to do or to enjoy, and afterwards praise Him for the enjoyment, is it not an unequivocal proof that the thing ought not to be done or enjoyed ? On all the rational gratifications of society, on all healthful and temperate exercise, on the delights of friendship, arts, and polished letters, on the exquisite pleasures resulting from the enjoyment of rural scenery, and the beauties of nature;- on the innocent participation of these we may ask the Divine favour – for the sober enjoyment of these we may thank the Divine beneficence: but do we feel equally disposed to invoke blessings or return praises for gratifications found (to say no worse) in levity, in vanity, and waste of time? If these tests were fairly used; if these experiments were honestly tried; if these examinations were conscientiously made, may we not, without offence, presume to ask,
Could our numerous places of public resort, could our ever-multiplying scenes of more select but not less dangerous diversion, nightly overflow with an excess hitherto unparalleled in the annals of pleasure ?
* If I might presume to recommend a book which of all others exposes the insignificance, vanity, littleness, and emptiness of the world, I should not hesitate to name Mr. Law's “ Serious Call to a devout and holy Life.” Few writers, except Pascal, have directed so much acuteness of reasoning and so much pointed wit to this object. He not only makes the reader afraid of a worldly life on account of its sinfulness, but ashamed of it on account of its folly. Few men, perhaps,
have had a deeper insight into the human heart, or have more skilfully probed its corruptions; yet on points of doctrine his views do not seem to be just, and his disquisitions are often unsound and fanciful; so that a general perusal of his works would neither be profitable or intelligible. To a fashionable woman immersed in the vanities of life, or to a busy man overwhelmed with its cares, I know no book so applicable, or likely to exhibit with equal force the vanity of the shadows they are pursuing. But, even in this work, Law is not a safe guide to evangelical light; and, in many of his others, he is highly visionary and whimsical; and I have known some excellent persons who were first led by this admirable genius to see the wants of their own hearts, and the utter insufficiency of the world to fill up the craving void, who, though they became eminent for piety and self-denial, have had their usefulness abridged, and whose minds have contracted something of a monastic severity by an unqualified perusal of Mr. Law. True Christianity does not call on us to starve our bodies, but our corruptions. As the mortified apostle of the holy and self-denying Baptist, preaching repentance because the kingdom of heaven is at hand, Mr. Law has no superior, As a 'preacher of salvation on scriptural grounds, I would follow other guides.
Α Α 4
A WORLDLY SPIRIT INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE
SPIRIT OF CHRISTIANITY.
Is it not whimsical to hear such complaints against the strictness of religion as we are frequently hearing, from beings who are voluntarily pursuing, as has been shown in the preceding chapters, a course of life which fashion makes infinitely
How really burdensome would Christianity be if she enjoined such sedulous application, such unremitting labours, such a succession of fatigues! If religion commanded such hardships and self-denial, such days of hurry, such evenings of exertion, such nights of broken rest, such perpetual sacrifices of quiet, such exile from family delights, as Fashion imposes, then, indeed, the service of Christianity would no longer merit its present appellation of being a “ reasonable service;" then the name of perfect slavery might be justly applied to that which we are told in the beautiful language of our Church is “a service of perfect freedom;” a service, the great object of which is “ to deliver us from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
A worldly temper, by which I mean a disposition to prefer worldly pleasures, worldly satisfactions, and