Imágenes de páginas

on the duties of piety, written expressly for their use. The time is coming, when we shall look back upon all our privileges with sad reflections at the recollection of those which we have not improved: and it is sad for me to think, that many of those who shall have read these pages will, in a future and perhaps a very distant day, look upon me as the innocent means of aggravating their sufferings, by having assisted to bring them light, which they nevertheless would not regard. This unpleasant part of my responsibility I must necessarily assume. I share it with every one who endeavours to lay before men the principles of duty, and the inducements to the performance of it. He who enlightens the path of piety, promotes the happiness of those who are persuaded to walk in it; but he is the innocent means of adding to the guilt and misery of such as will still turn away. To one class of persons, says Paul, we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other, the savour of life unto life."


It is not merely to those who absolutely neglect or refuse to do their duty to God, that the ill consequences of having neglected their privileges and means of improvement will accrue: these consequences will be just as sure to those who partially neglect them. I will suppose that a young person, whose heart is in some degree renewed, and who has begun to live to God, hears of this book, and procures it to read. She feels desirous of cultivating Christian principles; and she sits down to her work with a sincere desire to derive spiritual benefit from the instructions. She does not run over the pages, choosing out the stories, for the sake of the interest of the narrative, and neglecting all the applications of them to the purposes of instruction; but she inquires, when a fact or an illustration is introduced, for what purpose it is used-what moral lesson it is intended to teach-and

how she can learn from it something to guide her in the discharge of duty. She goes on in this manner through the book, and generally understands its truths and the principles it inculcates: but she does not cordially and in full earnest engage in the practice of them. For example, she reads the chapter On Confession, and understands what I mean by full confession of all sins to God; and forms the vague and indefinite resolution to confess her sins more minutely than she has done; but she does not, in the spirit of that chapter, explore fully all her heart, and scrutinise with an impartial eye all her conduct, that every thing which is wrong may be brought to light, and frankly confessed and abandoned. She does not, in a word, make a serious and an earnest business of confessing and forsaking all sin.

In another case, a young man who is perhaps sincerely a Christian, though the influence of Christian principle is yet weak in his heart, reads that portion of the work which relates to the Sabbath. He knows that his Sabbaths have not been spent in so pleasant or profitable a manner as they might be; and he sees that the principles pointed out there would guide him to duty and to happiness on that day, if he would faithfully and perseveringly apply them to his own case. He accordingly

makes a feeble resolution to do it. The first Sabbath after he reads the chapter, his resolutions are partially kept but he gradually neglects them, and returns to his former state of inaction and spiritual torpor on God's holy day. Perhaps I express myself too strongly in speaking of inaction and torpor as being a possible state of mind for a Christian on the Sabbath; but it must be admitted, that many approach far too near to it.

Now, there is no question that many Young Christians will read this book in the manner I have above described; that is, they throw themselves as it were passively before

[ocr errors]

it, allowing it to exert all the influence it will, by its own power, but doing very little in the way of vigorous effort to obtain good from it. They seem to satisfy themselves by giving the book an opportunity to do them good; but do little to draw from it, by their own active efforts, the advantages which it might secure. Now, a book of religious instruction is not like a medicine; which, if it is once admitted into the system, will produce its effect, without any further effort on the part of the patient. It is a tool, for you to use industriously yourself. The moral powers will not grow, unless you cultivate them by your own active efforts. If you satisfy yourself with merely bringing moral and religious truth into contact with your mind; expecting it, by its own power, to produce the hoped-for fruits; you will be like a farmer who should, in the spring, just put a plough or two in one part of his field, and half-a-dozen spades and hoes in another, and expect by this means to secure a harvest in the Fall. Many persons read religious books continually, but they make no progress in piety. The reason is, their own moral powers are inert while they do it. The intellect may be active in reading and understanding the successive pages; but the heart and the conscience lie still, hoping that the truth may of itself do them good. They bring the instrument to the field; and lay it down, and stand by its side, wondering why it does not do its work.

I beg my readers not to treat this volume in that way; and not to suppose that simply reading and understanding it, however thoroughly it may be done, will do them any good. The book, of itself, never can do good: it is not intended, strictly speaking, to do good: it is intended to shew its readers how they may do good to themselves; and it will produce no effect upon any who are not willing to be active in its application and use,

except to increase the sorrows of remorse in future years.

Do you, my reader, really wish to derive permanent and real moral benefit from this book? If so, take the following measures. It is a course which it would be well for you always to take, at the close of every book you read on the subject of Duty. Recall to mind all those passages which, as you have read its pages, have presented to you something which at the time you resolved to do. Recollect, if you can, every plan recommended; which, at the time when you were reading it, seemed to be suited to your own case, and which you then thought you should adopt. If you have forgotten them, you can easily call them to mind, by a little effort, or by a cursory review. You will thus bring up again to your minds those points in which the instructions of the book are particularly adapted to your own past history and present spiritual condition.

After having thus fully reconsidered the whole ground, and gathered all the permanent points which are peculiarly adapted to your own case into one view, consider deliberately, before you finally close the book, what you will do with regard to them. If any thing has been made plain to be your duty, consider and decide distinctly whether you will do it or not. If any thing has been shewn to be conducive to your happiness, determine deliberately and understandingly whether you will adopt it Do not leave it to be decided by chance, or by your own accidental feelings of energy or of indolence, what course you will take in reference to a subject so momentous as the questions of Religious Duty. I fear, however, that, notwithstanding all that I can say, very many, even among the most thoughtful of my readers, will close this book without deriving from it any permanent good, either in their conduct or their hearts. It

or not.

will have only produced a few good intentions, which will never be carried into effect; or aroused them to momentary effort, which will soon yield again to indolence and languor.


There is no impression that I would more strongly desire to produce in these few remaining pages, than that you should be in earnest, in deep and persevering earnest, in your efforts after holiness and salvation. If y are interested enough in religion to give up the pleasures of sin, you lose all enjoyment unless you grasp the happiness of piety. There are, at the present day, great numbers, in whose hearts religious principle has taken so strong a hold as to awaken conscience and to destroy their peace, if they continue to sin; but they do not give themselves up with all their hearts to the service of their Saviour: they feel, consequently, that they have lost the world; they cannot be satisfied with its pleasures; and they are unhappy, and feel that they are out of place, when in the company of its votaries. But though they have thrown themselves out of one home, they do not in earnest provide themselves with another. They do not give all the heart to God. No life is more delightful than one spent in intimate communion with our Father above, and in earnest and devoted efforts to please Him by promoting human happiness: and none is, perhaps, more unhappy, and prepares more effectually for a melancholy dying hour, than to spend our days with the path of duty plain before us, and conscience urging us to walk in it, while we hang back reluctantly, and walk with a slow and hesitating step, and look away wistfully at the fruits which we dare not taste. Do not take such a course as this. When abandon the world, you abandon it entirely: and when you choose God and religion for your portion, do it with all your heart. Strive to outrun conscience in the path of Duty, rather

« AnteriorContinuar »