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CHAPTER V.

ALMOST A CHRISTIAN.

Almost a Christian.-Louisa's case a common one.-Neglecting Duty when it is clearly pointed out.-Secret Causes of continuing in Sin:-I. Neglect of the Spirit of God.-II. Procrastination-The Student's Evening Walks-The Admission to College-Resolutions for the Vacation; for senior years; for future life- Now is the accepted Time.-III. Love of the World-Sacrifices necessary in becoming a Christian-Losing a Friend-an Enjoyment.-IV. Fear of the World.-Difficulties foretold by the Saviour.-Entire Surrender required.-Real Submission.-Changing Sides.- Address to a Young Man.

"Ye will not come unto me."

THE melancholy story related in the preceding chapter is not an uncommon one: it is the story of thousands. All that is necessary, reader, to make that case your own, is, that you should have enough interest in religious duties to open your eyes clearly to their demands; but not enough to induce you cordially to comply with them;-and then, that death should openly approach you, while you are thus unprepared. The gloomy forebodings and the dreadful remorse which darkened Louisa's last hours would probably, in such a case, be yours.

It was not my intention, when forming the plan of this work, to have it present religious truth and duty in gloomy or melancholy aspects. Religion is a most cheerful and happy thing to practise, but a most sad and melancholy thing to neglect: and as, probably, some who read this book will read it only to understand their duty, without setting their hearts upon the performance of it, I ought to devote one or two chapters particularly to such persons. The case of Louisa, though it was a melancholy one, was real: and what has once occurred may occur again. You will observe, too, that all the suffering which she manifested in her dying hour was the work of conscience. The

Minister did all he could to soothe and calm her. Examine all his conversation at her bedside, and you will find that it was the language of kind invitation. He did all in his power to allay the storm, which conscience, far more powerful than he, had raised.

Sometimes such a dying scene as this is the portion of those who have lived a life of open and unbridled wickedness. But, generally, continued impiety and vice lull the conscience into a slumber which it requires a stronger power even than that of sickness or approaching death to break. Louisa was ALMOST A CHRISTIAN. She was

nearly persuaded to begin a life of piety. She was in just such a state of mind, my reader: as it is very probable, you may be. Perhaps, since you have been reading this book you have been thinking more and more seriously of your Christian duty; and have felt a stronger and stronger intention of fulfilling it, at least at some future time. You ought, after having read the First Chapter, to have gone at once, and endeavoured fully to confess all your sins to God, and made your peace with Him. When you read the Second, you should have cordially welcomed the Saviour as your Friend, and chosen Him as your Redeemer and portion. You ought to have been induced by the Third, to begin immediately a life of prayer, and to continue constant and ardent at the Throne of Grace. But perhaps you neglected all these things. You understand very clearly, what Christian Duty is. It is plain to you that there is a Being above, with whom you ought to live in constant communion. You understand, clearly, how, under God, you are to enter upon a life of religion -by coming and confessing all your sins, and seeking forgiveness through Jesus Christ, who has died for you. Thus you know clearly what Duty is. The evil is, that you will not do it.

But why? What can be the cause of the infatuation

of continually neglecting a duty which you acknowledge, and which you know it would increase your happiness to perform? Were I to ask you, I know exactly what you would say: at least, it is very probable you would say what I have known a great many others to say, in your situation. It would be this:

:

"I know I am a sinner against God; and I wish to repent, and be forgiven, and to love and serve my Maker; but I do not see how I can."

My reader, is this your state of mind? Many persons use this language, and use it honestly: that is, they use it honestly, if they mean by it, what the language properly does mean, that they so far see the propriety and duty and happiness of a new life, as, in some sense, to desire it; but that some cause, which they have not yet discovered, prevents their obedience.-I design, in this chapter, to help you to discover what that cause is. If you really wish to discover and to remove it, you will read the chapter carefully, with a willingness to be convinced; and you will often pause and endeavour, in dependence upon God, to apply what is said to your own case.

There are four causes, which often operate to prevent persons who are almost Christians from becoming so altogether.

I. A neglect to seek the direct teaching and influence of the Spirit of God.--All is hopeless without this.

II. A spirit of procrastination—waiting for a more convenient season. The following case illustrates this part of our subject.

A boy of about twelve or fourteen years of age, a member of an academy in which he was pursuing his studies preparatory to his admission to college, sees the duty of commencing a Christian life.

He walks, some

evening at sunset, alone, over the green fields which surround the village in which he resides; and the stillness and

beauty of the scene around him brings him to a serious and thoughtful frame of mind. God is speaking to him in the features of beauty and of splendor in which the face of nature is decked. The glorious western sky reminds him of the Hand which spread its glowing colours. He looks into the dark grove in the edge of which he is walking, and its expression of deep, unbroken solitude brings a feeling of calm solemnity over his soul. The declining sun-the last faint whispers of the dying evening breeze-the solitary and mournful note which comes to him from a lofty branch of some tall tree in the depth of the forest-these, and the thousand other circumstances of such a scene, speak to him most distinctly of the flight of time, and of the approach of that evening, when the sun of his life is to decline, and this world cease for ever to be his home.

As he muses on this scene, he feels the necessity of a preparation for death; and as he walks slowly homeward, he is almost determined to come at once to the conclusion, to commence immediately a life of piety. He reflects, however, upon the unpleasant publicity of such a change. He has many irreligious friends whom it is hard to relinquish, and he shrinks from forming new acquaintances in a place he is so soon to leave. He reflects that he is soon to be transferred to college, and that there he can begin anew. He resolves, that when he enters college walls, he will enter them a Christian; that he will, from the first, be known as one determined to do his duty towards God. He will form no irreligious friendships, and then he will have none to dissolve: he will fall into no irreligious practices, and then he will have none to abandon. He thinks he can thus avoid the awkwardness of a public change. He is ungenerous enough to wish to steal thus secretly into the kingdom of Heaven, without humbling any of his pride by an open

admission that he has been wrong. He waits for a more convenient season.

When he finds himself on college ground, however, his heart does not turn any more easily to his duties towards God. First, there is the feverish interest of the examination-then the novelty of the public recitationroom-the untried, unknown instructor-the new roommate-and all the multiplied and varied excitements which are always to be found in college walls. There are new acquaintances to form, new countenances to speculate upon, and new characters to study; and, in these, and similar objects of occupation and interest, week after week glides rapidly away. At last, one Saturday evening, the last of the term, he is walking over the college grounds; and, among the other serious reflections that come upon his mind, there are the following:

"One whole term has now passed, and what have become of all my resolutions to return to God? How swiftly the weeks have glided away! and I have been going further and further from God and from duty. I find that I cannot, in college, any more than in any other place, become a Christian, without prayer, and effort, and self-denial. I must come boldly to the duty of giving up my heart to God, and commencing publicly a Christian life; and whenever I do this, it must be hard at first. I will attend to the subject this vacation. I shall be quiet and retired at home, and shall have a favourable opportunity there to attend to my duty and make my peace with God. I will come back to college, next term, a new man.'

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Such are his reflections. Instead of calling upon God, and resolving to do his duty now, he looks forward again, notwithstanding his former disappointment, to another more convenient season. The bustle of the closing term, and the plans and preparations for the approaching vaca

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