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his business must suffer by the delay. The Christian, on the other hand, hears the intelligence that the boat has left him, with a quiet spirit; and even if he was hastening to the bedside of a dying child, he would spend the intervening day in composure and peace, saying, "The Lord has ordered this. It is to try me. Heavenly Father, give me grace to stand the trial."
I say the Christian would feel thus. I should perhaps have said, he ought to feel thus. Christians are very much accustomed to consider all the great trials and sufferings of life as coming from God, and as intended to try them, but they fret and vex themselves unceasingly in regard to all the little difficulties which, in the ordinary walk of life, they have to encounter, especially in what is connected with the misconduct of others. You lend a valuable book, and it is returned to you spoiled. The prints are soiled and worn; the leaves are turned down in some places, and loosened in others; the binding is defaced, and the back is broken. Now, you ought not to stand looking at your spoiled volume, lamenting again and again the misfortune, and making yourself miserable for hours by your fretfulness and displeasure against the individual who was its cause. He was indeed to blame; but if you did your duty in lending the book, as without doubt you did, you are in no sense respon
sible, and you do wrong to make yourself miserable about it. The occurrence comes to you in the providence of God, and is intended as a trial. He watches you to see how you bear it. If you meet it with a proper spirit, and learn the lesson of patience and forbearance which it brings, that spoiled book will do you more good than any splendid volume, crowded with prints, and adorned with gilded binding, and preserved in a locked cabinet for you for twenty
So with loss of every character, whether it comes in the form of a broken piece of china, or a counterfeit ten dollar bill found in the pocket-book, or the loss of your whole property by the misfortunes of a partner or the pressure of the times. No matter what is the magnitude or the smallness of the loss-no matter whether it comes from the culpable negligence or fraud of another, or more directly from God, through the medium of flood or fire, or the lightning of heaven; so far as it is a loss affecting you, it comes in the
providence of God, and is intended as a trial. If you are really interested in what ought to be the great business of life, your growth in grace, you will find that such trials will help you to understand your own heart, and to train it up to a proper action under the government of God, more than any thing beside.
2. Make it your aim to be continually learning the lessons which God, by these various trials, is endeavouring to teach you. Every day is a day of discipline and trial. Ask yourself every night, then, "What progress have I made today?" Suppose the engineer, in the case of the steam-boat on trial, to which I have already several times alluded, had neglected altogether the operation of the machinery when his boat was first put to the test. Suppose that, instead of examining minutely and carefully the structure and the action of the parts, with a view to removing difficulties, rectifying defects, and supplying deficiencies, he had been seated quietly upon the deck enjoying the sail. He might have been gazing at the scenery of the shore, or in vanity and self-complacency, enjoying the admiration which he imagined those who stood upon the wharf were feeling for the degree of success which he had already attained. While he is thus neglecting his duty, evils without number, and fraught with incalculable consequences, are working below. The defects of his machinery are not discovered and not remedied. Its weaknesses remain unobserved and unrepaired, and if at last there should be intrusted to his care valuable property, nothing can reasonably be expected but its destruction.
Multitudes of men, and even great numbers of those who call themselves Christians, act the part of this infatuated engineer. God tells them that their moral powers are now on trial. He commands them to consider it their business here not to be engrossed in the objects of interest which surround them as they pass on through life, nor to be satisfied with present attainments of any kind, but to consider themselves as sailing now on troubled waters for the purpose of trial and improvement; to watch themselves with constant self-examination, and with honest efforts to rectify what is wrong, and to supply what is deficient. He requires them to consider all the circumstances and occurrences of life as coming from him, and as arranged with
express reference to the attainment of these objects. Notwithstanding all this, however, they neglect the duty altogether. They do not watch themselves. They do not habitually and practically regard the events of life as means to enable them to understand their hearts, to strengthen, by constant exercise, moral principle, and to grow in grace. Instead of this, they are engaged in simply endeavouring to secure as much present good in this world as they can, and can see no good in any trial, and get no good from it. When they are sick, they spend the time in longing to get well. When they are disappointed, they make themselves miserable by useless lamentations. Losses bring endless regrets, and injuries, impatience and anger; and thus half of life is spent in struggles, which are really the vain and hopeless struggles of a weak man to get free from the authority and government of God.
I have now completed what I intended to present on the subject of probation; and I think that all my readers will easily see, that by taking such a view of life as this subject presents to us, the whole aspect of our residence in this world is at once changed. If you really feel what I have been endeavouring to explain, you will regard yourselves as strangers and pilgrims here, looking continually forward to another country as your home. The thousand trials and troubles of life will lose half their power by your regarding them in their true light, that is, as means of moral discipline and improvement. You must, however, make a constant effort to do this. Make it a part of your daily self-examination, not only to ascertain what is the state of your heart at the time of retirement, but to review the incidents of the day, and to see how they have operated upon you as means of moral discipline. See what traits of character those incidents have brought to your view, and what effect they have had in making you worse or better than you were in the morning. The little events and circumstances of every day must have a very important influence of the one kind or of the other. If you neglect this influence, it will all go wrong. If you attend to it, it may go well and happily with you, wherever and whatever you may be.
"The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
THE chapters which the reader has just perused, are on subjects connected with the improvement of the character, i. e. they are upon the means by which this improvement is to be promoted. Studying the Bible, keeping the Sabbath, and exposure to discipline, are all intended to be means for the promotion of a moral progress. There are some things, however, which I wish to say in regard to the character itself, as it goes on in the process of improvement. Reader, do you wish to avail yourself of the opportunities and means I have described? Do you wish to study the Bible, remember the Sabbath, and improve all the occurrences of life, as the means of promoting your progress in all that is good? If so, look now with me a little while into your character itself, that you may see in what respect it needs your attention, and in what way you can so employ the means I have described as to gain the fullest benefit from them. As I think that every young Christian ought most assiduously to cultivate his moral and also his intellectual powers, I shall discuss in order both these points.
I. MORAL IMPROVEMENT.
Every young Christian will find, however sincerely and ardently he may have given up his heart to God, and com
menced a life of piety, that a vast number of faults remain to be corrected; faults which he acquired while he lived in sin, and which the force of habit has fixed upon him. Now, you know what these faults are, or you may very easily learn, and your first effort is to correct them.
In order now to make clear the course which I think ought to be taken to correct such faults, I will suppose a case, and bring into it the various methods which may be adopted for this purpose. And I shall write the account with a double aspect,-one towards parents, with the design of showing them what sort of efforts they ought to make to correct the faults of their children, and the other towards the young, to show what measures they should adopt to improve themselves.
First, however, I will mention a very common but a very ineffectual mode of attempting to correct faults. A father sees in his son some exhibition of childish vanity, and he says to him, instantly, at the very time of the occurrence, "You are acting in a very foolish manner. You show a great deal of vanity and self-conceit by such conduct. And in fact, I have observed that you are growing very vain for some months past; I don't know what we shall do to correct it."
The poor boy hangs his head and looks ashamed, and his father, talking about it a few minutes longer, in a half irritated tone, dismisses and forgets the subject. The boy refrains, perhaps, from that particular exhibition of vanity for a little while, and that is probably all the good which results from the reproof.
Another wiser parent sees with regret the rising spirit of self-conceit in his son, and instead of rushing on to attack it without plan or design, at the first momentary impulse, he resorts to a very different course. He notices several cases, -remembers them,-reflects that the evil which has been forming, perhaps for years, cannot be corrected by a single abrupt reproof,--and accordingly forms a plan for a protracted moral discipline in the case, and then seeks a favourable opportunity to execute it.
One day, after the father has been granting some unusual indulgence, and they have spent the day happily together in some plan of enjoyment, and are riding home slowly in a pleasant summer evening, he thus addresses his son: