Imágenes de páginas




"And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified."

As I draw toward the close of this volume, I think of the influence which it is to exert upon the many who will read it, with mingled emotions of hope and fear. I have endeavored to state, and to illustrate as distinctly as I could,

[graphic][merged small]

Responsibility of religious teachers.

the principles of Christian duty; and if, my reader, you have perused these pages with attention and care, they must have been the means of bringing very plainly before your mind the question, whether you will or will not confess and forsake your sins, and henceforth live to God, that you may accomplish the great object for which life was given. I shall say nothing, in these few concluding paragraphs, to those who have read the book thus far without coming in heart to the Savior. If they have not been persuaded ere this to do it, they would not be persuaded by any thing which I have time and space now to say. I have, however, before ending this volume, a few parting words for those who have accompanied me thus far with at least some attempt at selfapplication-some desire to cherish the feelings which I have endeavored to portray-some penitence for sin, and resolutions to perform the duties which I have from time to time pressed upon them.

It is, if the Bible is true, a serious thing to have opportunity to read a religious book—and more especially for the young to have opportunity to read a practical treatise 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 not 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 I share it with every one who endeavors 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



Injury to be done by this book.

Imperfect self-application.

To the one class of

misery of such as will still turn away.

[ocr errors]

persons, says Paul, we are the savor of death unto death, and to the other, the savor 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, receives and reads this book. She feels desirous of cultivating Christian principles, and she sits down to the work with a sincere desire to derive spiritual benefit from the instructions which it contains. She does not run over the pages, dissecting out the stories for the sake of the interest of the narrative, and neglecting all the applications of them for 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 which 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 scrutinize 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

A useless way of reading.

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 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.


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 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 efforts, the advantages which it might afford. 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 rather a tool or an instrument which you are 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 plow 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. Many persons read religious books continually, but 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

Effectual reading.

Plan recommended.

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 then 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 to read and understand it, however thoroughly it may be done, will do them any good. The book, of itself, never can do good. It is intended to

show its readers how they may do good to themselves, and it will produce no good effect upon any who are not willing to be active in its application and use.

Do you, my reader, really wish to derive permanent and real 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 that 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 mind 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 important 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 shown to be conducive to

« AnteriorContinuar »