« PreviousContinue »
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
The sympathizing tear.
Is there an individual here zealously engaged in the great work of religion? You have the sympathy of every real friend of Jesus Christ; there is a common feeling binding you together, and it is yours to improve the aid afforded, just as far as your case demands, or your circumstances permit.
2. Persons engaged in the great work of religion, have the aid of experience.
It is a remark of Scripture, that as face answereth to face in water, so doth the heart of man to man, which I understand to mean, that there is a remarkable resemblance between the character and circumstances of men who have a common object. It is in a very singular degree true of Christians, for their views, their tastes, and their character, are essentially the same. They are engaged in common pursuits, they discern spiritual things in the same spiritual manner, and relish them with the same spiritual taste. It is true that as, in the providence of God, we can scarcely find two individuals in form and features exactly alike; so in Christian experience, there are endless diversities; but as among men there is one general resemblance which marks the species, so in the experience of Christians, there is always that great leading principle which marks the great Author and agent of the whole. And amidst all the diversities of character and constitution, the unity of Christian experience in its great leading particulars, is that which is the wonder of every one who is taught in the truth of Jesus Christ. VOL. I.
The individual thus engaged, therefore, may have the aid of the experience of others, and there is authority in the Scriptures to seek it; for one, filled with the love of God, says: “Come and I will tell the Lord hath done for my soul.” The benefit, the exalted aid to be derived from the experience of religious friends, is within your reach, and is of extreme importance. I borrow some most judicious remarks from a discourse of Dr. Dwight: “None can set the great truths of the Gospel in so strong, or so solemn a point of view, as those who feel them; this must, my friends, be conceded, and there are none who can speak of sin so justly; none can exhibit its deformity so clearly; none can state its heinousness with such pungent demonstration as those who, having passed under convictions of sin, have in their own experience realized their guilt and their danger, and who, by the view which they have had of the dreadful character of their ruin, have been roused from the slumbers of nature's indifference and death, and put, with all the energies of an awakened conscience, upon the flight for refuge to the hope set before them in the Gospel. None can speak of the preciousness of a Saviour as those who have tasted of the benefits of the great salvation. None can speak of holiness like those who have been brought to understand its nature by their own impressive experience. This is true of every subject which needs to be brought within the
of Christian observation. There are none who can present before the mind, the world of perdition, in such strong, affecting, awful colouring, as those who in their own mental experience have beheld the transcendent evils of sin with realizing conviction and with deep amazement; who have seen it, as it were, naked before them; who have, as it were, felt their own near approach to its sufferings, and who still tremble when they think of their narrow and their marvellous escape. And who among the sons of men can bring heaven before the eyes, and delineate with glowing pencil and in living colours its immortal glories, like those who have thought long and often of that happy world, who have tasted of the powers of the world to come, by the influence of that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; and the hope which entereth within the veil? Who can discourse concerning the celestial paradise like those who, with a spiritual taste already formed, are prepared to enjoy the blessings of eternal life; who are conscious that they are strangers upon the earth, and regard themselves as citizens of the new Jerusalem, and look forward with delightful anticipation to the day of glory?
Now, any individual engaged in the great work of religion, may have the aid of the experience of any child of God to whom he may apply, or the intercourse of whose society he may seek; and there are few circumstances apart from actual intercourse with God, which are calculated to produce so happy an effect as the society and the friendship of those who manifest themselves to be in truth the children of God. And on the contrary, there is nothing which is so calculated to have a deleterious influence on the mind and heart of the individual engaged in the great work of religion, as the society of those who are strangers to the influence, the motives, the hopes of the Gospel. As the natural life could not
be preserved in a room from which the vital air had been exhausted, so cannot the spiritual life be preserved in any society where there is an habitual absence of all that is vital in religion. This shows how essentially important is the choice of associates. Choose your company amidst the frivolous and the gay, and you
will soon find that the moral contagion has seized you also, and a spiritual paralysis will soon overspread all your faculties. If there is an individual among you at this moment engaged in the work of religion, I counsel you to take heed of the company you keep. Religion is a flower which requires an atmosphere of purity; it cannot live, it cannot flourish in the polluted atmosphere of worldliness. Perhaps some young persons may say, shall we abandon our worldly associates and make new friends? The answer is easy—which do you value most, your worldly friends or the salvation of your souls? The friendship of the world is enmity with God. And the Lord Jesus Christ has left this most emphatic declaration—“If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into • the fire that never shall be quenched.”
If there is an individual among you who would prosper in the work of religion, the great work of salvation, seek the society, solicit the aid of the experienced of God's people. In the beautiful language of the Canticle, “Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed beside the shepherd's tents.”
3d. Persons engaged in the great work of religion have the aid of the counsel of God's people. Any individual so engaged finds himself, or herself, ceaselessly involved in difficulties, some
of them arising from the imperfections of his own character, and the most of them from the
op position and the persecution of others. In the midst of distress within and difficulty without, it is not only necessary that they should have the opportunity of pouring the tale of difficulty and distress into the bosom of a religious friend who can and will sympathize, but it is important that they should have the opportunity of asking advice and counsel from those whose religious experience entitles them to give it. The aid of Christian counsel in the great work of religion is of extreme importance, and while in every matter in which the conscience is concerned, God himself, as his will is revealed in his word, is to be the ultimate judge and sole director of the actions; the advice of one who is known to be a Christian, and of course a friend, is calculated, under God, to furnish aid of the most substantial character. I am persuaded that many who are really seeking the salvation of their souls make grievous mistakes, and fall into errors injurious to themselves and others, from too much self-dependance as contradistinguished from dependance-I mean not merely self-dependance, as contradistinguished from dependance upon God, but selfdependance as contradistinguished from the advice and counsel of decided Christian friends. This subject, I am aware, is to be touched with caution. I would not have an individual free and open in his communications with all who may bear the Christian name, for multitudes bear the Christian name who have no title to the Christian character, and therefore have no competence to advise; but I deem it of the last importance for any