Page images

tunities of doing good, in expectation of greater occasions and more ample means ; -- which neg. lects the general habit of benevolence, for some casual but, perhaps, romantic act.

The great law of religion is, in the present tense,“ do good after thy power.” He who checks his beneficence, till to give requires no sacrifice and no self-denial, is only lavishing what he cannot enjoy, or what he has no longer any use for; and though he may acquire the reputation, yet he loses the high reward of Christian charity.

But it is not sufficient for us on these, and on many other trying occasions, merely tos “Watch ;" all our vigilance, fortitude and endeavours require to be strengthened and im proved in every situation, by prayer to the Su-i preme Being : if we would avoid temptation, we must, as our blessed Lord exhorts, “ Watch and pray.”

Few are the occasions, on which we can entirely divest ourselves of a corrupt species of self-love, and the many delusions that spring from it. Something is constantly occurring in our intercourse with the world to baffle reason, ir and to lull the conscience to sleep. Something will hourly appeal to our vanity, or flatter our

pride, and that, perhaps, in the flattering form of justice and of truth; and, on all occasions, we are too ready to listen to the calls of interest, of appeal tite, and passion, in opposition to the dictates of reason, and the revealed Will of God. To acquire even a knowledge, therefore, of the exact measure of our duty is often difficult, because we cannot readily discover our " secret faults." It is only when we open a divine intercourse with our great Creator, that the heart is laid bare, and that the many subterfuges, which blind the understanding, and corrupt the mind, are done away. Then we know that prevarication and concealment, falshood and reserve, are equally foolish and unavailing. We are before One, from whom “ the darkness hideth not ; and, were there no other benefit arising from prayer, than that of forcing the mind, at stated intervals, to examine into its latent frailties and corruptions, and stripping from vice and folly their flimsy disguises, even that would be highly beneficial and important: but there are other gracious aids, which we are sure to obtain, if we i resemble not those, who “ ask and receive il not, because they ask amiss.”

In praying to the Almighty for increase of power to resist temptation, for grace and strength to avoid past transgressions, and those

[ocr errors]

sins that may at present too easily beset us, we are sure that God's holy Spirit will co-operate with our endeavours, and help our manifold infirmities. On these awful and interesting occasions, the devout Christian may humbly hope to receive that communication of grace, or, in other words, that accession of intellectual power, emanating, like the breath that first formed the human soul, from the Father of life, by which his reason is enlightened and improved, his fortitude increased, and his frail resolutions strengthened and encouraged ;-by which all his virtuous affections will be cherished and

promoted, and by which all his evil propensities may be checked and subdued.

A further benefit of prayer is, that it serves to bind us to sincerity. After having confessed our sins, and implored the divine assistance, to relapse into former transgressions, and to fall without a struggle, is aggravated guilt and heedless depravity. It is a case in which that which was almost ignorance before becomes hypocrisy; and that which was self-delusion assumes all the wilfulness of sin.

From frequently appearing too before the Supreme Lord of life, to whom we are indebted for every blessing, and to whom we must soon return to give an account of the things

done in the body ;-when we acknowledge, with praise and thanksgiving, that our whole dependence is on Him for future happiness, through the merits and mediation of Christ, and remember that he hath commanded us to love one another as he hath loved us; it is needless to remark how these devout reflections must cherish in our bosoms humility, forbearance, brotherly love, and in short, all the virtues that tend to make us happy here, and that lead to a blessed immortality hereafter.

In your warfare with the world, therefore, be ever ready to “ Watch and

that not into temptation." Let vigilance be exerted to guard the numerous passes, through which temptation enters,—to point out your appropriate duties, to detect your secret faults, as well as to prevent presumptuous sins, and let prayer, co-operating with your own earnest endeavours, enable you to fulfil the one and correct the other. And, for our comfort and encouragement, let us remember the gracious words of Scripture-“ The Lord is nigh to all that call upon; to all that call upon Him in truth: He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also will hear their cry, and will save them.”


ye enter




Say not thou, What is the cause, that the former

days were better than these ? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.

There are few subjects of practical knowledge attended with more uncertain results, than an attempt to calculate the exact proportion of good and evil, that exists even in the characters of such individuals as we know most intimately. The difficulty is greatly increased, when we extend our inquiries to whole nations, or communities; and, if we presume to comprise within the boundaries of such speculations the great body of mankind, the task becomes visionary and impossible.

Our notions on the present subject, whether taken on an extended, or confined scale, can

« PreviousContinue »