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are very apt to be violent. The destitution of earthly comfort leaves a void in the heart, the influence of sorrow softens the temper; and from these two causes united, a man is often raised to sudden and strong feelings of religion. When this excitement, though in its origin it may be sudden, is not allowed to degenerate again into indifference, but is practically followed by an improved and sanctified life, then may it really be regarded as the foundation of a blessed change, which by God's mercy may lead to the happiest issue. That these are the real purposes, moreover, with which Christians are taught to regard sorrow as sent to them, is clear from Holy Scripture ;: in which earthly misfortune is often pronounced blessed, from the tendency which it has to turn the heart to God. But though it has these capacities of good, it has also great and peculiar dangers. The void which has been produced in the heart by calamity, is soon filled up again by new affections and new interests: the softened temper produced by the mere impact of misfortune goes off with the return of prosperity; and the danger is great, lest the feelings of religion go off too with the feelings that suggested them.
A man is 'apt to regard himself with some complacency in the consciousness of only feeling or having felt aright; and he forgets that to feel aright without acting, is indeed only to aggravate his guilt. For every feeling excited renders the feeling less acute, less capable of producing action for the future; and thus every feeling unimproved by action, is an opportunity of action lost which can never be regained. And if this be true when the case is merely regarded as one of human habit, still more does it appear so, when we consider that, in the Christian's case, every suggestion of good is the suggestion of the Holy Spirit. Then the religious tendencies of sorrow are seen to be direct gifts of God, sent with the purpose of sanctifying the heart, and purifying the life. Then, if the growth of fresh ties of affection, or the return of prosperity, take the heart of man off from these new thoughts of God, does it appear that he withdraws himself from beneath that influence, that he takes a first and important step in the direction of entire spiritual destitution that the vehement warmth of devotion which sorrow inspires, is attended with a peculiar danger of coldness; and that the liability of entering upon this fatal downfall is even then close at hand, when a man fancies himself most fervent in his devotion, and is even apt to take some credit to himself for the religious feelings which he experiences.
That the temptations tending to produce in us an indifference to religion, whether arising from violently excited feelings, as in this latter case, or from a temporary and an unaccountable coldness, as in the former one, are such as in some form often occur to the minds of Christians, probably few will deny. It is equally certain that, if
this be their tendency, they are among the most dangerous which can be presented to the mind. It is peculiarly characteristic of them to be such as not to alarm the fears, or disturb the self-complacency, of the person to whom they occur.
To each individual it belongs to force upon himself the consideration of his own state in this particular. No present feeling of security or cheerfulness can prove such examination needless. The signs of diminishing spiritual influence are clear, and easily recognised; and it needs nothing but an honest endeavour to conduct the inquiry aright. If, indeed, with any the case be far gone, the same cause which renders such inquiry doubly needful, renders it, unhappily, doubly difficult also. The most terrible symptom of this mental disease is the fatal security which it inspires.
But, if any feels that the case is not so with him; that, with the consciousness of much sin committed, much light neglected, much indifference yielded to, he can still be roused to think of his condition in this respect, still awakened to fear this creeping deadness of the soul; let him, with the revival of feeling, be urged also to revive the practical display of it. If he has arrested his progress, perhaps at the very moment when his foot had been planted within the fatal shadow, let him not be content to feel how blessed is this deliverance, but rather begin such practical habit as shall confirm and establish that deliverance,-a practical habit of prayer, of self-examination, of deliberate determi_ nation to produce within himself, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the feelings of self-distrust, humility, and reliance
God. The moment these are intermitted, he will be once more on the confines of spiritual darkness. And though the change from state to state of feeling may be gradual and (unless forcibly brought to mind) unperceived, it will not be the less rapid or fatal. Though the cloud may at the first moment be no bigger than a man's hand, it may soon overspread the whole face of the heavens, and he may sink deeper into indifference of religion, and spiritual destitution, whom the habits of regular prayer,
eager cherishing of the Holy Spirit, might at this time confirm in the faith and fear of God, and lead on with growing hope and strength towards heaven.
St. Luke v. 33, 34, 35.
“ And they said unto Him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees, but thine eat and drink?
“ And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
“ But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.”
The passages of the New Testament which relate to the subject of fasting, are neither few nor of doubtful interpretation. In the verses which I have just read, our Lord expressly declares, that when He, the bridegroom of the Church, is taken away from the earth, the Church shall fast in those days. In the sermon on the mount He gives directions for Christian fasting, and declares that God will reward it when duly exercised. “ Thou, when thou fastest,” (as being a Christian, engaged to wrestle not with