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TIME WASTED. The various modes in which time is wasted, are almost as numerous as its hours, or even its minutes. To enumerate them all would be an idle attempt. We select only one, to which many are exposed, and in which they indulge without knowing it. We refer to indiscriminate reading-reading without an object, and at an improper time. The temptations to this are on every side. The periodical falls in our way, and we take it up and spend a few minutes in perusing it, when we ought to be doing something else. We read it without thought or a desire for improvement, and without even asking whether we can make any use of what we read. Curiosity prompts to the reading
Or a new book meets our eye on a friend's table. We turn it over for half an hour, without any object, unless to see what is its general character, or merely to gratify curiosity, and lay it down again, not reflecting that it is time wasted. Had the half hour been spent in reverie or in useless conversation, conscience might have reproved us. But conscience raises no monitory voice at this blank of a half hour interposed in our life-perhaps with the superadded neglect of some duty-for we have been reading. The press sends forth its productions in so almost oppressive abundance, that turn where we will we are tempted to this waste of time. We remember, a week after, the name of a book, if asked whether we have seen it, and that is all.
The fault, however, may not be altogether in us, for it is a chance whether the book itself has anything worth laying up among the stores of memory. The habit of listless reading—of reading without an object-creates a market, or rather makes a demand for books which do not require much effort of mind in their perusal. And the demand is fully met; the market is well supplied. If all the productions of the press at the present day were as solid as those of the last century, it would be impossible for the mind to digest even an outline of their contents. But the food is light, suited to the haste in which it is devoured. This influence of listless and cursory reading on the productions of the press, renders the habit positively sinful. Its effects are bad, and growing worse daily.
Nor is this all the appetite for reading is cloyed by this irregular and frequent tasting of every dish that we happen to meet. The relish for reading when it can be done with profit, after the performance of other duties, is blunted. We come to the perusal of books which we ought to examine with care, with a mind satiated by indulgence, when by a proper abstinence we should approach them with something of the eager desire and curiosity of childhood. We might elucidate the subject more fully, but our object is only to remind readers of a danger which they are prone, we fear even desirous, to forget.
We scarcely need add, that our remarks are not designed to lessen the amount of reading. There can be no doubt that reading by method, at proper seasons, when we feel the consciousness of neglecting no other duty, and with a special object in view, keeps the mind in a healthy state, and increases its ability and inclination to examine useful and profitable works. He who does everything in its proper season, will be likely not to do everything he attempts better, but will do more, than the man who is immethodical, and regards not times or duties.
BENEFITS OF FAMILY RELIGION. Consider the benefits which would arise from success in labouring for the salvation of your family. Of success, in the right use of appointed means, there can be no place for doubt; for he is true and faithful who hath promised. But who shall appreciate its blessedness ?
To yourself, what joy would it bring! It has been questioned whether there is such a malady as a broken heart. Allowing for the figurative character of the expression, I believe there is ; and if any were to be found on earth, it is with the parent of an ungrateful, disobedient, and ungodly child. And the agony would be complete and beyond a cure, if the errors of the child were to be traced to the negligence of the parent. Reverse this case; and measure the joy by the grief.
A beloved child, having arrived at maturity, was seized with consumption, and was now in the last stage of feebleness and of life. She begged to see her father alone. A thousand times that father had prayed for her; and always had watched for her conversion to God. He had done so through some discouragements, but with many hopes. In this extreme affliction, nothing did he desire so deeply as some explicit intimation from the lips of his child which should remove doubt, and confirm his confidence. In this temper of mind he hastened to her presence. She was low, very low, and gasping for breath. She begged to be raised on her pillows, and seemed calmly intent on fulfilling a duty. She placed her hand on his arm and said with broken utterance : “My dear father, listen to me—timidity has prevented my speaking before—weakness almost prevents me now —but I must speak. I trust I have seen myself to be a sinner -I trust I have seen Christ to be a gracious and sufficient Saviour—I trust I have believed in Him as my Saviour—I trust he is about to take me to heaven. Dearest father! I owe this chiefly to you—to your prayers——to your counsels.—Let this comfort you—think of your child as in heaven. We shall not be long parted—I shall meet you in heaven.” Tell me, if you can, the gratitude, the joy of that parent!
Look at the happy effect on the family. Whence come those bickerings, jarrings, and lesser alienations in the sacred enclosures of domestic life? Whence also those oppressive cares, worldly anxieties, and selfish emulations? Come they not in the absence of true religion? Wherever she is in reality, they are qualified; wherever she is in power, they are subdued. Piety in a servant, in a child, not to say in a parent, has brought a surprising measure of bliss into a family otherwise unhappy. But suppose that most, or that all the members of a family are living under the influence of true piety, and what a scene offers itself for admiration! Those who live in one house are of one mind. All know their relationship to each other, because all preserve their relations to God. Order is there, and
peace, and love, and worship. No one lives to himself; but each one for the good of all. Cares are lightened by participation, till they almost lose their name; and pleasures are multiplied till each one has a double portion. A green spot springs up in the arid wilderness of life, where are found again fountains of water and the tree of life. Angels, as they fulfil their commissions of mercy and judgment in our world, pause over such a scene, and are refreshed on their way! Ah, would you not, that your family might be such as that in it Paradise might be restored,
angels visitants, and God, a present God, your glory and salvation ?
Look at the effect on the church. The church is a larger family. It is necessarily composed of the members of our families ; and it ought especially to find its increase and strength from the bosom of professedly religious families. But frequently the accessions from this source bring with them more doubt and less profit, than such as are made from the world. The church languishes, because domestic religion languishes.
It was a saying worthy of the piety and experience of Richard Baxter—“ If,” said he, “parents did their duty, adult conversion would be as rare as it is now common." What a truth is this ! Adult conversion then, which the church has been accustomed to regard as so great a blessing, is really an evil to be deplored, and chargeable on the defective piety of our families! If our professing families were as disconformed to the world, and as truly religious as they ought to be, our children would be well taught, early converted, and publicly devoted to God. In their profession they would be intelligent, stedfast, humble; living for the extension of the church in which they had been nourished, and for the glory of the Saviour by whom they had been saved.
What a church should we then have! For numbers, like the doves flying to their windows; for beauty, like the moon walking in her brightness; and for power, like an army with banners. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings should the ordained praise be expressed, and the enemy should be silenced in the gate. Infant piety should become giant piety; she should burst the bands which the world has cast around her in her sickness and decrepitude; and in renovated life and plenary grace, should stand forth to save and bless her spoilers.
Do great objects inspire ? Here is one; and one, perhaps, which you have too much overlooked. You may bless the church through your family; you cannot bless it in the neglect of your family; you know not what bearing the conversion of a single child may have on the prosperity of the church. Hannah, when dedicating her child to God, little knew that Samuel was to be a prophet and saviour in Israel.
Let me, finally, entreat you to look at this subject in the lights of death and eternity. It is the part of wisdom and piety to respect the end. All the ties which we hold on earth must be broken. The term on which we meet, is, that we must separate, child from parent, parent from child. How important that the event of death, sufficiently awful in itself, should not be aggravated by the horrors of the second death! It is my privilege to know a person who can deliberately say, “I have not a relative, nor have I lost a relative, of whose future happiness I have a single doubt.” What an unfailing source of domestic felicity is this! Strike where he may, death cannot find one unprepared! Then, indeed, death has lost his sting and the grave its victory, and all the members of such a family are gathered in the fulness of time to a better and more glorious life.
Should not this be a prominent object of christian ambition? To create no doubt to survivors, if called yourself to die ; and to have no doubt, no self-reproaches, if called suddenly to resign those you most love. Ah! a single doubt at such a time will be dreadful, dreadful. Some time since I knew a youth of about sixteen years of age, who was of generous but froward temper, and he resolved to go to sea. His friends were therefore constrained to make an arrangement to suit his wishes. He was tenderly beloved by his mother; and she had educated him with as much religious care as most parents bestow on a child so young. No sooner, however, was he placed beyond her reach, than memory and conscience were busy with her; and she thought bitterly of the many things she might have said and had not—of the many occasions which might have been improved for his spiritual welfare, and were not. She reproached herself, but found present relief in the sincere resolution, that on his return she would surely and without delay be more in earnest for his full conversion to God. Alas, for her-he never returned! he was lost at sea. The shock laid her prostrate, and left her distracted. It was not merely that her son was lost to her, but that he was lost to God, and that she had been a guilty party to his ruin. What she regarded as her negligences rose on her mind like the great waters, and threatened to overwhelm her. And still that tender and gracious spirit is battling, in doubtful conflict, with unavailing regrets and bitter accusations which no earthly hand can subdue ! Ah, pray to be spared the agony of losing a beloved relative without hope in his death