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which are an abomination in the sight of a pure and holy God. This sort of poetical interest in religious subjects is very easily mistaken for the genuine appropriate effects of religion itself. Such an interest is very likely to be transient, or, if more abiding, it will not be found spontaneously to influence the conduct.
Real religion is something more than a sentiment of pleasure, or of admiration, in view of surpassing excellence. It involves the idea of a relation between man and his Maker-between a sin-hating Sovereign and his sinful subject; while the kind of sentimental interest we have been describing might be supposed to be inspired by a being or an object with which we had no connection or concern. The beautiful, or grand, or pathetic, in a scene of fictitious representation or of written description, would awaken the same emotions of admiration, or grief, or
With the genuine subject of vital religion, the test of his religious state is rather found in his views of his own guilt as a sinner against a Being of infinite perfections, than in the complacence with which he regards those perfections; in the depth of his grateful love to an atoning Saviour, rather than in that excitement of mere natural feeling which the scenes of Calvary are fitted to produce.
Do we hate sin? That is the question. In the language of scripture, is it to us an evil and a bitter thing? Do we hate it because God hates it, and not alone, as cutting us off from a hope of acceptance with him ?
“He saith unto the man (with the withered hand), Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other." Mark iïi. 5.
This hand was paralyzed, entirely useless, and incapable of motion; yet when the man was told to stretch it forth, he made the effort at once to do so. Instead of saying, as we perhaps should have expected he would have done, that it was impossible for him to move his hand; that he had no power over it; he directly made the attempt to obey; and with the effort came the power. He was enabled to do as directed, as soon as he manifested a will to do so.
The conduct of this individual is exactly the reverse of that of thousands who profess to be desirous of obeying the commands of the Saviour. They wish, as they profess, to exercise penitence for sin, and love for their Maker; but how can they do this? “How can we repent,” say they, “while our hearts are what they are ? we must have right hearts before we can do any thing acceptably; and we cannot change our own hearts. It will do no good to pray for right feelings, until we have right feelings, for prayer will not be heard when the heart is not right.” And so these individuals are content to do nothing. They profess to feel justified in doing nothing. Now, if an individual is looking about him for something that may serve him as an excuse for neglect of known duty, we may not be surprised that he catches at such a one as this. But will any person who has seriously and determinately resolved to find the path of duty, and at once to pursue it, wherever it may lead, be in danger of resting upon such a plea? Will such a one dare to be quieted with a plea, which involves a charge of injustice against the Most High, while he is himself acquitted of all blame? With just as much propriety might the man with the withered hand have kept his hand by his side, declaring against the unreasonableness of Christ in requiring him to stretch it forth. “ If you will restore it," he might have said, “ then I will use it; but I cannot move it while it remains as it is.” But no; he knew that he should not have been commanded to do what was impossible. He made the attempt, and immediately came the assistance.
So it will be with us. If we attempt any act in the service of the Saviour, that he has required of us, depending upon his assistance, we shall assuredly have it. Let us, at least, make the attempt, before we excuse ourselves for our failure. How shall we know what is to be our success until we have made a trial ? The cases have not been unfrequent in which a sense of pardon and reconciliation through a Saviour has been experienced for the first time in the act of prayer. The individuals certainly did not wait in these cases for their feelings to become right, before they sought to be led aright With the desire to be purified came the purifying influence.
CHILDREN MAY DO GOOD.
EMMA walked hastily across the school-room, greeting, in a pleasant tone, such of her companions as came in her way, with “Good morning," and took her seat at her own desk. She lifted its lid, and her eye rested on a slip of paper, which had been placed there since the preceding day. She unfolded it, and read, “ Ye are not your own." There was not a word beside. “ Ye are not your own.” “What can this mean?" exclaimed Emma. “I don't understand. O, it is Maria's hand-writing. I will ask her for an explanation, and why she put in
Maria usually came a little before the school-exercises commenced, and Emma was disappointed when the signal for opening the school was given, and the punctual Maria had not made her appearance. She took out her books, and began to prepare for her recitations; but she was restless and uneasy. It was much more difficult than usual to fix her attention upon her studies. “ Ye are not your own,” was running in her head, and more than once she quite forgot where she was.
At the recess, Emma asked Maria's little sister why she was not at school. Their mother was sick, and Maria remained at home on that account.
Emma found time, during the recess, to write the following note:
“I am sorry your mother is sick to-day. I have missed you very much, as I always do, and I have wanted you here more than usual.
“My curiosity you contrived to excite not a little, by leaving that slip of paper in my desk. I know it was intended for some sort of a reproof, and had more than half a mind to be a little angry; but I remembered that it was my friend Maria's doings. Besides, you are two years older than I am. But I don't very clearly understand what that text has to do with me., If
can't come to school to-morrow, do write me one of your long notes. I love to read them, but I will not promise that it will do your volatile friend any more good than its predecessors have done. I should like to be like you, if I could.
“ Nothing new in school to-day. The girls in Latin and algebra were as dull and stupid as usual. What a stupid set we have !-scarcely one even tolerable, Teacher and class-mates need the patience of Job.
Maria's mother had been so sick, through the day, as to need her constant attention. Towards evening, she looked brighter, and, to Maria's inquiry if she felt better, answered, “Much, thank you, my daughter. What a good nurse you are! I think I can sleep a little now." for meditation; while the stormy blast, the piercing frost, the descending rain, or the fleecy snow, confine us to our habitations, we can call home our wandering thoughts, and reflect on God and our souls, on death and eternity.
The closing sabbath of the year demands consideration. How quickly have the last twelve months departed! how many subjects arise to our minds in reviewing them! The mercies we have enjoyed—the afflictions we have experienced—the sins we have committed—the privileges we have possessed—are all subjects suited to produce thoughtful reflection. This day we stand like travellers on an exalted eminence,—we look back on the country through which we have passed; we recollect the rugged course and the flowery paths which we have trod, the mountains we have climbed, and the plains we have traversed. We glance forwards into futurity, with hope and fear, anxiety and joy; we know not the nature of that part of our journey which lies before us; none of us can affirm that we shall live another year, or even that we shall see the few remaining hours of this ; surely, then, we should be thoughtful and serious.
Do we examine the state of our souls, and inquire if we are saved ? Surely such an important subject demands the greatest attention, and we cannot be thoughtless without being exceedingly culpable. Let me ask, if you have, during the past year, begun to think seriously of your eternal welfare, or to make any progress in the ways of religion. O, consider your state in the sight of God, ere it is too late!
II. The season of winter, the concluding sabbath of the year, and the subject we have chosen, should lead us to be grateful. Whilst we are seated by our comfortable fire-sides, or reposing in warm beds, how many poor