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THE DUTY OF GIVING AN IMMEDIATE DILIGENCE TO THE BUSINESS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
THE PARISH OF KILMANY.
BY THOMAS CHALMERS,
MINISTER OF THE TRON CHURCH, GLASGOW.
WHEN one writes a letter to an intimate, and a much loved friend, he never thinks of the graces of the composition. He unbosoms himself in a style of perfect freeness and simplicity. He gives way to the kindly affections of his heart, and though there may be many touches of tenderness in his performance, it is not because he aims at touches of any kind, but because all the tenderness that is written, is the genuine and the artless transcript of all the tenderness that is felt. Now conceive for a moment, that he wrote his letter under the consciousness that it was to be broadly exhibited before the eye of the public, this would immediately operate as a heavy restraint upon him. man would much rather pour the expression of his friendship into the private ear of him who was the object of it, than he would do it under the full stare of a numerous company. And I, my brethren, could my time have allowed it, would much rath. er have written my earnest and longing aspiration for the welfare of you all by a private letter to each individual, than by this general Address, which necessarily exposes to the wide theatre of the public all that I feel, and all that I utter on the subject of my affectionate ragard for you.
It were better then for the exercise to which I have now set myself, that I shut out all idea of the public; and never, within the whole recollection of my life, was I less disposed to foster that idea. It may be observed, that the blow of some great and calamitous visitation brings a kind of insensibility along with it. ought not to lament my withdrawment from you as a calamity, but it has had all the effect of a calamity upon me. I am remov. ed from those objects which habitually interested my heart, and, for a time, it refuses to be interested in other objects. I am placed at a distance from that scene to which I was most alive,
and I feel a deadness to every other scene. The people who are now around me, carry an unquestionable kindness in their bosoms, and vie with one another in the expression of it. I can easily perceive that there exists abundantly among them all the constituents of a highly interesting neighbourhood, and it may look cold and ungrateful in me that I am not interested. But it takes a time before the heart can attune itself to the varieties of a new situation. It is ever recurring to the more familiar scenes of other days. The present ministers no enjoyment, and in looking to the past the painful circumstance is, that while the fancy will not be kept from straying to that neighbourhood which exercises over it all the power of a much-loved home, theidea that it is home no longer comes with dread reality upon the mind, and turns the whole to bitterness.
With a heart thus occupied, I do not feel that the admission of the public into our conference will be any great restraint upon me. I shall speak to you as if they were not present, and I do not conceive that they can take a great interest in what I say, because I have no time for the full and explicit statement of principles. I have this advantage with you that I do not have with others, that with you I can afford to be less explicit. I presume upon your recollections of what I have, for some time, been in the habit of addressing to you, and flatter myself that you may enter into a train of observation which to others may appear dark, and abrupt, and unconnected. In penning this short Address, I follow the impulse of my regard for you. You will receive it with indulgence, as a memorial from one who loves you; who is ever with you in heart, though not in person; who classes among the dearest of his recollections, the tranquil enjoyments he has had in your neighbourhood; who carries upon his memory the faithful image of its fields and of its families; and whose prayers for you all is, that you may so grow in the fruits of our common faith, as to be made meet for that unfading inheritance where sorrow and separation are alike unknown.
Were I to sit down for the purpose of drawing out a list of all the actions which may be called sinful, it would be long before I could complete the enumeration. Nay, I can conceive,
that by adding one peculiarity after another, the variety may be so lengthened out as to make the attempt impossible. Lying, and stealing, and breaking the Sabbath, and speaking evil one of another, these are all so many sinful actions; but circumstances may be conceived which make one kind of lying different from another, and one kind of theft different from another, and one kind of evil speaking different from another, and in this way the number of sinful actions may be greatly swelled out; and should we attempt to take the amount, they may be like the host which no man could number, and every sinner, realizing one of these varieties, may wear his own peculiar complexion, and have a something about him, which marks him out, and signalizes him from all the other sinners by whom he is surrounded.
Yet, amid all this variety of visible aspect, there is one summary expression to which all sin may be reduced. There is one principle which, if it always existed in the heart, and were always acted upon in the life, would entirely destroy the exis. tence of sin, and the very essence of sin, lies in the want of this one principle. Sin is a want of conformity to the will of God; and were a desire to do the will of God at all times the overruling principle of the heart and conduct, there would be no sin. It is this want of homage to him and to his authority, which gives to sin its essential character. The evil things coming out of the heart, which is the residence of this evil principle, may be exceedingly various, and may impart a very different complexion to different individuals. This complexion may be more or less displeasing to the outward eye. The evil speaker may look to us more hateful than the voluptuary, the man of cruelty than the man of profaneness, the breaker of his word than the breaker of the Sabbath. I believe it will generally be found, that the sin which inflicts the more visible and immediate harm upon men, is, in the eye of men the more hateful sin. There is a readiness to execrate falsehood, and calumny, and oppression; and along with this readiness there is an indulgence for the good-humoured failings of him who is the slave of luxury, and makes a god of his pleasure, and spends his days in all the thoughtlessness of one who walks in the counsel