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strengthening it, that it may rise upright from the first ?or that it is as easy to restore the whiteness of paper that is scrawled over and blotted with ink, as it would have been to preserve it clean and unsullied ? It is certain, from many instances in Scripture, that the young who, enlisting under the banner of Christ from their infancy, faithfully discharge their duty as His servants and soldiers in the spring and prime of early life; who, while they have health and spirits to enjoy the pleasures of sin, renounce them in obedience to their heavenly Father, and give up the gratification of their passions and appetites to His commands, bring an offering before Him which He is well pleased to accept; as when Abel, with a duteous and religious mind, brought Him the firstlings of his flock. What portion of sacred history is more interesting than the account of the infant Samuel ? He was dedicated by pious parents to the house and service of God from his cradle. He piously and heartily assented to their act; was distinguished by early marks of the Divine favour; and was established to be a judge and prophet in Israel. Townson.
Such frequency is indeed necessary for the breeding, the nourishment, the growth and improvement of all piety. Devotion is that holy and heavenly fire, which darteth into our minds the light of spiritual knowledge, which kindleth in our hearts the warmth of holy desires : if, therefore, we do continue long absent from it, a night of darkness will overspread our minds, a deadening coldness will seize upon our affections. It is the best food of our souls, which preserveth their life and health, which repaireth their strength and vigour, which rendereth them lusty and active; if we, therefore, long abstain from it, we shall starve, or pine away; we shall be faint and feeble in all religious performances; we shall have none at all; or a very languid and meagre piety.
To maintain in us a constant and steady disposition to obedience, to correct our perverse inclinations, to curb our unruly passions, to strengthen us against temptations, to comfort us in anxieties and distresses, we do need con
tinual supplies of grace from God: the which ordinarily are communicated in devotion, as the channel which con. veyeth, or the instrument which helpeth to procure it, or the condition upon which it is granted. Faith, hope, love, spiritual comfort and joy, all divine graces are chiefly elicited, expressed, exercised therein and thereby; it is therefore needful that it should frequently be used; seeing otherwise we shall be in danger to fail in discharging our chief duties, and to want the best graces.
It is frequency of devotion, also, which maintaineth that friendship with God, which is the soul of piety. As familiar conversation (wherein men do express their minds and affections mutually,) breedeth acquaintance, and cherisheth goodwill of men to one another; but long forbearance thereof dissolveth, or slackeneth the bonds of amity, breaking their intimacy, and cooling their kind. ness : so is it in respect to God; it is frequent converse with him which begetteth a particular acquaintance with Him, a mindful regard of Him, a hearty liking to Him, a delightful taste of His goodness, and consequently a sincere ,and solid goodwill toward Him; but intermission thereof produceth estrangement, or enmity toward Him. If we seldom come at God, we shall little know Him, not much care for Him, scarce remember Him, rest insensible of His love, and regardless of His favour: a coldness, a shyness, a distaste, an antipathy toward Him will by degrees creep upon us. Abstinence from His company and presence will cast us into conversations destructive, or prejudicial to our friendship with Him ; wherein soon we shall contract familiarity and friendship with His enemies, (the world and the flesh,) which are inconsistent with love to Him, which will dispose us to forget Him, or to dislike and loath Him.
It is, in fine, the frequency of devotion which alone can secure any practice thereof, at least any practice thereof duly qualified; so hearty, so easy, so sweet and delightful as it should be. We have all a natural averseness or indisposition thereto, as requiring an abstraction of thoughts and affections from sensible things, and fasting them upon objects purely spiritual; a rearing our heavy spirits above their common pitch ; a staying and settling our roving fancies; a composing our vain hearts in a sober and steady frame, agreeable to devotion: to effect which things is a
matter of no small difficulty and pain; which, therefore, without much use and exercise cannot be accomplished; but with it, may; so that by frequent practice the bent of our heart being turned, the strangeness of the thing ceasing, the difficulty of the work being surmounted, we shall obtain a good propension to the duty, and a great satisfaction therein.-Barrow.
REPENTANCE, of all things in the world, makes the greatest change; it changes things in heaven and earth; for it changes the whole man from sin to grace, from vicious habits to holy customs, from unchaste bodies to angelic souls, from swine to philosophers, from drunkenness to sober counsels ; and God Himself, “ with Whom is no variableness or shadow of turning,” is pleased, by descending to our weak understandings, to say that He changes also upon our repentance, that He alters His decrees, revokes His sentence, cancels the bills of accusation, throws the records of shame and sorrow from the court of heaven, and lifts up the sinner from the grave to life, from his prison to a throne, from hell and the guilt of eternal torture, to heaven and a title to never-ceasing felicities. If we be bound on earth, we shall be bound in heaven; if we be absolved here, we shall be loosed there ; if we repent, God will repent, and not send the evil upon us which we had deserved.
Repentance is restitution to the state of righteousness and holy living for which we covenanted in Baptism. For we must know that there is but one repentance in a man's whole life, if repentance be taken in the proper and strict evangelical-covenant sense, and not after the ordinary understanding of the word : that is, we are but once to change our whole estate of life from the power of the devil and his entire possession, from the state of sin and death, from the body of corruption to the life of grace, to the possession of Jesus, to the kingdom of the gospel ; and this is done in Baptism. After this change, if ever we fall into the contrary state, and be wholly estranged from God and religion, and profess ourselves servants of unrighteousness, God hath made no more covenant of restitution to us, there is no place left for any more repentance or entire change of condition or new birth; a man can be regenerate but once. But if we be overtaken by infirmity, or enter into the borders of this estate, and commit a grievous sin, or ten, or twenty, so we be not in the entire possession of the devil, we are for the present in a damnable condition, if we die ; but if we live, we are in a recoverable condition; for so we may repent often. Our hopes of pardon are just as is the repentance; which, if it be timely, hearty, industrious. and effective, God accepts ; not by weighing grains or scruples, but by estimating the great proportions of our life. A hearty endeavour, and an effectual general change, shall get the pardon.-- Taylor.
A PEACEABLE TEMPER. A PEACEABLE deportment is one of the great duties enjoined in religion: and the rule and measure of that is to be charity, of which divine quality the apostle tells us, in 1 Cor. xiii. 7, that it " suffers all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” The very genius and nature of Christianity consists in this, that it is a passive religion ; a religion that composes the mind to quietness, upon the hardest and the most irksome terms and conditions. And the truth is, if it drives on a design of peace, we shall find that the consequences of revenge make as great a breach upon that as a first defiance and provocation. For were not this answered with resistance and retribution, it would perhaps exhale and vanish; and the peace would at least be preserved on one side. For be the injurious person never so quarrelsome, yet the quarrel must fall, if the injured person will not fight. Fire sometimes goes out as much for want of being stirred up, as for want of fuel. And therefore he that can remit nothing, nor recede, nor sacrifice the prosecution of a small dispensable right to the preservation of peace, understands not the full dimensions and latitude of this great duty; nor remembers that he himself is ruined for ever, should God deal with him upon the same terms.
The great God must relax His law, and recede from some of His right; and every day be willing to put up
and connive at many wrongs, or I am sure it is impossible for Him to be at peace with us. He shines upon His enemies, and drops the dew of heaven upon the base and the unthankful. And in this very instance of perfection, Matt. v. 48, He recommends Himself to our imitation.
If revenge were no sin, forgiveness of injuries could be no duty. But Christ has made it a grand and a peculiar one; indeed so great, as to suspend the whole business of our justification upon it, in Matt. xviii. 35. And in the foregoing verses of that chapter, treating of the unmerci. ful servant, who exacted a debt from his poor fellowservant, we find that “his lord was wroth with him, and delivered him to the tormentors.” Neither could it have profited him to have said, that he exacted but what was lawfully his own, what was due to him upon the best and the clearest terms of propriety. No; this excused not the rigour of a merciless proceeding from him, who had but newly tasted of mercy, and being pardoned a thousand talents, remorselessly and unworthily took his fellow by the throat for a hundred pence.
It is or may be the case of every one of us. We pray every day for forgiveness ; nay, we are so hardy as to pray that God would " forgive us just so as we forgive others ;” and yet oftentimes we can be sharp, furious, and revengeful; prosecute every supposed injury heartily and bitterly; and think we do well and generously not to yield nor relent: and what is the strangest thing in the world, notwithstanding an express and loud declaration of God to the contrary, all this time we look to be saved by mercy; and, like Saul, to be caught into heaven, while we are breathing nothing but persecution, blood, and revenge.
But as to the great duty of peaceableness which we have been discoursing of, we must know, that he who affronts and injures his brother breaks the peace; but withal that he who owns and repays the ill turn, perpetuates the breach. By the former, a sin is only born into the world, but by the latter it is brought up, nourished, and maintained. And perhaps the greatest unquietness of human affairs is not so much chargeable upon the injurious, as the revengeful. The first undoubtedly has the greater guilt; but the other causes the greater dis