« VorigeDoorgaan »
the ship strikes on a rock and begins to sink in the mighty waters, or the soldier promise to seek and provide his armour, only just when the enemy enters the gates, or scales the walls of the citadel, would not such extravagance be deemed akin to infatuation? But if in regard to temporal things, conduct so strange and egregiously absurd, might seem to verge on insanity, what shall we say of that procrastinating spirit which, to the mercies of a moment, leaves the vast concerns of an eternal state. As you, Mr. Linger, have opened your own case, and begged advice, I shall now offer, with all plainness and fidelity, a few hints and suggestions for your consideration.
And first, I would have you examine with impartiality, whether you are sufficiently aware of the heinousness and aggravation of your offence against God. You have, indeed, made a confession, which is something; but is there a penitent and contrite heart? A man may blush at his folly, and never mourn over his sin; may be affected by the loss he has sustained, and not by the guilt he has accumulated. Procrastination in the great concerns of religion, will, upon a strict scrutiny, be found to involve in it, unbelief and obduracy, the blackest ingratitude, and the boldest presumption. Such as have often heard the tender invitation, "seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near;" or the solemn warning, "to-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts ;" and yet continue to put off all thought of these momentous matters, to a future indefinite period, may be truly said to set at nought the authority of the King of kings, and to abuse and pervert the com. passion of the Father of mercies. It appears from your own confession, that you, sir, have long op
posed the testimonies of heaven, and the remonstrances of conscience. Let the criminal and odious nature of such conduct be duly considered and laid to heart. You speak more than once of your dilatory habit, as a dire and fatal spell, by which you are bound in thraldom. Now, though I wish not to lay any undue stress on a single phrase, yet if you speak of fate and destiny, and the resistless spells of enchantment, with the delusive idea of denying, or even diminishing your own moral responsibility, you are grossly deceiving yourself.
Let me entreat you also to set about considering, as if for the first time, the grand principles, doctrines, and sanctions of revealed religion. You have had from your very youth, it would seem, some acquaintance with the truths of Christianity, and have sat under a sound and searching ministry: but many persons highly privileged in point of means and opportunities take too much for granted, in reference to their actual attainments in knowledge. I therefore put the question to you, whether you have ever yet entered upon the perusal and search of the Holy Scriptures, with any thing like a serious, diligent, patient, and persevering solicitude? A few transient fits and flashes of ardour cannot have given you a deep knowledge of evangelical principles. I should judge from the tenor of your narrative, that you have been more moved by the terrors of Sinai, than by the touching scenes of Calvary. I know, Mr. Linger, that many of your kindred are led to procrastination and cold indifference, by the secret leaven of a pharisaic spirit. The salvation of the soul is left to the last hour, because it is believed the last hour will well enough suffice to secure it. Pride and
self-righteous presumption, however disguised, are, I am persuaded, at the bottom of all this.
It is a matter of prime importance, that you should not only see in a clear and distinct light the freeness and fulness of spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus; but also the only appointed agency by which those blessings are brought down to us. "The kingdom of God," saith the Apostle, “is not meat and drink, 'ritual and ceremonial observances,' but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." The agency of the Divine spirit stamps an impress of holiness and dignity on the soul. His voice stills the tempest of rebellious passions; his sovereign balm heals the wounds of the broken heart. You profess your full belief of Christianity, and should therefore recollect, that no doctrine is more emphatically and frequently inculcated in the New Testament, than the necessity and importance of the Holy Spirit's influence. If your faith be real, it will be operative, and lead you daily and hourly to the throne of grace, to seek this precious and inestimable gift. You ask, how the entanglements which enslave you may be broken? How the delusions which tantalize you may be scattered? These are enquiries deeply interesting. Science and philosophy can lend you no help in these matters. But an inspired writer has said, "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." It is his sole prerogative to loosen the invisible chains with which we are bound, and give freedom, fervour, energy, and elevation to the soul. When the unction of his grace enlightens the eyes of the mind, a new world of wonders is opened to our view, and the empty phantoms and painted baubles of this world vanish and disappear. Here then is a satisfactory answer to your important enquiry.
By truly believing the Divine promise, and earnestly praying for the Holy Spirit, that sacred and supernatural influence may assuredly be obtained, which is capable of raising the tone and temper of the mind, of harmonizing the movements of the will and the monitions of the conscience. As you have entreated faithful counsels to be given you, there is another hint which I shall take the liberty to suggest. From the narrative of your life, as it stands, I shrewdly suspect, though the circumstance is not mentioned by you, that some of your relations and old friends have been pretty constant visitors in your new rural abode. I have long known the Linger family, for the various branches of it reside in my neighbourhood, and I well know, and therefore must plainly and positively assert, that a more insinuating and dangerous set of people do not exist. If they cannot engross your time in large portions, they will beg and steal it away by atoms. Now, believe me, they can injure you as much in your retreat as they did in your business. If you bid them welcome to your house, they will alienate your heart; if you receive them as guests, they will be your tempters and betrayers. It is therefore absolutely necessary, painful as the proposal may appear, that you should renounce all connexion with them, and form an alliance with the Steadfasts. Henceforth, then, I would have you bear a new name, and what is of far higher importance, a new character. After so often lingering and looking back, like Lot's wife, it is indeed matter of surprise that you have not been smitten with some dread judgment, and made a monument of Divine displeasure. But the angel-form of Mercy still beckons you, and cries, "Escape for thy life; stay not in all the plain; haste to the asylum, the annointed city of rofure lest thou be consumed."
ACCORDING to the definition of Mr. Locke, "anger is the uneasiness or discomposure of the mind, upon the receipt of any injury, with a present purpose of revenge." "This passion," says Dr. Cogan, "inspires the language of menace; renders the aspect terrible; gives energy to the muscular system; and these unite to strike the offender with dread. When anger is accompanied with marks of contempt and disdain, a severer sentence is inscribed on the countenance than the utmost force of language could express."
Ethical writers of great ability have differed widely in their treatment of this subject. The Stoics condemned anger altogether, and maintained that it ought not to be regulated, but entirely extinguished. Yet that singular sect, whose boasted apathy led them often to employ strange language, was not so absurd as to pretend that the mind could be kept in a perpetual calm. They made a distinction between emotion and passion, allowing the former, and yet wholly proscribing the latter. "The first emotion of mind," says Marcus Antoninus," which the appearance of an injury excites, is no more the passion of anger than the appearance itself is; but the following impetus is the passion, which not only entertains the apprehension that we have been injured, but owns it to be a right apprehension."
The Stoics, however, were not the only persons who have avowed this opinion. A pious writer, in one of the early numbers of the Christian Observer, regarded anger as, in its own nature sinful, and blamed Dr. Guise for stating it to be "an in