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YOU HAD BETTER NOT. Some men are easily influenced to good or evil; you may turn them with a straw, while others are so wilful and obstinate, that you cannot turn them at all.
As I walked homeward I saw before me a man who somewhat staggered in his gait, and a young woman, with a laden basket, was walking beside him. When they came to the Black Horse public-house, the man inclined his steps towards the opened door, but the young woman put her hand gently on his arm, and in a soft, persuasive voice, said to him, “ Father, you had better not!" The man looked at her for a moment, and then suffered himself to be led away from temptation. Had she been rough and angry with him, he might have resisted her, but her gentleness seemed to subdue him. How great is the power of meekness and love! I went on musing to myself on the words, “ You had better not,” well remembering that to me they had not been useless.
Have you never, reader, been led, by an ardent disposition, into danger, in climbing heights and descending into depths ? Have
you never paused at the foot of a rock that you intended to scale; at the edge of a precipice you felt inclined to descend; or at the brink of a chasm over which you had a great mind to spring, till your fears have decided the affair by crying out, “ You had better not ?" If this has not been your case, it has been mine.
In your very pleasures, as well as in holy things, “ see that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise," Eph. v. 15.
Have you never, cast down by disappointment, been just about to abandon a good object, when the whisper of hope has, as it were, uttered in your ear the words, “ You had better not;" thus encouraging you to pursue your course with increased determination ? If you have not, I have. “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God,” Luke ix. 62.
Have you never been on the eve of entering on a foolish project, likely enough to consume much of your time, and to involve
expense and vexation, when your better judgment, coming to your aid, has told you, “ You had better not," and thereby saved you from the false step you would otherwise have taken. If this is a new case to you, it is not to me. “ Consider your ways,” Hag. i. 5.
Have you never, when more than half inclined to wrangle angrily with a hot-headed unbeliever, been told by God's holy word that "you had better not” answer a fool according to his folly? You may not have been thus influenced, but I have. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you,” Eph. iv. 31, 32.
Have you never, when tempted to sin, heard the cry of conscience, “You had better not,” or received some admonition from the Scriptures, or a friend which the Holy Spirit has blessed to you to keep you from evil ? It has been so with me, whether or not it has been so with you.
.66 God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape,” 1 Cor. x. 13.
Hope and fear, judgment, conscience, and God's holy word, have all of them, again and again, spoken in my ear,
and to my heart, the words, “ You had better not.” These words have been made profitable to me; may you, also, reap from them reproof, encouragement, instruction, and advantage.
BENEVOLENCE OF PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANS.
THEIR CARE FOR THE POOR. -One very remarkable way in which this love manifested itself, was in the care they took of their poorer brethren. Among them, as in every association of men, the needy and destitute were found. The duty of providing for these was not left to the gratuities of private individuals, whose situation gave them opportunities of ascertaining, and whose benevolence prompted them to relieve their necessities. It devolved on the whole community of believers, who regarded it not as a burden, but a privilege, to minister to the wants of those who bore the image of Christ : and by their unwearied attentions to the discharge of this labour of love, they made the light of their liberality and benevolence so shine, as to command the admiration even of the cold and selfish heathen around them. As duly as the sabbath returned, and as soon as they had brought their sacred duties to a close, the lists of the poor, the aged, the widow and the orphans, were produced for consideration ; and, as if each had been hastening to bring forth the fruits of faith, and to prove the sincerity of that love they had professed
to their Saviour, by the abundance of their liberality to his people, they set themselves to the grateful task, with a zeal and enthusiasm, whose fresh and unabated vigour betrayed no symptoms of their having already been engaged in a lengthened service.
The custom was for every one in turn to bring under public notice the case of a brother or sister, of whose necessitous circumstances he had any knowledge, and forthwith a donation was ordered out of the funds of the church, which the voluntary contributions of the faithful supplied. No strong or heart-stirring appeals were necessary to reach the hidden source of their sympathies; no cold calculations of prudence regulated the distribution of their public alms ; no fears of doubtful propriety suggested delay for the consideration of the claim; no petty jealousies as to the preference of one recommendation to another were allowed to freeze the genial current of their charity. By whomsoever the case was recommended, or in whatever circumstances the claim was made, the hand of benevolence had answered the call almost before the heart found words to express its sympathy, and with an unanimity surpassed only by their boundless love, they dealt out their supplies from the church, whenever there was an object to receive, or a known necessity to require it.
When the poor in one place were numerous, and the brethren were unable from their limited means to afford them adequate support, they applied to some richer church in the neighbourhood, and never was it known in those days of active benevolence, that the appeal was fruitlessly made, or coldly received. Though they had poor of their own to maintain, neighbouring and foreign churches were always ready to transmit contributions in aid of the Christians in distant parts, and many and splendid are the instances on record of ministry and people, on intelligence of any pressing emergency, hastening with their treasures for the relief of those with whom they had the same faith and hopes. Thus, when a multitude of Christian men and women in Numidia had been taken captive by a horde of neighbouring barbarians, and when the churches to which they belonged were unable to raise the sum demanded for their ransom, they sent deputies to the church that was planted in the metropolis of North Africa, and no sooner had Cyprian, who then was at the head of it, heard a statement of the distressing case, than he commenced a subscription in behalf of the unfortunate slaves, and never relaxed his indefatigable efforts till he had collected a sum equal to nearly 8001., which he forwarded to the Numidian churches, together with a letter full of Christian sympathy and tenderness.
Coleman's Christian Antiquities.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION. A few further considerations which are important for conducting Christian education, now demand attention.
Christian education should be maintained with watchful authority. Authority is essential in the right education of children. It requires judicious use. It should combine decision and mildness, which will produce both freedom and obedience. The principle of good government," says an able writer on education, " is simple and plain. It is, to enforce obedience to every command.” Forethought is needful, therefore, never to give a command which the parent does not intend shall be obeyed. With most children there is an era. in which a struggle is made for the mastery ; in which it is to be decided who is to rule, the child, or those who are placed over him.
At such a juncture, habit and character are about to be formed for life. Decision, coupled with dignified mildness, must then maintain the authority delegated by Christ. On such an occasion it is easier for the fond parent to yield, than to enforce obedience; but the consequences hanging upon the juncture should lead us to act from a sense of duty, and not from feeling. Yea, scriptural feeling would' urge to the promptest measures : “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” This expression, “ chasteneth him betimes," is the great secret of maintaining due authority. If the reins of government be once snatched from the hands of a parent by an unruly mind, a high spirit, or a sulky temper, the parent loses the position in which God has placed him. If the current of youthful impetuosity once make a breach in rightful authority, a flood of evil will follow. Parents should watch against the first rising of rebellion, and hold their authority as received from Christ. It must never be questioned. Many broken-hearted parents will add their sorrowful testimony to the fact, that children have been ruined, and their prospects in this world, and their hopes for the next, blighted, for want of watchful authority over them. The careless negligence of parents in fulfilling this duty to themselves, and to their children, has brought down many grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. If it be the duty of children to obey their parents in all things
in the Lord, it is equally the duty of parents to enforce that obedience. Christ has commended this obedience by his Divine example; he was subject to Joseph and Mary; rendering perfect obedience to the parental authority which he permitted them to exercise. Eli, weakly lenient to his wicked sons, only gently rebuked them for their sins, and he lost his authority, and they lost their lives. What a blessed reformation would this country witness, if all parents professing godliness would prayerfully strive to obtain the high commendation given of Abraham, “ I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord !”
Christian education should be recommended by example.Example is better than precept, especially with children. “ We must be what we wish our children to be. They will form their character from ours. What benefit can reasonably be expected when we recommend that by our injunctions, which we renounce by our example?" It is not enough to tell children what they should do, unless our own practice commends our injunction. It is vain to think of hiding our sins from them. They have keen eyes, and are quick to see through the flimsy veil of hypocrisy. They narrowly watch our movements, and dive into our motives of action. therefore, we would teach our children obedience to us, their masters, they must witness obedience in us to One who is our Master in heaven. If we would teach them to be open, and frank, and truthful, we must ourselves avoid all species of deception. If we would educate them for eternity and heaven, our own heart must give evidence that our affections are “set on things above, and not on things on the earth.”
Christian education should be sanctified by prayer. Instructions to children would carry heavenly influence with them, if parents and children lived in the atmosphere of prayer. To pray for children is not enough. To teach them to pray is not enough. We should pray with them, and pray over them; join with them in their confessions of sin, and in their supplications for grace; enable them to realize the soulcomforting blessing, that they are not alone at the throne of grace; bring them, and thus accompany them, to the arms of Christ. By our prayerful conduct with them, we should afford them a daily and practical commentary upon the words of the apostle, “ Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him," Col. iii. 17.