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this shall be the subject of a future page. At present, I have only to express my hope, that, while you entertain such serious fears lest your anxiety be diminished, and while you still feel “ this unaccountable timidity” on the subject, you may be enabled at once to cast yourself upon Him who understands all your infirmities, and who beholds with infinite tenderness even a single one of his creatures “in the gall of bitterness."
That you should abandon all unnecessary intimacies, which are unfavourable to your spiritual welfare, is both the dictate of imperative duty and the prescription of ordinary policy. A judi: cious physician would always, if practicable, remove his patient from an infected district, and place him in an air more favourable to recovery. But the atmosphere of worldly associates is as inauspicious to spiritual life, as is the spot of infectious disease to the health of the human frame. The gaiety, or if it be only indifference to religion, which prevails in the society of worldly men, will not always give intensity, by the force of contrast, to the convictions of the awakened sinner. Its more probable effect will be the unsettling all that gave promise of future good. He ought to remember that the tone of his mind, unformed as it now is, subjects him to a more positive effect from the society in which he moves, than from causes which may be more suspected ;
and that he needs every possible check upon dispositions which are now restrained by a rein at the best but feeble.
“I am a companion of all them that fear thee,"* said one of old, in evidence of his delight in the counsels and commandments of God. Such, too, should be the language of the sincere inquirer, when he confirms his resolution to unite himself for ever to the cause of the Redeemer; a resolution which he is likely to make before he has yet fully considered that he is to connect it with the discharge of every sacred duty. Probably he supposes that there are certain duties which can be accomplished only by the Christian, while there are others which it is in the power of the unrenewed man to complete: a common and pernicious distinction. But the simple truth is, and it demands the most serious consideration, that the unconverted man is under the same primary obligation as the Christian himself, to obey the whole law of God; that his line of duty extends to the full length, directly or remotely, of that which belongs to the subject of grace; and that all neglect or inability (which is demonstrably nothing but disinclination) is charged upon himself: by the same reason that the temper and disposition on the part of the sinner which are opposed to
* Psalm cxix. 63.
holiness are condemned as blameworthy and guilty.
Remember that a choice of associates is fully within your power; or, at least, that a retirement from unnecessary intercourse with worldly men is perfectly practicable. It is equally certain that a disregard of precepts to this purpose, is in opposition to one of those petitions which should form a part of all our prayers,
“ Lead us not into temptation.” In the meantime, there is not a more deleterious effect to the mind of the man accustomed to the right use of devotional seasons, than that which he perceives when he comes to the chamber of retirement from the immediate influence of worldly society. And it not infrequently requires all the powers of a living principle of piety, to restore him to a devotional frame. If such be the experience of one whose principles and habits are confirmed, how much more important is the choice of society to the inquirer!
Much has been said on the trials which decision on this subject are supposed to produce; and in some instances, with reason. But may it not be true that, in most cases, no small share of these evils is iinaginary; and a considerable part of the difficulties of our own formation? I assure you that I have often thought so. There are few, in a land lighted by the gospel, who have not had their serious moments, not to say seasons of painful conviction, and whose judgments do not secretly approve the course of the returning sinner. Even he who professes to be satisfied with a cold system of morality, and who disavows a belief in the transforming influence of the Holy Spirit, is not always perfectly contented with the part which he has adopted. There is, I have no doubt, a latent feeling of insecurity, brought into action by the separation of a former companion; and he may feel the reproach which that separation tacitly conveys: but whatever deportment he may manifest, depend upon it, there is no decline of true respect towards that companion. Apprehensions on this subject are very frequently groundless ; and the unhappiness which they create entirely gratuitous. And so, it might be added, are very many of the external cares which harass the awakened sinner.
That excuse for neglecting the concerns of the soul, which so often follows the solemn admonitions of conscience, and which assumes such a shape as the following, I am afraid to begin the inquiry for salvation, lest I be tempted to abandon it at last, is not without an operation here. There are those who are unwilling to forego society which they know to be prejudicial to their best interests, from a doubt of their future success in the inquiry, and a fear of the consequent shame on coming back to the world. And it is this which, by producing a compromising spirit and conduct, effects the very failure which they apprehend. Such a man is attempting to secure two irreconcileable interests; or at least to retain one in the peradventure of ill success with the other. Here can be no sincerity of heart in the application for divine favour; no fair value set upon it; neither conviction of sin, nor a true disposition to surrender every thing unreservedly to God, and relinquish all that stands in the way of such a sacrifice: a disposition of which you should never lose sight, and to which I would have your mind habitually directed.
There is not a more important scriptural direction to the inquirer, than that which bids him “count the cost” of the pursuit in which he professes to engage. Any reserve which he may desire to make in the great obligations of duty will as effectually bar his success as an avowed spirit of worldliness. With language that seems designed to anticipate all such difficulties, the Saviour has expressly said, “If any man come to me, and hate not" (a comparative term) “his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple: and whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my
Here the dearest earthly affections
* Like xiv. 26, 27.