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LETTERS TO A YOUNG CHRISTIAN.
In my last, I touched upon the subject of temptation. I am constrained to add a few words more on the same subject. It has been too common for those who have betrayed their Lord by a disgraceful return to the world, to predict the same defection in others. Hence you often hear professors of religion address the youthful convert in such language as the following :-“ Your present ardour is no proof that it will continue : now you are all joy, all devotion ; by and by the scene will be changed. I once felt as you now feel : perhaps I enjoyed inore ecstatic pleasure: but I soon lost the glow of my first love, and so will you. A few years will cool you down, and show you that such ardour cannot always last.”
When I hear such language addressed to the young Christian, I am indignant. It is not necessarily true; my young friend, it is not true. The Bible, which is the only
lamp to our path,” gives no warrant for such a prediction. True, it represents the cases of many who at first bade fair, but subsequently apostatized. It records the cases of such, as a flaming beacon, to warn those who should come after them. But does it not represent the path of the just, as “ the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day?”. Does it not say, that he who hath clean hands shall grow
“ stronger and stronger ? Does it not grow
in grace,' ' forget the things which are behind,” and “reach towards those which are before ! ” to make Christ our mark; and press towards it, with all the energy of an Olympic racer, struggling in competition for the goal?
Now, I warn you not to listen to such cold predictions. They who make them from their own experience, may have been deceived. Let them take heed to themselves; and not allure others on, in their down-hill course, by their disgraceful example. But suppose them to have been Christians; and I allow that a Christian may grow cold, and backslide
urge us to “
word of God ? Is it likely to urge forward the young convert in the path of holiness? Is it likely to raise the standard of piety in the souls of others ? No, far from it Young converts are prone to copy those who are older and
nore experienced. If they are persuaded that it is consistent with the existence of piety, to grow cold in feeling, they will probably yield to the seductions of the world, and the temptations of Satan. They will not press forward ; they will recede. They will take the cold dead level of their predecessors.
But, my young friend, be you warned by this, not to listen to such language for a moment; nor to suppose it must be true in your case. I do assure you, your Bible holds a different language. As you value your comfort, your peace of mind, your immortal hopes, your character as a Christian, your influence as a follower of the Lamb, press forward. Strive every day to make some new attainments in knowledge and holiness. You are engaged in a conflict. You have put on the armour of God; and, put it off for a moment you must not. Your enemies are numerous, vigilant, and powerful. You must contend every day: nor must you think of rest or relaxation. When death«shall unbind for you the Gospel armour, and you hear the voice which shall call
your conflicts to your reward, then, and not till then, will your struggles be ended, and your victory complete. You have counted the cost : do not shrink at the cross. Christ will be with
Christ will support you. Under his banner you contend. His arm will shield you, and his grace bring you off more than conqueror.
I have digressed a little from the point at which I aimed. I wished to caution you particularly concerning the first step in a backward course. The first step in the retreat is an important one. It is needful, therefore, to say, that generally that step commences at the closet. Prayer is the strong hold to which the young Christian generally resorts. In doubts and difficulties, the throne of grace is his refuge. If the “ devouring lion ” roar, thither the lamb will flee, and hide itself in the bosom of its shepherd. If the world and the stain is washed out in the blood of Jesus. If the path of duty be not obvious, if perplexity attend his course, at the throne of grace there is light and direction. Hence it will be an important advantage to your enemies, if they can draw
you from this palladium, this strong tower of defence. Keep alive, then, I beseech you, to the first symptom of declension in prayer.
Prayer is a difficult, often an arduous work; but it is the life and soul of a Christian. It is not only his incumbent duty, but his most precious privilege.
Now it will be the aim of the tempter, to withdraw you from being “instant in prayer.” He knows what a powerful weapon it is; and, therefore, he will endeavour to wrest it out of your hands. He will represent it as an irksome duty. He will suggest that fewer and shorter prayers will answer. He will interpose obstacles between you and your closet. He will divert your attention while there, and then taunt you with your coldness and your folly. He will say that your prayers are hypocritical, insincere, an abomination to God, He will suggest, that now you are not in a good frame, and advise you to put it off until you feel in a better. Thus will he try every art, and use every machination, to draw you from this refuge of your soul. But, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” must be your reply to all such suggestions. You must cling closer to the “horns of the altar.” You must “ bind the sacrifice with cords,” if you cannot keep it there. You must give yourself to prayer, and to the word of God. Like the vestals, you must live at the altar.
I FEEL constrained, my young friend, to add something more on the subject of prayer. This duty, in my view, is of such importance as to warrant a few more remarks ; al. though I do not intend enlarging on a subject upon which so much, and such excellent things, have been written.
You were taught, by your pious parents, to utter a form of prayer, as soon as your infant mind could comprehend, back upon these juvenile devotions, you doubtless see wherein they were deficient. Your ideas of the Being to whom they were addressed, were confused and inadequate. You could not then comprehend the necessity of a Mediator ; for as yet you had not discovered the evil of sin, and the wrath of God, as revealed against it. You had too deep a sense of obligation, to neglect prayer entirely; but of the real nature and efficacy of prayer, you had little conception. To your mind, prayer was a form of words to be repeated at stated intervals. When thus repeated, the obligation was discharged. This was probably all you knew about prayer.
But shall parents omit to inculcate this duty on their children, because they cannot comprehend the nature of it? Certainly not. How can they tell but that when they have taught the little prattler to compose himself to rest, with his familiar and simple petitions, the Spirit of God may enlighten the child into the spiritual import of his prayer, and make it a means of leading him to more enlarged petitions, offered up “in spirit and in truth?” No person can estimate the advantages of early imbuing the youthful mind with a sense of its obligations to God. Such instructions should coinmence with the first dawn of intellect; and sure I am, that in subsequent life, the subject of them will generally be the better and the happier.
To illustrate this, I will recur again to my own case. I was taught by one of the best of mothers, never to close my eyes without repeating my prayers. This I conscientiously adhered to, until about thirteen or fourteen years of age, when I began gradually to omit them. Whether I felt that they were too childish, or whether, as is most probable, my conscience was becoming seared in the downward course to iniquity, I cannot now remember. But at all events, my prayers were no longer offered ; and I went to sleep and rose up like a brute. With the omission of these prayers commenced a retrograde movement in morals, until I hung over the abyss of ruin, ripe for the judgments of God. And what do you suppose occurred first, to rouse me from the fatal slumbers of death ? As I was retiring one night, prayer rushed upon my mind. I paused. “ What,” said I to myself, “am I going to lie down without one thought of God, or offering one prayer for the safety of my soul? Did I not once repeat my prayers; and at a time too when I was far less guilty than now? Why have I omitted them so long ? Suppose I should die this night, where then would my soul be?” With such reflections I became impressed ; and although I did not kneel that night, yet in a recumbent posture I began again to repeat my juvenile devotions. I was nearly seventeen years of age when I resumed them. I had almost forgotten them. A few days and nights rolled away, and convictions grew heavier on my soul. I thought a repetition of these forms was not enough. My soul began to sink in the deep waters ; and a few more days brought me on my knees at the bed-side, with the prayer of the publican: “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Thus, my young friend, were my mother's early instructions among the means, under God, of rescuing me from ruin, temporal and eternal. Thus it is evident that the sooner children are taught to pray, the better; and no assiduity can be too great, to impress on them the obligation and the necessity of prayer.
Still I believe that the Christian only prays the acceptable prayer. Until the Spirit of God convince of sin, the soul will not see its odiousness, nor pray for its removal. The danger to which it is exposed here and hereafter, it may see; and it may deprecate the punishment to which it is subjected; but it is only when the soul is renewed in the image of God, that “ sin appears exceeding sinful,” and that the effectual fervent prayer for sanctification is offered.
If you are a Christian, my young friend, the throne of grace is yours. Your Father is seated on it. Your Sa. viour has sprinkled it with his blood. The Holy Spirit draws you sweetly to kneel before it; and the promise, when there, is, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” What an honour thus to approach the King of kings! Were we to have audience with an earthly monarch, we should deem