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We may observe, lastly, that nothing promotes usefulness more than experience. It both creates the desire of usefulness, and actually fits for it. · Who so desirous for the spread of iruth as those
who have seen its beauty, and felt its power ? Who so anxious to point miserable sinners to the Saviour, as those who have been pardoned and saved by him? Who more willing to de. clare his grace, and exalt his name, than those who have tasted his goodness and experienced his support? When Jesus made himself known to the woman of Saniaria, she left her watering pot, and fled to the city, saying, “ Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ ?” When he was presented at the tem. ple, Anna, a prophetess, coming in that instant, gave thanks, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. When Andrew first found the Messiah, he carried the hap. py tidings to his brother Peter, and was the instrument of bringing him to Jesus. John iv. 26. Luke ii. 38. I John. Thus grace is communi. cative: it expands the heart, it calls forth the powers to action, it fills the soul with the purest benevolence, and makes its possessor truly concerned for the welfare of his fellow creatures. He who has been convinced of the danger to which he was exposed, the astonishing love of Christ in rescuing him from it, the happy state into which he is brought by his unmerited favour, and the everlasting felicity he expects to enjoy, cannot but be fired with the most generous desires that others may participate the same blessings. Who is cold hearted? Who is unfeeling? Who is un. concerned about the salvation of mankind, but those who have never seen the importance or experienced the happy effects of the blessings of the gospel ? But the experienced christian is alive to their best interests; and his benevolence is not only of the best kind, but is of the most extensive nature. It is not a sect he wishes to flourish; it is not a party he desires to exalt. It is not a single neighbourhood, his native place, or the country, to which he belongs, he is anxious should en. joy these blessings only, but his good wishes encircle the globe, and with the Psalmist he can say, 6. Let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and amen.” Ps. lxxü. 19. It is here, then, that we can account for what is improperly called the unnecessary activity of some christians. To the world, indeed, they appear as enthusiasts. They are considered as troublesome, intruding, and desirous of exalting themselves. They are often represented as characters, who, by an ini. proper forwardness, dismember society, produce discord in families, and injure individuals. But these charges are groundless. The fact is, having tasted that the Lord is gracious themselves, they ardently long that others may know him too. They are grieved at the wickedness which abounds. They well know what enemies men are to themselves, and that the religion of Jesus only can produce true happiness. Is it any wonder, therefore, if, stimulated by a sense of duty, and prompted by the feelings of compassion, they sometimes warn the sinner of his danger, endeavour to convince him of his folly, and point out to him the way of salvation? If a man who had long laboured under a dreadful malady at last found relief in some able physician, would he
be ashamed to speak of him ?rather would he not with the warmest emotions recommend him to others in the same situation ? Or if he had lost his way, and was kindly directed by one who was well acquainted with it, would he not recommend him as a sure guide ? Or if any of us had received multiplied and unmerited favours from some kind and beneficent friend, should we not speak highly of his character, and recommend him as the refuge of the needy, and the support of the distressed ? Nor let it ever be wondered at, therefore if christians should so strongly recommend him to whom they are entirely indebted for all the blessings they enjoy, and all the comforts they have ever received. Let not such zeal be accounted madness, such benevolence ostentation, nor such gratitude weakness; but rather the genuine evidences of a mind perceptive of duty, and a heart powerfully impressed with a sense of divine goodness. . But experience actually qualifies for useful. ness. Who are our best philosophers, our best artists, our best legislators, our best divines, but those who have had the greatest experience? It is this which qualifies men for the discharge of the most important offices. To these are com. mitted affairs of the greatest magnitude, and this with the greatest propriety. For how soon would that vessel be exposed to the most imminent danger which has an unexperienced pilot at the helm! How soon would that army be put into confusion who only had an unexperienced general at its head! How soon would that country be involved in ruin who possessed no other than an inexperi. enced statesman as her guide! But, on the con.
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trary, where experience dictates, there in general safely is enjoyed. Let us apply this to the experienced christian. How well qualified is he to be useful! with what certainty can be speak of the nature of sin, with what feeling can he expatiate on the vanity of the world, with what propriety can he enlarge on the operations of the human heart! How capable is he of recommending the best things to attention! With a noble boldness, he can contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. With energy, he can exhibit the Saviour to the lost sinner, as his only righteousness. He can afford consolation to the distressed, instruct those who are ignorant, and be the instrument of restoring the wandering backslider to his happi. ness and his God. Thus even the private chris. tian is qualified for usefulness, and shines as a light in the world.
But how peculiarly useful is experience to him who is in a more public situation! What an advantage is it to the minister of the gospel! It enables him to touch every tender string of the human heart, to adapt himself to the cases, trials, and feelings of the different auditors; to lift up them that fall, to comfort the feeble minded, to sympaihise with the afflicted, to-bear with the weak, and succour the tempted. What a difference do we discern in the discourses of those who deliver merely what they have been taught, but what they do not feel! How cold is the address of the mere speculator and inexperienced, when compared with his which comes warm from the heart, and is the fruit of his own experience! How useless, flat, and insipid, is the one; how animated, appropriate, and impressive is the other ! The one resembles the mere way-post that directs the stranger, while itself is unmoved; the other may be compared to a living guide, who actually becomes a companion on the road, and animates and supports as he proceeds.
From the views we have thus taken of the ad. vantages of experience, we may learn what respect is due to it. How many evils would the young and inexperienced be saved from, were they to be obedient to the advice of those who have been long in the way! How many have to lament that they have followed their own inclinations, in preference to the wise counsels of the more experienced ! Consult, therefore, my young readers, those of longer standing than yourselves. Be willing to give up your judgments to those which are superior. “It is an honour to sit at their feet, and receive their instructions ; but it is vanity to think you know so much, that they cannot inform you. They have seen the world in the va. rious appearances it has assumed; they have watched the operations of Providence. They have been out in the storm, and been tossed about by the dreadful tempest. They can tell where the dangerous places are ; the rocks that are to be avoided, and the course which should be pursued. To them, therefore, under God, must you you resort. They can direct in difficulty, support in danger, and be the instruments of saving from impending ruin. Learn to court their company, listen to their advice, and never be ashamed to own your inferiority, nor to bend to their decision.
Let the experienced, also, learn to make use of their experience for the good of others. It is