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with this as it is with every other valuable trea. sure --It ought to be employed for the benefit of society at large, or individuals in particular. To gain much and impart nothing, is disgraceful to humanity, and inconsistent with religion. A general relation of experience to every one would be highly injudicious. Pearls are not to be cast before swine. But there are occasions when ihe christian may-make use of his experience with great advantage, and be the happy mean of deterring from the prosecution of rash and dangerous steps; or, on the other land, of encouraging others, whose minds have been perplexed with a variety of distressing fears. Experienced christians, be useful in this respect. Tell what you know, that your younger brethren may be benefitted. How pleasing it is to see you sit down with a little company of inexperienced around you, and to hear you say, “ I have travelled some time in the way. In yonder place I was sur. rounded with enemies, but the interposition of Providence rescued me from danger. As I passed along that valley, I found help from the recollection of the divine promises. In ascending the hill of difficulty, I was wearied and exhausted, but happily my strength was renewed. Some. times I have been tempted to step aside to gather a flower that grew on the bank, but I have found it only impede my journey, and for a while lost sight of the path in which I was going. The clouds have sometimes alarmed me, but they have ultimately caused me to mend my pace. Loiterers, speculatists, apostates, and others, have often wished to hold converse, and dispute about the road; but they are all to be avoided : they
harass the mind, and lay stumbling blocks in the way. I have beheld objects at a distance which have appeared terrific and dismaying ; but, on a nearer approach, I have experienced them to be rather adding to the comfort of the way than otherwise. The nights have sometimes been long, and the winds and storms have been vio. lent, but it has made the light and the calm more acceptable. On the whole, it is pleasant tɔ re. mark, that they who commit all into the hands of the Almighty shall find all well in the end; that there is nothing to be dreaded so much as a deviation from the path of duty, and that little is to be feared while we are in it.”
Such is the testimony that experience can bear to the faithfulness of God; and such testimony should be borne, for the sake of those who have to travel in the same road. Much might be said on this subject, but we must reserve it for another place in this work, where we shall consider it more at large [see the 8th and 11th chapters.] But before we come to this part, it will be neces. sary, as we have now opened the nature and ad. vantages of experience in general, to enter into more particular experiences of true christians.
CHA P. III.
The Young Christian's Experience.
THOUGH all true christians belong to the same family, have the same common parent, are travelling the same way, and have the same object
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in view, yet they are not all of the same stature, possess the same strength, or bear the same complexion. Hence it is that the sacred scriptures speak of “ little children, young men, and fathers in Christ." There are some who have but just began to breathe in the spiritual world, and can scarcely discern spiritual objects; there are others, who, in addition to life, possess vigour, who are grown up to manhood, have obtained more knowledge, and are still making progress to a higher state. But there are others who have arrived to considerable eminence in the divine life, whose judgments are matured, whose views of things are extensive, and who by long expe. rience are capable of teaching others also. Thus we see it is in religion as in all the other works of the divine hand. There is a gradual process to be observed. Every thing could be done in. stantaneously by the power of the Almighty, were it his good pleasure. But we see it is other. wise. The work of creation was not executed in a day. The system of providence is not the work of a moment, and the still more grand work of redemption was not to be accomplished at once. If we turn, also, to the works of art, every thing that is grand and magnificent, beautiful and permanent, has been the work of time, deli. beration, and a regular process. The stately buildings that astonish the beholder, the governments of the earth instituted for the happiness of its inhabitants; the volumes of learning and information that adorn our libraries, the curious machines formed for the convenience of man and the prosperity of commerce, all have been carried on in this way. So the most important of all
blessings, the religion of Jesus, as to its operations on the human mind, is progressive. It may be argued, however, that regeneration is an instantaneous act; but, admitting that it is, and that spiritual life is communicated at once, yet that is no objection to the principle we are now contending for. Life is communicated to the child, but that does not constitute its manship. It does not immediately unfold all its powers, and arrive to maturity at the same instant. So in the family of Christ life may be given, but the christian may be a babe: he may be weak and igno. rant, and it must be a work of time before he can advance to be a young man and a father in Christ.
To this agrees the language of the apostle Pe. ter, who says, “ Ye, also, as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." 1 Pet. ii. 2. So the apostle Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, says, “ And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” i Cor. iii. 1. So again to the Hebrews. “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.” Heb. v. 13. So the treatinent of the Thessalonians, which the same apostle speaks of, conveys the same idea : “ We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.” i Thes. ii. 7. It is this babe, this child in grace, then, whose experience we shall now consider. And here, also, we shall have to describe something of his character, as well as his experience; in both of which we shall see something excellent, something blameable, and something discoura
The first thing we discover in the young chris. tian is a serious concern for his soul. Before he was convinced of his real state by nature, he manifested no care for the immortal part. All taken up with his body, the pleasures of the world, and the vanities of time and sense, he neglected that which was most important, and despised that which was most necessary. But now he is led to consider what will become of his soul, and to make the solemn enquiry, “ What shall I do to be saved ?" He reads with trembling the awful warnings and solemn declarations of scripture, " What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Except ye repent, ye must all perish. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near." Mark viii. 36. Matt. xviii. 3. Luke xiii. 3. Is. lv. 6. These passages come home with power to his mind; he is led to see the impropriety of living according to the course of this world, the end of which is death. The Divine Spirit impresses the solemn truths of re, velation upon his heart; he is made a new creature: old things begin to pass away, and all things become new. He is led to choose that bet, ter part, that one thing needful, which cannot be taken from him. The care of the soul, the shortness of time, the certainty of death, the necessity of repentance, the awful realities of heaven and hell, together with the thoughts of eternity, are subjects which now so engage his attention, that he becomes alive to his best interests, sets his face