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actually fallen a victim to his snares. See the last chapter.
It is no uncommon thing for the inexperienced christian, also, to discover a little of a selfdependent spirit. Legal hope dies hard, and he is, sometimes, led to imagine that he has more strength than he has. Thus Peter thought that though all the disciples should leave Christ, yet he would not. How many rash steps have been taken, how many dangers have the young christian run into, through a dependence on themselves! They have judged by their present feelings, not considering the weakness and versatility of man. “I shall never be moved. It is good to be here," has been their language. Their very prayers, although sincere and well meaning, have proved their ignorance and self-dependence; and often has it been a mercy for them that they have not been answered according to their desires. Like children, too, they have been pleased with toys; stood on the brink of danger, without knowing where they were. Flushed with zeal, they have made attempts without fear, entered upon important stations without caution, and engaged in services which the more experienced have declined from a sense of their importance, and the wise have withdrawn from, under a conviction of their inability.
It is the tendency of the religion of Jesus to humble the mind, and to produce the most lowly thoughts of ourselves; and, in proportion as grace operates, so shall we be diffident of our. selves, and the more shall we exalt the Saviour. Satan, however, takes the advantage of the young convert, to make him think more highly of him.
Satxes, and this so shai and, in
self than he ought to think. It is no-uncommon thing, therefore, to observe such assuming a degree of importance which does not belong to them ; to dictate where they ought to learn ; to be conspicuous where they ought to be obscure. A consideration of the evil propensity of the heart to this sin led the apostle to say, “ Be not high minded, but fear. Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. Let every man think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing, yet, as he ought to know. Rom. xi. 20. i Cor. x. 12. Rom. xii. 3. 1 Cor. viii. 2.
Great imprudence, however, marks the young christian's conduct. Even the disciples of our Lord were not free from this. Firmly as they be. lieved in the Messiah, and ready as they were to obey his commands, they sometimes discovered great rashness, as the following instances will tes. tify. “It came to pass, when the time was come that Jesus should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. And sent mes. sengers before his face; and they went and en.. tered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem: and when his disciples James and John saw this, they said Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” So again,.“ John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad him, be
cause he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto hin, Forbid him not; for he that is not against us, is for us.” Luke ix. 49–56.
The little experience the young christian has, sometimes leads him to be loquacious. He is ready to determine without judgment, and to speak without caution. An over inquisitiveness is too evident, and an unsanctified curiosity frequently predominates. " What shall this man do ?” said one : to whom our Lord replied, - What is that to thee? follow thou me.” “Lord, are there few that shall be saved ?" said another. 66 Strive to enter in at the strait gate," said our Lord, “ for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." John xxi. 22. Luke xii. 23, 24.
Zeal in a good cause is certainly deserving of praise, and worthy of imitation ; but that of the young christian too often degenerates into teme. rity. His judgment is not matured enough to inin juu
r form him, nor his prudence great enough to guide
hones con him always in what is to be done. Hence actions good in themselves are seen out of place; order is disturbed; the path of others is crossed, and confusion produced all through inadvertency and want of experience. Young christians have often wounded the spirits of others, though undesignedly; and too often, instead of promoting, they have injured the cause they meant to serve. Infi. dels have laughed, sceptics increased their doubts, and the ungodly hardened in their courses by some rash step they have taken, or unguarded word they have uttered.
We must not, however, be too severe on those whose inexperience claims our advice, and whose
tenderness should engage our protection. Their faults may be numerous, but they are the faults of children; their experience little, but they are con. tinually adding to their treasure. They are every day receiving shocks, which, instead of injuring, tend to settle them. They are constantly making experiments, from which knowledge is increased, and prudence learnt. They have their pleasures, but they have their difficulties too; and from these difficulties they learn experience, and obtain good. But these difficulties must be stated, in order that we may have a full view of their experience.
We have already mentioned the serious concern produced in the mind by a conviction of sin, and that in some this arises to the most pungent distress, almost bordering on despair. A view of the holiness of God, the nature of sin, his own unwor. thiness, and the punishment due to the guilty, fills the soul with horror, and these uneasy impressions are not always immediately removed. The Almighty is sometimes pleased to wound deep, before he sends his Holy Spirit to lead the awakened mind to look to and derive comfort from the cross. Hence many, with Job, have said, “ The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drink. eth up my spirits : the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me."* Job vi. 4.
But, in addition to these painful sensations, the young christian meets with opposition from his former companions. One derides him as an enthusiast, another considers him as melancholy; a third ridicules him as singular, while a fourth
* See chapter on Distressing Experience.
sneers at him for changing his religion. Perhaps he may have ungodly parents, who are ready to deprive him of his patrimony, expel him from the house, or set him up as a laughing-stock to the rest of the family. Domestics may be suffered to treat him with contempt, and inferior branches of the house may pass by him with scorn. These things, though honourable to the christian, yet are not pleasant to human nature; and we all know, that though grace affords support, yet it does not destroy the feelings.
But the young convert is not only attacked in this way; but when the world perceives that he is invulnerable here, another method is tried, and which indeed has been more dangerous than the other. Human nature loves to be soothed : soft words, alluring smiles, kind treatment, and fair promises, will do more to bend the mind than any other means that can be thought of. These are sometimes employed by the devotees of the world to warp the mind, and draw aside the footsteps of the young pilgrim. With apparent kindness at the head, follows a variety of other expedients to ensnare. Vice is extenuated ; Virtue is represented as not always rigid in her claims : occasional departures are allowable; there is no harm when it does not spring from principle. God never de. signed all the pleasures of the world to be aban. doned: every one have their infirmities, and you may have your's. You may think of religion at another opportunity : it will be time enough when you come to die. With such like expedients is the young convert assaulted : and it must be confessed that when parents and connexions