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VOL. XII. No. 348.
THE SHARPENING INFLUENCE OF RELI-
JUNE 11, 1842.
BY THE REV. J. H. A. WALSH, M.A.,
MEN are in a state of trial, on which depends
VOL. XII.-NO. CCCXLVIII.
OF THE UNITED
CHURCH OF ENGLAND
PRICE 1 d.
On the other hand it is possible for us to "neglect so great salvation," and to be doubly ruined. These are very serious circumstances to be placed in. There is a possibility of men being more and more ripe for destruction every year they live; and they may be quite certain that they are actually coming nearer to such ripeness, or its opposite, each month of their lives. Under such circumstances, they should look round for every possible help, look diligently against any thing that can hinder, and every thing that can forward, their most momentous interests.
We are all well acquainted with the every-day fact that "iron sharpeneth iron;" we have all seen steel used to sharpen a blade, to give it an edge, and make it fit to do its work. I will not dwell on this. But there is one remark I must be allowed. We are also well aware that the blade, when sharpened, may be used for a good purpose, or abused for a bad one. The axe may be used to fell the timber of the temple, or to break down all the carved work thereof. The steel or the whetstone to sharpen, fits the blade for doing good or doing evil, according to circumstances.
The act of sharpening increases its power, whether for good or evil; and so is it with regard to a man's friends-they stir him up, they excite him, but it is to good or to evil, according as they themselves are good or evil: the consequence is, that as immortal beings we need to be warned as well as to be congratulated on the fact, that, "as iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Yes, a friend may sharpen our countenance-may increase our taste for evil as well as for good. "Evil communications
[London: Joseph Rogerson, 24, Norfolk-street, Strand.]
corrupt good manners," and make evil manners worse. We have need therefore to be on our guard in two respects: take care whom we keep company with for the sake of ourselves -take care how we associate with others for their sake. We must take care who our friends are, lest we receive mischief; take care what kind of friends we are, lest we impart it. Those who countenance what is wrong are answerable for much of the evil their ountenance leads to.
our Father," a throng of grateful hearts is putting in the claim to the same tender relationship: when we say, "I believe," a crowd of hearts are owning one faith, one hope, and For instance, all persons should take longing to be stedfast in the faith, and living great care to what they are led by the coun- consistently to it: when we cry, "Endue thy tenance and encouragement of friends, on ministers with righteousness, and make thy occasions of public festivity or show. Many chosen people joyful," an earnest crowd around on such occasions have their countenance is making common cause with us: when we sharpened as they are not on other days." give hearty and humble thanks for mercies They are egged on and encouraged to say, temporal, and above all for God's inestimable to do, to boast, to indulge, as they never love in Jesus Christ," not a few are feeling would do, and never do, when sitting at with us unworthiness and gratitude and praise, home at their own houses. They should and practising that inward melody of gratibeware then of needlessly exposing them- tude which shall swell in tides of love and selves to temptation on such occasions; they adoration above. If we could become inshould beware how they allow their children creasingly sensible that our voice is the voice to do so. The iron, once sharpened, may of many, our devotion the glow of many, we keep sharp a long while. The watch, which should return to the world more thankful than it takes but half a minute to wind up, will go ever to God for the "communion of saints;" in consequence of that winding for a full more prepared to live as a Christian in comday and night: and the mischief done to mon days-to go, as Christians, through our the mind of a person, especially to a young appointed course of snares and conflicts. person, may take but a little while to do, and yet its effect may be very sad and lasting, may I not say, ever-lasting.
It is a pleasing thought, however, that the man, whose heart is right with God, "sharpens eth" for good "the countenance of his friend." This is the main point. The force of the comparison lies here: and the thought should make us all increasingly anxious both to gain and to give, both to receive and to diffuse; not ourselves to lose, and that others may not lose, the benefit to be gained in this way. It would quicken us in our Christian course, and make us more active and more successful in our attempts to walk as God would have us walk. Then shall we feel ourselves not a little indebted to the fact, that "a man's countenance sharpens that of his friend," as steel does the metal that it meets.
True, those who do such a mischief to us are little worthy of the name of friend. "Friend" is a title which ought to be preserved for such as wish to do us good; not those who either inadvertently or intentionally encourage us to evil. But still they wear the appearance of friends. If we look back to those who have been most instrumental in leading us into sin, or drawing us back from God, we shall find that they generally wore the semblance of friendship. They met us kindly! There are those who seem friends, but whose friendship, however flattering, may prove dangerous, if not fatal. "My son, cease to hear the instruction which causes to err from the way of knowledge." It is a fact that should put us on our watch, that a friend may lead us astray, and that we may find to our cost that "as iron sharpeneth iron, so doth a man sharpen the countenance of his friend."
in name) not a few are really thinking what
The services of our church are happily fitted to help this feeling: we know beforehand in what we shall be called to join. We can try it on, as it were, and see how each part suits our present case. We can find words in the service suited to express the very feelings we want to express; and we can be sure that (though no doubt some are worshippers only
There is nothing more false, more unfair upon true religion, than to imagine that it stunts our minds, that its design is to withdraw them from the genial warmth of social life, where it may blossom-where like a healthy plant it may open and expand, and place them alone, to become proud and selfish. True religion, like every other good sentiment, requires society to bring it to perfection. It naturally looks out for hearts that feel with us; it seldom finds its full enjoyment, except when it meets with those who do feel with us. God made us dependent upon one another. It might be possible to live alone; but it would be poor life. To spend our days unpitied, unknown, alone, with none to sympa
of such friendship. If it narrows our mind so that we cannot regard others with due Christian charity; if the intercourse it tends to sinks down into a mere habit of talking on religious subjects without feeling them; if it interferes with the duties we owe to the claims of worldly business, or of relations and employers, it requires a check. We must give it that check, but not lose the benefits of such intercourse. Such Christian friendship is invaluable. It enables us to
strengthen each others hands in God:" it allows, in some cases, of friendly candour, which may be of great use. Very intimate Christian friendship will allow, and will best answer its end if it allows, of mutual watchfulness over each others spiritual welfare.
thize, none to feel with us--with our craving heart eating inward, and devouring itself-is anything but happiness. It would be existence, but not life. On the other hand, to find our own mind reflected by the minds of those around us-to find our views shared, our sentiments echoed back to us--to live among those whose hearts beat as with one pulse-this is one of the greatest happinesses we know. God knew this; and therefore even in Paradise, where man was quite innocent, he considered his happiness but ill provided for while man 66 was alone." Nay, even heaven, we are led to believe, will owe part of its happiness to the society of kindred minds who will meet there. Man will be perfectly happy only when the whole family in heaven and earth is united in one. When," If one fall, the other shall raise up his fel"in the dispensation of the fulness of time, low," and exempt us from the unhappiness God shall have gathered together in one all of him "who is alone when he falleth." It things in Christ, both which are in heaven allows of a gentle caution being given; so that and which are in earth," then will happiness the one, who for the time is "more spiritual, be complete. Heaven will owe not a little of may restore the other in the spirit of meekits happiness to this-that "charity nevér ness." It will allow of the word in season, faileth," that love abounds. Why is all spoken with a direct view to admonish the this? Because God has formed us depen- friend, and "to provoke to love and to dant, in part, for happiness and even improve- good works." It allows and calls for mument on our fellow-creatures. tual defence. The fellow-soldier may animate and exhort his fellow-soldier to follow the great Captain of their "common salvation;" not to fear a little smile, a little contempt, a little discouragement. The most celebrated of ancient poets delights to describe his favourite army as going on to battle in the ranks, "desiring to succour one another." So should Christians be; so especially will the best Christian friends be. They will risk a little in each others defence, and in reliev each others difficulties. It would be well to try to form one or more such friendships as these: they are the bliss, and (after Christ) the greatest blessing of life. We should lose no opportunity of forming them, spare no pains to keep them pure, and to gain and impart the full benefit of them. We shall not then require to be told, as if it were a new fact-we shall be able to put our own seal to it, shall like to be reminded of it, lest we should become sluggish in seeking the benefit; but we shall need no testimony beyond our own experience of it—that, "as iron sharpeneth iron, so doth a man the countenance of his friend."
To develope riper Christian principles, to make us as holy and as happy as we are capable through grace of becoming, we must have intercourse with those whose dearest thoughts, like our own, point to God; who, like our selves, feel that God is all in all. Directly and indirectly, and in diverse ways, will the company of such persons ripen the seeds of piety and happiness within us. We shall get more into the very soul of religion thereby; we shall be drawn forth into the summer-glowing of love; we shall be experiencing the truth, which in its use is blessed (as in its abuse it is lamentable), that the countenance of friends has a sharpening influence upon each other, like that of steel upon steel. Now, if there be something so valuable in the intercourse of true Christians, they should seek it in the spirit best calculated to profit by such com
They should seek it in Christian friendship. They should constantly be on the look-out for those who are willing to drink deep with them at the fountain of divine truth. None can select such for them (except in youth) so well as they for themselves. Such persons are drawn together; and sometimes their friendship, when travelling together through the earlier steps of Christian experience, or through severe trials, is of a most lasting character. They are rivetted, as it were by the hot rivet, so close that scarcely anything can separate them. It is our duty, indeed, to be on our guard against the abuse
But our expectations from this truth are not to be limited to the exercise of private friendship. We cannot all be bound together by such ties, desirable as they are; but then, again, all real Christians are real friends. They may never have spoken, they may want introduction one to another, distance of situation may keep them apart, circumstances may keep them unacquainted though near in
point of neighbourhood; yet have they, being | assemblies of the congregation. Here espeall partakers of the same Spirit, that which is cially the fellowship of kindred minds is calculated, under altered circumstances, to like to that above. If we came to his house make and keep them friends. All Christians, expecting much, imploring much, desiring I repeat, are friends; and therefore we may much, we should gain much. Our God expect many circumstances, short of strict would enrich us, and that partly through the and intimate friendship, calculated to bring channel of our "fellowship one with another." into play the principle upon which I have He would make our sympathy, our fellowbeen dwelling. I shall mention two circum- feeling, our joint exercise of common prayer stances under which this may happen. and united praise, the expressing together of like wants, wishes, thankfulness-the means of drawing forth and improving our character, and fitting us, with a confirmed heart and more resolute countenance, to pass on through the duties of life. In other words, he would make us feel, in his house, the truth of his own assurance, that man's countenance has a sharpening effect upon his fellow.
1. I would recommend all persons to seek this means of improvement in their families. With his family is every Christian bound to share, and by sharing to increase, his devout affections. There are innumerable degrees of life among the members of our Lord: there are all the stages from simple consecration to him, in baptism and profession, to the fullest union. To be helpers of each others faith throughout these several stagesto become by mutual communication joint partakers of one common Spirit-is one of the most effectual means of spiritual growth. "He that watereth may hope to be watered also himself." He that diligently instructs his household in the word of God, and with them approaches, day by day, the throne of God in prayer; he that determines with the courageous Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord;" he that, like the devout Cornelius, summons together "his kinsmen and near friends," reminding them that they are "present before God to hear all things that are commanded them of God-" it is evident that such a man, if he has one well-disposed member of his family, is "sharpening the countenance" and forming the religious character of such friend, be it wife, child, servant, or any other relationship.
I suspect it is so with many of us already, in a measure. Could we recal, however faintly, all our mind owes to the public congregation, we should be truly grateful to God for allowing us, and providing for us, the privilege of meeting together as we do. may almost startle us when we attempt to trace the ripening and formation of our present mind, to see how gradually, how secretly, and by what various helps, it has been fashioned up to what it now is; and of this process, how very much we owe to the public devotion and public fellow-feeling of the church in which we have been brought up! Some portion of our present character we owe indeed to friends, parents, public opinion; some principles are sown in us by books; some spring up of themselves by reflection, and are ripened by the events of life: but, surely, not a little of any measure of stedfast Christian principle we have obtained, is owing to the exercises of God's house. Here, as we have partaken with others of the same prayers, praises, feelings, views, fresh vigour has been communicated to us; we have felt the power of sympathy; we have entered on our weekly duties with fresh spiritual life, and thus proved the mighty "sharpening" influence of social worship. We should seek more of this. We should come with enlarged expectations from this source. If we are real children of God, we bring with us to his house an awful sense of God's greatness, and a filial trust in his mercy. We should try to stir them up before we come. As we come, let us remember that we come for the purpose of increasing and exercising these feelings. We should come in the spirit of persons summoning others to our aid, "that we may exalt his name, and humble ourselves before him together." We should come as those who want other Christians to help us out in
2. But this is not all: he is in the way to have his own "countenance sharpened," his own motives quickened, his own soul stirred up to watchfulness, love, zeal, diligence, and an endeavour at being consistent. If we know ourselves, we know that we want every kind of motive, every sort of help, manifold and complicated fences, guards, motives "for growing in grace and adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." Then let every Christian try the power of meeting each morning and evening to pray together with his family; let him take care it does not sink into a mere form; let him be anxious to gain advantage to his own heart, to his own character; and, through God's blessing, methinks he will not fail to find that this holy exercise strengthens him for daily conflicts, arms him with resolution against daily trials. But, if so, how much more should we thank God for those further helps which he affords to us in the public
the story being that the sacrilegious act received a visible impress of the divine displeasure in the punishright hand, until by a due course of penance he atoned ment of the delinquent by the withering up of his for his impiety. I said that if he would only bring it with me, I would be answerable for its remaining in my possession until the following morning; to which
he replied that he would not stir it for a thousand pounds.
In the same direction from the church, but a little still nearer, and another about a mile away in an opfarther off, is a stone-roofed cell, which, with one more posite direction, the villagers denominate "little chapels."
As might be expected, the place is not without its "holy well," with two small heaps of stones adjoining, round which the pilgrims take their "rounds." Honesty is not always associated in the minds of Romanists with a fondness for holy wells. “I'm astonished at you, Sheehan, to keep so wicked a dog on this pathway," said the worthy rector of a parish in the diocese of Cloyne once to a man who lived close to one of those resorts of superstition and vice, and was himself well known and esteemed amongst his neighbours as a Romish devotee. Ah," replied Sheehan, "if you knew how much I want his protection, you would not blame me; if I hadn't him here with me, the people that are always coming to the holy well would not leave me a sod of my little rick of turf without stealing."
FROM THE JOURNAL OF AN IRISH CURATE. WALKED with one of the readers to spend part of the day amongst a few converts residing in the village of C-, parish of Kr. The first house in which we sat down being that of a Romanist, we there had a long and favourable opportunity of proclaiming the glad tidings to several who would not have been in our way elsewhere. Some of them freely, but inoffensively, spoke their sentiments, asked questions, and attentively hearkened to our answers, but all miserably ignorant. We thence proceeded to the village of K-, the farthest off in this parish, and beautifully situated at the foot of a picturesque range of bold and lofty mountains, with a vast and diversified landscape view spread out in front, equally enchanting as magnificent. This village abounds in ecclesiastical antiquities, the principal of which-the old parish church-presents a curious and handsome specimen of ancient architecture. In the buryingground attached to it are some stones inscribed with Here, however, is to be seen such a standing meogham characters, supposed by some to have been the morial of the danger of being dishonest as may consacred and mystical characters of the druids, but by tribute to keep the pilgrims more honest than those others to have belonged to a period considerably sub-frequenting the parish of my friend were reputed to sequent to the introduction of Christianity into our be; for on the road leading from the well we were island. At the head of one of the graves stands a shown a small hole in a stone, which we were told colossal stone cross, measuring nine feet above the was an impression made by the foot of a widow's cow, surface of the ground. Almost every thing that could that once stuck there as a thief was trying to take inspire the worshippers with a sacred awe appears to her off: and on another stone, on the opposite side of have been aimed at in the structure and arrangement the road, two similar impressions made by the stickof the church, especially in the small quantity of lighting of the robber's knee and hand into it as he vainly admitted into it; the only original inlets for that ele- endeavoured to effect his escape, when terrified by ment to the body of the building being two small the wonderful thing he had just seen befal the cow. apertures facing each other at opposite sides, and each The story goes on to say that there he stuck until he only eight inches wide. In what seems to have been died. In short, it is altogether a locality of wonders, the place cut off for the high altar, there is an end and wonderful in its appearance, presenting more the window, through which, though not much wider than look of a city in ruins than of a mountain village; nor those in the sides, women in a state of pregnancy are has it added a little to its look of dilapidated anticonstantly to be seen forcing themselves, from a per-quity, that some time ago a large number of tenants, suasion that if they succeed in doing so they shall not who were there ejected, were allowed to take with die in their approaching confinement. Just over the them the roofs of their houses, leaving nothing beentrance door, on the exterior, is to be seen a stone hind but the bare walls. No wonder that in such a face, which, though something defaced, presented as locality the inhabitants should be superstitious; it fine and benevolently expressed a countenance as any would indeed be wonderful if they were not. thing in either ancient or modern sculpture can boast of; but you no sooner enter the building after having dwelt for some time with admiration on the benign aspect thus exhibited to your view, than you are almost driven back again with an instinctive horror by the appearance of two other faces over the door lead-interesting meetings in the houses of two of the coning to the end apartment, half canine, half human, verts, our hearers being chiefly composed of Romanists, and as hideous and diabolic in expression as can well all attentive, inquisitive, and interested in what they be imagined. heard-and a third meeting, still larger, outside the door of another convert, where, the longer we staid, the greater number gathered round us.
After saying much to our guide upon the great point, and to a few others who here came in our way, we returned to the village of C, through which we had already passed, paying only a visit to the house of a Romanist. Here we had two particularly
One man argued freely, but was respectful and civil in his entire deportment, as were indeed the whole of them. Nothing seemed to touch them more than my now and again sometimes repeating off, and sometimes reading, portions of our Irish prayers. The
expressing our feelings. We should come bringing our own spark of piety that lies smouldering in our own hearts, that it may catch new vigour from the like spark in other hearts, and together burst into the steady flame of grateful sacrifice, ascending straight and strong to heaven.
Within a few yards of the church stand the walls of another edifice, of course ecclesiastical, consisting of two rooms in length, and, before unlofted, two in height. This is a totally different style of architecture from the other, and evidently of a later date; perhaps a popish friary, erected in the 15th century by the Spaniards, by whom the church also is erroneously supposed by some to have been built. We were shown within the walls, by a farmer of the village, a stone about three feet long, which he assured us was once found in its place in the morning after his own father had brought it out the evening before to use it as a sharpening stone. But this was not all; another part of • From the Achill Missionary Herald.
"In one of those frightful tumults instigated by the priests at the funeral of converts, and in some of which they head the mob, when the infuriated people were about to throw the officiating clergyman into the grave and trample on him, the clergyman had the presence of mind to commence the Lord's prayer in Irish: instantly the whole tumult ceased, spades and pitchforks were dropped, the ceremony was allowed to be perperfect quiet, a few days afterwards, when the clergyman was walking, a peasant came up to him almost