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of that unalterable affection, which survived the wreck of your other earthly hopes, and earthly interests ? Would not you feel it a service, if any acquaintance of yours were to conduct him in person to your chamber; and there to bring upon you the very smiles that a thousand times before had gladdened your bosom, and the very accents of tenderness that had often, in days which are past, soothed and tranquillized you? Or, if he cannot make him present to you in person, is not a service still rendered, if he make him present to your thoughts? You have no doubt of the alleged friendship, but nature is forgetful, and, for the time being, it may not be adverting to that truth which, of all others, is most fitted to pacify and to console it. needs to be awakened to it. The belief of it may never have been extinguished; but the conception of it may be absent from the mind, and for the purpose of recalling it, the voice of a remembrancer may be necessary
It is thus that the opportune suggestion of a truth, which has long been known, and often repeated, may still the tumults of an agitated spirit, and cause light to arise out of darkness. And who can object to sameness, and to reiteration, in such a case as this? The same position brought forward again and again, for the mere didactic purpose to convince or to inform, might, however important, soon cease to interest the understanding; and the same image, however beautiful, might, if often presented, soon cease to interest or to affect the fancy—but the affirmation of a friendship that is dear to your heart, may be repeated as often as is necessary to raise and to prolong the sense of it within you—and, although the theme of every day, still, instead of being grievous on that account, may it be felt like the renewed application of balsam to the soul, with as lively a sense of enjoyment as before, and with a delight that is utterly inexhaustible.
The same holds true of a moral principle. The announcement of it needs not to be repeated with a view to inform; but it may be repeated with a view to influence, and that on every occurrence of temptation or necessity. Were it our only business with virtue to learn what it is, it were superfluous to be told oftener than once, that anger degrades and discomposes him who is carried away by it, and ought to be resisted as alike a violation of duty and of dignity. But as our main business with virtue is to practise it, the very same thing of which by one utterance we have been sufficiently informed, might be often uttered, with propriety and effect, in order that we should be reminded of it. And, accordingly, in some hour of great and sudden provocation, when another’s fraud, or another's ingratitude would take full possession of the feelings, and shut out from the mind's regard every element that had influence to still or to arrest the coming storm, were it not well, if some friendly monitor were standing by, and bidding him be calm ? There might not, in the whole of the remonstrance, be one consideration employed, which has not often been recognised, nor one principle urged, which has not been admitted, long ago, into his ethical system, and is perfectly familiar to his understanding, as a sound principle of human conduct. Yet it is not superfluous again to urge it upon him. A practical object is gained by this
timely suggestion—and it is the highest function of practical wisdom, not to devise what is new, but seasonably to recall what is old. When, in the heat and the hurry of some brooding fermentation, there is one intense feeling that has taken exclusive occupation of the soul, it is well that some counteractive influence might be poured in, which shall assuage its violence. And this influence, generally, lies not with new truths which are then for the first time apprehended, but with old truths which are then brought to the remembrance. So that, while for the author to repeat the same things is not grievous, for the reader it may be safe.
The doctrine of Jesus Christ and him crucified, which forms the principal and pervading theme in the following Treatises, possesses a prominent claim to a place in our habitual recollections. And, for this purpose, ought it to be the topic of frequent reiteration by every Christian author; and it may well form the staple of many a Christian treatise, and be the leading and oft-repeated argument of many a religious conversation. It is this which ushers into the mind of a sinner the sense of God as his Friend and his reconciled Father. That mind, which is so apt to be overborne by this world's engrossments-or to lapse into the dread and distrust of a conscious offender-or to go back again to na. ture's lethargy, and nature's alienation-or to lose itself in quest of a righteousness of its own, by which it might challenge the reward of a blissful eternity, stands in need of a daily visitor who, by his presence, might dissipate the gloom, or clear away the perplexity, in which these strong and practical tendencies of the human constitution are so ready to involve it. There is with man an obstinate forgetfulness of God; so that the Being who made him is habitually away from his thoughts. That he may again be brought nigh, there must be an open door of entry by which the mind of man can welcome the idea of God, and willingly entertain it; by which the imagination of Deity might become supportable, and even pleasing to the soul: so that, when present to our remembrance, there should be the felt presence of one who loves and is at peace with us. Now, it is only by the doctrine of the cross that man can thus delight himself in God, and, at the same time, be free from delusion. This is the
access for man entering into friendship with God, and for the thought of God, as a Friend, entering into the heart of man. And thus it is, that the sound of his Saviour's love carries with it such a fresh and unfailing charm to a believer's ear. It is the precursor to an act of mental fellowship with God, and is hailed as the sound of the approaching footsteps of Him whom you know to be your Friend.
When the mind, abandoned to itself, takes its own spontaneous and undirected way, it is sure to wander from God; and hence, if without effort, and without watchfulness, will it lapse into a state of insensibility in regard to him.
While in the corrupt and earthly frame of our present tabernacle, there is a constant gravitation of the heart towards ungodliness; and, against this tendency, there needs to be applied the counterpoise of such a force as shall either act without intermission, or by frequent and repeated impulses. The belief that God is your Friend in Christ Jesus, is just the restorative, by which the soul is brought back again from the lethargy into which it had fallen ; and the great preservative by which it is upheld from sinking anew into the depths of its natural alienation. It is by cherishing this belief, and by a constant recurrence of the mind to that great truth which is the object of it, that a sense of reconciliation, or the felt nearness of God as your Friend, is kept up in the bosom. And if the mind will not, by its own energies, constantly recur to the truth, it is good that the truth should be frequently obtruded on the notice of the mind.
“ Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.” If there be an aptitude in man, which undoubtedly there is, to let slip the things that belong to his peace, it is good to be ever and anon presenting these things to his view, and bidding him give earnest heed unto them. It is not that his judgment would be thereby informed, nor that his imagination would be thereby regaled, but that his memory would be awakened, and his practical tendency to forget or fall asleep unto these things would be thereby made head against. And thus there are certain things, the constant repetition of which, by Christian writers, ought not to be thought grievous, and at all events is safe.
And there is a perpetual tendency in nature not only to forget God, but also to misconceive him. There is nothing more firmly interwoven with the moral constitutions of man than a legal spirit towards God, with its aspirings, and its jealousies, and its fears. Let the conscience be at all enlightened, and a sense of manifold deficiencies from the rule of perfect obedience is altogether unavoidable; and so there