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have to live the rest of our life without them; aye-and we shall have to pay the penalty of having lost them.
I would mention one other instance to illustrate this subject-and that is the regret that we lay up for ourselves by omitting opportunities of kindness-opportunities of doing good-of making life’s burden easier to those among whom our lot is cast; to whom, by tie of kindred, or place, or business, we are united.
These opportunities, too, never come back. If we fail to profit by them while we have them, we shall surely, one day ask for them in vain.
They are of many kinds, and arise almost every day, and from many quarters : opportunities of proving ourselves good stewards of the manifold grace of God-. opportunities of relieving distress—of rescuing our brother from temptation-of instructing the ignorant-of soothing the mourner—of lifting up the fallen-of advancing in some direction the kingdom of Christ in the world.
Such opportunities, I have said, occur continually; and each time we pass any one of them by, it becomes for us a lost opportunity.-We had it—it was set before us to stir us up and quicken us in some working of goodif we have let it slip wilfully, we shall be the poorer for it ever afterwards—it will be a thorn to us in the day when conscience calls us to the reckoning.
But of all opportunities of good, those which come oftenest—those that we most often, I fear, neglect--are the opportunities that occur in our several families.
There, surely, is the best school for the Christian cha
racter. There, be our position in the house what it may, be we master or servant, wife or husband, brother or sister, we have all of us daily opportunities of shewing kindness, and doing good to one another.
In seizing those opportunities lies our real happinessin neglecting them, we heap up to ourselves sharp regrets.
Death will bring those regrets into operation. When one member is taken away, when there is a vacant place in the family circle, how commonly does the heart reproach itself with past omissions—“I wish I had been kinder-I wish I had been more patient-I wish I had taken greater pains to please,—if God were to give me back the opportunity I would try and do better-I would be a better child—a better parent-a more affectionate brother—a more faithful servant !" But
no, this can not be, seek we it ever so urgently. There is no place of repentance for past unkindness-no opportunity of making amends, when the object of our regret is once withdrawn.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, let us not be slack in acts of kindness while we are together.- As we have opportunity let us do good unto all. Let us spare ourselves sharp reproach in the days to come, by the exercise of active benevolence in word and deed at present. Let us add to our own happiness by giving to our brother what is just and equal—by defrauding him not of any of those dues of kindness, those thousand nameless acts of courtesy and consideration--that love, that help, that sympathy which we owe to him; and for which that we might mutually render it, God has made us to dwell together in one house.
Let us, I say, God helping us, practice to the utmost, Christ's law of love at home—and then when that home is invaded, and the great spoiler carries off this or that dear member of our company, we that survive shall be free from heart reproach. There will be no torment in the looking back-no sharp accusing cry for omitted kindness-But, on the contrary, there will be much to soothe and console us. The memory of our past intercourse, in those first moments of separation, shall be as healing balm to comfort us concerning our brother !
THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT.
THE RETURN OF THE UNCLEAN SPIRIT.
ST. LUKE XI. 24, 25, 26.
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry
places seeking rest, and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out : and when he cometh he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there : and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
It is a very dark picture of our human nature which is drawn for us in the words I have just read to you. But we can not doubt that it is a true picture—it is drawn by a Master-hand. For these are Christ's words, and He—if any ever did—knew what was in
But if the picture be a dark one—if the account here given of what goes on in the human heart, be sad and humiliating for us to contemplate, it is not without its use—it is good for us to know how weak and unstable we are, how open at all points to be tempted-how exposed to dangers—what an enemy we have watching to
do us harm, walking about our house, and spying out any crevice by which he may enter in.
It is good, brethren, that we should be more aware of this, and have it again and again declared to us, that we may be on our guard against the danger, and have our arms ready, and shut to the door of our house, and be prepared beforehand to resist, and to beat off all the crafts and assaults of the wicked one.
Such being the case, I will ask you to consider attentively the teaching of our Lord in the verses before us— and which form part of the Gospel for this Third Sunday in Lent.
I pass over the prophetic interpretation of the words, and their application to the Jews' history. Interesting as this surely is, it would occupy us too long—and we shall, I trust, be better employed in marking how the passage bears upon our own condition, and is rich in matter for our own warning.
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out : and when he cometh he findeth it swept and garnished.
It is assumed in these words, and none of us will be inclined to question it, that there is an unclean spirit, and that the heart of man is by nature his favourite abodeWhen the unclean spirit is gone out of a man—He must then have been dwelling there ere he could be said to go out. And how truly, how powerfully that evil one dwells in man, let the history of the demoniacs in the Gospel shew-Yes, and we have other proofs of his power over us, and presence in us !