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hurry of business, it was his family that rendered him the greedy, grasping, worldling that
And, when he had retreated thence, to his own fireside, it was his family that robbed him of the little space, which otherwise he could have contrived to find, for meditation and private prayer. Such, at least, was his persuasion. He knew that his piety was declining ; and this was the reason, which he assigned to himself, for its decrease. That hinderance now exists no longer. The visitation of God has left him a silent nursery.
Bereft and desolate, he follows the last of his offspring to the grave. As the earth falls heavily on the coffin-lid and claims its kindred dust, let him hail the stroke which sets him free !—free to hold communion with Heaven, -free to live for the life to come! Or, perhaps, the buoyancy of health had be
An unbounded flow of spirits gave rise to the indulgence of levity; and amidst the security and comfort by which the man was surrounded, it seemed to him that his mountain stood strong, and that he would never be moved, Psalm xxx. 6, 7. Meanwhile his calculations for the future were rather those of worldly ambition than of Christian enterprise. Assuring himself of lengthened life and undecaying health, he laid his plans for everything but holy service. As to secular matters, he was a pattern of promptitude ; but when the claims of religion were concerned, the obligations of the day were usually left to the opportunities of the morrow. He acknowledged himself a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he was always going to begin to serve him. Notwithstanding his religious profession, his home was dearer than the sanctuary, and his cash-book more precious than the Bible. Earthly things had so engrossed his thoughts, that he was unwilling to lose sight of them for a moment. When the returning sabbath demanded that he should forget them for a season, he made the attempt; but it was so painful an effort, that when he said—“ Abide ye here, and I will go yonder and worship,”— he said it less cheerfully than Abraham did when his son was to be the sacrifice. And then, perhaps, a latent wish, too sad for contemplation, even in a mind like his, and too profane for utterance within the precincts of the sanctuary, would, had it been allowed to express itself in words, have suggested the inquiry- When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn ? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat ?”' Amos viii. 5. But times are
come a snare.
Health is a snare no longer, for God has taken it away. In such an instance, severe as the discipline may be, it is evidently sent in mercy ; and whatever may have been the method of his restoration, happy is the backslider who can adopt the declaration of the psalmist—"Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word,” Psalm cxix. 67.
Public calamities may occasionally fulfil a similar design. When the churches have settled down into inglorious repose, or have wasted their energies in mutual contentions, the providence of God, may awaken them to diligence, or restore them to faith and unity, by judgments which shall make the earth to tremble. Amidst surrounding desolation, “ the pestilence that walketh in darkness,” or “ the destruction that wasteth at noonday,” may yet convey the gracious invitation—“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself, as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast," Isaiah xxvi. 20.
Sometimes, however, by gentler means than these, the Father of mercies condescends to call back again, to confidence and joy, his forgetful
and disobedient children. He heals their backslidings, and loves them freely, Hosea xiv. 14. In such instances, the Holy Spirit, perhaps in connexion with his word and ordinances, but possibly without any other perceptible agency than his own, imparts to the soul those apprehensions of divine truth, and those views of redeeming love, which produce an alteration there, not unlike a second conversion. Cases have occurred where this has been accomplished so strikingly, that the individual has doubted, ever afterwards, whether previously to this apparent revival of his piety, he ever knew the grace of God in truth.
A good man, inclined to this opinion of himself, once told me, that though for several years, he had thought himself a Christian, and had passed for one, he had never, till recently, known what it was to do “ the will of God from the heart.” He had, indeed, done many things, because he thought that he ought to do them. But still there had always been a feeling of reluctance, a painful sense of self-denial, about his piety, and this to an extent which more enlightened perceptions of religious obligation had induced him to regard as incompatible with genuine discipleship.
It can hardly excite surprise that when the soul which has wandered from God, awakes to a consciousness of its guilt and danger, alarm should sometimes exclude all hope. In one view, the backslider is susceptible of a livelier consciousness of misery than even the unconverted. In the case of a man who has felt the power of the world to come, destitution carries with it a sense of forfeiture; and, if only on the ground that it is more grievous to have lost a thing than never to have had it, better is it not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn aside from the holy commandment, 2 Peter ii. 21.
But, since the Gospel is the product of infinite wisdom, it provides for every possible emergency; and, since the present is a world of mercy, no sinner, and therefore no backslider, has occasion to despair. So long as there is a consciousness of misery, and a disposition to flee from the wrath to come, the condition of no living transgressor is absolutely hopeless. Moreover, the Shepherd of Israel, Psalm lxxx. 1, that good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep, John x. 15, has made especial provision to restore poor wanderers to his fold. He, who understood our nature so thoroughly,