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follow after them. The clouds of despondency which overhung them, roll away. The bright beams of grace shed a cheering light. Till, at length, the summit is attained : memory can scarce recall the trouble through present joy; and, if they are so far blessed, they stand in that unclouded peace, which the presence of God sheds forth upon
, his most favoured servants.
Since, then, the applicability of these two very different classes of texts to the life of godliness, is owing to the corruption of our nature, which makes that, which is delightful to innocence, painful to sinfulness, it follows, that the greater the extent of this corruption—the more we have suffered ourselves to sink in sloth, or have polluted ourselves with the defilements of wickedness, the more painful must be the sacrifices we have to make, and the more difficult the struggle to gain that eminence, where we may sit in peace above the turmoil of a wicked world. Various, indeed, as are circumstances of mankind—much as they differ from each other by natural disposition, or by feelings so early acquired as not easily to be distinguished from the gifts of nature-much variance, again, as there is in the extent to which they have yielded to the temptations of the world—the degree of difficulty, which different individuals experience in the path of religious obedience, varies almost indefinitely. Happy, indeed, are they, who having been trained from their early years in the study and practice of piety, and led on by the guidance and tutelage of the Holy Spirit, even from the laver of regeneration in progressive godliness, have never been abandoned to themselves, so as to wander far in the mazes of sin. Such there are, who, with dispositions docile from infancy, and blessed with the care and nurture of religious parents, have been preserved, as far as it is allowed to the frailty of man, from the corruptions of the devil, the world, and the flesh. Such there are; and happy, thrice happy, are they. They know only the pleasures and the delights of the religious life. To them the commandments are not grievous; the yoke is easy ; the burthen light. They have been trained from their earliest days in the upward path, and have never learnt to think it fatiguing. Children of the mountain—their feet bound freely up the steep ascent, where others struggle with pain.
I do not mean, that this can ever strictly and literally be the case. As human nature is constituted, there is too much of corruption under the most favourable circumstances—too much of sinfulness clinging to the very best men, to allow obedience to the law of God to be always easy and agreeable. “ The infection of nature doth remain ; yea, in them that are regenerated 5." The flesh strives against the spirit even to the last. But language, on such subjects, must always be considered as popular, and not technical : and general expressions must be understood with those limitations, which the nature of the subject requires. Thus, as we say of one man, that he is happy, not meaning that he has no sorrows; of another, that he is miserable, not meaning that he has no pleasures; of a third, that he is good, not meaning that he has no faults; so, speaking broadly in the same way, we say, that to those, who have been religiously brought up, and who have never fallen into habitual vice, obedience has always been pleasant, and the yoke of Christ easy from the first. They have doubtless had their struggles. They have doubtless had their failings. But in the one they have been victorious : from the other they
5 Art. ix.
: have been quickly restored. There have doubtless been some impediments in their road; but the general tenor of it has been smooth and agreeable.
But how small comparatively is the number of these! How general is the case, that men, in addition to the difficulties necessarily arising from the corruption of our fallen nature, have so far gone astray by their personal transgression and permitted sin, that they can only come to the happiness of religious feeling through much previous suffering; and must labour with penitential sorrow, before they can enjoy the satisfaction of peace
ful repose. These must experience the truth of those expressions of scripture, which speak of a religious life as one of toil and trouble, before they can taste the pleasures it offers. They have to prune and lop many a branch; and to uproot many a stubborn weed, before their heart can be as the garden of the Lord. In proportion as men are more sunk in sin, the cutting off the right hand, and plucking out the right eye, will be more painful; the gate will seem more narrow; and the road more rough and steep. Every instance of wilful transgression-every sinful indulgence will add to the obstacles on the path of repentance, whenever we enter upon it. Every step down the “ facilis descensus Averni,” will cost many a weary effort to regain. In the popular allegory the pilgrim sets out with a burthen on his back. Every act of sin adds its pound to the weight of that burthen, and augments the labour, whereby the laden traveller must win his passage up the ascent to the city of life.
How awful is the responsibility which this view of the subject places upon Christian parents! Their children are in their hands, not indeed exempt from the inherent sinfulness of the race of Adam; but partakers too of the free gift of righteousness in Christ Jesus. The corruption of their hearts, though it still work within them, is yet capable, by the due cultivation of the gift of heavenly aid, of being so checked and subdued, as never to gain that mastery over the soul, which would stamp them as the servants of Satan rather than of their Lord, who bought them. How early the bias, either way, may be given, it may not be in our power to decide. The line, between the effects of education and of nature, may not be easy, nor indeed possible to draw. We may be unable to distinguish the workings of the Spirit of God from the developement of the natural feelings, and the effects of parental instruction and care. But still we may be sure, that, humanly speaking, it depends mainly upon every Christian parent, whether his child walk with pleasure in the paths of innocence, and find them paths of peace: or whether, if he ever do reach the gate of life, it be by that road, which is steep, and narrow, and laborious to tread.
Again, it is a most important consideration to all those, who are vacillating between good and evil, and who, though they cannot renounce the present pleasures of sin, do not abandon the intention of future obedience, that repentance is easy, in proportion as it is timely, more and more arduous, as it is longer and longer deferred. Nor do these increased impediments attach only to the first motions in which it originates, but also to the continued course, which must be gone through before it is complete.
Think of this, all ye whom it may concern ; the