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If you, my reader, desire to escape the entanglements and wounds of these enemies, you must exercise constant watchfulness and circumspection. Like a sentinel in an army, you must never be off your guard, or indulge in dreams of exemption from danger. Continually you must be on the look out, and ready to exert yourself on the first intimation of your adversaries' approach. For want of this, Moses, David, Peter, and all saints who have fallen into open sin, were vanquished by their foes. Listen, therefore, to the command of your Lord,—“ What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch."
9. Another means of advancing growth in grace is, frequent religious conference with them who fear the Lord.—Many of God's children are culpably deficient in this branch of duty. Some, from natural timidity and reservedness, cannot prevail with themselves to seek familiar intercourse with their fellow Christians, and to disclose their minds to them respecting these things which lie nearest to their hearts. Others are so frequently under doubts and fears concerning their spiritual state, that they conceive it would be presumption to speak to any of their religious experience. Not a few are discouraged, by the unwarrantable exposure which is sometimes made of private and confidential conference; and, in some cases, it is broken off, or long interrupted, by unhappy misunderstandings, and by giving way to the most pernicious jealousies and strifes. Influenced by these or similar causes, too
* Mark xiii. 37.
many Christians deprive themselves of the important advantages derived from private converse with the people of God.
Let me entreat you, my reader, if you desire to make progress in the way to Zion, to seek the companionship of them who fear the Lord. If those with whom you associate be prudently chosen, you will find frequent religious intercourse with them highly conducive to your spiritual improvement. By this means your knowledge of divine things will be enlarged; for you will superadd to your own information, that of
brethren. " He that walketh with the wise, shall be wise.” You will learn to profit by their religious experience,– learn to shun what has proved hurtful to them, and to pursue what has been instrumental to their edification and comfort. You will obtain their friendly counsel amid your perplexities,—their tender sympathy under all your sorrows, and their prayers for help you in the time of need. Thus your zeal and activity in the service of God will be quickened, and your usefulness and comfort promoted. iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”* As live coals, when scattered, soon become cold, but when kept together, burn with increased heat and brightness; so the children of God, when habitually separated from each other, except in public assemblies, are prone to become languid; but by frequently associating in private, they “provoke one another to love and to good works.”
* Prov. xxvii, 17.
In addition to these advantages, God has given special countenance, and special promises, to such meetings of his saints. Witness the example recorded by the prophet Malachi,—“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another : and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."*
Look to the history of the two disciples, who, on their way to Emmaus, were conversing about Christ, and with wbom he graciously met, and made their hearts to burn within them.t Listen to his encouraging engagement,—“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” I Stimulated by all these powerful considerations, let it be your endeavour to select some of those who fear the Lord, as your most intimate associates, and frequently to meet with them for religious conference.
10. Frequent visitation of them who are in affliction, and on a death-bed, will prove beneficial to your soul.—This sentiment is forcibly inculcated by the Preacher, in the book of Ecclesiastes,-“ It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting ; for that is the end of all men ; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the
* Mal, iii. 16, 17,
+ Luke xxiv. 13–32.
Luke xviii. 20.
countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning ; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."* ligion of the Bible does not interdict all innocent mirth and festivity. Christ himself attended a marriage in Cana, as well as wept at the grave of Lazarus. But solemn and affecting scenes are best fitted to make solemn impressions; and none is more so, than the house of mourning, or the bed of death.
By visiting those who are in affliction, and apparently on the brink of the grave, you will be reminded of what awaits you, and taught seriously to consider whether or not you are yet prepared to bear disease and pain with humble resignation, and to be severed from all on earth you account dear. You will behold what sin has wrought in others, by tracing all their distress and sorrow to this bitter source of every ill; and be made to abhor it as the fatal enemy which quits no son of man, till it has numbered him with the dead. You will receive a lesson of humility, from seeing the most vigorous and beautiful of our race, stripped of their strength and loveliness, and exhibiting sad indication of their speedy return to the dust. You will learn the vanity of this world,-how utterly insufficient its most valued acquisitions are to impart comfort in the near views of eternity ; and how soon you must totally and for ever relinquish all in it for which you have laboured, and which so often bas obtained the ascendency in your heart. You will discover
• Eccles. vii. 24.
more clearly the necessity and value of those celestial blessings, which are where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; and be excited to seek them more diligently in the day of your health.-In a word, if those whom you visit be without God, and without hope in the world, and filled with alarm at the prospects of dissolution ; you will be aroused to greater diligence in working out your salvation while it is called To-day. Or, if they be the dear children of God, animated with celestial hope, and ardent to depart that they may be with Christ; you will be stimulated to imitate the piety of their life, that you may experience their consolations in the season of affliction and death.
11. Another means of quickening you in the way of holiness is, the perusal of the memoirs of eminent saints.—Many of the people of God have it not in their power to enjoy familiar intimacy with saints of distinguished eminence. Much as they desire it, their situation may preclude them from intercourse with such characters in their health, and from seeing them on the bed of sickness and death. But by means of the published memoirs of many of this stamp, who have lived in past ages, and remote countries, we all are admitted to friendly converse with them,—to see them in the world, the church, the family, and the closet,—to meet with them in adversity, as well as in prosperity; in affliction and death, as well as in the season of health. Through this medium we are enabled to behold “the mighty dead,” in all the varieties of light and shade; and