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and of all eternal things, become, in a moment, clear, and wide, and powerful. Will not the change from ignorance to knowledge heighten and beautify all the graces of his Christian character? Will not his love become more fervent, his confidence more firm, his hope more inspiring, his devotion more spiritual, and that happy feeling of security more tranquil, as the objects and motives of these several affections are more clearly apprehended? Will not the change be kindred in its nature to that change which passes on the spirit when it escapes from the darkness and blindness of its earthly tabernacle to stand in the full brightness of the throne ?
Again, the ignorant Christian may be useful; but his ignorance will always limit and impede his usefulness. He may be useful, though he knows but a little ; and if he can make himself useful, with the little knowledge which he has, how much more useful would he be if the sphere of his intelligence were widened. His usefulness, of course, can be proportioned only to his influence; and it is to be remembered that one of the greatest means of influence is knowledge—intellectual superiority. He
may be useful, for he may have other means of influence to supply, in some degree, the want of knowledge ;-he may have wealth, that shall give him power to bless the destitute with the knowledge of the gospel, or to cause the widow's heart to sing for joy ;-he may be placed in circumstances where his mere example of industrious and unrepining toil, or of calm submission to the will of God, shall bring persuasion and conviction to a thousand hearts. But if, in addition to these sources of influence, he had that power which springs from superior intelligence, how much wider would be his usefulness—how much more glorious his testimony for God.
Now, to apply this to the youthful Christian, I would say, aim at the highest degree of intelligence which your condition in life will allow you to attain.
In this country, and at this age of the world, that degree of intelligence is far higher than indolent minds are ready to suppose. There is not within the reach of my voice a single youthful Christian, who may not consistently aim at such a degree of knowledge as will make him widely useful in his appropriate sphere.
In the first place, study the Bible ; study it every day, and let it be your theme of nightly meditation. Study it with constant invocation of “that Spirit which can enrich with all knowledge;" for there is no other way in which its purest glories can be made to beam so brightly on the soul. Study it in course; so as to understand, not only the meaning of words and verses and chapters, but the design and scope and method of each entire book. Study it with all the helps which you can command to aid you in understanding, not only its general import, but all its shades of thought-all its local and personal allusions. Study it systematically ; seeking to understand its doctrines in their appropriate combination and arrangement, and in all their applications to the welfare of the soul, to the business of living, to the union of believers with God and with each other, and to the final triumph of the kingdom of Christ.
In the next place, study to know the dealings of God with his church.
Know, as far as possible, all that he is doing for the advancement of his kingdom. Make yourself acquainted with the signs of the times, and the great events that are occurring from day to day—the outpourings of the Spirit on the churches—the operations of benevolent enterprise in every land the triumphs of the gospel in heathen nations. Make yourself acquainted with these things, not carelessly and superficially, as is the case with most men, but thoroughly: so that, instead of taking up with indistinct impressions, you may gain that knowledge, the acquisition of which invigorates the mind by discipline, and the possession of which enriches it with wisdom.
In the next place, seek to become acquainted with the history and character of distinguished Christians. Learn what they were what was the secret of their piety and their usefulness; and thus drink deep into their wisdom.
And, to add one more specification, make yourself familiar in some measure with the history of Christ's kingdom in past ages. Learn to take up the story of the Church, where the history of the Apostles leaves it with Paul preaching in his hired house at Rome, and to trace the progress of the Redeemer's kingdom, through persecution and prosperity, through ages of darkness and eras of light, down to the present day. And suffer not yourself to be ignorant of any thing which a well-informed Christian ought to know, in such an age and such a country as this.
Do you say, that this is setting you to a great task—to a great course of reading and study? It is indeed a great course, compared with the reading which in our day is too frequently put into the hands of youth. And against that kind of reading let me warn you. It is easy to read
religious stories,” “fictions founded upon fact,” and a thousand suchlike things, that are every day put into the hands of children and youth -all designed for their improvement. But the difficulty is, that though such books may rouse the mind to sensibility, and may often illustrate some lesson of morality or of devotion, they impart ordinarily no vigour to the mental powers; they give the mind no stores of knowledge ; they do little to enlarge its scope of thought, and to teach it habits of reflection and of wisdom: and the danger is, that, abounding as they do within the reach of almost every individual, they will occupy each leisure hour; and, creating in the mind a sickliness of taste and feeling, they will not only enervate it by their own direct influence, but also shut it out from the healthful fountains of knowledge and of spiritual life. I say then, choose for yourself, whether your Christian usefulness shall be always hindered and impaired by your own ignorance, and your Christian character always marked with the littleness and imperfection of an unenlightened mind, or whether your usefulness shall be wide as the sphere in which God shall give you opportunity to work, and your Christian character bright as the privileges which he confers upon you. If you choose the latter, as in all duty you are bound to do, you must aim steadily at the highest point of intelligence which you are capable of reaching ; and you must make a business of this pursuit--a serious daily business, so far as more immediate duties will permit--a matter of conscience and solemn Christian obligation.
II. The youthful Christian ought by all means to cultivate a spirit of Christian activity. There are Christians who are not active Christians. They are active men, perhaps-men of great business, and great enterprise ;-but as Christians they do nothing. They have intelligence perhaps, and every other means of influence; but they are not active in the cause of Christ; and so their influence is for the most part useless to the church. They may be, now and then, wrought upon by others to contribute something of their influence to the advancement of the cause of God; but they are rarely, if ever, active,—they are passive, having no motion of their own. Now the difficulty with such Christiansand it is a great one-is, that when they became Christians, they did not resolve on the right standard of excellence :--they have neither received, and very likely never will receive, such an impulse as effectually to rouse within them the spirit of Christian enterprise : they have never found the habit of untiring activity in the service of Christ. And so they live along, with a reputable profession of Christianity, doing nothing, or next to nothing, for the cause which they have espoused; nothing directly, and very little indirectly, for the salvation of souls : and at last when they die, neither the church nor the world is much the better for their religion. They have been active enough as men of business; they have left behind perhaps a great amount of property, to be the temporal and eternal ruin of their children"; but as Christians they never felt they had any thing great to do. And when they reach heaven-if indeed there is room there for such Christians—when they look down upon the world they have left, and see how little they have done for it, they will for ever regret their slothfulness, and for ever adore that grace which could forgive such guilty inefficiency. Now it is for you, my young friends, to choose whether you will be such Christians—mere ciphers in the kingdom of God-or whether you will be Christians to some purpose. If you do not choose to spend your life in doing nothing for the cause of Christ, now is the time for you to establish such habits of activity, and to cultivate such a spirit of Christían enterprise, as will hereafter guide you and impel you into every path of usefulness which Providence may open. Cultivate therefore now such a spirit and such habits, that hereafter the work of serving Christ, by efforts for the advancement of his kingdom, may not be to you a strange work
-a work too strange to be attempted. If you do not form these habits now, probably you never will ; for it is very rare that an individual converted in youth is, in after-life, so converted a second time as to acquire a new Christian spirit and to form new Christian habits. The general form which his character takes at the beginning, commonly continues to the end. I say then, if you are to be an active Christian hereafter, you must be an active Christian now. Opportunities for being active--opportunities for cultivating the spirit of Christian enterprise--are now abundant. The church is arming all her sons for self-defence and for conquest. In the Sabbath-schools, in the various associations for missions, for distributing the Bible, for circulating religious tracts, for all the purposes of Christian benevolence, there is work for young hands to do;
and in these ways you can be active now, and can be cherishing that spirit of enterprise, which will not only enlarge your Christian usefulness and augment your Christian enjoyment through life, but will swell the happiness of your eternal song in heaven. The circle of your brothers and sisters, or the wider circle of your youthful friends, affords a thousand occasions for Christian activity-which if you improve, you may not only turn many to righteousness, but win for yourself a brighter and still brighter crown of everlasting glory.
III. The young Christian ought to learn the discipline of self-denial. If any man will come after me, says Christ, let him deny himself, and take up
and follow me. The denial of self--the renunciation of selfish pursuits—the sacrifice of selfish gratifications—is, throughout the word of God, one of the most obvious and essential traits of Christian character. And yet this trait of character is but little insisted on, and still less exhibited in the conduct of those who bear the Christian
The professors of Christianity in our day are at ease in Zion; they dwell in ceiled houses; they stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock; they chant to the sound of the viol; they drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
Look round on the majority of those who call themselves the followers of Christ, and see how much their religion costs them. Habitual selfdenial for the cause of the Redeemer—the daily bearing of the crossthere is nothing like it in their creed or in their thoughts. What superfluity do they retrench, that they may have something for the work of God? What luxury do they forego? Who is it that is apparelled more gayly or more expensively than they and their children? Whose entertainments--whose sacrifices on the altar of fashion and to the pride of life are more splendid, more luxurious, more costly than theirs ? Who more eager in the pursuit of wealth than they? In short, who is more conformed to the world in its reputable pleasures, in its pride, in its pursuits ? And all the while, from the four winds there comes into their ears the cry of misery to be relieved, the ory of ignorance to be instructed, the cry of sin to be removed by the application of the Gospel, and the shorts of the armies of Immanuel rushing to the victory. Yet, to aid the triumphs of the cross, to heal the diseases and relieve the miseries of a wicked world, they bestow nothing but the crumbs that fall from their table--nothing but that which they cannot respectably appropriate to themselves or their children.
Now if ever the church is to achieve the conquest of the world, the work must be accomplished by Christians of another stamp from these. · The ancient self-denial--the ancient bearing of the cross—must not only be revived, but must be general among the followers of Christ ; and men must feel that it costs something to be Christians. Therefore I say to you, my youthful brethren, gird yourselves now to follow your Redeemer. Learn in youth the holy discipline of self-denial. Try now how much you can retrench from your pleasures and your pride for the sake of glorifying God. Discipline yourselves by self-denial—by bearing the cross daily--so that you may be a chosen generation, a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
IV. The young Christian needs to cultivate the habit and spirit of prayer. It is prayer, constant fervent prayer, habitual intimate intercourse with God, that spreads over the Christian character its beauty, its celestial graces, its spiritual unction. And this intercourse with God, this fervency of supplication, which arrays the believer in the brightest panoply of heaven, is a grace to be attained and perfected, like all the other Christian graces, by cultivation. It is not bestowed at once, complete and sure. The spirit of devotion is to be gained and to be made constant and characteristic, only by cultivating the habit of devotion. And without the habit and the spirit of devotion—without the habit of constant and earnest prayer,—though a man be ever so intelligent on all the points of Christian knowledge, and though he be ever so active and ever so self-denying—all his knowledge will be only that which puffeth up; all his activity will be the activity of a bustling and meddling spirit; all his self-denial will be self-righteousness. Without the constant habit of prayer
may have fits of devotional excitement, but his light will not burn with the calm and steady brightness that increases to the perfect day. Therefore cultivate in youth the habit and the spirit of devotion. Cultivate this habit in your closets, and cultivate the habit of praying with each other and for each other. So shall you advance from strength to strength. So shall you be like the fleece of Gideon, rich with the dew of heaven, while all around is dry. So shall your path, through a world of temptation, be bright like the path of him who spent whole nights in prayer upon the solitary mountains. So shall you grow in grace and in every divine attainment—your character gaining, continually, symmetry and strength, till you shall reach the measure of the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus.
Would to God I could make you know what results are depending upon you ; what interests of the church and of a dying world are involved in your future character and efforts. When I look on the young Christians of this age, and reflect that they are soon to sustain the ancient glories of the church of God, when I look abroad on the earth and see the crisis that is at hand, when I listen to the cries that come from every quarter of the world, summoning the people of God to new efforts and more splendid exhibitions of piety ;-I seem to see the hoary generations that are past rising up from their repose to watch over the progress of the young followers of Christ ;-I seem to hear the voices of blest spirits above, cheering them on in the career of piety ;-I seem to see a world in misery, turning its imploring hands to them, and beseeching them to be worthy of their name, worthy of their privileges, worthy of their noble destiny ;-I seem to hear–I do hear God himself speaking from the heavens, Ye have chosen the better part, be faithful unto death, and I will give you crowns of life.