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society, and soured into a love of solitude, by the supposed unfriendliness of others, entitled to a better reception. They speak the language of haste or spleen, but not of calm reflection.

God has given them social affections, which they have no right to eradicate, and placed them in a system of connections, where they may reflect and receive a great variety of improving influences.

He has promised privileges to be enjoined, and prescribed duties to be discharged, and determined reformations to be achieved, and created sympathies to be exercised, which all require the nerve, as well as the pervasive excitement, and mutually animating glow of united operation: and for them to fly off from associated life, in chagrin at the friction of its movements, is just to foster the monstrous presumption, that the mighty mechanism of human society, with all its grandeur and moral competency, ought either to work as they would have it, or be broken up and given to the winds, in homage to individual caprice.

Extravagances of this latter kind, however, are limited in number, and whatever injury they may inflict on their individual victim, they seldom amount to a sensible deduction from the effective resources of society at large. It is the excessive love of intercourse with his fellows, and not the desire of being alone, which is the besetting sin of modern

Society around us, like the contents of the kaleidoscope, presents itself in many an aspect, while, in every one of them, it is glowing with fancied interest, and bright with illusory attraction. It is teeming with life, and warm with enterprize, rural or mercantile; it is ingenious in speculation, or dexterous in art; polished and gay, or vulgar and dissipated; wallowing in wealth, or panting after it; all bustle and continual engrossment; wooing attention, and promising to repay it in many a nameless decorated form of gain, or honour, or mere amusement, as well as gross and vicious indulgence; while the tendency of the whole is to draw the incautious out of their seclusion, and keep them forever in the crowd. The result is, that, to an alarming extent, the people in many thousands, at every stage of life, and in all classes of society, have first forgotten, and then become afraid to enter on the business of solitude. They seem as if they had lost their individuality; and when a leisure hour can be redeemed from business or manual labour, instead of devoting it to solemn converse with themselves about the character and condition of their moral nature, or the gifts and requirements of the God that made them, or the ultimate destiny on which they are advancing, they rush into society, however frivolous, and give themselves up to its dissipating influence, as if they had nothing to occupy their minds but business and relaxation.


The moral injury which all this is silently inflicting on irreligious men cannot be easily estimated, while its tendency to defeat the formation of habits of self-inspection, or to destroy them where they exist, and thus prevent those moods of mind which are most favourable to religious impression, is a subject of melancholy reflection to every considerate mind. But it were too much to suppose that the injury is confined to this department, for experience has always taught us, that whatever the evil agency may be which works pervasively in society at large, it is sure to take effect in less or more on the portion of Christianity which mingles with that society, and to taint the characters of her professors with the blight of its withering influence. That such is the case at present, in reference to the point before us, there can be no reasonable doubt. Christians are infected by the existing mania for business, or wealth, or splendour, or elegant frivolity, or showy amusement; and the consequence is, that even they as well as others are robbed of their time, and deprived of their relish for the duties of religious retirement.

When we speak of retirement, however, we mean by it a great deal more than that condition of external quiet in which the man is literally alone, with his body inactive, and his mind at ease, or floating at random through any forms of imagery which accident may throw in his way. This is not the business of retirement, but its relaxation which may at times be necessary to relieve the exhaustion of mind or body, and compensate for the drain of energy which prolonged exertion may have made

But what we refer to, is that habit of mind, in the exercise of which, at convenient intervals, the Christian retires from the world in all its secular concerns, and deliberately places himself in the presence of his God, and enters on a solemn scrutiny of all his thoughts, and words, and actions, with their spirit, and motives, and tendencies; and brings the whole to the test of Christian privilege and Christian law, and ingenuously condemns himself wherever he is wrong, and renews his application

upon both.

to the fountain of remission, as a victim of guilt and helplessness; and purposes amendment, in the spirit of contrition, and hope, and fear; and thus prepares himself for returning to society with a deeper awe upon his spirit, and a holier jealousy about him, as well as a renewed intensity of desire to be kept unspotted from the world. Such is a specimen of the serious business which every Christian must be in the habit of transacting, or else be guilty of egregious trifling with the weightiest of all his concerns; and it is but a specimen: for although this may be regarded as the essential part which claims the attention of all, yet the business of solitude must be greatly diversified, according to varied circumstances, personal, or relative, or local, in which the man is placed in the course of providence.

Now, although it requires no argument, nor any expostulation, either to convince a real Christian, that this is a business of vital importance for clearing up his course, and enabling him to travel onwards with confidence and joy, or to assure him, that he must have his intervals of solitude, to enable him to conduct it with suitable deliberation; yet the grand obstacle which opposes the assurance, in the minds of not a few, is the want of time, imagined or real, for that reflective solitude which is necessary to its

When the Christian is reasoned with, about his omissions in this department, he cannot contest the point of duty, for this point he feels settled within him, by something like the decision of instinct; but his plea of defence is usually as follows, “I know the importance of what you contend for, and most sincerely do I deplore the adverse circum


stances which place it so often beyond my reach, but I am so much the victim of care, and business, and ever-recurring incident, and endlessly harassing solicitude, that my mind is scarcely ever composed; and how can I enter on so solemn an exercise, except in a haste and flutter of spirit, which are quite incompatible with its character?”

This objection, it is frankly admitted, we cannot refute by a direct disproof of its verity; for no man who sits in his closet, and expostulates on paper with the Christian public, can venture to specify the portions of time which might be rescued by them to Christian purposes, without admitting into his calculation a considerable variety of items, which, in the experience of not a few, may be known to be irredeemable. Nor must it be denied, that the objection involves a real grievance, which is often the source of ingenuous regret to many a good man. But it is a principle of very general currency, both among the maxims of the moralist, and in the annals of human experience, that a man seldom fails to find time for that which is impressed upon his mind as a matter of primary importance. The magnitude of such a thing so engrosses his thoughts, and pleads for the pre-eminence, as to reduce other concerns to the rank of secondaries in his view; and thus does it happen, that the great concern, just because it is felt to be great, not only finds room for itself, and time for its consideration, but exerts a commanding influence over all his other activities, laying them under a regular contribution to its power and its prerogative. The dominion which a matter of magnitude is capable of holding over the human mind

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