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in this way, is truly astonishing; and what is more, when this matter is wisely chosen, or worthy of the place assigned to it, its dominant influence is far less obstructive of the claims of minor interest, than beforehand was expected. We wish to found upon this principle, in the case before us, and being quite assured, that in proportion as the importance of solitude is clearly made out to the mind of a Christian, he gains the power of commanding time for it. Let us devote a few pages to the elucidation of its importance.
1. The Christian requires solitude to preserve the entireness of his own individual existence, in a moral point of view. Although no extent of intercourse with society can put a person in any hazard of losing the identity of his mind, in the physical sense of the word, yet, in a moral point of view, the danger of falling under this calamity is any thing but small. A man may be so frequently conversant with other men, and so powerfully influenced by their spirit and opinions, as to cease from having any spirit or any opinions of his own. The individuality of his mind, as a principle which is bound to think for itself, and act from its own independent convictions, may be so neutralized, by a kind of absorption into other minds, as to be no longer itself, but converted by a process of slow and insensible transmutation into the creature of other minds. We need not specify cases to show that this possibility is often realized in fact; for every one knows that it is so who has seen but a little of the living world. Nor are the instances of this confined to those whose
physical imbecility seems to warrant their relinquishment of mental independence, as the dictate of practical wisdom-a class, by the way, which we believe
to be small indeed-but the same instances, we fear, are, through the operation of various causes, to be found among vast multitudes, who are perfectly capable of asserting the right, and exercising the privilege which is chartered to them, by the God that made them.
It is very true, that the doctrine of independence has its limits, beyond which it cannot be carried without a certain detriment; for many an excellent public measure, either in politics or religion, would remain for ever unaccomplished, unless, at the proper crisis, some potent spirit should emerge from the crowd, and become the leader of thousands: although even here, the gathered host must ever be unwieldy, unless it has been drawn together by a unison of individual opinion.-But to follow a leader in matters of solemn personal concern, and such a leader too, as promiscuous Christian society, till a man has lost his moral identity in the mass of that society, and positively ceased to be his own, is to inflict an injury on his spiritual well-being, . which nothing earthly can compensate. It interposes an authority, which is truly alien between his conscience and the authority of God: and thus entails on him the awful evil of living without God in the world. For, although the associates be really religious, to whom he has committed the forming of his character, and although the influence which they send forth upon him be ever so pure or well intentioned, yet if he has failed to discriminate in the
matter; if he has allowed others to think for him, but declined to think for himself; if he is only religious because they are religious, and has thus become their creature, but not the creature of their God in Christ; he may palliate the matter as he will, and there may be redeeming circumstances of which we wish not to deprive him, but he cannot entirely escape the charge of " changing the image of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man.”
It is in this one mistake, so deep and disastrous, and mournfully prevalent, that we are to seek for the origin of that flimsy ephemeral piety, with which the church is so sorely aggrieved -a piety, which to-day may be fresh, and lively, and all to your mind, but to-morrow has dropped into extinction--a piety in short, which may seem to prosper so long as you surround it with a suitable influence, or allow it to lean on the piety of others; but, if left to itself, or constrained to subsist on its own resources, is instantly in danger, and easily overthrown by the slightest wind of temptation.
Now, although solitude in itself is not the remedy for this evil, yet it is the only suitable situation where the remedy can be sought or found. Men vacillate in religion, or adopt the current creed, or easily take the mould of society around them; just because they have lost the power, or never firmly asserted it, of thinking for themselves. But, if they are to think for themselves, to any effective purpose, they must also contrive to be by themselves; for it is not among crowds, or in the bustle of social intercourse, that a man can be expected to isolate his soul from extrinsic influence, and cause it to feel its individual
responsibility, and constrain it to have to do immediately and directly with him, who alone has a right to govern it. Assuredly not. To secure the entireness of his separate existence, or to preserve that mind which he feels to be himself, from being merged in the thoughts, or blended with the feelings, or passively changed into the likeness of other minds, which cannot meet his destiny, nor relieve him of his responsibilities, there must be seasons at which he stands off from society, and discards it from his view, and devotes himself assiduously to those peculiar concerns, which by the law of his creation are emphatically his own. Thus it is, that any human being, whatsoever he be, who is estranged from the duties of thoughtful solitude, misuses his own nature, and exposes it to fearful hazards. But if this be true of man, as man, what additional force is given to its truth, in the case of the Christian, who has a spiritual process going on within him, so interesting in itself, so easily injured by intrusion from the world, requiring such a carefulness of personal management, and so sublime in the result to which it is advancing ?
2. The Christian requires solitude, to gain him acquaintance with the state of his heart as a religious being. Nothing can be more precious to a serious professor of Christianity, than the means of ascertaining whether he is or is not a living subject of that religion, the name of which he has assumed. Or if he has ascertained this point already on the one side, or on the other, it is of the utmost importance for him to keep reckoning with his soul forever
afterward, in order to satisfy himself whether the workings of his mind, which follow the ascertainment, are suited or opposed to its special indications. For if he allows himself to get into darkness here, and slothfully permits the darkness to continue, it will spread an influence, the most injurious, over the whole extent of his religious interests. still be in earnest about the matter, or feel himself the subject of confused religious impressions; but how can he have freedom of mind to perform the duties of religion, or partake of its warranted consolations, while he hangs in continual suspense, and knows not the precise character in which he has to do with the God of salvation. We grant, indeed, that the case of a bewildered Christian, and that of an awakened sinner, may so resemble each other, that the exercise which is suited to the one in his perplexities, may be equally suited to the other; and we grant also, that a Christian approaching his God amidst much confusion of mind, and great indefiniteness of view and exercise, may yet find acceptance and spiritual relief; but still the man who is a Christian, ought to make his approach as a Christian, and not merely as a sinner awakened; and whenever he loses the power of doing so, he loses also a high advantage for the prosecution of religious exercise.
That there is a distinction, which is not only assignable in itself, but highly serviceable in a practical point of view, between the modification of religious exercise, which is proper for him who knows himself a Christian, and that which befits the man who, so far as he knows, is only the subject of serious concern, will be readily admitted by all who are