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you both have the same evidence of God's presence with you.--both “ walk in the Spirit” alike, be careful how you condemn your neighbours for not being so animated and fervent as yourself; for so you may be passing a censure on the work of God, who has been pleased to give them a different constitution and frame of mind. It may
be no reproach to them, that their feelings are not so readily excited, or to such a degree as your own: if their religious principles are as deeply rooted, and their religious conduct as uniform and consistent, doubt not that their souls are as surely sanctified by the residence of the Holy Spirit within them, as your own.
In truth, it is of the very nature of a vicious enthusiasm (I use this term now as descriptive of the erroneous impression which is so called) to consider feeling as the only sign and test of spiritual influence. But observe what an uncertain sign it is :-it varies every hour,--it varies with the bodily health, -with the excitation or depression of the animal spirits --with the alterations of outward circumstances,-nay, even, in many cases, with the changes of so fickle a thing as the weather
It is making the religious character like the Cameleon, to represent it as liable to so frequent variation, from such a diversity of trifling and accidental causes. If a man's religion consists only in feeling, he is religious and irreligious by turns, from day to day, perhaps from hour to hour : nothing can be more capricious, and wavering, and irregular. He will act by fits and starts, in obedience to the impulse of the moment; and from the height of zeal and devotion he will sometimes fall back into the listlessness of indifference. A consistent and steady conduct cannot be expected from him; for it is contrary to the nature of the soul, oppressed as it is by the burthen of its infirm companion, that it should be at all times equally elastic, at all times strung to the full stretch of its spiritual powers.
I am sure you must have often felt the truth of my remarks. However earnest at one time, you have at another experienced a corresponding dulness and languor. Sometimes you can pray with warm emotion, -sometimes you are quite lifeless, and feel as if the spirit of prayer was departed from you: sometimes you are so entranced with visions of heavenly joy, that you almost anticipate a foretaste of future bliss,-at others, the contemplation of eternal happiness and glory brings no delight: sometimes the sense of God's exceeding mercy almost dissolves your soul in love and affection, and you cannot express the liveliness of your gratitude, though it is kindled into a flame of pious adoration ;--again you meditate on the very same subject with careless composure, or are even dispirited and dejected when you think of it. This is feeling
, human feeling. It is not that the Spirit of God visits and forsakes his true worshippers so capriciously; but your frail minds are liable to these infirmities, as your bodies are subject to frequent and rapid alterations of health and sickness.
But, happily for us, the holy scriptures do not require such signs of spiritual influence, or of a religious state of mind. They direct our attention to the palpable effects of holiness and charity; of a “ faith which worketh by love;" and these, by the grace of God, every man may exhibit, in the uniform and steady tenor of a pious life. It is written, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength ; ” but God only can judge whether our affections are devoted to him with the degree of feeling of which our minds are severally capable; our rule of judgment is prescribed in these words, “ This is the love of God, that we keep his command. ments.” It is written, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;” but herein is the existence of that charity to be made manifest, that we “do
unto all men as we would they should do unto
It is written, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved ;” but the evidence of faith is, that it “worketh by love; and " by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if
love one another." It is written, “ Except ye repent, ye shall all perish ; ” but vain are the emotions of sorrow, unless ye “bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” It is written, “ Set your affections on things above, not on things of the earth ;” but you must prove
do so, by “ laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven;" and then, “ where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” And so with regard to all the feelings and affections of the mind, that are required by the gospel, the main point is, not that you all actually feel with equal intenseness (for that is not possible), but that you study and labour, in humble dependence on divine aid, to exhibit the proper and practical effects of these emotions, in doing the will of God according to the abilities and opportunities which he shall give you.
Nevertheless, be thankful to God, ye whose feelings are naturally of a more lively description, that he has furnished you with so powerful a stimulus to exertion, and value and cherish those
warm emotions as an additional incentive and impulse to all the works of piety ; only, condemn not your less favoured brethren, nor hastily accuse them of indifference, because there may seem to be less animation in their religious offerings, than in your own. And ye, on the other hand, who are by nature of a cooler and more sluggish disposition, pray to God to direct your hearts aright, and to implant in them the sound and vigorous principles of true religion, though you cannot hope to obtain the activity of mind which some others experience, and though you labour under natural discouragements of which they are not sensible,-see that you do not charge with extravagance or enthusiasm, those who are actuated by feelings to which you are, by your constitution, strangers. Judge not one another in either case, for no man can see another's mind. Leave all judgment to God, who only knoweth the secrets of the mysterious heart.
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” In this way let each, according to his several abilities, endeavour to “ make his own calling and election sure ;” and the favour of God will not be wanting to bless his efforts. For all who