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works, but omits preparation and does not attend to the particular duties appropriate to present time and circumstances, will surely and utterly fail of his object. While he may think he is sincerely seeking the advancement of religion and thus securing the rewards of the faithful, be is wasting his energies and his probation in fruitless and deceptive resolutions. Every one who would answer the requisitions of the Gospel, must determine what is present duty; and this duty, be it what it may, he must immediately and resolutely perform. Not a day or an hour passes, without an appropriate opportunity for Christian exertion in one way or another. Time is precious and every moment should witness, on our part, some acceptable service to God.
We would now invite the attention of our readers to some of the duties of private Christians, such, we mean, as are more intimately connected with the further spread of religion and a more elevated standard of piety. We shall not attempt to prove that every Christian must be an active and laborious servant of the Lord Jesus. The example of the Master speaks more than language can express, in regard to the duties of the disciple, and he who can disregard what the Bible has said on this point, is, it would seem, at present beyond the reach of conviction. Our remarks are intended for those who acknowledge and in some measure, feel, that, as they are not their own, they are bound to exert all their powers for the glory of God in the salvation of men. The time has been when pious laymen appeared to think they had little to do for the souls of the impenitent around them. The whole business of instructing, exhorting, and warning sinners, was left to the regular ministers of the word. But in this respect, there has already been a great and happy change. Private Christians have begun to come up to the help of the Lord and of his ministers. The condition of society has also become so changed, that a variety and aggregate of religious effort, which fifty years ago, could hardly have found an outlet in appropriate and useful action, are now absolutely demanded, to meet the wants of the age. A thousand new channels of influence have been opened; and if they are not kept full of the healthful waters of religion, they will be filled and poisoned by the dark and deadly waters of infidelity. Ministers can do but little comparatively towards satisfying the wants of those who are perishing for Christian instruction and counsel. The church, the whole church, with all her diversity of talent and qualification, must engage directly in the work of saving men. Were private Christians faithfully to perform all the duties which the commands of Christ, in connexion with the circumstances of the age, require of them, the moral power of the church might defy all the assaults, artifices and resistance of her enemies. The walls of Zion would be strong—the valor and skill of her defenders would put all the forces of Satan to flight. Heaven-born peace would again return to the earth, and the name and praise of God would everywhere be one. We shall now enumerate some of the duties of private Christians, which we deem peculiarly important at the present day.
i. The first duty of the private Christian, which we shall mention, is, that he make himself well acquainted with all the important doctrines of the Gospel
. He should be thoroughly settled and grounded in his religious belief. The compendium of his religious views, or, if the term be not offensive, his creed, should be made up by an attentive study of the word of God. As a being responsible for the proper use of his understanding and judgment, he has no right to receive any system of faith from his fellow men, simply upon trust. He is bound 10 search the scriptures for himself. In this way only can be obtained clear and permanent convictions of religious truth. Doubts will always be intruding themselves into his mind, in regard to those parts of his system, which he has not derived from the infallible word of inspiration. Duty and usefulness require, not only that he be satisfied for himself as to the truths he professes to believe, but that he be able to give to others a reason for his profession. He should be able to meet the caviller with plain, scriptural argument, and to direct the anxious sinner in the way of salvation. We do not mean that every layman should be skilled in technical theology, or enter minutely into biblical criticism. Perhaps it is not even desirable that the great mass of professing Christians should be acquainted with the less important topics of religious controversy, which engross so much of the attention of ministers and teachers. Their zeal and energy should be directed to more practical purposes. But every professing Christian should have clear and well defined views of all those truths, upon a cordial reception of which, the eternal well-being of the soul depends. No one is at liberty to remain in doubt upon subjects so momentous. What can the Christian who is ignorant of the doctrines of the Bible, do for the advancement of religion? What can he say to vindicate, recommend, or enforce divine truth, if he has never settled in his own mind what is divine truth, and what is not. What would be said of the well-informed active Christian who should voluntarily neglect all the duties which his religious knowledge enables him
to perform, or
which flow from his mental qualifications to promote the cause of truth? Would he not forfeit, in the eyes of all, his claims to Christian character? But is he less guilty, who voluntarily remains destitute of religious knowledge, and by consequence does little or nothing for the promotion of religion? His, will be the final condemnation of the slothful servant-his talent will be taken from him, and he will be doomed to have his part with hypocrites and unbelievers.
2. Every pious layman should qualify himself to take a part in social religious meetings. He should be willing and prepared to pray and exhort whenever and wherever circum-' stances may require it. Nor should he think a preparation for this work a hard, unwelcome task. It should be his delight to cultivate his talent for speaking, and to employ his tongue, "the glory of his frame,” in showing forth the praises of God, and in persuading men to repent.—To those who know the condition of many of our churches, this suggestion cannot appear unimportant. There are many churches in our own favored New England, -and we believe they are vines divinely planted, that have no pastors to preach to them the word of life, or lead in their public devotions. They seldom have the privilege of greeting a regular minister of Christ. Providence has left them to depend almost entirely on themselves, so far as human agency is concerned, for the nurturing and maturing of their own piety, and for the diffusion of religion among the impenitent around them. They frequently, and, we believe, generally, find it difficult to keep up the number of religious meetings requisite for their spiritual prosperity and improvement. Or, if they come together as often as is expedient, their meetings are wanting in interest. Frequently there is no one present who seems to have anything to say,--one waits for another,--the moments, not deigning to delay, run on a prayer perhaps is offered, and all return home; many sorrowing that the time was so nearly lost, from the backwardness or silence of those who might have rendered it a precious and interesting season. Now what we say is, let every lay professor prepare himself for emergencies of this nature :-he may meet them when he little expects them. Thus he may do great good, when it otherwise would not be done. His efforts to benefit others will have a tendency to warm his own heart. He may be the means, not only of quick. ening his fellow Christians, but also of awakening and converting sinners. Every male member of every church in our country, should take this subject into serious consideration. It will be found to be much more intimately connected with the life VOL. VI-NO, X.
and prosperity of religion; than the majority of professors are aware.
3. Professors of religion should be well acquainted with the benevolent operations of the day. They should discern the signs of the times. If there is one thing calculated to arouse and interest the feelings of the Christian, it is the benevolent and religious efforts of the age. Every pious heart shares in the spirit of that love which, in a degree hitherto unknown, is now seeking the temporal and eternal good of all mankind. He, who remains ignorant of the cheering indications of Prov. idence of the rapid march of truth-and of the vast amount and harmonious operation of the moral machinery which the church is employing, and by which she confidently hopes to bring all nations under the sway of Immanuel, is blind to his own best interests and deaf to the call of an imperious duty. He lives in the midst of light, but sees none of the beauties of creation—the healthful and exciting breeze plays around him, but he feels it not. The stir of Christian enterprize encompasses him, but he catches none of its spirit. Unhappy, as well as useless, he may well be supposed to be.
4. Professors of religion should understand the nature, form, and object of church-government, in the denomination of Christians to which they themselves belong. This is a duty they owe to the church whose rules and discipline they have pledged themselves to observe and support, so far as is consistent with the spirit of the Gospel. They owe it also to the Great Head of the Church, who requires order, harmony, and efficiency in this sacred and responsible association of his followers. In churches based on Congregational principles, according to which the duty and power of discipline is left, not to a few, but to the whole body, it is especially important that every member should be well acquainted with this department of Christian duty. He shares in the responsibility of rightly administering the various functions of church-government. He may unexpectedly be called to act in a case of doubt and difficulty, in which an ignorance of the nature, mode, and end of discipline, may lead to a violation of covenant obligation, and do immense harm to the interests of religion.
We think there is a laxness at the present day, among many of our churches, in the enforcement of necessary and salutary discipline. They exercise too little of the vigilance and decision, which characterized the churches of primitive times. Many a professor whose conduct we believe the Apostles would have pronounced disorderly, is suffered to go on unadmonished, and in full fellowship with Christians, till he brings disgrace
upon religion and wounds the feelings of the Saviour. When such an individual has at length outraged all propriety, and something must be done, the majority of the church are often at a loss to know what they shall do. Having never attended to this part of their duty, they are entirely unprepared for action. Without any fixed principles or rules to guide them, they will be likely to be divided among themselves, as to the course they shall adopt. They will do nothing promptly and efficiently. For the sake of peace, they may be disposed after all, perhaps, to drop the matter without calling the offender to account. In such cases not a little trouble to themselves and no small detriment to religion might have been prevented, by a timely and proper attention to the duty here considered.
5. Private Christians should qualify themselves to visit, FOR RELIGIOUS PURPOSES, the sick and the dying. The chamber of disease is oftentimes a place peculiarly favorable for the exertion of religious influence. When the strength of the strong is taken away, and the tide of worldliness checked by a sense of human frailty, or by the fear of death, a word of warning or exhortation may reach a heart that has long been proof against conviction. The solemnity of the place, the object of the visitor, and the fearful uncertainty of life, combine to arrest the attention of the thoughtless sinner, and thus to render efficacious the power of divine truth. The agitated soul that has never before trembled in view of coming wrath, may now desire to hear the prayers of the Christian, and to learn the way of life. The denunciations and invitations of the Gospel, which he has long disregarded and treated as mere fictions, may now appear to him in their true light, as momentous, soul-stirring realities. The disciple of Christ also, on whom disease has laid its hand, desires frequent interviews with his fellow Christians. He loves to speak and to hear concerning the realities of the heavenly world. While his earthly tabernacle lies prostrate in weakness, his spirit mounts the upper skies, and holds communion with spirits of the just made perfect. The conversation of God's people not only sustains him, but gives intensity to his aspirations after holiness and a perfect conformity to his Saviour. It adds wings to his faith, which at happy intervals bear him away to regions of bliss where he tastes of the fulness of immortal joy. The Christian, who, when brought down to a bed of sickness, finds his mind full of darkness, and doubts, needs sympathy and encouragement from his brethren. United to him in a most solenn and responsible connexion, they should kindly and readily minister to his spiritual wants. They should faithfully examine his case, and if warranted,