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I.-The First Day of Lent.-Holy Seasons.
SERIOUS thoughts, at serious times, open a closer communication with heaven. All times, doubtless, are proper for serious thought: but when the mind is concentred upon one object, and that the most important to life and godliness, a corresponding holiness of season is peculiarly strengthening. The duties of human life, being infinitely varied, cannot be brought into contemplation together; but there is a medium of communication which harmonizes all nature, unites even discordant parts of duty, and spreads around it the spirit of holiness, as well as the genial feeling of affection. That Sun of the world, the all-creating Saviour, the centre of all perfection in man, is the vivifying cause both of spiritual and temporal existence; and connects every varying duty in one holy principle.
Let this day, then, do its proper work. A short interval of time offers a momentary retreat from conflicting passions and alarming irritations. The perplexing cares of business, and the distractions of a pleasurable life are incompatible with a collected mind, or the calmness of serious thought. Even necessary labours, when pursued on motives purely worldly, impede the Christian course; and that which would invigorate the mind as well as body, that which would
bring with it indestructible treasure, is totally lost, or perverted, by the misapplication of so valuable a talent. The best of human duties, when pressed upon the mind too long, or with too intense an interest, is often attended with very fatal consequences, both to Christian faith and Christian obedience.
Worldly pleasures, too, being present, are of a fascinating nature, and distract the mind which has objects of vast importance in view. Solitude and silence, in such a case, are monitors of inestimable value. in the best and happiest domestic arrangements, occasional retirements, are indispensable to the promotion of sober and appropriate thought. It is the same in the establishment of Church discipline. Attention to secret reflection and private devotion regulates the disposition for a due performance of our public services: not merely the formal profession of a customary duty, but that general deportment of an holy life which distinguishes the character of a consistent Christian.
Let this day, then, do its proper work. It gives a signal of intermission to labours which require a pause. If we go on much longer in treading the dull round, like the ox that treadeth out the corn, we shall have no heart to stop the heavy machine, and wish for refreshment. There is a stupidity in human nature which requires rousing; a deadness of soul which operates to its own destruction. But every malady has its remedy; and even, if pronounced incurable,
the soothing application of an healing balsam will ease the pain which it cannot cure.
But in spiritual maladies, no disease will be thought incurable, which does not arise from an infatuated resistance to its sovereign remedy. An effectual physician always is at hand. "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest— learn of me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls'." The very name of our Physician is a security of suc"He will come and save you—and the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs; and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away 2."
With such a prospect, let not one precious moment pass away in apathy or delusion. Means of restoration, through the grace of God, may arise from every man's own bosom. This is truly a personal concern. "Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone 3." He must, therefore check his own time, if he would fix his first footstep on the rock of Zion. He must choose his own place of "sweet retired solitude," if he would muse unmolested on the most interesting and awful subject of a Lenten contemplation:
"With such thoughts
Accompanied, of things past and to come,
1 Matt. xi. 28.
2 Is. li. 11.
3 Gal. vi. 4.
Lodged in his breast, as well might recommend
If ever there were moments adapted to deep thought, if ever there were a seclusion appropriate to sober reflection on an overwhelming subject, it must be in anticipation of the anniversary of the great sacrifice, and the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Saviour.
In primitive times, and even at a later period of the Church, at this season holy men retired to remote residences for the purposes of prayer and meditation. Almost within memory, at stated periods, places of public entertainment were suspended, the services of the Church more assiduously attended, and even private demeanour had some reference to the season. It must be confessed, that a severe abridgment of personal comfort may be no necessary part of piety. But it will be admitted, that under a pure sense of religion, and undebased by any superstitious practice, it was a favourable sign of the times; and assuredly, the seclusion of the breast will best nourish, and most effectually preserve, a spirit of piety in the heart.
"Here innocence may wander safe from foes,
When lucre lures him, or ambition stings,
Shall never know the source whence real goodness springs 2.”
1 Milton's Paradise regained.
2 Beattie's Minstrel.
THE sacred record of our Lord's temptation of forty days, suggested to the primitive rulers of the Church, the appropriation of the same portion of time, adapted to holy contemplation of similar duties. Doubtless, the temptation of Christ was so miraculous in all its parts, that it never can be the model of imitation amongst men; but the connecting meditation of a Christian, on an event where the superhuman character of the Saviour is so prominently displayed, must, from a variety of considerations, produce an eminent personal advantage.
Ah! temptation! in how many various shapes dost thou appear? The enemy of man attacks us, as he did the Lord Jesus in an unsuspected place; from unsuspected quarters; and under disguises, alluring and seductive, and difficult to resist; and alas! with what different success! we fall where he stood; but he stood that he might rescue us from all the dangers of our condition, and apply to us all the benefits of his conquest. Is it the station which we fulfil in life that tempts? Is it in the depression of poverty, or in the insolence of riches? Is it presumption? Is it ambition? In all these did Satan tempt the Lord; and in all these, the tempted was victorious. In all these, under different modifications, suitable to our different stations and situations of life, does he tempt us still. They are indeed outward allurements, but the danger