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A PASTOR'S ADVICE AND WARNING. ADDRESSED TO A CLASS OF CATECHUMENS AT THEIR CONFIRMATION.
BY THE EDITOR.
"As my beloved sons I warn you."-1 COR. 4: 14.
By the goodness of God we are assembled once more to engage in and witness the solemn rite of confirmation. This is always an occasion of peculiar interest, of deep impressiveness, and of humble joy, not only in the church on earth, but, we may believe, even in Heaven. If there is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that returns to God, is not heaven the more moved by the solemnity in which a whole band of youthful, willing souls, cast themselves upon their knees before the altar, and utter the most solemn vow of eternal consecration?
It is an occasion of interest and joy to parents, who behold here their children assuming their baptismal vows-it is the fruit of their anxieties, prayers, and cares.
It is an occasion of joy to Sabbath-school teachers, to behold those who grew up into stature and into Christ, in their classes, at last prostrate at the feet of Jesus, to whom they had pointed them with many words of earnest exhortation, and with many warm prayers of faith. The seed, sown in tears, is now opening into glorious fruit.
It is an occasion of interest and joy to a pastor, who has sought through a long and anxious course of instruction to point them to Jesus-to prepare them for full membership in the church, for a worthy approach to the table of the Lord, and for an entrance into the blessedness of the righteous.
It is an occasion of solemn interest to all members of the church, who are here reminded of their own confirmation-in whose hearts its solemnity is again revived and reproduced. While reviewing their own lives since that event, they find much to move them to humble penitence, as well as to gratitude and praise, while they silently renew their own vows with those who are kneeling at the altar.
Even such as are no professors of religion, and have no personal saving interest in the great salvation, must more or less feel the impressiveness of the scene-must feel the silent reproof, and the keen chidings of conscience-must feel, when they see those before them so earnestly laying hold of the refuge, as though they heard a voice behind them crying, "Flee ye also to the mountain, tarry not in all the plain."
Our remarks, while they may apply to all, must have a more direct application to those about to be confirmed. This is an hour of special solemnity to you. To this time you have long looked
forward-for it you have made solemn preparation. It has come at last, and behold! we are here together before God, and angels, and men-we are here to witness and confirm your vows.
To this time you will long look back. If you should for a time loose it from your memory, future occasions like this will bring it fresh again to your mind; your conscience will remind you of it; if you go astray some sore afflictions will remind you of this hour; on beds of sickness you will think of these vows; in a dying hour these scenes will crowd around you like angels of peace, or of woe -bringing to your hearts smiles of gratitude, or tears of bitter repentance. Even after this life you will think of this hour, n heaven or in hell!
Believing that what is said under these solemn circumstances will the more deeply impress your minds, and be the longer remembered, I desire to address to you a few words of advice and warning. "As my beloved sons, I warn you."
I. Do not loose or abate your interest in studying and improving in the doctrines and teachings of religion.
The things necessary to be known in religion have been revealed to our minds, not in them. If we would know them we must study them, learn them. The prophets, the Saviour, the apostles, were all teachers. It was their mission to teach all nations-to teach them the things of religion. It was the duty of the people to learn, to study, to know what was taught. The very meaning of a disciple, is a learner.
It is so still. If we would know the way of life-if we would understand our duties and privileges-we must study and learn them. Oh, how much is there for us to know!
You have for some time been learners in religion. Some of you have been for years in the Sabbath-school class, and some of you have for a long time been catechumens. You have heard much, and much of it you have treasured up. But how much is there still for you to learn! What a mine of sacred wisdom still lies unfathomed before you! What heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths are still not explored! You have but barely commenced. You have but a few of the first principles.
It is not only that you may know these things that you ought to study them, but especially on account of the influence which they exert upon your hearts. You have found that your interest in religion has increased with your study and learning. Your hearts have been warmed by the truths to which you have paid attention. The truth, as you took it into your minds and hearts, was as food to the soul. This is the true nature these are the legitimate effects of the truth. When we know it right we feel its powerignorance of it is of course indifference to it.
You have no doubt sometimes thought-for this has been the experience of many-that if the lectures would continue it would
be easy for you to continue warm-hearted and devoted, and faithful. It is your constant feeding upon the truth that keeps you strong.
Now if, after you are confirmed you loose your interest in improving in religious knowledge, you will certainly also grow cold in your zeal, and love, and devotion. On the other hand, if you keep up your diligence in learning more and more of religion, you will find your heart continuing its warmth and vigor. These two things go together. If we would grow in grace we must grow in the knowledge of Christ. Religious knowledge is just as necessary to a vigorous growth in piety as food is to the growth of the body, or as water is to the roots of a tree. Ignorance is not the mother of devotion, but the mother of darkness, stupidity, superstition, and all kinds of error and degradation.
I warn you, therefore, against the neglect of your religious studies. You have abundant opportunity to go on in the future as you have in the past. Future classes of catechumens are open to you. The adult classes in the Sabbath-school, with pious and able teachers, are open to you. The instructions of the pulpit and the weekly lectures are open to you. The Bible, and all kinds of instructive religious books, together with the religious papers of the church are open to you. You have every opportunity that heart can desire, to become a well-informed, enlightened, intelligent Christian.
There is a great defect at the present day in just this point. Religious instruction is not sufficiently thorough. Christians do not care to be indoctrinated as they should. There is too little earnest study of God's word, and the doctrines of the church. If these things were more faithfully attended to, there would not be so much back-sliding, wavering, weakness of faith, and indifference.
You may hear it said that religion does not consist in knowing and learning-and this is only what I have told you over and over -it includes also the power of what we know upon the heart. But beware of the insinuating error that knowing does not belong to religion. If a mind-if brains, belong to a man, then does also knowing and learning belong to religion. Seek to have warm hearts, but also clear heads-let the mind know and the heart feel -these two God hath joined together, let no man put them asunder.
Against loosing your interest in the study of Christian doctrines and duties I most earnestly and solemnly warn you. born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom."
II. Be regular in your attendance upon the church and all its ordinances and means of grace.
Here is the rock on which thousands have split. The first step in back-sliding is a neglect of the ordinances.
Peter never would have denied his Saviour if he had not first begun to "follow him afar off." If, like John, he had kept near him, and not gone out among the rabble at a distance, he would not have prepared the way for future bitterness and tears.
If Judas had continued with the Saviour and the disciples in the passover solemnity in the upper room, and in the holy supper which followed, he would not have appeared among his enemies to betray him.
If Thomas had been with the disciples in the upper room when Jesus came in and said: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," he would not afterwards have been so unbelieving as to say: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." John 20: 22-25.
So, if professing Christians were always present when God blesses his people through his various ordinances, they would not be led astray by temptation, or overcome by their own remaining infirmities and the power of the world. He that does not eat is not strong-he that misses the blessing is also without the grace.
You will always find that those who are most regular in their attendance upon the ordinances, are the most firm, consistent, and least likely to back-slide. Those who most disgrace their profession, are those who most neglect the means of grace.
It is easy to see why this is so. Let any one undertake to do any thing whatever, and it will always be found that he succeeds best when he rightfully uses the means. If one who is weak in body would walk, he must use a staff; by this means he can sustain himself to walk. If one who is weak in spirit would hold on his way, he must use the means of grace-the very means instituted and adapted to give him strength and aid.
Prayer brings him aid. The word, as read, as heard from the pulpit or weekly lecture gives him light, reproof, encouragement, and comfort. The Holy Supper unites him more closely to Christ, brings him into communion with his power, and grace, and life, and feeds, nourishes, refreshes and renews his drooping life. how can any one expect to walk steadily on in the way to heaven. without the help of the means of grace. Against the neglect of them I most earnestly warn you.
III. Look well to the character and habits of your associates, and avoid all such as would endanger your piety.
A holy apostle has said: "Evil communications corrupt good manners." Experience and observation prove that the most of young persons who make shipwreck of their piety, their good name, and their character, are led astray and are ruined by bad
associates. Little do we dream of the power which a companion has over us for good or for evil. Our confidence in a companion, our fondness for him, places us in his power.
Young Christians, in the buoyancy of their spirits, in the joy of their youthful hearts, in the vigor of their social feelings, are easily drawn into the circle of the giddy and the vain; and what seems to them at first but a source of innocent enjoyment, soon becomes a snare to their hearts. They become less and less serious; the holy restraints of the church loose their power more and more, until they first grow careless, then wander, then despise, and at last perish.
The only path of safety lies in your selecting your companions of such as are known to be pious. In such a circle there is not only the most honor, but also the purest happiness and the greatest safety.
Moreover, there can be no true enjoyment for one that is pious in company with the careless and the ungodly. They differ in the deepest and most important circumstances of their life; how then can they be associates? Their sympathies, their tastes, their desires, their thoughts and feelings are all different. How then can they be companions? What fellowship hath light with darkness? You cannot, therefore, comfortably associate with such, unless you first depart from your own Christian position. But woe unto that professing Christian who will give up Christ for the fellowship of a sinful companion. Those that choose such company here, will also be sentenced to continue in the same company when the Judge shall say to those on his left hand, Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you!
Against such associates and such an end I most solemnly warn
IV. Strive to make yourself useful to the church and to the world.
This itself will do much to aid you in carrying out the last advice. If you labor with Christians in the church, and in every good work, this itself will throw you among the right kind of associates. Those that constantly labored with Christ, were also in each other's company, to support each other by mutual example and encouragement. In every church, those young Christians who truly labor for its interests, are by that very circumstance formed into a circle of friendship and affection for each other, in the midst of which it is not easy to grow cold or indifferent.
In every church there is abundant room to stand in such a circle of useful laborers for the church. There is the Sabbath-schoolthere are meetings for social improvement-there are meetings for instruction and prayer-there are meetings for cultivating the voice and the heart in singing the high praises of God. In some one or more of these circles every young Christian can find a