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HUMAN OPINION, the effect of which is not a little injurious. It must be admitted, that much of the courtesy of human life has its origin in mere selfishness; and is, at best, deeply tinctured with that vice. Men have always much depending on the good feeling of their fellow-men, and will, in consequence, do much to obtain it. In a crowded population, where individuals are less known, and have less to apprehend or expect from the persons with whom they are immediately connected, we generally meet with the most unrestrained selfishness, a more open contempt of principle, and more striking instances of brutality. Surrounded by multitudes, the man who fails in one connexion may gain another. But in small communities, a stain once contracted is everywhere known, and hardly to be obliterated. Thus there is a feebler check upon evil inclination in the one case than in the other; and the evil passions must ever be less turbulent, as the consequence of their being less frequently indulged.
Now, the unoccupied man is generally a man of property, and is everywhere sufficiently apprised of the independence which this circumstance confers upon him, as it respects his fellow-men ; and the more he feels this independence, the more is he in danger of neglecting unwelcome duties, however much they may be urged upon him. Thus it is in the case of the worldly man; and thus it often is with men who call themselves Christians. They are not to be advised; and as
they conceive that the censures of men cannot substantially affect them, they are perhaps little moved by them. Such persons frequently mark out their own course; and, in a sort of carenought temper, leave the world and the church to applaud or condemn, as may be most to their humour. It is obvious, that this is a spirit far removed from that of the gospel. The book which forbids our putting the authority of men in the place of the authority of God, commands that we carefully observe whatsoever things are of good report; and requires us to cultivate a spirit of meekness and humility, ingenuousness of temper, and a willingness to learn.
Nor must we omit to observe, that the mind which can think thus lightly concerning the judgment of Christians, as to the things which become a profession of the gospel, will rarely stop at that point. We may venture to say, in reference to the great questions of human duty, that the man who will not hear the church,-by which we mean the body of the faithful,-will hardly be obedient even to the Head of the church. The passions which dispose to a rejection of their word, will lead to a corruption of his word. They will be described as teaching error, and he will be described as teaching something very different from what his words seem to convey, and from what he has really taught. The transition from the contempt of devout men to an unsanctified, and, at length, a grossly dishonest, treatment of holy
scripture, is easy and obvious; and the circumstances, whatever they are, which may serve to foster this impious state of mind, cannot surely be guarded against with too great caution.
Better were it to have a place with the most helpless of beings, than that our supposed independence of men should lead to a forgetfulness of our entire dependence upon God. In the gospel, the love of God, and the love of the brethren, are declared inseparable. Paul could respect even the weaknesses of believers-If eating meat cause my brother to offend, I will not eat meat while the world stands. Far removed from the temper we have now described, is that enjoined in his fervent exhortation to the Philippians— Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. And no less opposite is the course which he prescribes when writing to the Corinthians. In all things approving ourselves; by much patience, by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report, as deceivers and yet true, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.
Some of the parties found in the quiet of retirement were once engaged in the hurry and exertion of a worldly calling, and these often fail to make a right use of their leisure, from the dif ficulty of directing their activities into a new channel. Men, as we have before remarked, are greatly the creatures of custom. What they have often done they acquire an ease in doing, while they feel themselves incompetent to what is new and untried, though, in itself, much less difficult. The man of business may be a Christian, and have been little accustomed to books, or to the habit of reflection which they generally favour; and he may have been no less a stranger to effort, in reference to religious or charitable objects. Hence, though retirement affords him ample time for reading, it may be his disposition that a very little of it shall suffice. He might now meditate on what he reads, but he has never given much continued thought to such subjects, and the ability to do so is felt to be a difficult attainment. He might be active now, as heretofore, the enterprises of religion and benevolence everywhere inviting his aid. But even activity, because of a kind different from that with which he has been familiar, loses its attraction. All his labours have been with the prospect of gain as the result; and though numbered with the disciples of Him who, for our sakes, became poor, he does not quite understand being seriously or extensively occupied without some such end in view.
Hence it too frequently happens, that, after the larger portion of life has been spent in adding house to house and field to field, and one deposit in the funds to another, the remainder is almost entirely absorbed in looking after these things, as the expression is that is, in seeing that they are all safe, and made as productive as possible. Thus that separation from the weariness and distraction of a secular calling, which had been so long anticipated as a season fraught with important benefits, often becomes, in its turn, a burden, or, at best, is not attended with those advantages to the individual, or to others, that were expected from it. There are not a few in this class who should never have relinquished their old pursuits;-they have been shut up to them so long, and so closely, as never to be really at home apart from them.
In the conduct of such men, however, there is much more to censure than to pity. Their excuses, as to the substance of them, are mere excuses. The individuals who urge them frequently deceive themselves, in supposing that they partake at all of Christianity; and as surely as they do partake of it, they will not act upon the vain pretensions we have noticed without drawing down the displeasure of the Almighty. Not give a fair space of time to reading, reflection, and prayer!—there may be want of inclination for this, but, in the case of the unoccupied, there can rarely be any other want. Not know how to be active in the cause of the Redeemer, while so many plans of