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I. ON RETIREMENT.
How needful to the real Christian, surrounded as he is by sensible objects, which have so powerful an influence on his mind and affections, are seasons for retirement from the hurry and distracting cares of the world.
The soul cannot prosper in spiritual things, without much secret converse with its God and Saviour.
Many duties are unavoidably of a public nature; but these, except in extraordinary cases, should not occupy those portions of time, which are sacred to meditation, reading the Scriptures, and prayer.
There is something peculiarly pleasant and profitable in the interchange of activity and retirement.
As activity sweetens retirement, so retirement prepares the mind for renewed activity.
Those persons, who are most engaged in active labours for the benefit of others, will find peculiar need for frequent retirement. In their closets, they must draw down from the Fountain of love, by faith and prayer, that spiritual strength, and those heavenly graces, which alone can enable them to labour
perseveringly, as well as suffer patiently for Christ's sake.
The present times, which are so happily characterized by religious exertion, render this duty highly needful. It is no uncommon thing to hear excellent persons complain, that their whole time is nearly divided between their own avocations and the claims of multiplying societies; thus leaving little or no leisure for the important duty of Christian retirement.
Hence, spirituality of mind is much injured from the constant bustle in which some benevolent persons live. They have frequent cause to join in the lamentation of the Spouse in the Canticles; “ They made me a keeper of vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept."
The increase of valuable institutions, formed for the purpose of extending the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth, calls for perpetual gratitude to God, who thus deigns to bless our favoured island with the light of his truth, and to stir up his faithful servants to those interesting labours of love.
But it never was the design of Infinite Wisdom, that one duty should extirpate another.
As everything is beautiful in its season, so there is a time for every thing.
The art of doing much consists in giving to every duty its proper place, time, and quantity.
Here much wisdom is required; yet by prayer, watchfulness, and self-denial, much practical knowledge may be attained.
When we seldom retire for holy converse with God, is there not great reason to suspect some latent, though perhaps unconscious repugnance to the more silent, unobtrusive offices of secret devotion ?
Some persons grow almost melancholy if much alone. This surely betrays a defect either in the
constitution or the heart. Absolute solitude is decidedly injurious; since He who made us hath declared, that “it is not good that man should be alone." But occasional retirement, for the delightful purpose of holding converse with the Saviour, greatly refreshes the spiritual faculties, just as rest from bodily labour recruits the wasted powers of our animal frame.
Some good men are so wedded to their studies, that they can scarcely force themselves from their beloved retreat ; while others are so fond of active pursuits, that their minds seem averse to the sedentary employments of the closet. Like birds of passage, they live upon the wing.
Both these extremes are faulty, and consequently hurtful to each party. Every man has his circle of duty to fill up. This is larger or smaller, according to the station in which God has placed him. Let no one think that he may live for himself alone. Each individual has a sphere of usefulness to occupy; and his happiness is closely connected with the performance of his duty. Our divine Redeemer has Ieft us an example that we should tread in his steps. May we daily study the conduct of Him, whose -life was one continued exercise of unwearied benevolence—“who went about doing good."
Nothing can more beautifully exemplify the duties of holy retirement and active benevolence, than the life of Jesus. In the Gospels we read, how incessant were his labours for the spiritual and temporal good of the thousands who followed him. And there we also read, how, "he went up into a mountain apart to pray; how, “when the evening was come, he was there alone;" how, “he continued all night in prayer to God.”
This he did, not occasionally, but frequently ; thus setting us an illustriou
an illustrious example of ardent
devotion, combined with unceasing exertion for the present and future happiness of fallen man.
Come then, O! my soul, and withdraw thyself from a thoughtless world, which is so eagerly pursuing the phantom of happiness. Look unto Jesus ---place all thy affections upon him. He is the only source of spiritual felicity.
Whilst delighting thyself in the active services of a loving obedience, seek an increase of grace by daily secret converse with the Saviour.
We love the society of a dear friend. then be strangers to communion with Jesus, if we indeed love him?
Oh! that we may
feel relish for sacred retirement, when this retirement is designed to cultivate a closer acquaintance with our own hearts and with Him, who is “the chiefest among ten thousand"--the "altogether lovely.”
Blessed Spirit of grace and truth, shed forth thy kindly influences on my soul. Preserve me from spiritual sloth, under the specious mask of religious retirement; and from ostentatious pride, under the imposing garb of active benevolence.
O! make me sincere in all my professions of love and obedience; simply depending on thy grace, whilst labouring to promote the welfare of my fellowcreatures; that in all things I may be willing to do, and suffer thy righteous will.
Jesus ! my soul would now repose,
Beneath the banner of thy love:
Each dark’ning cloud far hence remove..
Beneath thy smile is heavenly bliss,
How sweet is solitude with thee!
May now from anxious cares be free.