Way-Marks; or, Directions to Persons Commencing a Religious Life
DIRECTIONS TO PERSONS COMMENCING
A RELIGIOUS LIFE.
SELECTED AND ARRANGED
BY G. T. BEDELL, D. D.
Rector of St. Andrew’s Church, Phil’a.
HENRY PERKINS, 159 CHESTNUT-ST.
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1832,by Key, Mielke, & Biddle, in the Clerk’s Office of the EasternDistrict of Pennsylvania.
Stereotyped by L. Johnson.
The great variety of useful little books latelypublished, under such titles as Daily Food, DailyCrumbs, Devout Exercises, &c. and the favourwith which these have been met, suggested tothe compiler, the utility of attempting somethingof the same kind. He had accidentallymet with a little work, called, “Directions,” &c.published by Maltbys, New Haven; and thoughthere were some things in it which he did notlike, he thought it, on the whole, a very valuablelittle manual of instruction. The compilerhas made such alterations as seemed necessaryto make it please himself, and added some fewparticulars from a valuable tract of the latePresident Edwards.—The Letter to a youngLady, &c. is one which the compiler has beenin the habit of presenting to young personsunder certain states of mind; and the “Memento,”by whomsoever prepared, is most admirablydone, and worthy to be read by allChristians.—The article on the question, “AmI a New Creature?” taken from the Spirit of thePilgrims, is one highly useful and important inthe present period of religious inquiry.
The sole object of the compiler is to do good;and this he trusts and prays may be accomplished.
Philadelphia, Feb. 1832.
1. Directions to Persons commencing aReligious Life—selected from an anonymouspublication; with additions,from “Advice to young Converts,” byPresident Edwards.
2. Letter to a Young Lady, on the outsetof a Religious Life. From the “LondonChristian Guardian.”
3. A Memento of Affection, written inthe language of the Scriptures—selectedfrom the anonymous publicationabove noticed.
4. Am I a New Creature? From “TheSpirit of the Pilgrims.”
DIRECTIONS TO PERSONS COMMENCING ARELIGIOUS LIFE.
1. Remember that the commencementof the Christian life is to be like the“dawning light, which increaseth moreand more to the perfect day.” Thereforewhen the hope of peace and pardon dawnsin the heart, do not consider the greatbusiness of life as accomplished, but onlyas begun.
2. Keep up as great a strife and earnestnessin religion, as if you knew yourselfto be in a state of nature. Whenpersons are under conviction of sin, theyare advised to be earnest and violent forthe kingdom of heaven. You ought notto be less in earnest now, if you wish notto lose a sweet and lively sense of spiritualthings.
3. Do not cease to strive and pray forthe very same things which you soughtbefore you had reason to hope you wereconverted. Those who have most lightand most grace, have, nevertheless, needof more. There are very few requeststhat are proper for an impenitent sinner,that are not proper for one who professesgodliness. At any rate, the mistake willdo you no harm.
4. Evidence of piety is not so much tobe sought in high emotions of any kind,as in real humility—self-distrust—hungeringand thirsting after righteousness,sorrow for sin, and a continual effort, inevery day life, to regulate our thoughts,feelings, and conduct by the word of God.It is the nature and not the degree of ouraffections, which is to be regarded in theexamination of our evidences. The bestway to know our feelings is, to see howthey influence the conduct. “By theirfruit ye shall know them.” Always lookupon those as the best comforts, whichhave most of these two effects—those thatmake you least and lowest and most likea child, and those that most determineyou to deny yourself, and to spend andbe spent in the service of your Master.
5. Do not expect to find in your owncase, every thing you have heard or readof in the experience of others. For it maybe that many things we hear and read of,are not correct feelings, and do not affordjust grounds of confidence to any one;and if they are correct experience, it maybe the experience of a mature Christian,and not to be expected in the beginningof a religious life. It must be remembered,that as no two countenances are formedalike, so no two hearts are fashioned alike,or placed in exactly the same circumstances;and it would be as vain to seekall the varieties of Christian experiencein one person, as to seek all varieties ofhuman features in one face.
6. Do not expect that the evidence desiredwill all come immediately and atonce. It will be most likely to come progressively,as the result of continued effortin obedience to the will of God.
7. Do not suppose that religion is aprinciple of such self-preserving energy,as that when once implanted in the soulit will continue to thrive and increasewithout effort. The plant of divine gracecan no more thrive without care, and diligentand patient cultivation, than can thoserare and valued plants, that demand thephysical efforts and culture of man.
God will not sustain and bring to maturitythe work of grace, without yourown voluntary concurrence in the diligentuse of means. He will not do it any morethan he would cause the harvest to whitenin the field of the sluggard. Indulge,therefore, no such ideas of inability anddependence on God, as shall impair a fullsense of perfect obligation to do whatevercan be done in working out your ownsalvation. God never promises to assistany but those who make efforts to aidand advance themselves.
8. Entertain no such ideas of the sovereigntyof God in the bestowment of hisgrace, as would awaken any doubt of hisaffording needful aid, where he sees sincereendeavours to grow in grace. If somechristians are more eminent than others,it is simply because they make moreefforts to be so, and God aids these efforts.So that all worldly minded and indifferentchristians continue in this state, becausethey do not choose to make efforts to getout of it. Any person can be an eminentchristian that chooses to be so. Christiansare too apt to feel as if eminence inpiety was a distinction made by thesovereignty of God, and to suppose thathigh attainments are not within the reachof all, and that languid and inefficient pietyis the result of divine sovereignty ratherthan negligence and sloth. A more falseor more pernicious opinion cannot easily beadopted by Christians. The truth is, thatthe road to eminence in gifts and graces,and the means of obtaining them, are opento all who seek them, and if any do notattain them; it is owing to their own slothand inefficiency, and not to any deficiencyon the part of God in blessing diligentefforts. It always pleases him to crownwith success the hand of the diligentinstead of the hand of the slothful, notonly in temporal but in spiritual things.This thought cannot be too strongly impressedupon the minds of those who arejust commencing the christian life. Tothem peculiarly, are such promises as thesedirected; “Ask, and ye shall receive, seekand ye shall find, knock and it shall beopened unto you. Every one that askethreceiveth,” &c.
Do not be afraid of indulging in feelingswhich may seem to be right, fromthe fear of deception. On the contrary,cherish such feelings and try to recallthem often. Go forward and do yourduty, and God will save you from deceptionwhile thus employed.
10. There is one caution which ispeculiarly needful to those who have beengreatly interested in the subject of religion,and that is, to take particular care of thehealth.
There is such a mysterious and intimateconnection between the mind andbody, that one cannot be wearied or suffer,without affecting the other. When themind is fatigued and exhausted, it affectsthe body, and this again reacts on themind.
Every person ought to be aware, thatthe more anxiously and intensely themind is interested on any subject, thegreater is the need of exercise, sleep andfrequent relaxation. Attention to religion,does not demand that all lawful businessbe suspended, and forbids the neglect ofall needful rest and exercise; but be verycautious here, lest you mistake negligencein religion, for a necessary attention to thehealth.
11. Do not expect to be made veryhappy by religion, unless you becomeeminent christians. A half way christiancan neither enjoy the pleasures of theworld nor the pleasures of religion; forhis conscience will not let him seek theone, and he is too indolent to obtain theother. The christian may be the happiestman on earth, but he must be a faithful,active, and devoted christian. None aredisappointed in finding religion a sourceof unfailing peace and joy, but those whorefuse to drink deep of the wells of salvation;unless we except those who, fromsome derangement of the nervous system,or failure of health, do not enjoy the clearand undisturbed exercise of their faculties.A healthy mind in a healthy body,may always be made happy by religion.
12. Do not look at the practice and exampleof other christians, in forming thestandard of piety at which you aim. Theallowance of this thing, has probably hada more disastrous influence on the churchand on the world, than all other causesthat could be named. Generally, whenpersons commence a christian life, theirconsciences are susceptible and tender.They are strict and watchful in the performanceof duty, and are pained even bya slight neglect. They have been wontto feel, that becoming religious implies agreat change; that “old things must passaway and all things become new.” Butwhen they begin to look around amongtheir christian friends, and turn to themfor aid, and those who have had experienceand have made advances in christianlife, they find that they seem to lookupon duties and deficiencies in a verydifferent manner. They seem to neglectmany things which the young christianhas felt to be very important; and topractice many things which he had supposedinconsistent with religion. Thencommences the disastrous effect. Theyoung christian begins to feel that heneed not be more particular than those towhom he has ever looked up with deferenceand respect. He begins to imaginethat he has been rather too strict andparticular. He begins to take a retrogradecourse, and though his conscienceand the bible often check and reprove, yetafter a few inefficient struggles, he lowershis standard and walks as others do.
Look into your bible and see how christiansought to live. See how the biblesays those who are christians must live,and then if you find your christian friendsliving in a different way, instead of havingcause for feeling that you may do sotoo, you have only cause to fear thatthey are deceiving themselves with thebelief that they are christians, when theyare not. Remember that the farther yourchristian friends depart from the standardof christian character laid down in thebible, the less reason have you to hopethat they are christians. And do nothesitate on this subject because you findmany professed christians, who are indifferentand lax in their practice and example.Remember that Christ has said,“Many shall say unto me in that day,Lord, Lord,” thus claiming to be his disciples,to whom he will say, “I neverknew you.” Do not let professed christianstempt you to fall into the society ofsuch unhappy castaways.
13. Do not be periodical christians.There are some who profess religion, whonever seem to feel any interest on thesubject, except when every one else does.It is true, there are special seasons of revivedreligion in the hearts of all christians,but if it is only at such times thatprogress is made in divine life, and interestis manifested in the salvation of souls,there is great reason to fear that what iscalled religion is nothing but sympathywith the feelings of others.
14. Do not let the adversaries of thecross have occasion to reproach religionon your account. How holily should thechildren of God, the redeemed and thebeloved of the Son of God, behave themselves.Therefore, “walk as children ofthe light, and of the day,” and “adornthe doctrine of God your Saviour;” andespecially, abound in what are called theChristian virtues, and make you like theLamb of God: be meek and lowly ofheart, and full of pure, heavenly, andhumble love to all; abound in deeds oflove to others, and self-denial for others;and let there be in you a disposition toaccount