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and the pious brother may have no opportunity for a long season; he fear he shall have none; and may may be ready to hang down his hands in despair, while he exclaims, "Alas! my poor brother will go out of the world unacquainted with God, with Christ, and with eternity; he will not listen to my advice, or even allow me to speak on the sacred subject of religion-it is a proscribed subject." So he may think, but at length, in answer to his prayers, the opportunity is given. Perhaps affliction comes-perhaps the worldly brother is laid on a dying pillow-then who so welcome as the faithful adviser and Christian relative? And now, when eternity begins to open before him, and he sees he has but a little time to live, how glad at such a period is such a person to be instructed in the things of the kingdom of God. I do not say, always so; I do not say, necessarily so far otherwise is the fact; but I say, frequently so. I do not say necessarily so, because there is nothing in affliction, in itself, to lead a man to God. The nearer a poor careless creature gets to the grave, the more anxious is the god of this world to blind the eyes of his understanding, and to darken his moral perception to the things of the kingdom of heaven. But I am supposing that prayer has been offered up by some pious and devoted relative-that means have been used, but hitherto used in vain-that the opportunity has been sought and desired, and at length it presents itself. Yes! at length the pious relative is ready to say, "now, now is the day of salvation." Perhaps at the same time he feels his own incompetency; he is ready to say, "here is indeed the opportunity, but how shall I improve it, how shall I use it aright?" Still, in answer to fervent supplication, God at length bestows and presents him the opportunity. I do not say that it is always a lengthened opportunity. I believe that some of our brightest opportunities are some of our shortest ones. You will often find it to be the case, that even while we are hesitating as to the course we should take, the time which might have been improved has gone by never to return.
But though not a lengthened opportunity, it is evidently, in many cases, one which the Lord himself has given; one for which the party has earnestly prayed, one for which he has long been waiting; at length God hears and an
swers his prayers, and the opportunity presents itself, to the joy of the praying soul, and to the conversion of the worldly relative.
In other cases an opportunity of doing good to the souls of men comes before us unexpectedly: we are placed in circumstances we did not anticipate: some relative, some connexion, it may be for commercial purposes, or for lite-rary purposes, (with no reference at all to religion, no reference at all to Christianity)—some youthful relative is so placed under our care; or if not under our care, under our direct influence.
A young man leaving his father's house in the country, and coming up to this great city, is placed, it may be, in the family of some pious relative, or in the neighbourhood of some pious friend, for a short season. Perhaps it is to walk the hospitals as a medical student; or it may be to gain still further instruction in the profession of the law; or it may be as connected with trade and merchandize for two, three, or four years, or for a longer or for a shorter period. Then and there the opportunity is given-perhaps at home the youth has never heard anything of saving Christianity; it may be he is a perfect stranger to its power; it may be that he himself, as to spiritual matters, is dark as midnight. The opportunity is now presented to you. Oh! use it use it, I charge you, for it may be" now or never." Not that I advise you to be continually preaching to him on the subject of religion, no ;—but what I do urge is thiswatch your opportunity. When the heart is soft-when the heart is sad-when there is trouble-when family affliction occurs when the grave of some one who is as dear to him as to you is opened, watch the moment and drop the word; say not much, but say something distinct and definite; kind and affectionate. Let him see that your religion does not come cold from your head but warm from your heart. Tell him that you once were without God in the world, that you once knew nothing of the comforts of Christianity; that you "had a name to live, but were dead” before God watch the moment and speak the word. Thus I say the opportunity is to be considered as presented. And oh! say, my brethren, where, where is the family that has not some worldly connexions? Are all your relations and all mine, all devoted to God? Is there no poor wanderer
connected with us? Is there no poor outcast far from God, amiable, perhaps intelligent and affectionate, yet unacquainted with the Gospel of Christ, unprepared to die, and if the Bible be true, going to perdition, and not going to heaven? Then, I say, pray for the opportunity, and when the opportunity is given, embrace it. But this leads me to the second point, viz.
II. The opportunity seized. Perhaps if we were to come to the actual investigation of facts, and to consider the history of conversions in the several cases in which conversion has actually taken place among us even of the little company here present, perhaps we should find that we ourselves, under God, owe our conversion to others. member hearing an excellent and estimable woman, who is now the intelligent mother of a Christian family, and is bringing that family up in the principles of our holy faith,I remember hearing her state, many years back, that it was from the visit of a minister of Christ to her father's house, that she dated her conversion. She had been brought up in the principles of our holy religion, had a great deal of knowledge of the Scriptures; but before that day had known nothing of the power of Christianity on the heart. The opportunity was presented in an unexpected manner. A minister of Christ coming to her father's house, she was left alone with him in the dining room, when in a very few minutes he said to her-then but between fourteen and
fifteen years of age, -"well, my dear child, I hope you know the comforts of Christianity." "She did not know them-she did not know them; she had been brought up religiously, but she knew nothing of the consolations of religion," and she knew, before that day, nothing of its power. This led to a train of important consequencesit led to a train of thought-it led to a train of piety, and she regards this apparently accidental circumstance, as the means in the hands of God, of promoting her conversion. O, when you go into families, and when you have an opportunity, speak for yourselves. I do not advise you to say much; but, oh! I entreat you, say something-say a little, though it be only a word for your Saviour, and say it with caution and with energy; and yet with meekness and wisdom. I know that we require a great deal of hea
venly teaching in order to do this aright: but let opportunities, as they are presented, be made matters of prayer, and they will be seized and laid hold of to promote the spiritual good of those around us.
Take another case, which will doubtless occur and be found to be occurring daily: some unexpected circumstances bring you into the company of a person of whom you had heard before, for whom you were perhaps long solicitous but never had an opportunity of speaking to him. At length such opportunity is presented; he asks some questions; he commences the conversation. Now or never. You speak for God; and God, it may be, speaks by you to his soul's eternal good.
How remarkable was the case of a poor American slave who had been cruelly treated by his master, but who on one occasion had the opportunity not only of praying for that master, but of speaking to him!-he thought "what might be the consequence," he dreaded his master's displeasure; he however embraced the opportunity looking up to God for help; and what was the result? his master was then a rich planter, but what that poor slave said, under the blessing of God, proved his master's conversion, and that master is now a clergyman of the Episcopal Church of America, faithfully and successfully preaching the word of God.
Now the pious mind should be ever on the watch for such opportunities. I am well aware, that God, by his Almighty power and Sovereign Grace, can, if he pleases, convert "those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind," and that, without human agency; and doubtless, this is sometimes the case. But it is not the ordinary way in which we should expect that it will be done, No! it is God is a Sovereign, yet he works by human means; though he could accomplish his purposes without any of us. He is not indeed dependent upon our poor efforts, yet his ordinary working is, I repeat it, by human means. He brings one heart to bear upon another, and the soul of a man alive to eternal things, to bear on a soul "dead in trespasses and sins."-And thus the opportunity is seized, and the sinner is turned "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God."
Am I not speaking to some whom God has thus blessed, to some who have had, it may be, one, two, three, four or more young persons, at different times-young relations, young friends-come up to this great city, placed under their direct influence? How anxious a moment is it for a truly pious relative, when a young friend from the country comes, perhaps to spend the first sabbath in a Christian family! Accustomed probably to sabbaths very differently spent; accustomed to find pleasure on that sacred day, yet not to find pleasure from its hallowed duties and sacred exercises; the young relative comes to your house, he sees how you are living, he sees how you spend the sabbath. Nothing morose, nothing unkind, nothing puritannical; but yet something Christian, something lovely, something excellent. The Bible, with its sacred truths, gives the order of the day, the conversation at the table is on the things of God: heaven seems to come down to earth. Here a Christian family is seen living together for eternity; the streams of living water refresh and invigorate. What is the consequence? the youth sees a sight he never saw before, he wonders what it is; he cannot perfectly understand it. He is anxious to know what makes the difference between this family and the one he has left; for he sees that Christianity is something more than a form; and he sees it in its power, its loveliness, and its force, as well as in its truth. There, there, the opportunity is embraced-perhaps little is said in the way of direct application; it may be a pious book is put into the hands of the youth, or a few remarks are offered, or an interesting fact is stated; and the young man leaves that house wondering at those things which he has now, probably for the first time, seen and heard. He sees what Christianity is, and in many cases he is led, through infinite mercy, to embrace it.
But let us suppose another case; it may be some careless, thoughtless creature, who has been the grief of all his family, who has almost broken his father's heart, or already actually "brought down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave," such an one is brought providentially before you, an opportunity is presented for saying something to him. Hitherto you have found him quite unwilling to listen; but now, it may be, he is in trouble and is willing to hear; you