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II. Let us now consider the spirit with which the engagement was entered into, and especially the joy and satisfaction which accompanied it.
No joy is equal to that which accompanies this transaction, of engaging ourselves to God. We have never any true joy, joy of a pure and elevated nature, till we know what it is to enter into covenant with God by the sacrifice of Christ. Men may have pleasure before, but not joy. They may have the satisfactions of the world, transient and unholy; but the mind is not blessed; the heart is not filled with intellectual, moral, substantial joy. Now the reasons of joy in the case of king Asa are similar to those which prevail in every case.
1. There is a joy in engaging solemnly with God, because the thing is infinitely right. A good man, saith Solomon, is satisfied from himself from a consciousness of the propriety and rectitude of his actions. we act agreeably to right reason, there is a complacency which follows, and of which we are conscious. On the contrary, when we act in opposition to what is right, we are rebuked by our own minds; there is a struggle, a conflict within us. Now it is infinitely right to engage ourselves to the Lord. It is proportionate to his character, and our state and wants. We can only be made happy by him; we have nothing but what we receive at his hand; we owe him, therefore, ourselves. The character of God, his unspeakable mercies, the sufferings of Christ, the grace of the Spirit, the offers of the Gospel, make it unspeakably reasonable to engage ourselves to His service. We then treat God as he is; we act agreeably to his nature and our relations to him. Till we do this, we act most irrationally; we walk in a lie.
Man is a creature wandering in the dark, in the midst of precipices and falls. Like the man in the Gospel that dwelt among the tombs, can bind him, no, not with chains many have tried to do so, but
the bands and fetters were broken, and they came away wounded. What joy, then, does it create, what transport, when the light of day beams upon him; when his fetters and bands are broken off; and he sits at the Saviour's feet, clothed, and in his right mind! The path of the just is as the shining light: the way of truth and holinesss approves itself to the mind. The approbation of the inmost soul of man confers upon it its sanction.
2. There is joy also in engaging with God, because it is a plain token of good on the part of God. So it was in the case of Asa and his people. They saw that God was with them, and had wrought for them; and others also, perceiving this, joined themselves to them, from Ephraim and Manasseh, and turned to the Lord God of their fathers with their whole heart. Whereas, when God had previously left them to themselves, they wandered farther and farther from him, and fell into abominable idolatries. Their engaging themselves with the solemnity of an oath to return to God, was a proof that God was with them, and was blessing them; and this was a just cause of joy. Good men then felt, as they do now, the need of Divine teaching and influence. It is said expressly, that the Lord prepared the heart of the people under Hezekiah's reformation; and that in Judah the hand of the Lord was with them to give them one heart. If we engage to be the Lord's, the hand of the Lord has been upon us; our hearts have been Divinely touched; it is the token of the favour and love of God upon us. And this is a copious source of joy. "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona," said our Lord to Peter, on confessing that he was the Christ, the Son of the living God; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father that is in heaven." Such a confession was a subject of congratulation. Thus every one is blessed that confesses Christ, and binds him
self to his service: the hand of God is with him, the Spirit of God has marked him for his own.
3. There is, further, joy in making this engagement, because it is a token of good from God for the future, as well as with respect to the past. Those who engage themselves to him, have a pledge of all future blessings. God is pleased to pledge himself to them, as their protector, and rest, and peace, and portion. Asa and his people, in the case before us, had a pledge of the secure possession of their own land. This was peculiar to the national covenant of God with Israel. "They had rest round about," says the text. They sat again under their vine and figtree, none making them afraid; they had the secure continuance of good laws and government; and the assurance of being free from plagues and judgments. These, and other temporal blessings, were included in the covenant of Canaan; and the restoration of these blessings resulted from their obedience in thus engaging themselves to the Lord. And these may be considered as types of the spiritual blessings enjoyed, both by them and by us, in every age, and under the Christian dispensation, who devote ourselves to God in his covenant. This peace, and security, and fruitfulness, and freedom from desolating judgments, are representations of the infinite privileges and immunities of the spiritual church of God. They are the tokens and pledges that there is no condemnation to him that believeth; that the Christian is adopted into the family of God; that all in the Divine Being is pledged for his security; that Christ is his elder brother; and that the Spirit, whose comprehensive breath fills the universe and sanctifies the church, is his internal monitor, the internal inhabitant of his heart.
And can you doubt whether God will indeed thus bless those who are engaging themselves in covenant with him? The man who has a heart to serve God, has a witness in himself
that he is adopted into the family of heaven, and that all blessings are in reserve for him. Only love God, and serve him, and remain faithful to your oath and covenant, and this is a better security for eternal happiness than a voice from heaven. A vision of angels would not be so good a security for our future peace, as the consciousness that "in simplicity and godly sincerity, not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world."
4. The joy of this oath was increased by the unanimity of those who took it-the numbers, the courage, the harmonious efforts and resolutions. It is said that Asa took courage, and that he "gathered all Judah and Benjamin and the strangers with them;" and "all Judah rejoiced at the oath; for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire."
What pleasure doth the Christian feel when hand joins in hand in the love of God; when men on all parts, and with one consent, say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths!" What a pleasure, when Christians go up to the house of God in company; when many flock, and 'ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward;" when the church is exhibiting the unity and harmony of a body breathing the same spirit, speaking the same language, animated by the same charity! What joy will there be one day in the church of God, when all the followers of Christ shall be filled with love; tolerating what is indifferent and non-essential; touched, transformed, and sanctified by the living truth of Jesus.
Let me now, in concluding this subject, observe, that we have all entered into a solemn covenant with God which has the nature of an oath, if we are Christians. You are to renew this on the next Sunday. You then renounce the world once more;
you turn your back again upon all its pleasures, and direct your attention to eternal realities. You approach, to behold God upon a throne of grace, to drink into the spirit of his transforming dispensation: you express all your desires and renew all your vows at his table. What manner of persons, then, ought you to be, in all holy conversation and godliness, who take such vows upon you! Shall we carry sin into the presence of God, unrepented of? Can we combine the living and the dead? "What fellowship hath light with darkness; and what concord hath Christ with Belial; and what fellowship hath the temple of God with idols?' If we consecrate ourselves unto Christ at his table, we must come out from the world, and separate ourselves from the polluted elements of our present state: we must set ourselves apart for the Lord, as we hope God has set us apart for himself—not by unnecessary singularity, by instances of weakness and folly, but-by purity, by simplicity, by watchfulness in all important things, by universal holiness. Whatsoever things are pure, honest, true, lovely, and of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, let us think of these things.
Thus the ends of our profession will be advanced by our glorifying God, our heavenly Father, to whom we have devoted ourselves; and by leaving a witness, an appeal, upon the consciences of men amongst whom we live and in the day of visitation something they have seen in us may be the means of awakening their minds to true religion.
Our duty and dispensation are clear. We are to be witnesses for God: we are to be holy, as those that bear the vessels of the Lord: we are to demean ourselves as the followers of Christ, who expect to be for ever with him, and for ever like him. Amen.
(To be continued).
ON COMMUNICATING TO THE DYING A KNOWLedge of tHEIR DANGER.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. In your Number for March, in IN stating to your readers the sentiments of Sir Henry Halford on communicating, but sparingly, and with caution, if at all, the real state and probable issue of disease to the afflicted, you seem to invite discussion from your correspondents on this highly important and much controverted subject. Leaving such discussion with those who are far more competent than myself to speak to and decide on a point at once SO difficult and so delicate, I beg permission simply to state, as a specimen, three facts, which have occurred to me in the course of my ministry. As the circumstances occurred in three different parishes, and three different counties of England, I should infer that an opinion is generally prevalent among medical gentlemen, that it is requisite to exclude pious ministers as much as possible from the chambers of the sick and the beds of the dying; grounded on a kind, but mistaken, motive of tranquillizing the mind of the patient, "keeping up his spirits," and preventing his feeling any apprehension of his approaching end which might tend to alarm him, and to cause a trembling anxiety respecting the state after death, the awful day of judgment, and a dark eternity. The following facts will prove that the sentiment and practice are not only unchristian, but unkind, as every thing unchristian must really be.
It is about fifteen years since, that I officiated in a parish in the county of N- -. The wife of a respectable and opulent farmer was in the constant habit of attending my ministry. She had often expressed high approbation of the discourses which she heard; but I had not observed in her any decided marks of a spiritual renewal of heart, or any very visible alteration in her life and deportment. At the expi
ration of one year she became seriously ill, and was considered by her medical attendant to be in imminent danger. In the early stage of her illness she had expressed a strong desire to see me; but this wish, through the counsel of her medical attendant, was not complied with; and I did not become acquainted with her illness and great danger for nearly a week, or probably more, as she did not reside in my parish. Her anxiety to see me daily increased, and she earnestly entreated her husband not to deny her so great and so-much-needed a gratification. He felt, as he afterwards told me, the utmost readiness to gratify such a desire, and was deeply distressed in not being allowed to do so; for he regarded her with the tenderest affection. But the directions and commands of the medical attendant were so positive and peremptory, that he durst not even indulge his own feelings, or yield to his wife's earnest entreaty; as he was repeatedly told that my visits would tend to increase her disorder, and the consequences of excitement from such an interview might prove even fatal. But, so great was her alarm of mind, and so oppressive her sense of guilt from having slighted or abused the means of grace which God had mercifully afforded her, that her state seemed to counteract all the united efforts of skill and medicine, and she evidently was daily becoming worse. Her husband, as he afterwards informed me, had almost daily inquired if he might be allowed to send for me to visit his distressed, and, as he feared, dying wife; but he uniformly received the same reply from the medical gentleman: "If you do not wish the death of your wife, keep Mr. D. at a distance; for if he be permitted to attend her, I will no longer hold myself responsible for the issue, nor would you be giving me or my medicines any chance of success. A pious neighbour, how ever, sent me word how ill she was, and how distressingly alarmed she felt from the burden of guilt upon
her conscience, and how very anxiously she desired to see me. On this information, I hastened to her house, and found her husband at home. He received me civilly, but coldly, and said, that he was sorry I had taken the trouble to come, as he had the most positive directions from her medical friend not to allow me, or any one else, to visit her, with a view to converse on the subject of religion; with the assurance from him, that any additional agitation, under her present strongly excited system, would prove most injurious, and perhaps fatal. I said all I could to remove his fears, and repeatedly avowed my full conviction that all the objections of his medical friend to my visiting his afflicted and distressed wife arose solely from his entire ignorance of the nature of true religion, and what would be the result of spiritual counsel, reading, or prayer to her now almost overwhelmed soul. He manifested great tenderness of affection for her during our conversation, and evidently laboured under a severe struggle in his mind, between a wish to gratify her earnest desire, and the fear lest his compliance with our united request, in opposition to the judgment and direction of the medical gentleman, should prove more injurious than beneficial. I believe that his fear of injury would have prevailed, if the pious neighbour before mentioned, who was in the sick room and heard my voice, had not approached, and said with tears, "I come with a request from your dear wife, that, if you love her, and would wish her either to live or die happy, you would permit Mr. D. to see her." Having said this, she wept aloud. The husband now burst into tears, and, his affection prevailing over his fears, he said, "If it must be so, go to my wife; and may God bless your endeavours to do her good!" The kind neighbour went before me, to apprise the afflicted sufferer of the permission granted to me to visit her, to converse and pray with her. On my entering the room, she made an effort
to raise herself from the bed and to stretch out her hands towards me; but her weakness prevented this strong expression of her feelings, and she sank down again. Tears and broken words expressed at once her gratitude, her state, and her wishes. I need not dwell on particulars. After a few minutes she became more calm, and was able to state to me her convictions, her sorrow of heart, and her fears. There was no peculiar difficulty in her case. A sick bed had been the means, under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, of leading her to serious selfexamination, and had brought to her remembrance her sins, negligences, and ignorances; the means of grace slighted, convictions of guilt stifled, conscience trifled with: so that transgressions, which before had made little impression on her mind, now appeared of a crimson die, and were felt as an intolerable burden on her conscience. By the blessing of God, I was enabled so to speak, and to apply his word to her state, that the precious promises which it contains were received in faith, and embraced with a willing mind, and found to be "the joy and rejoicing of her heart." The word of instruction being thus blessed by the Spirit of God to her soul, prayer was full of power and holy comfort; and after it was ended, she said, “I am now quite a new person to what I was before. I now feel the love of Christ far exceeding all that I could desire or deserve. I am a wonder to myself. What a mighty and gracious change has the Spirit of Christ wrought in me! God bless you! I am happy and blessed indeed! How cruel it was not to allow you to come to see me in my distress! but it was all owing to their ignorance of the real comfort of the religion of Jesus Christ."-On my return to her husband, I informed him in what a composed and happy state of mind I had left his dear wife. He was now most thankful for the interview, and expressed his hope that I would repeat my visits as often as I had opportuCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 353.
nity. He was sent for by his wife
The second instance that I would mention, is that of a relative of mine, -. I was on in the county of Da visit, for some weeks, to my friends in that part of the country, and had passed some of my time at the residence of this relation. During my stay there, I frequently read and prayed with an aged lady, who lived in the family; and the subject of this account always expressed a strong desire to be present at such seasons of devotion. She many a time rose from prayer with tears in her eyes, and has said, "Oh, how I do long to 2 M