« VorigeDoorgaan »
and unhappy in looking forward to a present circumstances. It is a restfuturity on which no light, indepen- lessness somewhat similar to that of dent of revelation, clearly shines; and the unclean spirit ejected from the respecting which he conjectures only soul that he has possessed, and walkevil, because he knows no good; and ing thenceforth through dry places, because he has a certain impression seeking rest and finding none.” So that the removal by death is a remo
man appears to have been banished val into the presence of God; and from a first and holy state — a first because the manifest difference be- and happy dwelling, — and now wantween his conscience and his conduct ders through the dry and barren and dispositions, induces the fear that waste of a world without a God, i. e., he cannot abide that presence; and without His visible and reconciled that the change, by death, from time presence, seeking fruitlessly for peace. to eternity, may not be a change for Now in these distressing circumthe better. Circumstances such as stances in which man is placed, there these are calculated to give anything are two offers of peace made to him, but peace. Even to the most thought- to either of which in his distress he less man they preclude the possibility may turn, and to one or other of of solid peace : and if a man turns which every one does turn. These his attention towards them, and exa offers are made by two different parmines closely and honestly into his ties, – the world and Jesus Christ. present state and his future prospects, The world professes, in the most unhe must be wretched. He has no qualified way, to possess the secret of sufficient ground of hope for happi- happiness,— the magic which is to ness beyond; nothing with which dispel our sorrows; to make our days sound unbiassed common sense could a succession of delights; to extract be satisfied. And then he has nothing the sting from suffering, and sin, and here that is secured to him for one death. And then, on the other hand, moment. Health, fortune, favour, Jesus Christ professes to do the same and what is more interesting than all thing, but in a decidedly different these, the continued existence of that way :-“Peace I leave with you, my portion of his fellow-creatures in whom peace I give unto you: not as the his natural affections are centered, - world giveth, give I unto you.
Let all these things are under a control not your heart be troubled, neither that he cannot influence, and may let it be afraid." pass away to-morrow. He has no
attempt briefly thing inviting beyond, and nothing to exhibit and contrast these two permanent here. Let a wise and pru- modes of obtaining peace, that indident man look this state of things viduals may see and judge for themfairly in the face, and the thought selves; and that if they should really must be insupportable. Yet the heart find one preferable, they may be led, of man yearns after peace. A rest- in good time, to disentangle themless seeking for something better, selves from the ties of the other that for something which we have not; for they are desirous to leave, before such something that will give satisfaction; an escape be rendered impracticable. seems to be a disposition indelibly 1. The peace which the world stamped upon man's nature by his gives. When we say, The world
gives, we use a figure of speech, to lying by which open vice gives us a designate the way that the men of promise of peace. The object is to this world take, according to their expose a more insidious and dangernatural propensities, to make each ous evil, in which the decent but other happy. And when we mean to heartless moralist takes refuge. The specify what we do ourselves indivi- world makes more specious, interestdually or collectively, in our natural ing, and alluring offers than those of state,- the general course which men open and unblushing sin. It finds take,
;-we say, The world does so; man really miserable. If he looks or, It is the way of the world. Let into his circumstances,— if he listens us see then, now, the way in which to the voice of conscience, and counts the world proposes to give peace to
the number of his probable years, he man's avowedly restless spirit. How must either become the prey of a does it undertake to quiet and to calm cheerless gloom and despondency, or men's consciences? how does it offer he must turn in seriousness to the God to pacify his well-grounded fears, and whom he has offended, and shrunk remove the dread of death and judg- from. And this, to a heart natument?
rally irreligious, appears at the outIn the first place, we know full set equally grievous and unsatisfacwell, that in the very outset of our tory; for he says,--How am I to be course, it boldly offers us peace in the happy without those indulgences and indulgence of our strong natural pas- pleasures to which my nature points ? sions, in the practice of those open How am I to find peace in the daily and crying vices which, in a very
and habitual control and restriction short time, pollute, debase, and ruin of my most ardent inclinations ? Now both body and soul. Many take this here the world steps in, and presents course, and go headlong in it to de- its remedy. And what is it? Why, struction. How large a portion of our
the main secret of it is, the presenfellow-creatures there is, who, if their tation of such incessant rounds of secret history were known, would shew occupations as will call off the mind how strong the tides of natural pas- from preying on itself, and from ension and propensity run towards vice. tering into a strict and diligent inHow many there are whose hands and quiry. And these occupations are of consciences are stained with disho- two kinds :nesty; whose gold has the canker of First,— The more serious and iminjustice upon it, and whose secret portant pursuits of life. Every man ways but ill assort with the fair and is called to a life of turmoil and busy open face that they carry before the occupation. He sets before himself world. Oh, if the Spirit of God were some object of high and difficult atto deal at once as a spirit of conviction tainment,-a certain degree of repuand of burning with such men, what tation, or a certain fortune. And this a melancholy scene of humiliation and is assumed to be essential to happiwailing would the nominally christian He never dreams of inquiring world present! But into this case it whether this is absolutely the course is not necessary to go : the present incumbent on him in his present ciraim is not to contrast the peace of true cumstances. This is all taken for religion with the bold and shameless granted; and religion, or religious
peace, and the attainments of hea- all his cares upon the sufficiency of venly enjoyment, is counted as a Infinite Goodness. But no! if the secondary thing, that may or may world were to surrender its claim to not come by the way. We are pre- beguile these hours of weariness, when pared to grant that much effort is po the unsatisfying nature of the noblest sitive duty, that close occupation and concerns of this short life is actually arduous effort are, in their way, good realized,—it would at once confess its things,-yet still even here there is inability to give peace; and in that much self-delusion practised; and one moment the contest between it and grand reason why there is so much godliness would be given up, and men extreme devotion to human science, would then have to determine the or to professional pursuits, is, that question of seeking God, one way or men dread the vacant hour which other. They must devote themselves suggests the thought of self, just as to this work, as the great secret for they would dread to occupy some happiness, or wilfully remain miserachamber of solitary darkness, in the ble, without an object and without a expectation of meeting, in the dead hope, because they refuse to seek it of night, a mysterious visitant from in Him who made them. But then
Ask almost any man of this wary world is not reduced to such business to think seriously, for a quar- an extremity; it still professes to give ter of an hour, about himself, and peace. It brings forth from its treasee how he will shrink. The driest sure-house all the magic of vanity ; point of law, the remotest scientific and sets in motion all that mysteinquiry, the wildest speculation, the rious machinery which experience has most crabbed reasoning on arithmetic shewn to be so successful in fascinaor the merest trifle, were a preferable ting, deluding, and ruining the heart. subject to a serious thought about his A host of lying vanities are brought own soul. But then, as if the origi- forward under the name of rational nal nature of man actually revolted amusements, and recreations, and pasagainst this exclusive devotion of the times; under the specious pretence of mind to what is vainly called import- restoring the tone of the wearied mind; ant business, we find men are incapa- of giving, in the intervals of care, the ble of this incessant toil of continuous needful relaxation ; and of letting in labour without relaxation. The fra- upon the dull and sombre journey of gile frame of man will not bear it; life a brighter glow of present delight. and the most gigantic minds of mo- In this way the world leads its followdern times have fallen under the ers through the ordinary round of its mighty effort of their falsely splendid recreations, till almost every one feels
The body actually refuses to that they are tame and vapid, inadelet the mind be perpetually occupied quate and contemptible; and then, in in speculations that call it off from the insufferable crisis of their weariGod: and here, therefore, in the mo- ness, invention and effort are again ment of weariness and lassitude, seems taxed to the utmost, to devise some the favourable juncture when man new and more efficient method of should turn towards his Maker, and adding pleasure to the passing scene; find peace in Him ; when he would of giving new stimulus to the jaded delight to find real repose in casting mind; of stifling the presumptuous suggestions of conscience; and of to believe again the cheating promise dragging down, by the promise of of the world; opening the bosom once greater and loftier indulgence, some more to the flattery of its delusions ; new and untried victims into the vor- screwing up the faded and languid tex of folly; and, if all that has cheek again into a smile; and sufferbeen usually tried shall still be found ing their eye again to brighten with to fail, then, as a last resort, the the vain anticipation of a joy which haunts of dissipation are to be con- has ever eluded their grasp, and their secrated by the appearance of sa- heart again to warm and to flutter with credness and the language of devo- a hope which a few sad hours of real tion; and the whole extravagant ex- life must inevitably destroy. Oh, it penditure of time and means is to be is melancholy indeed to see so much palliated and gilded with the false and energy thrown away on the trifles of mawkish plea of charity.
a moment, and leaving the soul more And now, what does all this do to desolate than ever ; when, rightly diwards giving peace ? Literally no- rected, it might have led the soul onthing. Busy occupation may avert
ward to the true source of peace,
and the mind from serious thought on begun in it, at the footstool of a other subjects; vanity, with all its throne of grace, the throbbings of a train of fascinations, may fill up the joy that shall know no end ! intervening hours, and dispel the But it is time to turn to the other gloom that would otherwise gather; side of the question, and examine, but still they leave all the great ques
which Jesus tions, which must be one day settled Christ offers :—“Peace I leave with in the heart, absolutely untouehed. you, my peace I give unto you: not They only operate, like the few hours as the world giveth, give I unto you." of sleep upon a ruined man, to make This was His gracious legacy when him forget his cares; they do not He was about to leave the world by remove them; and it is probable that a cruel and ignominious death. God even this, his dream of happiness, had looked down upon a guilty world may yet be haunted by the reality of in mercy. He saw that man was his sorrow. There then he still stands, sinful and unhappy: he had no after all that the world has done for righteousness, and he had no comhim, a haggard spectacle of care, on forter: he knew not his God, and the
verge of an eternity for which he therefore he could not know peace ; is not provided,- with the additional and He saw him wandering in the sin of having dismissed the salutary wilderness of this world a pilgriin, fear, and refused the call to inquiry; bound to no-where, but seeking by and of having wasted, by a resolute false and fatal measures, that precious devotion to other occupations, the gem-a quiet conscience; and seekhours that might have made him ac- ing it in vain : and, in the default of quainted with his God, and thrown a higher and holier enjoyment, wearying cheering ray of hope across the dark himself for very variety. And then, waste of futurity. And yet it is our in the mysterious counsels of the Godlot to see hundreds, after having tried head, a gracious means of deliverance these ways again and again, and was accomplished for him. The Eterfound how vain they were, yet ready nal Son became man by incarnation,
and came expressly to save our guilty is good, and let your soul delight itrace. He came to remedy the evil self in fatness."
“Come unto me, to which the restlessness and misery of all ye that labour and are heavy every man bear testimony. He came to laden, and I will give you rest." give peace; to call sinners to repent- And what is the peace that Christ ance and salvation; and to seek and gives? It is peace of conscience; the to save that which was lost. The removal of the burden of guilt. great feature of His work was the Though,from pure thoughtlessness,you reconciliation of man to God, by a scarcely know it; though you hardly voluntary suffering, and a perfect obe- ever look into the question of your dience in man's stead :— this, by the moral state before God; yet, till you terms of the Eternal covenant, was come to Christ, there is a burden of to be the ransom of all that should guilt on your conscience, which is the believe. This, during His condescend- real cause of unhappiness. You have ing visit on the earth, the Saviour slighted and insulted your Maker, and fully accomplished : and when He lived without His love : your very ascended to His glory, to plead His devotions, compared with the ardour available merits before the throne, He with which you sought the world, have left the legacy of the peace, which He condemned you; but coming to Jesus had purchased, behind Him, for all Christ gives peace and repose, because that timely turn to Him. Here then to come to Him is to accept Him is an offer of peace to the wretched as your ransom and atonement. It and perishing children of men. It is to believe that His blood washes stands certainly in direct opposition away all your guilt; that His obeto the inclinations, habits, and pursuits dience is to be your plea of merit of their fallen nature. It requires in before God, and that henceforth His a great degree an abandonment of Holy Spirit shall dwell in you, to them, and a general change of prin- keep you from wilful and destructive ciple, purpose, and intention. It re- transgression. quires, in the outset, some little effort, But the
peace of Christ
further and some singularity ; but then it is than this. It is general peace of mind; the singularity of virtue, of godli- that composure of spirit which flows ness; of separation from mere vanity from reliance upon God as a sure and and folly; of superiority to the esta- everlasting friend. Man wants some blished precedents of a world that firm footing for his feet; he wants lieth in wickedness. And then it does that on which, in his weakness, he not demand this effort without giving may repose confidence. Does he find ample assistance. No; rather it is a it in the crowded assembly, or the call for the weak and the helpless to bustle of business? Does he find is come and receive strength; for the in the regular recurring seasons of wretched, wearied votary of folly to winter dissipation? Does he find it in come and be made happy. “Where the friendship of the world? Does he fore,” the Saviour cries, “Wherefore find it in the world's deceitful prodo ye spend money for that which is mises? Does it follow him with smiles not bread ? and your labour for that into his retirement, and cheer his which satisfieth not? hearken dili- hours of care, and smooth his pillow gently unto me, and eat ye that which in sickness, and brighten on him in