« VorigeDoorgaan »
tions in the gospel are so richly fraught with the blessings of his selvation, and the kindness of his heart. In addressing them to sinners, he may be viewed as saying to them what Balak of old said by his messengers to Balaam though in a very different spirit, and with a very different object, “Let nothing, I entreat thee, hinder thee from corning to me.” Such is the object of this essay; and, while we urge, may the Lord draw with the cords of love; while we expostulate, may the Lord persuade; and while we admonish, may he alarm,
Some are kept from coming to Christ by the idea that they are not prepared for coming. They imagine that they must be possessed of certain feelings and qualifications to ensure their welcome, and that, till these are attained, it is presumptuous to think of advancing. But in what portion of his word does the Lord Jesus require such preparation ? Nay, does not he invite the stout-hearted who are far from righteousness, and the scorners, who delight in scorning, to turn to him and live? Do you imagine that you must begin the work of salvation, and that then he will carry it on to perfection? Little does that man know of his own depravity and weakness, who thinks that he has the power to kindle one holy desire, or to form one heavenly purpose. It is the same almighty grace which perfects holiness that forms the first wish for it; and He alone who completes salvation can make the need of it to be duly felt. As well might we suppose that the first streaks of dawn proceed from the darkness of midnight, as that the first movements of piety originate in mere nature. It is from the sun, whose meridian glory fills nature with light and gladness, that they issue. As well might we imagine that the first buds of the spring proceed from the torpor and the desolations of winter, as that the first impressions of goodness arise from natural feelings. it is in the renovating power of the God of nature that these pledges of the summer's beauty take their rise; and to the God of grace must be ascribed the first meltings of contrition, and the first wish that is felt for mercy. Come to him, then, as you are; be willing that he should have all the glory of your sal. vation; and beseech him to work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. • Some are kept from coming to Christ by their insensibility to their need of him.
They suppose that conversion is necessary only to such as are grossly profligate, and
that their conduct has been so devout and so inoffensive, that they require no such change. But to Nicodemus, blameless as his character before men had been, our Lord said, “ Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Think how deficient you have been in the best duties of charity — solicitous efforts for the salvation of your brethren; and where has been your delight in God, and your zeal for his glory—your joy in devout exercises, your desires after his image and Spirit, and your looking to things heavenly and eternal ? Search your hearts, and try your ways, and you will find that your carnal minds are enmity against God; that the rules of devotion have been often neglected, or felt by you as a burden ; that the prosperity of religion has been none of your cares; and that eternity has had no influence over you. You have been the slaves of the world, and as regardless of God as if he had no control over you and no charge for you. The stagnant pool, whose surface seems clear, needs only to be stirred to show its impurity; and, had the temptations been presented, corruptions in your hearts, of whose existence you were not aware, might have been made manifest to yourselves, and evil passions, which you have concealed from others under the guise of manners gentle and decorous, might have been discovered to the world in the language or the deeds of rancour and of profligacy. Implore the influences of that Spirit who shall convince the world of sin, that he may impress you with your urgent need of a Saviour, and that you may be excited to flee to him. The more you are affected with your guilt and your helplessness, the more welcome and precious will be his grace and salvation. - Some are kept from coming to Christ by the idea that they are too young to be urged to seek after salvation. They imagine that such serious concern may well become those who are in danger of death, or who have for a long course of time sinned against the Lord, but is in them by no means so necessary. But do you think that the young have no need of a Saviour ? Do not seek for your answer to this question in the praise of flatterers, the partiality of friends, or the estimate of vanity, but in the word of God. “ The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. Childhood and youth are vanity." Has Christ no claims on youth? Does not
he deserve the first-fruits as well as the grape-gleanings of the vintage — your nature in its activity, and your affections in their first glow? Think of the special calls Christ addresses to youth. “My son, give me thine heart.” “I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me.” Can piety do nothing for youth? It will give to youth its fairest beauty, its best portion, its only safety, its happiest connexions, and its brightest hopes. And are you too young to die? Death often comes to such as you. He delights to waste the beauty of the blooming countenance, and to lay man low in his full strength. Come, then, to Him; and, should an early grave be yours, he will shed over its darkness the sweetest light of hope ; and, should you live to old age, he will say to you, to cheer your gloom, and to encourage your hearts, “ I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, and the love of thine espousals." You have felt the delights of a parent's welcome, when, after a long absence, you returned to their dwelling, and found their hearts melting with kindness. You also may have felt how sweet it was to be received in compassion and peace by parents whom you had offended and injured by your folly, to hear from their lips the assurance that they had forgiven you, and to feel in their embrace that you still retained your place in their hearts; but know that far, far beyond such pleasure will be the joy which you shall experience in the Redeemer's gracious reception, and in the mercy with which he shall protect and cherish you..
Some are hindered from coming to Christ by despair; and this despair arises generally from two causes. Some are led to despair by the number and the aggravations of their sins. They think that, for guilt so atrocious as theirs, there can be no remission, and that, ample and extensive as the grace of the gospel is, they must, from the enormity of their offences, be excepted. Such have not merely been the apprehensions of the blood-stained criminal in his dungeon, but of many whose consciences have been roused to peculiar sensibility, and who feel themselves to be the chief of sinners. But what saith the Scripture ? “ Come, now, let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as the snow.” And what say the trophies of divine mercy which you see raised on high as you travel along the path of God's word ? There is an inscription
which you may read on them all: “Where sin hath abounded, grace doth much more abound.” Some look to these triumphs of divine mercy to embolden themselves in sin; and, for an abuse so presumptuous and so wicked, their account will be dreadful; but to look to them with a heart to which sin is loathsome, and to strengthen our hopes of sanctifying as well as forgiving mercy, is an exercise which tends to the praise of the glory of Jehovah's grace. Around these trophies of mercy there are terrors set in array; so that, while we look to the dungeon of Manasseh, and to the cross of the thief, in hope, we receive warning, the most solemn, not to be highminded, but to fear.
Some, too, are ready to despair because they have grown old in sin. They say in their hearts, What is such a rotten and putrid branch as I am fit for but the fire of hell ? But God calls men to turn to him, not because their services are profitable to him, but because of the benefits conversion will yield to themselves; and to melt in contrition the heart that seemed twice dead, to make those happy in piety from whom all the joys of life have fled, and to form for heaven those who seemed vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, displays the exceeding riches of his grace. Besides, the very solicitude which you feel about the salvation of your souls shows that God has not given you over to a reprobate mind. The Saviour is almighty; and, from the very brink of hell, he has turned some to goodness. How wondrous is his grace! The arms which are open for little children are not closed against the oldest transgressor. The failing heart has been purified by his grace, and revived by his mercy. Come, then, to him, and you shall find that the door is open even at the eleventh hour. You have heard that hour strike, and in another hour you will be in eternity. Late as you are, you are still welcome; and, late as you are, you are not yet too late for mercy.
Some are kept from coming to Christ by mistaken views of some doctrines of Scripture, such as those of election and of particular redemption ; l'especting which some reason thus:-“If I am not among the number of those whom God hath chosen to salvation, and for whom Christ died, it is vain for me to draw near to him.” But it is not to the purpose of God, nor to the extent of Christ's death, that we are to look in our appli
cation for salvation, but to the command can work, Imagine not that the common of God to believe in the name of his Son saying, “ While there is life there is whom he hath sent, and to the universal hope,” is in no respects applicable as to call of the gospel, in which there are no this state of the soul, for it is the grave exceptions : “Look unto me, and be ye that cannot praise God, “it is death that saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am cannot celebrate him, it is they that go God, and beside me there is none else.” down to the pit who cannot hope for his Wherever a desire for salvation is kindled, truth. The living, the living, he shall the cross speaks hope, and the book of praise thee.” life unlooses its first seal. Listen not to Some are hindered from coming to the strange conceits of those who would Christ by blasphemous suggestions of the encourage you to hope by the gross delu- devil. While Satan works in all the obsion of universal pardon; but rejoice that structions which I have already men. you are called to a safer and better hope, tioned, he employs, in some cases, evil that to you is the word of salvation sent; imaginations of a very horrible descripand that, while our Lord hath said, “ All tion, to confound and to agitate the mind that the Father hath given me shall come of the awakened sinner. Often are such unto me," he hath graciously added, to thoughts thrown into the mind, in the encourage the trembling steps of the de hour of earnest supplication for mercy, jected and the fearful, “ And him that with such force, that the sinner starts cometh unto me I will in nowise cast from his knees in fear and horror; and out.”
every time that he engages in a similar Some, too, have the apprehension that exercise he is thus interrupted and they have committed the unpardonable shocked, and at last begins to think that sin, and that, on this account, there .can every effort for salvation only aggravates be no hope. But that sin consisted in his guilt and ensures his condemnation, the ascription of our Lord's miracles to and that all such attempts must be disthe agency of the devil, to vilify his cha, continued. But to such persons it may racter, and to defeat his efforts for the be said, that the horror which those spiritual good of man, in opposition to thoughts excite, and the methods by the conviction of their own consciences; which you are tempted to get rid of and though I will not say that this sin them, clearly show from what quarter cannot be committed in our day, it is they proceed, and what is the tempter's certain that they have no reason to think object. So far from giving place to his they are guilty of it who would gladly be suggestions, oppose them by greater earindebted to Christ for salvation.
nestness in prayer, implore that influence Some, too, from what is said about a of the Holy Spirit which can effectually day of grace in Scripture, imagine that counteract all such impressions, and call theirs is ended. The lamentation of up meditations which may solemnize and Christ over Jerusalem sounds in their elevate the heart. Adore what he would ears as their final doom. “O that thou vilify, sanctify what he would defile, and hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, repel what he would inject. Consider, the things that belong to thy peace; but that it is by yielding to these suggestions now are they hid from thine eyes.” But that you will be charged with their guilt, though there have been cases in which and that, by pressing forward to the SaGod hath sealed men's perdition by judi- viour in opposition to them, you will, in cial abandonment, they have been rare. the outset of religion, glorify Christ, and In general, he does this by the hand of overcome the wicked one. I may add death ; and they may be assured that that, as many impressions of the kind their light of mercy has not gone down arise from Satan's influence over the in whom there is any feeling of interest frame labouring under nervous weakness in the gospel, any meltings of contrition, and inquietude, it is your duty to use any desire for salvation. While I say every proper means for restoring it to this, do not, I entreat you, presume on soundness and vigour. It is in the trou. its permanence. “ Behold, now is the bled water that he mingles his poison, accepted time, behold, now is the day of not in the clear stream, where it could salvation.” Twice is the word “behold” be easily detected, used, to excite your attention, and to Some are hindered from coming to quicken your diligence in redeeming the Christ by the influence of their friends, time, and in working while it is day, who, from dislike to piety, or apprehensince the night comes, in which no mansions that the change of their views may
injure their worldly prospects, labour to 1 dissuade them from yielding to the influ.
ence of serious impressions, and to engage them in scenes where they may be coun
teracted. Ridicule of piety and of reliį gious characters is often employed for
this purpose; and no weapon has such fatal power over the young. Sometimes, too, they threaten them with their displeasure, and will make them feel its results in exclusion from their society, in the abridgment of their comforts, and in keeping from them the companions to
whose influence they ascribe the exciteà ment of their feelings. Often have they į been kept, by the stern mandate of pa1 rental authority, from listening to words
by which they might be saved, and been dragged to the dull and sombrous lessons of a morality utterly destitute of the light of the gospel and the spirit of holiness. But let persons thus opposed state with mildness, yet firmness, their determination to follow the Lord fully; show them that you abhor the pride and the petulance which they ascribe to you; and let kindness be the only return you make to those who despitefully use you. Thus you may gain their countenance; but, whether you do so or not, go forward to the Saviour. His smile will far more than compensate for their frowns. The greater opposition you break through, the sweeter will be his welcome; and, in the joys of his salvation, you will feel the effects of their displeasure as light and momentary. The young, thus opposed, have been sometimes made the instruments of turning those who laboured to thwart them to righteousness, and have had their names cherished, and their memories blessed, where they were once scorned and reviled.
Some are hindered in coming to Christ by the pressure of worldly cares. There are so many things that claim their attention, that they are hurried away from the scene of serious reflection; and impressions which might have issued in their repentance are effaced by the influence of their multiplied engagements. But let such persons consider how insignificant all earthly concerns are when compared with those of eternity. Let them think what that object is to which Christ points our first and chief solicitude, “ Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness of it," and how encouraging the assurance, that, if we do so, all other things will be added to us! Religion will relieve you from that solicitude
which' agitates and vexes you; and if you should not, at the close of life, be able to look back on such temporal success as the worldling, you will have a hope and a prospect for which, at such a period, he would gladly sacrifice ten thousand worlds. It has been well said, “ that he who devotes time to its best purposes, secures eternity for its best enjoyments; and, in proportion as we employ time wisely and well, immortality will be made happy. Those who lament most loudly the want of time, are either persons who plunge themselves into unnecessary concerns, or those who manage them ill, or those who do nothing. The first create the deficiency they deplore; the second do not so much want time as arrangement; the last, like brute animals laden with gold, groan under the weight of a treasure of which they make no use, and do not know the value.”
Some, also, are hindered in coming to Christ by the apprehension of the difficulties of a religious life, the sacrifices it demands, and the austerities it imposes. Now, we are far from representing religion as all indulgence in its requirements, and all smoothness in its paths. But consider what difficulties are braved for a mere worldly object, and shall you expect none in working out your salvation ? Besides, you are not called to engage with these unaided. In God's hand there is guidance for every perplexity, help for every duty, compensation for every sacrifice, and comfort for every distress. How animating are those words of the Almighty to every one who desires to serve him! " Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee, yea, I will keep thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Besides, these difficulties will become less severe the farther you advance in selfdenial and spirituality of mind. And, as the mariner, in the midst of storms at sea, perceives, by the fragrance brought to him by the breeze, that he is approaching his Indian haven, so over the last days of the good man's life there is shed the rich odour and the bright light of Immanuel's love. To such a man the promises come associated with a thousand pleasing reminiscences—prayer, with the consciousness of the blessings it has brought, and hope, with its brightest anticipations of that within the vail.
Let those who have not yet come to Cbrist beware of imagining that such
hindrances will be their apology. If you still remain at a distance from him, this office of mercy you render ineffectual will aggravate the guilt of your unbelief. In a short time all approach by you to the Saviour will be impracticable. There will be a great gulf betwixt you, and that gulf will never be divided for your passage, and no wing of mercy shall bear you over it. Escape, then, for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; flee to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. They who are far off from him shall perish.
And let not those who have come to Christ already be hindered by any obstruction from frequent intercourse with him. Let no hurry of worldly business, no engagement of pleasure, ever keep you from drawing near to God. Let there be every day that you live new fervour in your devotion, increasing assimilation to Christ's image, and greater liveliness in the heavenly tendencies of your hearts. Often think how Christ came in abasement, peril, tears, and blood, to save you; and shall you not go in love, in gratitude, and in joy, to serve him in life, and in death to be for ever with him ? Christ's first word to you, “ come,” won your hearts, and it will be the word which will raise and welcome you to heaven. . • How dreadful is their guilt who put hindrances in the way to Christ, as to any! This men have done by the violence that persecutes, the sophistry that beguiles,
the sarcasms which make men ashamed of being serious, and the bad example that hardens in sin.“Woe unto you, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge ! ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” Is it not enough that such men bring on themselves the guilt of their own destruction
that they so act that the blood of others must be required at their hand also ? But how blessed is their employment whose labour it is to lead others to the Saviour! The toil and the sacrifices which this may require will be amply requited even here in the satisfaction of benevolence; and great shall be their reward in heaven. How beautifully was the spirit of holy mercy manifested in a good old minister who lately entered into rest, whose ministry of fifty-five years was devoted to winning souls to Christ, and who, on his death-bed, made the most affecting efforts, when speech had failed, to express his earnest desire that his assistant and distressed successor should strive mightily to bring the people of his charge to Christ and to heaven! What a sweet savour of Christ has he left in his congregation, in the church of God, in the circles of friendship, and in his dwelling; and this savour may we all leave as the best testimony to our character, the most soothing memorial to the hearts that loved us, and as the most animating excitement to the piety of survivors ! Falkirk.
REFLECTIONS ON THE PRESENT STATE OF RELIGION, IN
CONNEXION WITH REVIVALS.
To the Editor of the Evangelical Magazine.
· Mr. Editor.Sir, Notwithstanding the strenuous efforts which have been made to arouse the Christian church from its spiritual slumbers, and promote an abiding revival of true religion, but little impression appears to have been made-but little reformation to have been effected, in the lives of professors, and but comparatively few snatched as brands from the burning.
It requires but a limited acquaintance with the Christian community in this land to ascertain that, as it regards sterling piety, it is not what it was fifty years ago; that it is very far from what it ought to be now, and still farther from what it
must be, before that which many are desiring to behold can take place="a revival of true religion.”
Far be it from me, even in the remotest manner, to cast any reflections upon the well-meant and holy efforts of pious and devoted men, who have endeavoured to stir up the Christian church to a sense of its duty on this most important subject; but I cannot help thinking that there is some important deficiency in the mode adopted, or some great hindrance in the whole body of the church—some great and cry: ing sin lying at the door, which must first be removed. If this be not the case, why have we not heard of the same effects