FAITHFUL WOUNDS. “‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend. ” — Proverbs 27.
THE death in sin, which we so much lamented in the last chapter, is now happily a thing of the past with us. Divine grace has quickened us; heavenly influence has preserved us; and faithful promises have secured our spiritual immortality. It is now our delightful duty to adore the love which, even when we were dead in sins, was still planning deeds of kindness towards us; and which in its own appointed time enlisted Omnipotence in our behalf, whereby we received life from the dead.
In order to raise our hearts heavenward, and tune our lips to the psalmody of praise, let us, by the Spirit’s gracious assistance, review the way whereby the Lord led us to himself.
Like ourselves, many of our readers will admit that the first they ever knew of Jesus was in the character of a faithful friend wounding us for sin.
Though at that time we knew not that love was mixed with every blow, yet now we perceive it to have been the kind plan of a gracious Savior to bring us to himself. The Roman emperor conferred freedom on a slave by smiting him on the ear: and Jesus sets us at liberty by a blow upon our heart.
I. We shall dwell first upon the fact that all saved persons have been wounded. Neither in the Church militant nor the host triumphant is there one who received a new heart, and was reclaimed from silt, without a wound from Jesus. The pain may have been but slight, and the healing may have been speedy; but in each case there has been a real bruise, which required a heavenly physician to heal. 1. With some, this wounding commenced in early life; for as soon as infancy gave place to childhood, the rod was exercised upon certain of us.
We can remember early convictions of sin, and apprehensions of the wrath of God on its account. An awakened conscience in our most tender years drove us to the throne of mercy. Though we knew not the hand which chastened our spirit, yet did we “bear the yoke in our youth.” How many were “the tender buds of hope” which We then put forth, alas! too soon to be withered by youthful lusts; how often were we “scared with, visions” and terrified with dreams, while the reproof of a parent, the death of a playfellow, or a solemn sermon made our hearts melt within us! Truly, our goodness was but “as the morning cloud and the early dew ;” but who can tell how much each of these separate woundings contributed toward that killing by the law, which proved to be the effectual work of God? In each of these arousings we discover a gracious purpose; we true every one of these awakenings to His hand who watched over our path, deter. mined to deliver us from our sins. The small end of that wedge which has since been driven home, was inserted dining these youthful hours of inward strife; the ground of our heart was then enduring a plowing preparatory, to the seed.
Let none despise the strivings of the Spirit in the hearts of the young; let not boyish anxieties and juvenile repentances be lightly regarded. He incurs a fearful amount of guilt who in the least promotes the aim of the Evil One by trampling upon a tender conscience in a child. No one knows the age of the youngest child in hell; and therefore none can guess at what age children become capable of conversion. We at least can bear our testimony to the fact that grace operates on some minds at a period almost too early for recollection. Nor let it be imagined that the feelings of the young are slight and superficial — they are frequently of the deepest character. The early woundings of the Savior are made upon hearts not yet rendered callous by worldliness and sensuality. The Christian whose lot it was to be smitten in his childhood, will well remember the deep searchings of heart and the keen conviction, of soul which he endured.
O beloved, how much have we to bless our Jesus for, and how much for which to reprove ourselves! Did we not stifle our conscience, and silence the voice of reproof? Were we not deaf to the warning voice of our glorious Jesus? When he smote us sorely, we returned not to kiss his rod, but were as refractory as the bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Our most solemn vows were only made to be broken; our earnest prayers ceased when the outward pressure was removed; and our partial reformations passed away like dreams of the night. Blessed be His name, he at last gave us the effectual blow of grace; but we must forever stand in amazement at the patience which endured our obstinacy, and persevered in its design of love. 2. Many of the Lord’s beloved ones have felt the wounds to be exceedingly painful. There are degrees in the bitterness of sorrow for sin; all have not the same horrible apprehensions of destruction; but some there be who have drank the very wormwood and fall of repentance. Usually, such persons have been great sinners previously, or become great saints in after life. They love much because they feel that much has been forgiven; their fearful bondage increases their gratitude for glorious liberty; and the wretchedness of their natural poverty enhances their estimation of the riches of Jesus. The painful process is thus a gainful one; but when it is endured it is indeed an exceeding fiery furnace — an oven that burneth with vehement heat. He who hath had his feet fast in the stocks of conviction will never forget it till his dying day. Well do some of us call to mind the season when our true Friend smote our heart, with what we then thought the hand of a cruel one. Our mirth was turned into mourning, our songs to lamentations, our laughter into sighing, and our joys to misty.
Black thoughts haunted our benighted soul — dreary images of woe sat upon the throne of our imagination — sounds akin to the wailings of hell were frequent in our era, unitedly making our entire man so full of agony that it could be compared to nothing but the portal of hell. During this period, our prayers were truly earnest when we could pray; but at times a sense of tremendous guilt Bound our lips, and choked our utterance. Now and then a faint gleam of hope lit up the scene for a moment, only to increase the gloom upon its departure. The nearer we approached to our Lord, the more sternly (we thought) he repelled us; the more earnest our attempts at amendment, the more heavy the lash fell upon our shoulders.
The law grasped us with iron hand, and smote us with the scourge of vengeance; conscience washed the quivering flesh with brine; and despondency furnished us with a bed of thorns, upon which our poor mangled frame found a hard couch. By night we dreamed of torment, by day we almost felt its prelude. In vain did we ask Moses to propitiate an angry God; in vain did we attempt by vows to move his pity: “the Breaker” f5 broke our hearts with his heavy hammer, and seemed intent to make our agonies intolerable. We dared not touch the hem of his garment, lest “Depart from me?” should be the only word he would afford us. A fearful looking-for of judgment and of fiery indignation wrought in us all manner of fears, suspicions, tremblings, despondings, and despairings.
Old Burton was no ill limner when he thus painted the soul under the pressure of a burden of guilt: — “Fear takes away their content, and dries the blood, wasteth the marrow, alters their countenance,’ even in their greatest delights — singing, dancing, feasting — they are still (saith Lemnius) tortured in their sonia.’ It consumes them to nought.’ I am like a pelican in the wilderness (saith David of himself, temporarily afflicted) an owl, because of thine indignation.” F6 My heart trembleth within me, and the terrors of death have come upon me fear and trembling are come upon me, at death’s door.’ ‘Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat.’ F7 Their sleep is (if it be any) unquiet, subject to fearful dreams and terrors. Peter, in his bonds, slept secure, for he knew God protected him. Truly makes it an argument of Roscius Amerinus’ innocency (that he killed not his father) because he so securely slept. Those martyrs in the primitive Church were molt cheerful and merry in the midst of their persecutions; but it is far otherwise with these men: tossed in a sea, and that continually, without rest or intermission, they can think of naught that is pleasant; “their conscience will not let them be in quiet ;”in perpetual fear and anxiety, if they be not yet apprehended, they are in doubt still they shall be ready to betray themselves. As Cain did, he thinks every man will kill him; ‘and roar for the grief of heart,” as David did, as Job did. F9 Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life to them that have a heavy heart?
Which long for death; and if it come not, search it more: than treasures, and rejoice when they can find the grave.’ They are generally weary of their lives: a trembling heart they have, a sorrowful mind, and little or no rest. Terror ubique tremor, timor undique et undique terror: ‘ tears, terrors, and affrights, in all places, at all times and seasons.’ Cibum et potum pertinaciter aversantur multi, nodum in scirpo quaeritantes, et culpam imaginantes nulla est, as Wierus writes, ‘they refuse many o! them meat and drink, cannot rest, aggravating still, and supposing grievous offenses where there are none.’ God’s heavy wrath is kindled in their souls, and, notwithstanding their continual prayers and supplications to Christ Jesus, they have no release or ease at all, but a most intolerable torment, and insufferable anguish of conscience; and that makes them, through impatience, to murmur against God many times, to think hardly of him, and even, in some cases, seek to offer violence to themselves. In the morning they wish for evening, and for morning in the evening; for the sight of their eyes which they see, and fear of heart.” F11 Hart knew the deep woundings of this faithful Friend; witness the following lines: — “The Lord, from whom I long backslid, First check ’d me with some gentle stings!
Turn ’d on me, look ’d, and softly chid, And bade me hope for greater things. “Soon to his bar he made me come Arraign ’d, convicted, east, I stood, Expecting from his mouth the doom Of those who trample one his blood.
Pangs of remorse my conscience tore, Hell open ’d hideous to my view; And what I only heard before, I found, by sad experience, true. “Oh! what a dismal state was this, What horrors shook my feeble frame!
But, brethren, surely you can guess, For you, perhaps, have felt the same. ” Doubtless, some of our readers will cry out against such a description as being too harsh; our only answer is, we have felt these things in a measure, and we testify what we do know. We do not, for one moment, teach that all or that many are thus led in a path strewn with horrors, and shrouded in gloom; but we hope to be acknowledged, by those who have experienced the same, to have uttered no strange thing, but the simple tale, unexaggerated and unadorned. We need no better evidences to convince all Christian men of our truthfulness than those with which our own pastorate has furnished us. Many have we seen in this condition; and we hope that not a few have been, by our instrumentality, led into the liberty wherewith Christ makes men free.
Such terrible things are not necessary to true repentance, But they do at times accompany it. Let the man who is now floundering in the slough of Despond take heart, for the slough lieth right in the middle of the way, and the best pilgrims have fallen into it. Your case, O soul under spiritual distress, is by no means singular; and if it were so, it would not be necessarily desperate, for Omnipotence knoweth nothing of impossibilities, and grace stayeth not for our demerits. A dark cloud is no sign that the sun has lost his light; and dark black convictions are no arguments that God has laid aside his mercy. Destruction and wrath may thunder, but mercy can speak louder than both. One word from our Lord can still the waves and winds. Get thee bequeath the tree of life, and not a drop of the shower of wrath will fall on thee. Fear not to go, for the cherubims which you see are not guards to prevent your approach, but ministers who will welcome your coming. Oh! sit not down in sullen despair, harden not thine heart, for it is a friend that wounds thee. He has softened thee in the furnace; he is now welding thee with his hammer. Let him slay thee, but do thou still trust in him. If he had meant to destroy thee, he would not have showed thee such things as these: love is in his heart when chiding is on his lips; yea, his very words of reproof are so many “tokens for good.” A father will not lift his hand against another man’s child, but he exercises discipline upon his own; even so the Lord your God chastens his own, but reserveth retribution for the children of wrath in another state of being. Bethink thee, also, that it is no small mercy to feel thy sin; this proves that there is no mortification in thy frame, but life is there. To feel is an evidence of life; and spiritual sorrow is a clear proof of life: in the soul. Moreover, there are thousands who would give worlds to be in the same condition as thou art; they are grieving because they do not have those very feelings which are in thy case thy burden and plague. Multitudes envy thee thy groans, thy tears, and meltings; yea, some advanced saints look at thee with admiration, and wish that their hearts were as tender as thine. Oh! take courage; the rough usage of today is an earnest of loving declings by-and-bye. It is in this manner the sheep is brought into the fold by the barking of the dog; and in this fashion the ship is compelled by the storm to make for the nearest haven. Fly to Jesus, and believe his grace. 3. A portion of the redeemed have had this season of wounding protracted for a long time. It was not one heavy fall of the rod, but stroke after stroke, repeated for months, and even years, in continual succession. John Bunyan was for many years an anxious and desponding seeker of mercy; and thousands more have trodden the valley of darkness for as long a time.
Winters are not usually long in our favored clime, but some years have seen the earth covered with snow Mid fettered in ice for many a dreary month; so also many souls are soon cheered by the light of God’s countenance, but a few find, to their own sorrow, that at times the promise tarries. When the sun sets we usually see him in the morning; but Paul, when in a tempest at sea, saw neither sun, moon, nor stars, for three days: many a tried soul hath been longer than this in finding light. All ships do not make speedy voyages: the peculiar build of the vessel, the winds, the waves, and the mistakes of the captain, all affect the time of the journey.
Some seeds send forth their germs in a few days; others abide long in darkness, hidden under the clods. The Lord can, when it is his good pleasure, send conviction and comfort as rapidly in succession as the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder; but at times he delays it for purposes which, though we know not now, we shall know hereafter. Men shall not have an Easter until they have had Lent; but God’s Lents are not all of the same duration. Let none, then, foolishly imagine that they have entered a long lane which will have no turning; let them consider how long they were in sin, and they will have little cause to complain that they are so long in humiliation. When they remember their own ignorance, they will not think they are detained too long in the school of penitence. No man has any right to murmur because he is waiting a little for the King of mercy; for if he considereth what he waits for, he will see it to be well worthy of a thousand years’ delay. God may say, “To-day if ye will hear my voice ;” but thou, O sinner, hast no right to demand that he should hear thine at all, much less today. Great men often have petitioners in their halls, who will wait for hours, and come again and again to obtain promotion: surely, the God of heaven should be waited for by them that seek him. Thrice happy is he that getteth an early inter. view, and doubly blest is he who getteth one at all. Yet it does at times seem hard to stand at a door which opens not to repeated knocking — “hope deferred maketh the heart sick:” and it may be, some reader of this volume is driven to doubt the eventual result of his strivings and prayers; he may be crying, “My life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing.” “How oft have these bare knees been bent to gain The slender alms of one poor smile in vain?
How often tir ’d with the fastidious light Have my faint lips implor ’d the shades of night?
How often have my nightly torments pray ’d For ling ’ring twilight, glutted with the shade Day worse than night, night worse than day appears; In fears I spend my nights, my days in tears:
I moan unpitied, groan without relief, There is no end or measure of my grief.
The branded slave, that tugs the weary our, Obtains the Sabbath of a welcome shore; His ransom ’d stripes are heal ’d; his native soil Sweetens the mem ’ry of his foreign toil:
But ah! my sorrows are not half so blest; My labors find no point, my pains no rest.
I barter sighs for tears, and tears for groans, Still vainly rolling Sisyphaean stones. ” Cease thy complaint, O mourner, the angel is on his way, and faith shall quicken his flight; while thou art yet speaking He hears, yea, before thou callest again, He may answer thee. 4. Divine sovereignty displays itself in the manner whereby souls are brought to Jesus; for while many, as we have said, are smitten with deep wounds, there are perhaps a larger hum. bet whose smartings are less severe, and their suffering far less acute. Let us never make apologies for the superficial religion too common in the present day; above all, let us never lead others to mistake fancies for realities, and evanescent feelings for enduring workings of grace. We fear too many are deluded with a false religion, which will be utterly consumed when the fire shall try all things; and we solemnly warn our readers to rest short of nothing less than a real experience of grace within, true repentance, deep self-abhorrence, and complete subjection to salvation by grace. Yet we do believe and know that some of the Lord’s family are, by his marvelous kindness, exempted from the exceeding rigor of the terrors of Sinai, and the exceeding griefs engendered by the working of the Law. God openeth many hearts with gentle picklocks, while with others he useth the crowbar of terrible judgments. The wind of the Spirit, which bloweth where it listeth, also bloweth how it pleaseth: it is oftentimes a gentle gale, not always a hurricane. When the lofty palm of Zeilan putteth forth its flower, the sheath bursts with a report which shakes the forest, but ‘thousands of other flowers of equal value open in the morning, and-the very dewdrops hear no sound; so many souls blossom in mercy, and the world hears neither whirlwind nor tempest showers frequently fall upon this earth too gently to be heard, though truly at other seasons the rat fling drops proclaim them; grace also “droppeth, like the gentle dew from heaven,” on souls whom Jesus would favor, and they know nothing of heavy hail and drenching torrents.
Let none doubt their calling because it came not with sound of the trumpet; let them not sit down to measure their own feelings by those of other men, and because they are not precisely the same, at once conclude that they are no children of the kingdom. No two leaves upon a tree are precisely alike — variety is the rule of nature; the line of beauty runs not in one undeviating course; and in grace the same rule holds good. Do not, therefore, desire another man’s repentance, or thy brother’s apprehensions of wrath. Be not wishful to try the depth of the cavern of misery, but rather rejoice that thou hast a partial immunity from its glooms. Be concerned to flee for refuge to Jesus; but ask not that the avenger of blood may almost overtake thee. Be content to enter the ark like a sheep led by its shepherd; desire not to come like an unruly bullock, which must be driven to the door with stripes. Adore the power which is not bound down to a unity of method, but which can open the eye by the clay and spittle, or by ‘the simple touch of the finger. Jesus cried, with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” but the restoration was as easily effected when he gently said, “Maid, arise!” Zaccheus was called from the tree with a voice that the crowd could hear; but it was a still voice which in the garden said, “Mary!”
Can any man say but that equal benefits flowed from these varied voices? It is arrogance for any man to map cut the path of the Eternal, or dictate to Jesus the methods of his mercy. Let us be content with gentle wounds, and let us not seek heavy blows as a proof of his faithfulness.
Much more might have been discoursed concerning the means used by Providence to break the hard heart. Bereavement, disappointment, sickness, poverty, have had their share of uses; the Word preached, Scriptures read or reproofs received, have all been owned to conversion. It would be interesting to register the diverse ways of Jehovah’s doings with sinners; and it would be found a valuable occupation for a gathering of Christians in an evening party, if the question is passed round to each, and one acts as reorder for the rest; thus interesting information may be obtained, and unprofitable talking avoided.
II. We now seek to justify our assertion that these wounds are inflicted by ” the friend, ” Christ Jesus. Our readers will observe that Jesus’ name has not often occurred in the course of this chapter, but this has had its reasons; in order that our words might be somewhat in accordance with the state of the soul during the operation of conviction, for then it discerns not Jesus, and knows nothing of his love. A faint idea of his saving power may arise, but it is only the hush between the succeeding gusts of wind. There is an atonement, but the tried conscience rejoices not therein, since the blood has never been applied; HE is able to save unto the uttermost, but since the man has not come unto God by him, he as yet participates not in the salvation. Nevertheless, an unseen Jesus is a true Jesus; and when we see him not, he is none the less present, working all our works in us. We would insist strongly on this point, because a very large number of mourning sinners ascribe their sorrow to any source but the right one. 1. We know those at present in the prison house of conviction who believe themselves to be tormented by the devil, and are haunted by the dreadful thought that he is about to devour them, since hell seems to have begun in their souls. May the sacred Comforter render our words profitable to, a heart so exercised. It is not an evil one who convinces the soul of sin, although the troubled spirit is prone to impute its arousings to the machinations of the devil. It is never the policy of the Prince of darkness to disturb his subjects; he labors to make them self-satisfied and content with their position; spiritual uneasiness, he looks upon with most crafty suspicion, since he sees therein the cause of desertion from his evil army.
We do not assert that none of the terrors which accompany conviction are the works of the devil, for we believe they are; but we maintain that the inward disturbance which originates the commotion is a work of love — a deed of divine compassion, and comes from no other fountain than eternal affection. The dust which surrounds the chariot may rise from beneath, but the chariot itself is paved with the love of heaven. The doubts, the despairings, and the hellish apprehensions may be the work of Diabolus, but the real attack is headed by Emmanuel, and it is from very fear that the true assault may be successful that Satan attempts another. Jesus sends aft army to drive us to himself, and then the Prince of the powers of the air dispatches a host to cut off our retreat to Calvary. So harassed is the mind when thus besieged, that like tike warriors in old Troy, it mistakes friends for foes, not knowing how to discern them in the darkness and confusion.
Let us labor a moment to point out the helmet of Jesus in the battle, that his blows may be distinguished from those of a cruel one.
The experience which we have pictured leads us to abhor sin. Can Satan be the author of this? Is he become a lover of purity, or can an unclean spirit be the father of such a godly feeling? An adept in sin himself, Will he seek to reveal its vileness? If indeed it delights him to see a soul unhappy here, would he not far rather allow a present bliss, in the malicious prospect of a certain future woe for his victim? We believe Satan to be exceedingly wise, but he would be penny wise; and pound foolish if he should inflict a temporary torment on the sinner here, and so by his over haste lose his great object of ruining the man for ever. Devils may drive swine down a steep place into the sea; but they never influenced swine to bemoan their condition, and beg to be made sheep. Satan might carry Jesus to a pinnacle of the Temple to tempt him; but he never carried a publican to the house of prayer to smite on his breast and cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”
Nothing which leads to Jesus can be of the Evil One, by this we may judge whether our inward trouble be of God or no. That which draws us to Jesus hath something of Jesus in it; the wagons which fetch us to our Joseph may have rumbling wheels, but they are sent by Him. When our enemy cannot hinder the voice of God from being heard in the heart, he mingleth therewith such horrid yellings and howlings that the coming sinner is in doubt whether the voice come from heaven or hell; howbeit, the question may be answered in this manner — if it be a harsh, reproving voice which is heard, then Satan is angry, and is but counterfeiting, to prevent the word of God from having effect; but if it be a sweet voice seeking to draw the soul from an earnest and thorough repentance, then it cometh wholly from hell. O sinner, let a friend warn thee of the syren-song of a smiling devil — it will be thine eternal shipwreck if thou dost not seal thine ears, and neglect his enchanting music; but, on the other hand, be not afraid of the devil when he howleth like a Cerberus, for thus doth he seek to affright thee from the gate of heaven; stay not for him, but be firmly persuaded that the inward goad which urges thee forward is in the hand of Jesus, who desires to hasten thee to the house of refuge which he has built. Do not think that thy sharp pains are given thee by the old murderer, for they are the effects of the knife of “the beloved Physician.” Many a man under a surgical operation cries out as if he were about to be killed; but if patience had its perfect work, he would look to the end more than to the means. It is hard indeed to rejoice under the heavy hand of a chastising Jesus; but it will be somewhat easier to thee if thou bearest in mind that Jesus, and not the devil, is now smiting thee for thy sins. 2. Very common also are the cases where the genuineness of conviction is doubted, because it is conceived to be merely an awakened conscience, and not the real lasting work of Jesus by his Holy Spirit. Well may this cause anxiety, if we reflect that the mere awakening of conscience so often prow; to be of no avail. How many reformations have been commenced by the command of conscience, and have soon crumbled beneath temptation like an edifice of sand at the approach of the sea! How many prayers have been forced forth like untimely figs by the warmth of a little natural feeling, but such prayers have been displaced by the old language of indifference or iniquity. It is but just, therefore, that the anxious inquirer should very honestly examine his feelings whether they be of God.
Conscience is that portion of the soul upon which the Spirit works in convincing of sin; but conscience cannot of itself produce such a real death to sin as must be the experience of every Christians. It may, when stirred up by a powerful sermon or a solemn providence, alarm the whole town of Man-soul; but the bursting of the gates and the breaking of the bars of iron must come from another hand. Natural come may be distinguished from supernatural grace by its being far more easily appeased. A small sop will suffice to stop the mouth of a conscience which, with all its boasted impartiality, is yet as truly depraved as any other portion of the man. We marvel at the Christian minister when he speaks of conscience as “God’s vicegerent,” styling it the judge who cannot be bribed, whereas the slightest observation would suffice to convince any man of the corruption of the conscience. How many commit acts with allowance which are gross sins, but concerning which their unenlightened conscience utters no threat; and even when this partial censor does pronounce sentence of condemnation, how easily will the slightest promise of reformation avert his wrath, and induce him to palliate the sin!
Conscience, when thoroughly aroused, will speak with a thundering voice; but even his voice cannot wake the dead — spiritual resurrection is the work of Deity alone. We have seen men swept with a very tornado of terrible thoughts and serious emotions; but the hot wind has passed away in an hour, and has left no blessing behind it. There is no healing beneath the wings of a merely natural repentance, and its worthlesssness may be proved by its transitory existence.
Conscience will be content with reformation; true grace will never rest till it receives a know. ledge of regeneration. Let us each be anxious to be possessors of nothing short of a real inwrought sorrow for sin, a deep sense of natural depravity, a true faith in the Lord Jesus, and actual possession of his Spirit; whatever is short of this, lacks the vital elements of religion. If such is our feeling now — if we now pant for Jesus in all his glorious offices to be ours for ever, we need not fear but that He has wounded us in love, and is bringing us to his feet. If we now feel that nothing but the blood and righteousness of Christ Jesus can supply the wants we deplore, we may rejoice that grace has entered our heart, and will win the victory. A soul under the influence of the Holy Ghost will be insatiable in its longings for a Savior; you might as well attempt to fill a ship with honor, or a house with water, as a truly emptied soul with aught save the Lord Jesus. Is thy soul hungering with such a hunger that husks will not content thee? Art thou thirsting until “thy tongue cleaveth to thy mouth” for the living water of life? -Dost thou abhor all counterfeits, and look only for the good gold of the kingdom? Art thou determined to have Christ or die? Will nothing less than Jesus allay thy fears? Then be of good cheer; arise, He calleth thee; cry unto him, and he will assuredly hear. Again, we think an excellent test may be found in the length of time which these feelings have endured. The awakenings of an unrenewed conscience soon peas away, and are not usually permanent in their character. Arising in a night, they perish also in a night. They are acute pains, but not chronic; they are not a part of the man, but simply incidents in his history. -Many a man drops the compliment of a tear when justice is at work with him; but wiping that tear away, sunshine follows the shower, and all is over. Hast thou, my reader, been a seeker of the Lord for a very little while? I beseech thee take it not for granted that thou art under the influence of the Spirit, but plead with God that thine own instability may not afresh be manifest in again forgetting what manner of man thou art. O ye whose momentary warmth is but as the crackling of blazing thorns, this is not the fire from heaven; for that glorious flame is as eternal as its origin, being sustained by Omnipotence. O ye Pliables, who turn back at the first difficulty, crowns and kingdom,! in the realms of the blessed are not intended for such as you! Unstable as water, ye shall not excel! Your lying, vows have been so often heard in heaven, that justice frowns upon you. How have ye lied unto God, when ye have promised in the hour of sickness to turn to him with full purpose of heart? How will your violated promises be swift witnesses ‘to condemn you, when God shall fetch from the archives of the past the memorials of your treachery!
What can be more worthy of your solemn consideration than the words of Solomon — “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. ” It will go hard with some of you, my readers, who have abounded with hypocritical repentances when the Lord shall bring you into judgment. Ye have no excuse of ignorance; ye cannot cloak your guilt with darkness; “ye knew your duty, but ye did it not.” You vowed in deceit; you prayed in mockery; you promised with falsehood. Surely, your own lips will say “Amen!” to the anathema which shall call you “cursed ;” and the chain. bars of your memory’ will, from their sin. stained walls, reverberate the sentence, “Cursed! cursed! cursed!”
But has the penitent reader been under the hand of God for some time?
Have his impressions been abiding? Do they bring forth me fruits of real longing after Jesus? Then let him be of good cheer. The river which drieth not is the river of God; the lighthouse which endureth the winds and waves is founded on a rock; and the plant which is not plucked up our heavenly Father hath planted. The stony-ground hearer lost his verdure when the sun had arisen with burning heat; but if out of an honest and good heart you have received the word which abideth forever, you are one of those upon the good ground. When the light remains in one position for a long time, it is not likely to be an ignis fatuus; but that which leapeth continually from place to place, even the peasant knows to be the will-o’-the-wisp, and nothing more. True stars fall not; shooting stars are no stars at all, but sundry gases which have long enough held together, and blaze at bursting.
Rivers which, like Kishon, only flow with temporary torrents, may be useful to sweep away an invading army, but they cannot fertilize the surrounding country: so temporary conviction may bring destruction upon a host of sins, bat it is not the river which makes glad the city of God. The works of God are abiding works; he buildeth no houses of sand which fall at the rise of the flood, or the rushing of the wind. Hast thou, O convinced soul, been long under the hand of sorrow? then take heart, this is all the more likely to be the hand of the Lord. If thou feelest, at all seasonable hours, a strong desire to seek his face, and pour out thine heart before him, then doubtless thou art one of those who shall be called — “sought out,” and thou shalt dwell in “a city not forsaken.” The morning cloud goeth because it is but a cloud; but the rain and the snow return not to heaven void, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud: if thy soul buddeth with desires, and bringeth forth prayers and tears, then have we hope for thee that God hath sent his word from above to dwell in thine heart.
Best of all, when we are put out of all heart with our doings and with our own capabilities; then indeed the Lord is there. So long as we cling in the least degree to self, we have ground to distrust the reality of the work within. The Spirit is a humbling spirit, and God sends him that he may humble us. Every wound given by the Savior is accompanied by the voice, “This is against thy self-righteousness.” Without this process of cutting and wounding, we should imagine ourselves to be something, whereas we are nothing; we should think our fig-leaves to be as excellent as court robes, and our own filthy rags as white as the spotless robe of Jesus. Hast thou, my friend, been learning the lesson, that “whatsoever is of nature’s spinning must be all unraveled before the righteousness of Christ is put on?” Dost thou now perceive that “nature can afford no balsam fit for soul cure?” Art thou despairing of all healing from the waters of Abana and Pharpar? And wilt; thou now gladly wash in Jordan end be clean? If it be so with thee, then thou art no stranger to the influences of Jesus’ grace upon thine heart; but if not, all thy repentances, thy tears, thy sighs, thy groans, must go for nothing, being but dross and dung in the sight of the rein-trying Jehovah. Self is the fly which spoils the whole pot of ointment; but Jesus is the salt which makes the most poisonous river to become pure.
To be weaned from our own works is the hardest weaning in the world. To die not only to all ideas of past merit, but to all hopes of future attainments, is a death which is as hard as that of the old giant whom Greatheart slew.
And yet this death is absolutely requisite before salvation for unless we die to all but Christ, we can never live with Christ.
The carnal professor talks very much of faith, of sanctification, of perfection; but therein he offers sacrifice to himself as the great author of his own salvation: like the Pharaoh of old, he writes upon the rocks, “I conquered these regions by these my shoulders.” But not so he who has really been taught by the God of heaven; he bows his head, and ascribes his deliverance wholly to the grace of the covenant God of Israel. By this, then, can thy state be tested — Is self annihilated, or is it not? Art thou looking upward, or art thou hoping that thine own arm shall bring salvation? Thus mayest thou best understand how thy soul standeth with regard to a work of grace. That which strippeth the creature of all comeliness, which marreth the beauty of pride, and staineth the glory of self-sufficiency, is from Jesus; but that which exalteth man, even though it make thee moral, amiable, and outwardly religious, is of the devil. Fear not the blow which smites thee to the ground — the lower thou liest the better; but shun that which puffeth up and lifteth thee to the skies. Remember the Lord hath said, “And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish.” Be thou ever one of the low trees, for then Jesus will regard thee. He putteth down the mighty from their seats, but he exalteth the humble and meek. None are nearer mercy’s door than those who are farthest from their own; none are more likely to get a good word from Jesus than they who have not one word to say for themselves. He that is clean escaped from the hands of self, hath not a Step between himself and acceptance. It is a sign of a high tide of grace, when the sands of our own righteousness are covered. Take heart that Christ loveth thee, when thou hast no heart for the work of self-saying.
But never, never hope that a devout carriage, respectable demeanor, and upright conversation, Will justify thee before God — “For love of grace Lay not that flattering unction to your soul; It will but skin and film the ulcerous place, Whiles rank corruption, mining all within, infects unseen. ” Once more: when our sorrowful feelings ” drive us to a thorough renunciation of sin, then we may hope. How many there are who talk most rapidly of a deep experience, of corruption, and of indwelling sin, who never heartily renounce their evil ways limit how vain is all their idle talk, while their lives show that they. love sin, and delight in transgression! He that is sorry for past sin, will be doubly careful to avoid all present acts of it. He is a hypocrite before God who talketh of a work within when there is no work without. Grace will enter a sinful heart, even though it be exceeding vile; yet it will never make friendship with am, but will at once commence to drive it out. He has altogether mistaken the nature of divine grace, who conceives it possible that he can be a partaker of it and yet he the slave of lust, or allow sin to reign in his mortal body. The promise runs — “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy. upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon ;” but we read not of a single word of comfort to him who goeth on in his iniquity. Though the high and lofty One will stoop over a wounded sinner, he will never do so while the weapons of rebellion are still in his hands. “There is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked.” Justice will never raise the siege simply because of our cries, or promises, or vows: the heart shall still be invested with terrors as long as the traitors are harbored within its gates. The Spirit saith, by the mouth of Paul, For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. For behold this self-same thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, year, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves in this matter.” F15 That is no true repentance to eternal life which hath not such blessed companions as these. Isaiah saith, “By this, therefore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.” F16 No sooner does penitence enter the heart than down goeth every idol, and every idolatrous altar. He whom the Lord calleth will, like Gideon, cast down the altar of Baal, cut down the grove, and burn the bullock; like Phineas, his javelin will pierce through lusts; and, as the sons of Levi at the bidding of Moses, he will go through the camp, and slay the nearest and dearest of his bosom sins — his hand shall not spare, neither shall his eye pity: right hands will be cut off, and right eyes plucked out; sin will be drowned in floods of godly sorrow, and the soul will desire to be free from that which it hateth, even to detestation. As Thomas Scott remarks, in his Treatise on Repentance, “This is the grand distinction betwixt true repentance and all false appearances. Though men be abundant in shedding tears, and make the most humiliating confessions, or most ample restitution; though they openly retract their false principles, and are zealous in promoting true religion; though they relate the most plausible story of experiences, and profess to be favored with the most glorious manifestations; though theyhave strong confidence, high affections, orthodox sentiments, exact judgment, and extensive knowledge: yet, except they ‘do works meet for repentance, all the rest is nothing they are still in their sins. For the tree is known by its fruit; and ‘every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’ Yea, though Cain’s terror, Judas’s confession and restitution, Pharaoh’s fair promises, Ahab’s humiliation, Herod’s reverencing the prophet, hearing him gladly, and doing many things — the stony-ground hearer’s joy — together with the tongue of men and angels, the gifts of miracles and prophecies, and the knowledge of all mysteries, were combined in one man, they would not prove him a true penitent, so long as the love of one lust remained unmortified in his heart, or the practice of it was allowed in his life.” Ask thyself, then, this allimportant question, How is my soul affected by sin? Do I hate it? do I avoid it? do I shun its very shadow? do I sincerely renounce it, even though by infirmity I fall into it? Rest assured if thou canst not give a satisfactory answer to these questions thou art yet very far from the kingdom; but if, with an honest heart, thou canst declare that sin and thyself are at an utter enmity, then “the seed of the woman” is begotten in thine heart, and dwelleth there the hope of glory.
Believer, the hour is fresh in our memory when the divorce was signed between ourselves and our lusts. We can rejoice that we have now dissolved our league with hell. But, oh how much we owe to sovereign grace! for we had never left the garlic and fleshpots of Egypt if the Passover had not been slain for us. Our inward man rejoiceth greatly at the recollection of the hour which proclaimed eternal war between “the new creature in Christ Jesus” and the sin which reigned unto death. It was a night to be remembered: we crossed the Rubi-con — peace was broken — old friendships ceased — -the sword was unsheathed, and the scabbard thrown away. We were delivered from the power of darkness, and brought into “the kingdom of God’s dear Son ;” and henceforth we no longer serve sin, but the life which we live in the flesh is a life of dependence on the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us. Let us testify that we never knew what it was to have peace with God until we had ceased to parley with sin. Not one drop of true comfort did we receive until we had foresworn for ever the former lusts of our ignorance: till then our mouths were filled with wormwood and gall, until we had cast out our iniquities as loathsome and abominable; but now, having renounced the works of darkness, “we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have received the atonement.”
If thou, O reader, canst satisfactorily answer the solemn inquiries here proposed to thee, thy case is assuredly in the hands of Jesus the Lord; if thou hast continually bewailed thy sin, hast renounced thine own works, and escaped from thy lusts, then thou art none other than one called of God to grace and glory. Be thou assured that natural conscience can never rise to such a height as this — it may skim the surface, but it cannot mount aloft. Mere nature never poured contempt on human righteousness, and never severed man from his sins. It needs a mighty one to carry away the gates of the Gaza of our self-sufficiency, or to lay our Philistine sins heaps upon heaps. God alone can send the sun of our own excellency back the needed degrees of humility, and he alone can bid our sins stand still forever. It is Jesus who hath smitten, if he hath with one blow uncrowned thee, and with another disarmed thee. He is wont to perform wonders; but such as these are his own peculiar miracles. None but He can kill with one stone two such birds as our high-soaring righteousness and low-winged lust. If Goliath’s head is taken from his shoulders, and his sword snatched from his hand, no doubt the conqueror is the Son of David. We give all glory and honor to the adorable name of Jesus, the Breaker, the Healer, our faithful Friend. 3. It frequently occurs that the circumstances of the person at the time of conversion afford grave cause to doubt the divine character of the woundings which are felt. It is well known that severe sickness and prospect of death will produce a repentance so like to genuine, godly sorrow, that the wisest Christians have been misled by it. Many have we seen and heard of who have expressed the deepest contrition for past guilt, and have vehemently cried for mercy, with promises of amendment apparently as sincere as their confessions were truthful — who have conversed sweetly of pardon, of joy in the Spirit, and have even related ecstasies and marvelous manifestations; and yet, with all this, have proved to be hypocrites, by returning at the first opportunity to their old courses of sin and folly. It hath happened unto them according to the proverb, “The dog hath returned to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
Pious Mr. Booth writes, “I pay more attention to people’s lives than to their deaths. In all the visits I have paid to the sick during the course of a long ministry, I never met with one, who was not previously serious, that ever recovered from what he supposed the brink of death, who afterwards performed his vows and became religious, notwithstanding the very great appearance there was in their favor when they thought they could not recover.” We find also, ready to our hand, in a valuable work, the following facts, which are but specimens of a mass which might he given: — “A certain American physician, whose piety led him to attend, not only to people’s bodies, but to their souls, stated that he had known a hundred or more instances in his practice, of persons who, in prospect of death, had been apparently’ converted, but had subsequently been restored to health.
Out of them all he did not know of more than three who devoted themselves to the service of Christ after their recovery, or gave any evidence of genuine conversion. If, therefore, they had died, as they expected, have we not reason to believe that their hopes of heaven would have proved terrible delusions? “A pious English physician once stated that he had known some three hundred sick persons who, soon expecting to die, had been led, as they supposed, to repentance of their sins, and saving faith in Christ, but had eventually been restored to health again. Only ten of all this number, so far as he knew, gave any evidence of being really regenerated. Soon after their recovery they plunged, as a general thing, into the follies and vices of the world. Who would trust, then, in such conversions?”
Such examples serve as a holy warning to us all, lest we too should only feel an excitement produced by terror, and should find the flame of piety utterly quenched when the cause of alarm is withdrawn. Some of us can trace our first serious thoughts to the bed of sickness, when, in the loneliness of our chamber, “We thought upon our ways, and turned our feet unto his testimonies.” F21 But this very circumstance was at the time a source of doubt, for we said within ourselves, ‘Will this continue when my sickness is removed, or shall I not find my apathy return, when again I enter on the business of the world?” Our great anxiety was not lest we should die, but learn living we should find our holy feelings dear gone, and our piety evaporated. Possibly our reader is now sick. and this is his trouble: let us help you through it. Of course, the best proof you can have of your own sincerity is that which you will receive when health returns, if you continue steadfast in the faith of Jesus, and follow on to know him.
Perseverance, when the pressure is removed, will discover the reality of your repentance The natural wounds inflicted by Providence are healed soon after the removal of the rod, and folly is not thereby brought out of the heart; but when Jesus smites for sin, the wounds will smart even when the instrumental rod of correction is removed, while “the blueness of the wound cleanseth away evil.” F22 We, who had many mock repentances are we really turned to the living God, can now see the main spring of our error. Every thief loves honesty when he finds the jail uneasy; almost every murderer will regret that he slew a man when he is about to be executed for hill crime: here is the first :point of distinction which we beg our reader to observe. That repentance which is genuine ariseth not so much from dread of punishment as from fear of sin. It is not fear of damning, but fear of sinning, which make the truly humbled cry out for grace. True, the fear of hell, engendered by the threatenings of the law, doth work in the soul much horror and dismay; but it is not hell appearing exceeding dreadful, but sin becoming exceeding sinful and abominable, which is the effectual work of grace. Any man in his reason would tremble at everlasting burnings, more especially when by his nearness to the grave the heat of hell doth, as it were, scorch him; but it is not every dying man that hates sin — yea, none do so unless the Lord hath had dealings with their souls. Say then, Dost thou hate hell or hate sin most? for, verily, if there were no hell, the real penitent would love sin not one wit the more, and hate evil not one particle the less. Wouldest thou love to have thy sin and heaven too? If thou wouldest, thou hast not a single spark of divine life in thy soul, for one spark would consume thy love to sin. Sin to a sin-sick soul is so desperate, an evil that it would scarce be straining the truth to say that a real penitent had rather suffer the pains of hell without his sins than enter the bliss of heaven with them, if such things were possible. Sin, sin, sin, is the accursed thing which the living soul hateth.
Again: saving repentance will more easily manifest itself when the subjects of our thought are most heavenly. By this we mean, if our sorrow only gushes forth when we are musing upon the doom of the wicked, and the wrath of God, we have then reason to suspect its evangelical character; but if contemplations of Jesus, of his cross, of heaven, of eternal love, of covenant grace, of pardoning blood and full redemption bring tears to our eyes, we may then rejoice that we sorrow after a godly sort. The sinner awakened by the Holy Spirit will find the source of his stream of sorrow not on the thorn-clad sides of Sinai, but on the grassy mound of Calvary.
His cry will be, “O sin, I hate thee, for thou didst murder my Lord ;” and his mournful dirge over his crucified Redeemer will be in plaintive words — “‘Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins, His chief tormentors were; Each of my crimes became a nail, And unbelief the altar; ‘Twos you that pull ’d the vengeance down Upon his guiltless head; Break, break, my heart, oh burst mine eyes, And let my sorrows bleed. ” Ye who love the Lord, give your assent to this our declaration, that love did melt you mere than wrath, that the wooing voice did more affect you than the condemning sentence, and that hope did impel you more than fear.
It was when viewing our Lord as crucified, dead, and buried that we most wept. He with his looks made us weep Bitterly, while the stern face of Moses caused us to tremble, but never laid us prostrate confessing our transgression. We sorrow because our offense is against Him, against his love, his blood, his grace, his heart of affection. Jesus is the name which subdues the stubborn heart, if it be truly brought into subjection to the Gospel. He is the rod which bringeth waters out of the rock, he is the hammer which breaketh the rock in pieces.
Furthermore, saving repentance will render the conscience exceedingly tender, so that it will be pained to the quick at the very recollection o/ the smallest sin. Natural repentance crieth out at a few master-sins, which have been most glaring and heinous — the more especially if some visitor point them out as crimes of the blackest dye; but when it hath executed one or two of these on the gallows of confession, it is content to let whole hosts of less notorious of. fenders escape without so much u a reprimand. Not so the man whose penitence is of divine origin — he hates the whole race of the Evil One like Elijah he will cry, “Let none escape ;” he will cut up to the best of his power every root of bitterness which may still remain, nor will he willingly harbor a single traitor, in his breast. The secret sins, the everyday offenses, the slight errors (as the world has it), the harmless follies, the little transgressions, the peccadilloes, all these will be dragged forth to death when the Lord searcheth the heart with the candle of his Spirit.
Jesus never enters the soul of man to drive out one or two aims, nor even to overcome a band of vices to the exception of others; his work is perfect, not partial; his Cleansings are complete baptisms; his purifyings tend to remove all our dross, and consume all our tin. He sweeps the heart from its dust as well as its wagons; he suffers not even the most insignificant spider of lust to spin its cobweb, with allowance, on the ‘walls of his temple. All heinous aims and private sins, youthful sins and manhood’s sins, sins of omission and of commission, of word and of deed, of thought and of imagination, sins against God or against man, all will combine like a Column of serpents in the desert to affright the new-born child of heaven; and he will desire to see the head of every one of them broken beneath the heel of the destroyer of evil, Jesus, the seed of the woman. Believe not thyself to be truly awakened unless thou abhorrest sin in all its stages, from the embryo to the ripe fruit, and in all its shades, from the commonly allowed lust down to the open and detested crime. When Hannibal took oath of perpetual hatred to the Romans, he included in that oath plebeians as well as patricians; so if thou art indeed at enmity with evil, thou wilt abhor all iniquity, even though it be of the very lowest degree. Beware that thou write not clown affright at one sin as being repentance for all.
There are, doubtless, other forms and phases of doubt, but our space does not allow us to mention more, nor does the character of the volume require that we should expatiate on more of these than are the most usual causes of grief to the Lord’s people. We beseech the ever-gracious Spirit to reveal the person of Jesus to every smitten sinner; to anoint his eyes with eyesalve, that he may see the heart of love which moves the hand of rebuke, and to guide every mourning seeker to the cross, whence pardon and comfort ever flow. It is none other than Jesus who thus frowns us to our senses, and chastises us to right reason; may the Holy Ghost lead every troubled one to believe this encouraging doctrine, then shall our heart’s desire be granted.
We cannot, however, bring our remarks to a close until again we have urged the duty of self-examination, which is at once the most import. ant and most neglected of all religious exercises.
When we think how solemn is the alternative “saved ” or “damned/ ’ we cannot but importune our readers, as they love their souls, to “examine themselves whether they be in the faith.” Oh! remember it will be all too late to decide this question soon, since it will cease to be a question. The time will have passed for hopeful changes and gracious discoveries; the only changes will be to torments more excruciating, and discoveries then will but reveal horrors more and more terribly astounding. We wonder not that men should anxiously inquire concerning their position; we might marvel more that the most of them are so indifferent, so utterly careless to the things of the kingdom of heaven. It is not ,our body, our estate, our liberty, concerning which there is this question at law, it is a suit of far weightier nature — our eternal existence in heaven or hell. Let us narrowly inspect our innermost feelings; let us search what manner of men we be; let us rigidly scrutinize our heart, and learn whether it be right with God or no.
Let not the good opinion of our fellow-men mislead us, but let us search for ourselves, lest we be found like the mariner who bought his bags of one who filled them not with biscuit but with stones, and he, relying on the merchant’s word, found himself in the broad ocean without a morsel of food. Yet if good men tell us we are wrong, let us not despise their opinion, for it is more easy to deceive ourselves than the elect. He was not far from truth who said, “We strive as hard to hide our hearts from ourselves as from others, and always with more success; for, in deciding upon our own case, we are both judge, and jury, and executioner; and where sophistry cannot overcome the first, or flattery the second, self-love is always ready to defeat the sentence by bribing the third — a bribe that in this case is never refused, because she always comes up to the price.” F23 Since we are liable to be self-deceived, let us be the more vigilant, giving most earnest heed to every warning and reproof, lest the very warning which we slight should be that which might have shown us our danger.
Many tradesmen are ruined by neglecting their books; but he who frequently casts up his accounts will know his own position, and avoid such things as would be hazardous or destructive. No ship was ever wrecked by the captain’s over-anxiety in taking his longitude and latitude; but the wailing sea bears sad witness to the fate of careless mariners, who forgot their chart, and wantonly steered onward to rocks which prudent foresight would easily have avoided. Let us not sleep as do others, but rouse ourselves to persevering watchfulness, by the solemn consideration that if we be at last mistaken in our soups condition, the error can never be amended. Here, if one battle be lost, a hopeful commander expects to retrieve his fortunes by future victory; but let us once fail to overcome in the struggle of life, our defeat is everlasting. The bankrupt merchant cheers his spirit with the prospect of commencing trade again — business may yet prosper, competence may yet bless him; and even wealth may deign to fill his house with her hidden treasures; but he who finds himself a bankrupt in another world, without God, Without Christ, without hope, must abide for ever penniless, craving, with a beggar’s lip, the hopeless boon of one poor drop of water to cool his burning tongue. When life is over with the unrighteous, all is over — where the tree falleth there it must for ever lie; death is the Medusa’s head, petrifying our condition — he that is unholy, shall be unholy still; he that is unjust, must be unjust still. If there were the most remote possibility of rectifying our present errors in a future state of existence, we might have some excuse for superficial or infrequent investigation; this, however, is utterly out of the question, for grace is bounded by the grave. If we be in Christ, all that heaven knows of unimaginable bliss, of inconceivable glory, of unutterable ecstasy, shall be ours most richly to enjoy; but if death shall find us out of Christ, horrors surpassing thought, terrors beyond the dreamings of despair, and tortures above the guess of misery, must be our doleful, desperate doom. How full of trembling is the thought, that multitudes of fair professors are now in hell: although they, like ourselves, once wore a goodly name; and hoped, as others said of them, that they were ripening for glory; whereas they were fattening for the slaughter, and were drugged for execution with the cup of delusion, dreaming all the while that they were drinking the wines on the lees, well refined.
Surely, among the damned, there are none more horribly tormented in the flame than those who looked to walk the golden streets, but found themselves east into outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. The higher the pinnacle from which we slip, the more fearful will be our fall; crownless kings, beggared princes, and starving nobles, are the more pitiable because of their former condition of affluence and grandeur: so also-will fallen professors have a sad preeminence of damnation, from the very fact that they were once esteemed rich and increased in goods. When we consider the vast amount of unsound profession which prevails in this age, and which, like a smooth but shallow sea, doth scarcely conceal the rocks of hypocrisy — when we review the many lamentable fails which have lately occurred among the most eminent in the Church, we would lift up our voice like a trumpet, and with all our might entreat all men to be sure of their grounds of trust, lest :it should come to pass that ,sandy foundations should be discovered when ‘total destruction has rendered it too late for anything but despair.
O age of profession, put thyself in the crucible! O nation of formalists, take heed lest ye receive the form and reject the Spirit! O reader, let us each commence a thorough trial of our own spirits! Oh! what am I? My soul awake, And an impartial survey take:
Does no dark Sign, no ground of fear In practice or in heart appear? “What image does my spirit bear?
Is Jesus form ’d and living there?
Say, do his lineaments divine In thought, and word, and action, shine? “Searcher of hearts! oh search me still, The secrets of my soul reveal; My fears remove, let me appear To God and my own conscience clear. “May I at that bless ’d world arrive, Where Christ through all my soul shall live, And give full proof that He is there, Without one gloomy doubt or fear. ” III. We close our chapter by the third re-mark — the wounds of our Jesus were faithful. Here proof will be entirely an unnecessary excess, but we think meditation will be a profitable engagement. Ah! brethren, when we were groaning under the chastening hand of Jesus, we thought him cruel; do we think so ill of him now? We conceived that he was wroth with us, and would be implacable; how have our surmises proved to be utterly unfounded. The abundant benefit which we now reap from the deep plowing of our heart is enough of itself to reconcile us to the severity of the process. Precious is that wine which is pressed in the winefat of conviction; pure is that gold which is dug from the mines of repentance; and bright are those pearls which are found in the caverns of deep distress.
We might never have known such deep humility if tie had not humbled us.
We had never been so separated from fleshly trusting had He not by his rod revealed the corruption and disease of our heart. We had never learned to comfort the feeble-minded, and confirm the weak, had He not made us ready to halt, and caused our sinew to shrink. If we have any power to console the weary, it is the result of our remembrance of what we once suffered — for here lies our power to sympathize. If we can now look down with scorn upon the boastings of vain, self-conceited man, it is because our own vaunted strength has utterly failed us, and made us contemptible in our own eyes. If we can now plead with ardent desire for the souls of our fellow-men, and especially if we feel a more than common passion for the salvation of sinners, we must attribute it in no small degree to the fact that we have been smitten for sin, and therefore knowing the terrors of the Lord are constrained to persuade men. The laborious pastor, the fervent minister, the ardent evangelist, the faithful teacher, the powerful intercessor, can all trace the birth of their zeal to the sufferings they endured for sin, and the knowledge they thereby attained of its evil nature.
We have ever drawn the sharpest arrows from the quiver of our own experience. We find no sword-blades so true in metal as those which have been forged in the furnace of soul-trouble. Aaron’s rod, that budded, bore not one half so much fruit as the rod of the covenant, which is laid upon the back of every chosen child of God; this alone may render us eternally grateful to the Savior for his rebukes of love.
We may pause for a moment over another thought, if we call to mind our deep depravity. We find within us a strong and deep-seated attachment to the world and its sinful pleasures; our heart is still prone to wander, and our affections yet cleave to things below. Can we wonder then that it required a sharp knife to sever us at first from our lusts, which were then as dear to us as the members of our body? so foul a disease could only be healed by frequent droughts of bitter medicine. Let us detest the sin which rendered such rough dealing necessary, but let us adore the Savior who spared not the child for his crying. If our sin had been like the hyssop on the wall, our own hand might have gently snapped the roots; but having become lofty as a cedar of Lebanon, and firmly settled in its place, only the omnipotent voice of Jehovah could avail to break it: we will not therefore complain of the loudness of the thunder, but rejoice at the overturning of our sin. Will the man who is asleep in a burning house murmur at his deliverer for shaking him too roughly in his bed? Would the traveler, tottering on the brink of a precipice, upbraid the friend who startled him from his reverie, and saved him from destruction. Would not the harshest words and the roughest usage be acknowledged most heartily as blows of love and warnings of affection. Best of all, when we view these matters in the light of eternity, how little are these slight and momentary afflictions compared with the doom thereby escaped, or the bliss afterwards attained!
Standing where our cars Can be filled with the wailings of the lost, where our eyes are grieved by sights of the hideous torments of the damned — contemplating for an instant the fathomless depth of erred misery, with all its deprivation, desperation, and aggravation — considering that we at this hour might have been in our own persons enduring the doom we deprecate, — surely it is easy work to overlook the pain of our convict/on, and bless with all sincerity “the hand which rescued us.” O hammer which broke our fetters, how eau we think ill of thee I 0 angel which smote us on the side, and let us out of the prison-house, we do aught but love thee! O Jesus, our glorious deliverer, we would love thee, live to thee, and die for thee! seeing thou hast loved us, and hast proved that love in thy life and in thy death. Never can we think thee unmerciful, for thou wast mercifully severe. We are sure not one stroke fell too heavily, nor was one pang too painful. Faithful thou wast in all thy dealings, and our songs shall exalt thee in all thy ways, even when thou causest groans to proceed from our ‘wounded spirits. And when our spirits shall fly toward thy throne of light, though in their unceasing hallelujahs thy tender mercies and lovingkindnesses shall claim the highest notes, yet, midst the rapturous hosannahs, shall be heard the psalm “of remembrance” sounding forth our praise for the rod of the covenant and the hand of affliction. While here on earth we hymn thy praise in humbler strains, and thus adore thy love — “Long unafflicted, undismay ’d, In pleasure ’, path secure I strayed, Thou mad ’st me feel thy chastening rod, And straight I turned unto my God. “What though it pierced my fainting heart, I bless the hand that caused the smart It taught my tears awhile to flow, But saved me from eternal woe. “Oh! hadst thou left me unchastised, Thy precepts I lull still despised, And still the snare, in secret laid, Hail my unwary feet betrayed.
I love thee, therefore, O my God, And breathe towards thy dear abode.
Where, in thy presence fully blest, ‘Thy chosen saints for ever rest. ” TO THE UNCONVERTED READER.
FRIEND, — In this chapter thou hast parted company with the Christian.
Thou couldst join with him while he esteemed not Jesus, but now that Christ has begun to wound the conscience of his child, thou biddest him adieu, and proudly boasteth that thou art not one of so miserable a character. Notwithstanding this, I am loath to part with thee until I have again expostulated with thee.
Thou thinkest it a blessing to be free from the sad feelings we have been describing, but let me tell thee it is thy curse — thy greatest, deadliest curse that thou art a stranger to such inward mourning for thy guilt. In the day when the Judge of heaven and earth shall divide tares from wheat, thou wilt see how terrible it is to be an unregenerate sinner. When the flames of hell get hold upon thee, thou wilt wish in vain for that very experience which now thou dost set at naught. It will not be all Mayday with thee; thine hour of death is as sure as another man’s, and then a better than I shall convince thee of thine error. Laugh not at weeping souls, account them not to be in a pitiable plight; for sad as their condition appears, it is not half so sad as thine, and there is not one of all those moaning penitents who would change places with thee for an hour. Their grief is greater joy than thy bliss; thy laughter is not so sweet as their groans; and thy pleasant estate is despicable compared with their sorest distress. Besides, remember those who are now in such darkness will soon see the light, but thou shalt soon walk in increasing and unceasing darkness. Their sorrows shall be ended; thine are not yet commenced, and when commenced shall never know a conclusion. Theirs is hopeful distress; thine will be hopeless agony.
Their chastisement comes from a loving Jesus; thine will proceed from an angry God. Theirs has for its certain end ETERNAL SALVATION; thine\par EVERLASTING DAMNATION. Oh! bethink thee for a moment, wouldst thou rather Choose to have painless mortification and so perish, than to feel soreness in thy wounds and then receive a cure? Wouldst thou rather lie and rot in a dungeon than bruise thyself by climbing the wall to escape?
Surely thou wouldst endure anything rather than be damned and I bid thee take this for truth, that thou shalt either repent or burn; thou shalt either shed tears of penitence here, or else shriek in vain for a drop of water in that pit’ which burneth with fire unquenchable. What sayest thou to this?
Canst thou dwell with devouring flames? Canst thou abide the eternal burnings? Ah! be not mad, I entreat thee. Why shouldst thou destroy thyself? What good will come of it when thy blood shall be laid at thine own door? Hast thou not sinned? Why then think it foolish to repent? Has not God threatened his fierce wrath to him that goeth on in his iniquity’? ‘Why then despise those whom grace has turned, and who therefore are constrained to bid thee turn from the error of thy sinful ways? May the Lord stay thy madness in time, and give thee repentance, otherwise, “Tophet is ordained of old: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.” F24