JESUS DESIRED. “Oh that I knew where I might find him! ” — Job 23:3.
AWHILE the woundings of Jesus are given in the dark, and we do not recognize the hand which smiteth us; but it is not always to be so.
Incessant disappointments put us out of all heart with the former refuges of our souls, and renewed discoveries make us sadly aware of, the superlative evil dwelling in our flesh; stripped thus of all covering without, and trembling at our own shameful impotence, we hail with gladness the news of a Savior for sinners. As on the frail raft, the almost skeleton mariners, having long ago devoured their last morsel, raise themselves with all their remaining strength to catch a glimpse of a passing sail, if haply it may bring relief, so doth the dying sinner receive with eagerness the message of coming grace. He might have scorned the terms of mercy once, but, like a city long besieged, he is now too glad to receive peace at any price. The grace which in his high estate he counted as a worthless thing, is now the great object of his combined desires He pants to see the Man who is “mighty to save,” and would count it honor to kiss his feet or unloose the latchet of his shoes. No caviling at sovereignty, no murmuring at selfhumiliation, no scorning the unpurchasable gifts of discriminating love; the man is too poor to be proud, too sick to struggle with his physician, too much afraid of death to refuse the king’s pardon because it puts him under obligation. Happy is it for us if we understand this position of utter helplessness into which we must all be brought if we would know Christ!
It is one of the strange things in the dealings of Jesus, that even when we arrive at this state of entire spiritual destitution, we do not always become at once the objects of his justifying grace. Long seasons frequently intervene between our knowledge of our ruin, our hearing of a deliverer, and the application of that deliverer’s hired. The Lord’s own called ones frequently turn their eyes to the hills, and find no help coming therefrom; yea, they wish to look unto him, but they are so blinded that they cannot discern him as their hope and consolation. This is not, as some would rashly conclude, because he is not the Savior for such as they are. Far otherwise. Unbelief crieth out, “Ah I my vileness disqualifies me for Christ, and my. exceeding sinfulness shuts out his love!” How foully doth unbelief lie when it thus slandereth the tender heart of Jesus! how inhumanly cruel it is when it thus takes the cup of salvation from the only lips which have a right to drink thereof! We have noticed in the preaching of the present day too much of a saint’s gospel, and too little of a sinner’s gospel. Honesty, morality, and goodness, are commended not so much as the marks of godliness, as the life of it; and men are told that as they sow, so they shall reap, without the absolutely necessary caveat that salvation is not of man, neither by man, and that grace cometh not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly. Not thus spake our ancient preachers when in all its fullness they declared — “Not the righteous, not the righteous — Sinners. Jesus came to save. ” The words of a much calumniated preacher are not less bold than true: — “There is nothing in men, though never so vile, that can debar a person from a part in Christ. Some will not have Christ, except they can pay for him; others dare not meddle with Christ, because they are such vile and wretched creatures, that they think it impossible that Christ should belong to such wretched persons as they are. You know not (saith one) what an abominable sinner I am; you look upon others, and their sins are but ordinary, but mine are of a deep dye, and I shall die in them: the rebellion of my heart is another kind of re-bell/on than is in others. Beloved, let me tell you freely from the Lord, let men deem you as they will, and esteem yourself as bad as you can, I tell you from the Lord, and I will make it good, there is not that sinfulness that can be imagined in a creature that can be able to separate or debar any of you from a part in Christ; even though you are thus sinful, Christ may be your Christ. Nay, I go further.; suppose one person in this congregation should not only be the vilest sinner in the world, but should have all the sins of others, besides what he himself hath committed; if all these were laid upon the back of him, he should be a greater sinner than now he is; yet, if he should bear all the sins of others, as I said, there h no bar to this person, but Christ may be his portion. ‘ He bore the sins of many’ (saith the text), but he bare them not as his own, he bare them for many. Suppose the many, that are sinners, should have all their sins translated to one in particular, still there is no more sill than Christ died for, though they be all collected together. If other men’s sins. were translated upon you, and. they had none, then they needed no Christ; all the need they had. of Christ were translated to you, and then the whole of Christ’s obedience should be yours. Do but observe the strain of the Gospel, you shall find that no sin in the world can be a bar to hinder a person from having a part in Christ; look upon the condition of persons ‘(as they are revealed in the Gospel) to whom Christ :is reached out; and the consideration of their persons will plainly show to you that there is no kind of sinfulness can bar a person from having a part in Christ. Consider Christ’s own expression, ‘I came to seek and to save that which was lost; I came not to call the righteous, out sinners, to repentance; the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick ;’ here still the persons are considered in the worst condition (as some might think) rather than in the best. Our Savior is pleased to express himself in a direct contrary way to the opinion of men. ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners ;’ the poor publican that had nothing to plead for himself went away more justified than the proud pharisee, who pleaded with God, ‘I thank thee that! am not such an one.’ “Men think righteousness brings them near to Christ; beloved, our righteousness is that which puts a man away from Christ I stumble not at the expression, it is the clear truth of the Gospel; not simply a doing of service and duty doth put away from Christ; but upon the doing of duty and service to expect acceptance with Christ or participation in Christ — this kind of righteousness is the only separation between Christ and a people; and whereas no sinfulness in the world can debar a people, their righteousness may debar them.” F25 Possibly some may object to such terms as these as being too strong and unguarded, but a full consideration of them will show that they are such as would naturally flow from the lips of a Luther when inculcating faith alone as the means of our salvation, and are fully borne out by the strong expressions of Paul when writing to the Romans and Galatians. The fact is, that very strong terms are necessary to make men see the whole of this truth, for it is one which .of all things the mind can least receive.
If it were possible to make men clearly ‘understand that justification is not in the least degree by their own works, how easy would it be to comfort them! but herein lies the greatest of all difficulties. Man cannot be taught that his goodness is no increase to God’s wealth, and his sin no diminution of divine riches; he will for ever be imagining that some little presents must be offered, and that mercy never can be the gratuitous Bounty of Heaven.
Even the miserable creature who has learned his own bankruptcy and beggary, while assured that he cannot bring anything, yet trembles to come naked and as he is. He knows he cannot do anything, but he can scarcely credit the premise which seems too good to be true — “ I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” Yea, when he cannot deny the evidence of his own eyes, because the kind word stares him in the face he will turn away from its glories under the sad supposition that they are intended for all men save himself.
The air, the stream, the fruit, the joys and luxuries of life, he takes freely, nor ever asks whether these were not intended for a special people; but at the upper springs he stands fearing to dip his pitcher, lest the flowing flood should refuse to enter it because the vessel was too earthy to be fit to contain such pure and precious water: conscious that in Christ is all his help, it yet appears too great a presumption even to touch the hem of the Savior’s garment. Nor is it easy to persuade the mourning penitent that sin is no barrier to grace, but that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound ;” and only the spirit of God can make the man who knows himself as nothing at all, receive Jesus as his all in all. When the Lord has set his heart on a man, it is not a great difficulty that will move him from his purpose of salvation, and therefore “he devises means that HIS banished be not expelled from him.” By the divine instruction of the Holy Ghost, the sinner is taught that Jesus is the sinner’s friend, adapted to his case, and “able to save unto the uttermost.” Even then, too often, the work is not complete; for the soul now labors to find him ‘whom it needs, and it often happens that the search is prolonged through months of weariness and days of languishing. If the Church, in the canticles, confesses, “By night on my bed! sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but! found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth; I sought him, but I found him not,” surely, even if our reader’s history does not confirm the fact that grace is sometimes hidden, he will at least assent to the probability -of it, and pray for the many who are crying, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!”
May Jesus smile on our humble endeavor to trace the steps of our own soul, so that any who are in this miserable condition may escape by the same means! O ye prisoners of hope, who are seeking a Redeemer who apparently eludes your grasp, let your earnest prayer accompany your reading, While you fervently cry — Savior, cast a pitying eye, Bid my sins sad sorrows end:
Whither should a sinner fly?
Art not thou the sinners friend?
Rest in thee I gasp to find, Wretched I, and poor, and blind. “Didst thou ever see a soul More in need of help than mine?
Then refuse to make me whole; Then withhold the balm divine:
But if I do want thee most, Come, and seek, and save the lost.
Haste, oh haste to my relief; From the iron furnace take; Rid me of my sin and grief, For thy love and mercy ’s sake Set my heart at liberty, Show forth all thy power in me. “Me, the vilest of the race, Most unholy, most unclean; Me, the farthest from thy face, Full of misery and sin; Me with earns of love receive; Me, of sinners chief — forgive! ” f28 We propose — I. To mark the hopeful signs connected with this state of heart; II. To give certain excellent reasons why the soul is permitted to tarry in it; and III. To hold forth sundry plain directions for behavior in it, and escape from it.
I. It is our pleasant duty to note the hopeful signs which gladden ‘us when reviewing this state. 1. We are cheered by observing that the longing of the spirit is now entirely after Jew “Oh that I knew where I might find Him! ” Once, like the many whom David mentions, the inquiry was, “Who will show us any good?” A question indiscriminately addressed to any and all within hearing, demanding with eagerness any good in all the world. But now the desires have found a channel, they are no longer like the wide-spread sheet of water covering with shallow depth a tract of marsh teeming with malaria and pestilence, but having found a channel, they rush forward in one deep and rapid stream, seeking the broad ocean, where sister streams have long since mingled their floods.
Of most men the complaint is true, that they will “bore and thread the spheres” with the “quick, piercing eye” of the astronomer, or “cut through the working wave” to win the pearl, or wear themselves away in smoky toil, while as “subtle chymics” they divest and strip the creature naked, till they find the callow principles within their nests; in fine, will do anything and everything of inferior importance, but here are so negligent that it is truly asked, “What hath not man sought out and found But his dear God? ” f29 When the heart can express itself in the words of our text, it is far otherwise, for to it every other subject is trivial, and every other object vain. Then, too, there was the continual prayer after pardon, conversion, washing, instruction, justification, adoption, and all other spiritual blessings; but now the soul discerns all mercies bound up in one bundle in Jesus, and it inquires no more for cassia, aloes, and camphire, but asks for Him who hath the savor of all good ointments. It is no small mark of grace when we can esteem Jesus to be all we want. He who believeth there is gold in the mine, and desires to obtain it, will not be long before he hath it; and he who knoweth Jesus to be full of hid treasures of mercy, and seeketh him diligently, shall not be too long detained from a possession of him. We have never known a sinner anxious for Jesus — for Jesus only — who aid not in due time discover Jesus as his friend, “ waiting to be gracious.”
Our own experience recalls us to the period when we panted for the Lord, even for Him, our only want. Vain to us were the mere ordinances — vain as bottles scorched by the simoom, and drained of their waters. Vain were ceremonies — vain as empty wells to the thirsty Arab. Vain were the delights of the flesh — bitter as the waters of Marsh, which even the parched lips of Israel refused to drink. Vain Were the directions of the legal preacher — useless as the howling of the wind to the benighted wanderer.
Vain, worse than vain, were our refuges of lies, which fell about our ears like Dagon’s temple on the heads of the worshippers. One only hope we had, one sole refuge for our misery; Save where that ark floated, north, south, east, and west, were one broad expanse of troubled waters; save where that star burned, the sky was one vast field of unmitigated darkness.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! he alone, he without another, had become the solitary hiding-place against the storm. As the wounded, lying on the battle-field, with wounds which, like fires, consume his moisture, utters only one monotonous cry of thrilling importunity, “Water, water, water!” so did we perpetually send our prayer to heaven, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me! O Jesus, come to me!” “Gracious Lord! incline thine ear, My requests vouchsafe to hear; Hear my never-ceasing cry — Give me Christ, or else I die. ” Wealth and honor I disdain, Earthly comforts, Lord, are vain; These can never satisfy, Give me Christ, or else I die. “Lord, deny me what thou wilt, Only ease me of my guilt; Suppliant at thy feet I lie, Give me Christ, or else I die. “All unholy and unclean, I am nothing else but sin; On thy mercy I rely, Give me Christ, or else I die. “Thou dost freely save the lost, In thy grace alone I trust; With my earnest suit comply, Give me Christ, or else I die. “Thou dost promise to forgive All who in thy Son believe; Lord, I know thou canst not lie, Give me Christ, or else I die. Father, does thy justice frown?
Let me shelter in thy Son!
Jesus, to thy arms I fly, Come and save me, or I die. ” As he that tantalizeth thirst with painted rivers — as he that embittereth hunger’s pangs by the offering of pictured fruits, so were they who spoke of ought else save Christ and him crucified. Our heart ached with a void the whole earth could not fill; it heaved with a desire as irresistible as the mountain torrent, and as little able to be restrained as the volcano when swelling with its fiery lava. Every power, every passion, every wish, moved onward in one direction. Like to an army pressing upwards through a breach, did our united powers rush forward to enter the city of salvation by one door — that door Jesus the Lord. Our soul could spare no portion of itself for others; it pressed the whole of its strength into the service to win Christ, stud to be found in him. And oh! how glorious did Jesus then seem! what would we not have given to have had the scantiest morsel of his grace? “A kingdom for a horse!” cried the routed monarch. “A kingdom for a look — a world for a smile — our whole selves for one kind word!” was then our far wiser prayer. Oh what crushing we would have endured, if in the crowd we could have approached his person what trampling would we have borne, if our finger might have touched the lowest hem of his garments I Bear us witness, ye hours of ardent desire, what horrors We would have braved, what dangers we would have encountered, what tortures we would have Suffered, for one brief glimpse of Him whom our soul desired to know! We could have trodden the burning marl of hell at his bidding, if his face had but been in prospect; and as for Peter’s march upon the deep, we would have waded to our very’ necks without a fear, if it were but with half a hope of a welcome from the Lord on the other side.
He had no robbers then to share his throne, no golden calf to pro-yoke’ him to jealousy. He was the monarch reigning without a rival. No part of our heart was then shut up :from him; he was welcomed in every chamber of our being. There was not a tablet of the heart which was not engraven with his name, nor a string of our harp which did not vibrate with his praise, nor an atom of our frame which would not have leaped for very joy at the distant sound of his footsteps. Such a condition of longing alone for Jesus is so healthy, that many advanced believers would be well-nigh content to retrace their steps, if they might once more be fully occupied with that desire to the exclusion of every other.
If my reader be fully resolved to satisfy his hunger only with the manna which cometh down from heaven — if he be determined to slake his thirst at no stream save that which gusheth from the Rock — if he will accept no cordial of comfort save that which is compounded of the herbs of Gethsemane — it is, it must be, well with him. If none but Jesus is thy delight, take heart. Augustine cast away Tully’s works because there was no Christ in them; if thou, like him, dost renounce all but Christ, Christ will never renounce thee. 2. Another pleasing feature of this case is, the intense sincerity and ardent earnestness of the soul. Here is an “Oh!” — a deep, impassioned, burning ejaculation of desire. It is no fanciful wish, which a little difficulty will presently overcome — -it :is no effervescence of excitement, which time will remove; but it is a real want, fixed in the core of the heart so firmly, that nothing but a supply of the need call silence the importunate petition.
It is not the passing sigh, which the half. awakened heave as a compliment to an eloquent discourse or a stirring tract, — it is not the transient wish of the awe-struck spectator who has seen a sudden death or a notable judgment, — it is not even the longing of a soul in love for a time with the moral excellences of Christ; but it is the prayer of one who needs must pray, who cannot, who dare not, rest satisfied until he find Jesus — who Can no more restrain his groaning than the light clouds can refuse to fly before the violence of the wind. We have, we hope, many a time enjoyed nearness to the throne of grace in prayer; but perhaps never did such a prayer escape our lips as that which we offered in the bitterness of our spirit when seeking the Savior. We have often poured out our hearts with greater freedom, with more delight, with stronger faith, with more eloquent language; but never, never have we cried with more vehemence of unquenchable desire, or more burning heat of insatiable longing. There was then no sleepiness or sluggishness in our devotion; we did not then need the whip of command to drive us to labors of prayer; but our soul could not be content unless with sighs and lamentations — with strong crying and tears it gave vent to our bursting hearts. Then we had no need to be dragged to our closets like oxen to the slaughter, but we flew to them like doves to their windows; and when there we needed no pumping up of desires, but they gushed forth like a fountain of waters, although at times we felt we could scarcely find them a channel.
Mr. Philpot justly observes, “When the Lord is graciously pleased to enable, the soul to pour out its desires, and to offer up its fervent breathings at his feet, and to give them out as He gives them in, then to call upon the Lord is no point of duty, which is to be attended to as a duty; it is no point of legal constraint, which must be done because the Word of God speaks of it; but it is a feeling, an experience, an in. ward work, which springs from the Lord’s hand, and which flows in the Lord’s own divine channel. Thus when the Lord is pleased to pour out this ‘ Spirit of grace and of supplication,’ we must pray; but we do not pray because we must; we pray because we have no better occupation, we have no more earnest desire, we have no more powerful feeling, and we have no more invincible and irresistible constraint. The living child of God groans and sighs, because it is the expression of his wants — because it is a language which pours forth the feelings of his heart — because groans and sighs are pressed out of him by the heavy weight upon him. A man lying in the street with a heavy weight upon him will call for help; he does not say, ‘It is my duty to cry to the passers-by for help;’ he cries for help because he wants to be delivered. A man with a broken leg does not say, ‘It is my duty to send for a surgeon ;’ he wants him to set the limb. And a man in a raging disease does not say, ‘It is my duty to send for a physician; he wants him to heal his disease. So when God the Holy Spirit works in a child of God, he prays, not out of a sense of duty, but from a burdened heart; he prays, because he cannot but pray; he groans, because he cannot but groan; he sighs, because he must sigh, having an inward weight, an inward burden, an inward experience, in which, and out of which, he is compelled to call upon the Lord.” f30 The supplication of the penitent is no mechanical form of devotion, followed for the sake of merit; it is the natural consequence of the wounding of Jesus; and its offerer knows no more of merit in presenting it than in breathing, or any other act which necessity prevents him from suspending. This “Oh!” is one which will not rise once and then sink for ever; it is not the explosion of a starry rocket, succeeded by darkness; but it will be an incessant ejaculation of the inner man. As at some of our doors every hour brings a post, so at the door of mercy every hour will hear a prayer from such an one; in fact, the soul will be full of prayer even when it is not in the exercise itself — even as a censer may be filled with incense when no fire is burning in it. Prayer wilt become a state of the soul, perpetual and habitual, needing nothing but opportunity to develop itself in the outward act of petitioning at the feet of mercy. It is well when Mr. Desires-awake is sent to court, for he will surely prevail. Violence taketh the kingdom by force; hard knocks open mercy’s door; swift; running overtakes the promise; hard wrestling wins the blessing.
When the child crieth well, his lungs are sound; and when the seeker can with impetuous earnestness implore pardon, he is most surely not far from health. When the soil of our garden begins to rise, we know that the bulb will soon send forth its shoot; so when the heart breaketh for the longing which it hath unto God’s testimonies, we perceive that Jesus will soon appear to gladden the spirit. 3. We are rejoiced to observe the sense of ignorance which the seeker here expresses — “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” Men are by nature very wise in matters of religion, and in their own opinion they might easily set up for Doctors of Divinity without the slightest spiritual enlightenment.
It is a remarkable fact that men who find every science in the world to be too much for them, even when they have but waded ankle-deep into the elements thereof, can yet affect to be masters of theology, and competent, yea, infallible judges in matters of religion. Nothing is more easy than to pretend to a profound acquaintance with the religion of the cross, and even to maintain a reputation as a well-taught and highly-instructed disciple of the Lamb; and, at the same time, nothing is more rare than really to be taught of God, and illuminated by the Spirit; and yet without this the religion of Jesus never can be really understood. Natural men will array themselves in robes of learning, ascend the chair of profession, and thence teach to others doctrines with which they fancy themselves to be thoroughly conversant; and if a word were hinted of their deficiency in knowledge, and their inherent inability to discern spiritual things, how wrathful would they become, how fiercely would they denounce the bigotry of such an assertion, and how furiously would they condemn the cant and fanaticism which they conceive to be the origin of so humiliating a doctrine!
To be as little children, and bend their necks to the yoke of Jesus, the Master, is quite out of the question with the men of this generation, who love to philosophize the Word, and give what they call “intellectual” views of the Gospel. How little do they suspect that, professing themselves to be wise, they have become fools! How little do they imagine that their grand theories and learned essays are but methods of the madness of folly, and, like paintings on the windows, of their understanding, assist to shut out the light of the Holy Spirit. Self-conceit in men who are destitute of heavenly light, unconsciously to them doth exercise itself on that subject upon which their ignorance is of necessity the greatest. They will acknowledge that when they have studied astronomy, its sublimities are beyond them; they will not arrogate to themselves a lordship of the. entire regions of any one kingdom of knowledge: but here, in theology, they feel themselves abundantly qualified, if they have some readiness in ‘the original languages, and have visited the schools of the universe; whereas a man might with as much justice style himself professor of botany, because he knows the scientific names of the classes and orders, although he has never seen one of the flowers’ thus named and arranged — for what can education teach of theology but names and theories? Experience alone can bring the things themselves before our eyes, and in the light of Jesus can we alone discern them. We are pleased, therefore, to discover in the utterance of the awakened soul a confession of ignorance. The man inquires “Where he can find the Lord?” He is self-confident no longer, But is willing to ask his way to heaven; he is prepared to go to the very dame-school of piety, and learn the alphabet of godliness. He may be distinguished for his learning, but now a little child may lead him; his rifles, his gown, his diploma, his dignity, all these are laid aside, and down he sits at the feet of Jesus to begin again, or rather to commence learning what he never knew before.
Conviction of ignorance is the doorstep of the temple of wisdom. “It is said in the Creed that Christ descended into hell: descendit ut ascendat — He took his rising .from the lowest place to ascend into the highest; and herein Christ readeth a good lecture unto us — he teacheth us that humility is the way to glory.” Seneca remarked, “I suppose that many might have attained to wisdoms had they not thought that they had already attained it.”
We must first be emptied of every particle of fleshly wisdom, ere we can say that “Christ is made unto us wisdom.” We must know our folly, and confess it, before we can be accepted as the disciples of Jesus. It is marvelous how soon he doth unfrock us of our grand apparel, and how easily our wisdom disappears like a bubble vanishing in air. We were never greater fools than when our wisdom was the greatest in our own esteem; but as soon as real wisdom came, straightway our opinion of ourselves fell from the clouds to the bottom of the mountains. We were no divines or doctors when we were under the convincing hand of the Spirit; we were far more like babes for ignorance, and we felt ourselves to be very beasts for folly. F33 Like men lost in a dark wood, we could not find our paths; the roads which were once apparent enough, were then hedged up With thorns; and the very entrance to the narrow way had to be pointed out by Evangelist, and marked by a light. Nevertheless, blessed is he who desireth to learn the fear of the Lord, for he shall find it the beginning of wisdom.
Nor, in the present case, hath a sense of ignorance driven the man to pry into secrets too deep for human wisdom. He doth not exclaim, “Oh that I knew where sin took its origin, or how predestination meeteth the agency of man!” No; he seeks only this, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him! ” Many are puzzling themselves about abstract questions while their eternal interests are in imminent peril; such men are like the man who counted the stars, but taking no heed to his feet, fell into a pit and perished. “We may sooner think to span the sun, or grasp a star, or see a gnat swallow a leviathan, than fully understand the debates of eternity… Too great an inquisitiveness beyond our line is as much a provoking arrogance as a blockish negligence of what is revealed, is a slighting ingratitude.” F35 The quickened spirit disdains to pluck the wild flowers of carnal knowledge; he is not ambitious to reach the tempting bean-ties blooming on the edge of the cliffs which skirt the sea of the unrevealed; but he anxiously looks around for the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley. He who thus studieth only to know Christ, shall soon, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, learn enough to spell out his own salvation. 4. An evidence of grace is presented to us by the absence of all choice as to where the Savior is discovered. “Oh that! knew where I might find him!”
Here is no stipulation; Jesus is wanted, and let him be wherever he may, the soul is ‘prepared to go after him. We, when in this state of experience, knew little of sect or denomination. Before our conviction we could fight for names, like mercenaries for other men’s countries. The mottoes of our party were higher in our esteem than the golden rules of Christianity; and we should have been by no means grieved at the conflagration of every other section of professors, if our own might have been elevated on the ruins. Every rubric and form, every custom and antiquity, we would have stained with our blood, if necessary, in order to preserve them; and mightily did we shout concerning our own Church, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” Not a nail in the church-door but we reverenced it — not a vestment which we did not admire; or, if we loved not pomp, simplicities were magnified into our very household gods. We hated popery, but were essentially papistical; for we could have joined His Unholiness in all his anathemas, if he would but have hurled them against those who differed from us. We too did, in our own fashion, curse by bell, book, and candle, all who were not of our faith and order; and could scarcely think it possible that many attained salvation beyond the pale of our Church, or that Jesus deigned to give them so much as a transient visit.
How changed we were when, by Divine grace, the sectarianism of our ungodliness did hide its head for shame! We then thought that we would go among Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Independents, Presbyterians, or anywhere, so that we could but find a Redeemer for our guilty souls. It is more than probable that we found it necessary to shift our quarters, and attend the very house which we lately detested, to bow with the people whom once we held in abhorrence. All the fancies of our former lives dissolved before the heat of our desire. The huntsman loveth the mountain which shadeth his valley more than all its giant brothers; but nevertheless, when in hot pursuit of the chamois, he leapeth from crag to crag, and asks not what is the name of the rock upon which the object of his chase hath bounded; so the sinner, ardently-following after the Savior, will pursue him whithersoever he goeth.
Nor at such seasons did we regard the respect the ability of the denomination or the grandeur of the structure in which God was adored.
The chapel in the dark alley, the despised and deserted church, the disreputable schoolroom, were now no longer noticed with a sneer; but whether under the vaulted sky of heaven, the cobwebbed thatch of a barn, the dingy ceiling of a village station, or the magnificent roof of the temple of the great assembly, we only sought one thing, and that one thing found, all places were on a level. No praising a church for its architectural beauty — no despising a meeting-house for its aboriginal ugliness; both buildings were valued not by their figure but by their contents; and where Jesus was more easily to be found, there did we make our haunt. It is true our servants, our plowmen, and our paupers, sat with us to hear the same word; but we did not observe the difference, though once perhaps we might have looked aghast if any but my lady in satin, or my lord in superfine broad. doth, had ventured into a pew within the range of our breath. To us the company mattered not, so long as the Master of the Feast would but reveal himself. The place might be unconsecrated, the minister unordained, the clerk .uneducated, the sect despicable, and the service unpretending, but if Jesus did but show his face there it was all we wished for. There is no authentic account of the dimensions, the fashion, or furniture, of the room in which Jesus suddenly appeared and pronounced his “peace be unto you.” Nor do we think that any one of the assembly even so much as thought thereof while their Lord was present. It is well when we are content to go whithersoever the Lamb doth lead. Doubtless, the catacombs of Rome, the glens of Scotland, and the conventicles of England, have been more frequented by the King of kings than cathedrals or chapels-royal: therefore do the godly count it little where they worship, looking only for His presence which maketh a hovel glorious, and deprecating His absence, which makes even a temple desolate. We would in our anxious mood have followed Jesus in the cave, the mountain, the ravine, or the catacomb, so that we might but have been within the circle of his influence.
Nor would we have blushed to have sought Jesus among his kinsfolk and acquaintance — the sick, the poor, the uneducated, but yet sincere children of light. How did we then delight to sit in that upper room where stars looked between the tiles, and hear the heavenly convermation which, from a miserable pallet surrounded by ragged hangings, an enfeebled saint of the Lord did hold with us like divers, we valued the pearl, even though the shell might be a broken one, nor did we care where we went to win it.
When those creaking stairs trembled beneath our weight, when that bottomless chair afforded us uneasy rest, and when the heat and effluvia of that sick-room drove our companion away, did we not feel more than doubly repaid while that friend of Jesus told us of all his love, his faithfulness and grace? It is frequently the case that the most despised servants of the Lord are made the chosen instruments of comforting distressed souls, and building them up in the faith. The writer confesses his eternal obligations to an old cook, who was despised as an Antinomian, but who in her kitchen taught him many of the deep things of God, and removed many a doubt from his youthful mind. Even eminent men have been indebted to humble individuals for their deliverance: take, for in, stance, Paul, and his comforter, Ananias; and in our own day, Bunyan, instructed by the holy women at Bedford. True seekers will hunt everywhere for Jesus, and will not be too proud to learn from beggars or little children. We take gold from dark mines or muddy streams; it werefoolish to refuse instruction in salvation from the most unlettered or uncouth. Let us be really in earnest after Christ, then circumstance and place will be lightly esteemed.
We remark also that there is no condition for distance in thin question, it is only “where ;” and though it be a thousand miles away, the man has his feet in readiness for the journey. Desire o’er leapeth space; leagues to it are inches, and oceans narrow into-straits. Where, at one time, a mile Would tire the body, a long journey after the Word is counted as nothing: yea, to stand in the house of God for hours during service is reckoned a pleasure and not a hardship. The Hindoo devotee, to find a hopeless salvation, will roll himself along for hundreds of miles: it seems But natural that we, when searching for eternal life, should count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. Mary Magdalene only needed to know where they had laid her Lord: and her resolve was, “I will take him away;” for surely, she thought, her bodily strength could never fail under such a Burden, and she measured the power of her body by the might of her love. So do destitute sinners, who need a Savior, altogether laugh at hazards or hardships which may intervene. Come mountain or valley, rapid or rock, whirlpool or tempest, desire hath girded ‘.he traveler with an omnipotence of heart, and a world of dangers is trodden beneath the feet, with the shout of Deborah — “O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.” “I doubt not,” said Rutherford to Lady Ken-mute, “that if hell were betwixt you and Christ, as a river which ye behoved to cross ere ye could come at him, but ye would willingly put in your foot, and make through to be at him, upon hope that he would come in himself into the deepest of the river, and lend you his hand.” Doubtless it is so with thee, reader, if thou art as we have described.
We think also we may be allowed to add, that The earnest inquirer does not object to any position of humiliation which may be required of him ere he eau “see Jesus. ” It is only demanded “where?” and though the reply may be, “There, in yonder cell of penitence, on your bended knees, stripped of all your glories, shall you alone behold him,” no delay will reveal the lurking pride; but an instantaneous and joyful obedience will manifest that the one absorbing passion has entirely swallowed up all ideas of dignity, honor, and pride.
Like Benhadad, when in danger, hearing that the king of Israel is a merciful king, we will consent to put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our necks, and go in unto him, hoping for some words of favor. We make a surrender at discretion, without reserve of the arms of our sins or the baggage of our pleasures. He that is down so low as to be wholly submissive, will find that even justice will not smite him. Mercy always flieth near the ground. The flower of grace groweth in the dells of humility.
The stars of love shine in the night of our self-despair. If truth lie not in a well, certainly mercy doth. The hand of justice spares the sinner who has thrown away both the sword of rebellion and the plumes of his pride. If we will do and be anything or everything, so that we may but win Christ, we shall soon find him to be everything to us. There is no more hopeful sign of coming grace than an emptiness of our own selfish terms and conditions, for he resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the lowly.
Thus have we tried to sum up all the promises which this state affords, but cheering though they be, we fear few will accept the comfort ‘they afford; for “as he that poureth vinegar upon niter, so is he that singeth songs to a sad heart ;” and it is generally in vain to condole a patient under an operation by any reflections on the benefit thereof, seeing that while the pain lasteth he will still cry out and groan. Nevertheless, we who have escaped cannot refrain from singing without the walls of the dungeon, in the hope that some within may hear and take heart. Let us say to every mourner in Zion, Be of good cheer, for” He who walked in the garden, and made a noise that made Adam hear his voice, will also at some time walk in your soul, and make you hear a more sweet word, yet ye will not always hear the noise and din of his feet when He walketh.” F36 Ephraim is bemoaning and mourning “when he thinketh God is far off, and heareth not; and yet God is like the bridegroom, standing only behind a thin wall, f38 and laying to his ear, for he saith himself, I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself.” “I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.”
Be thou of good cheer, O seeker; go on, for hope prophesies success, and the signs of thy case prognosticate a happy deliverance. None who are like thee have failed at last; persevere, and be saved.
II. We are now arrived at our second division, wherein we proposed to consider the reasons of this tarrying. May our Divine Illuminator enlighten us while we write!
We believe that many are delayed because they seek not rightly, or because they seek not eagerly, with these we have just now nothing to do; we are dealing with the genuine convert, the sincere searcher, who yet cannot find his Lord. To the exercised mind no question is more hard to answer than this, “Why doth he not hear?” but when delivered from our distress, nothing is more full of joy than the rich discovery that “he hath done all things well.”
If our reader be now in sorrow, let him believe what he cannot see, and receive, the testimony of others who now bear witness that “God’s way is in the sea, and his path in the deep waters.” 1. We now perceive that it afforded pleasure to Jesus to view the labors of our faith in pursuit after him. Jesus doth often hide his face from his children, that he may hear the sweet music of their cry. When the woman of Canaan came before our Lord, he answered her not a word; and when her importunity did somewhat prevail, a harsh sentence was all she obtained. Yet the blessed Jesus was not angry with her, but was pleased to behold her faith struggling amid the waves of his seeming neglect, and finding; anchorage even on that hard word which appeared like a rock ready to wreck her hopes. He was so charmed with her holy daring and heavenly resolution, that he detained her for a time to feast his eyes upon the lovely spectacle. The woman had faith in Christ, and Jesus would let all men see what faith can do in honor of its Lord.
Great kings have among their attendants certain well-trained artistes who play before them, while they, sitting with their court, be. hold their feats with pleasure. Now, Faith is the king’s champion, whom he delights to put upon labors of the most herculean kind. Faith hath, when bidden by its Master, stopped the sun and chained the moon; it hath dried the sea and divided rivers; it hath dashed bulwarks to the ground; quenched the violence of fire; stopped the mouths of lions; turned to fight the armies of the aliens, and robbed death of its prey. Importunity is the king’s running footman; he hath been known to run whole months together without losing his breath, and over mountains he leaps with the speed of Asahel; therefore doth the Lord at times try his endurance, for he loveth to see what his own children can perform, Prayer, also, is one of the royal musicians; and although many do prefer his brother, who is called Praise, yet this one hath ever had an equal share of the king’s favor. His lute playeth so sweetly that the heavens have smiled with sunshine for the space of three years and six months at the sound thereof; and when again the melodious notes were heard, the same skies did weep for joy, and rain descended on the earth.
Prayer hath made God’s ax of vengeance stay in mid air, when hastening to fell the cumberer to the ground; and his sword hath been lulled to sleep in its scabbard by the soft sonnets of prayer, when it sung of pardons bought with blood. Therefore, because Jesus delighteth in these courtiers whom he hath chosen, he doth ever find them work to do, whereby they may minister unto his good pleasure. Surely thou who walkest in darkness, and seest no light, thou mayst be well content to grope thy way for a while, if it be true that this midnight journey is but one of the feats of faith which God is pleased that thou shouldst perform. Go on then in confidence. 2. We may sometimes regard this delay as an exhibition of Divine sovereignty. God is not bound to persons nor to time; as he giveth to whom he pleaseth, so doth he bestow his favors in his own time and manner. Very frequently the prayer and the answer attend each other, as the echo doth the speaker’s voice. Usually it is, “Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear.” But Divine prerogative must be manifested and maintained, and therefore he doth sometimes give temporary denials or protracted delays. Through some of our squares the right of way is private, and in order to maintain the right, although the road is usually open, yet there are gates which at times are closed for a season, lest any should imagine that they could demand a passage; so, although mercy be flee and speedy, yet it is not always immediate, that men may know that the giver has a right to refuse. Jesus is no paid physician, who is bound to give us his calls; therefore he will sometimes step in late in the day, that we may remember he is not our debtor. Oh! our hearts loathe the pride which bows not to Divine sovereignty, but arrogantly declares God to be under obligations to his creatures. Those who are full of this satanic spirit will not assert this in plain language, but while they cavil at election, talking with impious breath about “partiality,”” injustice,” “respect of persons” and such like things, they too plainly show that their old nature is yet unhumbled by Divine grace. We are sure of this, that no convinced sinner, when under a sense of his ill-desert, will ever dispute the justice of God in damning him, or quarrel with the distinguishing grace which Heaven giveth to one and not to another. If such a person has not yet been able to sub. scribe to the doctrine of sovereign, discriminating, electing grace, we wonder not that he hath found no peace; for verily Jesus will have him know that his bounties are in his own hand, and that none can lay any claim to them.
Herbert, in his Country Parson, says,. “He gives no set pension unto any, for then, in time, it will lose ;he name of charity with the poor, and they will reckon upon it, as on a debt ;” truly it would be even so with the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, if they were always bestowed Where man at first desires them. There is nothing over which the Lord is more jealous than his crown — his sovereignty — his right to do as he will with his own; How grateful should we be that he uses such lenient and gentle means to preserve his dignity; and that while he might, if he pleased, block up the gates of salvation for ever, he doth only for a moment cause them to be closed, that we may sing the more loudly when we obtain an entrance through them. 3. A ministry devoid of gospel grace is a frequent cause of long delay in finding the Savior. Some of us in the days of our sorrow for sin were compelled by circumstances to sit under a legal preacher who, did but increase our pain, and aggravate our woe. Destitute of all savor and unction, but most of all wanting in a clear view of Jesus the Mediator, the sermons we heard were wells without water, and clouds without rain.
Elegant in diction, admirable in style, and faultless in composition, they fell on our ears even as the beautiful crystals of snow fall upon the surface of a brook, and only tend to swell its floods. Good morality, consistent practice, upright dealing, amiable behavior, gentle carriage, and modest deportment, were the everyday themes of the pulpit; but, alas! they were of as little service to us as instructions to dance would be to a man who has lost both his legs. We have often been reminded by such preachers, of the doctor who told a poor penniless widow that her sick son could easily be cured if she would give him the best wine, and remove him at once to Baden-Baden — the poor creature’s fingers staring all the while through the tips of her worn-out gloves, as if they wished to see the man who gave advice so profoundly impracticable.
Far be it from us to condemn the preaching of morality by such :men, for it is doubtless all they can preach, and their intentions being good, it is probable ‘they may sometimes be of service in restraining the community from acts of disorder; but we do deny the right of many to call themselves Christian ministers, while they constantly and systematically neglect to declare the truths which lie at the very foundation of the Gospel. A respected bishop of tee Episcopalian denomination, in addressing the clergy of the last century, said, “We have long been attempting to reform the nation by moral preaching. With what effect? None. On the contrary, we have dexterously preached the people into downright infidelity. We must change our voice; we must preach Christ and him crucified; nothing but the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” We fear that in some measure this is the case even now — would that we dared to hope otherwise. Let such of us as are ,engaged in the work of the ministry take heed to ourselves, and to our doctrine, that we cause no needless pain, and retard no man’s progress to a Savior and let our reader look to his own soul’s salvation, and select his pastor, not for his eloquence, learning, amiability, or popularity, but for his clear and constant testimony to the Gospel of Christ. The witness of the pulpit must be incessantly evangelical, nor is a single exception to be allowed. A venerable divine justly writes, “Faithful preachers, never preach mere philosophy, nor mere metaphysics, nor mere morality.” How many poor souls may now be in bondage by your lifeless preaching, O ye who love anything better than the simple Gospel! What are ye but polished bolts on the dungeon-Goor of the distressed, or well dressed halber-diets, affrighting men from the palace of mercy? Ah! it will be well for some if they shall be able to wash their hands of the blood of souls, for verily in the cells of eternal condemnation there are heard no yells of horror more appalling than the shrieks of damned ministers. Oh, to have misled men — to have ruined their souls forever!
Happy suicide, who by his own hand escapes the sound of the curses of those he victimized! happy in comparison with the man who will for ever hear the accusing voices of the many who have sunk to perdition through the rottenness of the doctrine which he offered them for their support.
Here, on our knees we fall, and pray for grace that we may ever hold up Jesus to the sinner; not doctrine without Jesus, which is as the pole without the brazen serpent, but Jesus — a whole Jesus — to poor lost sinners. We are sure that many convinced souls have tarried long in the most distressing condition, simply because, by reason of the poverty of their spiritual food, their weakness was so great that the cry of Hezekiah was theirs —” This day is a day of trouble; for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.” F43 May our glorified Jesus soon come into his Church, and raise up shepherds after his own heart, who, endowed with the Holy Spirit, full of sympathy, and burning with love, shall visit those who are out of the way, and guide the wanderer to the fold. Such men are still to be found. O reader, search them out, sit at their feet, receive their word, and be not disobedient to the commands which they utter from heaven. 4. Misapprehension of the nature of salvation, in some cases, delays the happy hour of Christ’s appearance. A natural tendency to legal ideas dims the mind to the perception of the doctrine of Jesus, which is grace and truth. A secret desire to do something in part to aid Jesus, prevents us from viewing him as “all our salvation, and all our desire.” Humbled though we have been by the cutting down of all our righteousness, yet the old root will sprout — “at the scent of water it will bud;” and so long as it does so, there can be no solid peace, no real cleaving to Christ. We must learn to spell the words law and grace, without mingling the letters.
While sick men take two kinds of medicine there is little hope of a cure, especially if the two draughts are compounded of opposing ingredients; the bird which lives on two trees builds its nest on neither; and the soul halting between grace and works can never find rest for the sole of its foot.
Perhaps, my reader, a secret and well-nigh imperceptible self-trust is the very tiling which shuts out Christ from thy soul. Search and look.
Not a few seekers are expecting some extraordinary sign and wonder ere they can believe. They imagine that conversion will come upon them in some marvelous manner, like Mary’s visitation by the angel. Naaman-like, they are dreaming that the prophet will strike his hand over the place, and they shall recover. “Go wash in Jordan seven times” has not enough mystery in it for their poor minds: “Except they see signs and wonders they will not believe.” Let none, however, hope for miracles; wonders do occur: some are brought to Jesus by vision and revelation, but far more are drawn by the usual means of grace, in a manner which is far removed from the marvelous. The Lord is not in the whirlwind, the Lord is not in the fire., but usually he speaketh in the still small voice. Surely it should be enough for us, if we find pardon in the appointed method, without desiring to have rare and curious experiences, with which, in after years, we may gratify our own self-love, and elevate ourselves as singular favorites of heaven.
Regeneration is indeed a supernatural work, but it is usually a silent one. It is a pulling Clown of strongholds, but the earth shakes not with the fall; it is the building of a temple, but there is no sound of hammer at its erection; like the sunrise, it is not heralded by the blast of trumpet, nor do wonders hide beneath its wings. We know who is the mother of mystery; do we desire to be her children? Strange phantoms and marvelous creatures find their dwelling-place in darkness; light is not in relationship with mystery; let none be hoping to find it so. Believe and live is the plan of the Gospel; if men would but lay aside their old ideas, they would soon find Jesus as their very present help; but because they look for unpromised manifestations, they seek in vain, until disappointment has taught them wisdom. 5. Although the seeking penitent hath renounced all known sin, yet it may be that some sin of ignorance yet remains unconfessed, and unrepented of which will frequently be a cause of great and grievous delay. God, who searcheth Jerusalem with candles, will have us examine ourselves most thoroughly. He has issued a search, warrant to conviction, which giveth that officer a right to enter every room of our house, and command every Rachel to rise from her seat lest the images should be beneath her. Sin is so skillful in deception, that it is hard to discover all its lurking places; neither is it easy to detect its character when brought before our eyes, since it will often borrow the garb of virtue, and appear as an angel of light; nor should we ourselves use sufficient diligence in its destruction, if the delay of the needed mercy did not urge us to a more vigorous pursuit of the traitors who have brought us into grief. Our gracious Lord, for our own sake, desires the execution of our secret sins, and by his frowns he puts us upon the watch lest we should indulge or harbor them.
Never, perhaps,, shall we again possess so deep a horror of sin as in that moment when we well-nigh despaired of deliverance from it, and therefore never shall we be so fully prepared, to exterminate it. Eternal wisdom will not allow a season so propitious to pass without improvement; and having melted our heart in the furnace till the scum floateth on the surface, it doth not allow it to cool until the dross hath been removed. Look to thyself, O seekers for peradventure the wine of thy pain lieth in thine own heart. How small a splinter prevents the healing of a festered wound; extract it, and the cure is easy. Be wise; what thou doest do quickly, but do it perfectly; thus shalt thou make sure work for eternity, and speed the hour of thine acceptance. Be sure sin will find thee out, unless thou dost find it out. A warrior stimulated the valor of his soldiers by simply pointing to the enemy and exclaiming, “Lads, there they are, if you do not kill them, they will kill you. ” Thus would we remind thee, that sin will destroy thee if thou dost not destroy it. Be concerned, then, to drive it from thine heart. 6. Usefulness in after life is often increased by the bitter experience with which the soul is exercised while seeking, after Jesus; but ‘as this has already received our attention, we will close our meditations on the reasons for protracted delay, by the simple remark, that it is of far more importance to a, penitent to use every means for obtaining the Savior’s blessing, than to inquire into the motives which have hitherto made him deaf to his petitions. Earnestly do we entreat the mourner to strive to enter in at the straight gate, and to continue his cry — “Oh that I knew where I might find him!”
III. It is now our pleasant duty to direct the troubled spirit to the means of obtaining speedy and lasting peace. May the God who opened the eyes of the desolate Hagar in the wilderness, and guided her so that she saw a well of water whereat she filled her empty bottle, use us as his finger to point the thirsting, dying sinner to the place where He stands, who once said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” Our rules shall be expressed in simple words — that the wayfaring man, though a fool, may not err therein. 1. Go where lie goes. Dost thou desire to present a petition to the king — wilt thou not go to his palace to do it? Art thou blind — where shouldst thou sit but at the way-side, begging? Hast thou a sore disease — where is there a place more fitting for thee than the porch of Bethesda, where my Lord doth walk? Art thou palsied — wilt thou not desire to be in his presence, though on thy bed thou be let down to the Spot where he standeth? Did not Obadiah and Ahab journey through the whole land of Israel to find Elijah? and wilt not thou visit every place where there is hope of meeting Jesus? Dost thou know where his haunts are? Hast thou not heard that he dwelleth on the hill of Zion, and hath fixed ‘,his throne of mercy within the gates of Jerusalem? Has it not been told thee that he ofttimes cometh up to the feast, and mingleth with the worshippers in his temple? Have not the saints assured thee that he walketh in the midst of his Church, even as John, in vision, saw him among the golden candlesticks?
Go, then, to the city which he hath chosen for his dwelling-place, and wait within the doors which he hath deigned to enter. If thou knowest of a gospel minister, sit in the solemn assembly over which he is president. If thou hast heard of a church which has been favored with visits from its Lord, go and make one in the midst of them, that when he cometh he may bid thee put thine hand into his side, and be not faithless but believing.
Lose no opportunity of attending the word: Thomas doubted, because he was not there when Jesus came.
Let sermons and prayers be thy delight, because they are roads wherein the Savior walketh. Let the righteous be thy constant company, for such ever bring Him where they come. It is the least thing thou canst do to stand where grace usually dispenseth its favor. Even the beggar writes his petition on the flagstone of a frequented thoroughfare, because he hopeth that among the many passers, some few at least will give him charity; learn from him to offer thy prayers where mercies are known to move in the greatest number, that amid them all there may be one for thee. Keep thy sail up when there is no wind, that when it blows thou mayst not have need to prepare for it; use means when thou seest no grace attending them, for thus wilt thou be in the way when grace comes. Better go fifty times and gain nothing than lose one good opportunity. If the angel stir not the pool, yet lie there still, for it may be the moment when thou leavest it will be the season of his descending. “Being in the way, the Lord met with me,” said one of old; be thou in the way, that the Lord may meet with thee. Old Simeon. found the infant Messiah in the Temple; had he deserted its hallowed courts he might never have said, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Be sure to keep in mercy’s way. 2. Cry after Him. Thou hast been lying in his path for many a day, but he has not turned his eye upon thee,. What then? Art thou content to let him pass thee by? Art thou willing to lose so precious an opportunity? No! thou desirest life, and thou wilt not be ashamed to beg aloud for it: thou wilt not fear to take him for an example of whom it is written, “When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on reel And many charged him that he should hold his peace; but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, haw mercy on me!” It is an old proverb, “We lose nothing by asking, ” .and it is an older promise, “Ask and ye shall receive.” Be not afraid of crying too loudly. It is recorded, to the honor of Mordecai, that he cried with a loud cry; and we know that the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence. Think it not possible to pray too frequently, but at morning, at noon, and at eventide, lift up thy soul unto God. Let not despondency stop the voice of thy supplication, for He who heareth the young ravens when they cry, will in due time listen to the trembling words of thy desire. Give Him no rest until lie hear thee; like the importunate widow, be thou always at the heels of the great One; give not up because the past has proved apparently fruit. less, remember Jericho stood firm for six days, but yet when they gave an exceeding great shout, it fell fiat to the ground. “Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord. Let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.” Let groans, and sighs, and vows keep up perpetual assault at heaven’s doors. “Groans fresh ’d with vows, and vows made salt with tears; Unscale his eyes, and scale his conquered ears:
Shoot up the bosom-shafts of thy desire, Feather ’d with faith, and double-fork ’d with fire; And they will hit fear not, where heaven bids come, Heav ’n ’s never deaf, but when man ’s heart is dumb. ” Augustine sweetly writes, “Thou mayest seek after honors, and not obtain them; thou mayest labor for riches, and yet remain poor; thou mayest dote on pleasures, and have many sorrows. But our God of his supreme goodness says, Who ever sought me, and found me not? whoever desired me, and obtained me not? whoever loved me, and missed of me? I am with him that seeks for me: he hath me already that wisheth for me; and he that loveth me is sure of my love.” Try whether it be not so, O reader, for so have we found it. 3. Think of his promises. He has uttered many sweet and gracious words, which are like the call of the hen, inviting thee to nestle beneath his wings, or like white flags of truce bidding thee come without fear. There is not a single promise which, if followed up, will not lead thee to the Lord. He is the center of the circle, and the promises, like radii, all meet in him, and thence become Yea and Amen. As the streams run to the ocean, so do all the sweet words of Jesus tend to himself: launch thy bark upon any one of them, and it shall bear thee onward to the broad sea of his love. Lost on a dreary moor, the wanderer discovers his cottage by the light in the window casting a gleam over the darkness of the waste; so also must we find out “our dwelling-place” by the lamps of promise which our Savior hath placed in the windows of his word. The handkerchiefs brought from the person of Paul healed the sick; surely the promises, which are the garments of Christ, will avail for all diseases. We all know that the key of promise will unfasten every lock in Doubting Castle; will we be content to lie any longer in that dungeon when that key is ready to our hand? A large number of the ransomed of the Lord have received their liberty by means of a cheering word applied with power. Be thou constant in reading the word and meditation thereon. Amid the fair flowers of promise groweth the rose of Sharon — pluck the pro. raises, and thou mayst find Him with them. He feedeth among the lilies — do thou feed there also. The sure words of Scripture are the footstep of Jesus imprinted on the soil of mercy — follow the track and find Him. The promises are cards of admission not only to the throne, the mercy-seat, and the audience-chamber, but to the very heart of Jesus. Look aloft to the sky of Revelation, and thou wilt yet find a constellation of promises which shall guide thine eye to the star of Bethlehem. Above all, cry aloud when thou readest a promise, “Remember thy word unto thy servant, on which thou hast caused me to hope.” 4. Meditate on his person and his work. If we were better acquainted with Jesus, we should find it more easy to believe him. Many souls mourn because they cannot make themselves believe; and the constant exhortations of ministers persuading them to faith, cause them to sink deeper in the mire, since all their attempts prove ineffectual. It were well for both if they would remember that the mind is not to be compelled to belief by exhortation or force of will; a small acquaintance with the elements of mental science would suffice to show them that faith is a result of previous states of the mind, and flows from those antecedent conditions, but is not a position to which we can attain without passing through those other states which the Divine laws, both of nature and of grace, have made the stepping, stones thereto. Even in natural things, we cannot believe a thing simply because we are persuaded to do so; we require evidence; we ask, “What are we to believe?” we need instruction on the matter before we can lay hold upon it. In spiritual things especially we need to know what we are to believe, and why. We cannot by one stride mount to faith, and it is at least useless, not to say cruel, to urge us to do so, unless we are told the grounds on which our faith must rest. Some men endeavor to preach sinner to Christ; we prefer to preach Christ to sinners. We believe that a faithful exhibition of Jesus crucified will, under the Divine blessing, beget faith in hearts where fiery oratory and vehement declamation have failed. Let this be borne in mind by those who are bewailing themselves, in the words of John Newton: Oh, could but I believe, Then all would easy be; I would, but cannot — Lord relieve!
My help must come from thee. ” Thou wilt not long have need to pray in this fashion if thou canst obey the rule we would put before thee, which is, meditate on Jesus; reflect upon the mystery of his incarnation and redemption; and frequently picture the agonies of Gethsemane and Calvary. The cross not only demands faith, but causes it. The same Christ who requires faith for salvation doth infuse faith into all those who meekly and reverently meditate upon him sacrifice and mediation. We learn to believe in an honest man by an acquaintance with him, even so (although faith be the gift of God, yet he giveth it in the use of the means) it cometh to pass that by frequent consideration of Jesus, we know him, and therefore trust in him. Go thou to the gloomy brook of Kedron, make Gethsemane thy garden of retirement, tread the bloodstained Gabbatha, climb the hill of Calvary, sit at the foot of the accursed tree, watch the victim in his agonies, listen to his groans, mark his flowing blood, see his head bowed on his breast in death, look into his open side; then walk to the tomb of Joseph of Arima-rhea, behold him rise, witness his ascension, and view him exalted far above principalities and powers, as the mediator for sinful men: thus shalt thou see and believe, for verily hard is that unbelief which can endure such sights; and if the Holy Spirit lead thee to a true vision of them, thou shalt believe inevitably, finding it impossible longer to be incredulous. A true view of Calvary will smite unbelief with death, and put faith into its place. Spend hours in holy retirement, tracing his pilgrimage of woe, and thou shalt soon sing, “Oh how sweet to view the flowing Of his soul-redeeming blood; With Divine assurance knowing That he made my peace with God! ” 5. Venture on Him. This is the last but best advice we give thee, and if thou hast attended to that which precedes it, thou wilt be enabled to follow it.
We have said “venture, ” but we imply no venture of risk, but one of courage. To be saved it is required of thee to renounce all hope of salvation by any save Jesus — that thou hast submitted to. Next thou art called upon to cast thyself entirely on him, prostrating thyself before his cross, content to rely wholly on Him. Do this and thou art saved, refuse and thou art damned, Subscribe thy name to this simple rhyme — I ’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all, But Jesus Christ is my all in all; ” and, doing this, thou art secure of heaven. Dost thou delay because of unworthiness? Oh do not so, for he invites thee just as thou art. Thou art not too sinful, for he is “able to save unto the uttermost.” Think not little of his power or his grace, for he is infinite in each; only fall fiat upon his gracious declaration, and thou shalt be embraced by his mercy. To believe is to take Jesus at his word, and when all things deny thee the hope of salvation, still to call Him yours. Now we beseech thee launch into the deep, now cut thy moorings and give up thyself to the gale, now leave the rudder in his hands, and surrender thy keeping to his guardianship. In this way alone shalt thou obtain peace and eternal life.
May the Directing Spirit lead us each to Him in whom there is light, and whose light in the heart of men.
TO THE UNCONVERTED READER FRIEND, — Love to thy soul constrains us to set apart this small enclosure for thine especial benefit. Oh that thou hadst as much love for thine own soul as the writer has Though he may have never seen thee, yet remember when he wrote these lines he put up an especial prayer for thee, and he had thee on his heart while he penned these few but earnest words.
O Friend, thou art no seeker of Jesus, but the reverse! To thine own confusion thou art going from him instead of to him! Oh, stay moment and consider thy ways — thy position — thine end!
As for thy ways, they are not only wrong before God, but they are uneasy to thyself. Thy conscience, if it be not seared with a hot iron, is every day thundering at thee on account of thy paths of folly. Oh that thou wouldst turn from thine error, while the promise is yet within hearing, “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 unto our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Be not betrayed into a continuance in these ways in the vain hope that thy life will be prolonged to an indefinite period, wherein thou hopest to accomplish repentance; for life is as frail as the bubble on the breaker, and as swift as the Indian arrow. Tomorrow may never come, oh use “to-day ” — “Now, is the constant syllable ticking from the clock of time; Now, is the watchword of the wise; Now, is on the banner of the prudent.
Cherish thy to-day, and prize it well, or ever it be engulphed in the past; Husband it, for who can promise if it shall have a to-morrow.” f45 “To-morrow is a fatal lie — the wrecker’s beacon — wily snare of the destroyer ; ” be wise, and see to thy ways while time waits for thee.
Consider next thy position. A condemned criminal waiting for execution; a tree, at the root of which the ax is gleaming; a target, to which the shaft of death is speeding; an insect beneath the finger, of vengeance waiting to be crushed; a wretch hurried along by the strong torrent of time to an inevitable precipice of doom.
Thy present position is enough to pale the cheek of carelessness, and move the iron knees of profanity. A man asleep in a burning house, or with his neck upon the Mock of the headsman, or lying before the mouth of a cannon, is not in a more dangerous case than thou art. Oh bethink thee, ere desolation, destruction, and damnation, seal up thy destiny, and stamp thee with despair!
Be sure, also, that thou consider thy latter end, for it is thine whether thou consider it or no. Thou art ripening for hell; oh, how wilt thou endure its torments! Ah! if thou wouldst afford a moment to visit, in imagination, the cells of the condemned, it might benefit thee for ever. What! fear to examine the house in which thou art to dwell? What! rush to a place and fear to see a picture of it? Oh let thy thoughts precede thee, and if they bring back a dismal story, it may induce thee to change thy mind and tread another path! Thou wilt lose nothing by meditation, but rather gain much thereby. Oh let the miseries of lost souls warn thee lest thou also come into this place of torment! May the day soon arrive when thou canst cry after the Lord, and then even thou shalt be delivered!