Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE CHRISTIAN TREASURY.

13

ON PRAYER.

BY THE REV. EDWARD BICKERSTETH, WATTON, HERTS. I am thankful to throw my mite into the efforts | kings ; you may open to him without reserve, which beloved brethren are making to convey and with the certainty of the kindest and most acceptably to the masses of society the great favourable reception, your whole heart ; you truths of the Gospel. My mind has been drawn may speak with the utmost plainness, without to the subject of PRAYER as one of vast import- fear of rebuke; you may always apply to him; ance.

you may walk with him all the day long. The privilege, the advantage, the honour, This happy standing is not unattainable. A and the glory of true prayer are unspeakable. measure of it every real Christian has attained. Simple faith in God's Word, and in his many It is the very beginning of his spiritual life. faithful promises, realizes even now much of its “Behold he prayeth.” Every reader of these blessedness. There we read that the great God, pages may attain it. And it is the high state who made us and all things, is a Spirit, invisible, of the man after God's own heart : "I give mybut everywhere present, almighty, and all-wise, self unto prayer." and infinite in goodness and love, mercy and This is the sure remedy for the many cares compassion, truth and righteousness. This of this sorrowful world. Who can have lived glorious Being, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, here long without knowing that the world is three persons in one God, permits us, his sinful full of cares and troubles ? Men are burdened creatures, to have the freest access to him, and with them on every side, and groaning under constant communion with him in prayer. them. It is not the possession of power, wealth,

God has appointed and given to us amply knowledge, honour, or any of the good things sufficient means for our daily enjoyment of this of this world, that exempts men from many privilege. He has provided for us a Mediator cares. Those who most abound in these things and Advocate, ever living to make intercession have also with them generally the most multifor us; through whose blood we may have ac- plied cares. cess with boldness to the holiest of all. He God himself directs us to this remedy of gives, to them that ask, his Holy Spirit, to help prayer. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by their infirmities. He gives us many positive prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your commands to ask of him what we need, and requests be made known unto God. And the peace of call upon his name. He takes the very title of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your the Hearer of Prayer. And He himself is gra- hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. The recious to lift up the light of his countenance on marks on prayer that I would now make are those who diligently seek his presence. He founded on this passage. gives us also his word, full of the prayers of We have here a plain, clear, full command his faithful, to be the very guide and pattern to all, to be without carefulness, and this in the for our own prayers.

largest terms: “Be careful for nothing." IT INThink, then, Christian reader, of the high CLUDES WORLDLY THINGS. All the varied scenes standing you may take. You are ready to and occupations, the wants, and even the blessesteem it a favour if you are admitted to con- ings of life, bring anxieties. The cares of this verse freely, even for a little time, with those world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts much above you. If you may enjoy real inter- of other things, are constant temptations. course with the excellent of the earth for a Those with large families and little means are little time, you count it precious to be refreshed troubled with cares for what they shall eat and with their knowledge and kindness. Courtiers, what they shall drink, and wherewithal they who have access to palaces, think much of the shall be clothed. Those in business are troubled privilege of free admission to the monarch, and by changes in trade-by losses and bad debts to partake of the presence and dignities of -by fears and disappointments. Those with royalty. But realize God's word, and you may bodily infirmities, groan under them. The rise to far higher honours; believe his promises, cases are endless which occasion these cares. and you may daily partake of far richer privi- IT INCLUDES ALSO SPIRITUAL THINGS. These leges. You may have access to the King of are infinitely more important. It is our duty No. 2,-*

March 6, 1846.

to seek first the kingdom of God and his righ- divine command to require you to do it. The teousness. We have to work out our own sal- Lord of heaven and earth has issued his manvation with fear and trembling. But yet the date to you. Dare you resist his will? What words, “Be careful for nothing," clearly compre- energy and power should this give to your hend even spiritual things. The questions that feeble faith! It is not a thing in which you cause care here are very numerous. Am I may indulge your natural disposition. You a child of God? Does God really love me? are charged by the Most High: “Be careful for Am I among his elect? Shall I persevere in nothing.” his ways? Can it possibly be that so guilty, But this charge is not without that suitable worldly, unbelieving, cold, dead, and ungodly strength which God always provides with every a creature as I have been can be saved! My command given by him. It ison prayer—the free, relations-parents, children, brothers, and sis. open expression of your desires to the ever-preters--can they be saved ? A thousand of such sent God, as the means of attaining obedience weighty questions agitate the mind.

to this divine and most gracious command-1 The direction respecting all is, Be careful for would now dwell. The MOST UNRESERVED PRAYER nothing. It is not, Neglect everything; be in- FOR EVERYTHING YOU WANT; the most free outdifferent about everything. Far different is the pouring of every desire into your heavenly instruction here given. Every Christian is to Father's ears is your plain duty: “In everyattend diligently to his daily work. If any thing by prayer and supplication with thanksman will not work, neither should he eat. Nor giving let your requests be made known unto are we to despise the chastening of the Lord. God.” It is designed, on the one hand, that we should God is accessible in this day of grace to all feel that afflictions are grievous; and on the sinners who come to him in the name of his other, that we should gratefully enjoy God's Son. You need not fly from God. You need blessings. Nor are we to be wanting in fore- not now dread his vengeance, or look upon him sight and providence for the future. It is ne- as your enemy. He has in Christ revealed himcessary that we should, in entire dependence self as the God of all grace. He waits now on on the will of God, form our own plans and his merey-seat to be gracious to returning sinschemes. And especially about religion, the He has intense love to us (John iii. 16), greatest earnestness becomes us : “ The king- to be measured only by that wonderful gift, dom of heaven suffereth violence, and the vio- the gift of his own Son. Ah, sweet thought! lent take it by force.” “Strive to enter in at Truly believed, what a heaven it lets down to the strait gate."

our earth! There is a throne of grace to which It is not attention to worldly and spiritual all sinners may come, and there obtain mercy, things that is forbidden, but anxiety of mind, and find grace to help in time of need. Think and doubtfulness, and “ fear that has torment.” of this again and again; look at the crucified: You may be delivered from this distress of Redeemer, till your hard heart be melted, and mind. Be not anxious. Learn not to place the light of that love fills your soul. The your happiness in this world's good. A man's Creator of all worlds, the Just and Holy One, life consisteth not in the abundance of the for the sake of Christ, really loves me a sinner. things which he possesses ; and God knows Gazing on the death of Jesus, I cannot, withyour wants, and cares for you more than a out the blackest guilt, doubt this love to my mother cares for her babe. So about your soul. highest, your spiritual welfare, be not anxious. Believe this, and then freely tell him all your Do not be so filled with distressing fears, as if wants. What a wonderful proclamation of you had no refuge in God, and could not com- mercy to a world of sinners is this, “LET YOUR mit your soul to him in the peaceful confidence : REQUESTS BE MADE KNOWN UNTO God!” How de“I know whom I have believed, and am per-| lightful the fulness of the direction! He needs suaded that he is able to keep that which I not, indeed, for his own knowledge, that we tell have committed to him against that day.” You him our requests; for he knows always what need not have, then, one anxious thought about things we have need of. But we have great body or soul, if you will follow God's directions, need that we thus learn to pour out our hearts casting all your care on him; for he careth for in the way that his infinite wisdom and love you.

points out.

Thus our faith is strengthenedAnd that we may do this the more readily, thus our minds are relieved. You must, if remember that there is all the authority of a you have passed through sorrow, have experi

ners.

[blocks in formation]

enced what a comfort it is to be able to spread truly thankfulfor everything. We see this, joined 'your cares and griefs before a wise, kind, with fervent prayer, in St Paul. He had a thorn and sympathizing friend. The 'very open- in the flesh It was verytrying to him. He could ing of your heart takes away much of your not remove it. He began to pray. He prayed grief. So the very act of real prayer to God thrice. The thorn remained, but not as a thorn, helps to relieve the mind of its cares. But but as a blessing, for which he had to be thankthis is far from being all. God bimself has ful. He says: “ Most gladly, therefore, will I made it the appointed way in which He will, in rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of his wonder-working providence, give you the Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleathings which will relieve you of your cares. sure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, The promises of this are very numerous, and in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake.” they are all “yea and amen in Christ Jesus.” | Thus it is we get from everything tokens for “Ask, and it shall be given you. Whatsoever good. All things show God's love to us, preye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall re- pare us for our future glory, increase our con. ceive. Call upon me in the day of trouble, Iformity to the likeness of Christ, and awaken will deliver thee; and thou shalt glorify me. thanksgivings to the Father of mercies. Ever, Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show then, join thanksgiving with prayer. thee great and mighty things which thou know- The BENEFIT of such prayer and praise is, est not. Whatsoever ye shall ask in my naine, that “the peace of God, which passeth all underthat will I do.” These glorious promises are standing, shall keep your hearts and minds more precious than all the wealth of this world. through Christ Jesus." What a blessing must They are from the God of truth-they cannot this be! The form of the promise deserves be broken.

attention. It is not merely peace from God. Oh, then, that when anything troubles you, Anything from him bestowed on his people is when any cares rise up in your mind, you would full of goodness. But it is the peace of God, take it at once to God !

which promises a share of the same blessed Tell him all your wants. Do you mean, the tranquillity which God himself enjoys. We are reader may ask, even my temporal wants ? called to be heirs of God--to inherit all that he Surely such common things are beneath his is and has, to make us blessed. We are called notice. They who are wise in their own eyes to joy in God himself as our portion. And in may object, “ It is degrading to the dignity harmony with these hopes, the promise here is of religion;" and the spiritual in their own not a mere declaration of security that gives esteem may say, “It is not for a spiritual man us peace; but it is having a portion of that to mention such things. He is above them.” calm, holy, heavenly equanimity, composure, But this is not God's view of the matter. He and rest of mind, which the great Creator ever says in eterything. Let that “everything” answer enjoys. We know that He who made heaven and all your doubts. As the nothing is inclusive earth loves us, because He gave his Son to die of all care, so the everything is comprehensive for us. We know that He is our friend. Hence, of prayer for all that gives you a moment's as he is Lord of all, the issue of all his dealanxiety.

ings with those who come to him by Christ The moment a care rises up in your mind, Jesus, must be the fullest and greatest goodtransfer it to Him that careth for you. Remem- a good that passes all understanding, as God ber David's advice : “Cast thy burden upon the himself is infinite, and his bliss perfect, boundLord, and he shall sustain thee; he will never less, and everlasting. What exultation this suffer the righteous to be moved.”

causes when it is made clear to the mind ! " BeBut, remember, thanksgiving is ever to be hold what manner of love the Father hath bejoined with prayer, and it should be as free and stowed upon us. The Lord God is a sun and as large as our prayer : “ In everything give shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: and thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ no good thing will he withhold from them that Jesus concerning you. Giving thanks always walk uprightly.” for all things unto God and the Father, in the This is a peace that garrisons both heart and name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This can only mind as with complete and full security from be done through that strong faith which realizes all cares. The man who possesses it “ shall not the love of God, as specially manifested to us be afraid of evil tidings: bis heart is fixed, trustin trials, and making all things work together ing in the Lord.” No disquieting fears need for our good. A faith that realizes this, can be torment his breast. His understanding, also, fully approves of this course. It is founded on wonderful book is susceptible of would be, a well

E PER the infallible Word of God, a sure rest for the written life of its author. This is not what we promind amidst all the disquieting scenes of this pose, but we shall select a few passages from the transient world, according to the promise : marvellous than the book, which it appears to us

history of Bunyan -- and the man is scarcely less « Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy Bunyan had in his eye while sketching some of the thoughts shall be established.”

more memorable scenes in his immortal work. This This peace can, however, only flow to us is the true key wherewith to unlock the various through Christ Jesus. Lose sight of him, and compartments of this cabinet of glory- the true no prayers will give you peace. He is the only plummet wherewith to sound the depths of these giver of peace. It is his legacy to his people :

great waters. « Peace I leave with you: my peace I give Bunyan. It might have been foreseen that the attempt

Art has lent her aid to illustrate the pages of unto you." “ Being justified by faith, we

would be fruitless. Where is the pencil which can have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus equal, much less excel, in graphic power the pen Christ.” Our God makes every good to flow which it rather presumptuously undertook to aid ? in this channel, that Christ may daily be in- When did the colours of the painter glow like the creasingly precious to us, and we may be more

words of Bunyan? when was the canvass crowded and more simply dependent on him, and filled with figures so life-like? and when did it wear hues

so brilliant, and at the same time so true to nature, with his love.

as the pages of the “ Pilgrim ?" Yet on a field Thus I have endeavoured to lead the reader which appeared so inviting, it is not surprising that to more constant prayer. Let me urge it upon Art should have been tempted to make trial of her you, then, by the freedom to be attained from powers; and the very limited success with which, as care on the one hand, and the peace to be en- will be generally acknowledged, we think, her efforts joyed on the other. Ask first for the spirit of have been attended, makes it very obvious, not that adoption, to cry, Abba, Father, that you may mate of the jail

at Bedford was immeasurably greater;

her skill was small, but that the skill of the poor inwith full believing and joyful confidence say, and that the genius which produced the immortal “Our Father," and then have all a dutiful child's allegory had higher resources at command than those simple and entire confidence in a parent's care which mere genius can wield, and had access to and love. O, how our children may shame us deeper fountains of thought, and illustration, and and instruct us in this matter! They are never imagery, than any which mere Art is privileged to weighed down with care, and their minds clouded approach. Art has done her best, we say, to reprewith doubts and suspicions, lest their parents sent and body forth in lines and colours, all the should not think of them or provide for them. tion;-the winged steps wherewith the pilgrim hasted

more striking incidents in the great work in quesNot one moment's uneasiness on this point fills away from the city of Destruction; the great burden their minds. “ He is my father; he knows on his back, whose insupportable weight made his all I want.” This answers every fear. They knees to shake, and, ever and anon, wrung the most do pot suspect his love or his means. Even doleful sighs and groans from his heart; the joy that when the father chastens, they reverence and kindled on his countenance, radiant and serene as obey. Shall not we much rather be in subjection day-break, so soon as he found himself safe within

the wicket; the wonders of the interpreter's house: to the Father of spirits, and live! Let us have the exceeding fierce looks of the lions which guarded entire confidence in the love of our God, as

the path; the frowning steeps of the Hill Difficulty; proved beyond controversy by the gift of his the terrors of that sore combat in which Apollyon Son. Let us go to Him at once with everything straddled quite across the whole breadth of the way, that troubles us, and spread it, as Hezekiah did and swore by his infernal den that he would make his letter, before the Lord. Let us delight our

an end of Christian; the clouds of confusion which selves in the Lord our God, and we shall find, hang day and night over the Valley of the Shadow

of Death; the juggling shows, the coarse ribaldry, in our happy experience, that he gives us the and the brutal violence of Vanity Fair—"no newdesire of our hearts.

erected business, but a thing of ancient standing;"

the dark dungeons and brazen gates of Doubting THE LIFE OF JOHN BUNYAN THE BEST Castle; the green slopes, and the clear springs of

the Delectable Mountains, whence a very distant and ILLUSTRATION OF THE “ PILGRIM'S

faint view might be had of the Celestial gate; the PROGRESS."

gardens, and the fragrant orchards of the Land of

Beulah; the black river, through whose cold waters BY THE REV. J. A. WYLIE,

lay the path of the pilgrims; the city beyond, whose

foundations are above the clouds, and whose glory Author of The Modern Judea,” &c., dc.

no one can conceive or know till he has passed over MANY a commentary bas been written on the “ Pil- the river and gone in at the gate. Of all the scenes grim's Progress,” but the best exposition which that I which we have now named, we have been presented

THE LIFE OF JOHN BUNYAN, &o.

17

with representations; but we must bear in mind, paths that intersect it, and affording to those who that in the hands of Bunyan himself these descrip- travel that way, the sight of the villages, cities, and tions are but pictures-not the things themselves : countries which Bunyan has placed in its neighbourhe did not intend they should be taken for that; hood; leading up at its commencement to the wicket but when Art comes forward and presents us with a gate, the “shining light” over which might be seen picture of what itself is but a picture, it need not as far as from the city of Destruction, and from surprise "us that the image grows more and more thence running straight onward in the direction of faint, just in proportion to our distance from the the Celestial city; never becoming circuitous to avoid thing itself — that as we recede from the sun, the this doubtful quagmire, or this dangerous steep, or body which is designed only to reflect the light this slippery descent, or this gloomy pass, or this should shine with a continually diminishing splen- enemy's castle, though passing within bow-shot of dour.

its walls; now leading by the door of the interpreBut when we turn from the pen of the commen- ter's house; now by the foot of the cross; now up tator, and the pencil of the artist, to the history of the Hill Difficulty; now down into the low Valley of the author himself-not his outward, but his mward Humiliation ; now through the thick gloom and history--we find we have approached the true source darkness of the Valley of the Shadow of Death; of every good illustration of this singular book. A now through the town of Vanity Fair, with its new light dawns upon its pages. We are admitted motley crowds and noisy buffonery; now by the behind the scenes, not to have the enchantment dis- lands of Giant Despair; now over the green slopes solved, but increased tenfold. The stately palace, of the Delectable Mountains; now through the whose noble and graceful exterior we admired be drowsy air, and the entangled soil of the enchanted fore, and which was all we were able to behold, we ground; and last of all, and just before terminating are now privileged to enter. We pass on, with the on the brink of the river, through the Land of Beulah, key in our hand, through the spacious edifice, lost in whose orchards stood open to solace the pilgrims, worder at its numerous and sumptuous apartments; and where there was the continual singing of birds, its rich furniture; its vessels of gold and silver; its and where, being on the borders of the Celestial walls so curiously emblazoned with the symbols of country, a never-setting light, like a beautiful celesheavenly things; and its “chamber of peace,” to use tial dawn, rested on its fields;—though all the scenery, Bunyan's own image, with its windows that opened moral and physical, of this wonderful tale, had actutowards sun-rising. We soon become convinced that ally existed—though all its personages had lived and it is no scene of enchantment we are surveying-that journeyed, as Bunyan narrates, from the city of Deit is no unreal and illusory fabric that stands before struction to the country beyond the river-how small ue, called from the earth by the enchanter's wand, a matter would that be, how insignificant the inteand destined to pass away, with all its walls, and rest and importance of the tale, compared with the towers, and gorgeous splendours, without leaving a grandeur which it is seen really to possess, whenever trace where it stood, the moment the genius that we are enabled to look through its shadows to its created it ceases to act upon our minds. We are mighty verities—whenever we are enabled to regard made to feel that it is real, and substantial, and true, the city of Destruction as being the earth; the and that in a sense in which few things on earth can straight and narrow way from it, as the path that be said to be true.

leads upwards through the skies; the shining light To how many thousands has the work of Bunyan over it, as the Bible which God himself has kindled been a piece of fiction, and nothing more! It was amidst the darkness that broods over our lower no fiction to the man who wrote it. As one who region, to tell men that there is a brighter world sails on a summer sea, and is delighted and en- above, and to guide them into the way that leads to chanted by its lovely islands, its pearly bays, its it; and the Celestial city, as the land of immortality, shining shores, and the beauty of the skies which and of immortal men—the seat of boundless splenare mirrored on its placid surface, but never once dour, and of unfading blessedness. thinks of the mighty deeps below him; so many have But though the great depths of the work begin perused the immortal allegory, satisfied and pleased now to be known, we find that we have made a with the varied and enchanting beauty of its sur- mighty advance as regards our ability to sound these face—its incidents, characters, and scenery-without depths, so soon as we have made ourselves familiar making any attempt to sound the great depths of its with the soul-struggles of the man who wrote it. meaning, or to realize a single one of the many Great as we may have accounted before, we now mighty truths which its similitudes present. The account it much greater. Of Bunyan it cannot be truth which the “ Pilgrim's Progress” embodies is affirmed with the same truth that he invented, as truth of the highest order-truth of so substantial a that he described. His facts and illustrations were kind, and of so solemn an import, that the literal not so much produced by the fiat of his imagination, truth would be but as a fable in comparison. Al- as drawn from the store-house of his experience. though all the descriptions of this book were actual He had been all that he describes his pilgrim. He verities—though all its characters were real men, and had gone every footstep of the way along which he all its incidents real events-though there was, in leads Christian. He knew all its by-lanes and cross some remote region of the earth, a city of Destruc- paths. There is not an enemy upon it whom he bad tion, and a Celestial city, with a narrow path running not fought with, nor a danger belonging to it with from the one to the other, with pilgrims going to which he was not familiar. All the toils, burdens, and fro upon it, or crossing it by the lanes and by- and perils incident to it he had borne. He had

« PreviousContinue »