« PreviousContinue »
Then, fainting soul, arise and sing ;
Take it on trust a little while ;
“ Bear ye then a little while, and the scene will change. When the voice shall reach your ears, “ This day shalt thou be with me in paradise,” the cares and gloomy imaginings of this little corner of existence will die into oblivion, or serve but to be contrasted with your bliss, as a dark spot upon the sun's disk, with the unclouded glories of the orb around it.”
Buddicom's Christian Exodus.
The subject on which I shall offer a few remarks in this chapter is one of peculiar difficulty : but the nature of my work will not properly allow me to leave it wholly unnoticed. The case may be simply stated thus“If I suppose a number of young persons, through divine grace, to attend to religion at, or about, the same time, and to be steadfast and persevering in it, the result will probably be in many respects various. In the first stage of piety they will be variously affected, as stated in the preceding chapter : but we may suppose that the majority of them, at the conclusion of this stage, obtain the possession of a calm state of mind. They renounce themselves; and they repose on the Saviour. The cloudy morning is past; the Sun of righteousness shines upon them; if a storm come, they know that tranquillity will be soon restored; if the clouds gather and conceal the sun for a season, they know that he will soon dispel them, and shine forth with brighter lustre. In a word, they are serene and satisfied: they enjoy the light of day; they stand upon firm ground; they build upon a rock. But a few of them may not arrive at this happiness—this peace in believing. They are brought to a knowledge of the glory of God, of the evil of sin, and of the need of a Saviour. They have some right views and feelings : but they are in darkness and distress : and there they stand. We converse with them after different intervals: but hesitation and doubt, perplexity and dismay, gloom and sadness, mark all that they advance. They seem to be altogether engaged with their own sinfulness, with the evil, with the disease: but though they hear the gospel, and admit our statements of its merciful and gracious nature to be true, no fine prospect opens before them, and nothing soothes, cheers, and animates their hearts. They are inwardly disconsolate: and frequently what was intended to administer comfort to them, only serves to increase their distress.
While those who began their pious course with them are enjoying and adorning religion, these feeble and afflicted souls are still at the borders of the Euphrates, their harps suspended on the willows; a deep mist is around them; and though they think of the Jerusalem which is above, is with desponding thoughts and feelings.
This case exists under a great variety of circumstances, both as to the intensity of mental suffering, and as to its duration. Into particulars I cannot enter
a work of this nature. In general these persons reason against themselves; as though they knew, felt, spoke, and did nothing aright. They cannot hear, read, or pray with
benefit. Others, in their esteem, are every thing: but as for themselves, they are nothing, and worse than nothing.
So far as the case falls under the notice of the world, they wonder that such a lively and amiable creature is becoming a moping and unsocial being: and they promptly prescribe their remedy-some company, some amusement, some change of scene : let books be shut up, and let the business of life employ both head and hand. Miserable comforters! Physicians of no value! Spare your cruel kindness. You do not understand the case.
Even the pious, who have never felt the trial, cannot enter into its nature. Those who have experienced it, and who feel the purest sympathy for the sufferer, know well how little human language can effect in such
A few kind hints, a few mild and soothing words, a few gentle assurances, are all that they will venture to utter, except where they see that the spiritual patient requires somewhat bolder treatment.
Where the continuance of darkness and distress results from mistaken views of subjects, or from inconsistent conduct, or from constitutional temperament of body or mind, the wise Christian will know how to treat the case: but where such causes are not known to exist, the case is one which above all others will compel him to feel his ignorance and weakness. It is one, I would say, in which God acts, and, as it were, bids man to stand aloof. He has thrown the gold into the fire; and, for wise and gracious purposes, keeps it there. He has led the soul into the wilderness, and He detains it there for a season.
Many are the sayings of the wise In ancient and in modern books inrolled Extolling patience as the truest fortitude ; And to the bearing well of all calamities, All chances incident to man's frail life, Cosolatories writ With studied argument, and much persuasion sought Lepient of grief and anxious thought:
But with the afflicted in his pangs their sound
I do not say, that there is no place here for ministerial exertion. The faithful and kind minister will endeavour to ascertain the state of the sufferer's mind, and to discover from the tenour of his remarks and complaints where the secret of his trouble and anguish lies. Assuming that it is unbelief, which undeniably is the fact, the matter to be ascertained is, what is the ground, the aliment, of unbelief in this particular instance. With the blessing of God, he may succeed: but it not unfrequently happens, that his skill is baffled and his efforts fruitless. God gives comfort to the soul in His own time and manner: but occasionally an individual may be found who is generally walking in darkness. It
may be of some importance to the distressed Christian to consider the real case of Christians in general. He looks to bright and happy characters, and, perhaps, thinks that all are bright and happy. He concludes that he is not a true Christian, because he does not think and feel as he presumes that such characters see and feel. He looks on the excellence of the Christian character, and takes