« PreviousContinue »
tians, which does not from time to time afford melancholy proofs of this hollowness of character, this emptiness of profession, this influence of the world, to the grief of its faithful pastor, and the pious part of his flock? Such awful characters may be considered as spies, "feigning themselves to be just men," whom Satan sends into the camp of the true Israel of God, in order to discover the failings and infirmities of real Christians. These, they traitorously expose to the derision of an ungodly world, hoping thereby to bring discredit upon the Gospel of Christ, and keep men more quietly in their sins. God can indeed overrule all for good, but woe unto them by whom these offences come.
It is then both awakening and alarming to reflect how far a person may go in outward profession, and yet be a dissembler with God; an almost Christian a cast-away."
If the new creature in Christ Jesus can be so counterfeited, as to deceive for a time the children of God, whose judgment is always guided by that charity which hopeth all things; how ought I to examine into the principles, motives, and springs of my own actions, lest after having made a profession before men, I should be rejected as "reprobate silver" in that day, when "the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." O what need there is for sifting ourselves!
Blessed Lord, make me a humble, sincere disciple. Let me not covet after gifts, so much as graces; and after divine gifts, only that I may be useful to others, and glorify thee. I may live in the bustle of religious institutions, whilst devoid of religious affections. I may be able to advocate the cause of Christ, whilst destitute of a saving interest in his blood. I may mingle in the companies of the pious, and yet be an utter stranger to their spirit and experience.
Nothing will stand the test of the great day, but faith which worketh by love. My soul must be united to Christ by a living faith, before my works can be acceptable to a holy God. Out of Christ, I am a dead branch. In Christ, I become fruitful, through the skill of the heavenly husbandman, who pruneth the living branches, that they may bring forth more fruit to the glory of his grace. This blessed receiving of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Ghost, will be accompanied by a gradual renewal of the soul into his image; and this divine transformation will be productive of works of faith, labours of love, and patience of hope. My heart will become the abode of peace and purity. High and holy principles will be implanted in richer abundance. I shall live for Christ. His glory will be my chief aim. His law, my soul's delight. Holy love will guide my movements, and become the unceasing spring of holy actions. All my desires will be to Him, who loved me and gave himself for me. This is true Christianty. O! that I may feel the power of this sacred truth. Lord, save me from insincerity and hypocrisy, from declension and apostacy. Let me not be satisfied with barren knowledge and outward profession; but let thy love rule in my heart, and shine forth in my daily words and actions, till I am translated, through grace, to those pure regions of unsullied happiness, where all thy redeemed people shall shine forth, as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father for ever and ever.
In thee all treasures lie,
From thee all blessings flow;
Thou art the bliss of saints above,
The joy of saints below.
O! come and make me thine,
A sinner sav'd by grace;
Then shall I sing with loudest strains
When standing round the throne,
Thy praise shall be my sweet employ,
XXIII. ON CONVERSION.
Wherever we look, we behold some part of God's works; some remembrancer of his power and good-. ness. Then why are our thoughts so seldom led, "through nature up to nature's God?"
Here we discover the influence of sin, which so fills our hearts with the love of the creature, as to leave no room for the love of the Creator.
When the Saviour was born into the world, there was no room for him in the inn. Just so it is with our depraved hearts. Yet, wonderful condescension! Jesus stands at the door and knocks; saying: "if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me."
And does not every heart fly open to receive the heavenly visitant? Alas, no! Satan puts on the three-fold bar of unbelief, pride, and prejudice; whilst inbred sin, afraid of losing its darling gratifications, opposes every effort to admit so kind a friend. The flesh pleads hard for self-indulgence;
the world spreads its painted baubles, its deceitful riches, its empty honours, its intoxicating pleasures; and thus the sinner is held in vassalage to the powers of darkness.
Is then the heart for ever barred against the Prince of peace ? For ever barred it would be, did not sovereign grace by its almighty power drive out the strong man armed, crucify each rebellious lust, and bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
When grace opens the sinner's heart, all the powers of the soul are made willing to admit the conquering Saviour, and to acknowledge Him to be the Lord.
Old favourite sins now become hateful; darling lusts appear like inbred vipers. Satan is beheld in all his horrors, and vice in its true deformity. The world loses its charms. Heaven opens on the enraptured eye of faith. Holiness captivates the heart by its celestial beauties. Jesus is beheld with rising admiration, and becomes each day more precious to the soul.
Such is the wonderful change wrought in the conversion of a sinner, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Unbelief gives way to faith; pride to humility; anger to meekness; impatience to resignation; hatred to love; and sin to universal holiness. The idol self, falls prostrate before Jesus Christ; and nothing is extolled or trusted in, or pleaded before the throne of God, but the precious blood and righteousness of Emanuel. All glory is now given to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and the triune God is ALL in ALL.
It is to be feared, that thousands who call themselves Christians, will never be acknowledged as such in that day when the secrets of all hearts shall
be revealed, and the real character of every professor of godliness distinctly known.
Too many, it is to be feared, substitute a general acknowledgment of the truths of the Bible, for that faith in those truths which purifies the heart, and assimilates the soul to the image of Jesus.
It is no difficult thing to say, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord." But to feel all the love, reverence and obedience, which as creatures and redeemed sinners we owe to our God and Saviour, is not so easy to fallen nature.
It is no way contrary to our carnal heart, to profess, and even strenuously to contend for those truths which we have been taught from our infancy to consider as sacred; or to extol that church, in whose bosom we have grown up from our earliest years.
But to exhibit the fruit of those doctrines, and to act agreeably to the spiritual formularies of our venerable establishment, is not so congenial to the natural state of our depraved hearts. So long as thousands who bear the Christian name, live in all the gaieties and follies of the world; neglecting the Gospel, and manifesting a spirit in direct opposition to it; we cannot wonder, that such multitudes, carried away by the potent stream of public example, rest satisfied with a faith which passes current in the world, which attaches no odium to the character, which requires no self-denial, no painful sacrifices on the part of its possessors.
Many, no doubt, rejoice that they are preserved from such delusions, as they suppose the people of God labour under, who debar themselves from what they term the innocent gaieties of life, and the delights of fashionable dissipation. These persons pride themselves on their superior wisdom in being able to grasp both worlds at once; to acknowledge