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God. He has appointed means for this blessed end. “ If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Lord! make me wise in time, that I may be happy in eternity!
This parable speaks at once to the understanding, the conscience, and the heart. Yet, it is painful to think how little the human mind is affected by the most awful truths of revelation. Persons who profess to believe in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, and who would, on no account, be deemed infidels, can, and do act, from day to day, as if futurity was ideal, and all the promises and threatenings of the Bible without a meaning. If their earthly prospects are likely to be blasted by some improvident connexion, and they are timely forewarned of the coming danger; how anxious are they to avail themselves of such friendly intimation, placing the most implicit reliance upon the veracity of their informant, and acting promptly and decidedly upon it. But the reverse is the case, as it respects their spiritual concerns. They are forewarned and admonished in vain. They hope things will end better, than religious people imagine; and thus madly venture upon the awful issue, rather than act as in temporal matters they would have acted. With all their boasted faith, they are practical unbelievers. They acknowledge the veracity of Scripture, but refuse to obey its dictates. They have loved idols, and after them they will go."
The state of Christendom, it is to be feared, too much resembles this picture. There is a verbal veneration for the word of God, combined with a secret aversion to its holy requirements.
But what is faith without works? No better than a tree destitute of its fruit. The faith of God's elect is according to godliness. The word
of truth must not only be believed, but practised ; not only acknowledged, but felt. Its awful, its consoling, its purifying doctrines must have a transforming influence on the heart. Then, and only then, will the believer be made clean, being sanctified by the truth as it is in Jesus.
This change constitutes the characteristic difference between the nominal professor of Christianity, and the real believer. They are known by their fruits.
It is truly surprising that the human heart is so little impressed with the nearness of eternity. This insensibility only proves the powerful prevalence of unbelief. A very slight accident or disease, if it affects a vital part of our frame, soon dissolves the natural union between soul and body.
We are constantly walking upon the very borders of the invisible world, where all is unchangeable and eternal; yet we live as if time would never end; or at least, as if its termination was very distant
This can arise only from the earthliness of our hearts ; from the astonishing power which visible objects have over us; and from the small influence which things unseen and future have upon our hopes and fears. But this small influence springs solely from unbelief. We know that we must die; and yet we live as if we did not believe it. We know that life is uncertain ; and yet we lay our plans for years to come, as if nothing was so certain as our continuance here. We profess to believe that God will render unto every man according to his works; and yet we act as if our works would never be noticed in the day of general retribution. We acknowledge that out of Christ, there is no salvation ; that without holiness no man shall see the Lord ; and yet we neglect the Saviour, and treat the work of grace upon the heart as fanatical and delusive.
Lord! what is man. What a compound of contrarieties and inconsistencies ! O! give me a heart devoted to thy glory; broken off from sin, and weaned from the world.
Dear Jesus, to thy cross I bring
From unbelief and inward guile
Whate'er I am, or wish to do,
Whene'er my devious footsteps stray,
LII. ON THE THREE ENEMIES.
Why are so many souls deceived and plunged into destruction ? Because they will not consider. Want of consideration is one of the fruitful sources of human misery. “My people do not consider."
A thoughtless mind is one of the characteristics of that broad road which leadeth to destruction ; whilst anxious enquiry, a solicitous concern, a serious consideration about eternal things, is the first step, through grace, into that narrow way which leadeth unto life eternal.
Give me, blessed Saviour, a thoughtful, serious, reflecting mind; a deep sight into myself; a watchful eye over my spiritual enemies; an unshaken confidence in thee.
From the word of God, and my own experience, I find that there are three powerful enemies, which are incessantly labouring to destroy my soul.
The first is the world. Being rescued from its snares, through the mighty power of God, it still seeks to effect my ruin -1. By its smiles ; hoping thereby to win me back again, and allure my poor, vain heart by its soft, seductive influence. This is a most dangerous temptation, and few withstand its force. 2. By its frowns; — thinking thereby to terrify my soul, and cause me to renounce the faith of Jesus, rather than suffer affliction with the people of God for a season. Lord, strengthen my faith, and arm me for the combat. 3. By placing before my eyes its riches, honours, and pleasures ;-to captivate my affections, and wean me from the unseen glories of a future world. Fatal temptation! “Demas hath forsaken me,” said St. Paul, “having loved this present evil world.” To withdraw the affections from the things of time; to sit loose even to lawful enjoyments; and to wait with anxious desire for the signal of departure to a better world; is what unassisted nature can never perform: yet genuine religion consists in this happy state of mind. Lord, help me. Without thee I can do nothing ; but, oh! glorious triumph: “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.”
The second enemy, who labours to oppose my progress to the realms of bliss, is the flesh; danger. ous enemy indeed, because never separated from me. Wherever I go, I carry this enemy in my bosom. Lord, save me from this sinful man, myself
. The flesh harasses my soul:-1. By exciting evil af
fections and lusts, and stimulating to wicked and unlawful actions. 2. By resisting the good motions of the Spirit; stifling its convictions, and craving a little more indulgence on the lap of sinful pleasure. 3. By labouring to blind my understanding by false reasonings, and thereby aiding the tempter in his work of destruction. Thus inbred sin is always at work. I am only safe whilst vigilant and constant at a throne of grace.
The third enemy, by whose subtlety and malice man became a child of misery, is the Devil. This great adversary of the human race, as well as the world and the flesh, has many devices and stratagems to deceive and to destroy. May I never forget my helplessness and danger; but ever look to him who fought this champion in my nature, and overcame him by his own most precious death upon the cross.
The devil harasses my soul:- 1. By injecting evil thoughts; those firebrands of hell, which fill the mind with anguish, and almost drive the trembling sinner to despair. The feeble-minded, and the low-spirited, are exposed to this artillery of Satan; from which even the strongest and most joyous believer is not wholly exempted. When the enemy comes in like a flood, do thou, O! blessed Spirit, lift up a standard against him.
When the overflowings of ungodliness make me afraid, then do thou arise, O! mighty conqueror of death and hell: so shall thy enemies be scattered; then shall they that hate thee flee before thee! The devil tempts me to ruin,-2. by presenting the bait of sin under false names and alluring colours. How many are destroyed by this temptation. The object of Satan is to represent the religion of Jesus as gloomy, unsocial, and forbidding; and the pleasures of the world as smiling, sociable and enchanting. Lord, make me watchful. 66 In vain is the