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“ Alas! He knew my heart. • Thou shalt deny,'
“O can’st Thou pardon me, all piteous Christ,
“ 'Twas Thou, my Lord, that walkedst on the sea,
“O pity, pardon me! Tears are not vain.
What was it said'st Thou, though I heeded not?
OPPORTUNITIES OF IMPROVEMENT.
There is often a disposition to suppose—and it may possibly exist in
minds that never give it utterance—that were our outward circumstances different we should be better people ; and that the cause of our specific instances of departure from the golden rule of right lay not in us, but in the allurement presented, or the overpowering excitement of the evil awakened. We were violent because our interests were not duly respected, or irritable because contradicted ; our extortion arose from the necessity of “getting on," or our negligent fulfilment of duty from its insufficient remuneration : otherwise we should have been gentle, patient, just, or energetic
. Such ideas, however, have no basis in reality, but originate in the excess of self-love, which seeks to extenuate infringements of order—more plainly sins--when their commission cannot be denied. The truth is, that the evil inducements allowed to assail us are distinct providential permissions, in order to make us acquainted with ourselves; and are so many opportunities
afforded of purification from the evils excited. The evils we do not repent of remain in us; not, indeed, always in activity, for divine mercy may hold them in quiescence; but so long as they are not removed by actual repentance, that is, by our becoming conscious of their presence, and then combating and subduing them, the opposite good is not, and cannot be received. Those excitements to evil indulgence, whether in affection, thought, or action, which we judge to be unfavourable to progress or Christian development, are thus among the chief of the Lord's mercies ; for only at such times have we the opportunity of victory. We cannot enter the lists with an opponent while ignorant of his existence; nor, even when this is recognised, so long as he keeps in concealment. He must be brought to light and met in stern conflict before he can be overcome. Opposition to our pretensions or our opinions may reveal our love of pre-eminence; or adverse events the strength of worldly attachments; and then is the time for resistance. Pride, arrogance, and self-conceit must be subdued when the tendencies to feel that we are superior to others, and to treat them with contempt; to boast of our doings or good qualities, and to attribute to ourselves the merit of gifts received from the Lord ; are active in the mind. So the various evils of uncharitableness can only be rejected when feelings opposite to charity are awakened. And, in the same manner, the disorderly appetites of the animal nature are to be corrected by shunning intemperance at the very time we are tempted to excess.
When from experience, self-examination and concurrent circumstances we have discovered some certain evil inclination in ourselves, we usually determine not again to comply with its suggestions; and then, in our earlier states, think there is nothing more to do, and that victory is achieved. But without realizing our good resolutions in action by avoiding evil when it is present, the mental exercise of forming them is nugatory, or, indeed, worse than nugatory ; for there is a danger of taking credit for the self-denial which was purposed even when the purpose was unfulfilled.
Rightly interpreted, then, the arousing of an evil propensity is an intimation of its existence in the mind, an admonition to resist it, and, as we are never tempted above what we are able to bear, an assurance that needful strength will be given for the conflict, if it be engaged in in humble dependence upon the Lord.
Ar the present time, when the external aspects of war are so forcibly and painfully kept before the public mind, it may be profitable to direct attention to considerations connected with it of a more interior character.
All are agreed as to the miseries that attend its path, and as to the duties thence devolving on all Christians to do what they can to alleviate them, and even the ordinary newspapers recognise the possible purificatory effects of war upon a city such as Paris.
But it seems reserved for us to point out results that must follow in an altogether higher plane—to lead the thoughts to the upper side of the cloud that broods over Europe, and endeavour, as far as may be, to view the results of the war as they are seen in the spiritual world.
We know that, in the individual man, by means of outward trial, trouble, bereavement, poverty, &c., interior states are opened by the Lord's Providence, and that in most cases, if we could see the two pictures, the under and upper sides of the cloud, the contrast would be so great that we probably could hardly trace any connection between them.
Indeed, it is certain that none but the Lord Himself sees the full connection, as none but He can so regulate and control the discipline, as that the eternal ends in view may be best attained.
Extending this consideration from the ordinary cases of individual life, we can see that it must be equally true in the more special case of sufferers by war, and in the national aggregate of such cases—even in those instances of awful desolation which have filled our minds with horror.
Not only does the Lord ride on the storm and bend it, offspring though it be of hell itself, so that His own great purposes of progress shall be accomplished, but for every individual as far as he will allow it in his freedom, the Lord's care provides that spiritual benefits shall be effected, that states of humiliation, of patience, of trust and reliance in Him shall be built up, even on the foundations of such sore troubles as those of innocent non-combatants upon whom war has brought ruin and destitution. Thus, in many instances doubtless, is realized the prophet's expression, “ Beauty for ashes."
of the special character of the spiritual benefits so brought, as "good out of things evil,” we can of course know no more than we can of the spiritual blessings, which we cannot doubt will also nationally be wrought out of this tremendous conflict. But we may see clearly that a double duty rests upon us : in the external degree to recognise and let our Christian sympathy be drawn out by the sufferings and wants of our fellow-creatures; and in the internal to acknowledge that the Lord is King, and is making wondrous use of these afflictions for the eternal benefit both of nations and individuals. Thus may not only our own faith be strengthened, but we may, as far as lies in our power, influence others more fully to recognise the reality of the Divine government, and adore the infinite love and wisdom of our Lord.
C. J. L.
THE DIVINE WISDOM OF THE WORD OF GOD AS SEEN IN THE SPIRITUAL
SENSE OF THE HISTORIES OF SAMUEL, Saul, DAVID, Solomon and DANIEL. By the Rev. Dr. BAYLEY. JAMES SPEIRS, 36 Bloomsbury Street, London. 1870.
Dr. BAYLEY is so well-known in and beyond the Church as an eloquent preacher and lecturer, that it would be “throwing words away” to say anything in his favour in this his most important and cherished vocation. His praise is in all the churches. His published discourses have had a wider circulation than any others that have ever issued from the New Church press; and no better evidence than this could be afforded of their happy adaptation to the capacities, the states, and wants of a large circle of readers. We may venture to say that those who have carefully and deeply studied the writings, do not always in their discourses sufficiently reflect how essential it is to success and usefulness to adapt their teaching to the capacities of their hearers for theological and spiritual truth. Before a preacher can make
. a subject plain to others, he must indeed have a clear view of it himself; but the faculty of making a subject plain and attractive to others is one that requires to be, but is not sufficiently cultivated. All cannot attain to the same excellence in this. It is to some extent an art; but it is also, we believe, a gift. It requires a combination of qualities which do not always meet in one person, and which not every one is likely to succeed, as the author of those discourses has succeeded, in acquiring