« PreviousContinue »
by assuring us, "that he who cometh to Christ, Christ will in no wise cast out."
The same knowledge of the Scripture brings rapidly before our minds all the promises which we most need. It reminds us that we must be earnest in prayer, and not faint; that the kingdom of God is like the seed, which grew up in its appointed season, though it showed no signs of life at once; that he who shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved. All these, and many other such texts, we now lay hold of with a personal interest. We now feel their value. The words of Christ, in this our daily struggle with our sins, are now, indeed, becoming to us our bread of life. While I repeat the words, those who have attended to what I have been saying will feel their true import: they will feel that, in such circumstances, they would go to Christ's life and words, and find in them a real effectual support to their souls, just as they have found the cheering and strengthening effect of food to their bodies, when engaged in any great and fatiguing exercise of body or mind-That, amidst these prayers, thus repeated, a wonderful change is effected within us; that our dispositions are greatly softened and sweetened; that our views of life
and death become different; our interest in earthly things less engrossing; our selfishness generally less intense; all this is a matter of actual experience; of most blessed experience to those who can confirm it from within themselves; but of recorded experience also in the lives of Christians, such as we may either have known them ourselves, or may have read of them. And that this change, so real and so visible, is the work of the Holy Spirit of God,--of the manner of which we can see and know nothing, but whose effects both we and all the world can witness,-this we learn from the Scriptures; and it forms one of the great and most consoling truths of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Unquestionably, where this change is wrought, faith overcometh the world. The good things which God has prepared for them that love him; his love to us in Christ Jesus; the abiding influence of his Spirit; all these are things which our prayers have made quite familiar, not to our ears only, but also to our hearts they are things which have become the great interest of our lives, and we live in the daily consciousness of their reality.
But what if all these blessed effects do not follow;-what if our faith is still weak, and the
world is not overcome;—that is, if the temptations of the world are still too much for us, and earthly hopes, and fears, and affections, still reign within our bosoms with far greater sway than the love of God? What shall we say to this? Is God's promise not sure? Is our labour all in vain? Or is it an empty dream that the Holy Spirit of God will ever deign to abide with the corrupt spirit of man? Shall we be careless or desperate, or rush to that most deadly snare of all, and say that we are fated to be as we are, and we cannot help it? All these are questions which arise from not enough bracing our minds to the belief of this great truth, that our struggle with evil must last to the very latest hour of our continuance in the body. Who told us that our victory would be won with less than half a life's labour; that our first efforts would be successful; and that we should be partakers of the rest that remaineth for the people of God, ere yet the sun had begun to slope from his meridian-ere the first shades of evening had arisen around us? We must learn another and a harder lesson, or else indeed we shall lose the victory for ever. Is our faith still weak;-let us take heed that our prayers have not been less frequent or less zealous.
Is the world still too much for us;-let us take heed that we have not thrown away some portion of our defence; that we have not been imprudent, to say the least of it; that we have not used the world even so as to abuse it; that we have not let the weeds and the thorns of earthly riches, pleasures, and honours, grow too unchecked and rankly. Let us measure our years, if we are young or in the vigour of manhood, at once for encouragement and for warning: if we see how little progress we have hitherto made, let us take heed lest we should feel the same when all our threescore years and ten are over; for the despair that would be most sinful now will be too just and too certain then. And let us know, that if we indulge the spirit of carelessness now, this despair will come,-our years will pass away unnoted, till gone for ever. But if our hearts are only unreasonably fearful, if we expected to conquer sin with too little effort, think of the portion of our lives that yet remains, think to what precious purposes it may be applied, and that he were but a foolish and faint-hearted traveller who expected to reach the end of his journey before half his day was over.
ACTS II. 42.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
IN speaking of Christian faith, I mentioned that there were three principal means of acquiring it: namely, reading the Scriptures, prayer, and a partaking of the Lord's supper. I have spoken of the two first of these, and I now propose to speak of the third; to which I may the better ask for your attention, as the communion is so soon to be here administered. Would that you might feel that communion to be as great a blessing as it really is; that you might, like the first Christians spoken of in the text, continue "stedfast in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."