Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion. By help of God's word, their compass, they succeed, no doubt, in steering their way to heaven, but it is over a troubled sea and under a cloudy sky; nor are they ever happy enough to be altogether delivered from doubt and fear, till fears as well as faith are lost in light, and they find themselves safe in glory.

Again, while some, who draw all the doctrines they believe directly and freshly from the fountain of God's word, are enlightened, catholic in spirit, and sound in the faith, it is otherwise with others. Calling this or that man Rabbi, they yield too much submission to human authority. They draw the water of life, so to speak, not at the spring but at the well; and tasting of the pipe it flows through, their creed, and faith, and doctrines are adulterated by a mixture of earthly, though not fatal, errors.

If we allow to these views their due influence, how ought they to expand our hearts, and teach us a tender regard toward those from whom we differ! Blindness of mind, surely, if not willful, claims our gentle pity, more even than blindness of body. We all "see through a glass darkly." Perhaps we are mistaken. Perhaps our brethren are right. The possibility of this should teach us to differ meekly, and to avoid, even when denying the infallibility of the pope, the arrogance of one who thinks himself infallible. Of this, at any rate, I am sure, that, as objects are not only obscured but also magnified by mist, many points of difference between Christian men appear much larger now than they shall do when regarded by the serene light of a deathbed, and yet more certainly in the transparent atmosphere of heaven. And were it not well if good men would never forget that piety, though not consistent with indifference, is consistent with a measure of error. Admit that, by heaping "gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble" on the true foundation, others have done wrong; yet they shall be saved, though as by fire. The errors of many are delusions; and it is both literally and figuratively true that delusions of the brain are less dangerous than disease of the heart. A man, through the darkness, may wander to a greater or less extent from the plain, patent, direct road, and yet get home. And happiest though they be who pursue their journey in unclouded sunshine, yet to the upright " there ariseth light in the darkness" — shed by the Spirit within their souls, streaming down direct from heaven. And I have often thought it shall be with those whose hearts beat true to God and Jesus Christ, as with one who loves his father and his mother, and longs once more to see their faces, and to hear their voices, and after weary years of exile, to dwell again among brothers and sisters beneath the old roof-tree. Little light serves to show him the road. Bent on getting home, he will cross the mountains, and ford the river, and travel waste and pathless moors through the mists of the thickest day. What although errors, like exhalations from the swampy ground, have risen up in many churches to obscure the heavenly light? Where there is genuine love to Jesus Christ, and God, and man, may we not cherish the hope that there is truth enough to conduct to heaven the steps of every pilgrim who is honestly and earnestly inquiring the way to Zion ?" There shall be a highway out of Egypt." "They shall come from the east and from the west, and from the north, and from the south,"—from various climes, and from diverse churches,—" and shall sit down in the kingdom of God." Nor do I despair of any getting to that heavenly kingdom, who, though belonging to churches that are dimly lighted, can discern upon the altar the one sacrifice for sin.

2. God's people may be in darkness through sin. So long as you walk in the path of his holy commandments you walk in light, walk at liberty; you have Jesus' arm to lean on ; heaven lies straight on the road before you; and, on your path, however rough or steep, there streams perpetual sunshine. In the light of God's word, and in the beams of his countenance, the believer has that which imparts a genial warmth to his heart; every object, as in a sunny day, looks bright and beautiful; and the clouds which occasionally sweep over him and discharge their burden on his head, are spanned, as they pass away, by a bow of hope. "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart."

"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation!" the cry of one who has wandered from the paths of purity and peace, leads us to speak, in such cases, of God withdrawing the light of his countenance. But is it not more strictly true, that, in turning aside from the paths of holiness, we have withdrawn from that? It is he that descends into a pit who leaves the light, not the light that leaves him. So it is with the saint—the deeper he sinks into sin, the darker it grows. God will not smile on his child sinning; and that which would happen to our world, were its sun withdrawn, befalls his unhappy soul; a chilling cold follows on the darkness, and, but for restoring grace, death itself would follow in their train. The heart, that once sang like a bird, is now mute; the beauties of religion are lost to sight; sacraments, prayers, pious services, cease to afford their wonted pleasure; the joys of salvation —that once flowed through his heart, like silver streams among flowery pastures—are congealed into stillness, silence, and death; the soul itself grows benumbed, and is seized with a lethargy that would end in death, did not God send some Nathan to break the spell, and to rouse the sleeper. Then, conscience awakened and alarmed, in what darkness does he find himself? The sun is down; nor does a single star cheer that deepest night. His mind is tortured with dreadful doubts. He recalls the days of old, but only to fear that he was a hypocrite or a self-deceiver. Where the scriptures speak of castaways, of the unpardonable sin, of the impossibility of a renewal again unto repentance, he seems to read his doom, written by God's own finger in letters of fire. Nor is the poor penitent backslider saved from utter despair, but by clinging to the hope of mercy through the all-cleansing blood of Jesus. Led by this blessed angel to "the throne of grace," encouraged by this blessed promise, "I will heal their backslidings and love them freely," he throws himself in the dust to cry, " Hath God forgotten to be gracious?" "Is his mercy clean gone for ever?" "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit." "Be merciful unto me, O God; be merciful unto me."

These are the words of David, when under remorse for most terrible crimes. But never fancy that you are in no danger of losing the light of God's favor, unless you fall into a pit as deep, into sins as gross and grievous, as that good man committed. Beware of so great an error. No object, in its own place the most innocent, nor man, nor woman, nor husband, nor wife, nor child, nor bosom friend—nothing beneath the sun, not the heaven above it, with its holy pleasures, and high society, and welcome rest, may be allowed to come in between our affections and Jesus Christ. Let any object whatever interpose between me and the sun, and a shadow, more or less cold and dark, is the immediate consequence; as happens when the moon, forgetting that her business is to reflect the sunbeams, not to arrest them, rolls in between our world and him, to turn day into night, and to shroud us in the gloom of an eclipse. Even so the deep shadow of a spiritual darkness may be flung over a congregation, who, allowing the pulpit to come in between them and the cross, think too much of the servant and too little of the Master. May not that account for the scanty fruit of a ministry from which much might have been expected? God will not give his glory to another; and they who in their regards set the servant before the Master, place the preacher in a position to intercept that blessing, without which Paul may plant and Apollos water but there is no increase. When Alexander offered to do Diogenes any favor he might ask, the philosopher, contemplating in the sun a far nobler object than the conqueror of the world, and setting a higher value on his beams than on the brightest rays of royalty, only begged the monarch to step aside, nor stand between him and the sun. However rude such answer, on the part of the cynic, it were a right noble speech from you to any and every object that would steal your heart from Christ. Let him, who is all your salvation, be all your desire. Is he not "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person?" Fairer than the children of men, more lovely than the loveliest, he is " the chiefest among ten thousand "—he ia " altogether lovely."

« PreviousContinue »