Page images
PDF
EPUB

people? No. Here the king elects his subjects—not the subjects their king; and in that, as in many other senses, he who is both our Saviour and our sovereign says, "My kingdom is not of this world." There have been many disputes about the doctrine of election, and these have given birth to many most learned and profound treatises; the combatants on one side maintaining that in election God had respect to the good works which he foresaw men were to do, while their opponents have, as we think more wisely held, that in all cases his choice is as free and sovereign as when, descending on the plains of Damascus, he called in Saul of Tarsus, the greatest persecutor of his church, to be its greatest preacher. It was on this subject that an aged Christian uttered a remarkable saying, which I may apply to the matter in hand. She had listened with patience to a fine-spun and very subtle argument against the doctrine of a free election. She did not attempt to unravel it. She had no skill for that; but broke her way out as through the meshes of a cobweb with this brief reply, '' I believe in the doctrine of a free election; because I know, that if God had not first chosen me, I had never chosen him.

That reply, which was quite satisfactory to her simple piety, and will weigh more with many than a hundred ponderous volumes of theological learning, rests on the depravity of our nature, and applies to our present subject. Aliens by nature to the commonwealth of Israel, and the enemies of God by wicked works, it is absolutely necessary that Christ should first choose you as his subjects, before you can choose him as your king. Hence our catechism says, "Christ executeth the office of a king in subduing us to himself, ruling and defending us, and restraining and conquering all his and our enemies." Thus, Prince of Peace though he be, in the Psalms and elsewhere he is pictured forth as a warrior armed for the battle; a sword girded on his thigh, a bow in his hand, zeal glowing in his eyes, he drives the chariot of the gospel into the thick of his enemies. And as our own nation lately, with prayers for their success, sent off her armies to reduce to obedience a revolted province, God, when sending his Son to our world, addressed him as one about to engage in a similar enterprize: "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, 0 most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; whereby the people fall under thee."

Christ does indeed reign by conquest; but his reign is not therefore one of terror. The very opposite. He reigns, as he conquered, by love. For, although in the first instance his people neither choose him, nor call him to the throne afterwards, what king so well beloved? Enthroned in the heart, he rules them through their affections; nor employs any but that which is at once the softest and strongest, the gentlest and mightiest of all forces, the power of love. He subdues, but it is to save you. He wounds, but it is to heal you. He kills, but it is to make you alive. It was to crown you with glory that he bowed his head to that crown of thorns. Other sovereigns may have rendered good service to the state, and deserved its gratitude; but Christ's is the only throne, filled by a living king, who has this at once most singular and sublime claim on the devoted attachment of his subjects, that he died to save them. "I am he that liveth, and was dead."

We are not such subjects as we should be. Yet the world is not to be allowed to forget, that, imperfect as our obedience is, his people are not insensible, nor have they shown themselves insensible, to the paramount claims which Jesus has upon their loyalty. In our eyes, the grace and glory of other sovereigns pales before his—as stars when the sun has risen; nor is there any one we ever saw, or our affections ever clung to, whom we feel we should love as we ought to love Jesus Christ. True piety is not hypocrisy; and it is due alike to Christ and the interests of religion, that the world should know that the love his people bear for him is a deeper affection than what the mother cherishes for the babe that hangs helpless on her bosom; a stronger passion than the miser feels for the yellow gold he clutches. With the hand of the robber compressing his throat, to have his gray hairs spared, he would give it all for dear life; but loving Jesus whom they never saw, better than father, or mother, or sister, or brother, or lover, or life itself, thousands have given up all for him. Not regretting, but rejoicing in their sacrifices, they have gone bravely for his cause to the scaffold and the stake.

It is easy to die in a battle-field—to confront death there. There, earthly prizes are won—stars, bright honors, are glittering amid that sulphureous smoke; there, earthly passions are to be gratified—my sister was wronged, my mother butchered, my little brother's brains dashed out against the wall. I am a man, and could believe the story told of our countrymen; how each, having got a bloody lock of a murdered woman's hair, sat down in awful, ominous silence; and, after counting the number that fell to each man's lot, rose to swear by the great God of heaven, that for every hair they would have a life. Amid such scenes, with passions boiling, vengeance calls for blood, hurling me, like a madman, on the hedge of steel; and, where the shout of charging comrades cheers him on, the soldier is swept forward on blazing guns and bristling bayonets, in a whirlwind of wild excitement. But, to lie pining in a dungeon, and never hear the sweet voice of human sympathy; to groan and shriek upon the rack, where cowled and shaven murderers are as devoid of pity as the cold stone walls around; to suffer as our fathers did, when, calm and intrepid, they marched down that street to be hung up like dogs for Christ's crown and kingdom, implies a higher courage, is a far nobler, manlier, holier thing. Yet thousands have so died for Jesus. Theirs has been the gentle, holy, heroic spirit of that soldier boy, whose story is one of the bright incidents that have relieved the darkness of recent horrors, and shed a halo of glory around the dreadful front of war. Dragged from the jungle, pale with loss of blood, wasted to a shadow with famine and hardship, far away from father or mother, or any earthly friend, and surrounded by a cloud of black incarnate fiends, he saw a Mahometan convert appalled at the preparations for his torture—about to renounce the faith. Fast dying, almost beyond the vengeance of his enemies, this good brave boy had a moment more to live, a breath more to spend. Love to Jesus, the ruling passion, was strong in death; and so, as the gates of heaven were rolling open to receive his ransomed spirit, he raised himself up, and, casting an imploring look on the wavering convert, cried—" Oh, do not deny your Lord!" A noble death, and a right noble testimony!

Would to God that we always heard that voice and cry, when, in the ordinary circumstances of life, we are tempted to commit sin. I say the ordinary circumstances of life; for it would almost seem as if when we are least tried, we are most in danger. On grand occasions faith rises to the trial; and such is the vitality of christian love, that, like the influence of the wind on fire, the storm seems rather to blow up than to blow out the flame. How often have Christ's people found it easier to withstand on great occasions than on small ones! Those will yield to some soft seduction, and fall into sin, who, put to it, might stand up for the cause of truth and righteousness as bravely as he who, in yonder palace, stands like a rock before the king. Commanded to do what lays Christ's crown at Caesar's feet, he refuses. It is a thing which, though ready to dare death, he dare not, and he will not do. He offers his neck, but refuses that—addressing himself in some such words as these to the imperious monarch: "There are two kingdoms and two kings in in Scotland; there is King Jesus and King James; and when thou wast a babe in swaddling clothes, Jesus reigned in this land, and his authority is supreme."

Would to God that we had, whenever we are tempted to commit sin, as true a regard for Christ's paramount authority! With special reference to our own hearts be the prayer ever offered, thy kingdom come— take to thee thy great power and reign. Ours be thy prayer, O David—" Cleanse me from secret faults, and keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me." Alas, how often do we unwittingly, thoughtlessly, rashly, under the lingering influence of old habits, swept away by some sudden temptation, some outburst of corruption, practically deny the Lord that bought us, and yield

« PreviousContinue »