Page images
PDF
EPUB

a painful, and often a protracted struggle ; during which he is as sensible of pain as the victim of a cross, who, when the nails have crashed through nerve, and flesh, and bone, hangs convulsed and quivering on its extended arms. Hence these striking metaphors : “They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts;” “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” I would not deter you from the cross, or from resolving now, by the grace of God, and aids of the Holy Spirit, to take it up, and deny yourselves daily, and follow Jesus. On the contrary, I say, the crown is worthy of the cross. I have no doubt that there is far more pain suffered in going to hell than to heaven. And, although there were not, how will one hour of glory recompense you for all the sufferings and sacrifices of earth 2 I only wish to dissipate the delusion under which some apparently live, and, living, certainly perish, that indolence, and ease, and self-indulgence may inherit the kingdom of God. They think, therefore, that they have no occasion to be anxious about their souls; and rest satisfied that it may be, and is all right with them, though they are not conscious of having ever felt any serious alarm, having made any great exertion, or suffered, indeed, any self. denying pains whatever. Be assured that, as it is among pangs and birthstruggles that a man is born the first time, it is in sorrow and pain that he is born again. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice : and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail. hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” May it not be in part with reference to this, that John, speaking of Jesus, said, He that cometh after me is mightier than I–he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire / To be baptized with fire is another thing from being baptized with water. How often has the water fallen from our hand on the calm brow of a sleeping infant, which, held up in a father's arms, was returned to a mother's bosom perfectly unconscious of its baptism—translated into the visible church of Christ in a state of profound repose. But a fiery baptism 1 that which symbolises the descent of the Spirit in conversion, implies pain— such convictions of sin and dread of hell, such selfreproach, and deep remorse, as have often risen to agony, and sometimes driven man to the verge of madness. Fire burns the flesh, penetrates to the bone, and dries up the very marrow. Can a man take fire into his bosom, and his clothes not be burned 2 If not, how could a soul receive the fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit, and be unconscious of it 2 Ah, fancy not that it is to sinners only that our God is a consuming fire. He is a consuming fire, not indeed to his people's Souls, but to his people's sins. The unholy pleasures and habits that bind those whom he has chosen for himself out of a world that lieth in wickedness, he will burn. Nor are these bonds burned off them in a way as painless as happened to the three Hebrews. They, whom Nebuchadnezzar cast bound into the fiery furnace, were suffering for God, and not for sin. And preserved by Christ's presence, like his people in corresponding trials, they walked right pleasantly on burning coals, and found the flames as fresh as the breath of a balmy morning. If you have never felt pain, be assured that you have never parted with sin. Nothing short of burning out will remove it. Yet, painful as it may be, throw open your bosom for this baptism of fire! Whatever wounds it inflicts, they shall be healed. There is balm in Gilead, and a physician there.

2. In this translation both God and man are active. When the hour of our Lord's ascension had come, he rose from Olivet neither on angel's wings, nor in the prophet's fiery chariot. He put forth no effort. His body, as if belonging to another sphere, floated buoyant, upward through the air, until, as he bent over his disciples in the attitude of blessing, a cloud received him out of their sight. But no man rises in this glorious manner from a state of nature into one of grace; or leaves the horrible pit, for the light, and love, and liberty of a son of God. There is help afforded on God's part ; but there is also an effort required on ours. We must climb the ladder which divine love lets down. The soul is not, as some seem to think, a piece of softened wax, receiving the image of God as that does the impress of a seal. We receive salvation; still, we must put forth our hand for it, as the starving for a loaf of bread; as he who dies of thirst for a cup of water; as a drowning man, who eagerly eyes and rapidly seizes the falling rope—clinging to it with a grasp that neither his weight nor the waves can loose. “Between us and you,” said Abraham to the rich man, “there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot ; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence.” I know that a gulf as impassable and profound divides the state of sin from the state of grace; and that no quantity nor quality of good works that we may attempt to throw in, can form a passage for our guilty feet. Rubbish at the best how are they lost in its unfathomed depths! lost like the stones which travelers in Iceland fling into those black, yawning, volcanic chasms, which descend so deep into the fiery bowels of that burning land, that no line can measure, and time never fills them. Yet, blessed be Christ's namel the great gulf has been bridged. Redemption, through his blood and merits, spans the yawning chasm. An open way in" vites your feet. And would to God we saw men seizing that opening and opportunity "of escape, as a retreating army makes for the bridge when bayonets are bristling on the heights, and the shot is plunging amid its disordered ranks, and clouds of cavalry are cutting down the stragglers Oh, what diligence, what activity, what energy, what shouts and cries for help in such a crisis, such a terrific scene l They cast away their baggage; everything is sacrificed for life. Husbands dragging on their wives, fathers carrying helpless children, brother raising up wounded brother, the cry of all is for the bridge, the bridge | And as the iron hail rattles among their flying squadrons, save where the rear-guard faces round to the enemy and gallantly covers the retreat, every man forces on his way; until, the living wave surging on it, the bridge is choked with eager fugitives. Who thinks of sitting down there, and waiting a more convenient season, waiting till the press and crowd is over? They may envy the bird that, frightened from her brood, darts through the sulphureous cloud, and wings her rapid way high over the swollen flood, but who sits down there in the idle hope that God will send some eagle from her rocky nest, some angel from the skies, to bear the loiterer across, and save him all effort of his own 2 No man. Every man is on his feet. He throws himself into the crowd; seizes every opening in the dense, desperate, maddened throng, to get forward; nor relaxes the strain of his utmost efforts, till he stand in safety on the other side—blessing the man that bridged the stream. Is not God, it may be said, sovereign and omnipotent 7 As such, does he not sometimes save those who are not seeking to be saved 2 and even send them back from church to pray who came to scoff? True. He may set aside the ordinary laws of grace, as he set aside the ordinary laws of nature, when at his bidding iron swam, and flames were cool, and the flinty rock yielded drink, and the blue skies gave not dews but corn, and unstable water stood up in solid walls like adamant. But be it ever remembered, that in the ordinary course of his providence, God works in grace as in nature. To use a common but expressive adage, God helps the man who helps himself. Even the young bird chips its own shell, and I have heard its voice in a feeble cry for liberty before it had burst its prison walls; and what violent exertions have I seen an insect—about to enter on a new existence—make to shuffle off its worm case, and come forth in resplendent beauty to spend happy days in sunbeams, and sleep away the short summer nights in the soft bosom of a flower. Instinct teaches the lowest of God's creatures to exert themselves; and providence teaches man, in the common affairs of life, to exert himself. The blessing is on the busy. He real s a harvest who tills his field; and sickles flash, and sheaves stand

« PreviousContinue »