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NEW JERUSALEM MAGAZINE,
THE PRESENCE AND SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST THE ONLY RATIONAL SOURCE OF CONSOLATION AND SUPPORT; AND THE BEST PRESERVATIVE AGAINST THE FEAR OF DANGER.
“And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray; and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea, and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, it is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them saying, Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.”
Such were the sweet words of consolation and encouragement addressed by the benevolent Saviour of mankind to his terrified disciples. And surely, naturally speaking, the imagination can hardly conceive a case more replete with terror and alarm than that which is here recorded: they were in the midst of a tem. pestuous sea; the sable curtain of night, by which they were shrouded, precluded all hope of deliverance from the timely assistance and succour of others; they were tossed with the waves, and the wind was contrary ; their lives were in the utmost jeopardy; we may well suppose the whole energies of their minds and bodies were exerted to save themselves, if possible, from the impending destruction which threatened them; when lo! a form was seen moving towards them, walking on the surface of the troubled waters; they said, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear: this was the climax of their terror ; this would appear
No. 10-VOL. I
the crisis of their fate ; death in its most appalling shape had seized upon their minds; their souls and bodies were depressed and enervated by reason of their agonized feelings; in fine, they sunk at once into the dark abyss of wretched and hopeless despair. It has been well observed that “man's extremity is God's. opportunity." And this maxim was remarkably exemplified in the instance before us. For we no sooner find these primitive disciples of our most merciful and omnipotent Saviour reduced to the very brink of ruin, their minds overwhelmed with the sense of their forlorn and apparently lost condition, when behold! the cloud which hung darkling over them is in a moment dispersed ! the vivid tints of the celestial firmament are no longer hidden by any obstructing medium! the sun of righteousness, with healing in his wings, bursts forth to their enraptured view, and all is wonder, love, and praise! their suspended faculties are again restored; for amidst the gloom, the horror, and agitation of the tempest, they hear a voice saluting them,-it penetrates the bone and the marrow, and their bosoms are thrilled with delight ineffable, when they perceive that it is no other than their own adored Lord and master who thus addresses them :-"Be of good cheer; It is I, be not afraid.”
From these words, we shall farther adduce the following doctrinals:- First, that the spirit and presence of Jesus Christ is the only rational source of joy and consolation to the true believer. Secondly, that the infidel or unbeliever, is a total stranger to this joy, by reason of the superior degree or region of his mind being closed, and thus rendered non-receptive of heavenly influence; or because the inferior degree or region of his mind is only open to the delights of the body, and this world. Thirdly, that the true believer, in every event of his life, whether prosperous or adverse, still acknowledges the Divine Providence, and thus from a continual sense of the Divine Presence with him, is, at all times, enabled to derive consolation in every varied state of his being. Fourthly and lastly, that the spirit and presence of Jesus Christ, is the only infallible antidote against all slavish and servile fear, from whatever cause it is wont to intrude itself upon us. The present time will barely allow me to make few
brief remarks on the first of these points. First then, we observe,That the spirit and presence of Jesus Christ, is the only rational source of joy and consolation to the true believer.
It will be seen, that a distinction is here made, between the spirit and the presence of Jesus Christ ; and we doubt not, that when the ground of this difference is clearly pointed out we shall also be justified in the using of such terms.
We are aware that the generality even of professing christians, will deem the proximate or instant presence of Jesus Christ, (admitting that “he is God over all, blessed for ever,") fully adequate to consummate the perfection and happiness of the immortal soul, and farther, that merely to be received into heaven, on the dissolution of our material covering, will qualify us for, and entitle us to, a full participation of all those transcendent beatitudes and joys which so pre-eminently abound in those blessed mansions ! We cannot now enter into detail concerning this fundamental error; we will not, now, declaim on the confusion and mischief which such a glaring fallacy is calculated to produce in the church! We will content ourselves, at present, by adverting to a few literal facts, to evince the truth of the position we wish to establish; namely,--that the mere presence of Jesus Christ is inadequate to communicate consolation and support on his own part, or to produce reception on the part of man! Were it otherwise, than as we have stated, the following pathetic declaration would never have been penned :
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” We should have heard nothing of the contempt and hatred, the cruel mockings and scourgings, or the painful and ignominious death which our Lord experienced at the hands of the Jewish people. When the same Divine personage, actuated with the spirit of benevolence and goodwill towards his lost and miserable creatures, and who went about continually doing good, came into a certain country, we read that the inhabitants thereof no sooner knew of his presence amongst them, than they earnestly entreated him to depart out of their coasts. Again when a certain demon who had taken complete possession of the faculties of an unfortunate maniac, saw our Lord pass by where he was, cried out, “ let me alone: I know thee who thou art, Jesus thou Son of the Most High God! I beseech thee torment me not !”
These examples may be sufficient to prove that the immediate presence even of Jesus Christ, with all the blessings of redemption, salvation, and deliverance in his train, will neither inspire that joy and gratitude, nor produce that conviction and consequent reception, on the part of many, which is necessary to their present and final happiness.
This assertion may sound strangely in the ears of some people; they can hardly conceive any one so wilfully blind to his own interest, or so utterly depraved and hardened in heart, as to reject Jesus Christ from himself, and to say, we will not have this man to reign over us." And that if such persons were once convinced of the inestimable blessings they thus forego, and of the guilt and misery they hereby entail upon themselves, through the pow
erful operation of the Lord's spirit upon their minds and consciences, their obstinacy and unwillingness must be entirely overcome. This is true, and thus we distinguish between the presence and the spirit of Jesus Christ, such as do truly receive him are not only adjoined to him by presence but they are also conjoined to him in spirit; and it is these latter alone who suffer themselves to be convinced, and on whose minds the Holy Spirit operates freely, to the salvation and happiness of their immortal souls.
Jesus Christ is alike present with every one, in all places, at all times, and in every state; he is as intimately and immediately present, at this moment with you and with me, as he was with his disciples when he said, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid!” It is true you cannot see him with the material organs, with which you now look upon one another; but you also cannot see the inner man, the souls or spirits of your friends and companions! you cannot see the natural body of your Redeemer which once hung upon
but you may even now, by the eye of faith, see an object infinitely more glorious and lovely to behold; namely, that glorified body, which as a Divine Man, is in all time without time, and in all space without space. Again, you cannot now be admitted to the high honour and privilege of walking and conversing with the Saviour of the world on this earth, as the disciples of old once did : but you now enjoy an advantage superior to this, great indeed as that was. You may walk with him, by regulating your lives according to his divine precepts, and thus be advancing daily nearer and nearer to the heavenly Zion! you may be continually proceeding on your journey towards "Jerusalem the Holy City,” in the spirit and power of your God, while your bodies are performing their functions and uses in the place and station which Providence has assigned them. You may also have the satisfaction day by day, of beholding your God, in his Word, in his Providences, and in his works !
Do you complain, that your friends and acquaintance are cold and reserved towards you; that their behaviour is uninviting and repulsive, and do you suffer any vexation on that account ? fond and foolish man! the poet will tell you, “ he builds too low, who builds beneath the stars," and the Word of God exhorts you to
from man whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of ? Did the poor woman, who said within herself, “if I do but touch the hem of Jesu’s garment, I shall be healed of my malady,” resort to any sinister and indirect means to effect her purpose ? did she seek to ingratiate herself with his disciples ? was there anything like hypocrisy, adulation, or meanness in her conduct ? was she to be deterred from her purpose
by the frowns and menaces of the multitude about her? was she to be awed into submission by the selfish, the envious and the maligrant? She asked no favour from any one, for she expected none: her poverty, her obscurity, and her insignificance in the great scale of being, precluded all hopes of assistance from man; she, therefore, threw herself at once on the Divine mercy and protection, nor was her confidence in that mercy misplaced.
The wise, the pious, and the good, can alone know wherein true humility consists, because on their minds alone the Divine Being has impressed an awful, though consoling sense, of his own mercy, greatness, and majesty ; and, at the same time a feeling conviction of their own nothingness, helplessness, and wretchedness. And although on account of certain external distinctions, one man may appear superior to ten thousand of his fellows, yet still it may only be an appearance; for the truth is, the peasant and the artizan, in many cases, are dearer objects in the Lord's sight by far, as abounding in qualities and excellences of unearthy extraction, and of eternal duration, and of which the haughty though mitred prelate, and the profligate and titled prince, may be utterly destitute.
Earthly potentates, it is true, and persons in general who abound much in the wealth and honours of the present world, are often sedulous to exclude, even from their presence and intimacy, all such as are subordinate in rank or station to themselves; and in a political point of view, this may sometimes be expedient and necessary; nay, such conduct may be justified, when it is merely resorted to as a kind of defensive armour in order to repel the encroachments of the violent and contumacious, the ignorant and assuming; for certainly, to a refind and cultivated mind, nothing can be more disgusting than the impertinence and low familiarity of such characters.
But we speak of rejecting from our presence and intimacy, individuals of our acquaintance and neighbourhood, yea of our own particular society and religion, from feelings of pride and contempt; or from total indifference and unconcern about them; and thus prevent those reciprocal attachments, and that mutual comfort and assistance, which, as different members of the same aggregate body, ought constantly to prevail in sweet and endless succession.
The truth is, that in the fulness of our own self-estimation, and our minds being puffed up with the idea of our own fancied greatness, we do in reality forget what we are ! we have lost our own identity in the mist of phantasy-we have formed to ourselves artificial and imaginary heavens, and our souls are fraught with