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liness and worldly lusts,” that we may live a life of real and evangelical “ holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.” And while we desire soul prosperity ourselves, let us strive to promote it in all around us. Indeed, if we be really seeking the welfare of our own souls, it seems next to impossible not to desire the same divine and important blessing for others, and especially for our dearest and nearest relatives and friends. The children of God thrive together, and as burning coals, keep each other alive. Taught by the same Spirit, and animated by the same zeal and love, they “ look not every one on his own things, but every one also on the things of others."
While we cultivate all amiable and lovely graces, and strive to “ bear one another's burdens,” may our divine Redeemer impart to us his Spirit and grace, and “ set us as a seal on his arm and on his heart." Then, though life here is a warfare, and the contest be sharp and long; though many things hinder our progress, we shall still hold on our way, being
kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.”
Encouragement to timid Believers.
“ COMFORT ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God.” This is the gracious language of Jehovah himself, and is a wonderful expression of the love of his heart. The salvation of his people is that in which he delights. It was "the pleasure of the Lord that prospered in his hand.” By our Redeemer his people are restored to life, to holiness, and happiness. “ The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him," and delights to do them good; nor will he, at any time, afflict them without cause; for they are the objects of his everlasting love, and not of his wrathful displeasure; and he will ever “ rejoice over them to do them good.” By his Spirit he “ dwells in his people, and walks in them," and he is glorified when they receive of his fulness, and live by faith on his dear Son; yea, when they “ rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
Yet in this world of sin and misery, imperfection and trouble, there are many who “ walk in darkness and have no light.” Perhaps a constitutional gloom pervades their minds; while their views of divine truth are not entirely correct. On the whole, they believe the truth, but do not feel that powerful appli
ENCOURAGEMENT TO TIMID BELIEVERS. 281
cation of it which fills the soul with ecstasy, and heavenly delight. They do not absolutely despair, but their hope is always faint and wavering. They see themselves vile and helpless creatures, they loathe and abhor themselves, and live far down in the valley of humiliation, having but little feeling or enjoyment in religious duties and privileges, but still they cannot neglect the means of grace. They read their Bibles, they pray in secret, and they attend the house of God, but they are hardly sensible of any real enjoyment, or of making any progress in the divine life. They are pensive and sad, and their language is generally that of mourning, and penitential complaint. When you talk with them they are pleased, but can hardly admit that they can be christians, because they have so little feeling and enjoyment. They desire to love God, yet they are afraid to say that they love him; and in this poor way they go on year after year, and seem to make but very slow advances. They dread the thought of being hypocrites, and yet can hardly think they are sincere. They love the people of God, and it seems to be their daily grief and burden that they cannot identify themselves more entirely with them; they want to be assured that they belong to Christ.
Such instances are by no means rare, and to help and encourage such persons is the design of this chapter. “A good hope through grace," and a full assurance of faith, are most desirable blessings ; but, in general, christians cannot expect to be entirely free from doubts and fears, while in this mortal body. A settled and well-grounded persuasion of interest in Christ, is certainly attainable; and we
ought not to rest satisfied without it: at any rate we should throw ourselves at the foot of the cross, when under oppressive doubts, resolved, if we must perish, to perish there. The poor Hottentot woman said " she would lieeat the feet of Jesus till he should spurn her away." Noble resolve! “God is love,” and he “ hateth putting away.”
The want of brighter evidences, and of more comfort, is often to be attributed to an unfavourable ar. rangement of what is called, the nervous system. Some are naturally sanguine and warm, and to all outward appearance, cheerful and happy; while others are naturally phlegmatic, and inclined to be melancholy. But even such are, sometimes, when converted to Christ, made exceedingly happy, by a right reception of the gospel of the grace of God. This is not, however, the case with all; for though the obvious tendency of religion is to induce happiness, (and there can be no real happiness without it, and the more we possess of it, the happier we shall be,) yet some humble and sincere souls are still left to doubt their interest in the blessings of that new and everlasting covenant, which is ordered in all things and sure. They are never satisfied with themselves, but are constantly desiring to be different, and to be like other christians, whom they view as being more highly favoured and honoured than themselves, and as living in higher and purer regions.
It is of the utmost importance for them to inquire, how they have “ learned Christ,” and how “ they have received him?" Perhaps there may be a hurtful portion of legality remaining in them. Have they utterly renounced all dependence on self-righteousness? Are they not looking into themselves for certain pre-requisites to warrant them to believe, and to lay hold of the consolations of the Gospel ? Have they come as sinners to Christ? Have they claimed his salvation under that character, as being wbolly unworthy, in and of themselves? Or are they not laying too much stress on frames and feelings?
If we know any thing savingly of Christ, we must have felt our need of him, and must have received him by faith in his blessed relations and offices. Yet this knowledge may be so small and indistinct, as to afford but faint degrees of consolation. But if we be taken off from the world, and are looking for the blessed hope of the Gospel, we have certain ground of rejoicing, though, for the present, that joy does not flow freely into the soul, but distils, as it were, by small and almost imperceptible drops.
Some are kept from rejoicing in Christ because their experience does not arise to a certain standard. They know not the particular sermon by which, nor the particular time when, they were first awakened, and brought to seek the Lord in good earnest. Religion is not inherent; but in some persons it springs up gradually like the morning dawn, by imperceptible degrees; while others have been suddenly called, perhaps in the meridian of life. Such persons resemble a dwelling whose shutters are closed till noon, and then thrown suddenly open, to admit at once the full body of meridian light. The cases are different as to the manner, but the result is the same. And it would be as incorrect to say, it is not day at twelve o'clock, because the light of the morning was admitted gradually, as to infer that we are