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We are living in remarkable times." The dark and the bright,—the light and the shade of the Christian's anticipations for this world —appear to be now developing on a scale of unusual, if not extraordinary magnificence !
Scarce a country can be named, or a class of society in general, but their present position and prospects contribute, more or less, to this conclusion. On every side God is speaking, either by the melodious sounds of the glorious Gospel, beseeching men to be reconciled to Him; or, through the trumpet voices of many most awakening providences, warning them to flee from the wrath to come.
And yet it is to be feared that comparatively few hear or understand either the one or the other; neither responding to the Gospel, proclaiming a free pardon and eternal life, nor awakened by the loud and reiterated voices of God, speaking to them personally through the varied events of mercy and judgment. How few have thus realized each awakening public event, and each providential blessing, as the messenger of God sent to knock at their doors, saying,
6 PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD”! All eyes are now turned to the East.
And why? Because the civilized world has come to a crisis in its history, and myriads are waiting in trembling suspense the awful result. But how many are most deeply interested the issue of the present war, and are daily opening the public papers with
eager haste, ready to be joyfully or painfully excited by the tidings, as they may indicate triumph or defeat ; who yet, it may be, have never paused for one solemn hour in their career, to consider that every one who has not yielded himself up to the love and service of the Redeemer is, at this moment, at war with God; and is, even now, viewed from heaven, as having come personally to a crisis of his being, compared with which the crisis of kingdoms in dread conflict—the crisis of a battle 'field, viewed in its mere relations to worldly interests—is absolutely nothing. To such persons God exclaims, with solemn warning, “ Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth, but woe to the man who striveth with his Maker."
In these eventful times, we see especially the condition of Europe arresting every eye, and the gathering storm beginning almost to burst on every one of its kingdoms ; while the simultaneous exclamation is heard on all hands, “ What shall be the end of these things ?” But without detracting in the smallest degree from the momentous importance of the events which are now rapidly transpiring; or lessening the estimate of their bearing on the weal or suffering of millions; and fully admitting that an over-ruling Providence will speedily cause the whole to develop ultimately His own glory and the best interests of the world; still, let it be earnestly demanded, What is our country, with all its prosperity—what the whole world, with all its interests, changes, and revolutions, to an immortal being unreconciled to God,—hastening every day with incalculable rapidity to His bar, where, prepared or unprepared, he will hear a sentence which cannot be reversed ?
Is there, to an immortal being, any comparison between securing, through grace, the eternal salvation of his own soul and all the victories by our arms, all the prosperity for our enterprises, at home or abroad, which the noblest patriot, or the most enlightened statesman could desire ? Surely none. And yet on every hand we see multitudes neglecting the salvation of their souls, deaf to the calls of redeeming mercy, while yet eagerly absorbed with great political events which cannot afford them one ray of consolation at a dying hour, in the prospect of eternity. How often do such require, in all affection, to be reminded of the Saviour's awful demand“What shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?” Thus it is the continued and but too successful aim of the Malignant Spirit to divert the minds of men away from the true causes of their misery-away from God-from the gospel-and from eternity to what is merely external and passing ; or to cause the claims of domestic life,—of business,-of patriotism, and even of general benevolence, to eclipse or neutralize the higher claims of the Redeemer, and the deliverance of their souls from endless destruction.
Yet God willeth not that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He waits to be gracious. Hence he frequently employs special providential means to awaken a man to the crisis of his life, besides causing the tidings of salvation through the blood of Christ to be freely proclaimed, even to the chief of sinners. From time to time he seeks to win them by the abundant blessings of His providence, or startle them from sleep by the trumpet blast of sudden and alarming dispensations !
Who, for example, can take a solemn retrospect of the public events of the past year, both in this and other countries, and dispassionately observe the present tremendous crisis in the history of vast empires and kingdoms, without considering how frequently and loudly the Lord is speaking by His providence, both in mercy and judgment ?-or perceiving that He has indeed risen up to accomplish some mighty design, which, in its rapid progress, shall shake all kingdoms to their centre, -affect all communities,--and eventually speak home personally to every human being ?
On the one hand, we have been visited with the noisome pestilence which walketh in darkness, and have seen thousands of old and young, rich and poor, alike hurried to an unexpected grave. Surely the Lord has proclaimed to all survivors, through every departing spirit thus suddenly called into the eternal world, “ Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Thus, again, have we been plunged into a deadly conflict with a powerful despot, whose insatiable ambition has already reanimated to an intense degree the warlike spirit in our own and neighbouring countries. And who can tell how many families have been already bereaved ?-how many of our countrymen are soon to be swept away by a sudden or agonizing death ?-or what may be the fearful extent or duration of these desolations ? Surely, again, this dreadful calamity, which is begin. ning to carry poignant sorrow into the hearts of so many around us, is another urgent demand to flee to Him who alone can comfort the bereaved mourner,-bind up the broken hearted, defend our country, and protect every one who trusts to Him in the coming hour of trial.
On the other hand, we have been signally favoured with the most abundant harvest in the memory of any one. God has literally crowned the year with his goodness. Such a rich blessing at such a time, accompanying or immediately following calamitous visitations, appears as if intended to show to all that the grand design of these deserved judgments is not destruction, but salvation; even that men may be awakened from their sleep of death to flee to the Redeemer as a covert from the storm, as the hiding place from impending judgment. Thus, in justly merited wrath for our provocations, God remembers mercy. He desireth not the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live. He knows that nothing is so adapted to touch the springs of the human heart as loving-kindness, as gracious providential interpositions. Hence the over-abundant harvest to a guilty people. Hence all our blessings, both spiritual and temporal,--that his goodness, long suffering, and forbearance may lead men to true repentance, exclaiming, “We will arise and go to our Father.”
And what has been the result ? With multitudes there is every reason to fear, that all the effect produced on the one hand by the mournful trials, sorrows, and bereavements, of many around them,-or on the other by the abundance of providential blessings, has been a passing emotion of wonder, pleasure, or alarm, with barren speculation on their probable temporal results ; while the great design of God in thus dealing with man has been entirely overlooked ;-one going to his farm, another to his merchandise! So absorbed, indeed, do some appear with earthly, momentary things,—so sunk in the gulf of sin, folly, or business, that nothing, it is apprehended, will arrest them to the deep conviction that God reigns and speaks to them,—till they be personally summoned into the world of spirits. And there,
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON. upon you. Then
before the throne of judgment, they shall hear the dread words, when they cannot possibly turn away, or misunderstand the fearful charge, “I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh ; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh shall they call upon me, but I will not answer ; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.” But let it be hoped,
and there is good reason to hope, -that a far different effect has been produced on the minds of not a few others ;-that the voice of God's love has been again and again heard in the storm ;-that his goodness has been perceived in the abundant providential kindness; and that many are now listening with deeper interest to the glad news, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," and already tasting the blessings of everlasting life.
There is nothing to which we naturally attach more importance than the friendship or favour of man. All history is crowded with illustrations of the vast power of this principle. What labours, what enterprises, what hazards have been undertaken to secure it ! Men have braved suffering and death in the most appalling forms to obtain the breath of praise! And even to a well-regulated mind, conscious of integrity, it is no small trial to meet the frown or condemnation of others. But at the moment of death, what is the honour of all men ?--or what their frown? Is it worth any. thing in the light of eternity ?
Not long ago, the late Commander-in-Chief of the British forces was buried under a weight of worldly glory perhaps never before exceeded. And now, the distinguished leader of the armies of a neighbouring kingdom has been summoned into the presence of God at the very hour of victory, and amid the plaudits of great nations. But the very moment after death, of what avail to these illustrious conquerors were all their by-gone