« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the great ends of being ; not securing his own salvation, not doing anything to save and bless his kind. The word of inspiration itself
says, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” Reader, is this your case? If it be, resolve that your life shall be redeemed from all this vanity. As you
feel how sinful you have been in wasting it, go to the foot of the cross, and there confess and deplore your guilt. There seek another life, that life which is quickened by the Spirit of God; and there, too, consecrate your affections and energies to Christ, and say, “The time
life is sufficient to have wrought the will of the flesh, I will now by Thy grace do Thy will." It is not too late. Be assured the dedication will be accepted, and you may yet do good service for God, and be a blessing to the world. It may even now be possible for you to crowd so much of holy energy and of divinely directed zeal into your life, that it may be said of you, as it was said of the protomartyr Stephen--and nobler earthly honour could scarcely be recorded—“Devout men carried him to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.”
J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, AND
PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON ; AND W.INNES, BOOKSELLER, SOUTH HANOVER STREET, EDINBURGH.
J. & W. Rider, Printers, 14, Bartholomew Close, London.
Not far from Avignon, in the south of France, is a mountain which may be descried from all parts, and which is called, from its loftiness and exposure to storms, " The mountain of the winds.” Petrarch once toiled up that hill, and has left a minute account of his journey in one of his letters. After describing the glory of the prospect (crossed as it is by the arrowy Rhone, cutting plains, and skirting hills clothed with vineyards, and oliveyards, and bounded by the blue Mediterranean in the distance), he tells us that he took out his favorite book, the “Confessions of Augustine," to read on the spot as the sun was going down, when his eye lighted on the following passage : “ Men go far to observe the summits of mountains, and the waters of the ocean, and the springs and courses of rivers, and the immensity of the sea, but themselves they neglect.” The coincidence between this thought and his own circumstances struck him powerfully, and he reflected on the folly of mortals, who, neglecting the most precious part of their nature, go to seek with difficulty abroad what they might easily meet with at home. The words of the Christian Father are true. The comment of the Poet is just.
Men do go in search of outward wonders to the neglect of the study of what they carry within them wherever they go. The external universe does indeed fully repay the curiosity which it excites in minds of sensibility and taste; the only thing to be lamented is, that men who love communing with nature omit to commune with their own selves also.
The Divine lesson, “commune with your own hearts,” is of . infinite moment, and the strongest statements warranted by truth had need be made on the subject, since there is so little of this employment amongst us. Men are loath to engage in it. Self-knowledge is by no
It would be curious, if it were not so atfecting, to think how many people there are intimately acquainted with a vast range of subjects—history, science, literature, art, who are thoroughly ignorant of their own spiritual nature, its capacities, condition, and destiny, its state before God, its relation to Christ, and its prospects for eternity. The man's soul is a dark centre, with a luminous circumference. To him the outward world is open, the inward shut; abroad he finds acquaintance, at home he is a stranger. Many are even better acquainted with the character of others than with their own. Wisely has it been remarked, that “
suppose any number of persons acquainted with one another : the judgments they formed of one another would, on the whole account, be nearer the truth than those which they entertain of their own selves, notwithstanding the great advantage men have for knowing themselves better than others can. Yet really it is strange that there should be so much mistake and ignorance on the subject, for, looking at the constant presence of one's own heart, it would seem that a true and just acquaintance with it were an easy thing. Not to hold self-communion must surely require an effort-various expedients must be devised to prevent it; it must be like having at home an unwelcome lodger,like taking abroad a distasteful companion. No doubt, men have to strive hard, and to be ingenious, to veil the face of the mysterious inmate, to stifle the voice of the intrusive guest, to divert attention from the inward whisperings. The end some have in view, in business, and travelling, and amusement, is just this——to escape from themselves. They are spectre haunted mortals—their hearts are dark shadows following them everywhere. They would give the world to be utterly self-forgetful. It is a terrible fact, that: with the fear of something outward there may be hope. What relief is there for the fear of what you carry within ? Think of the struggle some have to elude the consciousness of guilty secrets,—the frantic efforts of a prisoner to burst the chain by which his gaoler holds him,-a face averted with agony from the dark entrance of a hell-like cave, while a Fury stands behind, pushing on the scared one, telling him, “ you must look in,”—such images are feeble types of the hopeless struggle. Suspicion, horror, dread, sometimes prevent self-communion, but not always. The pre-occupation of the thoughts, society, study, entertainment, levity, often excite an unwillingness to look within, or rather remove the state of the heart, as a subject of inquiry and meditation, quite into the background. Some who feel neither positive terror nor total indifference have a lurking suspicion that all is not right, and so waive selfinquiry,—as people sometimes shrink from looking into their affairs, when they have some unpleasant surmises that things will be found to be going on wrong. Your unwillingness to enter on the duty is really a reason why you should delay it no longer. Commune, then, with your own heart—but not with that alone. The religion of some begins and ends with the study of their own spirit. Their own spiritual consciousness, as they call it, is their Alpha and Omega. For the settlement of the greatest religious questions they look to their own reason. They fancy all truth lies hidden in their own soul. They think of it as a well, with the stars of a glorious sky reflected there. No external teaching is needed by them-their own spirit is their priest. To it alone they put their deep questions; the leaves of its book alone they turn over. They fancy that the mind only asserts its true independence when it casts off the tuition of the past and present, when it scouts all external monitors, when it listens only to its own music, and is absorbed in the murmurings of its own voice. Such notions are very popular in the present day in some quarters. Some departments of literature are pervaded with this spirit. David meant something far different, when he said, “commune with your own heart." Enlightened reason means something far different. Honest heart communion alone will teach us much, but its teaching is all of a certain. kind. It reaches not beyond a certain point. It makes us see what we are, but the feeling inspired is not of the proud self-complacent stamp. An unpartial, complete, thorough self-consciousness awakens a sense of sin. It excites a sense of want. There is a perception of the beauty of human nature as created by God, but there is also a conviction of the depravity of human nature, through the self-indulgence, selfishness, and obstinacy of man. There may be glimpses of a glorious past in the early history of humanity, but there are also apprehensions of a degraded present, and forebodings of a dark future.
A fall, an apostacy, a descent from innocence, a sinking down from God, is felt. The contradiction and confusion of human nature is realized. Conscience holds up the law's broken tables. Conviction is quickened, fear of punishment ensues. Communing with the heart does this—under the mysterious influence of a Power presently to be noticed-but it cannot do more. It shows the disease, not the remedy. It exposes to the storm, it does not point out the port. David communed with something besides his own heart: 6
Thy law is my meditation day and night.” “ Thy testimonies are very sure, making wise the simple.” “ Thy word is a light unto my feet, and a lamp unto my path.' God has given a revelation signed and sealed by himself. The evidence of the Divine origin of the Bible is incontestible, prophecies now fulfilling attest it. It is full of miraculous knowledge, as well as the record of superhuman wonders. Any theory giving it a merely human origin must abound in difficulties, contradictions, absurdities. We know that it is God's, from evidence, external and internal.
Communing with our own hearts we must commune with the Divine Word too,“When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee,”- .“ Talk with thee !” Yes, it will, and that most honestly too—first about thyself—thine own sinfulness, thy guilt, thy danger. It will open chambers of imagery. It will lay bare dark secrets—it will go down very deep. “ For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” But if the heavenly word talks in a tone of terror, it talks in a tone of mercy too. “ After the fire a still small voice.” When man hears froin his own heart that he is a sinner, that word confirms it, and deepens the conviction ; but it goes on to inform him of a divine and omnipotent Saviour, who took on himself our nature, and died for us on the cross. It tells him how Christ came into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved-how, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so was the Son of man lifted upthat whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. It declares the wonderful fact of the atonement, and that through the blood of Christ we may be cleansed from all sin, and that faith in his name is the simple and only method of obtaining pardon and peace. When man finds he is full of confusion and self-contradiction, and that word makes the hopeless state of things within still more apparent, it goes on to reveal a divine and gracious Spirit who renews men's hearts, and turns disorder into beauty, and darkness into light, and death into life. It discloses the possibility of a new birth, the regeneration of the soul by the grace of God, and offers the Spirit to all who will ask for it. When man's own soul vainly struggles with evil, and that word persuades him more than ever of his own weakness, it proceeds to inform us of a certain method of victory, even through faith in Him who has overcome for us. And when man looks in despair to himself for consolation, amidst hours of bereavement and loneliness, spiritual anguish, and the fear of death, that word at once strengthens such despair, and kindles a true, bright, glorious hope, that rises over the agitated soul, “ like to music serenely beautiful after a night of tempest and of horror."
Remember, then, self-communion alone will not suffice. Yet is self-communion essential to salutary communion with the
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.