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“ Christ and a crust” were sufficient to make her happy. Of death she had no fear. She would frequently say—
And when I'm to die, « Receive me,' I'll cry,
He'll not stay in glory, and leave me behind." Her last sabbath was spent in the house of God. That night she went to bed as usual; but she never left it. Before the morning an attack of paralysis deprived her at once of the use of her limbs, and of the power of speech. Yet even then she indicated by signs that she was happy. In this state she remained two or three days, and then, without a struggle or a groan, she fell asleep in Jesus.
Cecilia's history is ended. Who that has followed her through the intricate mazes of her path, has not sympathized with her in the afflictions she entailed on herself, by that one act of duplicity and disobedience ? May the record become a beacon, to warn the young of the consequences which will inevitably result from neglect of the apostle's admonition,
Children, obey your parents in the Lord !” Cecilia, though ill instructed, knew that she was acting improperly, and her chastisement was severe. At the same time, it cannot be denied, that the parents' unbending severity towards their erring child, was as unreasonable as it was unjust. How entirely opposed to the spirit and conduct of the compassionate Redeemer, was their determined rejection of all her entreaties for pardon! Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. It is true she had wounded the family pride, and sullied, according to the world's judgment, the family name; but, alas ! how frequently and how recklessly had her austere and unforgiving parents indulged their own corrupt and self-inclinations, and set at naught the commands and authority of their Maker. Let it not be overlooked, then, in reflecting upon Cecilia's strange and eventful life, how marvellously the love and forbearance of lier heavenly Father were displayed towards her, when the patience and affection of her earthly parents had burnt out in the chilling atmosphere of human pride and severity.
She was a sinner!' But the Lord " had thoughts of mercy towards her, to give her an expected end.”. She wandered far from him in ignorance and rebellion, until her destruction was almost accomplished. And now,“ the prey was taken from the mighty,” the“ brand was plucked from the burning," and Cecilia became a monument of Jehovah's grace. A sinner saved! Manasseh, Magdalen, Cecilia, all proclaim to every trembling sinner that none need despair.
J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, ASD
PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON; AND W. INNES, BOOKSELLER, SOUTH HANOVER STREET, EDINBURGH.
J. & W. Rider, Printers, 14, Bartholomew Close, London.
ABOUT four thousand years ago, a man was born in a village of Mesopotamia, whose memory at the present day Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans alike revere. The Mohammedan even now speaks of him as the friend of God; Jews and Arabs continue to venerate him as their common ancestor; much that is most dear and sacred in the estimation of Christians, is still associated with his name; and to one memorable event of his life historians, philosophers, and divines are accustomed to refer as constituting a momentous epoch in the history of the world. The name of this remarkable personage was Abram, or in the extended form which it afterwards bore, Abraham ; and the event which renders his name so illustrious is commonly known as “ The Call of Abraham.”
Those who care to see what a superstructure of tradition may be built on the foundation of a few obscure hints of scripture, may read in the Antiquities of Josephus (I., 8), and in other Jewish writings, how the father of Abraham was a maker of idols, and how the young Chaldean destroyed his father's works; how, again, King Nimrod cast Abraham into a fiery furnace, from which he was only rescued by miraculous interposition ; or, with more show of probability, how he brought with him from his native pastures some knowledge of astronomy, which he communicated to the Egyptians. It is enough for our present purpose to consult the sacred writings, and see what light they cast upon the event under consideration. We glean from these the following particulars :
That about one hundred years after the death of Noah (according to the common chronology), and whilst Shem was yet alive, idolatry in one form or another having again become universal, God, in order to preserve the knowledge of himself in the world, saw fit once more to interpose. That this time, however, mindful of the promise he had given to Noah, instead of destroying the race by means of a second deluge, he resolved to separate from the rest of the world one family, to whom, and to their children after them, he might communicate his will, until the time should be ripe for the manifestation of the Son of God. That for this purpose he made choice of a Chaldean shepherd, who, born in a climate where the days were always cloudless, and the nights bright with the light of the moon and the stars, had hitherto escaped, it may be thought, the growing belief of his fellow-countrymen, that light was the soul of nature, as well as the grosser idolatry which had, perhaps, in some instances, already begun to worship the stars
themselves. That to this favoured person, accordingly, the God of glory appeared, commanding him to leave his native land, but concealing from him his ultimate destination; that this command was promptly obeyed; that it was repeated, and obeyed as readily (compare Gen. xii. and Acts vii
. 2); and that the pious shepherd, who in Mesopotamia had dwelt, probably, with his family in walled houses and villages, sending out his flocks to the pasture grounds under the care of herdsmen, led ever after this event a wandering life, resembling in many respects that of the Bedouin Arabs in our own time. And, finally, that by these means he became the channel of blessing to the entire human family, giving birth to a nation in which the knowledge of the true God was never wholly lost, and in which at last, after a series of wonderful occurrences, adapted to prepare world for his arrival, the Deliverer himself appeared, “God manifest in the flesh.” Who can wonder, then, at the interest which the name of Abraham continues to excite ? looking back upon his pastoral home in Ur of the Chaldees, and listening amidst the silence of the ages for that voice which said to him, “ Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house," do not the Jewish code, and the Christian faith, and the world's destiny, appear to be contingent upon his obedience? Can any man, in short, read the history of this “call” in a candid and serious spirit, and fail to find in it some lessons which we should all do well to ponder ?
How wonderful, for example, must it appear that the state of the world should have rendered such a call necessary. Adopting the chronology of our English Bible, how does it happen that even in Shem's lifetime the light of divine truth is again threatened with extinction? There is, there can be, but one answer to the question ; and that answer we must look for in the fatal inclination of the heart to forget God. Already had the Chaldeans begun to worship the Supreme Being in those heavenly bodies where he seemed to them in a special manner to dwell : already had the idea of one Supreme Spirit begun to disappear, and the worship of the stars to take its place, and gradually to pave the way for the grosser polytheism of later times; and all this, be it remembered, while at least one of those who saw the beginning and the end of the awful deluge yet lived upon the earth. How is this to be accounted for, if not upon the ground that man does not “ like to retain God in his knowledge”? Rom. i. 28.
The truth is, that this instance of rapid defection from God is but one example amongst many which might be adduced from sacred history. Both the Jewish scriptures and the records of the Christian church exemplify this fatal tendency. Again and again after the Jewish race had been separated from the rest of mankind, and been favoured with repeated special communications of the divine will, did they seek to extinguish the sacred light; and as often had it to be rekindled by the breath of God. And in christian times, who can avoid seeing that it has been the same? Nay, were not the letters of Paul and Peter, of James and John, addressed to the first churches, in order to counteract the insidious errors which had already begun to creep in amongst their converts, and to “ corrupt them from the simplicity that is in Christ ” ? 2 Cor. xi. 3. And who, apart from experience, would ever have imagined that all the abominations of the papacy could have been made to spring, even in appearance, from the christian system ?
These examples surely, like the call of Abraham, teach us that ever when God has made himself known to men, their tendency, if left to themselves, is rather to forget, than to cultivate, that heavenly knowledge ; and hence, those successive interpositions of which sacred history is full. Art, letters, poetry, eloquence, science, have thriven in our world, without any apparent intervention on the part of the Most High ; but read the history of religion by what light we may, we shall never understand it, if we overlook the existence of that spiritual malady which afflicts human nature, and which, but for the repeated infusion of some healing element, must long since have ended in death. The call of Abraham, the complicated Jewish ritual, the miraculous Jewish history, the moral law embodied in the Ten Commandments, the wail and burden of each of the Hebrew prophets,- were so many successive interpositions on the part of God to keep alive amongst men some knowledge of himself; the perpetual re-infusion, so to speak, of the healing element into that stream which showed at all times a tendency to become more corrupt and impure.
And now that the Great Physician has come himself in order to heal and save the sick world, is the case altogether different ? The early corruption of Christianity itself has been alluded to already ; but is there no analogous tendency in the heart of the individual Christian ? Is it, then, an easy task to keep the divine plant alive? Does it not still need the fostering influences of heaven? Or when it begins to droop, where is the Christian's hope but in the vivifying power of the Almighty? If God had not in his own good time visited Abraham, the growing darkness of the world. might soon have deepened into a night illumined by no stars ; and where is the Christian who has not often prayed with the Hebrew poet, “ Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people. Oh, visit me with thy salvation"? The gospel is an answer to this prayer. It assumes the existence of this great spiritual want, and offers to supply it. When the Lord Jesus was about to quit that world which had repulsed its Saviour, he said to his disciples, “ I will not leave you comfortless : will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more ; but ye see me: because I live,
shall live also.” That promise is fulfilled amongst men now, whenever they receive the Holy Spirit in answer to their prayers ; and the constant fulfilment of it should remind us that the spiritual life, like the natural, needs to be revived continually by the same breath which kindled it at first.
But there are many who aver that they have not this life, and that they have no power to kindle it. May these be allowed to fold their arms in despair ? May they excuse their own inaction on the ground that they can do nothing without God ? Before they attempt to do so, let them answer to their own hearts the following questions. Did the call of Abraham impose no obligation upon himself ? Did it involve no movement on his own part : No anxiety, no labour, no sacrifices, no self-denial, no effort ? When God first called him to leave Ur for Charran, did it cost him no pains to induce his aged and half-idolatrous father to accompany him? Would the old man readily forego the usages of a settled habitation, for a roving, tent-dwelling life? Would the aversion always felt by old age for anything resembling change, be overcome without difficulty ? Or if Terah, which is scarcely probable, had shared with Abraham in the intimation God had given of his will, and had thus been induced to accompany his son the more readily, did it cost the Mesopotamian shepherd nothing to obey that second and more pointed call which, fifteen years later, upon his father's death, he received to leave his kindred even, and to go still farther from home, to the land of Canaan ? Were no ties ruptured then ? Were no plans disturbed ? Were no hopes disappointed? And in the new and untried region to which he was called, were there no difficulties to be wrestled with, no dangers to be feared, no enemies to be overcome ? Yet Abraham obeyed God; first at Ur, and afterwards at Charran. Would it have sufficed him to have said, “ God purposes to separate me unto himself. This call is the beginning of the separation ; he will perfect it in due course, and accomplish his own purpose.
I will leave all to him, and save myself a world of pains”? Would this have sufficed, when he should rather have been curbing his own heart, and summoning up his resolu