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of a man. We have lost sight of the fact, that preaching is God's ordinance, the minister his ambassador. The inestimable treasure has been overlooked, in our admiration or depreciation of the earthen vessel in which it has been deposited. We have approved or criticised the sermon, praised or blamed the preacher, and forgotten the gospel.
Or, Thirdly. We have rested in “hearing" the gospel ; and, satisfied that a duty has been gone through, have failed to desire and pray, that we may be “ doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving our own souls.”
But has the reader, on the contrary, reason to believe that, by God's grace, he is among the happy number of those who, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it ; and, receiving it with pure affection, bring forth the fruits of the Spirit ? Then although, in reply to the apostolical admonition, “ Brethren, pray for us,” he will be ready to exclaim, with the prophet of old, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, in ceasing to pray for you;" he will, nevertheless, be willing to suffer the word of exhortation, “ to abound more and more in prayer” for the pastors of Christ's flock, that his word, spoken by them, may have such success, that it may never be spoken in vain ; " and that, both by their preaching and living, they may set it forth, and show it accordingly."
J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, AND
PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON; AND W. INNES, BOOKSELLER, SOUTH HANOVER STREET, EDINBURGH,
London: J. & W. RIDER, Printers, 14, Burtholomew Close.
THE MIDNIGHT VISITORS.
Some time ago, an occurrence took place during a visit to the town of C-, in the neighbouring kingdom, which most vividly recalled to my mind the midnight scene, so graphically narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, where an awakened jailor vehemently demanded of his prisoners, “ What must I do to be saved ?" The cases were, indeed, in some respects, widely different; nevertheless, the extraordinary moral revolution produced in both, was manifestly effected by the same invisible but all-powerful agent.
For the purpose of arresting the attention of the careless in that town to their eternal interests, and of pointing earnest inquirers after true peace to its only source, through the atonement and mediation of the Son of God,-a series of consecutive services were arranged, where the gospel in its simplicity was prayerfully urged on the hearers night after night. These were eminently blessed, both in regard to the increasingly large numbers who flocked to hear the truth, and the ultimate happy results.
On Saturday evening, at the close of the first week,--We had retired from the house of prayer at an advanced hour, requiring the rest of our peaceful home, and were conversing for some considerable time over the rich illustrations we had that week been privileged to witness of God's faithfulness in answering prayer, and of the power of His grace in reaching the hearts of the most obdurate,—when suddenly a loud knocking was heard at the door. The servant soon announced that a man and his wife were in the drawing room, and had requested an interview. The lateness of the hour—it was almost midnight-convinced me that the case was an urgent one.
I entered the room; when at once the man rose from his seat, and literally (to use the historic language regarding the jailor
of Philippi) "sprang" forward and came trembling," exclaiming, “ Sir, you have saved a soul to night !”
Those who know by experience what it is for a soul to be suddenly awakened out of a long sleep of religious delusion and to find itself on the brink of eternal destruction, will not be surprised at the abruptness of this introduction. I immediately begged my visitor to be seated, and calmly state to me the object of his visit. He replied (while his countenance and tones of voice betrayed the deep emotions of his mind), “I have been long a professing Christian, and years ago became a member of a church in this town, regularly attending the Lord's table and other religious ordinances.
But never before this evening did I seriously doubt the reality of my conversion to God. It is true,” he continued, “that my dear wife, now present, became sometimes afraid that my religion was more in the form—than in the power of godliness,--and affectionately warned me, from time to time, of the danger of having a mere profession of religion where the heart was not truly given to Christ. But I ever slighted her warnings, believing that she had become prejudiced by other members of the church on the subject of my religion. When the series of the present services were first announced, I was glad ; and resolved, not only to attend them from the beginning, but to devote time to assist other Christians in going about to induce many to attend who were indifferent to all religion. The addresses thronghout I have enjoyed much; for, regarding myself as a Christian, I took home to myself all the comfort you addressed to Christians. But when you spoke to sinners -unpardoned and unregenerate sinners-and urged them by the value of their immortal souls to flee from the wrath to come, I never for a moment allowed myself to suspect that I might, in God's sight, belong to that unhappy class,—notwithstanding all my knowledge and public profession. Such was my condition hitherto, till, towards the close of
discourse this evening, you suddenly announced that you were about to speak of a class which you had not yet referred to— SelfDECEIVERS !'" Here
my visitor proceeded to give a very accurate outline of the part of my discourse which had so powerfully awakened his mind to the mournful fact of his being a “self-deceiver"-a mere professor of Christianity,—destitute of that saving change which can only be effected by the Spirit of God, through faith in Jesus Christ,—without which no man can enter into the kingdom of God. “ You then described,” he continued, “the characteristics of the true believer-born of God as being essentially distinguished from the mere nominal professor of religion ; and showed how far one might advance in the outward likeness of a Christian—without being one. You pointed out how many in all ages had built their hopes for eternity on the sand'on some outward reformation-some temporary change of feelings--on their belonging to this or that church-or on some imaginary superiority in character over others, --while they had never been truly convinced of their continuous sinfulness from the beginning,—their utter worthlessness before God,—their just exposure to his endless displeasure-had never truly fled to Christ to be saved from their habitual sinful principles—had never believed the boundless love of God in the gift of His Son to die for them, so as at once to surrender to the will of the Redeemer, and be ready to part with all for his sake—had never received His Holy Spirit, in answer to prayer, to strengthen them to live to his glory; and, when they died, made the sudden, the tremendous discovery (when it was too late) that they were unpardoned !-unreconciled to God!-unregenerate,—lost for ever! Oh, sir!” he proceeded, with deep emotion," you had no sooner begun so to describe the self-deceiver,' than I felt as if God were saying to me, · Thou art the man ! All my imagined evidences of personal religion, on which I had congratulated myself, instantly appeared to me as a continued self-deception. I found I was destitute of every true feature of a child of God; that I had been trusting to my exemption from immorality and my attention to religious ordinances, above many others, while I had neither part nor lot in the matters of true Christianity. And this evening I came to the conclusion, that if I died as I now am, I am ruined for ever! I retired home after the service to consider my ways. There I could not rest ; and I have now come, with all my heart, to ask the jailor's question, · What must I do to be saved ?' Is there mercy for me ?"
Ere I had time to reply, his weeping wife (whom, I afterwards learned from her pastor, was a sincerely devoted Christian) added a few words from the fulness of her heart. “ For a long time,” she said, “I have had many doubts of my dear husband's decided conversion to God; but I prayed fervently to God that he would be pleased, by His Holy Spirit, to open his eyes
to see his true state in the prospect of eternity. And now,” she emphatically added, “now I see how God has indeed graciously been pleased to answer my prayers !”
I then hastened to point the conscience-stricken penitent to the “ Lamb of God,” whose “ blood cleanseth from all sin," and besought him to be most thankful (while yet deeply humbled) for the merciful discovery which God had given him of his true character, and at once, without waiting for any improvement, to betake himself to the Redeemer,-confessing his guilt,--declaring his submission to His sceptre, and confidently believing his gracious promise, addressed to every returning sinner,—“Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” I entreated him to beware of being “healed slightly,” and never to rest, till, by the contemplation of the love of God, manifested in the blood and righteousness of the Redeemer, the gospel was found to be to him, through the grace of the Holy Spirit,--the power of God to his salvation.
Such was the purport of that memorable interview. Once or twice again, ere leaving that neighbourhood, I met my midnight visitor. He appeared to have found rest to his agitated soul by a simple apprehension of the good tidings of salvation to the uttermost, through the blood of the cross; and to be thoroughly determined to live to that Saviour who lived and died for him. Was “not this a brand plucked from the fire ?” Zech. iii. 2.
How many, how very many, if the truth were told, would be found to be in the mournful circumstances of my visitor, previous to that evening when he awoke to a sense of his terrific danger. They are saying to themselves, “ Peace, peace, when there is no peace !” Dear reader, it may be that you are one of this class-a self-deceiver ! Do not hastily conclude that you are not. If you be, through grace,-a true Christian, you will be most willing to be tested by the word of God ;you will respond more and more fervently to the ancient prayer, “ Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." This great principle in true Christians was affectingly illustrated when our Lord made the fearful announcement to his sorrowing disciples, “One of you shall betray me.” Who first, I ask, were most doubtful of themselves,-eager to ascertain by the most perfect evidence whether this dread statement did or did not apply to any one of them ? They were the true and faithful disciples. Each one of the innocent thought first of the possibility of it being himself.
Lord,” each of them anxiously exclaimed, “is it I?” They seemed to be afraid of none but themselves. But the guilty one was the very last to apply the test to himself. And not till all the others had preceded him did he reluctantly submit to the same humiliating inquiry, saying, “ Master, is it I ?”. So it is now.
The true believers in Jesus,—when they read or hear of the imminent danger of self-deception in relation to
TUE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.