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tion, and putting himself and his household in motion ? Well does the reader know that it would not.
And yet is not this what thousands say in effect ? And is not this what they continue to say until death comes, and the mercies of God are “clean gone for ever"? Do they not say, or strive to say, of the gospel, It may be that what I see is indeed the true light; but it is not for me to take any step towards it: God will bring it nearer to me, if he intends it for “ a lamp unto my feet" ? And do they not continue to say this until the lamp goes out for ever in the night of death ? Would that all such persons would ponder the example of Abraham ! The Voice of Mercy which in his time interposed to save the world was conveyed in language the most peremptory and unmistakable. “ Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee," Gen. xii. 1. And it was obeyed at once. And not less peremptory is the tone in which the same Mercy interposing now exclaims, “ Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty," 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18.
Thus distinctly, thus imperatively, is the sinner warned that he must not expect to be the mere passive recipient of the grace of God. It is not in the gospel that the “God of glory" still speaks as of old, “ Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” 2 Cor. vi. 17.
But if a religious life may seldom be begun without exertion and self-denial, he who begins it engages in no thankless service. Who ever set himself sincerely and strenuously to do the will of God, and did not afterwards rejoice that he had done so ? In this respect, also, the history of the call of Abraham is a very suggestive narrative. The first call addressed to him, which is not recorded, but only implied in Gen. xii., was in general terms; but he obeyed it. The second was more pointed and personal, and had the effect of separating him, not only from his nation, but even from his family. And afterwards, to glance forward for a moment in his history, when he had formed his first encampment at Moreh, he was rewarded for his obedience with the grand promise (Gen. xii. 2, 3), which not only assured him of a numerous posterity, but which intimated, not obscurely, that amongst his descendants should be found that REDEEMER who should one day come to deliver the world. The childless man believed, and built an altar to Jehovah ; and soon after was cheered by a more distinct reiteration of the promise, Gen. xiii. 14. Remaining faithful to the worship of the true God, his faith was again rewarded in the pleasant valley of Mamre by a repetition of the promises, as well as by a mysterious ceremony, in which, certain victims having been killed and divided into halves, a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, symbols of the divine presence, passed between them, in order to indicate that God would certainly fulfil his gracious engagement. It was thus that the Most High opened gradually to Abraham the singular blessings in reserve for him and for his race. Every successive communication left him diminished reason for regret that he had not disregarded the first summons. It was surely because he willingly received the first intimation of the divine will, that God led him, step by step, along the path of light.
And when is it otherwise ? In the early christian age, there was a devout Roman soldier stationed at Cesarea, then the civil and military capital of Judea. He was not, so far as we know, a proselyte even to the Jewish faith ; but he was a sincere man ; he was pious and charitable ; he feared and worshipped the only living and true God. He “prayed to God alway," Acts x. 2. And“ his prayers and his alms," Gentile though he “had come up for a memorial before God,” Acts 8. 4. And, accordingly, when the blessings of a divine revelation were to be extended from the Jewish race to the rest of mankind, it was this Roman soldier who was selected to receive them first; and the first Gentile upon record who was admitted by baptism into the christian church was the devout Cornelius. We have not now to trim our lamps, as he did, and watch for the morning
“ The dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace,” Luke i. 78, 79. But
many souls does the light shine in vain ! And why in vain ? Because they neglect to “take heed” to it, “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts," 2 Pet. i. 19. The first ray from the heavenly sun shone on Abraham when “the God of glory appeared” to him in Mesopotamia ; and had the patriarch then closed his eyes, it might also have been the last. But so far from avoiding that blessed dawn, he raised his eyes to the heavenly hills from whence it came; and what his reward was, we know from those words, uttered two thousand years afterwards, “ Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad,” Jno. viii. 56. Some reader, however, may have begun to ask himself, “ In
what I to use that light which I already have, in order that I may have it increased ?" The answer is, that the religion of Jesus Christ is altogether a practical thing; and that he who would know it and enjoy it more fully must begin at once to practise it. Children learn to walk by making use of their limbs, without waiting till they shall be old enough to understand the principles of animal mechanics ; and there is only one way of learning the religion of Christ,— by beginning to live and act according to it. He who waits for ampler advantages runs a risk of dying in his sins ; but whosoever “ will do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God," Jno. vii. 17. An honest, hearty, practical trust in Christ's most faithful word,- what but that is the beginning of the christian life ?
And here the writer of these pages has laid down his pen, and prayed earnestly in his heart that some one, at least, of his readers might be led to cry, with the poor father who longed to have his child healed, “ Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief,” Mark ix. 24. If it should be so, that reader will still find the history of Abraham instructive ; for it will serve to show him how God continues to exercise faith, even whilst he rewards it.
Some persons appear to think that after the first step in religion there will be no more difficulty. All who are of that opinion will do well to consider in what way it was that God rewarded the faith of Abraham. Because Abraham obeyed the divine command when it was first given, was there no occasion, therefore, for further obedience ? Because he had believed once, would he never have to believe again ? .On the contrary, his history shows us that God rewarded his faith by continuing, at all events, for a time, to exercise it even more severely. Thus the faith which had taken him into Canaan was rewarded then with the promise that he, a childless man, and likely to remain so, should yet be the ancestor of the Redeemer. And upon the same principle, the Saviour himself appears to have acted in his conduct towards those fishermen of Galilee who were the first to follow him. Because they did not forsake him when others, startled by his doctrine, had done so, he proceeded to teach them more advanced truth; truth that must have startled and perplexed them still more painfully. He said that which plucked up by the roots every cherished prepossession, every prejudice of their hearts. He taught them that he himself was to die by the hand of violence. So let not the christian learner be discouraged if he do not find himself all at once freed from religious perplexities. God's purpose often looms in the distance, like the top of some Alpine hill, half in sunshine, half in shadow. feet;
Let us climb that height, and, lol a glorious landscape is at our
but in the distance also is another and a steeper elevation, invisible before, which we have yet to climb. God will reward our faith, if we trust him; but he will continue to exercise, even whilst he rewards it.
Thus may reflection upon the call of Abraham serve to admonish us, that spiritual life depends for its health-nay, for its very existence-as well in the individual soul as in society at large, upon God's himself ; but that those who on this ground excuse their own inaction, forget that the peremptory tone of the heavenly call, forbids the expectation that we can even become the passive recipients of the grace of God. It encourages the anxious inquirer to make use of the information and advantages which he already possesses, if he would have them increased ; and it reminds him that he should not be disheartened if his perplexities are not removed at once.
Let us read these reflections by the light of that memorable text, “ God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Reader, the sick world has not been left to itself. God has now interposed in a manner altogether unexampled on its behalf. The only begotten Son of God, the co-eternal Word, became incarnate in it, and in it submitted to death. Here was he tempted ; here did he strive ; here was he victorious over death, even whilst submitting to it ; and from hence he ascended up to heaven, and obtained for his church the presence and communion of the Holy Spirit.
But can we become the passive recipients of the grace of God ? No; for the same words require our faith, our hearty and active consent. How the Holy Spirit works with the human will is a mystery which transcends all understanding ; but this, at least, we know, that the dull and sluggish soul is not in the way of receiving this blessing,--might we not add, does not care to receive it? This medicine is of rare and divine virtue, and for all those who have once begun to feel that they must either be healed or die, it is of sovereign efficacy; but for others it is as nothing. Has the reader felt this? Then it is for him : and let him hasten to the Physician for life—for what is so valued, so precious—for life--for eternal life. “ Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out."
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.
A TRUE NARRATIVE.
The commencement of another month, finds me again prepared to make my usual visits among my numerous circle of friends. Many an eye will rest kindly upon my well-known pink cover, and many a friendly hand will open my leaves with a feeling of curiosity as to my subject. There are some who have always been my friends, and have ever given me a cheerful welcome, because they know that my object is to do good; and there are those whom I could not once claim as such, but I know that now I may rank them amongst my warmest friends. When first I visited them, they regarded me as too insignificant for their notice, and would not even let me lie upon their tables, but sent me down to the servants; and I was glad to speak to any one, rather than be neglected, though I felt my mission was to those who despised me. I have witnessed many brilliant scenes, when I have been with those whose rank or talents have placed them in high positions in the world, and I could tell of some who are the ornaments of those bright circles, who, when they are alone, will read me with an interest that often leads me to hope that their affections are not wholly fixed upon the fading pleasures of life. There are ladies who, after receiving the homage that beauty has won, in the retirement of their own rooms, will carelessly throw aside their costly ornaments, and take me up with a look of regard that makes me feel that they are my friends, though, it may be, but secret ones ; while the gayest and apparently most thoughtless young men, have carried about with them the little tracts that perhaps they would blush to own.
I have one friend amongst this class, whom illness had long prevented entering into the gaieties she had formerly been accustomed to. All that rank, wealth, and a numerous circle of friends could do to conduce to her happiness, were at her command; but notwithstanding these, she felt a restless dissatisfaction that prevented her enjoying the many blessings by which she was surrounded. Some friendly hand sent me to her; and when, for the first time, she looked at me, I asked the very question she had so often put to herself, for my
title was “ Why am I not Happy ?” and the eagerness with which she commenced reading, showed how earnestly she desired to have the question answered.