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we are alienated from him, our obedience must be partial, interrupted, and reluctant; and our services must resemble those of the Scribes and Pharisees, which were ar abomination to God. Prov. xv. 8 ; Luke xvi. 15. He must, therefore, have our hearts. All his children, without exception, are able to adopt the language which one of them once employed in the name of the rest, “ We love him, because he first loved us." 1 John iv. 19.
This love to God is in fact one great mark by which we may determine who are his children, and who are not. Uncon. verted persons may dread him as their Judge, but regenerate persons love him as a Father. “Ye have not received," says St. Paul to all his fellow-disciples, “ the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father :”—“ because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Rom. viii. 15; Gal. iv. 6. False religion is servile ; true religion is filial. The one makes men fear his anger; the other makes them confide in his faithfulness : the one makes them shun him, lest he should condemn them ; the other makes them seek his presence, that they may enjoy his blessing. Those, therefore, who love him not, have reason to conclude that they are not his children; but those who love him have the blessed evidence that he has adopted them into his family.
To those who wish to ascertain whether they love God, the Scriptures offer various tests, by which they may try themselves. “ He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected." 1 John ii. 4, 5. “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” 1 John v. 3. If we have examined, with diligence and candour, the word of God, to know all his will concerning us; if we are conscious that we are habitually striving to obey his will as far as we know it; and if we do this with cheerfulness,-these are proofs that we love God. Another test is given us in these words : “ If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen ?” “Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him. Ву this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God.” 1 John iv. 20; v. 1, 2. If, while we exercise a benevolent regard to all mankind, we feel a brotherly love to all those who by their faith, their zeal, and their obedience, the
spirituality of their minds, and the holiness of their lives, prove themselves to be the children of God, always loving best those who most devotedly love and serve their Maker; then, doubtless, we love him; but if we prefer the society of those who, with wit and talent, with learning and with amiable tempers, are still ungodly, we may be sure that we love him
But passing by all the other passages relating to this subject, we have only time to examine one more test which is supplied by St. John. In his first epistle, he thus writes to believers: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."-1 John ii. 15: and he adds this reason, why Christians must not love it, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the
and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” -1 John ii. 16. Because an excessive attachment to pleasure, splendour, and gain, though exceedingly common in the world, are all contrary to the word of God, therefore Christians must not love or choose the society in which, amidst these prevailing evils, God is forgotten, his laws disregarded, and his wrath despised. If, therefore, we love the world thus, we do not love God: but if with a benevolence which would do good to all, we are conscious that we shrink from the worldliness around us, in which the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life hold their undisturbed reign, then we may hope that we really love him.
Should you, dear reader, find, by a comparison between your own experience, and the language of Scripture, that you do not love him; and if the unwelcome conviction forces itself upon your mind-if when you attempt to shut it out from your memory, it returns only more imperious and more menacing than before,—do not strive to conceal from yourself either the guilt of that alienation, or the danger which attends it. Unless it be subdued, it is impossible that you should enter heaven; and there is but one other condition for the dead. At any moment a cold, a fever, an accident, may be commissioned to hurry you to the judgment-seat; or some secret disorder, lurking concealed in your system, may be about to break forth with a fury which, baffling all human skill, may soon lay your body in stiff and icy stillness within its shroud; or, perhaps, already distinct symptoms may appear of a decay which no prudence can retard, of an approaching dissolution which no supplications can avert; and should you be driven in your present condition, reluctant and shuddering, into the unseen world, it would be to realise a worse disaster than was ever pictured by the gloomiest imagination.
Yet if, to our shame, we are indeed thus alienated from God now, why should this ungrateful alienation be eternal? He who commands us to love him, can also inspire us with the love which he claims; for he has said, " A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Ezek. xxxvi. 26. By that Holy Spirit, therefore, who is expressly promised to all who ask for his influence in humility, in faith, in earnest desire, and with resolved perseverance, may the most frivolous, the most proud, the most worldly, the most sceptical, and those even who are most enslaved by vicious habits, acquire that supreme love to their Creator which is the necessary condition of our happiness, and the universal characteristic of his children. And with that blessing, all other blessings would be yours. He who is love, can never cease to love his people; and must therefore bless them throughout their existence.
O then, by all that is consoling in the love and care of an Almighty God, and by all that is terrible in his curse; by the anguish of that intolerable remorse to which alienation from him must conduct you; and by all the peace and hope, the strength and triumph, which you may experience in loving him,-humble yourself for that criminal indifference in which
you have hitherto lived, and for which you can make no atonement. Remember that it pleads for vengeance; that it imprecates his wrath upon your head. Confess, therefore, that you deserve that wrath; and, rejecting every false hope, cast yourself upon the mercy of God, in exclusive reliance on the merit and mediation of his Son. Renounce at once the ungodly associations which turn your heart away
from him. Avoid every thing which tempts you to dissipation and folly, to worldliness and self-will. Never let a day pass without reading and reflecting upon his word: begin at once to honour him by your habits; and, above all, seek earnestly the renewal of your heart by the Holy Spirit, through whom you may be able supremely to love, and stedfastly to serve him.
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY,
27, RED LION SQUARE ;
J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, LONDON.
J. & W.Rider, Printers, Bartholoinew Close, Londou.
It is a most awakening truth, and one which must be received on the authority of the sacred volume, that in whatever state, morally and spiritually considered, we leave this world, in that very condition we shall remain for ever. The man whom the hour of death finds in the possession, through Divine grace, of real holiness, will be holy for ever; while he who closes this life as he spent it, rejecting God, and slighting the offers of salvation, will continue hardened and impenitent through all eternity. In the former case, neverceasing happiness will be the consequence; in the latter, misery without an end. Let us connect these considerations with another, which Scripture and daily observation combine to press upon our attention—the uncertainty of human life, and the possibility that at any moment, and without any notice, we may be called into this fixed and changeless state of existence; and it would appear impossible not at once to arrive at a proper conclusion as to our own habitual duty as dying creatures, yet possessed of immortal souls. Surely it must follow, that no course of conduct can be safe or right which will not bear the test of eternity applied to it, and of which we cannot feel satisfied that, were eternity to break upon us while actually pursuing it, it would be consistent with that holiness of character which alone will be followed with the happiness of heaven. We should thus continually employ the immediate prospect of eternity as a test by which to ascertain the propriety or the impropriety of all we do, and think, and say ; by which to judge of the correctness or erroneousness of any doctrine we may be disposed to embrace, and the worth or insufficiency of any of the principles we adopt as our own.
It is by applying this rule to the gospel, as containing the principles of genuine Christianity, that we learn its real value and intrinsic excellence. The doctrines to which it invites attention, and the precepts which it enforces, reduced to practice, necessarily lead the man who is enabled by Divine grace to yield himself to their influence, into a state in which he may not only regard eternity in near prospect with composure, but await its approach with joy; because it will confirm him in holiness for ever, and secure to him, through the merits of Jesus Christ, an uninterrupted enjoyment of the Divine presence and love. Nowhere do we meet with attestations so strong in favour of Scriptural Christianity as those which have been given at the moment when this world has appeared as nothing, and the soul has been absorbed in the future. Then it has been discovered that, however much its truths are questioned by multitudes, and however much the preference denied to these may have given to other systems, nothing -no nothing—but the religion of Jesus can lead the soul into that state for which death has no terrors, and eternity no alarm.
It was with a view to give such a testimony, that a young officer, who fell in the siege of Algiers, sat down on the evening before the engagement, and, in the anticipation of death, wrote three letters, the expressions in which, as far as regarded religion, he wished should be considered by the three individuals to whom they were addressed, as coming from that eternal world into which he had a presentiment he should soon enter. Extracts from two of these letters are subjoined. They were written at a season when a man was not likely to dissemble; when hypocrisy would not guide his pen, nor influence his heart. He was just at that age when the world looks attractive, when hope is lively, and the imagination is busy in picturing to itself scenes of future delight. He was young, and his natural disposition was far from gloomy; but under the influence of real religion he cheerfully resigned the fancied pleasures which arise from the gaieties of this world, for those which are alone to be discovered in the heartfelt service of God. There was a time, indeed, when on these points he thought and acted differently. He had ardently engaged in the pursuit of his professional studies—but had neglected the all-important interests of his soul, until, in the providence of God, he became acquainted with a pious medical officer in the navy. His friend resolved, in the opportunities of conversation, to bring the great truths of vital religion before his mind, and, if possible, to excite attention to them.
They first conversed on the state of man, as an accountable and a fallen being on his inability to render satisfaction to the Divine law, and his consequent exposure to eternal punishment;-from hence they were led to contemplate the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, the wonderful and glorious plan of redemption, and the way of a sinner's par