« PreviousContinue »
“ EPIstles of Christ” has always appeared to me a most beautiful description of the Christian character: not orations, formed for display, or courting notice; but epistles, quiet, unobtrusive, yet bearing their own decided character; and presenting their uniform, uncompromising contents, to the enquiring eye. Simplicity and openness seem to be implied : simplicity, for if any thing good can be read in them, not the epistle, but the writer must receive the honor: openness, for they are willing to be known and read of all men, if it be but to the praise of the glory of their Saviour's grace. Formed already by his hand, they will not, as conversation does too often, take the tone from present circumstances; ensnared into conformity by the voice of flattery, or ruffled into anger by the voice of opposition. Rather, with meekness and firmness, they stand ready to give to every one that asketh, a reason of the hope that is in them.
It has been my privilege lately to meet with some of these epistles; written, not on splendid, but on humble materials. Apd while exemplifying the principles of God's revealed word, wrought out in living practice; they have furnished me with truly valuable commentaries on many a precious text; and excited a spirit of self-examination, whether the same sacred impress could be traced on me. Hoping that similar effects, under the divine blessing, may follow a few simple delineations, on the mind of the reader; I am encouraged to give them. In the remarks that so much interested me from some of my poor friends, I shall mix neither invention nor alteration : indeed, the very quaintness of an expression, sometimes renders it more striking and valuable.
The first instance I will mention, is of one who has lived alone for more than twenty years, but found his heavenly Father with him; whose lot on earth is poverty, but whose spiritual treasure and eternal hopes embrace all the unsearchable riches of Christ; who, weak alike in body and in soul, has often known what it is to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might; and who, possessing little of the wisdom or learning of this world, has been made wise unto salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ. Beautiful, though very simple, and in its commencement almost ludi. crous, was the manner in which be portrayed his delight in the ordinances of the gospel. He was looking back to the time when he had first learned their value: and after describing with delight the well remembered nook, which, by placing one hassock on another, he formed for himself beside the pulpit; he added,– “ And there I could look up at Mr. -; and he seemed to me like a great rook on a high tree; a rum comparison, wasn't it? But what does the old rook do? why he goes, and gets a beakful; and drops a morsel into one mouth, and a morsel into another: and all the little rooks flutter with their wings, and rise upon
their feet, and open their mouths, and cry, caw, caw, caw: and then they take the food, and swallow it down, and are nourished by it.So I used to sit under him, like a little rook gaping for its food; and he dropped the precious promises into my mouth.”—My reader, is not here a touching comment on the texts, “ Thy words were found of me; and I did eat them; they were the rejoicing of my heart.” “I esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food ?" Have we ever experienced such sacred delight, such lasting nourishment ?—On the divine word this humble, animated, childlike Christian was enabled to build his hopes : and now, on the verge of eternity, evidently drawing near the chambers of death, he can say, “ Not one thing hath failed, of all that my Saviour promised.”
Not far from the cottage of this solitary, but happy believer, lives another; who for many, many years, has followed his Redeemer, under a heavy cross of bodily affliction. Long did his strong faith and ardent love, successfully combat the deadening effects of a confirmed palsy: and though now, in an affecting manner, forced to yield to increased bodily and mental torpor, he yet casts not away his humble confidence. His hands indeed are become useless, but his soul retains its hold (feeble though he often feels it) upon the everlasting covenant; his tongue trembles and fails; but that voice, inarticulate to man, enters into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Again and again is the food presented to him, before his closed teeth have power to open and receive it; but he has meat to eat which the world knows not of. Day succeeds day, and brings no change; yet is be enabled in patience to possess his soul; while, seated in his accustomed place, lost to all power of motion, and scarcely half-alive, he looks forward to the hour of sweet discharge, and upward to the eternal hills of life and liberty. A few affecting verses, written while his hand could guide the pen; and which, as a valued present, I have received from him, cannot fail to interest the reader. Excepting the correction of two or three grammatical errors, no alteration has been made in them.
Such is the language of this long-tried sufferer. Now, what can have held him abiding in hope, where others would have sunk in deep despair? Mark his own striking answer, to an observation once made to him.-—“We must live by the day," said one of his friends. “Oh no,” was his reply ;—“ a day would be far too long for me: I must live by the moment !" Here then was the secret of his strength; and here is a comment on the words, “ The life which I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God : it is no more I that live, but Christ liveth in me.” May divine grace transcribe this comment in our hearts : then, placed in whatever circumstances, we shall still say, “I can do all things, through Christ strengthening me,” “ I can do all things, and can bear all suffering, if my Lord be there,”
But the subject swells before me: I must confine myself to one more instance. Whether the epistle to which I now allude, be genuine or spurious, is far beyond my skill to say; the Searcher of hearts alone has power to judge. Its former language was an awful contrast to its present voice. Then, alas! it was an epistle of Satan: but sickness and approaching death are the instruments that trace its character now: and if indeed the hand of God the Spirit guide them; then glory will redound to sovereign grace and joy shall be in heaven over the repenting sinner. And in the mean time, the church below, while she feels that doubt must ever hang over those changes which have commenced with near views of death and eternity; may yet hope, though she cannot decide ; and rejoice, though it be with trembling. The expression, at any rate, which I am about to record, was beautiful if sincere : if not it deserves to be adopted by those who are truly called to be saints. Under much pain and weakness, this young sufferer was one day exclaiming, “I have no wish to recover, I had rather remain as I am;" when a bystander replied, “ Why that which God appoints for us is best ; but certainly in your present circumstances, you are more safe from temptation.' Oh, but I should never go in the same ways of sin again.”—“By the grace of God preventing you ; for we have no power of our own, to keep ourselves.”—“No; but where religion has taken root in the heart, it is a growing good, as sin is a growing evil: and is it not said, “ Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know how to choose the good, and refuse the evil?” “ After I have tasted the good then, how could I again chose the evil?"-It was a singular train of thinking suggested by the passage ; but the earnestness with which she spoke, the revolting from sin, and the experienced blessedness of religion, which it seemed to imply, greatly struck me. Not I would not, but I could not return to my evil ways. The verse immediately rose to my mind, · He that is born of God doth not commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.' Though far from any perfection of holiness, the believer is no longer under the reign of Sin, but under the constraining power of Grace. O blessed change! to be turned from sin to holiness, from the power of Satan unto God. There was another source of encouragement in the case of this young woman. She had been educated in a Sunday school; and years of subsequent guilt and misery, had