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No one can have seriously examined the Scriptures for the purpose of learning from them the true rule of life, without perceiving that the supremacy of religion implies its government, not merely of certain portions of our time, certain actions of our life, but its government of the whole, and of the whole always. Religion is walking with God, not only in the temple, but in the ordinary paths of life. And we must not say, " Ah, but we have a Saviour, and God is not so strict as you would represent.” For this is the mercy promised so especially from the days of Abraham, and which is in such perfect and beautiful harmony with the command : “ Walk before me,” addressed to Abraham, and through him to his seed throughout all generations, “ that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, ALL THE DAYS OF OUR LIFE.”
That we may be on our guard against this most subtle temptation of our enemies, by which they seek to retain us in their hands, by leading us rather to hope for exceptions and allowances, than to seek for the actual experience of the promised salvation, let us look, not at some supposed case which possibly may be at least we hope so,but at what, according to the explicit language of Scripture, this required walking with God, amidst the activities and relations of life, does really include. Endeavouring equally to avoid the mistake of those who would go out of the world, and of those who would live in the world without being delivered from it according to the will of God our Father, let us, in simplicity and godly sincerity, referring to the law of the Lord, inquire what it is, in this life, and in the present world, to walk with Him ?
1. And in the first place, as we have already said, all the duties strictly termed“ religious," and which too often are considered as being exclusively so, are to be carefully performed. And in attending to these, two things must be constantly kept in view.
(1.) By such performance we are to honour God before men : we are thus practically to declare that, forgetful of Him as the world is, and disposed to live as if He did not exist, and in this sense, although some general acknowledgment of belief in Him be made, to be, as it were, atheists in the world, we do really believe in his being and perfections, that we remember Him, and that He is truly reverenced by us. To public, domestic, and private worship, a portion of our time, notwithstanding our secular occupations, is to be regularly devoted ; union with the church is to be maintained, and the profession of our faith thus held fast without wavering. We are not to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, and we are never to act as if we were so. Ostentation and vain-glory in religious acts is to be sedulously avoided, and concealment equally so. The mark of religion is not to be carried as in our closed hand, but, where by too many the mark of the beast is worn, openly on our foreheads. Men are to see these our good works, by which we testify that we are endeavouring to walk with God.
(2.) But while one object of these duties is the acknowledgment of God, that by others, too, he may be glorified, this is not their sole object. We thus maintain the form of godliness : its power is likewise to be cultivated and preserved. We are not only to offer our sacrifice, but to keep the heaven-kindled flame burning on the altar. In all the duties of religion we are to seek fellowship with God, and not to be satisfied unless it be experienced. We are to go to the temple, but not as mere outer-court worshippers. If Christ has washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us Priests unto our God, we are to remember that the veil of the temple is rent in twain, that there is an open way into the holiest, and access to the mercy-seat. We are to draw nigh with a true heart, and in full assurance of faith, seeking to receive the promised mercy, and grace to help in time of need. We are to pray that He who sits between the cherubim would shine forth upon us, and stir up his strength and save us. “I will hear,” said David, “ what God the Lord will speak ; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints : but let them not turn again to folly.” If our services be lifeless, if in them there be no access by the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father, we do not walk with God in them.
2. In attending to worldly duties, not only must gross, open sin be avoided, but sin under its more private aspects. The “custom of trade," as it is called, must be nothing to us. No plans for carrying out our business must be adopted that we know would be disapproved even by our neighbours, if they knew them. We are to be just, whether seen or not, under the inspection of our own conscience. In an age of great trading competition, the utmost vigilance and self-denial must be exercised, that we do not seek to outrun our competitors by doing that which we cannot ourselves justify, and which, when we cannot justify, we seek to excuse, by saying that others do so, and that, by not doing so, we give them great advantage over us, and perhaps expose ourselves to certain loss. The case may be a painful one, the trial severe. But we profess to make walking with God our first and governing object; and his command is, “ Thou shalt do what is right in the sight of the Lord thy God.” What is gained in contravention of this rule, is not lawfully gained, and no blessing on it can be expected. If we lose, it is a sacrifice to which we are, for his sake, to submit. Our faith may be tried; but it is to be manifest that we are fully influenced by our Lord's declaration, “ What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” There is Sabbath trading, for instance. He who conscientiously ceases from all secular employment on the Sabbathday appears to give immense advantages, humanly speaking, to him who violates the divine command, and sets the divine authority at defiance. In all such cases, if we are resolved to keep the course we have begun, and to pass through life walking with God, we must trust in the Lord and do good. It may be that his powerful blessing shall turn apparent evil to real good. That which seems to be against us, may eventually prove to be all in our favour. But if he permits us actually to suffer the loss we apprehend, his servants have often had to count not even their lives dear to them, that they might finish their course with joy. It was so with Daniel, and the three Hebrew youths ; so with the Confessors and Martyrs. Whatever we gain, whatever we lose, nothing must be allowed to interrupt, our walking with God.
3. And, thirdly, vigilant inspection must be continually exercised, that in the whole course of secular engagements our hearts be kept right with God. We must attend to our motives. As the command is, “ Whatsoever ye do, whether ye eat, or whether ye drink, do all to the glory of God," so this command is not fulfilled by the mere iteration of the words. We must see to it that this is really the intention of our heart. Lower inotives, for immediate contemplation, there must be, of course ; but these are to be strictly subordinated to the ultimate one-kept, as it were, always in the same line with it. Indeed thus may the preserved or lowered purity of our intention be ascertained. In seeking the glory of God, setting it always before us, the line which directly leads to it will always be found to be identified with the one which the commands of God have already marked; whereas, if we seek ourselves, or the world, our movement is deflected from the straight line, and we shall be at least preparing to turn aside into our crooked paths. God is never glorified by us in contradicting his revealed will. And then, knowing that we are as though in an enemy's country, that we have an enemy who walketh about seeking whom he may devour, exercising subtlety as well as power, employing stratagems and devices as well as assaults, we are to be ever on our guard that he gain no advantage over us. Most solemn is the admonition of our Lord, “ Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” Not merely, that it do not overcome you, but that you do not enter into it. You pray, “Lead us not into temptation :” do not move into it. Very easily, if you are not watchful, may outward circumstances, hitherto harmless, begin to be temptations. Crosses and afflictions may suggest distrust, and improper methods of seeking relief. Success may suggest the pleasure and advantages of gain. The necessity of constant industry may make you love business for its own sake, till soul and intellect shall be alike absorbed in it. Without turning from your path, you may incautiously walk into an insidiously-planned ambuscade, and have at least a severe contest, even if you sustain no ultimate injury ; experiencing that the way of outward duty, though always the safest way, is not, without watchfulness and prayer, the way of complete safety. In a word, in all your ways God is to be acknowledged. A mind heavenly and spiritual is to be preserved in the midst of secular engagements. At this you are to aim, that you may always be able to say,
“ Lo! I come with joy to do
The Master's blessed will;
And serve his pleasure still.
I still would choose the better part;
And loving Mary's heart.”
If trials like those of Job await you, like Job, you must say, “ The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away : blessed be the name of the Lord !” If you are successful, and move onward into increasing prosperity, your heart must be as detached from earth, as earnestly raised to heaven, as when it was otherwise with you. “ If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” They are placed at your disposal ; but this is as real a trial-however seldom considered or termed so-as their loss would be. You are your Lord's servants. They are intrusted to you that you may employ them according to his will, as made known in his word. You are to study that word expressly to know what you are to do, considering, in connexion with the divine word, the divine providence by which your circumstances are arranged, and according to which you are to apply particularly what the word commands generally. You are to act with them as though the Lord Jesus were himself with you, had intrusted the purse to your keeping, and directed you as to the employment of its contents. As to others, indeed, you are the independent proprietor ; and, in respect of them, you may do what you will with what is, so far as they are concerned, all your own. But, as to Christ, you are steward. Your property is His; and to Him, on his throne of judgment, will you have to account for its use. Happy will
* The whole hymn, in the Wesleyan Large Hymn-Book, p. 310, is earnestly recommended to the reader's attention,
you be if, as in all other respects, so in this important one, you are found to have walked with God.
To sum up all in a brief sentence : your strength must be the grace of God; your animating principle, his love ; your aim, his glory; your rule, his word ; your encouragement, his favour, and the hope of his everlasting glory. Above all, “ singleness of eye,” purity of intention, combined with firmness of resolution, and steady decision, must be continually preserved. “ If thine eye be single,” said Christ himself, “ thy whole body shall be full of light.” Obscurities and difficulties in the paths of personal piety arise, for the most part, from defectiveness on this point. We become confused when we secretly desire, scarcely willing to acknowledge it to ourselves, to reconcile the world and religion, the service of Mammon with the service of God, seeking objects which may be properly called our own, instead of yielding ourselves to him with that devotedness and submission which ought to be unreserved and entire. The path on which we must walk with God always has its own characteristics, when we are perfectly willing to perceive them ; but when an incipient wish to walk in another springs up, even before it is fully formed, our attention becomes distracted, by being for the moment diverted. We look at some other object, and find ourselves asking, “ Can I not move towards this?” and so is the shining gate of the kingdoin of heaven, which Christ has opened to all believers, and which stands at the end of our path, withdrawn from our immediate view. There are many who, for the moment, hesitate, and say, “Is this allowable?” wishing to find it so ; “ Can I consistently pursue this?” wishing to be able to argue out an affirmative reply ; who nevertheless recover from their hesitancy, detect the device of their foe, and escape the snare laid for them. And yet, would it not be safer, better, more for our own true good, more for the glory of God, to live, as it were, in a higher dispensation, never coming into doubt concerning the way, by never losing sight of the prize, and aiming so to secure it, that, in the midst of the variety of duty, we may still be able to say, “ This ONE THING I DO?”
And it is not to a low state that our covenant God calls us : He who commands us to walk before him, likewise commands, “ BE THOU PERFECT ! ”
INTOLERANCE REBUKED. (To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.) ABOUT forty years ago, in a small village of Lincolnshire, there dwelt a poor labouring man, of the name of Robert Kent, who rented a thatched cottage, with mud-walls, and about an acre of meadow land, upon which he supported a cow for the use of his family. This little farm was all the world to him; and he envied not the greater possessions of other men. Having been brought to know the grace of God in truth, he opened his house for Methodist preaching, and once a month afforded a night's lodging to an itinerant Evangelist and his horse. A society was soon formed, the members of which held their weekly meetings in Robert's cottage. None of them had much of this world's good ; but they knew and loved their Saviour; they loved one another for His sake ; and they offered to God a spiritual worship. The introduction of Methodist preaching and discipline, however, was felt by the farmers and the Clergyman to be an offensive innovation upon the habits of the parish ; and Robert was given
VOL. 111.-FOURTH SERIES.
to understand that when the steward came to receive the rearls rents, an attempt would be made to obtain his ejectment from the cottage, and exelusion from the neighbourhood; so that the people might be freed from the annoyance of Methodist hymns, praser-meetings, and sermons. This was no unibeaning threat; for, on the arrival of the steward, vehement complaints were preferred against Robert on account of his Methodistical doings. Of this he was aware; and when the time of his appearance before the steward came, he went with a palpitating heart, to pay the money which he owed, and to defend himself as he might be able. It may be doubted whether Nehemiah prayed more sincerely, in the silence of his heart, when he was about to prefer a request in behalf of his country to a heathen King, (Neh. i. 5—11,) than did this devout peasant when he felt that the subsistence of his family and the cause of his Saviour were both at stake. After waiting for some time, his name was announced, and he was ushered into the presence of the man in authority ; who said, “ Your rent is — ” “ Yes, Sir, and I have brought the money.” After it had been counted, and was found to be correct, a dialogue to the following effect took place :
“I understand, Robert, that you have opened your house for Methodist preaching; and that it is licensed accordingly?”
“ Yes, Sir ; for I have received great good to my own soul from the preaching of the Methodists; and I was wishful that my neighbours should have the same benefit.”
“ At what times are your religious services held ?” “A Travelling Preacher comes and preaches to us once a month, on the Tuesday evening. On the Sunday morning we have a prayer-meeting; and in the afternoon one of the Local Preachers comes and gives us a sermon.”
“I am glad to receive this account, Robert; and I hope that you will not be discouraged by any opposition you may meet with. Some of the farmers have complained to me concerning you, and have wished me to turn you out of your house ; but I have reproved them sharply, and expect to hear no more from them on that subject. While I stay, I shall attend your meetings myself; and before I leave I will speak to the Clergyman, and charge him not to disturb you. I have instructions to raise the rents of all the tenants in the parish, and must therefore raise yours; but I am so pleased to find you a religious man, and concerned for the good of your neighbours, that I shall only raise your rent a few shillings yearly. Go on, Robert, in the good way that you have chosen, and be not afraid."
The feelings of this poor man, on his return, may be easily conceived ; and I have never forgotten the hallowed glee with which he related to me what had occurred, when I next went to his humble dwelling to preach Christ to him and his pious companions. He has doubtless long since finished his course, and passed to those abodes of security and peace, “ where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” I confess that I have a profound respect for the memory of those “ village Hampdens," who have gained for the labouring poor of their respective localities the free exercise of their religious rights, against the men of power, who would have kept them in mental bondage and darkness. The cause of true religion, and even that of religious liberty, in this country, owes much to the zeal, the fortitude, the self-denial of men in humble life, who have nobly risked all that they had for the honour of their Saviour, and the salvation of redeemed souls.