« AnteriorContinuar »
We perceive that no temptation hath taken us, but such as is common to man, and that God is faithful, who will with the temptation make a way for our escape, that we may be able to bear it. Blessed, for ever blessed, be our condescending Saviour, for coming to us in the wood, and strengthen. ing our hands in God!
Now, beloved fellow-traveller, let us observe, first, that the way to the throne is through trials and dangers. David found it so. The apostles and martyrs found it so. All, more or less, have found it so; and so must we. It is through much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom of God. Secondly, the useful and the honoured will be sure to be hated and opposed. Every christian has his foe; but the most useful, the most honoured, will have a Saul,—the king over all the children of pride. The chief foe will be his foe; and the bitterest malice of the prince of darkness will be vented at him. Thirdly, God will be sure to raise up a friend in the hour of need. As sure as we are driven into the wood by Saul, so sure will Jonathan arise and come unto us, to strengthen our hand in God. When the three Hebrews were in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, the Son of God was with them. When Daniel was cast into the den of lions, the Lord sent his angel to shut the lions' mouths. So, poor, tried, troubled, dejected, and perplexed believer, the Lord will raise up and send some faithful friend to thee. He will deliver thee in six troubles, and in seven shall no evil touch thee. Fourthly, whatever wood we may be in, Jonathan will find us out, come to us, and comfort us. He may send his servant, but he will come himself. He has said, “I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him, I will set him on high,” on the throne, “bcause he hath known my name.” Finally, through the wood of difficulty, danger, and perplexities, we pass to the kingdom. It seems a strange way to flesh and blood, and often, very often, we conclude that it is not the right. We fancy we have missed the road. What! a road so lonely, covered with briers and thorns, where there are fiery flying serpents and scorpions, traps, snares, and pitfalls in every direction, is this the way to the kingdom ? Yes, this is the way, walk ye in it. But if you would walk in peace, in comfort, and with courage, you must " walk by faith, not by sight.” You must travel by your map, for if you trust your eyes, your heart will faint, your courage will droop, and your enemy will gain an advantage over you. Go on, my chrietian brother, however lonely thy road, however perplexing thy path, however many thy privations; remember thou art in the wood now, but soon thou wilt reach thy kingdom, thy crown, thy palace; and then thou wilt subscribe right heartily to the fact, that he led thee forth by the right way, that thou mightest go to a city of habitations !
OUR LIFE PILGRIMAGE. A favourite representation of the life of the believer, in both the Old and the New Testaments, is that of a pilgrimage, forming no interests or attachments with a view to permanence in this world, but passing carefully and diligently through this world to a home in the future. Herein the life of Abraham is a symbol of the life of every believer ; not mindful of the country whence he came, having no fixed abode in any of the several lands he visited ;-evermore seeking a city which hath foundations ;-desiring a better country, that is, an heavenly. The life of faith is a pilgrimage. “I am a stranger, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were."
· The first christians realised this. Driven here and there by the storms of persecution; with everything in government, in society, in art, in literature, and in the recognised religions of the world, utterly hostile to them and their cause; daily expecting to seal their testimony with their blood; they felt that théy were but strangers and pilgrims, and lived as not of the present world. The apostolic letters are full of the recognition of this fact, and of exhortations and counsels based upon it.
Most significant, also, is the style of the early fathers and of the primitive churches in their inter-communications as fellow-sojourners in an evil and hostile world. Thus the epistle of Clement to the Corinthians begins on this wise : “ The church of God which sojourneth at Rome as a stranger, to the church of God which sojourneth at Corinth.” So that of Polycarp to the Philippians is addressed to the church which sojourneth at Philippi. The same phraseology occurs in the Circular Epistle of the Church of Smyrna to the churches generally, concerning the martyrdom of Polycarp.
A beautiful and touching sentiment underlies this style of address. These several associations of believers are so many detachments of the grand army of Faith, encamped in a hostile territory, liable to ambuscades, sorties, assaults, in the treacherous and impregnable Crimea of the Arch-enemy. Not only are individual believers pilgrims and sojourners, but the churches themselves do but sojourn in a world with which they can have but few sympathies and interests in common. Separate from the world in character, in principles, in the hopes and aims of life, in the grandeur and glory of their destiny, they recognise in each other a holy fellowship, and sing together their pilgrim-song as they journey to the New Jerusalem.
Have not christians of later times lost this lively sense of their pilgrim state, and entered into alliances with the world that tend to engross them with its spirit, and to embarrass their action as the disciples of Christ ? Is there not a strange forgetfulness of the transitory nature of all earthly things, whether they be pleasures, possessions, institutions, or affections ? Is there not an eagerness to obtain earthly good, altogether unworthy of those who profess to be not of the world, but to have their home and their inheritance in heaven? Do not the christians of this age need much more than did the saints of the dispersion, the exhortation of Peter,
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul, having your conversation honest among the Gentiles.”
That Pilgrim-life depicted by Bunyan, how much of an allegory is it, to the pleasure-loving, money-seeking christians of this age,-a tradition, a myth, not to be matched by our every-day experience, but to be enjoyed as a poem of the past. Yet is not the life of Faith ever a Pilgrimage ? Must not the christian walk by faith, and not by sight ? Must not he live as seeing Him who is invisible ? Must he not set his affections upon things above, and not on things on the earth ? Must he not seek that heaven where Christ is, at the right hand of God? Can he be a christian who does not so live? Oh, if in this eager, panting race for Mammon that marks our times, the christian should appear in the spirit of the true pilgrim, neither courting nor disdaining earthly sweets, neither · seeking the world's friendship nor fearing its enmity, but steadfastly
pursuing his high and heavenly course, how marked would be the testi. 'mony of his life to the truth and the power of the Gospel. There is a calm and holy beauty in such a life that nothing can gainsay. Let each day remind us of our Pilgrimage, and call us to a daily walk with
God. Let our prayer be, “Hold up my goings in thy paths,that my footsteps slip not.”
“ Who knows, when he to go from home
Departeth from his door,
Or whether never more ?
In sickness back are brought;
Have back returned with nought.
My guard I thee confess,
My going forth to bless.
Stay with me where I stay,
Speak Thou what I should say.
From thoughts and speeches ill,
Vouchsafe to keep me still.
My thoughts, my words, and ways,
And ever to Thy praise."
WAITING ON GOD.
BY MRS. H. B. STOWE, “My soul, wait thou only on God,-for my expectation is from Him." One of the greatest sources of bitterness in this life is the constant disproportion between expectation and reality. In particular is this the case with persons of an imaginative, excitable temperament, for such are both vivid in expectation, and keen to feel the difference between silver hopes and leaden realities. Hence, probably, the greatest enjoyments of life are its unexpected ones. It is seldom the favourite child of the family, or the favourite project, or the most coveted possession, which, in fact, makes a man's happiness. While in them overwrought expectation defeats itself, enjoyment rises suddenly from unexpected sources. The butterfly, which we spend hours in chasing, comes to us at last with wings all blackened and shattered from the rude eagerness with which we have seized it; but in some listless hour, when we do not seek, comes another, and settles down before us, confidingly fanning its starry wings, and bringing to our unexpecting eye just the beauty we lost by pursuit. The party of pleasure designed and executed in the same hour, has a vividness of enjoyment which that we have been months anticipating falls short of. So also of celebrated persons, places, and things. The expectation that precedes almost always overlays and destroys them. The artistic and enthusiastic soul has constantly to combat a secret sense of his disappointment in view of the most grand or beautiful objects of nature or art. Often there has been more true, vivid emotion of the beautiful, excited by little unexpected touches and passages of natural scenery around our own homes, than by the full view of the most celebrated and long-desired scenery of foreign lands. A line of golden sunlight slanting under the dark boughs of an orchard,-a sudden smile dropped from some cloud on the distant mountain, the winking and glitter of wet leaves after a shower,-the sudden apparition of the crescent moon and evening star in the flush of twilight,-such things as these, seizing the soul while it lay
at anchor like a moored barge on a glassy sea, have filled it full with a freight of pleasure that it would have missed had its sails been up in expectant pursuit.
The very attitude of the mind in expectation is as unfavourable to satisfaction, as that of a racer for enjoying a prospect. Hence the world is full of complaints, echoed by generation to generation, on the vanity of human expectations !
But now, if a way could be found to stop this exacting current of desire, to check expectation, to anchor the soul in some calm and silent cove, where, with sails furled, she might look out on life without eagerness, much might yet be made of it. For, undeniably, there is much of good, and beautiful, and true, in life, only not as much as we expect and desire.
How, then, can we give up the world, and transfer our expectations from it? Here is a man has an estate, which is his only means of subsistence; if that fails he has nothing. How feverish, and anxious, and exacting, become his expectations and disappointments in regard to it. But now some one leaves him another, worth a thousand times as much, and he at once transfers to that all his interests and hopes. That is his portion,his expectations are from that, the other now may pass for what it is worth. One can see now that this former estate which, while the only one, was, from its narrowness and insufficiency, a constant vexation, has now risen to be a pleasure and ornament. It was a poor dependence, but a very desirable accessory. Unembarrassed now, the man looks at it and says, “ On my word, it is a pleasant little place;" and it is astonishing, now he ceases to expect much from it, how many pleasing surprises it brings him.
So is it with a man when he has actually come to that state when he can say, “My soul, wait thou only on God, for my expectation is from him."
While his expectations were set on men and earthly things, he was restless and irritable_loud and vehement in his vexation and in his cen. sure. His soul was becoming sharp and morbid, full of bitter sarcasm and contempt, and his words fell stinging like frost. But now, like 8 river flowing in unseen channels, his whole soul pours itself out in rest and trust in God, and now that he needs the world no longer, how great the change in its aspect! Now he can be tolerant of human frailty,-he expects so little, that what he gains is a pleasurable surprise!
When a man's heart is thus established in God, the whole world seems to be restored to him, and it explains Christ's seemingly mystical words, “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
The traveller in a foreign land, who knows that he has a happy home with wealth and friende, is invisibly buoyed up by this thought, so that his mind plays like a child with every flower and tree shadow, and none with so frank a gaiety joins the social circle. But suppose he should hear that his home, and wealth, and friends were gone, would he enjoy the " wayside flower and tree shadow”?
So is it with him whose heart has passed from its rest in earthly things to rest wholly in God. His home and portion are from hence,-life is only a journey. His enjoyment of the wayside flowers becomes like that of a child. His mind is so steady and assured in God, so clear of care, that it enjoys the smallest trifle with a relish which a divided heart cannot know. The picture, the tree, the flower, the cloud, the rock, and stream, the social circle, are all full of a fresh and hearty present pleasure, which sometimes may seem like worldly-mindedness to those who know not its source. The world sometimes comes to such a man in the shape of success, riches, honour, and he receives and enjoys it with a frank and
· childlike joy. Again it goes from him, and he rejoices still, for his joy
no man taketh from him. For when the soul has fully surrendered itself to God, expectation, which before was always baffled and driven about like a dove bewildered in a storm, now soars calm and clear and finds fest in his bosom. From thence she looks forth in the time of the windy tempest, waiting till the rain be over and gone, and the time of singing of birds be come!
THE EVENING PRAYER.
I know three little children and at my side they kneel
They are a merry trio-throughout the live-long day
Oh! not with man's mock reverence, nor yet in childish fear,
I know it reaches Heaven, I know 'tis heard above;
Ye tell me that they measure Life by the years that o'er us roll,