GEMS OF ILLUSTRATION.- "A" for Affliction etc..
ACTIVITY - CHRISTIAN.
1. All Christians to be Coworkers with God.
(1.) Think not that the noble work of being fellow laborers with God is the exclusive privilege of the clergy, nor stand back as if you had neither right nor call to set to your hand. What although in the church you hold no rank ? No more does the private who wears neither stripes on his arm nor epaulettes on his shoulder ; but although a private, may he not die for the colours which it is not his privilege to carry ? If it is not his business to train recruits, it is his business and shall be his reward to enlist them. Now to this office, to recruit the ranks of the cross, the Gospel calls you - calls all - calls the meanest soldier in the army of the faith.
2. To whom the Workinq Christian Allies Himself.
(2.) Working, toiling, enduring, we ally ourselves to the saints in glory, the blessed dead - who die in the Lord, and whose works do follow them; to angels also, who are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who are heirs of salvation ; to Jesus also, who entered on his Fathers business at an early age, and to the last hour, when they nailed His feet to the cross, went about doing good to God himself, of whose works in creating angels, kindling suns, calling worlds into being, directing the whole complicated machinery of providence and of grace, Jesus said, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
3. Work Our Main Vocation.
(3.) To watch, to fight, with steady front to meet and repel temptation - in other words to do no evil, is, however, though an important part, but one, and not the most important part of Christian work. The church of the living God bears no resemblance to those communities of ants where a certain number of these curious insects form a sort of standing army, and have no other duties but to defend and battle for the commonwealth ; the building, and provisioning, arid other duties of the ant-hill belonging-to others, and not to them. Nor, to take an illustration from the arrangements of human society, does Christs kingdom resemble this or that of any neighbouring sovereign, where the military, wearing a distinct garb and exempted from those productive labours whereby others support themselves and add to the wealth of the country, form a distinct order of the community. The type of a Christian is seen, not in hands where citizens and soldiers, working and fighting men, form different classes ; but rather in those troubled regions of the East, where the husbandman, constantly exposed to the attack of murderers and robbers, ploughs the soil with a carbine slung at his back, or a sword dangling at his side.
4. A Characteristic of the True Christian.
(4.) There may be the appearance of life, but certainly not its presence, where there is no activity ; as they rightly concluded who, sailing in Arctic seas, fell in with a ship, for long years imprisoned in the ice, and looked in its cabin on a strange, appalling, weird-like scene. Fifty years had come and gone since living voice or step had sounded there, yet all the crew were there. They lay in couches on the floor, each attired in the dress and presenting the form and flesh of life ; while their captain sat by the cabin table, pen in hand, and the log spread out before him. The spectators of so strange a sight, with mingled feelings of doubt and terror, shouted ; but no response came back. Nor crew nor captain stirred. All were dead, and had been corpses for half a century - the frosts that killed preserving them. Life-like as he looked who bent over the table with a pen in his fingers and the paper before him, in which, the last survivor, he had recorded their sufferings, he also was dead; as they knew on seeing him sit unmoved by their shouts ; his eyes retaining their glassy stare, and his form its fixed and frozen posture. The activity that thus marks all other kinds of life is characteristic of the Christians. Sometimes distinguished by heroic daring, and prodigal of noble deeds, at all times it is a life of doing.
5. All the Members of the Body Formed for Work.
(5.) This beautifully drawn analogy between the members of Christs body and those of our material frame teaches many lessons; and among these, not the least important is this, that we become members of His body not for ornament merely, nor even for our salvation and enjoyment only, but also for work. Activity is the universal characteristic of all life, human and Divine. God himself offers no exception to this rule My Father worketh hitherto, says Jesus, and I work : nor, on the other hand, does it find an exception even in those animals or plants that stand lowest in the scale of creation. But take an example from our own bodies. In what respect are they encumbered with useless or idle members? The hands are formed to work, the feet to walk, the eyes to look, the ears to listen, the tongue to taste, the teeth to grind, and the digestive organs to extract nourishment from our food, the lungs to breathe, the brain to feel and think, and the heart - the first to live and the last to die, and greatest worker of all - to beat by night and day without a pause ; supplying the waste of every organ, and sending its tide of blood to the extremities of the body.
6. The Men of Worth the Men of Work.
(6.) Christ judges them to be the men of worth who are the men of work. Be thy life then devoted to His service. Now for this work, hereafter for the wages ; earth for the cross, heaven for the crown. Go thy way, assured that there is not a prayer you offer, nor a word you speak, nor a foot you walk, nor a tear you shed, nor a hand you hold out to the perishing, nor a warning you give to the careless, nor a wretched child you pluck from the streets, nor a visit paid to the widow or fatherless, nor a loaf of bread you lay on a poor mans table, that there is nothing you do for the love of God and man, but is faithfully registered in the chronicles of the kingdom, and shall be publicly read that day when Jesus, calling you up perhaps from a post as mean as Mordecais, shall crown your brows before an assembled world, saying, Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.
7. A Useful and Holy Life is the only Life of Well Doing.
(7.) A busy, useful, holy life and none other, isa life of well-doing ; is a noble life, though passed in a cottage ; is a happy one, though its path be rough and thorny. Such a life was Pauls - he declared himself ready gladly to spend and to be spent for Christ. Such a life was Dorcas - she employed her fingers making clothes for the poor, and, unlike many who die leaving none to miss them, had a crowd of wdows to weep by her bier. Such a life was Jobs, who, while humbling himself in the dust before God, stood erect before the worldr in these noble terms to describe and justify his character, When the ear heard me then it blessed me, and when the eye saw me it gave witness to me, because I delivered the poor that cried, the fatherless, and him that had none to help him; the blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me and I caused the widows heart to sing for joy.I put on righteousness and it clothed me my judgment was as a robe and diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame; I was a a father to the poor." And, obscuring all others, as does the sun the stars by its superior lustre, such a life was His who, our pattern and propitiation both, calls us by his example, as by his word, to well-doing - saying, as he points to the crown glittering on the top of a cross, If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself daily, take up his cross, and follow me.
8. Praying and Working for Others.
(8.) Let us pity the world; and endeavor, praying and working, so to shine that others, seeing our good works, may be guided to heaven, and glorify our Father there - each such a light, or rather lighthouse, as one of Englands bold engineers raised on the reef which owed its dreaded name to the waters that eddied and boiled around it. To save our seamen from a watery grave, their wives from widowhood, their little ones from the miseries and crimes of neglected orphanage, what dangers he faced - as on that night when, hurrying on deck, he saw white breakers all around, and above their roar and the shrieks of the tempest heard the helmsman cry, For Gods sake, heave hard at that rope, if you mean to save your lives! - and the vessel, with scrimp room to turn, obeyed her helm and rounded off. Example to all who seek a yet higher object - to save mens souls from ignorance, and vice, and hell - what anxieties he felt to bring his enterprise to a happy issue ! On the Hoe headland, where Drake first saw Spains proud Armada, alone in the gray of the morning, after a tempestuous night, he might be seen looking out, with telescope at his eye, over a raging sea, for his yet unfinished structure and heard saying, as a tall white pillar of spray suddenly gleaming on the far horizon revealed his work and removed his fears, Thank God, it stands ! Nor do we fear that they who work for God, and Christ, and the good of men, will imitate Smeaton in giving the glory where the glory is due - inscribing on their lives the words which, as the last work of the masons chisel, he had cut on that monument of his genius and humanity, LAUS DEO - praise to God!
1. Troubles Turned to Blessings.
(9.) If the prodigal had not starved by the swine troughs, he had never been regaled at his fathers table. If Jonah had not been tossed on the sea, and also tossed into it to be whelmed in darkness and the depths,he had never broken the peace, and, bringing them to repentance, saved the people of Nineveh. If the widow of Zarepthah had not looked with horror-stricken eyes on an empty barrel, she had never met the Prophet whom she brought to her house to fill it. If the crimes of the thief had not brought him to the cross, he might never have been brought to Christ. It is by a blow that many in the first instance are brought to their knees; nor do some ever become rich till misfortunes make them poor.( abrought to their knees ; nor do some ever become rich till misfortunes make them poor.
2. Those who are without Chastisement.
(10.) They are bastards, not sons, that grow up without chastisement - they are common, not precious stones, that escape the lapidarys wheel - they are wild, not garden trees, that never bleed beneath the pruning- knife. Whom God loveth, says the Apostle, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son that He receiveth.
3. No Plain Sailing to Heaven.
(11.) I do not say that it is plain sailing to heaven. I do not say but that the duty that we owe to Christ may and shall expose us to what the world accounts and what flesh and blood feel to be pain. Be it so ! What pains Jesus endured, what sacrifices He submitted to for us Beside, how should it make us take suffering joyfully to think that it is those who are crucified with Him on earth that shall he crowned with him in heaven. None else. They win in this game that lose. They live in this warfare that die. If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him ; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him. He that loseth his life shall find it.
4. Afflictions cannot Remove Sin.
(12.) I have seen the characters of the writing remain on paper that the flames had turned into a film of buoyant coal ; I have seen the thread that had passed through the fire retain, in its cold gray ashes, the twist which it had got in spinning. I have found every shivered splinter of the flint as hard as the unbroken stone : and, let trials come, in providence, sharp as the fire and ponderous as the crushing hammer, unless God send with these something else than these, bruised, broken, bleeding as the heart may be, it remains the same.
5. Unsanctified Afflictions.
(13.) This internal and universal defilement is one which neither sorrows nor sufferings can remove. God, in a passage which he had already quoted, says, "Though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me" sorrows have no more virtue than soap, tears than nitre here. Trust not, therefore, in any merely unsanctified afflictions, as if these could permanently and really change the true character of the heart.
6. Effect of Overwhelming Trials.
(14.) A singular phenomenon has sometimes been noticed at sea. In a gale, when the storm, increasing in violence, has at length risen into a hurricane, the force of the wind has been observed to actually beat down the waves, producing a temporary and comparative calm ; and similar is the effect occasionally produced by awful and overwhelming trials - these, by their very power and pressure on the heart, abating both the violence and the expression of its feelings. But what is equally remarkable and still more observable in trial is, that we can more easily bear a heavy blow from Gods hand than a light one from mans. Conscious of sin, we feel that He has a right to afflict, where man has none.
7. Afflictions are of Short Duration.
(15.) I knew a precious saint of God who was often cast into the furnace, but always, like real gold, to shine the brighter for the fire ; and who, having now left her sorrows all behind her, has joined the company of whom the angel said, "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb ; therefore," in the front rank as the highest peers of heaven, "are they before the throne of God." The courage with which she met adversity - one trial after another, shock succeeding shock, billow bursting on the back of billow - was as remarkable as the strength with which, though a bruised reed, she seemed to bear it. Where did her great strength lie ? The grand secret of that serene demeanor and uncomplaining patience was, no doubt, a sense of the Divine favour. The peace of God kept her heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Yet her sorrows found a solace, lifes bitterest hour a sweetness, also, in the simple couplet that was often on her lips - Come what, come may: Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.
8. Trials Purify Gods People.
(16.) While silver resists the influences that tarnish the baser metals, gold is absolutely indestructible - resisting the action of fire itself. Expose water to fire, and it dissolves in vapour; wood, and it vanishes in smoke and flame, leaving but gray ashes behind; iron, and it is converted into rust: but fire may play on gold for a thousand years without depriving it of a degree of its lustre or an atom of its weight Beautiful emblem of the saints of God, gold cannot perish - their trials, like the action of fire on this precious metal, but purifying what they cannot destroy.
9. Christians Bend to the Storm, not Resist it.
(17.) Sweetly submissive to the will of God, shall it not fare with us as with the pliant reeds that love the hollows and fringe the margin of the lake, and bending to the blast, not resisting it, raise their heads anew, unharmed by the storm that has snapped the mountain pine, and rent the hearts of oak asunder! The joy of the Lord is our strength.
10. Patient Endurance of Trials.
(18.) Many of Pauls expressions have a warlike ring, and suggest, to our fancy, soldiers who occupy some of those trying positions which the chances of war often call them bravely, and sternly, to hold. He says, for example, "Having done all, stand" Now, there is nothing, as I am told and believe, which puts the firmness of men to so severe a test as that. It requires no great courage to play the soldier when, in firing or charging, advancing or retreating, they are engaged in the active duties of the field ; but calmly to hold a position where, unsustained by excitement - allowed neither to fight, nor advance, nor retire - they have to stand exposed to the shot that plunges into their ranks, making bloody gaps they have nothing to do but fill up, this tries the mettle of the bravest men.
(19.) To such trials God sometimes puts his chosen and beloved people. After having done everything to protect themselves from the assaults of the Tempter, to defend their reputation, their purity, or peace, duty to God and his cause, duty to themselves or others, requires them to do nothing more than just hold their post; maintain their position patiently endure wrongs they might, but are not allowed to, repel ; and bear without complaint trials or temptations which they cannot avoid, and are not allowed to escape from.
1. A Holy Ambition.
(20.) There are all manner of ways by which men rise in the world. Some, flung up by national convulsions, rise like the fire stones shot from a volcanos mouth; they flare for a little, and then are lost in night. Some, like sea-weed or an empty shell, are thrown up by the wave of popular agitation, only by its reflux to be swept back again into oblivion. Some rise in times of trouble and of turmoil, like the dust and light straws of the whirlwind ; the lighter they are the more sure are they to rise. Some ascend by the foul and slippery path of crime, rising on other mens shoulders, and building dishonest fortunes on honest mans ruin. While some, being, amid all the mysteries of Providence, witnesses that there is a just God upon earth, illustrate the adage of the world, Honesty is the best policy, and the still better saying of Scripture, Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. But there is no rising so interesting to study, or by those who are fired with a holy ambition, so blessed to emulate, as that of a sinner into a saint - of a soul to glory.
1. The Atheists Avowed Belief.
(21.) A rude heap of bricks shot from a cart upon the ground was never seen to arrange itself into the doors, stairs, chambers, and chimneys of a house. The dust and filings on a brass-founders table has never been known to form themselves into the wheels and mechanism of a watch. The types loosely flung from the founders mould never yet fell into the form of a poem, such as Homer, or Dante, or Milton would have constructed. The rudest hut of Bushmen, the Indians simple canoe, fashioned by fire from a forest tree, the plainest clay urn, in which savage affection had enshrined the ashes of the dead, were never supposed to owe their form to the hands of chance. Yet this man believed (if it is possible to think so) that natures magnificent temple was built without an architect, her flowers of glorious beauty were coloured without a painter, and her intricate, complicated, but perfect machinery constructed without an intelligent mind.
2. A Crushing Answer.
(22.) That man gave the Atheist a crushing answer, who told him that the very feather with which he penned the words, "There is no God," refuted the audacious lie.
3. Disbelief in the Existence of Atheism.
(23.) The doctrine of the being of a God. I do not need to open the Bible to learn that. It is enough that I open my eyes, and turn them on that great book of nature, where it is legibly written, clearly revealed in every page. God! that word may be read in the stars and on the face of the sun ; it is painted on every flower, traced on every leaf, engraven on every rock; it is whispered by the winds, sounded forth by the billows of ocean, and may be heard by the dullest ear in the long-rolling thunder. I believe in the existence of a God, but not in the existence of an atheist ; or that any man is so, who can be considered in his sound and sober senses.
4. The Atheistic Poet on time Aegean Sea.
(24.) There was a celebrated poet, who was an atheist - or at least professed to be so. According to him there was no God - the belief in a God was a delusion, prayer a base superstition, and religion but the iron fetters of a rapacious priesthood. So he held when sailing over the unruffled surface of the Aegean Sea. But the scene changed; and, with the scene, his creed. The heavens began to scowl on him; and the deep uttered an angry voice, and, as if in astonishment at this God-denying man, "lifted up his hands on high" The storm increased until the ship became unmanageable. She drifted before the tempest. The terrible cry, "breakers ahead" was soon heard ; and how they tremble to see death seated on the horrid reef - waiting for his prey ! A few moments more, and the crash comes. They are whelmed in the devouring sea? No. They were saved by a singular providence. Like apprehended evils, which, in a Christians experience, prove to be blessings, the wave, which flung them forward on the horrid reef, came on in such mountain volume as to bear and float them over into the safety of deep and ample sea-room. But ere that happened, a companion of the atheist - who, seated on the prow, had been taking his last regretful look of heaven and earth, sea and sky - turned his eyes down upon the deck, and there, among papists, who told their beads and cried to the virgin, he saw the atheist prostrated with fear. The tempest had blown away his fine-spun speculations like so many cobwebs; and he was on his knees, imploring God for mercy.
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