Gems of Illustration - "C" for Christian etc..
1. How to Treat Calumny.
(39.) When suffering from calumny, it is usually the wisest plan to follow John Wesleys practice, and, without reply from either tongue or pen, to let our life refute it, as he said, to live it down. The lie, the foul and false insinuation, which bad men use to destroy the reputation of the good, is like mud. While it is wet, it sticks ; but, since to attempt to wash it out often only spreads the stain, it is best to leave it alone ; and drying, in a short while it falls off of itself.
1. Narrow-Minded Christians.
(40.) Some are offensively narrow-minded. Some are so short-sighted that they can hardly recognize Christs own, and therefore their own brother, unless he belong to the same church, and remember the Saviour at the same table with themselves. They are great upon little things. More given to hate the error than love the truth which they see in others, their temper is sour and ungenial. I do not assert that they have not the eagle-wings which rise to near communion with God, but they want that long-sighted eagle-eye which discerns distant objects, and embraces in its range of vision a broad and wide expanse. Be ours the charity which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
2. Despondent Christians.
(41.) Again, while some saints enjoy a clear assurance of their salvation, and stretching toward heaven, behold the land that is very far off, as seamen from their outlook descry the mountain-tops, when their bark is ploughing a waste of waters, and yet a long way from Land, there are other Christians who pass their days in a state of despondency. The sun seldom breaks out to cheer them. Their faith has a hard fight with their fears. It is little they know of rejoicing in the Lord, and joying in the God of their salvation. By help of Gods word, their compass, they succeed, no doubt, in steering their way to heaven, but it is over a troubled sea and under a cloudy sky ; nor are they ever happy enough to be altogether delivered from doubt and fear, till fears as well as faith are lost in light, and they find themselves safe in glory.
3. The Emblems of Gods People.
(42.) It is a remarkable fact, that while the baser metals are often diffused through the body of the rocks, gold and silver lie in veins, collected together in distinct metallic masses. They are in the rocks, but not of the rocks. Some believe that there was a time, long gone by, when - like the other metals - these lay in intimate union with the mass of rock, until, by virtue of some mysterious electric agency, their scattered atoms were put in motion, and, being made to pass through the solid stone, were aggregate in those shining veins, where they now lie to the miners hand. Gold and silver are the emblems of Gods people. And as by some power in nature God has separated these emblems from the base and common earths, even so by the power of his grace he will separate all his chosen from a reprobate and rejected world.
4. Christian Ends Lend Grandeur to the Christian Life.
(43.) He who lives for the glory of God has an end in view which lends dignity to the man and to his life. Bring common iron into proper contact with the magnet, it will borrow the strange attractive virtue, and itself become magnetic. The merest crystal fragment, that has been flung out into the field and trampled on the ground, shines like a diamond when sunbeams stoop to kiss it. And who has not seen the dullest rain-cloud, when it turned its weeping face to the sun, change into glory, and, in the bow that spans it, present to the eyes of age and infancy, alike of the philosopher who studies, and of the simple joyous child who runs to catch it, the most brilliant and beautiful phenomenon in nature? Thus, from what they look at and come in contact with, common things acquire uncommon glory.
(44) Live, then "looking unto Jesus" live for nothing less and nothing lower than Gods glory ; and these ends will lend grandeur to your life, and shed a holy, heavenly lustre on your station, however humble it be.
5. Christians are not what They must Aim to be.
(45) Sin has still more or less power over you, and it should have none; your corruptions have suffered a mortal wound, but they are not dead ; your affections rise upward to heaven, yet how much are they held back by the things of earth; though your heart turns to Christ, like the compass needle to the pole, how easily is it disturbed, how tremblingly it points to him ; your spirit has wings, yet how short are its flights, and how often, like a half-fledged eaglet, has it to return to its nest on the Rock of Ages ; your soul is a garden where Christ delights to walk when the north and south winds blow, to inhale its spices, yet with many lovely flowers, how many vile weeds grow there. With a great work to do, and little time to do it, and that little most uncertain, there is much need to work, the Spirit aiding, heaven helping us.
6. Should Follow Jesus.
(46.) We should certainly attempt always to follow Jesus, to walk as he walked, to speak as he spake, to think as he thought, and to mould our whole conduct and conversation on the pattern that he hath left us yet our best attempts will leave us more and more convinced that our only hope for redemption, salvation, forgiveness, lies in the mercy of the Father and the merits of the Son. Pray for and make sure of an interest in these, for even after we have been made new creatures in Jesus Christ, the most that we can do - nor that without the aids of time Holy Spirit - is to creep along the path which the Saviour walked, and leave the mark of our knees where he left the primits of his feet.
7. The common Brotherhood of Christians.
(47.) Rightly understood, the unity of the church is by no means incompatible with the existence of different denominations. What are they but the branches of a tree which still is one; one in root, one in stem, one in sap, one in flower, and one in fruit. We have one faith, one spirit, and one baptism. We are united in Christ ; we meet in that centre ; and, like the radii of a circle, the nearer we approach our common centre, the nearer we draw to Christ, we shall be the nearer to each other. Let us gladly recognize a common brotherhood, and love one another, even as Christ loved us. Members of the same family, travellers to the same home, called with the same holy calling, let us ever remember the words of Joseph to his brethren, See that ye fall not out by the
8. Safe in Christ.
(48.) This gathering on Melitas shore: - It was a frightful storm the coast unknown ; the ship grounds in deep water, with nigh three hundred souls on board ; the night before, the boats had been cut adrift, and now not a boat - if boats could live in such a swell - to save them. The swimmers, who strip and plunge into the sea, may perchance reach the shore, but none else shall cheat the deep of its prey. Yet, when there is not another head among the billows - when the last survivor has climbed the beach - they muster ; and soldiers, sailors, and prisoners - all are there. Paul got their lives, and not one has gone amissing. Some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship" but, by whatever way it came to pass, it did come to pass, as the narrative tells - "they escaped all safe to land. Even so shall it be with those of whom Jesus says, I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. My Father that gave them me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Fathers hand.
9. How to Distinguish the Godly from the Ungodly.
(49.) You may know a sheep from a swine, when both have fallen into the same slough, and are, in fact, so bemired, that neither by coat nor colour can the one be distinguished from the other. How then distinguish them ? Nothing more easy ! The unclean animal, in circumstances agreeable to its nature, wallows in the mire ; but the sheep - type of the godly - bleats, and strives, and struggles to get out.
10. Unfruitful Professors.
(.50.) I have seen a branch tied to the bleeding tree, for the purpose of being engrafted into its wounded body, and that thus both might be one. Yet no incorporation had followed; there was no living union. Spring came singing, and with her fingers opened all the buds; and summer came, with her dewy nights and sunny days, and brought out all the flowers; and brown autumn came to shake the trees and reap the fields, and with dances and mirth to hold harvest home" but that unhappy branch bore no fruit, nor flower, nor even leaf. Just held on by dead clay and rotting cords, it stuck to the living tree - a withered and unsightly thing. So alas! is it with many; having a name to live they are dead.
11. Christians Shine with a Borrowed Light.
(51.) The stories of subterranean caves, where brilliant diamonds, thickly studding vaulted roof and fretted walls, supply the place of lamps, are fancies-childhoods fairy tales incredible as it may appear to ignorance, on whose admiring eyes it flashes rays of light, science proves that the diamond is formed of the very same matter as common, dull, black coal. It boasts no native light ; and dark in the darkness as the mud or rock where it lies embedded, it shines if with a beautiful, yet with a borrowed splendor. How meet an emblem of the jewels that adorn the Saviours crown
12. Not Easy to be a Christian.
(52.) Still it is no easy thing to be a Christian ; and, if words have any meaning, they are great and painful sacrifices which are required of those who are willing to take Christ on his own terms, If any man will comae after me let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me - "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. God does not indeed put all his people to such a trial as Abrahams, saying, Take now thy son, and offer him for a burnt offering, nor does Christ lay on all his disciples an injunction so hard as this, Go, sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor. Still the adage holds true as ever, No cross, no crown To mortify the lusts of the flesh, to be crucified to the world, to overcome the devil, to die daily to sin and live daily to righteousness, to be meek and gentle and patient and generous and kind and good, in one word to be Christ-like, is a work beyond, far beyond our ability ; one we should never venture on, or having ventured on, would soon abandon, but that God promises to perfect his strength in our weakness, and is mighty to save.
13. Christians who are Beautiful Epistles.
(53.) He who so orders his life and conversation as to bring no dishonour or reproach on religion, who gives no occasion to its enemies to blaspheme, nor by his falls and inconsistencies furnishes scandals to be told in Gath and published in the streets of Ashkelon, does well. He may thank God that, amid lifes slippery paths, he has prayed, nor prayed in vain, "Hold up my goings that my footsteps slip not. He does better still in whose life religion presents itself, less in a negative, and more in a positive form. For, while it is well to depart from evil, it is better to do good; nor does he live in vain who exemplifies by his daily life and conversation the pure, and virtuous, and holy, and beneficent, and sublime, and saving doctrines of God his Saviour. The first is good : the second is better : but the last is best of all, So to live as to be beautiful as well as living epistles of Jesus Christ, seen and read of all men - so to live as to recommend the truth to the admiration and love of others-so to live as to constrain them to say, What a good and blessed thing is true religion! - as in some measure to win the encomium of her who, looking on Jesus, exclaimed, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that gave thee suck" - so to live, in fact, as to resemble those books which, in addition to their proper contents, are bound in gold, are illuminated, and illustrated with paintings: or those pillars which, while like their plainer neighbours supporting the superstructure, are also its ornaments, rising gracefully from the floor in fluted columns, and crowned with wreaths of fiowers, - this is best of all.
14. Christian Brotherhood.
(54.) And this relationship which, by faith, unites him and his believing people in such close and tender and holy fellowship, so unites them to each other that in whatever circumstances they meet, by signs secret to the uninitiated and outer world, they recognize in each other the character and the claims of brethren. His skin may have hue different from mine; bred for the market, he may be bought and sold like a cattle-beast ; he may be marked with the brand, loaded with the fetters, lashed with the whip, crushed with the sufferings of a slave ; but if, with faith in Jesus, he lift his manacled kands and streaming eyes to that heaven where bondsmen are free, and, robed and throned, they stand before the throne of God, and share in the glory of his Son, slave though he be, sold though he be, trodden in the dust though he be, he and I are brothers.
15. No Man Starts up a Finished Christian.
(55.) In the second place, while the truth was thus slowly developed and let in by degrees on a benighted world, the effect of that truth on a benighted soul is also gradual. No man starts up into a finished Christian. The very best come from their graves, like Lazarus, "clothed in grave clothes - not like Jesus, who left his death dress behind him and in our remaining corruptions, all, alas ! carry some of these cerements about with them, nor drop them but at the door of heaven.
16. The Benefits of Christian Companionship.
(56.) The children of this world, as our Lord says, are wise in their generation. With a care to excel which in obeying the apostolic injunction, "covet the best gifts," the children of light would do well to imitate, see how the sculptor surrounds himself, even in his studio, with copies of the most famous statues! He fills his mind with images of the sublime and beautiful; and provides objects for his eye, wheresoever it turns, adapted to kindle his ambition and improve his taste.
(57.) Man is so constituted that, even unconsciously, without either intending or attempting it, he imitates what he is familiar with. We speak, for instance, with the peculiar accent of our native district, and - a matter of much more consequence - learn almost certainly to copy in our lives the manners and morals of our ordinary associates. According to vulgar belief, the chameleon becomes red, blue, or green, with the ground it lies on ; and, probably with the view of protecting them from their enemies, fishes certainly do take the colour of the water they live in, whether it be clear or muddy. Man is endowed with a property akin to this. To that, so pregnant with good or evil, as much as to the pleasure people feel in associating with those of tastes similar to their own, we owe the well-known saying, Tell me your company, and I will tell you your character. Hence the wisdom of Davids practice, "I am the companion of all them that fear thee" Hence also, on the other hand, it happens, to quote a Scripture adage, that Evil communications corrupt good manners.
(58.) This property, though many, especially of the young, owe their ruin to it, is not necessarily, like the poisoned garment bestowed on Hercules, a fatal gift. It was given by our Maker for good purposes. It may be turned, though nothing can supply the place of Divine grace and a change of heart, to the holiest ends.
1. Of Whom the Members of the True Church Consist.
(59.) Neither, in the first place, in our own, nor in any other existing church, do we see the real body of which Jesus Christ is the head. Its members consist of all true believers, and are dispersed over the wide lands of Christendom. Then, what are the best churches, at the best, but gold mines? Some may be, some certainly are, richer than others in the precious metal, yet all have their dross and rubbish. Nor, to continue the figure, shall the true church become visible, appear as a distinct and separate body, till the gold, gathered from a hundred mines, and purified by a Spirit whose emblem is fire, and presenting to the divine Refiner a perfect image of himself, is run into a common mould.
2. The Marriage Tie Between the Lamb and His Bride Indissoluble.
(60.) It is one which grim death shall never dissolve, and leave Christs church a mourning widow. It is one which holy prophets sung, and long ages prepared for. It is one which the Son, though stooping to the lowliest object, entered into with his Fathers full consent. It is one in which heaven took a part, and angels were wedding guests - their harps lending the music and their wings the light. It is one over which all the hosts of heaven rejoiced in the fulness of generous love - I heard, says John, as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of many thunderings, saying Alleluiah : for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him ; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. May we know the truth of the words that follow : Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb
3. The Church of Christ not Identified with Forms.
(61.) They are valuable in their own place and for their own purposes; frames, as they are, to set the picture in; caskets for truths jewels; dead poles, no doubt, yet useful to support living plants, and very beautiful when the bare stem is festooned with green leaves, and crowned with a head of flowers. The church of Christ, however, is not to be identified with this or that other form either of government or worship. She embraces the good of all denominations, and rejects the bad, from whatever hands they have received the rite of baptism, to whatever communion they may belong, however pure their creed, or scriptural their form of worship. "The just shall live by faith, by nothing else. He belongs therefore to the true church who believes and he who believes not, to whatever church he may belong, has neither part nor lot in this matter.
4. Christs Body not Identical with any one Church.
(62.) He has but one church ; for the second Adam, like the first, is the husband of one wife. And just as the church cannot have two heads, neither can the head have two bodies ; for, as that body were a monster which had more heads than one, not less monstrous were that form where one head was united to two separate bodies. Of all these churches, then, each claiming to he cast in the true gospel mould - that with consecrated bishops, this with simple presbyters, this other without either; that administering baptism to infants as well as adults, this only to adults; that robed in a ritual of many forms, this thinking that religion, like beauty, when unadorned, is adorned the most - which is Christs body, the Lambs wife ? Which are we to receive as the favourite of heaven? Of which does God say, as he said of David among rival brethren, Arise, anoint her, for this is she? Of none of them. Christ has a church, but it is none of these. In explanation of a remark which may surprise some, and is fitted to teach all of us humility and charity, I observe
(63.) That Christs body, which is not identical with any one church, is formed of all true believers, to whatever denomination they may belong.
1. Ten Commandments Obeyed and Enforced by Jesus.
(64.) Since his long-distant day men have run to and fro and knowledge has been increased ; the boundaries of science have been vastly extended, but not those of morality ; nor has one new duty been added to those of the two tables he brought down from Sinai. A perfect code of morals, adapted to all ages, circumstances, and countries, time has neither altered, nor added to the Ten Commandments.
(65 ) The ten stones of the arch on which our domestic happiness, the purity of society, the security of life and property, and the prosperity of nations stand, it was these commandments the Son of God came from heaven, our substitute, to obey; with his blood, not to abrogate, but to enforce them ; on his cross to exalt, not in his tomb to bury, them ; and, cementing the shattered arch with his precious blood, to lend to laws that had the highest authority of Sinai, the no less solemn and more affecting sanctions of Calvary.
1. Agitations which Accompany Conversion.
(66.) It is not till the glassy pool is stirred that the mud at the bottom rises to light ; it is when storms sweep the sea that what it hides in its depths is thrown up on the shore it is when brooms sweep walls and floors that the sunbeams, struggling through a cloud of dust, reveal the foulness of the house ; and it is agitations and perturbations of the heart which reveal its corruption, and are preludes to the purity and peace that sooner or later follow on conversion.
2. The Greatest of all changes.
(67.) This, which is the subject before us now, calls our attention to the greatest of all changes. I say the greatest; one even greater than the marvellous transition which takes place at the instant of death - from dying struggles to the glories of the skies. Because, while heaven is the day of which grace is the dawn ; the rich, ripe fruit of which grace is the lovely flower; the inner shrine of that most glorious temple to which grace forms the approach and outer court, in passing from nature to grace you did not pass from a lower to a higher stage of the same condition - from daybreak to sunshine, but from darkest night to dawn of day. Unlike the worm which changes into a winged insect, or the infant who grows up into a stately man, you became, not a more perfect, but "a new creature in Jesus Christ.
3. Has its Origin in the Heart.
(68.) When grace subdues a rebel man, if I may so speak, the citadel first is taken; afterward, the city. It is not as in those great sieges which we have lately watched with such anxious interest. There, approaching with his brigades, and cavalry, and artillery, man sits down outside the city. He begins the attack from a distance; creeping like a lion to the spring - with trench, and parallel, and battery - nearer and nearer to the walls. These at length are breached; the gates are blown open ; through the deadly gap the red living tide rolls in. Fighting from bastion to bastion, from street to street, they press onward to the citadel, and there, giving no quarter and seeking none, beneath a defiant flag, the rebels, perhaps, stand by their guns, prolonging a desperate resistance. But when the appointed hour of conversion comes, Christ descends by his Spirit into the heart - at once into the heart. The battle of grace begins there.
4. On the Time and Circumstances of Conversion.
(69.) Some can tell the time of it - giving day and date, the hour, the providence, the place, the text, the preacher, and all the circumstances associated with their conversion. They can show the arrow, which, shot, from some bow drawn at a venture, pierced the joints of their armour, and quivered in their heart. They can show the pebble from the brook, that, slung, it may be, by a youthful hand, hut directed of God, was buried in the forehead of their giant sin.
(70.) It is not so, however, with all, or, perhaps, with most. Some, so to speak, are stillborn ; they were unconscious of their change ; they did not know when or how it happened; for a while at least they gave hardly a sign of life.
5. The Wonderful Change.
(71.) Look at this cold creeping worm! Playful childhood shrinks shuddering from its touch; yet a few weeks, and with merry laugh and flying feet, that same childhood over flowery meadow is hunting an insect that never lights upon the ground, but - flitting in painted beauty from flower to flower - drinks nectar from their cups, and sleeps the summer night away in the bosom of their perfumes. If that is the same boy, this is no less the self-same creature. Change most wonderful yet but a dull, earthly emblem of the divine transformation wrought on those who are transformed by the renewing of their minds.
6. The Wondrous Change from Nature to Grace.
(72.) Fallen though he be, man is capable of undergoing, and, created anew in Jesus Christ, born of the Spirit, brought from nature into grace, undergoes a more wondrous change than the insect when, no longer a worm, no longer crawling on the ground, no longer feeding on garbage, it leaves its shell to spend its happy days in sport, flitting from flower to flower ; its food their juices and its bed their leaves. We thus assert the dignity of man. Only that his greatest, purest dignity is seen, not in what he does, but in what has been done for him ; not in what poets or philosophers have written, but the Bible has revealed of him as redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as a living temple of the Holy Spirit, a son of God, and an heir of glory.
7. Conversion is a Resurrection
. (73.) How great the change, when these mouldering bones, which children look at with fear, and grown men with solemn sadness, shall rise instinct with life. Think of this handful of brown dust springing up into a form like that on which Adam gazed with mute astonishment, when for the first time he caught the image of himself mirrored in a glassy pool of Paradise ; or, better still, in a form such as, when awakening from his slumber, he saw with wondering, admiring eyes, in the lovely woman that lay by his side on their bed of love and flowers. And now, because the change which conversion works on the soul is also inexpressibly great, it borrows a name from that mighty change ; that, a resurrection of the body from the grave - this, a resurrection of the soul from sin. In this we pass from death to life - in this we are created anew in Jesus Christ. We rise with Him, says the Apostle, to newness of life.
8. A Revolution.
(74.) Now, a change may be simply a reform, or, extending farther, it may pass into a revolution. The spiritual change, which we call conversion, is not a mere reform. It is a revolution - a mighty revolution, if aught was ever worthy of that name - a revolution greater than the tomes of profane history, or any old monuments of stone or of brass record. It changes the heart, the habits, the eternal destiny of an immortal being. On the banner, borne in triumph at the head of this movement, I read the words that doom old things to ruin, Overturn, Overturn, Overturn. For the old mischievous laws which it repeals, it introduces a new code of, statutes ; it changes the reigning dynasty, wrenches the sceptre from a usurpers hand, and, banishing him forth of the kingdom, in restoring the throne to God, restores it to its rightful monarch.
9. A New Spirit Given in Conversion.
(75.) Conversion does not bestow new faculties. It does not turn a weak man into a philosopher. Yet, along with our affections, the temper, the will, the judgment partake of this great and holy change. Thus, while the heart ceases to be dead, the head, illuminated by a light within, ceases to be dark ; the understanding is enlightened ; the will is renewed ; and our whole temper is sweetened and sanctified by the Spirit of God.
10. Our Part in Conversion.
(76 ) By that tomb men do not sit mere spectators of the might and majesty of Godhead, Jesus addressing them to say, Stand back, stand still and see the salvation of God ! A great stone closes the mouth of the sepulchre; standing, with the Saviour in front and the corpse behind it, between the living and time dead. It must be removed; and Christ has only to say the word, and, moved by hands invisible, it rolls away to disclose the secrets of the tomb. But He who takes away stony hearts, because none other can, does not take away this stone; nor address it, hut those who have put it there, and can take it thence. He requires them to do what they can - each doing their part; theirs to roll away the stone and his to raise the dead. Now, though we can neither convert nor sanctify ourselves or others, yet man has something, and much to do, as is plain from such words as these, Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed: and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die? Strictly speaking, we cannot make us a new heart, but we can place ourselves or others in a position for God to make it. We can remove obstructions to that gracious and holy change - we can dispel ignorance, put away temptation, abandon bad habits - renounce pleasures that occupy our hearts. Thus removing what obstructs the flow of life and grace from Christ, we can take away the stone ; and, co-operating with God in the use of these, and all divinely appointed means, we can, and. as we can, we ought to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. God working in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
11. The Joy of the Newly Converted.
(77) The Greek on making a discovery, of which he had long been in pursuit, was so transported, as to rush naked into the street, and, leading the people to believe him mad, cry, Eureka, Eureka---I have found it, I have found it ! Joy must have vent. A fountain which not only flows but overflows, it bursts up and out, seeking to communicate its own happiness to others. Thus some have been moved to proclaim their conversion, and tell others of the peace which they enjoyed in believing. Come all ye that fear the Lord, says the Psalmist, and I will tell what he hath done for my soul ; and it is just as natural for a heart full of happiness and Gods love to do that, as for a thrush, perched in a summer evening on the top of a cherry-tree, to pour omit the joy that fills its little breast in strains of melody. It is the great President Edwards, I think, who relates how, on one occasion, he had such a sense of Gods love, that he could hardly resist telling it to the woods, the flowers beneath his feet, and the skies above his head. No wonder, therefore, that when the pure and powerful joys of salvathn are poured into a heart which sin had weakened, and never satisfied, the new wine should burst the old bottle, flowing forth in what seems to those who know no better, but ostentation and parade.
12. God Converts His Bitterest Enemies into His Warmest Friends.
(78.) Like the Romans, who decreed a crown to him that saved a citizen, we would hold him worthy of highest honours who brings forth a criminal from his cell, so changed as to be worthy, not only of being restored to the bosom of society, but of holding a place in the senate, or some post of dignity beside the throne. That were an achievement of brilliant renown - a victory over which humanity and piety would shed tears of joy.
(79.) To compare small things with great, something like this - but unspeakably nobler and greater - God works in salvation. For example - In John Bunyan, he calls the bold leader of village reprobates to preach the gospel; a blaspheming tinker to become one of Englands famous confessors; and from the gloomy portals of Bedford jail, to shed forth the lustre of his sanctified and resplendent genius to the farther limits of the world, and adown the whole course of time. From the deck of a slave ship he summons John Newton to the pulpit; and by hands deified with Mammons most nefarious traffic, he brings them that are bound out of darkness, and smites adamantine fetters from the slaves of sin. In Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, he converts his Sons bitterest enemy into his warmest friend. To the man whom a trembling church held most in dread, she comes to owe, under God, the weightiest obligations.
13. The Wishes of the Converted Accommodated to their Wants.
(80.) Observe, also, how, when God changes the condition of his creatures, he accommodates their will to the change. Take, for example, that insect to which I have elsewhere alluded. It comes from time egg a creeping worm ; it is bred in corruption ; it crawls on the ground ; its aliment is the coarsest fare. In time it undergoes its wonderful metamorphosis. The wriggling caterpillar becomes a winged and painted butterfly ; and at this change, with its old skin it casts off its old habits and instincts. Now, it has a will as well as wings to fly. And with its bed the bosom of a flower, its food the honeyed nectar, its home the sunny air, and new instincts animating its frame, its will plays in harmony with its work. The change within corresponds to the change without. It spurns the ground ; and, as you may gather from its merry, mazy dance, the creature is happy, and delights in the new duties which it is called to perform. Even so it is in that change which grace works in sinners. The nature of the redeemed is so accommodated to the state of redemption, their wishes are so fitted to their wants, their hopes to their prospects, their aspirations to their honours, and their will to their work, that they would be less content to return to polluted pleasures than this beautiful creature to be stripped of its silken wings, and condemned to pass its days amid the old, foul garbage, its former food.
14. A Fiery Firmament Hangs Over the Unconverted.
(81.) Yet, in its hours of deepest darkness and quietest repose, this city presents no true picture of our state by nature. We see it yonder vhere a city sleeps, while eager angels point Lots eyes to the break of day, and urge his tardy steps through the doomed streets of Sodom. A fiery firmament hangs over all the unconverted; and there is need that God send his grace to do them an angels office, saving them from impending judgments. Are you still exposed to the wrath of God? Rouse thee, then, from sleep, shake off thy indolence, and leap from thy bed, it is all one whether thou burn on a couch of down or straw.
1. Conviction the First Work of the Spirit
( 82) The first work, accordingly, of Gods Holy Spirit in conversion, Is to rouse a man from the torpor which the poison of sin - like the venom of a snake inftised into the veins - produces, to make him feel his illness, to convince him of his guilt, to make him sensible of his misery. And blessed the book, blessed the preacher, blessed the providence that sends that conviction into our hearts, and lodges it, like a barbed arrow, there.
2. Conviction Stifled by Sinful Pleasures
(83.) Robert Burns, who had times of serious reflection, in one of which, as recorded by his own pen, he beautifully compares himself, in the review of his past life, to a lonely man walking amid the ruins of a noble temple, where pillars stand dismantled of their capitals, and elaborate works of purest marble lie on the ground, overgrown by tall, foul, rank weeds - was once brought, as I have heard, under deep convictions. He was in great alarm. The seed of the word had begun to grow. He sought counsel from one called a minister of the Gospel. Alas, that in that crisis of his history he should have trusted the helm to the hands of such a pilot ! This so-called minister laughed at the poets fears - bade him dance them away at balls, drown them in bowls of wine, fly from these phantoms to the arms of pleasure. Fatal, too pleasant advice ! He followed it : amid the lusts of other things entering in, choked the word.
CROSS OF CHRIST.
1. Necessity of Clinging to the Cross.
(84.) Till we are reconciled to God, and, born again through his Spirit, have become new creatures in Jesus Christ, we are his enemies, Our works do not spring from love to him, and therefore cannot have any value in his eyes. And how imperfect are even the best works of the best saints! There is foulness enough in the purest heart, and, in respect of their motives, manner, and object, sin enough in our best actions - those whereby we do most good and earn most commendation, to condemn us, To speak of us not in our worst but best state, not of the sins we commit, but of the best services we render, our wine has its water and our silver has its dross. And so, abandoning every hope of acceptance with a holy God through our own merits, let us cling to the cross of Christ, as a drowning man to the plank that, embraced in his arms, floats him to the shore ; the language of our faith an echo of his who breathed out his life with these words on his lips, None but Christ no-one but Christ!
(2). We should Gaze on Calvary as well as Eden.
(86.) And, would we do our heavenly Father justice, we must look on Calvary as well as on Eden. The Son of God indeed does not go up and down heaven weeping, wringing his hands, and, to the amazement of silent angels, crying, Would God that I had died for man ! A more amazing spectacle is here.. He turns his back on heaven ; he leaves the bosom and happy fellowship of his Father, he bares his own breast to the sword of justice, and in the depths of a love never to be fathomed, be dies on that accurried tree, the just for the unjust that we might be saved"
3. The Robe of Righteousness Woven There.
(86.) Are you trusting in a righteousness of your own? Leave that loom. Are the gossamer threads of your own vows and promises ever snapping in your hand, and breaking at every throw of the shuttle? The robe of righteousness, a raiment meet for thy soul, and approved of by God, was never woven there. It was wrought upon the cross and, of colour more enduring than Tyrian purple, it is dyed red in the blood of Calvary.
4. No Dead Souls Lie at the Cross.
(87.) But yonder, where the cross stands up high to mark the fountain of the Saviours blood, and heavens sanctifying grace, no dead souls lie. Once a Golgotha, Calvary has ceased to he a place of skulls. men went once to die, and to none that ere went there to seek pardon, and peace, and holiness, did God ever say Seek ye me in vain.
5. Christ Deserted at the Cross.
(88.) Paul had hearers, whom he addresses, saying, Ye did run well, what did hinder you? John Baptist had many such, and in Herod a distinguished one - the only king, so far as I know, who felt such interest in religion as to break through established routine. and leave his court chaplain to listen to a street preacher. His conduct in this matter, the pleasure he felt in the ministry of the fearless and faithful Baptist, the many things he did at Johns bidding and advice, were full of promise - never soil was covered with a greener braird - never sky was lighted with a brighter dawn. He dured for a while; then fell away - and what a fall! - quenching the hopes, which Gods people had begun to cherish of a pious king, in the blood of the martyred, murdered preacher, Not Paul, or the. Baptist only, but our Lord himself had many such hearers. Crowds follow him ; track his steps from city to city, from shore to shore - hanging on his lips, thronging the streets through which he passed, and besieging the houses where he lodged. The day was once when ten thousand tongues would have spoken and ten thousand swords would have flashed in his defence and the day arrived when, during for a while they fell away, and of the crowds that swelled his jubilant train, all, all deserted him - the only voice lifted up in his behalf coming from the cross of a dying thief,
6. Christs Cross and Crown are Inseparable.
(89.) How is that old cruel tragedy repeated day by day within the theatre of many a heart ! God says, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; the preacher brings Jesus forth for acceptance, clothed in purple, and crowned with thorns, and all the tokens of his love upon him, saying, Behold the man ; conscience is aroused to a sense of his claims ; but these all are clamoured down. Stirred up by the devil - the love of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life, and all the corrupt passions of our evil nature, rise like that Jewish mob to cry, "We will not have this man to reign over us. Let the fate of these Jews warn you against their sin ; for if God did such things in the green tree, what shall he do in the dry? Be assured that, unless you are obeying Christ as a sovereign, you have never yet known him as a Saviour. Your faith is vain. His cross and his crown are inseparable.
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