Page images


minister at her altars; worldly conformities in her members; and all other symptoms of the last times occur to try characters, and many who believed for a time, fall away. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest "that they were not all of us."*




But though the faith of the insincere may be overthrown, "Nevertheless the foundation of God "standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord know"eth them that are his. And, let every one that "nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.† "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house "of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted "in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon "the earth."

Finally. At the period of death, the last and greatest extremity, the character is sifted as corn is sifted in a sieve. Eternal and invisible realities are then beheld as near; we look at the things which are not seen; and all the perishing concerns of this passing state, retire and disappear.

The perspective entrance of the unclothed spirit

* 1 John, ii. 19.

† 2 Timothy, ii. 19.

into the divine presence is about to take place, and where is the man who realizes the fact, but trembles at the thought?

"Where? where? for shelter shall the guilty fly,
"When consternation turns the good man pale?"

This is the season in which, although the believer in Jesus is agitated and tossed as wheat in a sieve, he shall not fall away and perish; nay, he now loses the chaff which has attached itself to his character through life, and is gathered faultless and unblemished into the celestial garner.

It frequently occurs, that the final conflict in which a christian is engaged, is the fiercest. Other contests have been with the footmen, this with the chariots; former difficulties have been as rivulets, this as the swellings of Jordan. The Pilgrim who vanquished Apollyon in the valley of Humiliation, was nearly lost in crossing the black waters of death.* The corporeal frame less able to sustain the agitations of the spirit; the painful intrusions of all that is dear in the charities of life; the remembrance of early and more recent transgressions; the vigorous assaults of our worst adversary; and the supposed absence of the good Shepherd, whose rod and staff are the only support and de

* Vide Bunyan's Pilgrim.

fence in the dreaded valley;-these in their separate or combined influence, excite the most distressing apprehensions, and occasion the dying believer to exclaim, "Woe is me, Woe is me, I perish! I perish!


But the Lord commands his loving kindness in the day of our trial, and in the night is our song to the God of our life. The triumph of the saint is not always as evident to spectators, as his trial. The defeated and flying adversary may call the pursuing warrior far from the field of battle, into distant places, where the confused noise of conflict is not heard, and the garment rolled in blood is not seen. In this spiritual warfare, and it becomes more spiritual as it approaches its termination, could we follow the immortal and ransomed soul, we should doubtless behold it, not merely putting to flight whole armies of aliens, but see it making victorious incursions into the territory of the King of Terrors. He oftener hears to his dismay than we are aware of, the conqueror's song, "O grave "where is thy victory! O death where is thy "sting!"

The great Captain of our Salvation, in prospect of this conflict, was heard to exclaim in the glooms of Gethsemane,“ My soul is exceedingly sorrow"ful even unto death." On the cross, and in the

audience of his bitter and blaspheming foes, his agonies and apprehensions forced the cry, "My "God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?". Yet at that moment, the victory was achieved"Love's redeeming work was done,

"Fought the fight-the battle won.-"

And we contemplate him as the conqueror coming from Edom, his garments dyed in blood, travelling in the greatness of his strength, mighty to save. To carnal beholders, he might appear as forsaken; to his invisible adversaries, as terribly triumphant; and thus are saints conformed to their Saviour. The day shall declare it. Many, who to our fears, fell ignobly, shall rise resplendently with his dead body; they sleep in the dust of the earth, but they shall arise to everlasting life, and ́shine with the glittering robes of conquerors in the future state of repose and reward.

To death, also may our text be properly applied; it is a season when God will command and will sift Israel like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.

In concluding these meditations, let us primarily, take a retrospect of all the way which the Lord our God has led us these many years in the wilderness, to humble us and to prove us, and to

know what was in our hearts, whether we would keep his commandments or not.

Various have been the sifting occurrences of our lives, unlike the wicked, we, my brethren, as companions in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, have had many changes; changes affecting both body and mind. Our lot has been that of Saint Peter, Satan hath desired to sift us as wheat; has not the consequence been the same? Let us offer up prayers with strong cryings, to Him who has delivered, and does deliver, and will yet again deliver. Our offences have been aggravated by premonitions, the trumpet of alarm has given a certain sound, yet we have been unprepared for the battle. May He who prays for us, that we may be kept from the evil that is in the world, pardon us fully, restore to us the joys of his salvation, and uphold us by his free spirit!

And secondly. Let us anticipate the period when we shall be finally sifted, and separated alike, from the husks of our own personal imperfections and frailties, and the chaff of all carnal and ungodly associations.

Sinful dispositions, which are our heaviest burden; corporeal weakness, which clogs our best desires; and every external hinderance to our

« PreviousContinue »