Page images


ledge on these subjects; but the de- affectionate and realizing sense of the gree of clearness and realization with existence of “the things which are which these things come up before not seen," that they become more the mind, must depend entirely on influential with him than sensible the degree of power with which they things. Here is a criterion which are exhibited to it by a spiritual influ- must be of very general use. Many

So John says, “I was in the & Christian is unable to discriminate Spirit on the Lord's day;" and then between the various operations of his recounts the wonders which were re- own mind; but he knows how they vealed to him by that Spirit. So issue in action. Now we affirm that St. Paul says he was once in that a believer so looks at unseen things, state of rapture, that he knew not as to have a greater influence prowhether he was in the body or out of ceeding from them upon his affections the body. These are extraordinary and conduct, than from the things cases of spiritual communication; which are round him, and which theologians call them the extraor- would otherwise naturally supply the dinary influences of the Spirit; and motives of acting. “He endures as spiritual perceptions of that class do seeing Him who is invisible," and he not take place now. Still be it re-chooses (rather to suffer affliction membered that all true christian with the people of God, than to enjoy knowledge, is the same divine and the pleasures of sin for a season.” mysterious Agent opening the under. He says of every evil thing, “How standing and impressing truth upon shall I do this great wickedness, and it, by His ordinary influences, giving sin against God?” His natural course the spirit of wisdom and revelation in would be, the love of the world, and the knowledge of God, and strength- the indulgence of the lust of the flesh, ening men with might in the inner the lust of the eye, and the pride of man, that they may be able to com- life; but looking for this blessed prehend the love of Christ. In this hope, and the glorious appearing of way God, who was once afar off, the Saviour, he denies all ungodlidraws near; His character, which ness and worldly lusts. And this was once unintelligible and shrouded effect is exclusively confined to the in gloom, becomes bright and lovely; motions arising from a spiritual surthe dispensation of mercy in Christ vey of the things not seen. Paul clear and comprehensible, and hea- says, “It pleased God to reveal His ven and hell near and distinct reali- Son in me;" and immediately he beties. This manifestation to the mind, came the faithful, self-denied Apostle; grounded upon the faithful accept- and in his second Epistle to the Coance of the testimony, is a measure rinthians he says, “We know that if of the illumination of that same Spirit our earthly house of this tabernacle who sheds upon the prophet's sight were dissolved, we have a building of the beams of future glory, who carries God, an house not made with hands, an apostle to the third heaven, and eternal in the heavens.” And in this who gives the angelic host, and the belief he says, “We faint not; but spirits of the just, to know even as though our outward man perish, yet the they are known.

inward man is renewed day by day." Lastly. The believer has such an And this is invariably the case in all the children of God. A spiritual We have endeavoured to elucidate communication is established between a very difficult, but a very important them and God, in a measure similar subject, and to make out a very peto that which Adam enjoyed. It is culiar characteristic of him who really as real, though as yet, in its degree, believes the Gospel to the saving of not so high and unrestrained; but it his soul. With a view to explanation, is sufficient for influence. All the we have been, perhaps, rather metaOld Testament saints saw God through physical; but in this statement of the shadows of a mystic and emble- facts, we believe that we have not matic dispensation, and "looked for gone beyond what each one experia city which hath foundations.” The ences, who can conscientiously say eye of the prophet saw “ the King in that he has heartily and entirely reHis beauty," and the land which was ceived the Gospel offer of the remisyet afar off; and the sons of God, sion of sins, and that all his conduct under the Gospel dispensation, who in this life is now guided by the moare led by the Spirit of God; who tives which that Gospel supplies. have received spiritual discernmentThe knowledge of this fact is of real to know the things that are freely value to him who is anxiously seeking given to them of God; who walk, and for salvation ; it affords him a strong pray, and live in the Spirit;—they evidence of the real state of his soul. see God in Christ as the world does For if we are turning away from mere not see Him; they recognize His gra- earthly things, and looking to God cious presence with them; they live and to His Christ, and to the glory with Him; they seek the heavenly promised through Him, we have the city which He has promised; every proof which an Apostle had that we day's experience, and every fresh de- are partakers of a nature more than parture of a saint, makes the land of mortal, and an assurance that when rest more near and more evident. the sublunary enjoyments which we And in all these individuals, their have learned to abandon shall disapconduct was under the regulation of pear, we shall receive a kingdom that these perceptions. They renounce cannot be moved. We have here also this present world, and they live for an encouragement to proceed in the the world to come. And the direct course which we have begun. Spirisanctifying influence coming upon tual perception is a progressive atthe real believer, from the spiritual tainment. To him who hath, more regard of God and His promised hea- shall be given. He who seeks for it, ven, is such, that language seems finds. And the brighter our percephardly strong enough to satisfy the tion of God and eternity; of the unApostle's mind in recording.its effici- speakable mercies of Christ, and the ent power.

“We all,” says he,- glories of His kingdom; the more and be it remembered that he is de- heartily and unaffectedly shall we rise scribing the daily experience of the above the temptations and low gratiindividual Christian,—“we all, with fications which this carnal existence open face beholding as in a glass the offers. Here is the great secret. Let glory of the Lord, are changed into us look to eternal things, and realize the same image from glory to glory, them; " fight the good fight of faith, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” and lay hold on eternal life;" believe

in sincerity that Christ has died to rate opinions for the possession of deliver us from this present evil converting grace. We suggest, then, world ; love Him, though unseen, and this additional rule: if in our pracwe shall “rejoice with joy unspeaka- tice we habitually find, that it is the ble and full of glory.”

things which are seen at which we But this characteristic of the saints are really looking, and that they, in administers to all others, a test which one form or other, have an interest, ought to lead to very important re- and a power, and a fascination with sults. We must bring it to bear upon us, which eternal things have not; our own hearts. If we find no supe- and that eternity is generally abanrior pleasure in looking at unseen, doned for time; and that earthly eternal realities; if this kind of con- prospects of gratification, and earthly templation has not become the habit vanities, do habitually occupy us seof our mind; if we do not attain, cretly; and that our desires after through Christ, to the knowledge of these things lead to speculating, and God,- to the sense of communion contriving, and arranging for indulwith Him, and to this practical calcu- gence in them, as far as we can comlation upon His providential care; if mand it;—then we are not yet bethe belief of the existence of heaven lievers; we have not looked at “the and hell does not operate as an in- things which are not seen. fluence, upon our conduct; we have May the Eternal Spirit aid us in no reason yet to think ourselves the right determination of this case, Christians. And further, in all these and stamp the needful conviction inpoints we may be speculatively right, delibly upon our hearts, that even yet from the advantage of religious in- we may “flee from the wrath to struction, and we may mistake accu- come.”

Φωνη τεθνηκότος.


“ If this man were 'not of God, he yielded, if the banner of the cross ever could do nothing,” is an exclamation float on its top, the victory will be that may well fall from our lips, when alone due to that Divine strength a christian teacher first enters on a which has been “made perfect in new scene of action. He is, to the weakness.' outward

eye, like a general who should “Behold I send you forth as lambs present himself before a strong for- among wolves :" thus did our Saviour tress, and hope to take it without characterize His disciples and the engines of war. The preacher of the world ; nor have his words even now Gospel presents himself before the ceased to be appropriate. Great as closed and fortified heart of man, but are the blessings which education and he has no earthly artillery by which civilization have brought in their to force an entrance. It is not by en- train, the heart of man still clings to ticing words of man's wisdom that he its corruptions; and we are ever and must sue for admittance, nor dares he anon startled by some violent outenter into an agreement or compro- break, which shews that though the mise with its defenders. He can but wolf may be chained, it has lost nosummon it to surrender in his Master's thing of its natural ferocity. On the name; and if the citadel ever be grovelling and the sensual, all re

sources of art and genius are brought of Christ; and the spiritual vine, which to act in vain ; like those foul crea- the sword of persecution had but tures which have their home and food pruned and made to produce a more among the impurities of nature, wher- abundant vintage, luxuriated into de ever filth and pollution are to be found, generacy beneath the quiet and warmth there are they. Christianity has to of proeperity. But in those parts of contend both against what is loftiest the Church which seemed outwardly and what is meanest among men. She weak and mean, her true strength was has to strive both against those richly- preserved. The light which was withendowed natures, who, like the fallen held from the gold and glitter of cereSatan, war against God by means of monial pomp, shone on the retreats of His own glorious gifts,- soaring to the humble worshippers, in whom the wards heaven, if we may so say, only true Church found her representatives to carry on the warfare nearer to the in the darkest ages; and while some, Eternal throne,—and also against eminent in station, outraged society those creeping things whose course is by their excesses, obscure believers marked by their slime. Some, obdu- were feeding in private on the bread rate and apathetic, meet the most of life. Thus was the holy fire of moving appeals of the Gospel with Christ's religion kept alive even when a stupid indifference; while others, it burnt on hidden and scattered altars; aroused to resistance, turn upon the till, at length, through a more copious teachers of truth with contumely and out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, it kinviolence. Yet over all kinds of oppo- dled into a widely-visible flame. As nents, and against every mode of per- in the foundation, so in the presersecution, Christianity has triumphed. vation of the Church, God's strength Where man has been powerless, God has been “made perfect in weakhas shewn Himself strong. The

ness." hardest hearts have been softened, And if we consider what were the and the Church has been kept alive blessings to spring from the diffusion amidst the hottest fires of persecution of the Gospel, we need not wonder God's strength has in all ages of the that wealth and power have done so Church, been “made perfect in weak- little to advance it. “The fruit of the ness.”

Spirit is, love, joy, peace, long-sufferThe Church commenced her tri- ing, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekumphs without any aid from human ness, and temperance.”

These are power; while against her were ar- not things that we can spread abroad rayed the most inveterate prejudices at the point of the sword or by gorand all the prevailing modes of thought geous display. Love cannot be won and action. The sword was un- by violence, nor true faith engendered sheathed for her destruction ; but she by sophistry. Christianity, teaching bared her bosom to the blow, and us to keep our eye fixed on a perfect pressed on. The sophist assailed her model, will not suffer us to be deluded with his subtleties, but she left him by tawdry or deceptive attire. The entangled in the maze of his own Christian wishes to be, not merely to arguments, and went on to proclaim appear ; he is impatient, therefore, of the simple elements of truth. Great show or artifice in others or in himself. and wonderful were her victories, for It is because he is convinced that all it was God who was working in her. things around him are fleeting and Manifold were her consolations, for unreal,- phantasms, shadows, and the hand of Jesus sustained her. But dreams,--that he turns from them to soon, flushed with conquest, she began send on his hopes to a better and an to rely on her own strength, and un- enduring substance. How should he gratefully to avail herself of alien arts, then admit unrealities as a portion of to confirm or widen a dominion that his faith and practice, or think to was rapidly embracing the world. make what is true, stand on a basis Then was it that internal corruptions that is false? No; it is when stripped began to waste the vast body that was of all confidence in spurious aids, and dignified with the name of the Church to the eye of the world helpless and

weak, that he is most fitted to set out make seasons, of weakness His chos on his pilgrimage to that holy city, sen opportunities for the display of the gates of which fly back at the fee. His power. blest cry of true repentance. If we When the sinner first becomes conmore clearly saw where the real scious of the purity of God's law, and strength of the Church lies, we should his own sad condition as a transoften perhaps rejoice, where now we gressor, a period of utter weakness tremble.

ensues. Humiliated, forlorn, prostrate This reflection, that it is in God's in penitence, he feels most deeply the strength, not in his own, that the want of a support which no human Christian is fighting, yields an encou- arm can give. As we must die alone, ragement which he greatly needs in as the soul must enter by itself into his conflict with surrounding iniquity. the world of spirits, so the soul awaWhen the sensitive reader traces the kened by God's grace feels itself sufferings of some victim of human called upon to step alone into a region tyranny or violence, when he follows of invisibility and mystery; and it some of those details of fiendish atro- trembles with conscious weakness as city which the page of history or even it enters upon that untried state. Old his morning newspaper so frequently things seem flitting from the penitent's presents, how does he shudder and grasp, and he has not yet found sicken over the hideous tale! And yet strength to lay hold firmly on the who can tell with what costly balm hope set before us in the Gospel. The the wounds of the victims of those momentous interests at stake, impart who have power only to kill the body, a solemn intensity to the great trial may hereafter be closed; or with what going on in the chamber of his breast. celestial draught the fainting sufferer Good and evil, life and death, are set may eventually be revived? But of before him; and who is to direct or those tortures which the tyrant Sin in- fix the choice of his feeble mind. He flicts on the soul, what can be the end? is conscious that could he but open What place of refreshment is there his eyes, he could take in an immenfor him who shall bear into the other sity of space, a flood of brightness ; world the unclosed wounds of unre- but that should he keep them wilfully pented transgressions ? Well, then, closed, all must remain dark. Even may the Christian's heart bleed as he while drawing nearer, as he at times looks round on the wide ravages of believes, to the glory of heaven, he sin! And yet to stay the attacks of feels more and more his inability to this tyrant, he can only oppose a fee- approach it; and the distant notes of ble voice,-soon drowned in the tu- its music that strike faintly on his mult of the world and the passions ; ear, increase his lamentations over and he is often too in danger, through the torpidity of his spiritual sense, injudicious zeal or besetting infirini- that does not permit him to distinties, of injuring the very cause which guish them more clearly. Paley has he would die to serve.

Blessed be compared this great change of conGod that “the weapons of our warfare version to an escape from shipwreck. are not carnal, but mighty through And when does a man feel so helpGod to the pulling down of strong less as when the waves are howling holds !" And often when in respect around him, and his bark is dashed to of some incorrigible offender, we are pieces in their midst? But it is in this inclined to abandon all prayer and very weakness that strength lies. It is hope, and to say, “ He is dead : trou- a bidding farewell to the gay vessel of ble not the Master any further," it our pride and pleasure, in order to would better become us to listen to take refuge in the ark. It is the letting the encouraging reply, “Fear not: go of an unstable object, preparatory believe only, and he shall be made to seizing on one that is firm. It is whole."

an exhaustion that brings him who As in the case of the Church at feels it within the class described as large, so in that of the individual

weary and heavy laden;" and he Christian, the Spirit of God is wont to may therefore feel assured that he is

« PreviousContinue »