Page images
PDF
EPUB

was no more seen.

prayerful, humble state of mind. His dying Saviour's love and his Bible were evidently both becoming precious to him.

For some days, James continued in this dangerous state, and his poor wife scarcely dared to hope that his life might be prolonged; however, it pleased the Lord in some measure to raise him up again, that he might recover his strength a little before he went hence, and

In a week or two he was able to rise from his bed of sickness; I may truly say, he did so an altered man. His temper, which for some time had been very irritable, was now much changed; though he suffered much from weakness, yet he was cheerful, and expressed great thankfulness for all his blessings; when but a very short time before, he often repined that he had not more comforts.

He now delighted in prayer, in reading God's word, and hearing it read and explained to him. Praise and thanksgiving were not only often in his mouth, but his whole conduct evidenced that in him “old things had passed away, that he was become a new creature in Christ Jesus.” Many and severe were his struggles against innate sin, yet was he enabled through grace to go on his way rejoicing, trusting in his Redeemer, who had graciously called him out of darkness into his marvellous light. After a few months, James felt himself much stronger—his cough had nearly left him—and anxious to assist in supporting his wife and family, as long as he was able, he returned to his employment. Though he was unable at first to work as usual, his master, feeling for his late distress, and hearing he was an improved character, kindly allowed him the same wages.

The strength of James' religious principles was now to be tried. He again mixed with the associates with whom he had frequented the public-house and broke the Sabbath. These temptations, I am thankful to say, were now no snares to him: by a power beyond his own, he could say, “In these things I have no longer any pleasure.” But he had his trials; his fellow-gardeners

- there were two besides himself — were thoughtless with regard to their souls; one of them was a swearer, a drunkard, and, I need scarcely add, a Sabbathbreaker. He urged his companion to insult poor James, and render him as uncomfortable as they possibly could. Still feeble, and scarcely equal to perform his daily task, he felt their reproaches keenly; but, through grace, was enabled either not to answer them, or to give the soft answer which the wise man says, turneth away wrath; and at night, when he and his wife joined in their evening devotions, he fervently prayed that these poor men might be led, as he had been, to see the sinfulness of sin, and turn to their neglected Saviour. James was enabled to go steadily on in his path of duty; his conduct was now so upright and conscientious, that his employer, who understood not the spring from which this change proceeded, could not but admire the results it produced, and he was heard to say, “The men laugh at James, poor fellow, and, I fear, often treat him very badly, on account of his new ideas; but, I can only say, if it is religion that has wrought an alteration in him, 'I wish they were religious also.”

Thus we see, when Christians are consistent in their walk, that even worldly men are compelled to acknowledge there is something superior in those principles which effect a radical and lasting change in the possessor.

A twelvemonth had now passed since James' first attack; winter was commencing, but, feeling tolerably strong, he hoped he might still be able to work. He laboured so industriously, that his master frequently said to his other gardeners, “That poor, feeble man does more work in one hour than you strong, hearty fellows do in three."

One day James was caught in a heavy rain; and though he returned home as soon as he could, and changed his clothes, yet a severe cold was the consequence: a violent and almost constant cough ensued, and he was now entirely confined to the house, and often to his bed. The faith of these Christians was now put to another severe trial; lingering disease, and a feeling of total helpless

ness, was the lot of one, and the other called upon to endure, day by day, the agony of seeing her husband, now doubly dear to her, gradually sink under hopeless consumption; but the grace of God sustained them both. It enabled James patiently to suffer, and calmly to resign his beloved wife and children into the care of his heavenly Father; and Sarah could experience the blessed consolation, that her loss would be his unspeakable gain, for his love to Christ increased daily. James remained many weeks in this uncertain state; sometimes rallying

-at others, appearing as if the next hour might prove his last. At length his life was ended, by the rupture of another blood vessel. Mr. hastened to him; and was just in time to hear his dying lips feebly but distinctly utter these consoling sentences: * I know that my Redeemer liveth." “He alone is my salvation and ali

my desire; 'yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for He is with me; His rod and staff they comfort me."" He then lay for a while, his eyes raised upwards, and a peaceful smile on his countenance. When he perceived Mr. he held out his hand, and said, “ Peace, peace.” He looked affectionately on his children and weeping wife, to whom he whispered, “I go to Jesus: and remember who is the Father of the fatherless, and the God of the widow!” and almost immediately expired in her arms.

Poor Sarah's grief was great, but her kind minister knew what would best assuage her sorrow; he knelt by the bed wherein lay the remains of him she mourned for, and in as firm a voice as he could command, thanked the Lord for his loving-kindness to the departed, for having brought him to a knowledge of his state as a sinner, and enabled him to receive Christ by faith as his Saviour. He prayed that his dear children might be preserved from sin having dominion over them — that his Holy Spirit might enlighten their minds to enable them to receive the blessed truths of his holy word, which could make them wise unto salvatton, by leading them to Him who “is the way, the truth, and the life.' He also be

sought the Lord in behalf of the poor widow, that she might obtain consolation, in the belief that her beloved husband, redeemed by his Saviour's precious blood, was now in his presence, rejoicing for evermore; and that she might continue walking by faith in the narrow path which leadeth to eternal life, till it should please the Lord to remove her to his heavenly kingdom.

ON PRAYER.

Prayer is not the mere posture of the body. A man may kneel till he wear out the stones; like the Mohommedans, he may put himself into every variety of posture, throw himself on the earth, and lie in the dust; like Ahab, he may put on sackcloth and ashes; or, like the monks of modern times, kneel till his knees become horny, and yet never pray at all.

It is not the mere expression of the mouth. A man may repeat a hundred times a day, that comprehensive and affecting prayer which our Lord has taught us to use; or he may say, My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth after thee," and yet not offer up one prayer unto God.

It is not the mere invention of the mind. Many have a peculiar gift of prayer in this respect, and can pour out fluently, perspicuously, and at length, a form of words; but both the mind and the tongue may be thus employed, while the heart neither feels the sentiments expressed, nor longs for the blessings implored.

Nor is the mere act of joining in family, social, or public worship, acceptable prayer. Uniting with others, in the most earnest petitions, where your own heart is unmoved, will avail you nothing.

All these things may be as the mere husk and shell, without the kernel; the body without the spirit. God expects the desire of the heart. Your devotions should be a sacred bond, knitting the soul unto God, a holy converse with him.

Dr. Watts thus expresses himself on this subject: “When a holy soul comes before God, he has much more to say than merely to beg. He tells his God what a sense he has of the divine attri.

and what high esteem he pays to his majesty, his wisdom, his

power, and his mercy. He talks with him about the works of creation, and stands wrapt up in wonder. He talks about the grace and mystery of redemption, and is yet more filled with ad

butes;

miration and joy. He talks of all the affairs of nature, grace, and glory. He speaks of his works of providence, of love, and vengeance, in this and the future world. Infinite and glorious are the subjects of this holy communion between God and his saints.”

Mrs. More observes, “Prayer is a term of great latitude, involving the whole compass of our intercourse with God. St. Paul represents it to include our adoration of his perfections; our acknowledgment of the wisdom of his dispensations, and of our obligations for his benefits, providential and spiritual; the avowal of our entire dependence on him, and of our absolute subjection to him; the declaration of our faith in him; the expression of our devotedness to him; the confession of our unworthiness, infirmities, and sins; the petition for the supply of our wants, and for the pardon of our offences; for succour in our distress, for a blessing on our undertakings, for the direction of our conduct, and the success of our affairs.”

“Prayer," says the same writer, “is the application of want to Him who only can relieve it; the voice of sin to Him who only can par. don it. It is the urgency of poverty, the prostration of humility, the fervency of penitence, the confidence of truth. It is not eloquence, but earnestness; not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it; not figures of speech, but compunction of soul. It is, the •Lord, save us, we perish,' of drowning Peter, the cry of faith to the ear of mercy.”

This is acceptable prayer. But how often are our devotions a mere form, to satisfy our conscience! We know it is our duty to pray; we know that none go to heaven but men of prayer; we have been taught to pray in our youth, and therefore we go through the outward form; but is it not too often without the inward motion and desire of the heart towards God? Let us remember, thạt the mere form is not only unprofitable to the soul, but brings guilt upon it; and when trusted in, is a dangerous delusion. It may gain us a religious name in the world; it may pacify an alarmed conscience for the moment; but it gains nothing from God. Our Lord says, “ This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;" and what follows? “In vain do they worship me.”

« PreviousContinue »