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NO. 1. —"IT IS NOT MY FAULT.”
gave me of
ND so Adam thought when lie said, “The woman
whom Thou gavest to be with me, she
condemned for the commission of what he fain would have proved was not his fault.” Nay, the very thing he regarded as a justification of his act of disobedience was brought forward as especially worthy of blame : “ Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.”
Following in the steps of their father, Adam, this has been a favourite excuse with mankind ever since: we wish to get rid, not only of blame, but of responsibility: “I have been treated unjustly, and no wonder I was angry: I know I gave way to temper on the occasion, but it is not my fault.'' We are thwarted in some plan; our motives are misrepresented; we are slighted by those whom we feel ought to have treated us with consideration; we are prevented, by some outward authority, from doing something which our conscience points out as a duty, or, if not prevented from thus acting, our conscientious motives are ridiculed overstrained notions of what is right.” Under these provocations, our patience fails, and we yield to the unamiable feelings they rouse, each according to his natural disposition; if of a passionate temper, we give way to a burst of anger which leads us to say (and perhaps do) what may lay the foundation of future sorrow to ourselves or others; if of a sullen temperament, we brood over the injury or annoyance, and privately nurse feelings of "hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness.” And not only do we do this, but we justify, in ourselves, the feelings we should not hesitate to condemn in others, and, even while encouraging these sinful feelings, say, “ It is not my fault.”
Then whose fault is it? “ The fault of those who roused them,” you answer. Nay, but it is not so; those around you are not the keepers of your conscience; they are responsible for their ill-treatment of you, but not for the manner in which you bear it; that rests between your own soul and God. Life is avowedly a scene of trial, and none the less so because many of our conflicts (may we not say most of them ?) are inward instead of outward. Such as I have named, for instance, are carried on in the privacy of our own hearts, and are none the less severe because unwitnessed by others, and therefore beyond the reach of human help.
But here is the discipline of life; we are not now called upon to show our love to Christ by going to the martyr's stake, yet all who are His must take up the cross, and, in almost every soul's experience, this cross consists in the troubles—ay, and worries of every-day life. Troubles, regarded in this light, are ennobled; the very worries which fret and chafe us may be, each one, a link in the chain of God's providence—the chain which shall lead us to Himself. If we look at both ways of bearing the trials we have spoken of, we shall see what, by God's grace, they may effect if we look to Him for help through all, instead of yielding to the irritability they cause, and then excusing ourselves by saying, “It is not my fault.”
The man of the world, and the Christian, are both thwarted in some plan, and their motives misconstrued. The worldly man gives way to anger at the frustration of his wish, complains bitterly of the false charges brought against him, and, if asked if he does well to be angry, replies, “I cannot help it; 'it is not my fault.'” The Christian sees God's hand in the disappointment which has befallen him, and though he cannot understand the wherefore of this trial, he submits to the Hand which he knows is guided by love as well as wisdom; and as for the misconstruction of his motives, it matters little to him that he is “judged of man's judgment;' he can lay bare the recesses of his thoughts to Him who alone can read the heart, and can say, “Lord, Thou knowest.” The man of the world, and the Christian, are slighted and neglected by those from whom they have a right to expect better treatment: the man of the world stands on his own dignity, proclaims his wrongs, and says it was “not his fault," but that of his neighbour, that all his feelings of angry indignation are roused. The Christian, however wounded by the unkindness he has received, turns it to his soul's account by remembering that he is not more hardly dealt with than his Saviour was when on earth, and who was
“ At once betrayed, denied, and filed
By all who shared His daily bread." We need not ask which of these two men is so submitting to the discipline of life that it shall train him for eternal happiness. The one is willing to learn what God teaches, and without questioning His method; the other allows himself to be angry at the means used to chasten his character, and justifies that anger.
We all know it is easier to bear patiently a trial which evidently comes direct from God's hand than when man is the agent through which the trial comes. We dare not be openly angry at God's dealings; but when He employs man as the instrument, we rebel, and make it a matter of bitterness, at the same time saying that it is not our fault. Dare we take this excuse to the judgment-seat of Christ, when called to account for the feelings of resentment and malice we have cherished ?
“Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” It is a serious thing for him who thus provokes the endurance of a fellow-creature ; but let us leave him in God's hands, and look to ourselves, that we lose not the benefit which may accrue to our souls if we turn to a right account the opportunity thus afforded us of copying the example of Him “who, when He was reviled, reviled not again ;" when He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him who judgeth righteously.
Let us consider then from whence springs this inclination to justify ourselves. It is self-righteousness : a sense of our
own merits makes us refuse to fall under rebuke, though we are only too willing to detect short-comings in others. Selflove or self-righteousness can only arise from spiritual blindness-a blindness which prevents our seeing ourselves as we are in the sight of God—“poor, and blind, and naked.”
Thus are we in God's sight while under the dominion of self-love ; but Christ can free us from that dominion if we throw aside our own fancied goodness, and look to Him only for the righteousness we can never attain to ourselves. We must come to Him, and say, “I am poor; supply all my need through the riches which are in Christ Jesus. I am blind; open Thou mine eyes. I am naked ; clothe me with the robe of Thy righteousness." Then, and then only, can I venture into my Maker's presence, “not having mine own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
Jem Ashurst's prayer.
T was nearly nine o'clock when the minister's wife
with her guide reached Boatman's Hollow, and all was darkness in the little cottage where the
sick man lay; for the candle the wife had left him had burned down in the socket, and he had not been able to light another.
His bed had been brought downstairs, that his wife could wait
upon him better; so now he heard and knew her step at the door, and as she opened it he asked eagerly, Did you
find her? And will she come, Lizzie ?”
I found her easy enough, and she came right off back with me at once. She knew in a minute who I meant when I mentioned you. And, Jem”—and the woman's voice lowered as in the darkness she crossed over to the bed, and bent down—"And, Jem, she says she's kept her promise all this summer, and has prayed for you every day."
“Ah, I knew she had ; I felt she had! Light a candle, Lizzie.”
And as the woman did so, and it lighted up the little room, Mrs. Preston saw where the man lay, and going up to him said, “I am glad you sent to me, but very sorry to find you so ill."
“ Thank you, ma'am ; you're very good,” the man said, as he seized the hand held out to him ; "and I do thank you so for coming to see me; but don't pity me for lying here. I'd rather a thousand times be here as I am now than be up and about the strongest man in the world, and be as I have been. I've never felt nothing like I have to-night. I've known for weeks that God had heard the prayers that I'd been praying, and I knew that you must have kept your promise and prayed something for me, too, for I began to go different, somehow—there was like a struggling and striving after something as I hadn't got, and yet I didn't know what I was short of. When I promised you that morning that I would say that prayer, I meant to keep my promise ; but it was only because you asked me so nicely, not because I cared for the prayer, or even believed in it, for I didn't. But still I did keep my promise ; every day I said the words you taught me; but as it was only a form, I got tired even of them few words, and should have given 'em up only that I'd said I wouldn't, and you'd said you should trust to me.
“I knew it was doing me no good muttering 'em as I did mutter them, but I didn't care ; but one day as I was saying 'em over I began asking myself what they meant. I knew there must be something in 'em or you wouldn't have chosen them; and then they like got a hold on -I couldn't get 'em out of my head. Day and night I kept saying, “ Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me.' And then I began to think who I was asking to lead me;' and what ‘His truth' meant, and what His teaching was. And it all seemed something so new and strange, that I was bewildered, and wanted to understand it all. But the more