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and a shrinking from the pleasant light of day. The CURSE seems to rest upon him. It has an unearthly amplitude. It fills the bounds of space. It is palpable and embodied, as though he could clutch it in his convulsive grasp. It weighs him down, and sits upon him like a mountain of lead. He cries in his agony, "Reprobate that I am! the fire of God's wrath is already enkindled within my bosom. Jesus of Nazareth, torment me not before my time !" Would we could admit this to be nothing but a fancy sketch, a fiction without a counterpart in reality! But it is itself the dread reality. And to such a fearful height does this uneasiness sometimes rise, that the unhappy victim of unappeased remorse is willing to seek relief in the grave, and courts the aid of the tube, the cord, or the wave, in order to terminate his agonizing suspense.
"And know the worst his fears foreshow."
Can such a one, destitute of all satisfaction in his own soul; an utter stranger to the peace of God which passeth understanding; devoid of confidence in God, in himself, in the truth and efficacy of religion; can such a one invite sinners to Zion, or teach transgressors the ways of God? He may be a beacon to warn, but never a clarion to rouse to victory. No! a clean heart and a clear conscience must he have who takes the awful name of God upon his lips, or would act as interpreter and guide to the conscience-stricken and sin-laden. "Unto the wicked God saith, what hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth ?"
III. We are now prepared to advance to a third proposition, as before indicated. In order to win souls to God, it is desirable that we have a lively enjoyment of religion.
"Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit! Then," adds the psalmist, "then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and," through my zeal and fidelity, "sinners shall be converted unto thee." The connection between these two things, the condition and the result, could not be more plainly pointed out.
Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm. All the sympathies of our nature respond in unison with it. The indifferent will not be listened to. He who would make others feel, must feel himself. He who would unlock the fount of tears, must be the first to weep. He that would enkindle and carry away his auditors, must have his own soul on fire. We cannot expect others to be interested where we feel no interest ourselves.
A certain person of influence once procured the pardon of a culprit who lay under sentence of death. As soon as the poor man regained his liberty, he sought out his benefactor, and relieved his full heart of the torrent of his gratitude. "Every drop
of my blood," said he, "thanks you; I would follow you on my knees over the world."
Similar should be our feelings towards the Lord Jesus, with this difference, that our feelings should be elicited with still greater warmth, inasmuch as he not merely interceded for our release, but actually laid down his head for our head, his life for our life. He gave up a throne for the cross, a crown of glory for a crown of thorns, the sceptre of empire for a reed of mockery, the robe of judgment for a soldier's rags. He gave his back to the smiters, and withheld not his cheek from being buffeted and spit upon. For our reproaches was he reproached, and for our bondage was he bound.
If Jesus consented to such sacrifices for us, shall we hesitate at any for him? If he thus devoted himself for us without reserve, shall we set cautious bounds to our devotion to him? If he died for us, is it too much to expect that we live unto him?
To appreciate the joy of salvation, we must know what it is to be lost. To be lost! What numerous sad images rise up before the mind at that fearful word;-the ship lost at sea; -the traveller lost in a wild land infested by savages ;-the wanderer lost among the icy clefts of the Alps;-the military leader knowing that all his fortunes will be lost with a single decisive battle; -the tender mother frantic over the cold remains of a lost darling; an unfortunate man lost in the vast cataract in spite of every attempt to save him;-all these call up emotions of a pensive character ;-but what are all such losses to the loss of the soul! A soul is wrecked amid the tempests of life, and thenceforth drifts a hapless, helpless, hopeless wanderer over the dark ocean of eternity, without a star, without a helm, without a haven. A poor lost soul! What volumes of meaning, what unsounded depths of tenderness are there in that word! Go to the hill of Calvary, and count every groan, and every drop of blood that fall from the august sufferer, and from the price paid for the soul's redemption learn the greatness of its loss. Look down into the pit of hell, and from the shrieks and screams that issue through its grated doors, learn the same vivid lesson. The inmates of that drear abode have new light shed upon the meaning of the word "Lost!" On earth they thought they knew it, now they feel it! Lost to holiness, lost to happiness, lost to hope, lost to heaven, such is the condition of the children of disobedience. Could you hear one of those miserable souls wailing out the curse of its eternity, the word "lost" would have henceforth a new meaning for you. The sound would haunt you forever. To this loss are we all exposed, this ruin impends over every one of us. Not all feel it. Some laugh at it. They coldly call it enthusiasm. But there are others who have felt the sting of conscience, and moaned over the anticipated curse. Every pang of remorse has seemed like a sparkle from the foam of the lake that burneth, setting their souls on fire. They know what David felt when he
said, "the terrors of hell gat hold upon me." "While I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted."
And they know too what it is to find the burden gone; to be able to lift up their eyes once more to the blue sky, and see there a reconciled Father's smile; to have Christ in them the hope of glory, to think of death without alarm, and of the judgment-day without trembling. He who led captivity captive has restored the poor estray, and whispered in the ear hope sweet as angel music, "The Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost."
The joy of salvation! None know that joy but they who are saved. Those that were on the very verge of perishing, and were snatched from the jaws of death may speak of it. The lost sailor, the lost wayfarer, the lost battle, the lost babe, the lost swimmer ; -imagine in each case, a wonderful and happy reverse. What shouts of joy, what songs of praise, what vows of gratitude celebrate the deliverance!
They that have tasted the joy of salvation are privileged to recommend it to others. They know something of its sweetness. They have felt the magic of its power. They are satisfied that it is a blessed reality. They feel that it is no morbid fancy, no idle dream. Full of the glow of enthusiasm, they accost every one they meet, "Come with us, and we will do you good, for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel."
Unless religion be in a lively state in our souls, and we in some degree enjoy its power, we will feel little inducement to recommend it to others. But on the contrary, if we have a lively enjoyment of religion, we will long to make every one a partaker of our joy. The leaven will work. It is not the nature of Christianity to sit still at home, when there is work to be done for God and for souls. Then, when the heart is in a right and a happy frame, then will zeal boil, and the tongue grow pliant. Then will they that love the Lord speak often one to another. They will pray and labor, and teach transgressors their ways, and sinners shall be converted to God.
This subject gives birth to several practical reflections.
1. How desirable and precious the joy of salvation! How enviable, beyond wealth and state, a lively enjoyment of religion in the heart! Thrice happy the soul which holds communion with Jesus, which has the freedom of the city of God, and feeds on the heavenly manna!
2. If we find torpor and inactivity benumbing us in the service of God, it is not difficult to conjecture the cause. Sin lieth at the door." Want of interest arises from the incrustation of sin; coldness and remissness, and backsliding and love of the world are at the bottom of it all.
3. The way of return is equally obvious. Retrace your steps. Begin at the beginning. Relay the foundation. Do
works over again. Do not rely on old experience, but replenish the lamp with fresh oil.
4. We may infer that ordinarily a deep experience is necessary to great usefulness. Paul was such an instance. He was arrested in the midst of his persecution and rancor, and "obtained mercy, that in him first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." John Newton was another example. Who viler than he once engaged in the accursed traffic in slaves on the coast of Africa, himself a slave to every lust. Yet was he brought to repentance, and extensive usefulness. Nowhere do we find more edifying hymns illustrative of Christian experience than his. John Bunyan was another instance of distinguishing grace. The blaspheming, cursing, swearing tinker, to hear whose profanity made the blood of every pious hearer run cold, was brought to see the error of his ways. Sharp and severe were his inward conflicts, but once a pilgrim on the way to Zion, he so well delineated the pilgrim's progress, that the map serves as an itinerary still, and grows in popularity as it grows in age.
5. We see the secret under God, of revivals of religion. When religion is in a lively state in the heart, it is easy to talk about it. The heart is engaged. The preacher has a limited part to perform. He cannot do everything. The Church has something to do. You should bring your friends, your relatives, your acquaintances, your neighbors, the community, the world itself, in the arms of your faith, and lay them at the feet of Jesus; and ask earnestly for a blessing upon them. Seek to have your own souls engaged, that you may be the readier to do good to others. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come!" Such is the combination of agencies in the economy of grace. The Spirit is saying, Come! The Spirit is ready to do his part, but is the Bride doing hers? Is the Church saying, Come? Does he that heareth say, Come? Oh, ye officers of the Church, ye men and women whose names are on the roll as members of the Church, ye that profess to be followers of the Lamb, are you saying, Come? Are you saying to the unconverted, "Come with us and we will do you good!" Or are you by your example and conduct saying as plainly as if it were expressed in words, "Do not come; you will get no good; you will be as well off where you are?" Dreadful is the guilt of those who come not up to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Beware how you incur the curse of Meroz.
6. We are taught by our text to invoke the aid of the blessed Spirit. "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me! Uphold me with thy free Spirit!" Mindful of our dependence on divine aid, seek it continually. Dread going in your own strength. Lean on the arm of the Lord. The Spirit is a spirit of purity, of holiness, of peace, of love. The heavenly dove is easily grieved by the indulgence of sentiments and inclinations contrary to his nature, such as sensuality, worldliness, selfishness or anger. But he is
ever ready to dwell in the heart that welcomes him, and cherishes his influences. Pray then for his renewing, revivifying, enlightening, purifying and hallowing presence. Banish every idol from your heart, and devoutly consecrate yourself as a living temple unto the Lord, into which nothing unclean or profane shall be admitted. So shall the great objects of the Christian life be attained, so will you peace flow like a river-so will you lead on earth the life of angels-so will you be honored in turning many to righteousness, and when life's last duties shall be over, sweetly will the benediction of God and the welcome of the glorified sound in your ears.