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Yes, reader, this sad reverse, this transition from zeal to a state of lukewarmness, is not contemplated or recollected by the christian without the deepest distress. For the punishment of his conduct, his Lord has, perhaps, withdrawn the smiles of his face; and now he languishes and mourns, and is ready to despond. “O that I were as in months past, when iis candle shined upon my head, and when by his light. I walker through darkness !” “O that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat, I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments !” Job xxiii. 3, 4. xxix. 2, 3. “Once I walked in the light of his countenance, and found him to be a God near at hand. I took refuge under the covert of his wings, and rejoiced in him as my God. I remember how he supported my soul, directed me in difficulties, supplied my wants, and made his strength perfect in my weakness. O what delightful views of the glorious perfections of my God did I once enjoy! What transporting views of the excellencies and glories of the Saviour ! How did the Holy Spirit bear witness with my spirit that I was born of God! But now, how dark, how wretched, how benighted my soul ! Now my sins appear in the blackest light, and overwhelm my spirit. Time was when I could submit with patience to every trial; when I could welcome shame, and hail reproach ; when, though troubles assailed me, yet I was confident in the Lord, and trusted in the God of my salvation : but now, how small a thing depresses my spirits ! how weak in faith, how little dependence placed on the Lord, and how backward to give up my VOL. I.
all to him ! O that the Lord would arise, and scatter this darkness; increase my faith, and bless. me with the same happy enjoyments, and the same nearness to himself! How sincerely with the poet can I join and say,
" O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame;
That leads me to the Lamb!
Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord ?
Of Jesus and his word ?
What peaceful hours I then enjoy'd!
How sweet their memory still!
The world can never fill.
Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet Messenger of Rest;
Thus to many christians the remembrance of past experience, though profitable, is painful : and the recollection of their former zeal and activity for God shames them under a view of their present lukewarm and uncomfortable state.
There are other parts, however, of his experience that he remembers with peculiar pleasure ; and that is, what he has experienced of the kindness of God in his providences. He had marked out a path for himself, in which he thought he could have travelled with ease and advantage. This, however, he found was blocked up, and another, apparently more circuitous, more difficult, more dreary, appeared. Here he entered,
perhaps, with trembling steps; he could discern but little before him, and was almost ready to mur. mur at the darkness that surrounded him. But re. nouncing at last his own will, and following the leadings of Providence, although in a variable path, he finds, to his own satisfaction, the propriety of listening to the advice of the wise man : “ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways ackuowledge him, and he shall direct ihy paths.” Prov. iii. 5, 6. Now he sees what a curse it would have been to him if he had followed his own schemes, and what a mercy it is that he has been disappointed in one thing, crossed in another, and diverted from a third. Now he can set to his seal that his word is true;
word is true; “ that no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward, it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
With what pleasure can he contemplate that Divine Wisdom and Power which have over-ruled all the trials and events of his life for good ; that from the bitter cup God has made him drink the sweetest draughts; and that from the pricking thorn he has gathered the most fragrant flowers: yea, that the very rod that smote him yielded the very balm that healed him! Now he can say, “ All things work together for good to them who love God, and are called according to his purpose.” Many a time has he pronounced this sentence with his lips, or read it, perhaps, in his bible ; but now he has experienced its truth, and rejoices in its accomplishment. Things which once appeared to him so discordant, events which happened so unexpectedly, circumstances which have transpired apparently so opposite to his interest, now he finds have all been subservient to his ad. vantage. Yea, he is so satisfied with the divine proceedings toward hiin, that, were he to live his time over again, he would not have any thing altered as it relates to the divine, conduct, for he is fully persuaded that all has been the result of Infinite Wisdom and Love.
Indeed, he is not only pleased, but he is astonished at that goodness and mercy which have always followed him. The goodness of God, that has always supplied him, and the mercy of God, that has always pardoned and prevented him, excite his wonder and gratitude. On his own part he he can see nothing but unworthiness in his past life; but on the part of the Almighty he beliolds one continual display of wisdom, power, favour, and faithfulness. Well he remembers the kind interpositions of Providence in his behalf in the day of trouble. In an unexpected way, by an unexpected instrument, he has, perhaps, been delivered. In the paroxysm of his distress he sat down and wept, and with Job was ready to say, “ Mine eye shall no more see good.” Acute pain, perhaps, that threatened his dissolution; direful disease, about to sweep away his family ; false friends designing his ruin, or dreadful cala'mity hastening to reduce to extreme poverty ; these perhaps have, at one time or other, sur. rounded hiin; when, lo ! in the midst of expected distress, the kind hand of Providence has appeared, and given such a favourable turn to events, as to cause him again to sing for joy. The "shadow of death has been turned into the morning,
and he who was on the verge of ruin could say, “ I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. I said, I was cast out of thy sight. The waters compassed me about; all thy waves and thy billows passed over me: but I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came in unto thee into thine holy temple. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.” Jonah ii.
Thus the christian, though he can find no resources of satisfaction from himself or his own conduct, finds perpetual pleasure in reflecting on the ways of God. The recollection of constant supplies, the merciful preventions, the wise directions, and manifold preservations he has experienced, is a source of support even in his darkest hours.
But this will lead us to consider the advantages of remembering past experience, and these are great, a few of which we shall only enumerate. And, first, it teaches self-reproof to those who have left their first love. Of Jehosaphat it is said, that he walked in the first ways of his father David. David's first ways are here represented as his best. And of how many may this be said ! Recollect, lukewarm christians, the former days, when nothing kept you from the house of God; when, perhaps, you were the first to propose any thing that was good, and the last to decline when anything was difficult. Ah! how did your soul then burn with a holy jealousy for the truth, and what were you not ready to sacrifice, so that you might promote it! What constancy, what zeal,
did you manifest! And, ah! is it you, who now say with your conduct, lip Peter,