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Thus God honors his people. "Draw nigh to me, and I will draw nigh to you," is his language. When with importunity and humble faith they present their prayer before him, he will bestow the promised blessing. Witness Jacob at Peniel, “greatly afraid and distressed," because of the anger of his offended brother. "For I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children." Then none could deliver save He who had said to him, "Return to thy country and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee." The God of Abraham and of Isaac was the God of Jacob too. He listened to his pleading servant, yielded to the importunity of his struggling soul, and granted the blessing asked.
Israel's God still hears the cries of his children when pleading for those they love; and when Christians with holy fervor pray for perishing sinners, God is pleased to draw near, and subdue rebellious hearts unto himself. It is instructive to note how, when God is about to revive his work in any place, he begins it by imparting to his people a spirit of prayer, attended with deep humiliation and self-abasement. "In those days, and in that time," saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come; they and the Children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, saying, come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten." "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for an only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.”
About the year 1825, a clergyman* visited the churches of East Tennessee, and proposed to them to observe what was called "the twilight concert of prayer," with reference to the revival of religion. Most of the churches visited agreed to observe this concert. Where the family could come together at the hour proposed, they would then have their evening worship, and in connection with that exercise, pray for the revival of the cause of God, and the conversion of sinners. When it was not convenient for the family to assemble, each pious member of it, in the closet, on the journey, or wherever he might be, alone would lift up his earnest prayers to God for the salvation of souls. Thus, over a very considerable extent of country, from evening to evening, a vast volume of prayer ascended to the throne of God. And "God, merciful and gracious," heard the cries of his children. In answer to their petitions, he caused the influences of his Spirit to descend, "as showers that water the earth." And the wilderness and solitary place were made to rejoice and bloom as the garden
*Rev. N. Patterson.
of the Lord. Every church that observed this concert shared richly in the Divine blessing. The entire result can never be known until "the Lord himself shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this and that man was born there."
It is by imparting a spirit of prayer that God begins a work of grace in the sinner's heart. Of Saul of Tarsus it was said: "Behold he prayeth," and his prayer was heard by his compassionate Redeemer. Thus was it with the publican; thus with the dying thief; thus with Cornelius, and thus has it been with multitudes in later times-thus is it to-day. "Then the loftiness of man is bowed down, and the haughtiness of men is made low, and the Lord alone is exalted in that day." "I heard it, but I heeded it not," said a man of a proud spirit; "I heard again, but I hated it as if it were death. And once more I heard it, and my spirit melted. It was as if God himself, with the resistless might of his infinite love, spoke to my inner spirit. I was transfixed. Wonder, fear, hope, shame, grief, love, joy, sprang up in my soul. I wept like a child; and kneeling down before my Saviour and God, with trembling awe, I confessed my sins and sought his forgiveness."
My hearers, are you accustomed to pray? I ask not you, my Christian brethren. No Christian can live without prayer. I put the question to others here. Do you pray, my friends? It may be that you do not. Possibly some of you, instead of calling upon your Maker in humble prayer, confessing your sins and seeking his pardoning mercy, use his name profanely. Beware! Soon you will be called to confront that God by whose favor you have lived; but whose goodness you have abused, the riches of whose grace you have despised, whose authority you have treated with bold or careless contempt, whose holy name you have profaned? How painful the thought of your coming to a dying hour, your peace not yet made with Him so soon to be your Judge! What an inestimable privilege, then, to be permitted to draw nigh to Him, as to your reconciled Father. But fear has taken hold on you. You know not how to approach unto him.
In conclusion,--Remember, all ye who neglect or refuse to ask God for his mercy, he assures you you may call upon him when it is too late-call when he will not answer-seek him early, but not find him. Be wise, therefore, I beseech you-to-day. Defer not the work of your soul's salvation. Lest on that awful day, when the heavens and the earth shall flee at the presence of Jehovah, you who have refused to answer when God called, and refused to call while God waited to answer, shall, in your terror and dismay, vainly call upon the mountains and the rocks to fall on you, and hide you from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.
The Lord God, who hears prayer, draw you by his love, and save you from the sinners' doom, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
BELIEVING AGAINST APPEARANCES.
In order to make his children trust solely in him, God sometimes. deprives them of the sensible effects of faith on which they were too much inclined to depend. Your experience under these circumstances may be somewhat similar to that of Paul when he said, "We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life; but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God which raiseth the dead." The object of God's dealings with you is revealed. You must not trust in yourself. All self-righteousness must fall before the cross, like Dagon before the Ark. Doubtless you have still some self within you. You are seeking self under the garb of humility, and amid these general lamentations over your miseries, which instead of directing your eyes to the Saviour, are perhaps turning them away from him. To deliver you from this delusion, God removes all your consolations, so that you may be obliged to walk simply by faith, and to hope, resting exclusively on the promises.
When you trust thus in God, you are, even when in the most desponding state, not less acceptable to him, than if you were full of joy and love. Doubtless a heart full of love and joy is an inestimable blessing, when at the same time we rest our hope of salvation and our confidence in the merits of Christ alone. Nevertheless, I know not if there be anything more honoring to God, than the state of that man, who, feeling the depth of his misery, finding in himself nothing to rest upon, conscious of nothing but emptiness, weakness, and opposition to the will of God, rests upon the promise of God and gives him glory, saying, "God cannot lie : Hath he said and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken and shall he not bring it to pass ?"
They whose faith is condemned in God's Word, are they who believed against all appearances, and in opposition to all discouragements. Abraham is commended because, "not being weak in faith, he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God." Noah is commended, because upon the testimony of God, he believed contrary to all appearances, in the coming of the deluge, and for one hundred and twenty years continued to give credit to the threatenings of God, notwithstanding the apparent delay of the execution. Paul commends those who died in the faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them. Christ commended the faith of the woman of Canaan, who persevered in following him, notwithstanding the apparent coldness with which he treated her at first. "O woman, great is thy faith!"
On the other hand, the faith of Thomas, who required to see and feel before he believed, was not commended. "Thomas, because
thou hast seen thou hast believed: blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed."
We learn likewise from the history of the Israelites, that they who believe only what they see and feel and touch, neither believe nor rejoice for any length of time. They soon dishonor God by their despondency, and bring upon themselves his displeasure. When Israel saw the power of God displayed against the Egyptians, "When the waters covered their enemies and there was none left of them, then they believed his word and sang praises," but the Spirit adds, " they soon forgot his works and waited not for his counsel." As soon as some new difficulty presented itself in the wilderness, their faith wavered, "they turned their backs and tempted God, and limited the Holy one of Israel. They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy." Hence far from commending their faith the Spirit of God says, Therefore the Lord heard this and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel, because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation."
Let that unbelieving and rebellious people teach us not to tempt the Lord on every occasion, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?" Let us cleave unto the Lord with a steadfast heart, knowing in whom we have believed. Let us dismiss as injurious to his faithfulness, all discouraging thoughts which may arise in our minds, when the Lord, to prove us, makes us to encamp like Israel in dry places; let us press onwards, persuaded, that he who hath called us is faithful, and will not suffer us to perish by the way. Like Hezekiah, let us trust in the Lord, let us cleave to him, and not turn away from him.--From the French of Rachat.
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST PURGING THE CONSCIENCE.
WHEN the gifted and eloquent John Randolph was on his deathbed, after communing with his secret thoughts for some time he suddenly roused himself and exclaimed, in his own shrill and piercing tone, "Remorse!" And again he repeated the word "REMORSE, REMORSE!" "Write it down," said he to an attendant, and let me see it." "REMORSE!" Ah, there was a fire kindled upon the soul of the orator and the statesman, which no effort of his own was able to quench! Conscience of sin! Conscience awakened by the power of the Holy Spirit! Conscience startled by finding itself on the very verge of eternity! Conscience now mingled its upbraidings with the alarms of the divine law. There was no power to stifle its voice, nor to flee from it, nor to endure it. If strength of intellect, if enlarged and liberal views, if courage, or fortitude, or pride, or lofty self-respect and self-reli
ance, could do anything for man in such a condition, they could have done it for him. But no man's hands can be strong, nor his heart endure, if left unaided to contend against the workings of a guilty and awakened conscience. God has written in our hearts a natural presentiment of his own inexorable justice; and his revealed law amply corroborates these premonitions of our hearts. The Lord is holy and will by no means clear the guilty. While men slumber in delusion and hardness of heart they may dream that God is too good to punish; or that repentence will sufficiently appease his justice. But when the Holy Ghost convinces of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, all these delusions vanish. There is no longer a hope of mercy, save in a way in which God "may be just," while he justifies the sinner. Nature herself cries out for some atonement, some propitiation; and for this reason, the very heathen, not knowing Him" whom God had set forth to be a propitiation for sin through faith in his blood," resort to penances, self-torturings, and sacrifices. In this the conduct of the heathen as well as of the deluded Papist, shows that a propitiation for sin is among the wants of the soul. This was shadowed forth in all sacrifices and offerings of the Jewish law. Repentance is not enough; "without the shedding of blood there is no remission. There must be some sacrifice, some atonement for sin. Yet after all penances and sacrifices that man can offer, there still remains conscience of sin. No offerings, not even the blood of bulls and of goats, divinely prescribed in the Jewish ritual, can take away sin, or make the comers thereunto perfect, as pertaining to the conscience. Only one sacrifice has power to "purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God," and that is," the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God." This only can take away sin, and place the sinner as just before the divine law. This only can relieve the conscience from the load and fear of guilt. "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect: for then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the ' worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." But "we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus once for all," who " after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God"--" for by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." "Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."
This, and this alone, can reconcile us to God. This and this alone can give peace to the troubled conscience.