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Whither do my steps tend? In what path am I treading? That I am passing onward towards the termination of my earthly career is evident, “ but what shall I do in the end thereof?” Is mine“ the path of the just ?” Is it the path of holiness, of piety, and peace ? Am I walking in the broad and much frequented road that leads to destruction, or in the narrow path which few can find, though it guides to life eternal ? There is but one safe and happy way, though there are many ways that seem right unto those who walk therein, while the end thereof is death. Do I take the word of God as my guide, the Holy Spirit as my teacher, and casting away the maxims of a vain world, am I ready at any cost to follow where Christ my Saviour leads? May we never rest satisfied until we possess a well-grounded confidence that we have forsaken the ways of darkness, sin, and death, and that we have entered on that blessed path which leads to the perfect day!
And if we indulge the humble hope that we are “no longer darkness, but light in the Lord,” with what godly jealousy should we watch over our hearts, and how conscientiously prove the sincerity of our professions by their practical fruits. Is our
light shining more and more ?” Do we grow and increase in the knowledge of God, and in conforinity to his holy image? Are we shining as lights in the world, and by the
regulation of our tempers, the mortification of our evil dispositions, and the practice of every thing that is lovely and of good report, do we show forth the praises of Him who hath called us into this state of salvation? Do we make evident progress in these things ? Are we conscious of increasing desires after holiness of heart and life? Are our spiritual capacities enlarged, our feelings deepened, our prayers more earnest, our exertions more strenuous ? So it ought to be, and must be with all those servants of God who are growing up into the perfect stature of the fulness of Christ.
Yet let not the feeble christian be discouraged or tempted to despair when he contemplates his tardy progress in the heavenly course. Appearances are on either side very deceitful; many persuade themselves that they are hastening on their way, while in fact they are following some specious delusion, and others are disposed to write bitter things against themselves, when they are making real progress in the knowledge of their own hearts! What is quickly and easily attained is seldom really valuable; and our slow and painful steps are generally those which help us most surely forward on our way. We are charged “not to despise the day of small things," chiefly with reference to sin, as it is “ by little and little” we fall away; and so is it by little and little that we must go forward in the path to Canaan. And if, after all, our way be dark, uncertain, and cloudy, let us remember that the “night is far spent, the day is at hand;" the little light we have is the sure harbinger of the coming day! Wherefore let the feeblest, the most timid, and desponding of God's servants lift
his head, for the day of his redemption draweth nigh; when all his toils shall cease for ever, when sin and sorrow shall no more perplex his mind, nor Satan grieve his spirit ; when the last cloud shall sink into the distant horizon, and he shall breathe the pure atmosphere of heaven, and behold with undazzled eye its unutterable glories ; then shall he know by sweet experience that in “God's presence there is fulness of joy, and that at his right-hand are pleasures for evermore!”
THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE FORSAKEN.
JEREMIAH ii. 12, 13.
“ BE ASTONISHED, O YE HEAVENS, AT THIS, AND BE HORRIBLY
AFRAID; BE YE VERY DESOLATE, SAITH THE LORD. FOR MY PEOPLE HAVE COMMITTED TWO EVILS: THEY HAVE FORSAKEN ME THE FOUNTAIN OF LIVING WATERS, AND HEWED THEM OUT CISTERNS, BROKEN CISTERNS, THAT CAN HOLD NO WATER.”
The metaphors and illustrations of Holy Scripture are not only inimitably beautiful in themselves, but they possess the peculiar excellence of clearly elucidating the subject to which they refer. In uninspired compositions figurative language often serves only to discover the ingenuity or imagination of the writer, while it rather encumbers the matter in discussion; but in the divine word, as well in the New Testament as in the Old, the illustrations, being generally taken from familiar objects, tend to explain what is involved, and to enforce what might escape observation.
A beautiful instance is afforded us in the words of the text. In countries often subject to great
drought, and where wells were considered such valuable property, that not unfrequently they were the subject of fierce contentions, what could be better calculated to place the character of God in an interesting and inviting point of view before the people than to say, “He is the fountain of living waters ?” In some parts of those countries no springs existed, and the inhabitants were constrained to hew out to themselves cisterns of stone, in which they collected the rain as it fell. This was in such cases rational and necessary. But what an illustration of folly is presented to us by the connexion of these two metaphors in the text! Observe that man! A stream of pure and wholesome water flows continually by his dwelling; but so infatuated is he, that he will not use it; he prefers to hew out to himself a wretched cistern that can but supply him with stagnant and turbid water! Not only so, when this miserable substitute fails him, and his cistern is broken, such is his obstinacy, that he chooses rather to die of thirst than to drink of that perennial fountain which is ever at hand! Surely this case is without parallel! It must be altogether imaginary: and in the affairs of this life it certainly would be difficult to find any one wbo acts so deluded a part : but in spiritual things such folly is chargeable upon many of us;
My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters,