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that is, destruction-outer darkness. I could not contend with God, nor did I venture to shake my head and say, this is nothing, mere childish fear; why should I be uneasy ? God is not so severe.” I would not thus speak, but I freely humbled myself, and read with attention the word of God, the holy Bible, that I might learn how to escape from His fearful, yet righteous displeasure. In the book of truth I found the answer which I sought. I read that, in myself, I had no ground of hope that I should escape from condemnation ; that all I could think, or do, or observe, was of no avail, because all these things, coming from my heart, shared in its defilement; but that God was able to supply all my and that though I could not purchase my own pardon, I might receive it by his grace.
That sweet word, grace, made a deep impression upon my mind as soon as I understood it. Then suddenly I saw that the pardon of sin and the title to heaven are gifts, free gifts, from God, which are not, and cannot be, gained by any works of man, but are given by God, according to his good pleasure, by his free and mighty acts of mercy and grace.
I humbled myself in spirit before God, saying, “ Lord, I must be condemned and lost, unless thou give me grace, by thy free mercy and abundant lovingkindness.” Such was my confession and my prayer; and the Son of God, Christ Jesus, the Saviour, was then revealed 'to me; that is, God by the Holy Spirit opened my understanding and my heart to receive and to believe what he has said of his own well-beloved Son, in whom he is pleased to accept poor sinners.
Doubtless before this I had often read and repeated the name of Jesus, the Lord, but never hitherto did I understand why he is offered to sinners as a perfect satisfaction for the debts that they can never pay, through whose righteousness alone they can be justified before God. Now I learned this. from the word of God. There I saw that God justifies, that is, regards as released and freed from all condemnation, all who, by grace, apply to Jesus Christ, believing that he is the Son of God, the Saviour, and sincerely relying on all that he has done for the redemption of his people. You see, my dear neighbour, that I was earnestly desirous to find and securely to enjoy the forgiveness of my sins, as well as to have an entrance into heaven when I should have finished
my course on earth; therefore I was seriously interested in the promises of my Saviour, and I read over and over again what is said in the book of God of him and of his grace.
What shall I say more? I believed in Jesus Christ with all my
heart. I know that I received the record which God has given concerning him ; that he is the Son of God, not a created being, but that in him is found that eternal life which God has freely given, that whosoever believes in Jesus should not perish. This declaration, or rather this Divine promise, was made very clear to me. It showed that the sinner, who comes to God relying upon his Saviour, as a debtor produces his surety in the presence of his judge, receives from God remission of sins and life for evermore, through the purposes of Divine mercy, by which in this manner relief is provided for us.
I pretend not to be wiser than God. Far from disputing with him, I would be humbled, and thankful that I am permitted to receive freely pardon and life eternal for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom I believe. Being justified by faith, I have peace with God. Thus I am assured, by the word of God himself, that if I believe in Jesus (that he is come from God, and is my Saviour) I am assuredly forgiven; and if I should die suddenly, I should not perish eternally, but live for ever.
This is my confidence, neighbour. You see it is not grounded upon my own virtues or good works, but upon the grace of God, through Jesus Christ. Therefore you may conclude that it is well secured, because it is supported, not by my own feelings or opinions, but by the word and promise of God himself, who is the Rock of ages, and who endures for evermore.
You will also suppose that a man who possesses this confidence ought to be very far from taking delight in sin, by which he would seem to scorn this mercy, and to be rebellious and ungrateful, instead of full of love and obedience, towards God; for whosoever is born of God sinneth not, 1 John v. 18. Once I said, when I was an unbeliever, that if a man saw that he was safe, and sure of pardon, he would run into all sorts of evil. But the Bible proves to me the reverse. There I find that the Holy Spirit, who imparts a new nature, and who renders man able to receive and believe the
of God in Christ Jesus, will also teach the justified sinner to do what is pleasing in the sight of his Father and his Saviour, and lead him to tread in the steps of Jesus, in the ways of light and holiness, which are far removed from the world and its pollutions.
Rejoice with me, my neighbour, for my soul is happy. I know Jesus is my Saviour, because of what his own word declares. I can call God my Father, for all who believe in
Jesus are, as he says, the children of God. I am no stranger to the Holy Spirit, who bears witness with my spirit that I am justified by faith in Jesus, adopted into the family of God, and that he is the earnest of the inheritance that was prepared for me in heaven before the world was.
But do not think it enough to admit that I am happy. Will you,
when you see a fellow-creature enjoying such happiness, remain yourself indifferent or unbelieving? God alone knows. He it is whose grace opens the hearts of men. He only can render my words effectual to convince you that he who believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. At least I have done what I can to save you, my neighbour. We are walking side by side along the shore of a fearful gulf. I have found means to escape it ; that is, God has pointed them out to me, and I say to you, “ Here is the way of life. Come to Jesus ; believe, and be saved.” If you are a believer you will join me in praising the Lord, for he is good.
From a fellow traveller to eternity,
GIACOMO, THE YOUNG HERMIT. : In one of the valleys of Piedmont there lived, a good many years ago, a young man, named Giacomo. His parents were hard-working, industrious people. From an early age their son showed a different disposition from them ; his feelings were of that character which easily inclined to superstition ; his mind was disposed more to contemplation and reverie than to action; and he became more and more reserved as his age advanced. Under the influence of the invigorating and benevolent spirit of pure Christianity, Giacomo might have become both a devout Christian and a useful member of society, endeavouring to fulfil both his duty to God and his duty to
But Giacomo was born in a Roman Catholic land, and was a meinber of the Roman Catholic church. It was to the superstitions of that church, rather than to the enlightened doctrines or actuating principles of Christianity, that his mind inclined and his spirit clung. The desire of his boyhood was to be trained for the office of a priest; but his parents had no other child, and fearing to lose their sole hope and prospect of support for age, they would not consent to his wish. As he advanced in years, Giacomo regretted this opposition on their part, for a monastic life began to appear to him preferable to a secular one. The lives of the saints were his
favourite study. To imitate Ignatius Loyola in the early part of his devotional career would have been the highest point of his spiritual ambition. But to live, like an earlier saint, in a savage desert, waited upon daily by two wild beasts, was more consonant, perhaps, to the natural bent of his mind. To serve God in the discharge of every-day, common-place duties, and to be prepared for a future life by walking by faith in the Son of God, through the oftentimes contradictory scenes of this present world, fighting the good fight of faith, and pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, was a religion which Giacomo understood not. In seclusion, in the cultivation of spiritual sentiments, and in the absence of fleshly allurements or bodily gratifications, he believed the attainment of religious perfection must be found.
At length Giacomo left his father's house, and wandered forth amid the grand and desolate scenery to be found among the neighbouring Alps. On the highest point of a mountain, whose sides were cleft into precipices and traced by torrents, a small chapel had been erected, and was resorted to by pilgrims. Thither Giacomo had previously repaired; there, after toiling barefoot up that mountain, he had worshipped before the image of the Virgin, to whom the chapel is consecrated; there he had felt the desire, to which at last he yielded, of devoting his life to the service of that image, of retiring from the little world of which he had indeed been a nearly useless member, and of living like one of the saints of old, whose lives he admired; a hermit in some of the caverns of the rocks among which the chapel was built. Without consulting any will but his own, he put his scheme into execution, and, when not yet twenty years of age, formed for himself a savage dwelling among the precipices of the mountain. There, there should be nothing to disturb his devotion, nothing to interrupt the continuance of his reverie. There he could compare his life with those of the legends he read; and there he could demand from the image which he worshipped the
graces he desired.
This image had a high reputation throughout the district. It was said to have been carved by the evangelist Luke; but what particular circumstances had led it to travel from the east, or what had inspired it with a desire to rest on the top of a desolate Alpine mountain, history does not unfold. Suffice it that on the top of that mountain it was believed to have rested; the people were called to witness the wonder ; the visit of the blessed image was celebrated with joy, and a chapel for its reception was built.
Here, then, Giacomo meditated, and prayed, and fasted ; here, forgetful of father, mother, friend, and relative, he shut out every thought of the duties of life as so many carnal temptations, and musing daily and nightly on himself, his own feelings, sins, or graces, he came in a short time to be either rapt in a state of ecstatic enthusiasm, or plunged into the depths of spiritual despair, as the devotional feelings of his mind or the corrupt propensities of his nature were alternately predominant. He had fled from the world; but he carried his world within his heart. Activity is at once the duty and happiness of the Christian. Looking unto Jesus, and not unto himself, is his safe and peaceful position. Instead of making the character and example of Christ his study, poor Giacomo studied only himself, and became a visionary, an enthusiast, a being full of morbid and miserable feeling, which found no vent, and no corrective in the discharge of the duties obligatory on the Christian, or in the enjoyment of the sympathies congenial to our nature.
* His sinfulness appalled him more in the desert than it had done in society. He placed the image of the Virgin between his soul and the Saviour, and looked to his own efforts, his own sufferings, obedience, and meditations to effect that regeneration of soul and holiness of heart which the Spirit of God alone can produce. Dissatisfaction was the result, and utter despondency succeeded to spiritual pride. He had entered on his hermit life, believing that he should attain to such a degree of sanctity as would enable him to rival the saints, with the legendary tales of whose miracles his brain had been filled. He pictured to himself his former friends and companions seeking his prayers and intercession ; he dreamed of controlling the elements, dissipating the snowstorm, or bringing down the rain to water the earth. His devotion to the Virgin he thought would thus be recompensed; a life of prayer, and retirement, and abstinence would impart the sanctity to which he aspired; and he did not perceive the carnal ambition of the desire which suggested the hope that, after a long, painful hermit life, the shrine of St. Giacomo might be resorted to on that mountain as well as the sacred image of Mary, and his intercession be implored by many a pilgrim, who, long after his departure from this life, should hear of his self-denial, his sanctity, and miraculous powers.
Such had been his hopes; so strange were the dreams of