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soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world: looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Titus ii. 11, 14. To the cross without delay, for every hour is an hour of desperate danger.
To the cross, ye hypocrites and self-righteous! for ye have been deeply bitten, and have need to fear the bitter pangs of eternal death. Without aid your hope shall perish, and your trust be as a spider's web. If not cured by the blood shed on the cross, your end must be weeping and gnashing of teeth. A woe is pronounced against you, for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which, indeed, appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness. there is yet hope even for you, for "the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost," Luke xix. 10. Abhor yourselves in dust and ashes, and hasten to the cross, for He who hung there is "able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them," Heb. vii. 25.
To the cross, ye benighted and blind-folded Israelites, whose eyes the fulfilment of prophecy has failed to open! To the cross, ye turbaned and crescented Mohammedans, followers of a false prophet and blind guide! To the cross, ye idolatrous pagans, who bow down to images of wood and stone! And to the cross, ye backsliding sinners, whatever may be the sum of your transgressions! You are bitten by the fiery serpent of sin, and the cross of Christ is your only cure. The brazen serpent healed the wounded body; Christ restores the sin-stricken soul. The brazen serpent added to the days of him who gazed thereon; but the life of Him who hung on the cross is a death unto sin, a new birth unto righteousness, a sure and certain hope of heavenly glory, and an unfailing promise of a life that shall endure for ever.
THE PRAYING SCEPTIC.
It has been a subject of doubt with some whether an unconverted man, while such, should pray. The question being raised by inquiries made to a minister of the gospel, he, in reply, urged the principle that a man is to pray because he is needy and dependent, and is to seek blessings from his
heavenly Father, not so much because he is a pious Christian, as because he is a helpless man.
The inquirer was inclined to admit the force of this view, but thought that the case was different when a man was full of unbelief in regard to Jesus Christ, and therefore put the question thus:
"If I pray, my supplication, it is to be feared, will be too much like that of the drowning atheist, when he cried out, 'O God, if there be a God, save me from hell, if there be a hell.' I do not believe in the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. Would not my praying be insincere and presumptuous— necessarily so?"
To this a letter was written in reply, as follows:
"I should never forgive myself, if I persuaded you to perform an act, especially an act towards your Maker, that was characterized by insincerity and presumption. This would be to offer strange fire, indeed, upon the altar. But I do not despair of being able to place before you such a view as shall free you from all embarrassment on a subject of great practical moment; and in order to convey to you my exact meaning, I shall resort to instances. Truth is both more agreeable and more impressive when shown by examples than when stated in abstract forms.
"The case which I have selected is, to my own mind, an extremely interesting one. It is that of an aged man, of great simplicity of character. I shall not frame a dialogue, but will weave into a continuous narrative the outline of several successive conversations, extending through a period of six or eight months.
"Soon after my first acquaintance with Mr. R. as one of my congregation, I learned that he had been deeply interested in the subject of religion for the previous twelve years. He informed me that his former pastor had frequently urged him to unite himself to the church, but that he had not deemed it proper to profess a faith which he was conscious he did not exercise. He doubted the Divine mission of Christ. was extremely hospitable, and fond of social intercourse, especially with his pastor. As our acquaintance became familiar, I endeavoured to penetrate his mental habits, and to learn, if possible, the peculiarities of the man's mind. I soon found that he was very peculiar. By little and little I drew from him the following facts. He had been the subject of very little early religious instruction. When a young man he commenced a sea-faring life. His first decided impressions
respecting the Christian religion were acquired in Roman Catholic countries, Spain, South America, and Florida. While master of a vessel he had often been invited by priests to dine with them, and had returned their hospitalities by providing for their entertainment on board his ship. On these festive occasions, the ecclesiastics were accustomed to entertain him and one another with anecdotes of the advantages to be derived from the popular superstition, and by describing their domestic manufacture of miracles. From the action of these influences on a mind not educated in the elementary truths of the gospel, he grew to be a confirmed sceptic. Still, though a deist, he became devout. That is to say, he habitually addressed solemn and earnest prayer to God. I asked him how he came to acquire such a habit. He replied, I had experienced so many instances of the care and protection of my Maker, that I could not well withhold expressions of thankfulness, or refrain from imploring his blessing. I asked him, 'Do you allude to any particular instances of remarkable providential care as leading to such acts?' 'Yes,' he replied; I will give you a case. We were
once becalmed at sea, and a number of the men embraced the opportunity for bathing. The whole party, except myself, had returned to the ship, when the captain called out to me, Ra shark! a shark!" Sailors were wont to raise false alarms by way of frightening one another. Entertaining no special apprehension, I calmly looked about, when sure enough I saw a shark of monstrous size, with extended jaws, rushing upon me with the fierceness of a tiger. He was but a few feet distant, and I was three hundred yards from the vessel. Flight was out of the question. There was but one thing that I could do. I cried aloud, "God protect me!" and threw myself upon his mercy. The shark plunged into the water, as if to take me; came up, touched my back with his nose, and passed away. How could I, after such a deliverance, forget to pray to my Maker? But this is only one of many signal instances of the Divine protection.'
"He then informed me that for several years past he had attended with great regularity upon the public worship of God, and that as he had found serious and sincere worship among no other class of persons except professed Christians, he desired to be a Christian. He had often been urged to join the church, but did not feel at liberty to do so till his difficulties were removed.
"I expressed to him my full belief that he was right in
taking that position. The first thing to be done was to acquire satisfactory views of the truth of Christianity. I placed in his hands a translation of 'Gaussen on Inspiration,' intimating that I did not expect it to meet all his objections, but that there was little doubt but it would weaken the force of the antagonist influences which had been intrenched in his mind by early impressions. Subsequently he informed me that he had read the book with great satisfaction, and that it had touched and removed a large number of objections which had long lain in his mind, but which he had never mentioned to any human being. Still he could not acknowledge Christ as a Divine Messiah. About this time I invited all such persons as desired special instruction in respect to their spiritual interests, to meet me on each Sunday immediately after the morning service in my study. With a band of children from ten to fourteen years of age came my aged friend. No child in the company exhibited greater simplicity, or more readiness to be taught. After several weeks a similar meeting was appointed at the close of the evening service, and was attended by a considerable number of persons of all ages. He still came with the utmost regularity. Two or three months had passed in this state of diligent inquiry and apparently perfect teachableness. A number of smaller objections had been overcome, but there was the same reluctance to receive Christ as a propitiatory sacrifice. After one of the meetings referred to, my friend remained. I asked him if he prayed to Jesus Christ. He replied, 'No, how can I when I do not believe in his Divinity? But,' said I, though you do not believe in his Divinity, you do not know that he is not Divine. You are acting on uncertainty. I do not perceive why you cannot pray without knowing that he is Divine, as consistently as you can decline praying to him when you do not know that he is not Divine. Suppose you were told that a certain person, whose name and qualities were now for the first time described to you, was in the adjacent room. You cannot see him. You do not know that he is there. If there be a man there who bears the name, you are not certain that he possesses the qualities ascribed to him. If he be there,
however, and if he possesses those qualities, he can render to you the most important assistance. Now, I admit that it is extremely desirable that you should have the most unhesitating confidence; but you have it not. You desire the aid referred to. If you refuse to call upon this unseen friend, you act on an uncertainty. If you call aloud and beg for his
assistance on the mere possibility of his being there, you only act on an uncertainty. As you must, in either alternative, act on an uncertainty, why should you not choose the one that is in your own favour? If you were in great extremity you doubtless would do it. If this building were on fire, and you were locked in, and there was a bare possibility that such an assistant were in the next room, and that he was willing and able to deliver you on condition of your reposing confidence in him, you would most certainly call to him at a venture, and would not think much of any theory in respect to the consistency of your action.' 'Then do you advise me, as my pastor, to pray to Jesus Christ?' I do. Very well; I am willing to do anything that is proper.' "The next evening I saw my friend again. tious and hesitating look he said to me, 'I have done as you advised me. That feeling towards our Saviour, that-what shall I call it ?-that grudge?-yes, it was a sort of grudge, that feeling is gone. I feel willing to trust to the atoning sacrifice. I think I see a little light, and I am willing to be, as you have often told me, a disciple, a learner.'
With a cau
"From that time he acquired confidence and spiritual comfort. It was a beautiful thing to see him come forward and receive the water of baptism. And it has been delightful to witness his relish of Christian doctrine, and his comfort of hope from that period. This praying in uncertainty, I admit, is not so desirable as it is to pray with confidence. But the very effort to direct the mind to God in imploring his help becomes the means of generating faith in the mind. In dismissing this topic allow me to say, that success in the search for truth depends very much upon the readiness with which its principles are put in practice. If any man will do my will, he shall know the doctrine,' said He who 'spake as never man spake.' 'If ye know these things, happy are ye ye do them.'
"With great respect and affection,
PAST TIMES AND PAST BENEFITS.
I CALLED on a neighbour who was watering an old stump of a geranium, which seemed to me to give very little promise of either green leaf or flower. "Neighbour," said I, “your labour will be lost."
Perhaps so," said she, "but I can hardly part with my