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sion of their capabilities in the contemplation of eternity alone; and just inasmuch as they fall short of heaven on the one side, and hell on the other, or the uttermost that either the mercy or the wrath of God can do to an immortal soul, are they defrauded of their natural food, and curtailed of the aim for which they were contrived. Hence are the scriptures chiefly made up of promises and threatenings, that, merely grazing as it were the present world, in their course, have their aim and fulfilment in the infinite beyond the grave.

turning of our eyes in prayer. The graciousness their proper field, and full range, for the expanof every promise indeed has its most ample proof and manifestation in the threatening with which it is accompanied; and the yearnings of divine love after the straying sheep of Israel, are most visibly revealed in the fierceness of the vengeance suspended over the neglect of divine mercy. We are thus taught to think that in avoiding the mercy-seat of God while he is waiting to be gracious, we are in reality defrauding his benignant Spirit of its banquet; shutting him out from the exercise of his favourite attribute, and putting a seal on a fountain of mercy, so pleasant to himself in its flowing, that, to give it unhindered issue, he gave his only-begotten Son to the death; and averting the vials of his wrath from our guilty race, poured their concentrated torrent on the head of our innocent Redeemer.

0 may God then perfect upon us his own gracious gift, and through the mighty power of the Saviour's blood, save us from the scarlet sin of stopping our ears to the invitations of his grace, and despising the mercy in which he delights. Let us seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.' And let us seek him now just with all the greater assurance of faith, because we know that his Spirit will not always strive with man; and that the sun of his mercy is not far from its setting. We know that he is merciful now-that he is at this moment waiting to be gracious; yea, that he is bowing his heavens and coming down to meet us more than half-way, and stretching out his hand, and calling unto us to seek him while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.' Why else are these words at this moment under our eye? How do they happen to form the theme of our present meditation? O this is just the way in which God speaks to us-the way of his word and his Spirit!


It is a besetting sin of our nature, however, that we are slow in gathering fear from the darkest forms of futurity, or hope from its brightest visions; and still more remarkable perhaps is that perverseness of disposition that hurries, at one time, our trust in the mercy of God, and at another, the alarms of an awakened conscience, to a dangerous excess. It is the will of God that we shall use all diligence in working out our salvation with fear and trembling, rejoicing in 'the lively hope to which we have been begotten through the resurrection of Christ from the dead;' and in the assurance that, all the while, it is the Spirit of God who worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. But just as, at one time, the Father of lies lulls us into the belief that we can be saved without Christ, so do we allow him, in our moments of fear, to persuade us that we cannot be saved, even with him. For at no moment of life is the arch-enemy of God and mankind more busy with our ears, than just when he sees us, for the first time, turning round to the mercy of the Father manifested in the Son; and with the very same hope that in the fulness of time kept him continually hovering about the Redeemer's steps; will ten thousand spirits of darkness and evil, in a moment at once so critical and perilous, flap their bat-like wings between the trembling soul and the countenance of God, in the full assurance that if they suffer us but once to behold the face of the Father, as it is seen in Christ, we are for ever lost to Satan and to hell. And no sooner is one of them driven away, than another

‹ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrigh-fills up his place, with a change of form and

teous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon', Isa. Iv. 7.

Ir is a remarkable circumstance, that the two passions which exercise the greatest influence on our conduct, in regard to the life which now is, namely, hope and fear, are likewise most prominently called into action by the cares of the spiritual world. They seem, indeed, to have

aspect suited to the sinner's changing case; and hovering right before his eye, in whatever direction he seeks to lay hold on the mercy of the Lord. The self-same spirit of lies which, in his days of ease and carelessness, represented his sins as harmless, trivial, and far beneath the notice of the divine eye, will now dash them with such a depth of crimson that no hyssop can wash them out; and the same foul fiend who before spake of no attribute in the divine nature but mercy-who for all the

hesitations and compunctions of his human dupe | side of heaven and the grave that all the mercy had always the same drivelling answer ready in of God is dispensed and applied: and verily just his mouth-God is merciful-will now talk of because God is infinitely more merciful than we no attribute but his inviolable holiness, justice, are inclined to have him. For he will not only and truth; and of no passion but his anger, with bestow upon us that rich inheritance of honour, its treasures of tribulation and anguish for every glory, and immortality, which Christ has pursoul of man that doeth evil. All the while, more- chased for us with his blood, but qualify us for over, is the inborn spirit of unbelief just as busy the enjoyment of them, by a sanctification of our in the sinner's own bosom, persuading him that nature, a refinement of our taste, and an elevahe is not in all God's thoughts-and that, weary tion of our desires, without which heaven would with the long waste of words, discipline, and ten- be unto us a poorer inheritance than even the derness, the Lord hath given him over to waste, earth itself with all its sorrows. We, in a word, in turn, his tears upon the desert, and sow the would seek only to be saved from the penalty of wind with his vain complaints. sin, but God wants to save us likewise from its power.

The frequency and fervour indeed with which the assurances of divine mercy are repeated and pressed upon our notice in scripture, are at once a proof of its own abundance, and of our slowness to believe in its sufficiency. No devil surely can make us believe that God does not know his own mind; and just from his own word, and from his own Spirit, do we derive the most solemn assurances, confirmed even, in many instances, with oaths that he has grace sufficient for our uttermost need, and mercy in store for the chief of sinners. Need we go farther than the precious passage which is at this moment under our eye? Its words are addressed to the wicked and the unrighteous of all grades, and of all generations, without distinction, and to them goeth forth the assurance that God has mercy and abundant pardon, ready to meet the uplifting of their eyes to his throne

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Lift up thine eyes, then, thou downcast mourner in Zion, to the holy habitation of God, and behold, to thine amazement, that over his countenance there spreads, at the meeting of his eyes with thine, the joy and the tenderness of a father who has long been watching for the return of his prodigal son, and waiting to be gracious. To know if 'any good thing can come out of Nazareth, thou must 'come and see;' and so must thou taste and see that the Lord is gracious, 'Come unto him, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and he will give you rest. Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock,' at the door of grace, and it will fly open. Blessed opening! It is the gate of heaven, with its green pastures-its living waters, spreading to infinity behind it.

But O let us beware of mistaking the mercy of God, or twisting it round to the bent of our own sinful inclination. Hah! we are apt to confine our views of mercy to these gates of heaven; and in our very prayers to think only of mercy dispensed from the throne of judgment on our naked souls. O! it is not there-it is on this

Let us begin then the work of salvation, like every other, at the right end, and commence with saying unto every besetting sin, 'Get thee behind me, Satan.'


"Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance, Matt. iii. 8.

Or all spiritual vices the most loathesome in the sight of God is indifference. And just as odious should it be in our own eyes, if we viewed the concerns of the soul, and the vast interests of religion, in the same light as the cares of the body, or the business of the present life. In temporal affairs the incitements to activity are so numerous and powerful, that we regard a sluggard folding his hands, in the midst of his most urgent necessities, for yet a little sleep and a little slumber, with equal surprise and abhorrence; and turn away, sick at heart, from the 'broken fences' of a 'field overgrown with thorns, and a vineyard covered with nettles.' Just inasmuch, however, as the vast idea of eternity overshadows the thought of time, should our contempt of that spiritual indifference, which is the sloth of the soul, surpass our scorn of a sluggishness, limited, at the worst, in its consequences, by the slumber, and corruption of the grave.

The repentance to which we are called, let us never forget, is positive, as well as negative; comprehending, in its wide and woful survey, the guilt of our omissions, as well as our actual sins; and, however bitterly we may bewail the heinousuess of our actual transgressions, yet, ever to the sad array of our neglected duties will the Spirit of truth direct the main flowing of our tears. The renouncing of sin is indeed but a small part of repentance, and if not followed up by a fruit


of any actual sin whatever, either small or great; for the whole judgment turns upon the things that have not been done: to the confusion of those who think it enough to lead a harmless life, and go down to the grave unstained with the guilt of positive iniquities.

fulness of faith, and abundance of good works, is moreover but a mere delusion. For there is in reality a moral impossibility lying directly in the way of every endeavour to put off the old man with his deeds,' without putting on the new with his works of righteousness. Of all the muscles in the human frame, the heart is the most active: With this indictment already before us, let us by night and by day, asleep and awake, it is in- be wise in time to consider our latter end; and cessantly at work, like a clock, wound up at our prepare our pleadings for that hour of awful trial. creation, to tick and beat, and keep pace with And O! if we would rejoice in having an advotime, till it runs down at death. So is it with cate in our Judge himself, let us seek to secure an the mind. We cannot cease thinking if we interest in his pleading before we go hence. To would, any more than, by stamping on the earth, this end, the like mind must be in us, as was we can stop its motion. It is an awful consider- likewise in Christ Jesus: for if we have not the ation too, that this mind, this heart of the spirit- Spirit of Christ, we are none of his.' Let us ual man, is wound up, once for all, at its begin- look to his life of labour and love, while he sojournning, to beat, and go, and hope and love, or hate ed among our fallen race, in the form of sinful and fear, and suffer or enjoy, to all eternity. man: and though he thought it no robbery to Sleep does not suspend its action, and death, make himself equal with the Father, yet, stooped or the long slumber of the grave itself, is no to be a servant,' and to go about from door to door interruption to its activity. Energy is its nature, continually doing good.' There was no indoland working is its mode of existing. Mere ces-ence in his love; no rest in the energies of his sation therefore from sin is a logical contradiction. Spirit; no pauses in the working of his mind. We e are always either sinning on, though it may be Even when he slept his heart was awake, and in a different way, or perfecting holiness in the fear when his disciples awoke him in the storm, he and the service of the Lord. Our blessed Lord tells reproved them for their want of faith, but not us that we cannot serve both God and Mammon; for disturbing their Saviour's repose. Let us but gives us, at the same time, to understand, that look to him as he sits in glory on the throne of just as little can we serve neither, for he immedi- heaven. Is there any pause in the workings of ately adds that,' if we hate the one we will love his mind? O one long serious look of the soul at the other.' How familiar do we find this princi- its God, should cure it for ever of sloth, and 'ple in the mouth of the apostle. But God be consume every thought of ease or indolence in a thanked,' says St. Paul in his epistle to the fire of shame. If God cease for a moment from Romans, that ye were once the servants of sin, working, our hearts must cease to beat; if he take but ye have obeyed from the heart, that form of his rest in heaven, we must die of hunger. If doctrine which we delivered unto you; being then our exalted Redeemer relax his efforts to work made free from sin, ye became the servants of out our redemption; if he cease from working in us righteousness.' We have therefore every sort to will and to do of his good pleasure, then begins of authority for assuring ourselves, that so our backslidings on the way to Zion, to end in long as we have not entered with full earnest- tumbling over the precipice, it may be with our ness of purpose, and perseverance of endeav- face to heaven. There is nothing above us, or our, on a career of practical godliness, and the around us, or beneath us, in a state of reposediligent discharge of active duties, we are not all heaven, and earth, and hell, and every atom yet delivered from the yoke of sin, but drudging of dust, is continually at work-and shall we be on as before-under new names and altered idle? Idle we cannot be, but shall we be idle in appearances, perhaps, in the bondage of Satan. serving? O let our working be all on the right side. Of all sloth may we most abhor that of the soul; and of all services be most ashamed as well as afraid of sloth in the service of Him, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity; and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

It is a most remarkable fact, moreover, and may be stated as the crowning illustration of the principle in question, as well as the strongest incitement to the practice of all good works, that our blessed Lord in his description of his own judgment-seat, has confined his condemnations entirely to sins of omission or unfruitfulness in the service of the cross. Not a single count in the whole indictment, with which he has already been pleased to serve us, consists of crimes, or positive iniquities, or

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Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil

have not known.' But O! let us read his mercy aright, and tremble at the thought of perverting it to our double condemnation. It is the sinner,

is willing to be reconciled; and in the seeking to raise us from our low estate, to his own habitation, he begins with assimilating our nature to his own. Let this renewal of our nature then be our immediate aim; and while our thoughts travel to the rest that awaiteth the people of God, let us beware of overlooking the way that leads to its blessed repose. O! there is a heaven upon earth sufficiently worthy of our first ambition; and that is the growing likeness to God and participation of the divine nature; which is the brightest promise of the life that now is, as well as the surest earnest and foretaste of the glory that is yet to be revealed.

of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to let us never forget, and not sin, with which God do evil ; learn to do acell, Isa. i. 16, 17. THE nature of God is essentially pure, and consequently abhorrent of all pollution. In the metaphors of scripture, he represents himself as 'of purer eyes than to behold evil, or to look upon iniquity,' and upon the flesh of our hearts has he impressed the same picture of his nature in strokes of inextinguishable fire. It is from this inherent sense of the divine purity that arises the uneasiness of all moral defilement; the vain, the persevering endeavour of guilt to shun the eye of God. No sooner had the first taint of sin settled upon the hands and the hearts of our first parents, than this repugnance between the two principles of purity and pollution, began to manifest itself in action; and at the first sound of their Creator's step in the garden, they fled in shame and fear to hide their guilt in a bush. The same uneasiness of sin and shrinking of the unclean soul from the light of the divine eye, has ever since familiarized itself in the experience of all transgressors; even to the fearful excess of banishing the very memory of their Maker from their thoughts, and saying in their hearts, there is no God.'

Unto this God, however, all flesh must come; and however intolerable we may feel, or imagine, the purity of his holy eye, it is even now, in the midst of our sins, continually upon us, observing not only our doings, but the innermost secrets of our souls; for ، I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them, saith the Lord.' We are, therefore, only saying 'peace, peace, when there is no peace,' and muffling ourselves up in a night, which the Lord is all the while making round about us like unto the day, when we strive to shun the brightness of his eye, and seek in sin an ease incompatible with a sense of the divine



And yet, if left to our own resources, this is in sad reality the only course left open to us; for just as little as the leopard can change his spots, or the Ethiopian his skin; can they that are accustomed to do evil learn of themselves to do good.'

What inexpressible reason then have we for thankfulness in learning that, while we are flying from the God, unto whom nevertheless all flesh must come, and seeking a most treacherous peace by shutting him out of our thoughts, he is just as diligent pursuing us with kindness, and seeking to reconcile us to himself, by a way that we

It is surely, moreover, a most abundant source of gratitude that God has himself opened up this way of return, and brought the renovation of his own image in our souls within the bounds of possibility. Hopelessly polluted as we are, even beyond the power of imagining a remedy for the pain of our own defilement, is there not a surprise of joy in learning that, in the fulness of grace, there is a fountain prepared for the washing of the heart, which is continually sending forth its purifying streams to our habitations, with an abundance and a power equal to the need of all? Do we not hear as it were the sound of many waters, even of the river that flows around⚫ the throne of the Lamb, in the voice of our God commanding us to wash and make ourselves clean ?

The very peremptoriness of the command implies the abundance and sufficiency of the means. It is issued with the tone and the authority of an absolute king; and just so much the more joyous in its sound, because we know it is the King invisible, immortal, and eternal, who is here issuing the imperial edicts; and know therefore, likewise, that from the inexhaustible resources of his grace have issued the means of obedience before the command was uttered. Wash you, and make you clean,' saith the Lord. Are we asking where is the water? O there is a sound not only as of flowing water, but of blood too, in the words; for the speaker is the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Is it then the pollution of guilt, the blot of our many transgressions, that dismays us? There is one short and simple sentence in holy writ sufficient to cure us of this fear, The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.' But O! when our guilt is washed clean away, and, through the expiation of the


cross, we are blest with the free pardon of all our | end in self-condemnation; for in the very sentence transgressions; do we shudder at the review of our that enjoins the duty of a self-searching inquiry, own unaltered hearts; and from the bitter experi- does the prophet, without any alternative conence of the past, omen for the future nothing but dition, exhort us to immediate repentance. And a running up of new debts; with a long succes- such a verdict, alas! may we always, without the sion of broken resolutions going away one after gift of inspiration, foretell as the issue of every another, 'like the early cloud and the morning inquiry into the state of our hearts. Hence arises dew?' 'Wash you, and make you clean,' saith our natural repugnance to enter upon this duty the Lord; 'cease,' he continues, 'to do evil, learn at all, as well as our tendency to deal dishonestly to do well.' Once more, there is strength and not with ourselves in carrying it through; for just as weakness, comfort and not fear in the command, the heart is 'desperately wicked,' so is it 'deceitfor it is the edict of the same God who hath said, ful above all things.' I will create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within you.' To despair of our own strength then, is to charge God with weakness; and to omen nothing but a register of broken resolutions, is to doubt the faithfulness of an Almighty Saviour; for his grace is sufficient for our need; and his strength is made perfect in our weakness.' Let us look unto God with the earnestness and importunity of prayer in our faces and our hearts, and the holy eye that is continually upon us, will strengthen us for the fulfilment of his will. Put away,' says our King, the evil of your doings from before mine eyes;' and if in our humble but sincere endeavours to do his bidding, we seek unto his sufficiency of grace for the needful strength; then shall the consciousness that all our doings are before his eyes, be unto us a source of strength; and ours in the end be the blessedness promised to the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'


If we would estimate the importance and necessity of such an inquiry, however, we can have no surer or safer measure than just this reluctance of our nature to engage with it; and we can hardly have a more sufficient proof that our ways are wrong, than the tendency to deceive ourselves in comparing them with the will and the ways of God. Let us come close up then to the light of the searching scripture before us; and learn, as the preface to its revelation, that even in a state of grace, and in the very act of coming up from the wilderness, under the holy banner of our faith, we have a continual tendency to backsliding; and that even after the call of the Spirit has made itself effectual, in turning our hearts round to the bright and morning star; times without number must we hear and obey the self-same voice crying, 'turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?' The sinner's road to heaven is not a straight one; nor is there much exaggeration of figure in calling it from beginning to end a continual turning. O! if in the moment of its first and decisive conversion, the heart were truly turned right round to God, like the sunflower to the rising sun; were all its sensibilities brought immediately under the

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again benignity of the divine countenance, and into close

to the Lord,' Lam. iii. 40.

and clear contemplation of the divine glory; then might we suppose that direct as the path of the turtle-dove in the air, or of the fiery chariot that

heart through all the thorny perplexities of life to its home in the habitation of holiness.' Such in the course of time and the history of ages has been the path of one single soul, unto whose first prayer our Lord answered, to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.'

'To know one's self' was regarded by an ancient sage as the beginning and the end of wisdom. In selecting this maxim as the motto of his philo-bore Elias to heaven, would be the course of that sophy, he signifies at once the importance and the difficulty of the lesson it conveyed. But when we take eternity into the account, and the simple, but vast, consideration that the present life is but a school for the next, the importance of the lesson in question is immeasurably dilated; and it consequently stands out before us, in the pages of scripture, in a greatness of size, and interest, which it never could assume in the writings of a heathen, whose wisdom aimed no farther than the grave. In the scripture before us, it is very remarkable too, that the result of the inquiry is here taken for granted; and we are given to understand, before we commence it, that it must

But O! let those who defer their first repentance till the day or the night of turning their face to the wall, bethink themselves, that many times must their repentance be repented of, and their tears washed away with tears ever purer and purer, before they shall hear a voice from the cross crying unto them, 'To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.'

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