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said, " the terrors of hell gat hold upon me.” “While I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted.”
And they know too what it is to find the burden gone; to be able to lift up their eyes once more to the blue sky, and see there a reconciled Father's smile; to have Christ in them, the hope of glory, to think of death without alarm, and of the judgment-day without trembling. He who led captivity captive, has restored the poor estray, and whispered in the ear hope, sweet as angel music, “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
The joy of salvation ! None know that joy but they who are saved. Those that were on the very verge of perishing, and were snatched from the jaws of death may speak of it. The lost sailor, the lost wayfarer, the lost battle, the lost babe, the lost swimmer; -imagine in each case, a wonderful and happy reverse. What shouts of joy, what songs of praise, what vows of gratitude celebrate their deliverance !
They that have tasted the joy of salvation are privileged to recommend it to others. They know something of its sweetness. They have felt the magic of its power. They are satisfied that it is a blessed reality. They feel that it is no morbid fancy, no idle dream. Full of the glow of enthusiasm, they accost every one they meet, “Come with us, and we will do you good, for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.”
Unless religion be in a lively state in our souls, and we in some degree enjoy its power, we will feel little inducernent to recommend it to others. But on the contrary, if we have a lively enjoyment of religion, we will long to make every one a partaker of our joy. The leaven will work. It is not the nature of Christianity to sit still at home, when there is work to be done for God and for souls. Then, when the heart is in a right and happy frame, then will zeal boil, and the tongue grow pliant. Then will they that love the Lord, speak often one to another. They will pray and labor, and teach transgressors their ways, and sinners shall be converted to God.
This subject gives birth to several practical reflections.
1. How desirable and precious the joy of salvation ! How enviable, beyond wealth and state, a lively enjoyment of religion in the heart! Thrice happy the soul which holds communion with Jesus, which has the freedom of the city of God, and feeds on the heavenly manna!
2. If we find torpor and inactivity benumbing us in the service of God, it is not difficult to conjecture the cause. “Sin lieth at the door.” Want of interest arises from the incrustation of sin; coldness and remissness, and backsliding and love of the world are at the bottom of it all.
3. The way of return is equally obvious. Retrace vour steps. Begin at the beginning. Re-lay the foundation, Do your first
works over again. Do not rely on old experience, but replenish the lamp with fresh oil.
4. We may infer that ordinarily a deep experience is necessary to great usefulness. Paul was such an instance. He was arrested in the midst of his persecution and rancor, and “obtained mercy, that in him first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which sliould hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." John Newton was another example. Who viler than he ? Once engaged in the accursed traffic in slaves on the coast of Africa, himself a slave to every lust. Yet was he brought to repentance, and extensive usefulness. Nowhere do we find more edifying hymns illustrative of Christian experience than his.
John Bunyan was another instance of distinguishing grace. The blaspheming, cursing, swearing tinker, to hear whose profanity made the blood of every pious hearer run cold, was brought to see the error of his ways. Sharp and severe were his inward conflicts, but once a pilgrim on the way to Zion, he so well delineated the pilgrim's progress, that the map serves as an itinerary still, and grows in popularity as it grows in age.
5. We see the secret, under God, of revivals of religion. When religion is in a lively state in the heart, it is easy to talk about it. The heart is engaged. The preacher has a limited part to perform. He cannot do everything. The Church has something to do. You should bring your friends, your relatives, your acquaintances, your neighbours, the community, the world itself, in the arms of your faith, and lay them at the feet of Jesus; and ask earnestly for a blessing upon them. Seek to have your own souls engaged, that you may be the readier to do good to others. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come!” Such is the combination of agencies in the economy of grace. The Spirit is saying, Come! Thé Spirit is ready to do his part, but is the Bride doing hers? Is the Church saying, Come? Does he that heareth say, Come? Oh, ye officers of the Church, ye men and women whose names are on the roll as members of the Church, ye that profess to be followers of the Lamb, are you saying, Come? Are you saying to the unconverted, " Come with us, and we will do you good !" Or are you by your example and conduct, saying as plainly as if it were expressed in words, “ Do not come ; you will get no good ; you will be as well off where you are ?: Dreadful is the guilt of those who come not up to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Beware how you incur the curse of Meroz.
6. We are taught by our text to invoke the aid of the blessed Spirit. "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me! Uphold me with thy free Spirit !" .Mindful of our dependence on divine aid, seek it continually. Dread going in your own strength. Lean on the arm of the Lord. The Spirit is a spirit of purity, of holiness, of peace, of love. The heavenly dove is easily grieved by the indulgence of sentiments and inclinations contrary to his nature, such as sensuality, wordliness, selfishness or anger. But he i
ever ready to dwell in the heart that welcomes him, and cherishes his influences. Pray then for his renewing, revivifying, enlightening purifying and hallowing presence. Banish every idol from your heart, and devoutly consecrate yourself as a living temple unto the Lord, into which nothing unclean or profane shall be admitted. So shall the great objects of the Christian life be attained, so will your peace flow like a river-80 will you lead on earth the life of angels--so will you be honoured in turning many to righteousness, and when life's last duties shall be over, sweetly will the benediction of God and the welcome of the glorified sound in your ears.
BY REV. EDWARD STRONG.
NEW HAVEN, CT.
“My people are bent to backsliding from me."--HOSEA xi. 7.
How often, in the Scriptures, is this allegation brought against the people of God! In how varied forms, and under how varied imagery! Surely, we exclaim, the standard of Christian duty is elevated, indeed ; and its divine author, of purer eyes, than to behold iniquity or look upon sin but with abhorrence. And so it is. The standard of Christian duty is not what many suppose. Nor is God what many suppose. He is not so indifferent to the maintenance of his law ; not so indifferent to seemingly trivial departures from it ; not so content to overlook backsliding.
There is always, in these allegations, an indication of deep emotion. It is apparent that the infinite heart of God is wounded by the serpent-tooth of his children's ingratitude-is offended by their fickleness and treachery, and is altogether in earnest when charging their guilt upon them. This is enough to impart a solemn interest to our meditation upon the charge contained in the text.
How singular the moral condition of a believer bent on backsliding. It is not a mere vacillation between God and mammon, holiness and sin, but a steady leaning, an earnest leaning toward the latter. It is the very disposition with which Israel, in the transit from Egypt to Canaan, turned back, in their hearts, to the land of their bondage. It is the disposition with which they preferred the leeks and onions of slavery, to the self-denials that were necessary in crossing the wilderness to the promised land—with which they made their molten calf, went after Baal, sacrificed to Moloch, and variously forsook God their Saviour. Its perverseness is but too apparent.
I. We will inquire who among us must plead guilty to the charge that they are bent on backsliding?
II. Contemplate their guilt.
III. Survey the consequences which timely repentance can alone avert.
I. In the first place, by what marks may we identify those among us who may justly be considered as bent on backsliding ?
1. The first mark is a neglect of secret and family prayer. I place these kinds of prayers together, because the neglect of one ordinarily follows neglect of the other. So fidelity in the one will ordinarily follow fidelity in the other. Neglect of prayer is, for the most part, at the beginning, middle, and end of backsliding. It pervades the whole career of departure from God. The Christian never returns to God, nor God to him, till this neglect ceases. Ordinarily the closet is the first meeting place of the estranged parties. Visits of love and mercy, indwellings of the Holy Spirit are only vouchsafed to those whose earnest petitions indicate their appreciation of the value of these gifts.
Wherever, in the Church, you find an individual regarding his closet with disrelish, restraining prayer, often omitting it altogether at other times content with a mere hurried performance of the externals of devotion, finding his thoughts even in the sacred place where “none but God is near,” roving off to his employmentaccustomed to resort thither, not from inward longing for communion with God, not from a conviction of moral weakness, and need of grace, but only to silence the demands of duty
-happier to come forth than to enter there ; happier not because of an approving conscience and smiling Saviour, but because a task is over, and he may plunge again untrammeled into his wonted worldliness. Wlierev - you find an individual like this, vou find one bent on buckilidirne; I might add, one who has already glided away to no inconsiderable distance from God. 'The eye of the Saviour looks deeper than our own, and that eye beholds the earnest bent of his mind. It sees his grovelling disposition, his prayer-neglecting habit, and thus discerns one mark, and that a deep one, of his apostacy.
2. Another mark is habitual neglect of the Bible. Whoever walks closely with God takes delight in his word. He reads it often. He meditates upon it.. He can say with the Psalmist, from his own blessed experience, “thy word is sweet to my taste.” He is attracted to it as a medium of communion with God. He loves it because it contains those precivus promises which are like rivers of consolation and hope. He loves it for its purity. He loves it for those precepts, in obedience to which he finds a rich reward. Not so he who is bent on backsliding He delights not in the Scriptures. He reads them accordingly, if at all, rather from a conviction of duty, than a felt satisfaction in thus communing with God. His soul is never bathed in them as in a pure fountain. He never fairly imbibes their celestial spirit, and so never derives from them a quickening power.
Fellow Christian ! Is it so with you? Are you neglectful not only of private and domestic prayer, but also of the sacred word ? Is it but seldom that you commune with its pages? Then