« AnteriorContinuar »
favor of cheerfulness or melancholy. A gloomy constitution will dispose us to be always viewing the dark side of the cloud, and therefore will generally be accompanied with doubts, fears, and darkness of mind. Such Christians, though they labor after the destruction of sin, yet they seem to think the joys and comforts of the Gospel a kind of forbidden fruit, or things which do not belong to them. Thus, like a distempered eye, they view every object as distorted, inverted, and discolored.
Fourthly, Another cause of this state of mind may be, a dwelling too much in our thoughts upon ourselves, and looking too little to Christ, and the free promises of the Gospel.
It is true that sanctification is the evidence, and the only evidence of an interest in Christ and eternal life; but it is not by continually poring over this evidence, that it will become bright and satisfactory. On the contrary, if, instead of drawing our principal enjoyments from what Christ is, we look for comfort from what we feel in our own minds; we shall not only be disappointed, but a kind of legal bias will be given to our spirit, which is certain to gender to bondage and darkness.
But whatever be the causes from whence such a state of mind may arise, there are wise ends to be answered, no doubt, in its being permitted. Some of these may be as follows:
First, In some instances it may be designed to mortify pride. In many cases it may be the means of curing, or preserving us from vain confidence. There is that degree of corruption in the hearts of the best of men, that, were it not checked in its growth by some
means, would, in various circumstances exalt them above measure. Many an excellent character, had he not been humbled by a degree of habitual dejection, might have fallen a prey to other kinds of temptation, and have marred for ever his credit, comfort, and usefulness.
Secondly, In other cases, particularly in those of ministers, it may be designed to make them capable of the greater sympathy and compassion towards weak believers; and to qualify them for speaking a word in season to those who labor under spiritual darkness and discouragements. The Apostles were afflicted for the sake of others, that they might be able to comfort them with the same comforts wherewith they themselves were comforted of God. Thirdly, It may
be intended to wean them from the present world, and make them long after a state of unmixed light and joy. It is very possible too, that the heavenly enjoyment may be abundantly heightened and sweetened by its succeeding to a state of darkness and dejection. It is not very difficult to conceive, that the amazing transition from darkness to light, and the joyful disappointment of all their fears, should furnish a source of bliss in the world to come, to which other Christians may, perhaps, be comparatively strangers.
When a person is mourning and lamenting under a sense
of Divine withdrawings, cold, formal, and remiss in all duties, walking in darkness, and having no light, what ineans are proper to be adopted, in order to a restoration and repossession of communion with God?
ANSWER TO THE FOREGOING QUERY.
The case here stated, and the question annexed to it, appear to come from one who is not unacquainted with the work of God's Spirit in the heart; and are very
interesting to many of the Lord's people. I shall therefore endeavor to be as explicit in my remarks as possible; but before I directly answer the question, I shall attempt to state the case more at large, in hope that it may prove a blessing to those whose feelings are described.
Divine withdrawings make an important part of the plan on which God acts in leading his people to glory. And they are often as thorns and briers to the Christian in his passage through the wilderness. They imply that the person who labors under them is a real disciple of Christ: For spiritual blessings can never be withdrawn from any man but him on whom they have been previously bestowed. Yes, he is a believer; and though now smarting under his Father's rod, yet once it was well with him. He was indulged with such a sight of Calvary, and of the crimson streams of salvation flowing from the heart of Jesus, as he can never totally forget. The cup of his joy was then full and overflowing. He de
lighted in thinking and talking of God and Divine things. · He could get near to God in holy duties, and with humble confidence cry, Abba, Father! And he could even have cheerfully sacrificed every thing on earth for the sake of Jesus. But how is the gold become dim! How is the fine gold changed!
Now a sad reverse of things has taken place. He is cold, formal, and remiss in all duties. The love and zeal which once brightened his prospects, and gladdened his heart, have, for a time, lost their vigor. The Spirit of God withholds his reviving influence; and the very spring of joy seems dried
prayer, once his frequent employment and delight, is too often neglected; and if conscience upbraid, silly excuses are framed to justify the omission. Sometimes, indeed, he bows the knee in private, but his heart is heavy: It cannot rise to God. He utters the solemn words of
prayer, but forgets even what he is about. While his thoughts are wandering, he ceases from the duty, and presently again recollecting himself, like a man who has been asleep in a strange place, he rouses, and wonders where he is. At best, prayer is hurried over as a task; much of that important business which a Christian has to transact with God at the throne of grace, is neglected; and supplications for the church, for particular friends, and particular blessings, are forgotten. The word of God is often passed by; or, if read, it is done in a hurry, and without attention. He attends the ministry of the Gospel; but sometimes gives way to drowsiness; and sometimes, instead of hearing or knowing what is said, he suffers a multitude of foolish and vain things to occupy his thoughts. If a preacher, he is, on the people's
account, assisted in public duties, but brings no abiding favor of Divine things with him out of the pulpit. He walks in darkness. He does not see the gracious countenance of Jesus smiling on him as formerly. Dark chilling clouds of spiritual adversity intercept the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, and spread a melancholy gloom over his path. He may or may not, for aught he knows, belong to the family of God. Sometimes the question will present itself to his mind, and he then feels a momentary uneasiness; but he is not properly roused: He remains languid and dull as before.
But, blessed be God, the real Christian, even in such a state, discovers some symptoms of spiritual life. Dull and stupid as he may be, there are moments when he cannot help grieving and mourning over his sad declensions, moments when he looks back, and, though he scarcely perceives it himself, sighs out a wish, that it were with him as in months past, as in the days when the Lord preserved him. Yea, now and then he cannot help offering a petition or two, with some degree of earnestness, for a revival of the work of God in his heart. He cannot be really satisfied without the Divine presence. Thou mourner in Zion, let us consider what means are proper to be adopted, in order to thy restoration and repossession of communion with God.
We should, on this and every occasion, remember that the means we use are but means: It is the blessing of God that must render them effectual. I do not wish by this remark to encourage the vain hope of the hypocrite, who, when reproved for his formality in the
of God, pleads as an excuse, that he is unable to revive or renew his own soul. A man of true piety