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Emma in her flourishing and prosperous state.
renovated, and “the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.” There is no one thing that so retards the Redeemer's chariot, and keeps back the rising tide of millennial glory, as the low standard of Christian character which almost universally prevails. A spirit of worldliness and of apathy is the bane of the Christian church. Until Christians feel that it is their duty and privilege to keep up to the fervour of their first love,- that it will be their sin and condemnation to retrograde from that point—that, starting from that point, they must go on, abounding more and more in love to God and in desires after holiness,—they will never accomplish much for the glory of God in this sin-desolated world.
A Christian friend who had frequent opportunities of meeting Emma at this time thus speaks of her :-“She was indeed most lovely then, for she was filled with the love of God. The love of Christ-the love of a crucified and risen Saviour, was her constant joyous theme; and inany happy hours did we spend together in admiring and adoring the riches of sovereign grace."
Emma, at this period in her Christian course, seemed “ like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. She seemed like a tree planted in the garden of the Lord, " like a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowy shroud, and of a high stature, whose top was among the thick boughs." The waters of life that flowed by her, and continually irrigated her roots, made her great. So that “ her height became exalted above all the trees of the field ; and her leaves were multiplied and her branches became long. Thus was she fair in her greatness, in the length of her branches : for her root was by great waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not hide her: the fir trees were not like her boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like her branches ; not any tree in the garden of God was like unto her in her beauty.” And is it possible that this tree, so fair, so beautiful, so luxuriant, will be broken down, and lie shivered
Deceitfulness of the human heart.
and strown upon the earth? Daniel in his visions witnessed something not unlike this. 6. I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth : the leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much. I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and a holy one came down from heaven; he cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit." The prophet Jeremiah, having described the blessedness of him that trusts in the Lord under the following imagery,-"He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh ; but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit,”-immediately adds, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” This simple declaration is a key which will unlock every door of mystery in relation to any case of declension in piety.
Emma B-appeared like a vigorous, healthsul branch, united so firmly to the heavenly vine that nothing could separate her from it ; but she carried within her a heart which, though in a measure subdued by the power of the Holy Spirit, was still deceitful above all things. And though no one who passed by and saw this flourishing branch, and beheld its luxuriant foliage and rich blossoms, would have anticipated that it would one day be broken almost off, and hang down withered and torn; yet so it was. This lovely young Christian, who at first made such rapid advances in the divine life, afterwards sadly declined, giving increased emphasis to the apostolic injunction, "Therefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered.
From the fifteenth of John.
THEY who are placed under the most favourable circumstances for the cultivation of piety, are in great and constant danger, from the remaining corruptions of a depraved heart, and from the insidious and unsuspected adverse influences around them, of being drawn fatally aside from the narrow path. " 'The liveliest affections will abate and cool, if pains the most unremitted be not taken to keep them in constant and active exercise ; and that love which might have burned with a pure and holy flame, if the oil which should have fed it had not been exhausted, will sink, and will die away till it is totally extinguished, if the supply be not constantly kept up. The graces and virtues of the Christian life, like plants of the rarest description, and requiring the tenderest culture, will inevitably grow languid and fall into decay, if not kept alive by the most strenuous exertion for their cultivation, and the most earnest application for those supplies of grace, which are to the pious heart, what the rain, the dew, and the sunshine of heaven are to the flowers of the field."*
Emma had to encounter temptations of a peculiar character. For some time she held on her way nobly; but ultimately her spiritual foes prevailed, and she was drawn into the snare of the devil, and for a while led captive by him.
* Dr. Bedell on Spiritual Declension, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 22.
If this part of her history could be accurately unfolded, I doubt not it would be seen that among the earliest steps, in this downward course, was the relinquishment of the exercises of that hour formerly devoted to self-examination. When we begin to decline, we like to hide the fact from ourselves. Hence, though we continue to go through the form of self-examination, we do not do our work honestly. We are not willing to know the worst. We are not willing to have the wound probed, but wish to have it “ healed slightly."
As has been already intimated, Emma was not placed under my pastoral care; and I therefore had not that opportunity of being made acquainted with her progress in the divine life that I might otherwise have enjoyed. About a year or eighteen months after my first acquaintance with her, she went on a visit to some distant friends, where she remained several months. After this, she came no more to the Bible class ; nor to the evening lectures, which she frequently used to attend. The only information I could obtain, in answer to the inquiries that I made concerning her, was that she had been absent, and had returned in good health, and was attending church. The state of her religious feelings was unknown. Amid the pressure of engagements, connected with the spiritual improvement of the people of my own charge, Emma B- no longer seen at the Bible class, was lost sight of. Time passed on. A variety of events had transpired since I last saw Emma. I had entered upon a new and distant field of labour, and was entirely engrossed in professional engagements that, in multiplied forms, pressed upon me. My anxieties were all awake for the salvation of a people, many of whom now began to evince a deep interest in eternal things. It was not wonderful, therefore, that even the recollection of Emma B— had almost faded from my memory.
But, incidentally, in a conversation with a stranger, Emma's name was mentioned. A long train of reminiscences were immediately called up. Again, I seemed to see the
gentle and heavenly-minded Emma B-, as I had seen her when she first came and took her seat among the members of the Bible class, so meek, and humble, and subdued ; so ardent in her attachment to Christ, and so unfaltering in her efforts to follow him. I had not heard one word about her fatal decline. But the individual who mentioned her name told me this sad story. Emma, she said, had gone back to all the follies of the world, and had long evinced an entire indifference to the things of religion. Recently she had been attacked with pulmonary affection, from which there was no probability of her recovery. My informant went on further to remark that there was great reason to fear that Emma was awfully unprepared to die; and that, unless something was done for her, she might go down to her grave in a state of fixed apathy.
God, however, who quickeneth the dead, had a purpose of eternal mercy connected with the very sickness which had now fallen with deathly blight upon her. Still, the information I had received pressed with such weight upon me that I felt constrained to write to one of her early Christian friends, then residing in the same city with her, describing her case, and begging her to go and visit the backsliding and dying Emma. In this matter my wish had been anticipated; for Miss T-, the person to whom I wrote, had already paid her several visits, which were not unblessed. Emma's case seemed so sad, that I felt it my duty to address a few words directly to her, which I did in the following note :
MY DEAR FRIEND,—The reception of this letter will probably be very unexpected to you. Some three or four years ago, while I was labouring to draw sinners unto Christ, Divine Providence placed you within the circle of
labours. From the first I felt a deep interest in your spiritual and eternal welfare. For some reason, that I do not now recollect, you were suddenly removed from the circle of my labours; and, though I often inquired