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Love, the true motive for obedience.
alone ? No; no. If you have formed such an opinion of the Eternal One, you have entirely mistaken his character.
The image under which God delights to represent himself to us is that of a father. Now what father would be happy in his children if he knew that their obedience to him proceeded not from filial affection, but from servile fear? No matter though, upon the slightest intimation of his wishes, every thing was performed according to his commands ; still, if that father knew that all this was done merely to avoid punishment; that while his children were performing these acts, they cherished not one kind or cordial feeling towards him; that they executed his commands with the feelings of bond-slaves, and hated him at the very moment that they did him homage—I ask, would that father be satisfied with this constrained service? No; nothing can compensate for the want of love. Until we love God, just as an affectionate child loves his father; until this love abides in our hearts, and animates all our actions, the service of God will be but toilsome drudgery to us; and all the homage we can render him will be but an abomination in his sight.
When we can adopt the language of the psalmist, or the language of the Redeemer, whom the psalmist personates, and say “I delight to do thy will, O my God," then we shall have the right motive; then we shall most acceptably renew our solemn promise and vow to the Most High. Convinced that it is God's will that we should make that solemn vow in his presence, and from love to his character, delighting to do his will, we shall be sure to meet the smile of his reconciled countenance when we stand to pledge our word in the presence of his people.
To illustrate some of the foregoing thoughts, allow me to give you a brief sketch of the religious experience of one who is now at rest.
It was in one of the autumnal months the frost having already stripped the forest of its foliage, and the fields of their verdure—that the last lingering rays of the setting sun, streaming through the window of a mansion situated in the country, fell upon the faded and death-stricken face of Mrs. H That face at the moment was lit up, from internal feeling, with a more heavenly radiance than that shed upon it by the golden beams of departing day
The Christian in death.
A solemn feeling pervaded the whole room; and the cheeks of many that stood by were wet with tears. The servant of God had just been administering to the sick and dying woman the hallowed symbols of redeeming love.
Som one that sat near had asked Mrs. H- whether she found her soul sustained in this her last trying hour, by an unshaken faith in the divine promises; whether the prospect before her seemed dark or luminous. It was then that a celestial light seemed to play upon every feature of her death-stricken countenance as she replied :
“ Till this moment I have never so fully comprehended the meaning of that declaration of St. John, · He that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.' I know that my hold upon life is breaking; but I am well persuaded that I am going to sit beneath the smile, and to feast upon the gaze of infinite love. I can utter but a few words more while I am in the body, and I would fain consecrate them to some good purpose. I wish you, my friends, to avoid a rock on which my everlasting salvation was well-nigh wrecked.
“ It is many years since I made a profession of religion, by ratifying my baptismal vows in the rite of confirmation. From reading the Bible, and listening to the godly instruction of a pious minister, I became alarmingly impressed with the belief that unless I did something to secure the favour of God, I should be for ever lost. The Almighty, in my conception, was clad in all the awful and terrific majesty with which he descended upon mount Sinai. I found no rest, day nor night, from a troubled and sin-accusing conscience. Wherever I went, a gaping hell seemed opening right before me.
“And yet I had no just or adequate view of the nature or evil of sin, or of the deep depravity of my own heart. It was only the fear of being damned that so unceasingly troubled me. To avoid this, I determined to become a Christian. An opportunity presenting, I gave myself up to God in the apostolic rite of confirmation, and in that solemn ordinance ratified my baptismal vow. I did not forget the promise I had made. I immediately separated myself from the gay and the thoughtless, and outwardly renounced the pomps and vanities of the world, though my
Morality mistaken for true religion.
heart still clung to them with all its former attachment. I attended to all the external duties of a holy life with the utmost exactness. A stated portion of every day I spent in prayer; another, in reading the Bible. I never failed to visit the house of God at the regular and stated seasons for divine worship.
" But in the midst of these engagements I could not say, • I delight to do thy will, O my God.' All these duties were performed as a task ; they furnished me no pleasure except the reflection that by them I was securing heaven. Hence it was always a great relief to me when I got through them. And all this time I regarded myself as very religious, and as having an unquestionable title to the glories of heaven.
“ It is true, I was a stranger to spiritual enjoyment; I knew nothing of the spirit of adoption, and had not learned to lisp forth, in the most unformed sounds, my Abba Father. At times, I was filled with the greatest gloom and despondency; still, I most preposterously clung to the belief that my bark was firmly anchored in the safe moorings of eternal life: and I might have been slumbering in this false hope to the present moment, had not God in his infinite mercy made use of an humble instrument to awaken me from my delusion.
“One bleak wintry night my husband brought in a beggar whom he found near our door, perishing with cold.
The next morning, as this poor creature was about taking his leave, he appeared so deeply affected with a sense of gratitude for the favour of that night's shelter, that I became exceedingly interested in him. To some inquiries which I proposed, he replied,
"Notwithstanding these privations, and this outward wretchedness, I am very happy, and feel that I have cause to offer continual thanks for the many mercies I enjoy.'
Upon my expressing surprise that he should entertain such sentiments, he turned, and said with much feeling and apparent kindness,
6 • Then I fear that you have not been born of God; for if you
had, you would know, that with a right heart, one may be as happy in the tattered garments of Lazarus as in the rich purple and fine linen of Dives. Believe me, I have found iri my solitary midnight walks, without a friend on
The awakened self-deceiver.
this earth—or when sheltered in some half open shed—I have found in communing with God, and contemplating the wonders of redeeming love, more happiness than I ever enjoyed in the days of my prosperity, amid the circle of cheering friends, and when lodged in the mansion of splendour and wealth.'
« These remarks made a deep impression upon my mind. For a long time the echo seemed sounding in my ears, 'I fear that you have not been born of God. I tried to banish the occurrence from my thoughts, but the whole scene returned again and again, with increased vividness before me.
One reflection was continually forced upon my mind—that while that poor houseless vagrant was happy, I was wretched ; and that what constituted his felicity, furnished me no pleasure. He could spend whole nights in the unsheltered face of heaven, in prayer, and felt his soul borne away with delight; while to me, under circumstances of the greatest comfort, the shortest form of devotion was a burden and a task.
“I began to doubt whether I was as safe as I had hitherto thought myself. To obtain satisfaction, I commenced reading the Scriptures with reference to this point. The more I read and reflected, the more I suspected the hopes in which I had been resting. The veil was now torn off, the bandage removed from my eyes, and I saw my wretched self in the light of divine truth. The more I discovered of the true nature of sin, and its exceeding sinfulness in the sight of God, the deeper I was plunged into despondency. I now saw that I had merited and deserved God's wrath and condemnation, and that he might in perfect justice shake me from his hand, and lock me up in the gloomy prison-house of hell.
“ When the thought of God's mercy came into my mind, and I recollected that every breath I drew, and every comfort I enjoyed, proceeded from his hand; when I reflected that his goodness had created me at first, his power preserved, and his mercy shielded me amid a thousand dangers; and that all this time I had regarded him in no other light than as a being clad in terror, and never sent up one warm aspiration of love or gratitude to his throne-o, in what colours did the guilt and turpitude of my conduct rise before me! Then I was ready to sink in despair.
Experience of a converted person.
“ But at this moment, all sinful and guilty as I was, driven from every shelter, and every dependence,—and forced to give up all as lost, the voice of the crucified Son of God reached my ears in these heavenly accents, • Come unto me, thou weary and heavy laden one, and I will give thee rest.' That voice struck new light and new existence into my soul. A new class of feelings was aroused within me. A new and unspeakably resplendent glory appeared to gather around the throne of God. Jesus, hanging on the cross, and pouring out his blood for lost sinners, now seemed chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. The love of God took entire possession of all the faculties of my being. The longer I gazed upon the divine character, and dwelt in thought upon the divine attributes, the more I found myself lost in admiration and love.
“Prayer was no longer a burden. Oh, no! I could now spend hours, with increased and continually increasing delight, in communion with him, whom I loved and regarded as my Father. And the Bible, oh how changed in my view! How rich and luminous seemed its every page ! All the ways of religion now became ways of pleasantnesis, and all her paths peace.
“This great change was wrought in me, not by any power of my own, but by a divine and almighty Agent, by the love of God's being shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost.' From that happy hour, though my soul at times has been cast down, and my thoughts disquieted within me; though I have met with difficulties, and had to pass through sore trials, I have ever been able to say,– • I delight to do thy will, O my God!'
“In reflecting upon the divine dealings with me, and the instrument which God saw fit to employ to arouse me from the stupor of sin, I have felt peculiarly incited to acts of charity, and regarded the occurrence as a beautiful commentary on the passage, - Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.' I have often wished to meet that beggar again, to tell him how deeply I felt indebted to him. But his reward is with the Saviour.
Yes, I can now comprehend the truth, that God's service is perfect freedom.' Had I ten thousand lives to