« AnteriorContinuar »
Oh, how often do young professors, and those of longer standing in the church, need a fresh baptism of the Holy Ghost to arouse them from spiritual slumber, that they may gird on anew their armor, and go forth with fresh zeal to the great battle of the Lord.
But whether or not these may be among the reasons why God calls aged sinners into his kingdom, the glorious fact is, that he does call us, poor sinners, by his word, providence and Spirit, at all periods of our mortal life, from early dawn till its last evening hour.
To the young of the third hour of life's day, the voice of the Master is: "Go ye into the vineyard now, lest life's sun, rising so brightly, go down ere noon in darkness forever."
To the middle aged of the sixth hour he calls: "Go ye into the vineyard. You are now in the meridian. Cast your eye back to the morning horizon whence you set out. See with what rapid flight the wheels of time have borne you on. From this high stand-point look down to the evening horizon where sets life's sun, and consider how speedily will that sun hasten to its going down."
To the aged of the ninth and eleventh hour of life's little day, a voice from above is still calling, "Go ye also into the vineyard. The sun still shines, but with a softened, mellowed light. Behold how low life's sun has descended. See the high mountains casting their lengthening shadows far across the valleys. Soon will night spread her dark pall over you. Haste ye to Christ ere the shadows of death enfold you. Go work while it is day. The night is near when no man can work. Believe and love, and work and pray, and great shall be your reward."--Puritan Rec.
DESIRE OF PRE-EMINENCE.
There can surely be no doubt as to the duty of every man to strive after high excellence-at whatever is intellectually and spiritually ennobling. Such excellence is not only worthy the earnest pursuit of all, but its possession comes of aspiring and of labor. But there is quite a difference between aiming at eminence and vaunting of it. The fact that any individual has occasion to flaunt the claim, begets suspicion as to the validity of all such assumption. Certainly this is no part of the religion of Him who taught his followers that they should obey a different law from "the lords of the Gentiles," a law that respected the least as the greatest, which counted the servant as ruler; and whose word, following in the same vein, teaches His disciples while being "kindly affectioned" in honor to prefer one another. Modern tendencies are quite as strong as
when such injunctions were given, to fan, among disciples of a common faith, the desire of pre-eminence. The Saviour enjoined on those bearing His name and wearing His likeness, that they refuse to be called RABBI. This lesson they seem to have faithfully kept. Peter and John and James, and others, are brethren having naught to distinguish them but a common ardor in one great service. Paul and Barnabas are laborers in common. The former, though counselling his loved sons in the Gospel, Timothy, Titus and Onesimus, does not arrogate for himself any superiority over them. Never does he forget, in his salutations, his most unknown or unhonored fellow-workers, not omitting the caution "Help those women who labored with me in the Gospel with Clement also," &c., repeating carefully his remembrance to the cherished household of Onesiphorous which had remembered him in his bonds. Peter knows him, learned as he was, and intellectually "the very chief of the apostles," while counting himself "nothing," as "our beloved brother, Paul."
We will not affirm that the primitive spirit which thus knit in a common " brotherhood" those holding to "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," has died out of modern Christianity. It still lives. But is it not beset with sore temptations? Does the disciple of Christ now, as much as when under the eye of that Divine Teacher, shrink from the awards and appella tons which in name, at least, place him above his fellows? Is the rivalry for excellence-for holiness-the distinguishing rivalry of Christians, of ministers, of those invited to trusts of responsibility? Are churches, societies, Sabbath schools, conference circles, choirs, each and all, animated only to be like Christ -do the work of Christ and receive the reward which he bestows? The beloved John, who desired most of all to see his children "walking in the truth," and "fellow-helpers to the truth," was confronted by one of whom he says: "I wrote to the church; but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not." This love made him a man of "malicious words," and a disturber of the peace of Zion. Of him we have no other-no better record. His love of "pre-eminence" ruled him to the hurt of himself and of others.
This same spirit still lives clothed in new forms-nursed by new agencies, to oppose which is sometimes to set one's self against the very current itself. The feeling yet clamors for the ascendant that asks not, "How can I bring most honor to my Lord?" but "How can I be most honored of men?" Parity is disliked," pre-eminence" sought. Does not the state of our Zion too much declare it?- Watchman and Reflector.
LYDIA'S CONVERSION AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
"And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made, and we sat down and spake to the women that resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira, who worshipped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there. And she constrained us."-ACTS xvi. 13, 15.
MAY it not be that many fail to be converted by reason of incorrect notions of what conversion is? May they not be unaware of the fact, that ignorance of the truth on this subject will be just as fatal to the soul as poison, taken by mistake, will be to the body? Is there not a sense of security here that ought to be alarmed? There are many that hear the Gospel, to whom as yet it is far enough from being a savor of life unto life. May not one reason be, that they do not rightly apprehend it? They have indeed certain ideas about conversion-but whether right or not, how few of them take the trouble to inquire! My impression is, that many from this cause live and die unconvertedtheir dim and cloudy views filling up the avenue through which truth, with its stirring realities, enters the soul.
It is, then, with unfeigned pleasure that I am able to give you an instance of real conversion, together with the circumstances
and feelings which accompanied and followed it, and all endorsed by the spirit of truth; so that every one may see what it is; what is essential to it-what its effects are, and what he himself must be and do in order to be saved.
This instance is that of Lydia; and without adverting to all its instructive points, these, which will be illustrated in their order, will be sufficient for my purpose: THE IMPEDIMENT in the way of her conversion; THE AGENT by whom it was removed; THE CIRCUMSTANCES attending its removal, AND THE CONSEQUENCES which followed it.
I. What the impediment in the way of her conversion was, is seen in the statement, "Whose heart the Lord opened." Till then it was shut-it did not admit the truth, which pressed from without. There was self-satisfaction. Her heart had guests which suited its taste; and fearful of reprisals-apprehensive that thoughts might come in to disturb what was going on, it had shut and barred the door to keep them out. This was the impediment. There are many things which contribute to shut the heart against the Gospel, and to keep it closed: such as deeply rooted prejudices--erroneous views of the truth, and especially habits of vice and licentiousness; but then these things would not very seriously endanger one's salvation if they did not close up his heart to the impressions of guilt and the powers of the world to come. If Belshazzar, and Haman, and Judas, and Simon Magus, had suffered the sober voice of reason and conscience to enter their hearts in the hour of temptation that ruined them, would they not have been saved from the terrible shipwreck of character and hope which they experienced? You have seen men who seemed to have but little sensibility in view of our suffering humanity, and less disposition to go out of their way to relieve it. That which operates like a charm on certain minds the work, for instance, of aiding the fugitive from oppression, or that of giving light to the dark places of earth, is all a blank to them. The manifest reason is, that they have shut their hearts to every impression that calls for self-denial and selfsacrifice. It seems to us, also, that men engaged in the liquor traffic, do not give a fair equivalent for what they receive-for bread they give a stone; for a fish a serpent; for the money received, they give poverty and a ruined character, and broken hopes, and wretched families, and premature deaths. We think that even they must see that such are the regular fruits of their business. Why are they so blind? The answer is, their hearts have they closed to the truth.
You have all seen the stubborn child, pouting his lips, and darting fire from his eyes, simply because his parents bade him do a very reasonable thing, but a thing that he disliked to do. Have you a doubt what made him look so ugly-what made him mutter such bitter words? Why no; his heart was in fault-it was shut.
This, then, is the grand impediment which hinders the conversion of sinners. And hence they are described in the Bible as "having eyes, but seeing not; as having ears, but hearing not; as having hearts, but understanding not." And then the reason given is all the more impressive because it is so obviously true: "their eyes have they closed," and let their hearts wax gross, lest they should see with" their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and be converted." Yes, here is the impediment, and what is worse, it is placed by sinners themselves across the path to life, and obstinately kept there. They are helped, however, in this suicidal policy by an agency which ought to startle, as if a serpent stung them. Listen--for I quote from the word of Him who cannot lie-" For if our Gospel is hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of the Son of God should shine into. them." To keep out this light they shut up their hearts. Hence Christ is said to stand at the door of the heart and to knock, while but few, very few, open the door, and thus let salvation in. This was Lydia's difficulty, till she went to the prayer meeting by the river's side. She went there, as many now go to the house of God, with a heart closed to the truth, as it is in Jesus; but there, unexpectedly to herself, it was opened, and emotions of new and unutterable interest filled her soul, and immediately she passed from death unto life.
II. And here we naturally ask, By whom was this impediment removed?
"Whose heart the LORD opened." It was not effected by any charm in that prayer meeting-nor by the power of human persuasion, nor by the unusual thoughtfulness and effort of Lydia herself. It was the work of God. Not that means are useless, nor that Lydia had no control over her own heart--but simply that as she had shut it against the claims of God, and would never of her own accord remove the barricade, so the opening depended on the mercy of God. And what was true in her case is a truth so universal, that the Bible casts us all on the same resource for help against the ruin which our own obstinacy will otherwise bring upon us, declaring, that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy that neither is he that planteth anything, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase."
And here, if we bear in mind what is meant by opening the heart, and why it must be opened, if opened at all, by God himself, we shall feel none of the difficulties which will otherwise perplex the subject. You never suppose that because a child shuts his heart against cheerfully doing the reasonable things required by his parents, that therefore he cannot do them, but only that he is self-willed and obstinate, and will not, nor that the father is