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means does it not employ to ruin our salvation? It meets us in the market-places, and thrusts itself into our bargains; it offers gold, it offers silver; it leads us into the house of riot and intemperance; it brings wine and goblets, and says, "Eat and drink, for to-morrow you die :"-it turns us from men into beasts; and, after having deprived us of our senses and our reason, its puts the weapon into our hand, and bids us commit violence and murder; it sits by our side at our meals, and joins in our conversations; it creeps into our minds, and poisons our thoughts; it puts venom and impurity upon our tongue; it hides our Bibles from us, or it shuts them when we open them. Sometimes it crosses our path like a serpent; sometimes it steals upon us like a thief; sometimes it comes muffled like a friend; sometimes it rushes upon us like an assassin. "It is about
our path and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways:"-how then shall any man pretend to say, that he is to sit still and asleep, and that every power of his soul is not to be up in arms, with such a spectre as this following him at his heels through life?
But is watchfulness all we could learn of ourselves? Alas! do we imagine that we should be able, of ourselves, to overthrow this terrible enemy? y? Alas! if we were only watchful, and went no farther, what would it avail? It would only prove the ease with which we could be conquered. How then shall we attempt to make war upon this fearful adversary that is every where, and seems to possess all the means of destruction? How-but by going to One, who is also every where, and can meet it wherever it dares to appear;-to One, who is also "about our path and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways;"-to Him, who can say, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther." And thus when we have added prayer to watchfulness, and gained the Spirit of God on our side, we shall be able, either to escape, or to encounter him "who goeth about seeking whom he may devour," and we shall walk through the flames of the burning, fiery furnace, with the Son of God by our side.
There seem to be two fatal causes that still blind men to their danger-that still lull them in this dreadful slumber. The first isa confidence that there are a thousand temptations that are not dangerous to them, which, in fact, would be no temptations to them to which they would not feel any inclination to give way. Therefore they conclude, that they are so sure of their power of resisting in such cases, that it is not necessary to be on their guard; or, either to watch themselves, or to pray to a Higher Power, to prevent them from entering into these temptations. Alas! they "know not what manner of spirit they are of." The disciples thought so too, and they were dreadfully deceived. You can do nothing of yourself-your sufficiency must be of God.
But, just to conceive this :--there are few of us that cannot remember some time of our lives, in which we would not have believed any one who would have foretold us many of the sins we have since committed; there are few of us who cannot recollect when they would have turned away, with disgust, from things which they have since done; when they were free from guilty habits in which they
have since indulged. We thought then of those things of which we have since been guilty, as we do now of those of which we have not yet been guilty. Nothing is more easy than to imagine to ourselves some certain situation in which we would have given way to these temptations, against which we now conceive ourselves so secure. To what do we owe it, that we have not been put in that situation?--To the mercy of God; and to nothing else. There is no one that can tell what he would do in a totally new situation; or, in one to which he has not been accustomed.
But the second, and a much more fatal cause, that contributes to blind us, and to prevent us from "watching and praying that we enter not into temptation," is one exactly the opposite of the former. The former was an impression that the temptations were such as we were sure we could overcome: but, this is such a fond and doating attachment to our favorite temptations that we cannot bear to part with them; on the contrary, we embrace them desperately, even at the peril of our souls. We either willingly sleep on and take our rest, with a kind of mad hope that there may be no danger, because we do not allow ourselves to see it; or, we flatter ourselves that we may yield to these temptations because we do not give way to others, for which we have little or no inclination. Alas! this is the very sin,-these are the very temptations against which we should most watch and pray. It is the sin of our own heart"the sin that most easily besets us," against which the Law of God is most powerfully directed. Just conceive what would become of the Law of God, if every man had the privilege of lopping off whatever part he pleased; that is, (in other words) that the only sins which a man was bound not to commit, were those of which he had little or no inclination to be guilty. This would destroy the very nature and object of all law, It is to the sin of your heart that Christ lays the most powerful claim it is this, above all others, that he demands of you for his watching, his praying, his blood, and his life.
But, observe how gently he sets about taking it from you. He does not rudely tear it out of your heart; but he bids you watch and pray, while the temptation is yet far distant, that you may not enter into it. He consults your weakness; he indulges your infirmities-for he shared them himself. He might have said, Show your love and your devotion to me, by running headlong into the midst of temptation, and resisting it. No-but he bids you watch, to avoid it, and pray, to avoid it.
In the first place then, how shall we watch against our temptations? The first and chief guard must be upon our hearts. We must observe the wicked and sinful thought in its birth, and crush it in its very cradle. It is then weak and tender; it may then be easily destroyed; but if once neglected, it will start up into the growth of a giant. The heart, we know, is the source and root of all evil; for, "out of it proceed adulteries, fornications, murders, theft, covetousness, pride, envy, blasphemy."
Our next guard must be on our lips; for, as St. James says, "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able
also to bridle his whole body." The fact is, our conversation gives us our character, even more than our actions. It is a more continued and constant thing than our deeds; and it generally governs our deeds themselves. Words will grow into actions: what we love to speak, we love to do; and, of course, thus encourage ourselves in that disposition, and leave ourselves to the temptation when it comes. "Behold," says St. James, "how great a matter a little fire kindleth;" "and the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. So is the tongue amongst our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." If so, let us keep our lips, and check the impure, the blasphemous, and the uncharitable expressions, and, when we think we are only checking words we may find that we have been controlling actions.
In the next place, we must be sure to avoid the company in which we are most tempted to transgress. There is nothing that lays Conscience and Religion so fearfully asleep. It creates new desires, new passions, new vices, of which we never dreamed we were capable. It feeds and encourages those which we felt before. Temptation here sits by our side in the disguise of a friend; as Judas himself, "it dippeth its hands with us in the dish." It wins upon us by looks, by words, by gestures, by example; and, we can no more feel its slow and penetrating influence, than we can feel the infection of a fever or a pestilence creeping into our bodies, until we find it, at once, burning in our vitals.
But what will it avail, if we only attempt to banish evil thoughts from our hearts-evil language from our tongue-evil companions from our society? If we do not attempt to fill their place with good ones, "the Evil Spirit that had gone out for a season, will
return into his house whence he came out; and, our last state will be worse than the first." To the study of the Word of God, therefore, and to the company who are humbly looking in the same glorious book, for Christ and salvation, must we fly for pure hearts and for holy lips; and from thence can we people our hearts with all blessed and spiritual thoughts, and anoint our lips with the conversation of heaven. But "who is sufficient for these things ?" Even when we cannot help acknowledging that all this is necessary, just, and reasonable, who does not feel that his nature rises up in array, and rebels against their performance? Now, observe, how poor and weak is that sinful nature to which we belong, when we must not dare to meet temptation boldly, face to face, but endeavour to escape by flight and stratagem, and yet, even to escape, we are, of ourselves, unequal. What, then, is to be done? Our blessed Lord hath taught us what is to be done. He has taught us, who not only watched but prayed that he himself might not enter into temptation. He hath taught us to pray "that we may not be abandoned to temptation; but, that we may be delivered from evil." And, that we may be encouraged "to watch and pray," we are graciously assured "that God will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.
ON GOD'S FORGIVENESS.
Of all those lineaments of moral beauty which yet linger round the soul of fallen man, is none more captivating than a readiness to pardon, where it is accompanied, at the same time, by a distinct perception of great injury received. Some persons there are whose disinclination to hold out and contend with offenders, arises very much from a kind of natural indolence of temper which is averse to trouble, and would purchase quietness at any price. And there exists in others, a blindness of attachment to particular individuals, which forbids their seeing the transgressions of those individuals in a proper light; the strength of previous fondness biasses the very judgment, and makes it think weakly and absurdly, so that with them, to be an object of regard, is to be one who may commit offence upon offence with impunity. No thinking person could admire this easiness of disposition, or foolishness of undiscriminating attachment. Such conduct, indicating as it does, rather the absence of strong feeling than the presence of it, awakens not so much our reverence as our pity.
But when one evidently of lively sensibilities, and true and generous emotions, one who can well appreciate what is praise-worthy and what blameable, has been injured by a being which it loved, and yet upon the returning penitence of the offender exhibits the utmost readiness to forgive and (if it might be) to forget; when we see the strong energies of a heart fraught with genuine feeling, pouring themselves forth towards a repentant criminal not in the way of exaggerating the magnitude of its own sufferings before the transgressor's eyes, but of expatiating to itself, as it were, on the depth of that newly awakened sorrow in another; when we see its solicitudes to be altogether, that the tears which are now falling fast along the cheeks of the late object of its disapprobation, may be dried up at once by the strong warmth of a full and free forgiveness; when we see this, it is impossible not to be affected; there is a forgetfulness of self which commands our love and admiration.
Now, if this be true, (and true it is) as concerns the intercourse of man with man, how much more powerfully does it hold good in what regards the intercourse of man with God. For between man and man there is the bond of a common nature. No matter how low one may have fallen in the extent of his transgression against another, no matter how frequently offence may have followed upon pardon, till kindness was almost worn out; still this recollection must remain, that we carry in our bosoms the seeds of the self-same evil which has lately manifested itself in unkindness towards us. We must, if we think justly, remember our frame, that it is but dust, and that it is nothing but the interfering hand of
a gracious Providence, which prevents our occupying the place of those who have done evil in our sight, and that there is that in us, which, if fully developed, might lead us to commit excesses that should humble us in the dust, and make it necessary for us to sue from others the pardon which is now solicited at our hands. But with God is no possibility of error. Through the past durations of eternity, or throughout the ceaseless flow of futurity, the mind of Jehovah must be essentially incapable of the reception of evil. There is a 'cannot be tempted,' a magnificent impeccability, which sheds its glory around the throne, where sits the "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords." Consequently, if God show a readiness to pardon, a facility of return to every thankless prodigal, who, presuming on his goodness has insulted it; it is from no internal reminiscences of conscious weakness, it is from no awakening considerations of a similar forgetfulness of what is right being within his own reach. No. God knows himself unchangeable; and therefore, if he manifest to creatures who continually lapse, and sin, and fall away, the ready indications of his paternal forgiveness; it is a case which admits of no parallel-there is nothing like such compassion within the range of infinity.
We have no need, we trust, here to remark what a manifestation God has made of his readiness to pardon sinners, if they do but repent and turn to him by faith in Jesus Christ. These pages can hardly fall into the hands of any who have not heard the Gospel message sounding in their ears. To all who read this feeble essay, the angelic message has long since been delivered, "Unto you is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord;" and surely they who have heard of Jesus, have no need to be told that the divine compassions fail not. "Greater love," said the blessed Redeemer himself, Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." True, earth's records furnish nothing beyond this; but upon the pages of the heavenly volume is written that which far exceeds it; for there we read of one who, while we were yet enemies, poured out his blood for our deliverance. It was for Jesus to be the exemplification in his own person, how far the love of God exceeds all human devotedness. That love which led the Author of Creation to disrobe himself of the bright investments of his original eternal glory, which bad him amid the wondering regards of astonished angels, descend upon this poor polluted speck of earth, to walk a weary though a brief pilgrimage upon its sin-stained face; to wash it with his tears; yea, to moisten it with his blood; and this, that he might say to many of his persecutors and his blasphemers in the last day, Come ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world," that he might tell those who would not in his distress, watch with him one hour, "I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also;" this is that love which defies the power of eulogy, and forbids the possibility of praise. It must come to the perishing soul, and commend itself there by its splendid simplicity. Human language seems but to