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I MAKE NO PROFESSION.
he cannot bear that it should be doubtful which side he is on; true love will not shrink to declare itself; he is the servant of Jesus, and it is his heart's joy to own it. What would such an one say to your cold-hearted speech, "I make no profession?" He would it with the indignation of a burning, loving heart.
The profession Jesus demands is, the expression of the heart and life. The profession many offer is mere lip service; it is hypocrisy; it is professing what they are not: this God hates. You are quite right in steering clear of this. You are right in not pretending to be what you are not, in not feigning a love you do not feel; but you are wrong in being content not to feel it. Their sin has hateful hypocrisy; yours open rebellion: it will be a fearful balance that will determine at the last who merits the heaviest punishment-certainly neither can lead to life. We read of a time when the people of Israel made no profession. "Thou saidst, There is no hope; I have loved strangers, and after them will I go," Jer. ii. 25. Did God overlook their sin? No, we find him soon after pronouncing the fearful words, "Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?"
Arise, then, and repent. Why will ye die? Had God appointed no refuge, there were some reason in your sheltering yourself in your refuge of lies; but surely now you will be without excuse. Perhaps you feel that you can make no profession, for you have neither faith, hope, nor love to profess. Ask your own conscience, then, with equal straightforwardness, whether it be safe to remain in this state. If it answer, "No"-if God's Spirit awaken but one gracious fear, oh! lull it not with false peace. The danger is great; no fears can overrate it; for even according to God's fear, so is his wrath, Psa. xc. 11. But, blessed be his name, the refuge is near. "Repent, and believe the gospel," Mark i. 15. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," John i. 29. Call on the name of the Lord, and you shall be heard. He invites you to touch the sceptre of his mercy: "What wilt thou? What is thy request?" If you delay, you may possibly be rejecting the last call of mercy he means to send. Now your soul is empty; but he has said, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it," Psa. lxxxi. 10. If you seek his mercy, he will fulfil his promise to you; and out of the fulness of the heart the mouth will speak. Obtain the reality, and the profession will follow.
Yet we must own, that though "I make no profession" is never the language of warm, glowing love to Jesus, and is most frequently the cloak of utter carelessness, we do sometimes hear these words from the lips of weak, timid Christians. We hope their hearts are right with God; they cannot quite conceal the light that burns within them, but they dare not set it on a candlestick. They dare not go to the Lord's table, and openly join his
people, lest they should afterwards, weak as they feel they are, fall into sin, and dishonour his holy name. They would sometimes speak a word for Jesus to their neighbours, but they fear lest they should seem to talk more than they practise, and so they are silent. Brethren, these things ought not so to be. We would not check holy and humble fear, it is a precious safeguard to the soul; but it must not be a one-sided fear. You are afraid lest your practice should not come up to your profession; but you are not afraid lest your profession should fall short of your Master's command. Jesus calls his people the light of the world, the salt of the earth. He bids you confess him before men: venture to obey him, for it is the only safe course. Cherish, on the one hand, the holy fear you now have of falling short of your profession; but encourage yourselves, on the other, in the promise of your God, that his strength shall be made perfect in your weakness. To obey is your duty; not to choose out such commands as you think suited to your strength, but simply to obey, in the humble confidence that strength will be given according to your day. God's own word is pledged for it, what farther assurance can you desire? Dear friends, try your own spirits. Search and see, if under this unwillingness to confess Christ, there be not some lurking feeling that you had rather not go all lengths in serving Christ? Do you fear to profess too much, because you have a secret desire not to be bound to practise too much? Remember how deceitful the heart is! Quite unknown to you, this thought may be lurking within; but if it be, it will be a blight upon your soul. Christ cannot open the full treasures of his love to a heart half closed against him. You will walk in darkness. You cannot rest safely while sin is allowed. It is an actively working poison, it must be thrown out, or your soul's life is in peril. When any command of God is habitually broken, whatever the cause may be, there is danger to that soul; it must awake, bestir itself, or the danger may end in death,
If conscience honestly bears witness, there is no shrinking from a full surrender of your souls to Jesus; nothing but the fear of your own weakness restrains you from openly professing what you sincerely feel. Then, brethren, cast off this unworthy fear. It also is a sin, a soul-blighting sin. You cannot safely harbour it. Dishonour not your Saviour by doubting his power and willingness to help you. Let not fear make you, even in appearance, join the ranks of those, who making "no profession" to serve him, acknowledge themselves the servants of Satan. Come out from among them; own your Master boldly: he will bless you you will have fresh life and joy in your own spirits; and your brightly shining light may be the honoured means of bringing other souls to heaven.
PRAYING OR SINNING-WHICH SHALL BE
It was a saying of an old author, that, "Either prayer will make a man give over sinning, or sin will make a man give over praying." Does any reader of these lines feel inclined to reply, "Yes, it is all very well to quote old sayings; but I know such an one and such another, who go to church or to chapel as regularly, and say their prayers at home as devoutly as you can wish; but, for all that, they are no better than their neighbours. They have not left off sinning yet, let old authors say what they may." Granted; but this is not all that you might have said. Not a few, it is to be feared, say many prayers, in order that they may sin the more. Many, after having been savingly converted to God, have confessed that, though they said prayers times without number, and, it may be, with much apparent devotion, yet they never truly prayed!
As to one case of the kind there can be no mistake, for we read of it in the Bible. A man belonged to a particular sect, famous for this one thing-that they made long prayers. He was likewise one of the most devout of the whole sect, and so had always been in the habit of making these long prayers; yet, when he was savingly converted to God, it is said of him, as a
thing as new as it was strange, Tarsus: for, BEHOLD, he prayeth!"
What, then, is prayer? We see what it is not; but what is it? When a person, in imminent danger of perishing from fire or from water, calls upon another for help, he means what he says, and really wishes for the aid he implores. When a person in destitute circumstances, and ready to perish, begs for relief from one able to afford it; or when any one has set his whole mind on the attainment of some particular object, and requests the assistance of a man of great influence, who has the power of obtaining it for him; such persons are perfectly sincere in the petitions they present. This may serve to give us some notion of what prayer really is.
What is prayer? Perhaps it cannot be better explained than in the following words :-It is the expression of sincere and heartfelt desire for blessings which God has promised to give, offered up with faith in the mediation and intercession of Jesus Christ. It is the cry of one who is conscious of his imminent danger by reason of sin, to Him who is "able to save to the uttermost." It is the petition of one who feels he is perishing from want, to Him who is able to "supply all his need." It is the giving utterance to the heart-felt wish of one who has set his whole mind on the attainment of those spiritual blessings which God has promised, and upon God himself, as his final rest and portion; prompting him, it may be, even to use the language of one who is held forth in the word of God as an example to those who pray-"I will not let thee go, except thou bless me," Gen. xxxii. 26.
Go, and inquire for Saul of
Now, if a person has such desires, he must wish to be holy. Not that he will henceforth be free from the rising up in his mind of sinful desires; but they will be subdued. He must have a prevailing desire to be holy, for the plainest of all reaThe salvation of which he now longs to partake, is a deliverance from sin in every sense of the word; from all sinful feelings and inclinations as truly as from the punishment that sin deserves. The blessings God has to bestow are spiritual-holy blessings. The heaven in which they all end, is a holy place. God himself is holy. Say, then, whether it is possible for a man to have directly opposite desires at the same moment. Can he supremely and prevailingly love the very thing which he hates, or hate what he loves? How plain, then, is the consequence! If a man really prays, he cannot willingly and habitually sin. If he willingly goes on in the ways of sin, he cannot really pray; he must give up prayer. The two cannot exist together. There is not, there cannot be, any argument in saying, "I know such a man who prays, but he has not given up sinning for all that."
PRAYING OR SINNING WHICH SHALL BE GIVEN UP?
pray, without meaning a word they uttered. The prayer of all such is "abomination to the Lord:" see Prov. xv. 8; xxviii. 9.
But we have said that real prayer is not only the sincere desire of the heart, but that it must be offered up with faith in the mediation and intercession of Jesus Christ; and this is a point of the greatest importance. By this is meant, not merely that we ought to end our prayers with a mention of the name of Christ, but that, in order to pray aright, we must have a stedfast faith in him, as our righteous Advocate with the Father, who has "entered into the holy place;" that is, into heaven itself, as it is said, "with his own blood." We must have faith in him who, though he "knew no sin, was made sin for us," that we might be saved from the wrath of God through him, see Heb. ix. 12; 2 Cor. v. 21. Now this faith, we are told, "purifieth the heart," Acts xv. 9; is directly connected with, and produces, all the fruits of holiness-love to God-obedience to his will-a desire to please and glorify him; "fruits" which are directly the opposite of sin. Faith, too, is always connected with repentance, and cannot exist without it; and the meaning of repentance is a hearty sorrow for sin, and a desire to forsake it. So here, again, we are brought to the same conclusion-that praying will make a man give up sinning, or sinning will make him give up praying.
Which, then, will you choose, and which will you give up? This is the all-important question which is now put to you. Oh! look for one moment at the consequences of each; for be assured they are as certain as cause and effect can be, in any case whatever.
The consequences of prayer!-These are stated by our blessed Saviour in a single sentence. He does not lay down a doctrine or a system respecting it, but he simply states a fact, when he says, "Every one that asketh receiveth," Matt. vii. 8. He, then, that in the manner just spoken of, prays in the faith of Christ "receives" the forgiveness of all sin, and with it "all things" which can bless or satisfy the soul in time and to eternity. "God is love," 1 John iv. 8. There is only one obstacle which can prevent all the needful blessings our heavenly Father has to bestow from being poured out upon us. Let SIN be pardoned and removed for ever; and as certainly as the sun will shine when the clouds are rolled away, so surely will the God of all grace lift up upon us the light of his countenance, and bestow all things needful here, and eternal glory hereafter. He who lives in the habit of constant, fervent, believing prayer, has a refuge in all trouble-a guide in all perplexity-a joy of which no one who does not possess it can form any conception-and an antidote against the fear of death. He who could say, "It is good for me to draw near unto God," was also able to say, "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory:" see Psalm lxxiii. 24.