But sometimes the professing Christian comes to regard the place of secret intercourse with God with very different feelings. He loses, perhaps by a process so gradual that he is scarcely conscious of it for a time, the tenderness of heart, and the elevation and fervor of devout affection that he had been used to feel in meeting God. There is less and less of spirit and more and more of form in his religious exercises. He retires at the accustomed time rather from force of habit than because inclination draws him. He is enclined to curtail his seasons of retirement or to neglect it altogether if a plausible pretext can be found. He reproaches himself, perhaps, but hopes that the evil will cure itself at length. And so he goes on from day to day, and week to week. Prayer—if his heartless service deserves the name—affords him no pleasure and adds nothing to his strength. Where such a state of things exists it is evident that the pulses of spiritual life are ebbing fast. If the case is yours, dear reader, it ought to fill you with alarm. Satan is gaining an advantage of you and seducing you from God.
A second sign of spiritual declension is indifference to the usual means of grace. The spiritual life, not less than the natural life, requires appropriate and continual nourishment. For this want God has made ample provision in his Word. To the faithful-disciple the Scriptures are rich in interest and profit. "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day." To such a soul the preaching of the gospel is a joyful sound; and the place where kindred spirits mingle in social praise and worship is far more attractive than the scenes of worldly pleasure. But, alas! from time to time it happens that some who bear the Christian name and who have rejoiced in Christian hopes, insensibly lose their relish for the Scriptures. If they continue to read them daily, it is no longer with such appreciation of their power and beauty as makes them the bread of life, refreshing and invigorating the soul. Their minds are occupied no small portion of the time with thoughts of earthly things. They find it easy to excuse themselves from frequenting the place of social prayer, and even content themselves, perhaps, with an occasional half-day attendance on the more public service of the sanctuary. And when they are in the place of worship they feel listless, destitute of spiritual affection, disposed to notice others or to attend to only mere words and forms. They want, in a great measure, that preparation of the heart, without which the means of grace are powerless and lacking in pleasure or profit to the soul. Such indifference is conclusive proof that the soul has departed from God; has grieved the Holy Spirit and lost the vital power of godliness. If you, reader, are conscious of this indifference, see in it an infallible sign of your backsliding. It declares you have departed from the fountain of living waters and are a wanderer from your God.
A third indication of declension in the Christian life is a devotion to the world. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." Covetousness is idolatry. Christians are solemnly enjoined to set their affections on things above, and to lay up treasures in heaven. But look at yonder professed disciple. See how inordinately anxious he is about gain. He is giving all his thoughts and time to business. He enlarges his plans and extends his views. He suffers the hours of worldly business to encroach upon the time which should be spent in secret or in family worship or in the social prayer. He forgets that he has no right to do this, and that he can not, without sin, permit the claims of earth to crowd out the claims of God and his own immortal nature. Look, too, at his compliance with the tastes and maxims of worldly people. He appears to feel it is not best to be strict in his adhesion to his principles. He doubts if there is any harm in this or that or the other worldly indulgence. He does not see the need of being so strenuous about little things. He is anxious to please everybody and can not bear to thwart the wishes of the worldly-minded. If the world dislikes any of the doctrines or the duties of religion he would have little said about them. In a word, he is all things to all men, in a very different sense from what Paul meant. In his sentiments, his associations, his pleasures, his mode of doing business, his conversation, his whole character, there is far too little that evinces strength of holy principle and godliness. O reader, has your case been described? You are then a backslider from the God whom you covenanted to serve.
A fourth sign of a state of declension in spirituality is an unwillingness to receive Christian counsel or reproof. The Spirit of Christ is a tender, gentle, docile Spirit. When the heart of the disciple is full of holy affection he feels that he is frail and insufficient. He seeks wisdom and strength from above and is thankful for the kind suggestions of those whose experience and opportunities have been greater than his own. If he errs and is admonished by some faithful Christian brother, he receives it meekly and with a thankful spirit. "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness," is the language of his heart. Even though reproof in itself be painful, he would not that it should be omitted when he has been in fault, for he dreads nothing so much as doing wrong—as sinning against God and his own soul.
But the spirit that departs from God and duty is a self-willed spirit. It is impatient of restraint. It is irritable and captious instead of meek and willing to be taught. It can not brook any crossing of its views, but esteems advice impertinent and meets admonition with resentment. When he exhibits such a temper of mind; when he disregards the opinions and feelings of fellow Christians; when he affects independence and prides himself on doing as he pleases; when he keeps out of the reach of Christian counsel, and justifies himself when affectionately reproved; when he comes to regard the watchfulness of others over him as an unwelcome and irksome thing; [when he charges you with having a spirit of faultfinding, of having no charity, but that you only discourage and press him down when you try to show him his lack of spiritual life],—it is clear that he exhibits no more the fruits of the Holy Spirit's influence on his soul. His piety has declined; he no longer lives in intimacy with God and in the atmosphere of heaven. His light is dim. His glory has departed.
The last indication of religious declension that we shall now speak of is a careless indifference to the danger arising from temptation. A Christian whose piety is warm and vigorous has great tenderness of conscience. He dreads the least approach of evil. Even the suggestions of sin to the mind are painful. He therefore prays earnestly and daily, "Lead me not into temptation," and carefully avoids placing himself in dangerous circumstances. Sometimes, however, you will see professing Christians who seem to want this instinctive sense of danger. They often place themselves in circumstances when they might easily have foreseen their strength of principle would be liable to be put to the severest test. They keep company in which it is nearly impossible that their moral feelings should not be defiled. They allow themselves to assort with the idle, the frivolous, with those who are given to foolish talking and jesting; they indulge idle thoughts, repeat amusing stories, read hooks and papers that do not gender to piety, etc. But he who is willing to go as far toward evil as he can with safety, has lost one of the greatest safe-guards of virtue. He who is ready to tamper with temptation is on dangerous ground and in a sad state of declension. O reader, turn ye about, shake loose from the world, draw nigh to God, let the deep breathings waft your soul upward and upward to greater heights in God's joy and love, and this world will only be a dim specter in the distance.
"O for a closer walk with God!" This is the inward pleading of many a precious blood-washed soul. I beg leave to tell you that that fulness of God, that deep and perfect satisfaction of soul, that sweet feeling of deep reverence, that hushed and sacred feeling of awe, that close walk with God, is obtained and retained only by the utmost diligence. Slothfulness in the Christian life is a sure source of degeneration. Too frequently when saints reach "fair Canaan's happy land" they think they have nothing now to do but to sing and shout and praise God and go to heaven "on flowery beds of ease." To every newly arrived Christian in Canaan is given the command, "Go forward and possess the land." To do this battles must be fought, giant foes must be defeated, and the greatest diligence must be practised. God promised ancient Israel to drive out all the nations of Canaan from before them, and that every place whereon the soles of their feet should tread should be theirs, if they would diligently keep all the commandments that the Lord commanded them, to love the Lord, to walk in his ways, and to cleave unto him. See Deut. 11:22-24.
If we will diligently obey God and go forward at his command he will lead us where the milk and honey flow, and where the pastures are green. Our walk with him will be sweet and our souls perfectly satisfied. Since the term diligence is so frequently used in Scripture and such emphasis placed upon it, it is well worth our time to learn its meaning. We often, among the saints, hear testimonies like these: "I am living up to all the Word of God"; or, "All the Bible requires of me, I am doing"; "I love God and find delight in doing all his will," etc. Such expressions are very full of meaning and may sometimes mean more than the witness comprehends. Let me ask you, Are you as diligent in every respect as the Bible commands you to be?
Diligence implies an earnest and constant effort to accomplish a desired end—a carefulness, a heedfulness, an industry, a close and fixed attention.
Many a heart has been robbed of the love of God because it was not kept by diligence. Many a beloved saint can look back to a few years ago when his soul was more fully satisfied and his heart abounded more in the love of God, and all because diligence was not given to "keep the heart." In Josh. 22:5 the commandment is to take diligent heed to love God, to walk in his ways, to keep his commandments, to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all the heart and with all the soul. May the Lord help the reader to comprehend the strength of this commandment. O how precious! To take diligent heed to love God, implies a careful avoidance of everything that would have a tendency to suppress his love in our hearts and to eagerly seek all possible means of increasing that love. All company whose spirit and conversation have a tendency to destroy love is avoided as far as possible without violating the command, "Be courteous." Reading amusing stories; telling amusing, worldly incidents, the happenings of bygone days; fondness for the general news of the day; gossiping; admiration for the pomp and show of the world; careless, idle thoughts; fondness for society,—all serve to extinguish the love of God in our hearts. Talking with others about God and his works, reading his Word, meditating upon him, praying, attending meetings, doing good to all men, giving of our means to advance his cause,—all these increase the love in our hearts toward him. To be diligent, to serve the Lord with all the heart and with all the soul, is to be industrious in doing all we can for him; seeking opportunities of doing good, carefulness in obeying all his commands, testifying to the works of God, and showing forth his praises continually.
Your soul may long for a closer walk with God, and well that it does; but if you do not keep your heart with all diligence from the world, you will never enjoy the blessed experience. But by giving diligence you can have such a walk with God as to fully satisfy your soul.
But few traits of Christian character are more lovely than lowliness. Humility, meekness, and lowliness are terms nearly synonymous, but not wholly so. It is somewhat difficult for the mind to grasp the shades of difference in their meaning. It appears, however, that lowliness is the deepest depth of humility and meekness. Meekness is the opposite of impatience, harshness, or irritability, and has for its fruit gentleness and kindness. Humility is the opposite of pride, and has for its fruits modesty, unforwardness, etc. Lowliness is simply the opposite of highness in self in any respect, and has for its fruits meekness and humility with their fruits.
To us this command is given: 'Walk worthy of your vocation with all lowliness.' If you have the experience of "all lowliness," you will go on in your vocation without discouragement and disappointment, though you are unnoticed and wholly ignored. And though God promotes others and honors them and they are loved and praised by men, you are glad for them and rejoice. If you have the experience of "all lowliness" in your soul, you will not have the least disposition to lift up self. All you do and say will be in godly sincerity. Now look closely.
If God heals some one through your prayers, be careful when you tell of the healing that it is to lift up the Lord only. If you have composed a song, and sing it to a company who do not know that it is your song, then you tell them the Lord gave you the song, what is your motive? Do you want them to know how good and great the Lord is, and nothing more? or do you want them to know that you are the author? I say, look closely into your motive. If, from the lowliness of your heart, you desire in all you do and say, only to exalt the Lord, it will be felt in the depth of your speech, and God will be honored; but if there is the least inclination or feeling to exalt self, it will be felt in the gracelessness of your speech, and God will be dishonored. Go humbly on in life attending to the work God has assigned to you, doing it well and in all lowliness of heart before him, and be content.
If you could be as humble when you choose rich apparel (which I flatly deny), yet you could not be as beneficent, as plenteous in good works. Therefore every shilling that you needlessly spend on your apparel is in effect stolen from the poor! For what end do you want these ornaments? To please God? No!—but to please your own fancy or to gain the admiration and applause of those who are no wiser than yourself. If so, what you wear you are in effect tearing from the back of the naked; and the costly and delicate food you eat, you are snatching from the mouth of the hungry. For mercy, for pity, for Christ's sake, for the honor of his gospel, stay your hand! Do not throw this money away. Do not lay out on nothing, yea worse than nothing, what may clothe your poor, naked, shivering fellow creatures.
Many years ago, when I was at Oxford, on a cold winter's day, a young maid (one of those we keep at school) called on me. I said, "You seem half starved. Have you nothing to cover you but that thin gown?" She said, "Sir, this is all I have." I put my hand in my pocket, but found no money left, having just paid away all that I had. It struck me, "Will thy Master say, 'Well done, good and faithful steward. Thou hast adorned thy wall with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold'? O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of the poor maid? See thy expensive apparel in the same light; thy gown, hat, head-dress!"
Everything about thee which costs more than Christian duty required thee to lay on, is the blood of the poor! Oh, be wise for the time to come! Be more merciful; more faithful to God and man; more abundantly clad (like men and women professing godliness) with good works.
It is stark, staring nonsense to say, "Oh, I can afford this or that!" If you have regard to common sense, let that silly word never come into your mouth. No man living can afford to throw away any part of that food or raiment into the sea which was lodged with him on purpose to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. And it is far worse than waste to spend any part of it in gay and costly apparel. For this is no less than to turn wholesome food into deadly poison. It is giving so much money to poison both yourself and others as far as your example spreads, with pride, vanity, anger, lust, love of the world, and a thousand "foolish and hurtful desires" which tend to "pierce them through with many sorrows." O God, arise and maintain thy own cause! Let not men and devils any longer put out our eyes and lead as blindfolded into the pit of destruction.
God demands of his people that they dress modestly as becomes people who profess holiness. The putting on of apparel for adornment and the wearing of jewelry are not consistent with Christian modesty. The nude and lewd art of dressing which is becoming so prevalent among professors of Christ is an abomination in the sight of God, and a practise which no virtuous man or woman can countenance. If professors would stop and consider the character of women who invent popular fashions of the age they might well blush with shame at their eager attempts to follow the modern styles of dress invented by the wicked leaders of fashion in London and Paris, whence the latest styles of this country generally emanate. It is indeed sad to behold the young of to-day making themselves unfit to fulfil the sacred functions of wife and mother by the use of the modern corset, as well as laying a foundation for years of misery, dragged out in this life by diseases brought upon them by catering to the creed of millions who worship at the shrine of Fashion. The pride of their hearts, pampered and fed by the foolish practises of the age, blinds them to their obligations to God as a Creator and Savior; and amid the whirl of earthly vanity they hasten to the awful doom that awaits all who fail to obey the gospel of Christ.
The Word of God gives plain directions to Christians as to how they should dress. In olden times God permitted his people to wear some jewelry; that is, there was no law against it; but there came a time when he promised that he would cleanse the hearts of his people from all pride and vanity, and they should find no pleasure in putting on ornamental dress and jewelry, and costly array. In Isa. 3:16-23 we have a clear prophecy of the gospel age, and how God was going to have his people dress modestly in accordance with their profession. We shall quote from the LXX: "Thus saith the Lord, because the daughters of Sion are haughty, and have walked with an outstretched neck, and with winking of the eyes, and motion of the feet: ... therefore the Lord will humble the chief daughters of Sion, and the Lord will expose their form in that day; and the Lord will take away the glory of their raiment, the curls and the fringes, and the crescents, and the chains, and the ornaments of their faces, and the array of glorious ornaments, and the armlets, and the bracelets, and the wreathed work, and the finger-rings, and the ornaments for the right hand, and the earrings, and the garments with scarlet borders, and the garments with purple grounds, and the shawls to be worn in the house, and the Spartan transparent dresses, and those made of fine linen, and the purple ones, and the scarlet ones, and the fine linen, interwoven with gold and purple, and the light coverings for couches."
We shall now quote from the New Testament: "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works." 1 Tim. 2:9,10.
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear, whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." 1 Pet. 3:1-4.
The wearing of feathers, artificial flowers, frills, flounces, unnecessary tucks and trimmings, is not in harmony with the gospel standard of modest apparel. Queer-shaped hats, such as we see worn by the people who follow the fashions of the world, should be avoided by the saints as they would every other thing unbecoming to a Christian; not fashioning themselves according to their former lusts in their ignorance. "But as he which hath called you is holy, so he ye holy in all manner of conversation." 1 Pet. 1:15.
The all-wise God who gave these commands knows what is for the good of his people, and if we love him, we will obey. When the heart is cleansed from all pride there will be no difficulty in measuring up to the gospel on the matter of modest apparel. We trust all who read this may realize it is truth.
THE ELIXIR OF LIFE.
I have seen patent medicines bearing the above title. By the word elixir is meant length of days and happiness. The medical man by labeling his cordial with this title offers to give to all who will take it a long life of happiness. Such things have their sad failures; but I will offer to you a prescription, which, if you will carefully follow, will prove an unfailing elixir of life. "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it." 1 Pet. 3:10,11. If the reader will follow these directions strictly, making them practical in every-day life, we can upon the authority God has given insure him a long and happy life.
RULES FOR EVERY-DAY LIFE.
"Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt." Col. 4:6.
"Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it." Prov. 3:27.
"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without." Col. 4:5.
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings." Phil. 2:14.
"Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth." Prov. 27:2.
"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks." Prov. 27:23.
"Eat so much as is sufficient for thee." Prov. 25:16.
"Be not wise in your own conceits." Rom. 12:16
"Abstain from all appearance of evil." 1 Thes. 5:22.
"See that none render evil for evil unto any man." 1 Thes. 5:15.
"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love." Rom. 12:10.
"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Rom. 12:21.
"Be content with such things as ye have." Heb. 13:5.
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Eccl. 9:10.
"Let all things be done with charity." 1 Cor. 16:14.
"Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." Jas. 1:2.
"Keep thyself pure." 1 Tim. 5:22.
"In everything give thanks." I Thes. 5:18.
"Keep yourselves in the love of God." Jude 21.
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Eph. 6:18.
A HOLY LIFE.
What, in its true sense, is a holy life? It is the life of Jesus. His whole manner of life was truly holy. His life is the ideal life. If we would live holy, we must live as he lived. We must walk as he walked. The artist has his ideal before him, and with touches of the brush here and there upon his drawing he forms a picture in an exact image of the ideal. The life of Jesus is what we are to imitate. He sets the example of holy living and calls us to the same holy life. "As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." 1 Pet. 1:15. This text has a better rendering in the Revised Version: "Like as he which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living." We, as Christians, are God's offspring and as such are like him.
Holiness in the life of Jesus is found not only in the greater miracles which he performed, but also in the lesser happenings of his life. The restoring of life to the dead is no more beautifully holy than the laying of his hands upon the heads of children and blessing them. His memorable Sermon on the Mount no more portrays the loveliness of his character than the conversation with the woman by the wayside well. It is the little things in every-day life, if attended to and kept in the meekness and solemnity of the Spirit of Christ, that make life truly beautiful and holy. It is not the eloquent sermon that makes a life so sublime; but it is the tender smile, the kind word, the gentle look, that is given to all. It is the patient manner in which all the little trying and provoking things of life are met.
You may preach or write ever so forcibly and eloquently, and bring out the sublime truths of the Bible in great beauty; but if, in the privacy of your own home, there are little frettings, a little peevishness, a little crossness, a little levity, a little selfishness, a little distrust, your life is not as truly holy as it should be. If you desire God's holy image to be stamped upon your soul, your countenance, and your life, carefully avoid the little sprigs of lightness, the little bits of sloth and indolence, touches of forwardness, rudeness, coarseness, and crossness, and acts of selfishness, etc.
Pure words belong to a holy life. You should use the very choicest words. Words that are wholly free from vulgarity, slang, and the spirit of the world. Untidiness, uncleanness, carelessness, and shabbiness are not at all beautiful ornaments in a holy life. But quietness, modesty, and reticence are gems which sparkle in a holy life like diamond sets in a band of gold. Give attention to your words, your thoughts, your tone of voice, your feelings, the practise of self-denial, of little acts of benevolence, of promptness, of method and order. These are auxiliaries to holy living. Are there not many little things in your home life that you can improve upon? Seek God for help and be truly holy.
A SOLITARY WAY.
There is a mystery in human hearts, And though we be encircled by a host Of those who love us well, and are beloved, To ev'ry one of us, from time to time, There comes a sense of utter loneliness. Our dearest friend is "stranger" to our joy, And can not realize our bitterness. "There is not one who really understands, Not one to enter into all I feel," Such is the cry of each of us in turn. We wander in "a solitary way," No matter what or where our lot may be; Each heart, mysterious even to itself, Must live its inner life in solitude. And would you know the reason why this is? It is because the Lord desires our love. In ev'ry heart he wishes to be first, He therefore keeps the secret key himself, To open all its chambers, and to bless With perfect sympathy and holy peace Each solitary soul which comes to him. So when we feel this loneliness it is The voice of Jesus saying, "Come to me"; And ev'ry time we are "not understood," It is a call to us to come again: For Christ alone can satisfy the soul. And those who walk with him from day to day Can never have "a solitary way." And when beneath some heavy cross you faint And say, "I can not bear this load alone," You say the truth. Christ made it purposely So heavy that you must return to him. The bitter grief, which "no one understands," Conveys a secret message from the King, Entreating you to come to him again. The "Man of sorrows" understands it well, "In all points tempted," he can feel with you; You can not come too often, or too near. The Son of God is infinite in grace, His presence satisfies the longing soul; And those who walk with him from day to day Can never have "a solitary way."
STIRRING THE EAGLE'S NEST.
"As an eagle stirreth up her nest, that fluttereth over her young, he spread abroad his wings, he took them, he bare them on his pinions."
That picture is full of poetry, full of life and truth and beauty. Mark it. Have you ever seen an eagle stir up her nest? You know what happens. There in the nest, right upon the rocky heights, are the eaglets. The mother eagle comes and, taking hold of them, flings them out of the nest. They were so comfortable there, but she flings them right out of the nest, high above the earth. They begin to fall straightway. They never have been in air before; they have always been in the nest.
Is not that mother bird cruel? Why does she disturb the eaglets?
Watch her and you will understand. As long as you look upon the struggling eaglets in the air you miss the point. Watch the eagle. Having stirred up her nest, "she spreadeth abroad her pinions," the pinions that beat the air behind her as she rises superior to it. Where are the eaglets? Struggling, falling; she is superior; they are falling. Then what does she do? "She beareth them on her pinions." She swoops beneath them, catches them on her wings, and bears them up. What is she doing? Teaching them to fly. She drops them again, and again they struggle in the air, but this time not so helplessly. They are finding out what she means. She spreads her pinions to show them how to fly, and as they fall again, she catches them again. That is how God deals with you and me.
Has he been stirring up your nest? Has he flung you out until you feel lost in an element that is new and strange? Look at him. He is not lost in that element. He spreads out the wings of omnipotence to teach us how to soar. What then? He comes beneath us and catches us on his wings. We thought when he flung us out of the nest it was unkind. No; he was teaching us to fly that we might enter into the spirit of the promise, "They shall mount up with wings as eagles." He would teach us how to use the gifts which he has bestowed on us, and which we can not use as long as we are in the nest.
Fancy keeping eaglets in the nest! It is contrary to their nature, contrary to the purposes for which they are framed and fitted. There is a purpose in the eagle. What is it! Flight upward. There is a purpose in your life, new-born child of God! What is it? Flight Godward, sunward, heavenward. If you stop in the nest you will never get there. God comes into your life and disturbs you, breaks up your plans, and extinguishes your hopes, the lights that have lured you on. He spoils everything; what for? That he may get you on his wings and teach you the secret forces of your own life, and lead you to the higher development and higher purposes. The government of God is a disturbing element, but, praise his name! it is a progressive element.
SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO.
Do not forget to pray.
Do not waste any moments in idleness.
Do not use slang words in your conversation.
Do not build air-castles.
Do not think evil nor speak evil of any one.
Do not lack showing courtesy to all men.
Do not be rude in manners.
Do not think yourself to be something more than you are.
Do not try to make others think you are better than you really are.
Do not tell the faults of a friend to others.
Do not wear what the Bible condemns.
Do not dress slovenly.
Do not work too much.
Do not work too little.
Do not talk too much.
Do not eat too much.
Do not sleep too much.
Do not neglect going to meetings.
Do not neglect giving all you can to the cause of Christ.
Do not neglect reading the Bible.
Do not do to others what you would not like for them to do to you.
Do not forget to practise much self-denial.
Do not neglect to be zealously affected in a good cause.
Do not neglect to admonish your brother.
Do not seek the praise of men.
Do not do anything through strife or vain glory.
Do not be afraid of the devil.
Do not think your trials are greater than those of others.
Do not neglect to bear the burdens of others.
Do not neglect to bear your own burdens.
Do not fret, worry, nor murmur.
Do not testify to something you do not live.
Do not let your thoughts wander idly about.
Do not neglect to show meekness and kindness to all men.
Do not compromise with sin to the least degree.
Do not neglect your salvation.
Do not weary in well-doing, knowing in due season you shall reap if you
Do not faint.
There are but few words in the English language sweeter and more beautiful than the word purity. What tender, mellow light beams out from its depths through its crystal clearness! what a halo of glory encircles it! what a sweet melody is contained in the sound, which, as it falls upon the soul, awakens all that is manly, noble, and godly there! Purity! who can repeat this word and not feel and hear a sweet rythm reverberating through all the avenues of his spiritual being? "Keep thyself pure." Is there a soul so deep in slumber, so stupefied by the opiates of sin, as to know no awakening by the sweet melodious chimes that ring out from this heavenly command! Dismal, indeed, must be the heart in which no aspirations for a pure, devoted life are awakened by these glorious words.
Listen, O my soul, to the sweet music, "Keep thyself pure." Tuned by the Spirit and sung by the voice of inspiration, in the bright morning of this glorious gospel day, it comes ringing down through the ages and is awakening desires and aspirations for the truest nobility of manhood, the deepest piety, and the highest plane of moral purity to which man can attain through the redeeming grace of God.
The command to you, young man, is, "Keep thyself pure"; and to you, young lady, "Keep thyself pure"; and to all who are farther down the stream of life and hastening on to the boundless ocean of eternity, "Keep thyself pure." If you desire to comprehend something of the true meaning of purity, think of heaven: what purity is in heaven, so it is on earth; what it is in the life of Christ, so it is in the life of man. Here upon the shores of time we look away, by an eye of faith, and behold the purity of heaven and its inhabitants. We behold the angels and the great white throne, upon which sits the King of glory; but who, of all mankind, will really be eye-witnesses of that fair scene? The Lamb, who is the light over there, makes answer, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
From that golden throne of God and the Lamb, the "beloved disciple," from the land of visions, saw flowing a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal; and he heard the Lord of heaven and earth saying, "I will give unto him that is athirst of the water of life freely"; and the Spirit and the bride repeat the invitation, saying, "Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely." But what is this pure river of water of life? It is the wonderful river of God's saving grace, issuing forth from out his throne and flowing throughout all his kingdom. The Son of God extended his Father's kingdom to this earth and set the glorious stream of salvation flowing here. This wonderful stream is just as pure and its waters just as sweet in their onward flowing here, as they are when they come sparkling forth from out the throne. If you will come and wash in this crystal stream; if you will drink of its delicious waters,—they will make you as pure as the throne from which they flow. If you will allow them to ripple over your soul, they will cleanse you and make you pure, so that purity in your heart will not be inferior to that purity which encircles the throne of God. Glory to his name!
The Psalmist says, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." White is an emblem of purity. When John beheld the multitude of all nations standing before the throne and the Lamb, clothed in white robes, he asked whence they came. "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Rev. 7:14.
Purity of soul and heart and mind and conscience and thought and life is an experience to be attained to and enjoyed in this life. Peter says, "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth." 1 Pet. 1:22. Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart." Mat. 5:8. Paul says, "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience." 2 Tim. 1:3. Peter says, "I stir up your pure minds." 2 Pet. 3:1. Paul says, "Whatsoever things are pure, ... think on these things." See Phil. 4:8,9. Christ is the standard of purity. "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." 1 John 3:3. Purity in all the affections, in all the desires, in all the motives, and in all the thoughts. The heart that is made pure in the light of God reveals nothing contrary to heaven. Nothing can be more noble and beautiful upon earth than a pure life. Oh, how many unclean and impure thoughts and desires are filling the minds and hearts of men and women in these awful iniquitous days! Dear reader, "Keep thyself pure."
MEANS FOR GROWTH.
You have started out fairly upon the Christian way. You have been "born again"; you have been immersed in water, or buried with Christ in baptism; you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. With such an experience you are admitted to the contest for the "crown of life." Now since you are thus started out upon the Christian way, it is a fact that you must "grow in grace."
There are certain means for you to use that will promote growth. If you neglect these, you will not, you can not, grow. You must live much in prayer; you must read the Bible; you must attend meetings that are ordered of God; you must partake of the Lord's Supper as you have opportunity; you must wash the saints' feet. You will be blest with grace to your soul if you do these things as unto the Lord. You must give of your means to God's cause freely and cheerfully; you must diligently follow every good work; and you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge and grace of God.
LAY HOLD ON ETERNAL LIFE.
The "crown of life" lies at the end of the race. Some run well for a time, and then because of slight hindrances turn from the way. You must endure unto the end. You must follow the example of the zealous apostle who said, "I reach forth to the things that are before," and, "I press toward the mark for the prize." The prize was the crown of life. He bends forward in the race with all the energy of his soul. Down at the end of the race he beholds the crown. Sin, Satan, nor the world shall not hinder him in securing it. You must be just as much in earnest. You must strive, and that lawfully, lest some one take your crown.
Some years ago a number of boatmen off the coast of New England raced for a prize in single boats. As they were nearing the end of the race it was discovered by the spectators that a special favorite was a half-boat's length ahead of all its competitors. His friends began to cheer him, and he, animated by their cheers, gave a responsive cheer, and, in doing so, lost a stroke of the oar; a competitor seeing his opportunity bent to his oar with all energy, shot past him and won the prize.
The apostle Paul warns you against youthful lusts, and tells you to flee from them; to follow peace, righteousness, godliness; to fight the good fight of faith; and to lay hold upon eternal life.
We are in days when the love of many is waxing cold because iniquity abounds. You must keep the ardor of love glowing in your heart. Allow not the world nor aught else to extinguish the tender flame. Everything that has a tendency to suppress love, to cool its ardor, to dilute its sweetness in your soul, to lessen the yearnings of your heart for more of God, to deprive you of the sweet realization of constantly leaning on his breast,—consider all such things your bitter foes and rout them at any cost.
Run life's race with all the energy of your soul, never relaxing effort until the prize is in full possession. The dying testimony of the apostle Paul may be yours. When he had come down to the end of his journey he said as he stood, as it were, one foot upon time and the other in eternity, "The time of my departure is at hand." Then taking a last retrospective view of his life, he said, "I have fought a good fight." Then taking a look at inward conditions, he said, "I am ready to be offered up." Then looking out into the future's prospect, he said, "Henceforth there is a crown of righteousness laid up for me." O beloved young saints, run well your race. Keep your eyes upon the goal, fight the good fight of faith, be in earnest, live every moment for God, and you can have a dying testimony like the above.
CRUCIFIXION OF SELF.
It requires no little courage, coupled with the grace of God, to go to Calvary. There are many Christians who will follow Jesus so long as it is "Hosanna to the King of David," who fail to follow him to Calvary. Most persons love the sweets of grace, and thus many follow the Lord for the loaves and fishes; but when it comes to following him for his own sake, even unto judgment, where our earthliness is revealed, then too often we follow "afar off." Many will serve for reward, who refuse to serve for righteousness' sake. Satan understood this in the case of Job; so he said to the Lord, "Doth Job serve God for naught?" Job endured even unto the end, and proved by actual test his devotion to God and not to His gifts.
Saints are like soldiers—many there be who enlist, but few who fearlessly face death. All like life, though it be a life out of harmony with God. Satan said of Job, "All that a man hath will he give for his life." So Christians' last surrender is their own earthly life. They love the earthly, the dust; and to die to all that is not divine is a price that few will pay.
Many talk of crucifixion, yea, claim to be crucified, who know hardly the first step away from self. To let self, the flesh, and all evil within perish; to draw the last drop of earthliness from our veins,—is a price but few will pay for all the life of God. God through Moses gave to the children of Israel a heritage; but never in their greatest conquest did they attain all of that heritage. So with Christians: how few ever attain all of that God-life offered them through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Israelites made a league with certain of the inhabitants of the land whom they should have destroyed. How many Christians spare those enemies within which should die. They may force the death of many, perhaps most of their earthliness; but somewhere there is that with which they will not part. Of course, the earthliness may not be manifest as before; "hewers of wood and drawers of water" they become, yet they are there and live there. "I will be found of them when they seek me with their whole heart." Wholehearted devotion to God is a rare quality, and only the fewest of the few ever attain it. An idol somewhere, a desire, a wish, a preference, a hope not born of God, but of man or of the flesh, is the separation line. Yea, to cease from our labors as God did from his, and thus reach true rest, is a haven but few ever reach.
To literally cease, that Jehovah may be the beginning and the end, means blood, and thorns, and nails in the hands. Yes, it means Calvary and the tomb. This is too much for many who go part way with Jesus. How few realize that perhaps the most of our religious aspirations are born not of God, but of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of man; and this is why our efforts are so barren, futile, and earthly. Yes, to hide away so that every act, every purpose, every hope, centers in God and points to him and away from man—what a rare spiritual attainment! Many who are said to be very spiritual and leaders in the work of God, if robbed of this glory, would cease. To work for the eyes of God alone is not a sufficient reward for very many who have climbed well up the gospel ladder. To know when we are dead in the highest light. Self-abnegation can not be discerned so long as we want to live. If we never reach the point where we literally "hate our own life," we shall never know how much there is in us not divine. The flesh is ever the veil that separates between the holy place and the holy of holies. Until we have reached that place where we have lost sight of all that is human, and hunger and thirst for all the life of God, Christian perfection is an impossible attainment.
This little book has been written for your success in the divine life. We have hoped and prayed for your well being in the grace of God; but unless you are dead to self our prayers are but in vain. Oh, the beauties and the blessings and the rich glories, and happiness and usefulness for you in life, if you are fully possessed with life of God! Be dead indeed to self, and let God live in you to his praise.
LOVE NOT THE WORLD.
If you value your success in the Christian life, keep a wide gulf between you and this world. By the expression the world I mean its amusements, its revelry, its praise, its fashions, its society, its spirit. The present-day amusements or entertainments offered by secret orders and sects and by others are very destructive to spiritual life. Unless you are willing to walk alone with Jesus and let the blessedness of his companionship suffice for you, you had as well quit the race now. Mingle with worldly people, only to tell them of God's love.
To love and enjoy the society of the world is to have a heart destitute of grace. Therefore keep away from the world. Beware of it. It is a bitter foe to grace. It is an enemy to God; and if you befriend it, you make yourself an enemy to God. "Whosoever is a friend to the world is an enemy to God," so says the Bible. To be a friend to the world is to help it along in any sense—to encourage its spirit; to add to its pleasures, to its levity, its fashion, its foolishness; or to abet it in any way. You go into the world, only for the purpose of saving people from the world, and thus you are the world's enemy; and so you must continue to be, or miss heaven.
HAVE A CARE.
The world has many gaudy wings— Have a care! She flits among the flow'rs and sings— Many a snare. Beware Of the hidden poisonous stings.
Earth's pleasures are a golden cup— Have a care! She bids you take one little sup— Many a snare. Beware Of the hidden sting in the cup.
Earth's riches have a charm most rare— Have a care! She bids you seek a goodly share— Many a snare. Beware— She will sting with many a care.
Vain worldly fame's a painted flow'r— Have a care! She dwells in an enchanted bow'r— Many a snare. Beware— She'll chide you in an evil hour.
The world is but an empty show— Have a care! Of true joys a dangerous foe— Many a snare. Beware— Her greatest gain's oft deepest woe.
By the term affinity I mean that enamored feeling which arises in the hearts of those of opposite sex for each other. This Satan may take advantage of; and in this awful snare many a soul has gone down into the darkness; many a heaven-born and happy soul has received its awful blight, and gone down to an eternity of woe. Some one may ask, "Is not marriage honorable? and does not God join hearts together in love?" He certainly does; but when he does and all is kept in God's order the parties in love will not suffer any loss of spirituality. Courtship can be carried on in the will and order of God, and the parties engaged have a constant growth in grace. But so many times they become silly-headed and allow their love for each other to carry them out of God's order, and consequently they will soon be graceless-hearted.
Now I speak the truth when I say that by far the greater number of saints who fall in love suffer spiritual loss. This need not be so. In the first place, the love for each other must be genuine; but, though God is calling two together and the love which springs up is in the order of the Lord, this does not insure them against spiritual loss. If they are not watchful they will lose their heads, so to speak, and step away beyond the bonds of propriety.
There is many a young man and young woman united in marriage these days, even young saints, whom wisdom has not directed. Such may succeed in getting through and escaping the damnation of hell, but they will have trouble in the flesh.
Now, dear young saint, if you desire to be successful in life and gain heaven, if you will keep your senses you can keep clear from all the meshes of unholy affinities. You desire to have a life companion if God selects you one. I can not blame you for this, neither does the Bible condemn you; but the utmost caution needs to be exercised. Be careful your desire for companionship does not turn your head and render you incapable of knowing or understanding the will of God. Whenever you find yourself losing love for God, you had better beware. Whenever the object of your affection is getting so upon your heart and mind that you think less of God you are going beyond His ordering. If your last thoughts in the evening and your earliest thoughts in the morning are of the loved one, you are being estranged from God and losing spiritual life. I feel like giving you warning and counsel you to move very cautiously and prayerfully in these matters, lest you make a mistake and suffer a loss that neither time nor eternity will ever make up.
Young saints must not keep company with the unsaved. Those who do, lose spirituality. If you love God and desire to live a spiritual life, wait on God and let him select your life companion.
THE GUARDIAN ANGEL.
When you entered the Christian race God gave an angel to guard and guide you in the way. You need have no fear of this world.
Live in God's service and do his will, and this guardian angel will keep you. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them."
It was this angel that stood with Daniel in the den of lions and with the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. It was this angel that led the weeping Hagar to the well of water when her child was dying of thirst; and that led the righteous Lot out of the wicked city of Sodom and saved him from its awful burning. When Elijah was hunted for his life and sat down to weep and to starve under the juniper-tree, it was this guardian angel that brought him a cake and a cruse of water. It was this good angel that unbolted the prison doors and set Peter free. When Paul and Silas were lying fast in the stocks singing praise to God at midnight, it was the angel of the Lord that shook the earth and opened the prison doors.
You once were lost, but the Son of man came to save you. Now you are saved; you have entered his fold; you have become one of his "little ones." Once lost, but now saved. Jesus says to this cruel, mocking world, "Take heed that ye cause not one of these little ones to stumble; for their angels do always behold the face of their Father which is in heaven." As you journey along the way of life, Christian reader, there is an angel of mercy guarding you by day and night. Naught in all the world can harm you. 'Their angels do always behold the face of God.' By this we understand that your guardian angel has constant access into the presence of God to bear him an intelligence concerning his little one under his charge. Glory be to God!
If you will but live holy and confide in God, he will guide you safely and triumphantly through this world and bring you in a ripe old age to an eternity of rest. Trust not in the world, trust not in man, trust not in yourself; but give up all; give up your life to God and trust in him. You are safe in his care; nothing can harm you. You need not have a fear. What a blessed life to live! how peaceful! how secure! how full of rest! And when the last hour has come those guardian angels will be gathered round waiting for your spirit to come forth from the tomb of clay, and they will waft it in rapture to the God who gave it.
FLEDGING THE WINGS.
The inspired Word of God abounds in evidences of the twofold nature of man's being. Man, entire, consists of an outer physical being and an inner spiritual being. The one is for time, the other for eternity. The physical being is the transient home of the spiritual being, and is, therefore, called an earthly house. "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." 2 Cor. 5:1. When the earthly house in which the soul is tabernacled comes to dissolution, we (the spiritual beings) pass to our eternal home, a building not made with hands, but builded by the Lord of heaven.
The passport from the earthly house to the home in the heavens is spoken of by the Psalmist as a "flying away." "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." Psa. 90:10. The physical being is cut down, or comes to dissolution, and we (the souls) fly away, when redeemed by the blood, to our eternal home of rest.
Since it is spoken of as a flying away, the idea of wings is suggested, from which we derive our subject. The inspired apostle said, "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." 2 Cor. 4:16. As the outward, physical man, day by day, becomes more feeble, the furrows on the brow grow deeper, the locks more silvery, the steps more tottering, the voice weaker and more husky, the cheeks more sunken, the ear more deaf, the eye more dim, and the heart-beats more slow; the inward man is gathering strength, or fledging his wings, ready for his upward flight to his beautiful mansion in the sky. Oh, how often the redeemed soul, full of life, love, and hope, looks out through the fading windows of the crumbling house of clay, to its fair home on the Elysian shores eternal, and longs to take its flight! May you, dear reader, and I, as we travel along life's swift journey, so live in prayer and devotion to God, walk in such purity, so feed upon the divine life, that we shall gather strength to our souls day by day and be ready for the hour of our departure. Amen.
Some time, when all life's lessons have been learned, And sun and stars forevermore have set, The things which our weak judgments here have spurned, The things o'er which we grieved with lashes wet, Will flash before us out of life's dark night, As stars shine most in deeper tints of blue; And we shall see how all God's plans are right, And how what seemed reproof was love most true.
And we shall see how, while we frown and sigh, God's plans go on as best for you and me; How when we called, he heeded not our cry, Because his wisdom to the end could see. And e'en as prudent parents disallow Too much of sweet to craving babyhood; So God, perhaps, is keeping from us now Life's sweetest things, because it seemeth good.
And if, sometimes, commingled with life's wine, We find the wormwood, and rebel and shrink, Be sure a wiser hand than yours or mine Pours out the potion for our lips to drink; And if some friend we love is lying low, Where human kisses can not reach his face, Oh, do not blame the loving Father so, But wear your sorrows with obedient grace.
And you shall shortly know that lengthened breath Is not the sweetest gift God sends his friend, And that, sometimes, the sable pall of death Conceals the fairest boon his love can send. If we could push ajar the gates of life, And stand within and all God's workings see, We could interpret all this doubt and strife, And for each mystery could find a key.
But not to-day. Then be content, poor heart; God's plans like lilies pure and white unfold; We must not tear the close-shut leaves apart, Time will unfold the calyces of gold. And if, through patient toil, we reach the land Where tired feet, with sandals loosed, may rest When we shall clearly know and understand, I think that we shall say, "God knew the best!"
THE PRECIOUS OINTMENT.
In the Bible we learn of a woman who took "a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus." This spikenard was very rich in perfume. It was the very best gift she could bring to Him whom she loved. This is a very beautiful symbol of the life work of a Christian. We, as Christian, are a sweet odor unto God in Christ Jesus. Everything you do for Jesus scents the air around the throne of God with a sweet fragrance.
Every prayer your offer in the Spirit perfumes the corridors of heaven. I read somewhere of a little girl who told her mamma that God bade all the angels in heaven keep quiet when she prayed; then all the angels hushed their songs until she said amen. Amid all the songs and shouts and playing of harps in heaven God hears the prayers of his humble ones on earth. The odor of prayer from the hearts of God's children on earth is as sweet to him as the songs of angels. The things the saints at Philippi sent to Paul were an odor of a sweet smell to God. Cornelius' alms-giving and prayers were kept in heaven as a memorial. So all your gifts and doings and prayers are a rich perfume, which God keeps bottled up in heaven as a memorial of you.
Your whole life, dear young saint, in all of its giving and doing, its sacrifices and prayers, its humble service and devotion, is to be constantly sending forth a sweet smell to God. This is spoken of in a beautiful figure in S. of Sol. 1:12: "While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof." The king is Jesus, who sits at the table of our hearts; the sweet spikenard is our Christian lives. In Rev. 3:20 Jesus says, "I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." The Christian's heart is the dining-room; there is a table spread with the graces of the Spirit, the fruits of the garden of the Lord. There Christ and the Christian sit down to dine together. While the glory of the one lights up the room, the holy life of the other perfumes it. O God, my soul doth magnify thee for the preciousness of these thoughts.
When Christ was born wise men came and presented him frankincense and myrrh, and in after-years Mary came and poured upon his head the precious ointment of spikenard. These things were literally done, and now when we bring our very best gifts, in the fulness of love, to the Lord, we are breaking the alabaster box of sweet ointment and pouring it upon his head. You owe Christ the very best of your life; yea, you owe him your life. He must have all the affections of your heart. Christ must have the very best of everything out of your life. Do not use the dollars for yourself and give him the pennies. Do not sip the honey from the flower and give him the leaves. Do not eat the fresh bread yourself and give him that which is stale. Do not give him the well-worn garment and keep the best robe for yourself.
But how can we now give to the Lord! "As oft as ye do it unto the least of these ye do it unto me." As you go about your life work as a Christian always do what you do as to the Lord. When you pray in public talk to Jesus the same as if he were there in person, and not to be heard of men. When you give money to the needy do it as if you were giving it to Jesus himself, for such it really is. If Christ should come to your door and ask for a drink, how eagerly you would get it for him! You must remember that to give a cup of water to one of his little ones is the same as giving it to him. When you visit a sick-chamber and are invited to sing you should sing just as sweetly as if you were singing purposely for the Savior, and all your words should be spoken as tenderly as if you were talking to him.
Jesus has given you the purest love of heaven; he has clothed you with the whitest robe; he gives you the very best heaven affords; and, O beloved, will you not give him the very best life? Live with all your soul for Jesus; serve him every moment. Bring the best of your life, its love, its service, its perfume, and pour them upon the head and feet of Jesus.
THE TREE OF LIFE.
"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life," says Proverbs. How wonderful! how inspiring! The fruit borne by a Christian is a savor of life to many. If you live a true Christian life all the way through, God will use the fruit you bear to bring another soul to life. Your Christian life will not be lived in vain. That "beloved disciple" said, "On either side of the river was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month." Your life is compared to a river; and if you travel along down its course in the fulness of God's grace, upon its banks will grow the tree of life, of which others may eat and live forever. Such thoughts are almost too wonderful for me; they overwhelm my soul.
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life," and, "He that eateth of this bread shall live forever." This same Jesus has come into your life. You are dead, but Jesus lives. He lives in you. The fruit you bear will be eaten by others and be life to their souls. O my young reader, will you not be watchful and prayerful and let God live in you and bring forth fruit to his own glory? Cultivate the Christian graces, and see to it that there is never a withered leaf on your life's tree, but be ever green and full of fruit, scattering a holy influence everywhere. May your life stand out upon the shores of time heavy laden with the fruits of the Spirit, of which others may eat long after you are gone to your reward. You can make it so. Will you do it? As for me, from the fulness of my soul I answer, I WILL.
Did you ever attempt to look to the end of eternity? Have you endeavored to comprehend its duration? Alas! it is something beyond the conception of the finite mind. Look into it as far as you can and no less of it lies beyond the end of your vision. Eternity is something never begun and something that will never end. It is a circle which has no end of beginning and no end of closing. It goes on and on and on until millions upon millions of ages have passed away, and then on and on to other millions upon millions of ages, and then still on, being no less in duration than before. When you have been there ten million years you will be no nearer the end than when you first entered this boundless duration.
What a vast and awful thought! Eternity! I stand upon the shore of ocean and looking out upon the broad expanse I see nothing but ocean; I see no other shore. I stand and look out upon the ocean of eternity, and see nothing but eternity. I can see out for millions and billions and trillions of years, and yet it is eternity. Where shall I spend it? My soul answers, "In heaven through the blood."
NEARER TO THEE.
Nearer to thee, O my Savior, Nearer I would be each day. As I cross life's stormy ocean Never from thee let me stray.
Nearer, nearer, ever nearer, Is the language of my soul As I journey down life's pathway, As I near bright heaven's goal.
Lead me through this world of sorrow, Let my hand in thine e'er be; Throw thy arms of love around me, Savior, let me walk with thee.
When the storm-clouds round me gather In the clefted Rock I hide; When the surging billows threaten, Fold me closer to thy side.
There's a home for me in heaven, By the crystal, silvered sea; Some sweet morn the golden portals Opened wide will be for me.
There in amaranthine glory I will sit at Jesus' feet; There I'll sing the sweet old story As I walk the golden street.
O my heart, wait on in patience, Each day brings me nearer the goal; In some blissful dewy dawning Heaven will receive my soul.
Our introduction is upon the subject of Life; our conclusion is upon Death. To many people the word death is full of horror. Thank God, it holds no horror to the pure in heart. Death has no sting for those whose souls are in fellowship with God. Those who love God hail with joy the hour in which they are to meet him. Death to a Christian is only his removal from earth to the paradise of God. If some man of wealth were to tell you he had a rich home prepared for you in a distant land, where you could have all your heart could wish, and be happy as long as you lived, if you had confidence in the man, you could say good-by and cheerfully go to your new home. Death is nothing more.
Some may shudder at the thought of the pain in death. How often we hear remarks like this: "This pain is almost like death," or, "it's like taking one's life." Have you not stood beside the infant's crib and watched it go peacefully to sleep? Where was the pain? Death to a Christian is only a going to sleep. You have had far more pain in life than you will have in death.
There may be pain just prior to death, but none in death. Death to a saint is as peaceful as going to sleep.
Have you not often been in some solitary place and given yourself into the arms of Muse? You have fallen to thinking about heaven and the angels and the Savior and your crown. You seemed as your soul was wafted upward on the wings of meditation, to lose consciousness of all on earth. Such will it be in death. Your soul will begin to see the glories of heaven; you will hear the sweet strains of music; you will begin to lose consciousness of earthly things and comprehend more of heaven. Then soon you will draw your last breath on the shore of time and sound your first note of praise on the shore of eternity. This is all there is in death. It is precious to fond parents to see their little children, with folded hands, go peacefully to sleep. So to our Father in heaven is the death of his saints precious.
In fancy I can see many of my young readers, after a well-spent life, gathered in ripe old age on the banks of old Time's-river, waiting in bright hope to be summoned over to their rich possessions in the verdant fields of heaven.
There is nothing more of death than this to a Christian. I pray that the life of many of you will end like this. I believe it will be so. Amen.
A strange, sweet vision fills my soul, A glimpse of glory and of God; Am I not near life's final goal? My feet scarce touch this mortal sod.
The zephyrs blow divinely sweet, With fragrance fill the balmy air; Are heav'n and earth about to meet? Who can this vision bright declare?
I hear the notes of seraph song, The rustle of an angel's wing; Do signs like these to earth belong? Do men and angels meet to sing?
Life's journey seems about complete; I con it well, yet know not why. My heart with longings is replete, And yet I do not long to die.
A holy calm my bosom fills, And silence like the hush of morn; Such joy through all my being thrills As swept men's hearts when Christ was born.
Amid the crowds I look around To see who bear love's fragrant flower; I fain would walk on holy ground Made sacred by the Spirit's power.
God has the keeping of my ways, His laws I rev'rence and obey; My prayers seem almost turned to praise, And yet I can not cease to pray.
If this is death, I do not dread To lay me down in peace to die— To be with all the sainted dead, Far, far beyond the arching sky.
God has forgiven you all your sins; he has sanctified you wholly. You stand to-day in the way of life; you are fully out upon the Christian way. You have on the whole armor of God. You possess the power of God's Spirit in your soul, the love of God is in your heart as a burning flame. You are tasting the sweet joys that flow from heaven's throne. In your soul is imprinted the image of Jesus. Your heart is a garden of opening buds, which emit the sweet fragrance of heaven. But, notwithstanding all this blessedness of experience, I want you to remember you are just starting on the pilgrim's way.
I thought of bringing this little work to a close with the preceding letter, but it seems that I am loath to say the last word. I wonder if there is one word more I can say to help you in your Christian race. It is impossible for me to express how my heart yearns in love and tenderness for you.
God wants to use your life on earth to his glory. He wants you so to shine in the glory and splendor of his grace that you may light others in the way. He wants the opening buds of grace in your soul to burst into full bloom. He wants to lead you higher up the mountain of joy, to the very fount of blessings. He wants to lead you down into the lowly vale where there are greater riches than gold. He wants his image in your heart to stand out in greater beauty and perfection; the features are yet too dim.
While in this life your immortal soul is wrapped about with a veil of mortality; but God wants to shine such a radiant light and amaranthine glory into your soul that the veil of mortality will not be able wholly to obscure it. It will shine out through the material part and glow in transparent beauty upon the surface.
If you will follow where he leads, he will lead you on from virtue to deeper, truer virtue; he will lead you on to fountains of sweeter joy. It may be through the vale of sorrow; but never fear nor distrust, and you will find your joy rising higher in the cup. If you will follow, he will lead you from peace on to broader, deeper rivers of peace. It may be through angry billows and past rough rocks; but if you trust him and follow on, he will bring you to yet calmer and more peaceful waters. If you will stay in his presence, he will impart unto you his own lovely character, and you will grow up into a holier life, into sweeter fellowship with God, into richer beauty and greater usefulness.
He will sometimes call you where the flowers are blooming and sweet fragrance fills the air, where the birds sing sweetly and the zephyrs blow gently; he will lead you along the rippling streams, and delight your soul with the music of the wave; he will lead you through the shady glens and leafy bowers,—until your soul will sing, "Is not this the land of Beulah?" But he may sometimes lead you through the desert, or over the rugged mountain, or across the stormy seas; he may lead you away from all that is dear to your heart; he may lead you into paths where the shadows lie deep, and thorns spring up on every side. He will lead you on to duties that may oftentimes seem too hard for you to do; but this one thing I assure you in Jesus' name: he will never call you to a duty or a sacrifice but that will prove a blessing to your soul and enrich you in his grace. You must follow on.
To get the sweetness out of your life, he may sometimes bruise you. There are flowers that emit but little fragrance until they are bruised. Many trials, no doubt, are awaiting you; but do not live them until you get to them, then his grace will be sufficient for you.
In closing, I beseech you from the fulness of my heart to follow Jesus all the way. Let nothing turn you back. Never mind the storms and cruel winds. What if the thorns prick your feet? they pierced his brow. What if the duties do seem hard and the way seems weary? Follow on, linger in his presence, breathe in of his fulness, live in humble submission, never murmur but in every sorrow draw the closer to him, never falter, labor on, and you will find joys in every sorrow, blessings in every sacrifice, and delights in every duty. He will perfume your life with the odor of heaven and make you a blessing on earth to man. He will make your life a well of water where many a weary traveler may drink and thirst no more; he will make it a tree of life where they may eat and hunger no more. And when life is done he will bring you with all your golden sheaves through the gates of glory into the haven of eternal rest, where I hope to meet you. With this, I will say farewell.