Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

only in the majesty of its lofty stature, but in the glory and perfection of its parts. There has been not a change, but a growth: as the springing or unfolding of a stately tree; a growth, not only of bulk, but of beauty; ever opening itself to the drawings and invitations of a gentle sky: so His mystical body has grown from childhood to youth and manhood, throwing out new powers of illuminated reason and of regenerate will, ever advancing "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."

But this subject is too large for our present thoughts; and therefore I will not follow any further the mysterious economy by which He, through His Church, draws nations to Himself, and the whole body of His people to perfection. We will confine our thoughts to a more particular form of this great work of mercy; I mean, the way in which, in His Church, He draws men one by one unto Himself. Christ is in the midst of His Church. His eye and His hand have been upon us from the hour of our baptism. He is ever drawing us by His unseen virtues: we are all around Him, some nearer, some further off; some approaching, some receding from Him. There is a work going on, of which the day of judgment is only the end and summing up. There is between those that follow and His those that resist drawings, a real separation even

1

now. "His fan is in His hand; and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather the wheat into His garner, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." With those, however, that resist His gracious drawings I have nothing now to do. Let us speak only of those who are approaching, be it never so slowly and far off, the foot of the spiritual cross; and of these I pass by penitents, and the first and imperfect forms of a character under the power of its second regeneration, as repentance was wont to be called; because in His sight we are all penitents, and because the degrees of such characters are infinite, and because they will be ultimately included in the more general forms, of which we shall speak hereafter.

He is, I say, in the midst of His Church, and we are ranged around Him in many measures of approach, as if we were in the many courts or precincts which surround His eternal throne.

First, and farthest off, among the better kind, are blameless and amiable people; against whom no greater charge can be laid, than that they are harmless unemphatic Christians: there is nothing high or deep about them—nothing that has any meaning below the surface of their life. They have no great measure of devotion, and of contemplation still less; they want awe and reverence, because they lack a consciousness of things unseen.

[ocr errors]

And hence their characters are shallow and disappointing: they raise, and dash, your hopes of them in turn they fall short both of your expectations and of their own resolutions. It seems as if their nature were incapable of taking a sharp and true impression. They mix in the world, and are highly esteemed, because they are amiable; but no man is awed by them; for, after all, they are poor characters. Now even such as these are ever drawing nearer to Him; but their slight retrogressions are so many, and their advance so slow, that it is imperceptible. By measuring together large periods of their life, the change may be detected on a death-bed it is perhaps seen more plainly. But there is an original fault about them in some region of their spiritual life; something which retards their advance, and ever keeps them back. Of such men it is hard to know what we shall say.

Again; there are those who, to all that I have described, add further, an inward conformity in many lesser features to the mind of Christ. They have feeling and zeal, and are visibly and sensibly religious; so much so, as to bear at least a shadow of the cross for His name's sake. They love the meditative parts of religion, the poetry and imagery of faith, and the consolations of Christianity. They have, unawares, gone so deep into religion, that

they cannot go back. They cannot do without it;

and onward they must go. enough to Him to be at rest.

Yet they are not near

Still they are afraid

of going too near, and trusting Him wholly. There is much in them which would be precipitated, as it were, by a closer approach to Him; and they are not yet willing to forego it. Nevertheless, they often pray for this; and are convinced that He, and He only, is enough so to fill all their heart, that if they had His presence, they should want nothing more. Such men are good Christians, but hardly saints ; for that word has a deeper sense than they as yet can bear. There are too many reserved affections, and hopes, and wishes, yet clinging to them. But He will not let them rest where they are; unless, indeed, they wilfully go back from Him. was lifted up from the earth for this very cause, that He might draw them still onward, nearer to Himself. He loves them too well to let them linger afar off; and therefore we find such people ever passing on, one by one, often unwillingly and with half a heart, drawing nigh as by the compulsion of angels' hands, until they enter another circle of approach to Him. There is a higher fellowship, to which they are destined.

He

For there are those who are the true elect; the elect of the elect; the Christians indeed; the chosen ones, with whom is "the white stone," and

"the hidden manna," and "the secret of the Lord," and the "new name which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it." On them the voice of Christ fell in childhood, when the soul answered as the pure tide swelling to the silent moon; or in riper years, it may be in the threshold of life, or in after-life, under some cloud and chill of heart; and they heard it, and were for a long while amazed, as Samuel, at the thrilling sound, knowing neither who spake, nor what to answer. Yet it pierced their heart, and they felt it could not stop there. Why, they knew not but they knew within themselves that they could never have peace till they had heard that voice again. They feel that they must hear it more closely and more clearly, and know the meaning of the voice. Afterwards, at strange and unlooked-for times, they have caught, little by little, the will of Him that spake more, as it were, from the meaning of the tone, than from any articulate words. And they have followed Him in silence, not knowing whither, saying deeply to themselves, I must go on. And they have felt a change passing on them, as from a chill to warmth, like men coming up out of a grave into the noon-day sun. And this mild guiding power has drawn them from faults, and from weaknesses, and from vain hankerings, and from the world: and they have begun, as it were, to live anew-more thoughtfully, but more happily; and

« FöregåendeFortsätt »