Sidor som bilder

faults without repentance. The recollection of our sins is safe only when it is a part of our self-chastisement. To look back upon them without shame and sorrow, is to offend again. God alone can simply behold evil without contamination; for memory, like a gnawing stream, gathers its tinge from the soil through which it winds its sullen way. So is it, above all, with impenitent recollection of sins once indulged. Our present character imbibes again the quality of past evil. We soon cease to fear what we can endure to think upon; and we soon grow again to behold the lust we once have served with the same eyes wherewith we looked upon it when we were its willing slave. There arises an interior assent to sins which we dare not outwardly commit. Past sin becomes present by a renewed adhesion of the heart; and even though we never offend again in the same outward form as before, some new and subtler evil is thrown out from the stock of our original disobedience.

2. Another thing to beware of is, making excuses for our present faults without trying to correct them. Nothing so wears down the sharpness of conscience, and dulls its perception of our actual state, as self-excusing. It is the most certain way to forfeit all true knowledge of ourselves; it directly fosters and strengthens the faults we are attempting to excuse; it weakens the corrective

powers of religion, the first and chief of which is a sincere confession of every swerving of the will from God. From this there can nothing come but a declining of heart, and an estrangement of the sore and irritable mind. And these things draw a darkness over the conscience, which hides the face of God. A little while ago, and such men were warm and forward in religion, now they feel chilled and backward; for the justified fault is a harboured canker, and the repulsion of an alienated will thrusts them away from God.

3. And lastly, beware of those particular forms of temptation which have already once held you in their power, or sapped your better resolutions. Every man has his own particular character, and every character its own particular cast. We have our characteristic faults and our characteristic weakness. Sometimes the same sins prevail again over the same man; sometimes an opposite sin; sometimes lesser faults, but in a greater multitude; sometimes fewer, but in a greater intensity. There can be no general precepts in this, any more than in the healing of the body. Beware of evils which have once prevailed against you, as knowing their malignity; beware of those which have never as yet had dominion, as not knowing what may be their fearful strength. Beware of a retroverted heart, and of the glancing aside of the imagination,

and of the slack obedience of the will. Angels' hands have been about you from the waters of holy baptism. Their guidance, unseen, unfelt, has drawn you again and again from ills which your hearts had chosen. In seasons of weakness they have stayed you up; in the hour of wavering they have kept you from falling. Before is the city of refuge-the world that lieth in wickedness is behind. Escape for thy life: look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain: escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." "Remember Lot's wife."


1 Gen. xix. 17.



27 March 1859

• May 1863


"I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."

In the beginning of this Psalm king David gives utterance to his wonder and awe at the mystery of God's invisible, universal presence. And from this he turns upon the mystery of his own indivi dual nature. It is with hardly less of awe and wonder that he muses upon himself. He feels a consciousness that his own very being is an ineffable work of God-his own body of dust, wrought after some high type of wisdom and perfection— knit together in a wonderful order-quickened by an ineffable breath of God-filled with the powers of life, with the light of reason, and the rule of conscience-able to make present both things past and things to come, by memory and by foresightto look through visible things, and make unseen things visible; and that all this should be himself -that all should be so blended into one, as to

[ocr errors]

revolve about his own will, and to be instinct with his own individual consciousness, this it was that made him say, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and that my soul knoweth right well."

It was from musing after this sort upon God, that he turned to muse upon himself. It was, indeed, by pondering upon the mystery of God's nature, that he learned to stand in awe of the mysteriousness of his own; by dwelling on the awful thought of the unseen Being who fills all things, and quickens all things, he came to understand that he too was a being of a high descent, a mystery of God's almighty power, and that in the wonderful frame of his own bodily form there dwelt a conscious soul, whose eye was turned inwardly to gaze upon itself. Now, as this consciousness of what we are follows in a most certain order upon a true knowledge, so far as man can have it, of what God is, so it is also a condition absolutely necessary to all true religion. There can be no real fear, or reverence, or seriousness of heart, until a man has come to understand, at least in some measure, what he is to realise his own awful structure and destiny.

We will consider, then, some of the thoughts which press upon a mind conscious of its own wonderful nature. It perceives in part an evident likeness,

« FöregåendeFortsätt »