« FöregåendeFortsätt »
forsaken me.” But in God he may have a friend “who changeth not.” Man dies—God lives. Man forgets to love - but “whom God loveth he loveth to the end.” Man changes-but God is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever;" so that, amidst weakness and weariness, amidst farewells and mournings, he can lift his dim eye and clasp his trembling fingers, and say, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundations of the earth ; they shall perish, but thou remainest ; they all shall wax old as a garment, as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed ; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end."
This appeal would be very incomplete, without a word or two on the obligations resting on those who enjoy the privilege of friendship with God.
Be anxious to know him better. If you value a friend, you will wish to know him—to know his memories of the past, his ideas of the future, his experiences, his course of study, his plans of life. With regard to your Heavenly Friend, you should have the same wish intensified to a degree which will allow no limitation. You should“count all things but loss for the excellency of this knowledge.” Be anxious to take his thoughts into your own minds. Study with reverence everything on which he has left his hand-writing-the leaves of nature-the many-pictured page of life. His revelations to man as a creature, but especially his revelations to man as a sinner. And let us all ever remember, when following on to know the Lord, that human commentaries are worth nothing as authorities, but only as aids; and that the province of reason is not to announce, but to interpret announcements ; not to speak, but to hear ; not to create light, but to receive it from the “Light Unapproachable.” None but God can reveal God. Light can only be seen by its own revealing. “In thy light shall we see light."
Pray to him more. Our approach to the infinite in the communings of friendship, being the approach of weakness to strength, of misery to mercy, of ignorance to Him “who is light," of unsearchable poverty to unsearchable riches, must often be an act of prayer. If indeed we are the friends of God, we shall be drawn to prayer as by a natural law, a law of the new nature. It will not be a dictate of reason merely, nor a conscientious effort, nor a mechanical habit, but an impulse of life.
Dear Christians, why do you not pray more? The tendencies of your spiritual life often take you to the mere instrumentalities of grace when they should lead you to the throne ; to means, when they should lead you to the Lord of means. Pray more. That man will most keenly realize his friendship with God, who is most anxious to make his life a prayer.
Seek to be more like him. Likeness to him will be needful to prove the fact of friendship. Hence the proverbial sentence, “Show me a man's company, and I will show you his character." Commune with littleness, and your spirit will be little ; with greatness, and it will be great; with the beautiful in thought and feeling, and you will be transfigured into the same beauty. Light glorifies what it
touches. It tints the flower, it fires the gem, it colours the scenery of nature. Dwell with the infinite light, and there will be light in your thoughts, light in your affections, in your words, in your life ; and you will be lights of the world, making its dark places radiant, its “rough places plain," and its “solitary places glad.”
Love all who love your friend. What tends to keep you apart is not to be compared with what should knit you together. The points on which you differ are not to be compared with the points on which you are agreed. Forget inconsistencies, surface-errors, and infirmities; and love whatever of God you see in them. Temper, sect, party, prejudice, uncouth address, may in occasional instances make the love you wish to be a flow, an effort of principle. Still, love them, Angels do. “ Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister unto such as shall be heirs to salvation ?" And have you a more delicate moral sense than the pure angels of glory? Love them. For God so loves them as to call them his friends.
Avow your friendship to God. What would you think of a friend who wished to keep his friendship a secret ? Do you wish to keep in secrecy your friendship with God? Would you “come to Jesus by night ? Would you steal into his presence, touch the hem of his garment, and then shrink back into the crowd, healed, but not glorifying your healer? Of what are you ashamed ? Ashamed that “God is not ashamed to be called your God ?” Ashamed that Christ is not ashamed to call you brethren ?
Among the facts which make the romance of history, you have heard that Lord Brooke wished to have as the single inscription on his tomb, this sentence: “Here lies the friend of Sir Philip Sidney." Let the inscription in words that burn be written on your heart, be the motto of your entire existence_The Friend of God !" Glory in it! Let it be “known and read of all men !" In the language of the lip, in the language of the life, in language like the words of the stars, which "proclaim the glory of God”-language rather felt than heard-proclaim to the world, “This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend !" In his strength be strong to live for him. Serve him with heart ; serve him with mind and strength; serve him with a will one with his will ; so that when you are spent and helpless in the chamber of your last repose, when earth grows dim, and light through the rendings of the veil breaks over your spirit, you may be able to say, “Father, through thine abounding grace I have glorified thee on earth ; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do'; and now Father, Friend, I come to Thee !”
“ NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD."
BY THE REV. J. T. WIGNER. . “ Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”-Mark xii. 34. We shall not be deemed uncharitable if we assume that not all the readers of “ The Church” are decided on the Lord's side; that not all of them are the pledged followers of the Lamb; that there are some of them who know not the precious enjoyment, the amazin
privilege of a personal interest in the covenant of redeeming grace : on the other hand we may as safely assume that but few of the regular readers of the Magazine are utterly unconcerned and reckless about the salvation of the soul and the glory of the Saviour. If what we thus assume be correct, then many who read this paper are those to whom our Lord's words cited above will apply, “ Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” This is not a question of church membership, but one of vital union to Christ. The question is not, To what church do you belong ? but, Are you converted to God? Have you passed from death unto life ? Are you united by “ precious faith” to Jesus? Have you “a good hope through grace" of eternal glory?
“ Not far from the kingdom of God” near, but not in. But who are these ? Take the man before us—type of a class, a large class, we fear--to whom our Lord uttered these words. Trace the features of the man. He was one who listened attentively to the teachings of the Saviour-had watched with eager interest the conversation between Christ and several different sects of religionists, especially the Sadducees (v. 18)—was a professor of religion, of the “ straitest sect;" for the greater number of the scribes were Pharisees,-our Lord uses both terms repeatedly in Matt. xxiii. He was a man of understanding to discern the truth, and to decide on which side the truth lay, for " he heard their reasoning, and perceived that Christ answered them well,” and our Lord saw that “ he answered discreetly.” Inquiry had been excited in his mind, and he had presented his inquiries to the Saviour, who had replied to them, and replied in the language of one of the texts written on the man's own garments; and yet once more he cordially admitted the truthfulness and wisdom of all that Jesus said, and here is our Lord's testimony, “ Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” Do you not see the resemblance, the “family likeness," between him and yourself ? From Sabbath to Sabbath, you listen regularly, attentively, feelingly, to the tidings of mercy, the tale of the cross ; you are deeply interested in what you hear ; you mingle with the professed disciples of the Saviour, yourself to some extent a professor too ; you have understanding enough to comprehend the “ truth as it is in Jesus,” emotions are enkindled; desires are created ; inquiries are made, and met, to your own satisfaction ; not on your garments, but on your memory, and ofttimes on your conscience, truth, Scripture truth, is impressed ; and yet you are not converted to God, not decided for Christ! To you the Saviour says, “ Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."
“ Not far from the kingdom,” but-not in : then there is some hope for you. We cherish hope on your behalf, as we see you under the sound of the gospel, and oft see the starting tear, or the emotion which tells of the half-stified sob. This hope bears us to the throne of grace on your behalf ; this hope leads your pious father to plead, your godly mother to wrestle, your converted wife to agonise, your affectionate pastor yet to sow, in faith, that soon you will be found a weeping penitent at the footstool of mercy, looking on “Him whom you have pierced !" Yes, we hope, because you are “in the way," as Jesus passes by ; we hope, because you are in the “house” where Jesus performs his miracles of grace; we hope, because the accents of a Saviour's love arrest your attention, and the appeals of a Saviour's mercy enter your heart; we hope, and that hope we will not let go; we dare not give place to despair ; you are the subject of our most earnest prayer, our most earnest hope. We hope, but we hope with trembling!
For, not far from the kingdom, but-not in: how dangerous your position ! And, if lost, how aggravated your doom? To be just on the verge of the kingdom, and cast out; just nearing the gates of the celestial city, and those gates closed against you ! So near that you can see the “ prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out !" So near that you can hear the voice of Him that sitteth on the throne ; but that voice utters, “I never knew you, depart !” There were doubtless many gathered around the door of the ark when the “ windows of heaven were opened ;" but they were not in, and the waters overwhelmed them. How did the guilty Sodomites rush to the gate of their city at sunrise in the morning of the day when Lot departed; but the fire fell on them, and they perished in the dire destruction. The foolish virgins were near enough to the house of the bridegroom for their voice to be heard, seeking ; admission but the “door was shut," and they were “ not in.” That noble ship has just returned from a far distant voyage, she nears her port, the harbour is in sight, the waving of handkerchiefs on shore greets the crew, with the “ glass” they discern the faces of their loved ones; she is “ running in;" with a “ heavy sea," and hard breeze, she strikes the pier head, staggers from the effect of the collision like a drunken man, and in a moment sinks with all her crew! Not far off, but--not in! The life-boat puts off to yonder wreck ; they grasp that struggling man, they seize his hand, themselves benumbed they relax their grasp, and the man, almost saved, is lost! Read our Lord's words, Luke xiii. 24-28. He points to some men of the class we are considering ; they would see the patriarch and prophets“ in the kingdom,” but themselves “ thrust out ;" and he evidently designs to show by it that their nearness to safety, and yet their fatal loss, will be an aggravation of their misery, the increase of their woe! And who does not know that the nearer we are to the possession of the prize, and the stronger our hope that we shall obtain it, so much the greater our vexation, the deeper our disappointment, if we fail of it? And for you who are “ not far from the kingdom," but, not in, if you die “ thrust out,” for you the gloom will be darker and the woe heavier. 'Tis a dangerous position! Was this scribe saved ? Is there one passage of truth, one word of our Lord, which will guide us to the conclusion that he was? We trow not. We hope with trembling; your position is dangerous !
"Not far from the kingdom,"but-not in. BUT WHY NOT? Hast thou ever read the language of the Saviour to one who went to him, and inquired of Him,“ Strive ye to enter in ?" Is the kingdom of God worth striving for? Will it be an immense privilege to be admitted within “ the gates into the city'? Is it an honour to be intense?
coveted to receive as the gift of free and sovereign grace the Saviour's welcome, “ Come, ye blessed of my Father'? Has the vision of the enthroned Lamb, and the welcome of the Sovereign Judge, and the “place prepared” for the saints, no attraction for you? Does thy heart never bound for joy at the declaration of the inspired Paul,“ So shall we ever be with the Lord”? We hope better things of you, and things which accompany salvation, though we thus speak. IVe ask, then, why not in the kingdom ? Has the want of earnestness in good men, or the want of sincerity in hypocritical men staggered you, and caused you to linger without, although near by ? Many men have become bankrupts,- you will not therefore pronounce all commerce a delusion and a fraud. There is counterfeit coin in circulation,- you will not therefore throw away the genuine which you have. Such a man is a mock professor, and wilt thou therefore hazard thy own salvation? Why not? Dost thou not see some who were once “ not far from the kingdom” now in it? Dost thou not see others entering, and others striving to enter? Oh! bring all thy excuses, all thy fears, all thy hindrances, all thy sins, thy whole self, just as thou art, to the cross of Jesus, and let your cry be, “Lord, save, or I perish.” He will put forth his hand and save you. John Bunyan tells us that at the house of the interpreter, “he saw a stately palace, and behold at the door stood a great company of men as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door at a table side, with his book and inkhorn before him ; he saw also a man of stout countenance come up to him who had the book and the inkhorn, and said, 'Set down my name, sir;' the which when he had done, he saw the man. . draw his sword, put an helmet on his head, and rush toward the door. . . he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace... So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they.” Behold the example, and resolve to imitate it!
The loving gracious Saviour says, “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Him that. cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Hearken, believe, obey, and his grace shall bring you into the kingdom!
THE LEG REST, AND THE HEART REST.
BY THE REV. JAMES SMITH. Visiting my friend John Robinson the other day, I found him suffering from an accident, which had injured one of his legs. Having made some inquiries as to how it happened, and the extent of the injury, he began to inform me how much comfort he had derived from the thoughtful kindness of a friend, who had sent him a leg rest. Well, thought I, at how small an expense, and with how little trouble, we may at times add to one another's comfort ! If we were but more thoughtful-if we did but sympathise with one another more-we might be much more useful, and much more happy; for I daily find that we cannot make others happy without ording to our own comfort. If Robinson's friend had been less