« 上一页继续 »
in such prayer that such a conscience is most vehement in its reproaches, and guilt seems to be heaped up most rapidly. Oh, wretched man that he is! Who shall deliver him?
Some Christians do not cultivate the temperament of prayer. Devout joy is more facile to some temperaments than to others; yet, in all, it is susceptible of culture. Especially is it true, that prayer is in its nature emotive. It is an expression of feeling: not necessarily of tumultuous feeling, but naturally of profound and fluent feeling, and, in its most perfect type, of habitual feeling. To enjoy prayer, we must be used to it. Therefore we must be used to the sensibility of which it is the expression. Devotion should spring up spontaneously from an emotive state, rather than be forced out in jets of sensibility on great occasions.
The necessity of this is often overlooked by Christians, whose lives, in other respects, are not visibly defective. They do not possess desires which may very naturally be expressed in prayer. They have no deep subsoil of feeling, from which prayer would be a natural growth. The religion of some of us—whatever may be true of our opposites in temperament—is not sufficiently a religion of emotion. We have not sufficiently cherished our Christian sensibilities. We have not cultivated habits of religious desire which are buoyant in their working. We have not so trained our hearts, that a certain emotive current is always ebullient, welling up from the depths of the soul, like the springs of the deepest sea. We think more than we believe. We believe more than we have faith in. Our faith is too calm, too cool, too sluggish. Our theory of the Christian life is that of a clear, erect, inflexible head, not of a great heart, in which deep calleth unto deep.
This clear-headed type of piety has invaluable uses, if it be tempered with meekness, with gentleness, with "bowels of mercies." But we must confess that it does not always bear well the drill which the world gives it in selfish usage. It too often grows hard, solid, icy. It reminds one of the man with a "cold heart," whose blood never ran warm, whose eye was always glassy, whose touch was always clammy, and whose breath was always like an east wind. Such a religious temperament as this will never do for the foundation of a life of joy in communion with God. We must have more of the earnest nature of the loved disciple, more of the spirit of the visions of Patmos.
Our Northern and Occidental constitution often needs to be restrained from an excess of phlegmatic wisdom. I must think
that we have something to learn from the more impulsive working of the Southern and the Oriental mind. I must believe that it was not without a wise forecast of the world's necessities, and an insight into human nature all around, that God ordained that the Bible, which should contain our best models of sanctified culture, should be constructed in the East, and by the inspiration of minds of an Eastern stock and discipline; whose imaginative faculty could conceive such a poem as the Song of Solomon; and whose emotive nature could be broken up like the fountains of a great deep. I must anticipate that an improved symmetry of character will be imparted to the experience of the Church, and more of the beauty of holiness will adorn her courts, when the Oriental world shall be converted to Christ, and Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God, Our unimpassioned, taciturn, and often cloudy temperament in religion, does need an infusion of the piety which will grow up in those lands of the sun.
Such an infusion of the Oriental life-blood into the stock of our Christian experience, would bring us into closer sympathy with the types of sanctification represented in the Scriptures. It would be like streams from Lebanon to our culture. We need it to render the Psalms of David, for instance, a natural expression of our devotions. We need a culture of sensibility which shall demand these Psalms as a medium of utterance.
We need habits of feeling, disciplined indeed, not effervescent, not mystic, but, on the other hand, not crushed, not fearful of outflow, not bereaved of speech. We need a sensitiveness to the objects of our faith, which shall create desire for the objects of prayer, not passionate, not devoid of self-possession, but fluent and self-forgetful in its earnestness, so that it shall have more of the grace of a child in its outgoings.
Of such an experience, intercourse with God in prayer would be the necessary expression. It could find no other so fit. Joy in that intercourse would be like the swellings of Jordan.
THE LIVING FATHER.
"As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me."-JOHN vi. 57.
very remarkable, instructive, and encouraging chapter clearly shows the very deep interest the
ever-blessed God takes in our welfare, and it ought to encourage us to put our trust in Him as the God
of our salvation. Satan tempts us to distrust God, to indulge hard thoughts of Him, and to be indifferent to His claims. He began this awful work in Paradise, and was successful, and Adam fell under his power. "He did eat." And this has been the work of the Devil ever since. He tempts men to doubt the very existence of God; and if he cannot succeed in this, he tempts them to doubt the rectitude of His moral government, the care of His providence, the truth of His Word, the mediation of His Son, and the agency of His Spirit. He is an enemy to God, and he seeks to make us all for ever like him. He has been very successful in his temptations; hence but few have any true confidence in God, and they are indebted to the sovereign grace of God. The sinners before the flood were wanting in confidence in God. What evils they might have escaped, and what blessings they might have enjoyed, if they had cultivated confidence in the living God! This want of confidence was the ruin of multitudes amongst the Jews, and it is the ruin of multitudes at the present moment. The Apostle might well caution us against this enormous evil. "Take heed," he says, "lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." Here, then, let us see the glorious, benevolent, momentous work of Jesus, who seeks to restore our confidence in God, and to do it in a way consistent with all the claims of Divine justice; and thus to restore us to true happiness, for there can be no true happiness without true confidence in God. Now the Great
Teacher seeks to promote this, by revealing the true character of God. He reveals Him as a God of justice and of mercy. He reveals Him as the supreme Ruler, yet as a merciful Father. He reveals Him as a Being who takes a deep interest in our eternal happiness.
The Saviour gives us a very delightful view of the eternal God. He does not say, the living Creator, the living Ruler, the living God hath sent me, but He says, "As the living Father hath sent me," thus reminding us of the cheering relationship existing between God and His people. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Man is in want of a father, who is able to instruct him, protect him, support him, save him, and to bless him for ever; and such a father he may find in God. He is a living Father. He always did live, and always will live. He is from everlasting and to everlasting. He is the source of all life to His children. He is the source of their natural life, "for in Him we live, and move, and have our being." Hence, He who gave us life, has a right to take it away when He pleases. He is the source of our spiritual life. He gives us this in the new birth, when He puts His Spirit into us, "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." And He is the source of eternal life, which is the spiritual life perfected in heaven. "The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Precious promise! Let us feed upon it by daily meditation, and it will inspire our hope, comfort our hearts,
fill us with gratitude to God. How vast the gift! And it is given to many, and to all freely.
This great Father always lives for the welfare of His family. This is not always the case with earthly parents. They sometimes live to curse their children, and not to bless them. For instance, there is the drunken father, the swearing father, the persecuting father; but God lives to bless all His children. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." This relationship will exist for ever. This is not severed by death, like earthly relationships, but will survive death, and time, and the dissolution of all things in this present world. He will be our living Father in heaven as well as upon the earth. The blessings of our adoption are eternal in their duration. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be glorified together." He will be a living Father to all the redeemed, and for ever. And a living Father to countless myriads. These are very joyful tidings, if you consider the infinite resources of this living Father, the pressing wants of the human soul, the access the Saviour gives us to God, the vast promises He has made to His children, and the mutual love existing between the Father and the children. His resources are so great, that He can supply the wants of all who apply to Him. The Gospel encourages us to draw near to His throne of grace. His promises inspire a living hope.
This living Father has made a wonderful manifestation of His love to His children. This is seen in the provision He has made for their salvation in the work of Christ. "For it hath pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell." Col. i. 19. The living Father sent His Son into our world to instruct His children, to redeem them from the curse of the law, to establish His throne in their hearts, to set them a perfect example, and to bring them to glory. He sent Him to release the captives, to reconcile the aliens, and to bring the wanderers into their Father's house. He sent Him to. instruct us on the most important subjects, and to fit us to dwell with Him in heaven. He knew that His Son was qualified for the undertaking, and would be faithful to His engagements. His mission was Divine. He proved this by His miracles. Here, then, see the great love of the living Father in sending His own Son into this sinful world, not to condemn it, but to save it. His love sent Him to bless those who did not deserve His kindness, but who deserved eternal misery. And His wisdom is seen in sending a Saviour so suited to the work given Him to do. And His power is seen in His ability to execute His everlasting purpose of mercy towards our fallen race. And His faithfulness is seen in fulfilling His promise of this great Deliverer. The Son of God lived by the Father, as Mediator. His Father sent Him, sustained Him, and accepted Him as our Surety, Saviour, and Friend.
"He that eateth me, even he shall live by me." These are wonderful words, and may well arrest our at
tention, affect our hearts, and fill us with astonishment. There must be a true faith in the Saviour, in order to the possession of an interest in the blessings in Him. The language of the Great Teacher must not be understood literally, but figuratively. This eating of Christ means believing in Him. The figure conveys several ideas. The idea of want. Persons eat because they are hungry, and desire to preserve their natural life; and so a believing application to Christ supposes a sense of need. The Holy Spirit enlightens the understanding to see the evil of sin, the corruption of our nature, and the holiness of God, and thus convinces us of our pressing need of salvation; and the Gospel shows that our only hope is in Christ. The three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost were made to feel their sinfulness, guilt, and danger, and, consequently, their need of a way of deliverance. Peter showed them that their refuge was in the crucified Saviour. And the figure employed by the Great Teacher conveys the idea of appetite. When persons eat, it shows that they have an appetite for food. At least, this is the case in a state of health. And all who truly come to Christ by faith, desire to enjoy the precious blessings of His salvation. This desire is expressed by earnest prayer. The soul, sensible of its danger, cries, "Lord, save me, or I perish." What food is to the body,
THE KEY TO HEAVEN.-Sometimes, perhaps, thou hearest another Christian pray with much freedom and fluency, while thou canst hardly get out a few broken words. Hence
the blessings of salvation are to the soul. They sustain the life of hope and peace, and joy.- Matt. v. 6. The figure conveys the ideas of appropriation, effort, and confidence. When persons eat, they appropriate to their own use and benefit the food set before them. And so a true faith appropriates Christ. There is an example of this in the experience of Paul, who said, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." He lived by faith upon this true bread, which came down from heaven. Persons cannot eat without an effort. Merely wishing to eat would not nourish the body. And so if you would live a life of faith upon Christ, you must make an effort to do so. This life must be daily cultivated. And when persons eat, it supposes that they have confidence in the food they take, as adapted to do them good. Hence the figure employed by Christ is full of instruction. Eating is a frequent act. And so there must be a frequent exercise of faith in the Saviour. And this will be a source of pleasure. 1 Peter i. 8. There must be faith in the Divine testimony concerning Christ, in order to the enjoyment of the blessings in Him. Here see the way to flourish in religion. The soul must live upon Christ. The voice of mercy says, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." H. H.
thou art ready to accuse thyself and to admire him, as if the gilding of the key made it open the door the better.-Gurnall.