Imatges de pÓgina

footsteps on the face of the moral chaos may thicken that turbulence which he is at length to harmonize— that the sense of darkness which now oppresses the soul, is in fact the first gleaming of that light by which the darkness is made visible—and the horror by which it is seized upon, when made to feel itself in a sepulchre of corruption, is its first awakening from the death of trespasses and sins, the incipient step of its spiritual resurrection.

But, while we allege this as a word in season to the weary, yet should we like a higher class of evidences than this for the workmanship of God upon our souls -we desire a substantive proof of our regeneration, a legible impress of some one feature that only belongs to the new man in Christ Jesus, and might be an encouraging token to ourselves, that on the groundwork of our old nature the true spiritual portrait is begun, and is now actually in progress towards that last finish, by which it is prepared for a place among the courts or palaces of the upper sanctuary. It is at this point in the series of our self-examinations, that we are met with its most formidable difficulties. It is easy to take account of the visible doings. It is easy to take account also of the evil or corrupt affections. But to find a positive encouragement in the sense that we have of the now gracious affections of a renovated heart to descry in embryo the rudiments of a moral excellence that is yet unformed-to catch the lineaments of that heavenly image, which is but faintly noticeable under that aspect of vigour and entireness which still belongs to the old and the ordinary manthis is found by many an anxious inquirer to be indeed a baffling enterprise; and though he believe in Christ, he has been known to wander in darkness, and even in distress, because short in all his weary endeavours after the full assurance of hope unto the end.

Now, ere we suggest any thing for the guidance of his inquiries, let us remind him of the difference which there is between the assurance of hope and the assurance of faith. The one is a certainty, founded on the

observation that he has taken of himself-and be



cause he perceives, from the real work of grace which has been performed on him, that he is indeed one of the children of God. The other is a certainty, founded on the cognizance that he has taken of God's promises-and because he perceives, both from their perfect honesty, and from the ample unrestricted scope of their address to all and to every of our species, that he may venture a full reliance for himself on the propitiation that has been made for the world, on the righteousness that is unto all and upon all who believe. Now the assurance of hope is far, and may be very far posterior to the assurance of faith. One cannot too soon or too firmly put his confidence in the word of God. The truth of his sayings is a matter altogether distinct from the truth of our own sanctification. Even now, upon the warrant of God's testimony, may the sinner come into acceptance, and take up his resting-place under the canopy of Christ's mediatorship, and rejoice in this, that the blood which he hath shed cleanseth from all sin; and, with a full appropriation of this universal specific to his own guilt, may he stand with a free and a disburdened conscience before the God whom he has offended. He may do all this even now, and still it is but the assurance of faith, the confidence of one who is looking outwardly on the truth and the meaning of God's declarations. The assurance of hope is the confidence that one feels in looking inwardly to the graces of his own character, and should only grow with his spiritual growth, and strengthen with his spiritual strength. But we may be certain of this, that the best way by which we attain to the latter assurance, is to cherish the former assurance even to the uttermost. Let us send forth our believing regards on the Sun of Righteousness, and thus shall we admit into our bosom both a heat that will kindle its gracious affections, and a light that will make them manifest. In other words, let us be ever employed in the work of faith, and this will not only shed a brightness over the tablet of the inner man, but it is the direct aethod by which to crowd and to enrich it with the best materials for the work of selfexamination.

Let us now, then, specify a few of these materials, some of the fruits of that Spirit which is given to those who believe, and on the production and growth of which within them, they may attain the comfortable assurance in themselves, that they are indeed the workmanship and the husbandry of God.

Some, perhaps, may be led to recognize their own likeness in one or other of the features that we delineate, and so to rejoice. Others may be left in uncertainty, or even may be made certain that, as yet, they have no part nor lot in the matter of personal Christianity. But whatever their conclusions may be, we would commit all of them alike back again to the exercise of that faith, out of which alone it is that the spiritual life can be made to germinate, or that it can at all be upheld.

The experience of one man varies exceedingly from that of another; but we would say, in the first place, that one very general mark of the Spirit's work upon the soul, is the new taste and the new intelligence wherewith a man now looks upon the Bible. Let that which before was dark and mystical now appear light unto him-let a power and a preciousness be felt in its clauses, which he wont altogether to miss in his old mechanical style of perusing it-let there be a sense and a weight of significancy in those passages which at one time escaped his discernment-let there now be a conscious adaptation between its truths and the desires or the necessities of his own heart-and, above all, let there be a willing consent and coalescence with such doctrines as before revolted him into antipathy, or at least were regarded with listless unconcern-in particular, let there be a responding testimony from within to all which that book affirms of the sin of our nature -and, instead of the Saviour being lightly esteemed, let his name and his righteousness have all the power of a restorative upon the soul. Should these things meet in the experience of any one, then it needs not that there should either be a voice or a vision to convince us, that upon him the Holy Spirit of God has had its sure, though its silent operation-that he has been plying him with his own instrument, which is the

word of God-that it is he, and not nature, who has evolved from the pages of Scripture this new light on the mind of the inquirer-that, apart altogether from the visitation of a trance, or a glory, or the inspiration of a whisper at midnight, there has been a wisdom from above, which, through the medium of the written testimony, has addressed itself to the man's understanding; and the perception which he now has of the things of faith, is not the fruit of his own spontaneous and unaided faculties-that the things which he has gotten from Scripture, he in fact has gotten from the Spirit, who holds no other communication with the human mind than through the avenues of God's unalterable record,—they may be the very things which the natural man cannot receive, and neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

But while we hope that this may fall on some with an impression of comfort, it is right that it should be accompanied with a caution. Though true that there may be a desire for the sincere milk of the word, which evinces one to be a new-born babe; yet it is also true, that one may have tasted of the good word of God, and finally apostatize. And lest any who have been so far enlightened by the Holy Ghost should be of this hopeless and ill-fated class, let us warn them to take heed lest they fall-lest they fall more particularly from the evidence on which we have now been expatiating-lest they lose their relish, and so give up their reading of the Bible-lest the first love wherewith they at one time regarded it should again be dissipated, and that spiritual appetite which they felt for the essential simplicities of the gospel, should at length decline into a liking for heartless controversy or for barren speculation. Let such strive, by prayer and by a constant habit of perusal, to retain, yea, to augment their interest in the Bible. Let them be assured, that a kindredness in their heart with its flavour and its phraseology, is a kindredness with heaven-nor do we know a better evidence of preparation for the sanctuary, than when the very truths and very words of the sanctuary are precious.

But again, another fruit of the Spirit, another sign, as it were, of his workmanship upon the soul, is that we love the brethren, or, in other words, that we feel a savour which perhaps we had not formerly in the converse, and society, and whole tone and habit of spiritual men. The advantage of this test is, that it is so very palpable-that with all the obscurity which rests on the other evidences, this may remain a most distinct and discernible one, and be often the solitary vestige, as it were, of our translation into a new moral existence, when some dark cloud hath overshadowed all the other lineaments of that epistle which the Spirit hath graven upon our hearts. Hereby know we," says the apostle, "that we have passed from death unto life, even that we love the brethren." One may remember when he had no such love-when he nauseated the very air and aspect of sacredness-when the world was his kindred atmosphere, and worldly men the only companionship in which he could breathe with native comfort or satisfaction-when the very look and language of the peculiar people were an offence to him, and he gladly escaped from a clime so ungenial with his spirits, to the glee of earthly fellowship, to the bustle of earthly employments. Was it

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so with him at one time, and is it different now? Has he a taste for association with the pious? Does he relish the unction that is upon their feelings, and has he now a tact of congeniality with that certain breath and spirit of holiness, the sensation of which, at one time, disgusted him? Then verily we have good hopes of a good, and, we trust, a decisive transformationthat this taste for converse with the saints on earth, is a foretaste to his full enjoyment of their converse in heaven-that there is a gradual attemperment going on of his character here to the condition which awaits him there-that he has really been translated from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of light-and if it be true, that to consummate our preparation for hell, we must not only do those things which are worthy of death, but have pleasure in those that do them, we cannot understand why a growing affection

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