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WHY THIS BOOK HAS BEEN WRITTEN
My heart is inditing a good matter; I speak of the things
I WAS once talking on the subject of religion with an intelligent agnostic, whom I very much wished to influence, and after listening to me politely for a little while, he said, “Well, madam, all I have to say is this. If you Christians want to make us agnostics inclined to look into your religion, you must try and be more comfortable in the possession of it yourselves. The Christians I meet seem to me to be the very most uncomfortable people anywhere around. They seem to carry their religion as a man carries a headache. He does not want to get rid of his head, but at the same time it is very uncomfortable to have it. And I for one do not care to have that sort of religion."
This was a lesson I have never forgotten, and it is the primary cause of my writing this book.
I was very young in the Christian life at the time of this conversation, and was still in the first joy of my entrance into it, and I could not believe that any of God's children could be as uncomfortable in their religious lives as my agnostic friend had asserted. But when the early glow of
my conversion had passed off, and I had come down to the dullness of every-day duties and responsibilities, I soon found from my own experience, and also from the similar experiences of most of the Christians around me, that there was far too much truth in his assertion, and that the religious life of most of us was full of discomfort and unrest. In fact it seemed, as one of my Christian friends said to me one day when we were comparing our experiences, as if we had just enough religion to make us miserable."
I confess that this was very disappointing, for I had expected something altogether different. It seemed to me exceedingly incongruous that a religion, whose fruits were declared in the Bible to be love, and joy, and peace, should so often work out practically in an exactly opposite direction, and should develop the fruits of doubt, and fear, and unrest, and conflict, and discomforts of every kind; and I resolved if possible to find out what was the matter. Why, I asked myself, should the children of God lead such utterly uncomfortable religious lives when He has led us to believe that His yoke would be easy and His burden light? Why are we tormented with so many spiritual doubts, and such heavy spiritual anxieties? Why do we find it so hard to be sure that God really loves us, and why is it that we never seem able to believe long at a time in His kindness and His care? How is it that we can let ourselves suspect Him of forgetting us and forsaking us in times of need? We can trust our earthly friends, and can be comfortable in their companionship, and why is it then that we cannot trust our heavenly Friend, and that we seem unable to be comfortable in His service?
I believe I have found the answer to these questions, and I would like to state frankly that my object in writing this book is to try and bring into some troubled Christian
lives around me a little real and genuine comfort. My own idea of the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ is that it was meant to be full of comfort. I feel sure any unprejudiced reader of the New Testament would say the same; and I believe that every newly converted soul, in the first joy of its conversion, fully expects it. And yet, as I have said, it seems as if, with a large proportion of Christians, their religious lives are the most uncomfortable part of their existence. Does the fault of this state of things lie with the Lord? Has He promised more than He is able to supply?
A late writer has said-" We know what over-advertisement is. It is a twentieth century disease from which we all suffer. There are posters on every boarding, exaggerations on every blank wall, representations and misrepresentations without number. What visions we have seen of impossible fruits and flowers grown from Mr. So-and-So's seeds. Everything is over-advertised. Is it the same with the Kingdom of God? Do the fruits which we raise from the good seed of the kingdom verify the description given by Him from whom we obtained that good seed? Has He played us false? There is a feeling abroad that Christ has offered in His gospel more than He has to give. People allow that they have not exactly realized what was predicted as the portion of the children of God.
But why is this so? Has the Kingdom of God been overadvertised, or is it only that it has been under-believed; has the Lord Jesus Christ been over-estimated, or has He only been under-trusted ?"
What I want to do in this book is to show, in my small measure, what I firmly believe, that the Kingdom of God could not possibly be over-advertised, nor the Lord Jesus Christ over-estimated, for eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which
God hath prepared for them that love Him; and that all the difficulty arises from the fact that we have underbelieved and under-trusted.
I want therefore to show, as best I can, the grounds there are in the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ for that deep and lasting peace and comfort of soul, which nothing earthly can disturb, and which is declared to be the portion of those who embrace it. And I want further to tell, if this is indeed our rightful portion, how we are to avail ourselves of it, and what are the things that hinder. There is God's part in the matter, and there is man's part, and we must look carefully at both.
A wild young fellow, who was brought to the Lord at a mission meeting, and who became a rejoicing Christian, and lived an exemplary life afterwards, was asked by some one what he did to get converted. "Oh," he said, "I did my part, and the Lord did His." "But what was your part," asked the inquirer, "and what was the Lord's part?""My part," was the prompt reply, "was to run away, and the Lord's part was to run after me, until He caught me." A most significant answer; but how few can understand it !
Christ came to "What man of
God's part is always to run after us. seek and to save that which was lost. you," He says, "having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing." This is always the Divine part; but in our foolishness we do not understand it, but think that the Lord is the one who is lost, and that our part is to seek and find Him. The very expressions we use show this. We urge sinners to "seek the Lord," and we talk about having "found"