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CHRISTIAN'S PENNY MAGAZINE,
FRIEND OF THE PEOPLE
"Why sit we here until we die ?"—2 KINGS vii. 3.
DURING the time that Benhadad, king of Syria, was engaged in besieging Samaria, there was a great famine in that land. There were four lepers at the entering in of the gate, who, by the laws of their land, were forbidden to mingle with the populace. In their extremity they consulted together what course they should pursue. There were three courses before them.
In the first place, they might return into the city; but the famine was as sore upon the people there as upon the four lepers at the gate. The city was reduced to the last stage of desperation. Mothers boiled their own children for food. "An ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver." They had surely little to hope for, being themselves miserable outcasts from society, bereft of friends and of sympathy.
In the second place, they might stay where they were; but, doing this, they were sure that a few days must carry them off by a dreadful death. They must die alone in their separate houses, with none to smooth their dying pillow, or to wet their lips in their last agonies. They must die lepers, than which hardly any fate is more to be dreaded.
In the third place, they might "fall unto the host of the Syrians." But what sympathy could they expect from the enemies of their country? Especially as lepers, how could they hope to be received in the camp of the Syrians. It was, indeed, as a last resort, in their desperation, that they resolved to throw themselves upon the tender mercies of the Syrian soldiery. How unbounded must have been their joy, when, on reaching the enemy's encampments, they found them deserted; when gold, and raiment, and horses, and asses were
there abandoned by their affrighted owners; and, above all, when they were able to enter into the tents, to eat, and drink, and stay the famine which was so rapidly destroying them.
This interesting narrative suggests a few remarks which I hope may be useful in exhibiting the dilemma in which awakened sinners find themselves. They often feel pressed with the dangers which beset them, and, being reluctant to come directly to the Lamb of God, they look in every direction in the hope of safety. Yet there is only one course which will enable them to realise their hopes, and escape the woe they would shun.
1. In the first place, they may not return to their former state of stupidity. As well might the lepers have gone for food to the starving city from which they were exiled by the curse which was on them. The awakened sinner sees too plainly that his former condition was one of increasing guilt and danger. Returning to it would grieve the Holy Spirit, whereby he is to be sealed as an heir of heaven. Returning to his former state, he would harden his heart against the influences of the gospel.
2. Nor may they remain in their present state. It is too miserable. Few men are more wretched than the sinner awakened to a view of his guilt and danger. A consuming fire is kindled within him. Rest he cannot find. Sleep flies from him. He cannot survive the agitations which heave his bosom, unless they are soon quieted. If it were not that men do escape from the power of conviction, either by repentance and faith in Christ, or by a return to stupidity, who can tell how often reason would be dethroned? It is no argument against religion that there are so many cases of insanity from religious excitement; it only shows the power of eternal things to agitate the breast of a sinful man. No soul can be made sensible of its own true character without excitement being produced.
3. Nor may awakened sinners go over to the open enemies of God. Some do this, but it is a sad resort indeed for the quickened conscience. What a way to quiet those forebodings of wrath is it to shut the eyes and rush madly forward in sin, thus treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. What an escape from conviction it is to return to the world, mingle in its gaieties, become buried in its cares, to worship its god, and thus put off for a season what will come sooner or later with tenfold more vehemence.
awakened sinner. Every greater woe, except that All the refuges to which
1. How critical the condition of the avenue that opens before him leads on to one in which he is least inclined to walk. he would resort are insecure. If he goes into them, he will be destroyed in their overthrow.
2. What madness do men exhibit who seek peace elsewhere than at the foot of the cross. How loudly does the voice of wisdom proclaim their folly. How plainly does death exhibit their blindness. What
awful hazard they run to buy a momentary respite from convictions, which must return as sure as there is to be a day of judgment.
3. What a congregation of suicides there will be at the last tribunal. There will be the young lady who drowned her convictions in the gaieties of that party which she meant should be her last, but at which she caught the cold that resulted in her sudden death. There will be the young man who filled his mind with business, or who increased his frivolities, or who ventured an oath or a jest at sacred things, thus at single blow grieving the Spirit, destroying the last hope of his soul, and commencing a career of vice and ruin. 4. How blessed the invitation of the gospel. "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Here is the only safe refuge from the crushing weight of sin, and from the distracting excitement of a quickened conscience.
5. How unutterably miserable will be the condition of the sinner awakened in perdition to an endless, hopeless conviction of his alienation from God. If a day or a week of conviction here is so exciting, so fearfully oppressive and distracting to the mind, what will the sinner do when this misery will be increased a thousand fold, and be unending? "Say, O awakened sinner, who art just now deliberating whether to obey or to resist the Spirit, though now you may abuse God with impunity, 'Can thy heart endure, or can thy hands be strong in the days that I shall deal with thee?""
PREPARATION FOR ETERNITY.
out. Conscience may, indeed, now and then make a convulsive effort to show him his danger; but remorseless habit has well nigh choked her voice, which utters only a feeble, dying groan, and the man goes, grey-headed in sin, to his final account as stupidly as the ox goeth to the slaughter:
IT is a wise and beneficial law of till his few remaining sands are run nature, that as old age begins to steal upon us, the sensibilities become blunted, and the powers both of body and mind more torpid. Hereby are the aged relieved in a great measure from the sufferings they would otherwise endure. But if their hearts have never been renewed, if habits of sin have become fixed by the frosts of age, this benevolent provision of nature becomes their curse. Respecting them it may be impressively asked, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ?" then may ye who are accustomed to do evil learn to do well. The appropriate season for the great work of conversion has been suffered to go by unimproved; and now it is an easy matter to hold on in his course of sin
But the invalid, the man who from month to month feels himself to be tottering on the brink of the grave, and whom a mere breath will plunge into eternity, he must be awake to the Thus reasolemn scenes before him. son infers; but experience shows the conclusion to be false. It is doubtful whether as large a portion of those in feeble health do not live and die unconverted as of the healthy and robust.
have the power given me to set forth the vast importance to the Christian of keeping his soul constantly and vividly impressed with eternity as a reality near at hand! A deep and thorough conviction of this solemn truth is, in fact, one of the most powerful principles that stimulates a man to action, and, therefore, it will enable a man to accomplish more for the honour of God and the good of man than anything
The invalid may, indeed, through fear
Such is a common method by which sin succeeds in robbing men of their eternal birthright. And though multitudes discover the fatal delusion on their dying-beds, and send back to survivors a loud and a warning voice; and though the Bible admonishes them with a trumpet-tongue, it breaks not the fatal charm, nor checks the downward course of that vast multitude who are moving steadily forward in the broad way to destruction. Yet the God of sovereign grace interposes for the rescue of some, who become new creatures in Christ Jesus, and commence a life of faith. Yet even these need much discipline in the school of Christ before they can habitually discern the things that are unseen and eternal. Very prone are they to come again under the power of that delusion which kept them so long, while unconverted, from a realising sense of the nearness of eternity. Oh that I might
Upon the irreligious man the apprehension of speedy death, even while in health, sometimes exerts a paralyzing influence. He perceives that his eternal interests are not secured, although nothing can be more uncertain than life; and conscience is enough awakened to see the amazing hazard he is running by delay. But his heart still clings to some worldly idol, and thus, in the contest between conviction and inclination, the mind is kept in a painful suspense. It sees the vanity of the world, yet cannot muster resolution enough to come to the great decision. No wonder that in such a dilemma a man's usual energy should forsake him even in his worldly pursuits; for in the midst of his labours the withering thought continually recurs, “What is a man profited, though he gain the whole world and lose his soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Until he free himself from the thought of eternity, or give his heart to God, inefficiency must characterize all his efforts. But let him take the glory of God as the motive of his actions, and the thought of eternity as near at hand will nerve his arm with an energy no other principle can impart: for no man accomplishes so much, even in a worldly pursuit, as
he who labours in it with a religious upon his death-bed; his eyes fell upon motive. beauty and splendour wherever they were turned, and strains more than mortal fell upon his ear whenever he listened. His ample fortune was not impoverished, and his appetite was still keen for enjoyment. His spiritual adviser approached him, and, attempting to reconcile him to the fate which awaited him, described the glories of the heavenly world on which he was so soon to enter. "True, holy father," said the dying man; "all is true; but I am content with the glories of the Pitti palace!"
It is also true, that in a few cases of real piety, where bodily disease has thrown a settled melancholy over the soul, the apprehension of death may unnerve the Christian's resolution and energies. While in this morbid state a dark cloud has come over his prospects for eternity; and until that can be dissipated, he has no heart for labour any more than the convicted impenitent sinner a character which he considers his own. But excepted and anomalous cases of this kind it is not my intention to consider. I speak of the influence of the great principle under consideration, upon the Christian character in a healthy state; and it may be in a healthy state, often the most healthy, when the body is most feeble. This influence, I say, upon the soul in such a state, is always most salutary.
DEATH MADE EASY BY
It is related of a gay and wealthy member of the famous house of Medici, that he had erected a splendid palace, and adorned it with the choicest productions of the arts, covering its walls with paintings, and crowding its niches with statues. Its gardens were thronged by the learned and the fashionable by day, and its ample halls resounded with voluptuous music by night; while the sweet breath of groves of lemons and oranges, and the glories of an Italian sky, lent enchantment and ravishment to the whole. Thus lived the prince of Medici, and thus he had hoped to live. But sickness came, sad forerunner of a more cheerless visitor still. He lay
Such is the influence of worldly prosperity. It makes death terrible by the thought of how much is to be relinquished. Abundance takes from the soul the feeling of spiritual want; before the glitter of wealth the glories of heaven fade away; and God himself fails to attract when pleasure opens to the senses the prospect of their full indulgence. The heavenly bodies can rush to their centre only when the forces which bind them to their orbits are either enfeebled or destroyed; no more can the soul rise to religious thought and to God unless the spell is broken under which it is held. Not only is prosperity often attained by means which kill the conscience, but the plethora of abundance, however secured, tends to dull the moral sensibility and dim the moral perception. How hard to die in the midst of success-to hear the tread of the pale messenger-to see his face-be bid to follow-when we had surrounded ourselves with the means of elegant enjoyments, and looking out upon our fields, our gardens, our houses, our merchandise, and saying to ourselves, Soul, take thine ease; thou hast much