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"How long shall vain thoughts lodge within thee ?"
Oh! not for a moment. Too long, alas! has my foolish heart been a lodging-house for vain thoughts! Too long have I entertained these enemies to my peace, these traitors to my Saviour. But, let the time past suffice to have wrought such madness. Lord drive out these hated inmates. Let them not remain a moment longer to defile thy temple. Fill my soul with Thyself, as thou didst by thy presence, fill the Temple of old with glory.
O! that I were wholly freed from every, the least unhallowed desire! The fulness of this blessedness is reserved for thy heavenly kingdom, where nothing can enter that defileth. Yet, blessed Lord, in thy strength, may I lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset me, looking unto thee continually, till freed from the burden of the flesh.
Here I resemble the troops of Gideon, "faint, yet pursuing." I must wrestle, and fight, and pray, and persevere in the strength of Jesus, the Captain of my Salvation. The enemy of souls has an alarming power, a mysterious access to the mind, imagination, and desires. He can cast his fiery darts into the citadel of the heart, and set the soul on fire. Oh! what burnings of fleshly lusts, what covetous desires, what hard thoughts of God are created by the powers of darkness. Nothing but the blood of Christ, applied by faith, can quench these raging fires. Lord! undertake for me. Save me, a helpless worm, from the malice of my spiritual foes. Thy grace is sufficient for me. Through thy strength I shall prevail.
We cannot prevent the intrusion of vain thoughts. They may be presented to our minds in a moment, at a time when we wish, and are labouring, to fix our hearts on God. Then it is, that Satan will try to disturb our peace, to distract our thoughts, to distress our hearts. His aim is to hinder spiritual
meditations, to drive us from the mercy-seat. stop the current of holy aspirations, he will bring old sins to remembrance, or something more recently transacted, to fill the soul with shame, and to suggest the doubt:-Am I indeed a child of God? This arch enemy will leave nothing untried, that may check the spirituality of the mind, or draw us back again into his snares. His object is, the destruction of the soul.
But, oh! my Saviour, Thou who wert tempted in the wilderness, and who knowest what temptations mean, arm me by thy power to resist the devil, that he may flee from me. O! what agonising pains does the believer feel, when an evil thought fastens itself for days and weeks upon his mind. How does he pray, and grieve, and weep, as if he were standing on the brink of despair. But, when darkness covers his soul, light springs up. The Spirit of the Lord lifts up his standard, and sighs are turned into songs of praise.
A truly pious, but poor disciple of the blessed Jesus, rich in experience and Christian love, once said, "O what strugglings have I had with evil thoughts. Nobody can tell my griefs on this account. But the Lord has delivered me. Once they were inmates, but now, blessed be God, they are only like persons passing by my window; they do not lodge within me." She then spoke of the great help which she got through the Spirit, by setting the Lord alway before her; by living, as seeing Him who is invisible; by realising the presence of God, as Hagar did when she exclaimed, "Thou God seest me." 97 She said, that whenever any evil thought was suggested to her mind, she betook herself instantly to prayer, and wrestled with her Saviour, like Jacob of old,+ till she obtained the mastery over the temptation. She would often say, "It is good to be a wrestling Jacob."
This is truly living a life of faith; it is bringing
into action the principles of godliness; and the end of such a life is peace. She died with a triumphant song of victory.
Oh! that like this aged saint, I may never cease to pray, till prayer be turned into praise, the conflict end in conquest, and the cross be exchanged for the crown. My Saviour cheers me onward, for he says, "Be not afraid, only believe."* "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."+ He who hath promised, is the Faithful and True Witness, the Alpha and Omega, the Lamb of God, the King of Saints, the Lord of Glory. O for faith, a strong and vigorous faith, to lay hold upon the promise, to cleave to the PROMISER, whose word shall abide, when every earthly refuge has passed
"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is." Rejoice, O my soul, in thy God and Saviour, for he hath said, and his word cannot be broken, "Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end."S Rejoice, yea, again rejoice, for Jesus hath declared, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me and I give unto them eternal life ; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." ||
O! my soul, believest thou this? "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.""** Increase my faith in thy unchanging word. Let me daily hear thy voice, and follow thee. Though often faint, through the weakness of faith, suffer me not to shrink from the cross. May I, like Israel of old, though faint, still pursue, contending with my foes, till I vanquish the hellish legion. Like the mariner, home
* Mark v. 36.
§ Isa. xlv. 17.
+ Rev. ii. 10. John x. 27-30.
‡ Jer. xvii. 7.
** Mark ix. 24.
ward bound, may I pursue my onward course, fearless of storms, till I reach the wished-for port. Yes, like the Christian pilgrim, may I brave the toils and dangers of the road, knowing that heaven is the Christian's home, his Father's house, his Paradise of rest.
The Lord he is good,
My spirits to cheer;
For ever shall stand,
Through storms, and through tempests
He'll bring me to land.
Then why should I fear
The wild foaming wave,
Though Satan may rage,
To ruin my soul,
Yet, still I am thine:
XLI. THE CHARACTER AND THE PROMISE, INSEPARA
BLY CONNECTED IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
"Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him for the reward of his hands shall be given him."-Isa. iii. 10, 11.
THERE is no evil we have more to fear than selfdeception. Pride, naturally begets self-sufficiency. Many are ready enough to apply to themselves the cordials of the gospel, who have no right to them ; while numbers of contrite believers refuse to be comforted, although the gospel speaks nothing to them but words of peace.
We find in the word of God the most amplified description of the characters, both of the righteous and the wicked; with the promises made to the one, and the threatenings denounced on the other. If we examine closely the book of God, we shall find our exact character depicted there; and to this character we shall find annexed either a blessing or a curse. Surely, then, it must be the duty of every one to examine himself by the word of Truth, that he may know his real character, either for his conviction or consolation.
"'T is a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Am I his, or am I not?
"" Lord, decide the doubtful case!
If it be indeed begun."
How important is the question: Am I in the Faith? Do I bear the marks of God's children? Have I the Spirit of Christ, as the Seal, the Earnest, the Wit