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Gomorrah stood, and where they were destroyed. The valley of Shaveh, where Melchizedek met Abraham after his victory over the five kings. The valley of Eshcol, where the spies of the children of Israel gathered the bunch of grapes. The valley of Jezreel, wherein was the vineyard of Naboth, and where Jezebel was destroyed. The valley of Achor, where Achan was stoned to death, with his sons and daughters: and the valley of Elah, wherein Goliath defied the armies of the God of Israel.
Then, besides these we read of the valley of Megiddon, wherein Josiah was slain fighting against Pharaoh-nechoh. The valley of Hinnom, or of slaughter. The valley of Decision, or of thrashing and cutting off; with the valleys of Shittim, Jehoshaphat, Gibeon, Succoth, Berachah, Baca, and Rephaim; and something is said, too, of the valley of Passengers’-vision, and the valley of the Shadow of Death.
But there is another valley into which the people of God are frequently brought, which is not mentioned expressly by name in Holy Scripture, and that is the valley of Extremity.
Have you ever been in this valley? All who are miserable when they enter it, should seek for its hidden treasures. People come here when they are at their wit's end, and carry away goodly pearls.
What is it to be in the valley of Extremity? It is to be in that state of mind in which the soul says, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me!” This is to be in the valley of Extremity. There is no unlawful presumption in this valley. It is not, I will have this or that, in this or that particular way. The soul is in no condition for choosing, but it will have something. It is often black darkness in this valley-a darkness that may be felt. Jacob was here wrestling all night, and determined to have a blessing. Though the Divine Angel himself said “Let me go,” yet Jacob's resolute answer was, “I will not.” The woman of Canaan was here, and when told to be quiet, her answer was the same, I will not. The blind men cried out in this valley, they were told to be quiet, but they cried the more. All these cried, “I will not let thee go ;” and all these obtained their petitions, for as “the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision,” Joel iii. 14, so often is deliverance at hand in the valley of Extremity.
This valley is dark and lonesome, but the Lord is very nigh in the darkest part of it. There is neither sun, moon, nor stars to be seen; yet in this valley would I lie, and die there, rather than come up out of it without the blessing. There is a multitude crying out to me day and night, “Hold thy peace!” A fearful spirit; a sluggish spirit, a despairing spirit, are against me-"Trouble not the Master; hold thy peace,” say they. Yea, God himself seems to say, by the voice of his silence, "Let me go;" but, through his grace, my answer is, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me," Gen. xxxii. 26.
A DYING MAN. I WAS lately requested to visit a man lying on a sick bed. I found him in the last stages of a rapid consumption. He had been a stout hardworking man, and was still young, only about thirty years of age; but his disease had made such rapid inroads on his constitution, that he was almost as weak and helpless as a child. His formerly strong frame had become like a shadow--a living skeleton. I sat close to his bed-side, while he slowly stretched out his wasted arm; and truly it was a humbling sight. I thought of that touching description in the 90th Psalm, “ Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.” His eyes were sunk, and his voice was so weak, that the greatest exertion could not raise it above a whisper; and the decay of his lungs had given it a hollow and sepulchral sound, which filled me with melancholy. I asked if he had ever read that passage in Heb. xii. 6, “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” He said he had. I inquired if he thought it applicable to his case, and if he felt the comfort it contains, when he whispered the following : “O, sir, I was careless and thoughtless about my soul and the Bible in my health. I did not go to a place of worship as I ought. My conscience troubled and tormented me, for I knew I was doing wrong; but I always intended to do better; and if recover from this illness I shall lead a very different life.” This was a melancholy account of the way in which his youth and strength had been spent. “But," said I, “if it should not please God to recover you—if it should be his holy pleasure that this sickness should end in death-do you think your good intentions will be of any use to you at his righteous judgment seat?” He replied, “ That he did not know; but as he had always been honest, as he had never injured any body, never persecuted Christians for their religious ways, and often obliged others when it was in his power to do so, and, as God was merciful, he hoped all would be well with him after death."
I told him it was right to be honest, and obliging, and moral in our conduct; but yet, as his own conscience was not satisfied with all, I was surprised he should think God would be satisfied. This plain remark forced a sigh from his hollow breast, and he said, “Oh! I do not know what to do. I wish I had my life to live over again!” Having said this, he was quite exhausted. I saw that he was not likely to live many days; and I thought of the necessity and wisdom of seeking salvation in youth and health, from God, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.
My reader, as it is quite possible that you are forming good intentions like this poor man, but never have fled to the “ blood of sprinkling,” which alone can give peace of conscience; or, like him, may be making your morality a sort of resting place for your soul, I will address you as I did him:
1st. As to Intentions. God will judge men according to their works, not according to their intentions. A man may intend to amend his ways, for the simple purpose of quieting his conscience; but if he do not seek the grace that is in Christ Jesus, he will never carry his intentions into effect so as to please the Searcher of hearts. A conscience often silenced by these means, at last becomes seared; and a seared conscience is the most dreadful calamity that can befal a sinner, therefore never resolve without at once fulfilling; never depend on some future time; but at this moment give yourself, by faith, to Jesus Christ. “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation," 2 Cor., vi. 2.
2nd. As to Morality. Morality is not Christianity. Morality may spring from many motives; but Christianity means union to Christ, following Christ, obeying Christ. All Christians are of necessity moral, but there are many moralists who are not Christians, We may be honest, upright, and obliging to man, and yet hate God and holiness, therefore, good conduct towards our fellow creatures cannot justify us for rebelling against God. An outward regard to the demands of the second table of the law will gain us a good character from our fellow creatures; but if we continue transgressors of the first table of the holy law, we are under the curse, for “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,” Deut. xxvii. 26. See Jer. xi. 3; Gal. iii. 10. Doing part of our duty, can never entitle us to the reward promised for the faithful discharge of the whole. Propriety of conduct, or morality, is necessary to our prosperity in this world, but holiness of heart and life are equally necessary before a man can enter heaven, for without holiness no man shall see the Lord, Heb. xi. 14. We need faith in Jesus Christ before we can be justified from the curse of the law, or receive the Holy Spirit to sanctify and make us holy. This arises from our fallen state, which includes guilt and pollution.
Reader! the dying man's mind appeared to be gradually opened, during the three weeks that he survived after this visit, to understand these and similar truths. May you see the folly of trusting to any thing for salvation short of the finished work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. L.
SELECT SENTENCES FROM OWEN. He that would be little in temptation, let him be much in prayer. BEWARE of self-confidence ! “Be not high-minded, but fear: let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Wouldst thou think that Peter, who had walked on the sea with Christ, confessed him to be the Son of God, and had been with him on the mount, when he heard the voice from the excellent glory, should at the word of a servant girl, when there was no legal inquisition after him, no process against him, nor any one in his condition, instantly fall a cursing and swearing that he knew him not ? Let those take heed of self-confidence who have any mind to take heed of sin.
Real religion is not the doing of this or that thing, but the doing of all things by Christ commanded; not a loving of friends only, but of enemies; not a denial of the ways of ungodly men only, but a denial of self and the world; not only a doing hurt to none, but a doing good to all ; not a hatred to evil men's ways only, but a love to their persons ; not praying and hearing only, but giving alms, communicating, showing mercy, exercising loving-kindness in the earth; not a mortification of pride and vanity only, especially if as to others in any outward appearance, but of envy, wrath, discontent. In a word, it is perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.”
THE THREE BEGGARS. DO not be displeased at the title of The Three Beggars, for I am not going to justify begging. Where there is one who begs through distress, there are ten who do so from idleness. The psalmist says, I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread :" and this saying, in a general sense, applies to our days, as well as those of David, king of Israel.
But though I cannot justify begging, yet am I always ready to learn a lesson from a beggar, if I have the opportunity; and an opportunity of this kind I had but a short time ago. A rap came at the door, and when it was opened, a man in a ragged dress told me, in a whining voice, that he was ashamed to beg. Now, the very tone of the man's voice told me that he was an hypocrite. I believed him not; but when he said that he was ashamed to beg, “ Ay! ay!” thought I, “so was I ashamed to beg once; but God, in mercy,
took that fine, dainty notion out of my head. He made me deem it good to beg of him, not only for daily bread, but for pardon and for peace.
We are all ashamed, by nature, to go a begging, but God brings us off that, when he sets before us our wretched condition, and humbles our proud hearts. Do not be ashamed of begging of God, my friends; for the saints in heaven rejoiced when on earth to be beggars at the throne of grace.
A little while ago, just as I had seated myself at the breakfast table, I heard my neighbour say rather sharply to some one, “Well! you begin very early in a morning;” and, looking through the window, I found that she was speaking to a beggar who had just paid her a visit, though it was but a little past eight o'clock. I could not help applying this to spiritual begging. “ All very right,” thought I, “to begin begging early in a morning ; David did the same. “In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up,” Psa. v. 3. If you wish your souls to thrive, my friends, be early beggars at mercy's door. In spiritual,