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the thorns, i. e, ceasing to do evil, laying the axe to the root of the tree, sheltering no darling indulgence which might choke the Word and render it unfruitful. Searching and trying our ways diligently, for “ let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” As there is much to be done by ourselves in the natural world, and yet there could be no harvest but by the good providence of God in causing his sun to shine, his wind to blow, his rain to descend, and his dew to fall; so in the spiritual world, there is much for us to do; no excuse for indolence or carelessness, neglect or indifference, yet by the grace of God alone, the shining of the sun of righteousness, the “blowing where it listeth ?" of the Spirit, the doctrine dropping as the rain, and the promises distilling as the dew:-by the purposes and means of grace alone, can we be made fruitful unto every good work, and come at last to the grave as a shock of corn cometh in its season, and to judgment, as wheat to be gathered into the garner. If we neither sow, nor plough, nor harrow, nor weed, we know that we shall have no increase. And yet if we do all, and the Lord withhold “the former and the latter rain," where will be " the fruit of all our labour under the sun ?” Conscience and Scripture, reason and religion, will apply these truths to spiritual matters, unless we refuse to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely, and prefer "a little more sleep, and a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep," till the night cometh when no work may be done, and the day of salvation is for ever past. Then that “ wicked and slothful servant who knew his Lord's will,” but “prepared not himself to do it,” who ventured to declare that the Lord bid him do more than he could, and was "an unjust and hard master, reaping where He had not sown," in saying, "prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only," and that the promise with which it is connected was a mockery, "and He will deliver you out of the hand of your enemies;" this wicked and slothful
1 Deut. xxxii. 2.
servant, this careless and presumptuous soul, shall be “ cast into outer darkness," where indeed he can do nothing but indulge his sinful propensity to fruitless complaints, by "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth."
Do not then sit down in despondency; reading the word, but not praying fervently to be made thereby "wise unto salvation," nor striving to “enter in at the strait gate.”. Remember the rousing language of the Lord God to Joshua, when, with a supine spirit, he faithlessly and ungratefully exclaimed, “ Alas! O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan” (i. e. out of the land of promise). “O Lord! what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies? And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face ?" (in the attitude of sloth and despondency.) Vain regrets, idle wishes, desponding complaints, will never win the land of promise. Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward;" though it may be, they have “no might,” yet God giveth power to them that
no might,” if they “stir up the grace,"—the little latent grace that is in them : up, and be doing, though but as a man walking in a dream ; say the words of prayer perseveringly, even if you cannot pray, and persevere in reading the Word of God, upon “ the knees of your heart "," though as yet it has been but a dead letter. These are the steps which must be trod, even when sinking in the mire of the slough of despond. Without prayer and the Word of God you must perish; with them, you need not.“ Be not faithless, but believing.” It is true we can do but little, and but little is required of us; yet beware of indolently resting satisfied with knowing how little is required, and then doing nothing! “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?" was the question which searched and roused the idle pride of Naaman; and because it is but little that God requires, why will you fancy you need do nothing, and refuse
1 Prayer of Manasses in Apocrypha.
even to attempt spiritual exertion? Why will you make your soul like that poor impotent man, who lay year after year unhealed by the pool of Bethesda, because there was no man to put him in? *The fountain is opened," and flows freely, but it will not do to look at it and indolently wish you could be washed from your uncleanness and sin. “ Wash you, make you clean," is the command; and the blood of Christ himself will not cleanse you from all sin, unless you “ go and wash in the pool of Siloam," which is sent for sinners. 6 Ye will not come to me that ye might have life,” says the Saviour. It is very little you have to do." Ask, and you shall have, knock, and it shall be opened-come, and in no wise, on no account shall
you be rejected—believe, and you shall be saved.” But how utterly inexcusable will you be, if this little is not done! The unlimited invitation runs thus-"Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." We may be too lame to advance a step, too blind to see the promised good; we may be too weak even to stretch out the hand; we may be unable and disinclined to ask for spiritual food; yet, surely, we can open our mouth, though at the very point of death, to receive what the hand of the Lord holds out. And think what it is we are to receive; the water of life, which is the Spirit; and the bread of God, even that flesh, which is meat indeed; and that blood, which is drink indeed. And if we do but just open our mouth-too weak, too sick, too helpless, too drowsy, too indifferent to do aught else, the Lord will fill it! He does not promise merely just enough to preserve life, but a fulness which we shall indeed find sufficient for every time of need; we shall receive medicine to cure, oil to gladden, wine to revive, milk to nourish, water to refresh, food to strengthen us for every good work. Open thy mouth wide then ; do not be afraid that any promise is too great, too rich, too sweet for a poor death-struck sinner.
Open thy mouth wide" to receive the food which God has provided. There is not one promise so large, so extensive, but if you choose to exert your weakness, you may open your mouth wide enough to receive it, in all its strengthening fulness. “I will fill it” is the promise of Him with whom all fulness dwells, and who can and will "satisfy the empty soul, and fill the hungry soul with goodness." There is a very wide promise, well adapted to fit us for the commandments which are exceeding broad,” and beautifully suited to a nature not sufficient of itself even to think a good thought, but only evil continually. It is this. “And God is able to make all grace abound towards you, that ye, always having all-sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” What more can a guilty, weak, languid creature need beyond the redundance of grace heaped up in this one text? There is not a more comprehensive promise on this subject that “sin shall not have dominion over you." And the fulfilment of this promise includes every other blessing -Peace, pardon, glory! There is another rich promise to stay the soul, and to induce us to keep our mouth open till we are satisfied, and have received out of his fulness all we need. It is this striking counsel in Hosea, “Seek the Lord till he come and rain righteousness upon you." To "rain righteousness” is such a remarkable expression, both as denoting where alone righteousness can come from, even from heaven; and signifying in how abundant a measure it shall come, and how freely and unconditionally, for He sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. We well know the state of the earth when in great need of rain, and we also know that patience and prayer are the only remedies we can have recourse to, when the whole land is withered and parched with drought. To encourage us to seek till He come, we should bear in mind His gracious declaration, “I said not unto the house of Jacob, seek ye me in vain."
Relying on this assurance, we must not for an instant listen to the rebellious and slothful whispers of Satan, and the "evil heart of unbelief," but resolve with a holy boldness in spite of obstacles without, and listlessness within, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” And as the “ kingdom of God suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force," our seeking must not be languid and indifferent, we must “strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many shall seek to enter in, but shall not be able." Seek diligently, call faithfully, knock strenuously, and you may have full assurance that you shall receive the perfect accomplish
ment of “the exceeding great and precious promises which have been purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and are freely offered by His “ free Spirit,” to all who are sincere and earnest seekers of those " hidden treasures. “ If thou seek Him, He will be found of thee. But delay not a moment, “now is the day of salvation;" if you loiter, Satan will again lull your drowsy soul with despairing suggestions. He will either tell you to do nothing, or that it is all of no use. But if he says so, he only proves true to his own character of a father of lies. “He that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out,” is the promise of the God of truth.
“ Work out your own salvation, though “ with fear and trembling," is the command of Him who "works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” The matter then comes to this: Whom will you believe ; the father of lies, or the God of truth? Whom will you obey; "the accuser of the brethren," or the Redeemer of the world ? the prince of darkness, or the “ Prince of Peace ?" C. W. P.
DEAR SIR, -I trust the following short account of a visit I paid the other day to one of our poor neighbours may be interesting to some of your readers: most delighted should I be, if it were to afford some comfort to any one who is suffering under poverty or affliction like her's, by showing where, under most trying worldly circumstances, she found peace, and comfort, and joy, and happiness. Jane D
is a very poor woman, living in a small country village, where we have lately come to reside. She lives entirely alone, in a retired cottage. Whilst her mother was living with her, they managed to support themselves by taking in washing, and Jane earned something by fine needle-work, which she did very well, but latterly her health failed, and since her mother's death, it became so much worse, that for some time past she has been quite unable to do anything for her own maintenance; she has some internal complaint, which prevents her from standing to wash and iron, and her eyes are so weak that she cannot do needlework. She told me,