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heavy-laden, not only with cares and anxieties and sorrows, but with the burden of sin, and with the burden, too, of a conscious and infinite need. And rest for man !
- is there such a thing ? Rest for the laboring and struggling spirit in his bosom - may it come here? Oh! dreaming fancy of rest in the bowers of heaven or on the bosom of a cloud – rest may be there; but can it be any where else? Can it be here? And the solemn teacher says, “it is; come unto me, and I will give it to you." And again, he says, " he that drinks of this water shall thirst again, but he that drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst." Thirst !- how significant that word! How many a heart – 1 am speaking of no fine sentiment now, but of sad, stern reality; nor of any poor or humble man's need, but of the rich and great man's need as much how many a heart is parched and fevered and panting with thirst after happiness! Is there any fountain that can quench that painful thirst? And there is one that says, “ drink of the water that I will give, and thou shalt thirst no more.” And again he speaks of one who had wandered, hungering, in a land of exile, and who says, "how many hired servants of my father have enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father; and will say, father I have sinned.” And he went, and his father saw him a great way off,” and met him, and bedewed with tears his returning child. Is it all figure — beautiful indeed, but only figure? To multitudes it is no more, Few men or none, are so pure and good as to have experienced the full reality. It is figure; but with infinite depths of meaning. How else but in figure, could the Saviour speak to a sinful and sensual people ? For this cause he says, that he spake in parables. And these parables are yet waiting for the light of other ages to clear them up. These figures, the depths of eternity only will fully open and unfold and disclose. This is no extravagance, at least with me.
A fanatic if I seem to any one, yet certainly I was never more in earnest.
Let me then attempt to show you what I mean darkly to show you what I think, is the meaning of these stupendous teachings. Let me suppose then that I could send any one of you from this house to-night, and that the moment he touched yonder threshold, a change should pass over him such as our Saviour required — that he should then and there become a perfectly regenerated man ; that all the burthens of raging passion, unholy desire, and of low, mean aims, should fall from him like a garment, and that he should be clothed anew with angelic purity and joy; that the exhausted fountains of his soul should be filled with the flooding life and light of heaven ; and in fine — to specify only one distinct affection that all hatred, envy, jealousy, and selfishness departing from him, his mind should be filled with one absorbing emotion of disinterested love - love to God, and love to men. What then would follow ? Call it a miracle; but adınit that the miracle were wrought. What then would follow? He would step forth into a new world. The heavens and the earth would wear a new aspect, and one brighter than the visual ray ever kindled. An ocean of goodness would be flowing around him; and infinite love would enkindle in him boundless joy. Man would be dear to his love, and to his very patience. He would have contests with him; but he would sustain them with magnanimity, candor, and gentleness. Temptations and sorrows would
VOL. XVI.-NO. 183.
assail him; but seeing the love and the loving purpose of God in them all, he would meet them with faith, courage and cheerfulness. Good thoughts would come fast as the moments came, and kind affections frequent as occasions called ; and when nothing abroad demanded thought or affection, they would retire to the sanctuary of humility and prayer within.
Is it said that this would be a miracle? Let me remind you, however, that even love in the ordinary sense that which commonly bears this name often works a mira. ele, very like to this. But I grant that this spiritual work, done in a moment, would be a miracle. Yet done in the long experience of life, it is not a miracle, but the very thing that fulfils and interprets the teachings of the Gospel. Done effectually it would be that very satisfying of the soul's hunger, and quenching of its thirst, and relief of its burthens, of which our Saviour speaks. For the Gospel offers no mysterious device for finding rest. Rest is to be found only in the moral and spiritual affections which it inculcates.
But how is this thing to be done — this regeneration to be effected ? All original power is God's — all the spiritual powers within us, are bis ; and the special grace that is offered to help our endeavor, is his. Therefore, in an important sense, the work of our conversion is God's work. But the work, as done by us, is to be done by attention and effort, by meditation, by prayer, by watching, and striving, by spiritual care and self-culture ; and this, during the whole of life. It is not to be done in a moment, but in a life.
Some hearer may turn away from this, with that language of old upon his lips, “this is a hard saying - who can hear it ? " “ We know an
he may say. And he may go to some conference, or conventicle or church, where he may be told that all the work - all that makes the difference between misery and happiness, between hell and heaven may be done in a moment.
I will not gainsay his experience; suppose that something is done; What is done? I answer, that he has begun the work - begun it in unusual circumstances perhaps - in a revival as it is called
- in circumstances fitted beyond all others he may think to move him to the undertaking. Still he has only begun. It is impossible that in one moment, he should have done more. If he thinks he has done all on which happiness and heaven depend, in one moment, he is fatally deceived. If in one moment he has only begun the work, then life lies before him for its accomplishment. And what is done there, let me still say, is what may be just as well done here, in this hour of calm meditation. Would that it were done. And I trust that it is done in such hours as these. “Nay, but
some one may say — and if you, my brethren, will excuse the freedom, I will meet the objection - for the objection is not personal but applies to a class
nay, but you are not the preachers to do it. Your preaching is too rational to work up to the necessary conviction and distress ; you do not alarm them enough to set them to work ; you may interest your hearers, but you will never convert them." God forbid that this should be true! Is it so, my friends? Must it needs be so? When I tell you and show you that on an inward, regenerating, purifying work in your souls, all your welfareOh! an infinite welfare, depends; are there no secret resolves, no solemn purposes, no humble prayers,
your hearts? Are there no beginnings nor goings on of this great work in you? In those vast and vital concerns of religion, that go down to the foundations of your welfare, that touch the silent depths of your being, must there be a noise and a tumult and an agitating occasion and a visible sympathy — things upon the surface - to stir those depths within you ? God forbid that this should be true!
But I must look a little more seriously and deliberately at this objection. It is an objection, however inapplicable, which is too often made to be passed over without some formal notice. It is the objection of late, I think, most in vogue
for the doctrinal questions seem to have passed by. It is constantly said, you know, of the religion preached in our churches that it is cold and superficial; that it is no religion for a dying hour - no religion for the poor no religion for human nature; that there is no regenerating, soul-saving power in it.
Now it may be well for us to consider - in order that we may do no injustice to this charge, however unjust the charge be — that an objection common as this, probably has some foundation either in facts or in appear.
I conceive that it has none in facts. What then are the appearances that lend it countenance ? I know of none but this. The language of our discourses differs somewhat from the ordinary language of the pulpit. We do not use the technical phraseology by which religion has been long set forth, so much as others. Instead of “grace," we often say, sanctity, purity, virtue; instead of “godliness," goodness, devotion; instead of “change of heart," becoming a good and pious man. The inference is, that our discourse wants the true and great meaning of the pulpit. This I utterly deny. I admit, at the same time, and really think, that we may err in this matter of