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to holiness; when the lascivious become chaste, the passionate meek, the selfish self-denying, the covetous liberal, the proud humble; when men are seen trampling upon the idols to which they lately bowed down in subjection, here is a moral victory which nothing earthly can account for. The power which conquers the world must be derived from something the world knows not of. Men may reply to an argument, but there is no reply to a life changed from sin to holiness. It is a fact which every man can observe, which every man comprehend, and which can be accounted for by nothing but the power of the Spirit from on high ; and that Spirit acting only through the words of Christ, teaches that Jesus is the Messiah sent of God.
Nor is this all. The Spirit is sent to convert men in answer to the prayers of the children of God. They are the medium through whom the Spirit is imparted to men. God converts the world through the instrumentality of his own children. But their prayers are in vain, and their efforts are a dumb show, unless they proceed from a holy and loving soul. God has thus made the progress of his cause on earth, the salvation of a world perishing in sin, to depend on the holy and consistent lives of the disciples of his Son. For this reason again he declares that each one of us is the keeper of his brother.
Not only are we taught our responsibility in this matter; the most solemn judgments are denounced against those who neglect to fulfil it, or who, by their example or precept, lead others into sin. This is what our Lord means by offending, or being a cause of offence or stumbling to others. He declares that it were better for us that a millstone were hanged about our necks, and we be cast into the sea, than to be guilty of this sin. Nay, he urges us to cut off a right hand, or pluck out a right eye, rather than do it. In other words, he teaches us that we must suffer any privation, lose any advantage, or deprive ourselves of any pleasure, rather than by our conduct or example be the means of ruining the souls of our fellow-men. In a word, we are forbidden to do or to leave undone anything by which the salvation of our brethren may be endangered. The apostle Paul carried out this precept to the letter. He knew, as well as we, that meat commendeth us not to God, for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we eat not are we the worse, yet said he, if meat maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth. It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, is offended, or is made weak. It is in this spirit that the Master holds us to be the keepers of our brethren.
And now suppose a professed disciple of Christ to commit any of the sins of which I have before spoken. He does more than lead men into
he stupefies their consciences, and teaches them to do evil without remonstrance from within. Looking upon him as a practical exponent of the law of God, they flatter themselves that what he does is not forbidden, and they may therefore do it with impunity. Suppose a Christian parent to be thoughtless about his word; in fits of passion VOT. VIII.
to give way to violence of manner and rashness in utterance; suppos him to labour more for wealth and position than for Christ and his salvation ; suppose him to allow successful wickedness to pass unrebuked, and unpopular piety to be made a matter of ridicule, his children will of course follow his example. But this is not all. They will naturally conclude, either that he is no Christian, or that all this is consistent with Christianity; that there is in it nothing morally distinctive, and that in fact it is all a pretence. Another disciple is a merchant, attentive upon all the ordinances of religion, sound in the faith, and ready upon all proper occasions to exhort men to repentance. But follow him to his place of business, and you may find him grasping with an overreaching eagerness for gain, forgetful of truth in his representations, selfish and unfeeling towards those in his power, and capable of littleness, nay of meanness, in financial negotiations. That the young men around him will imitate his example, there can be hardly a doubt. But more than this : they will learn to associate the most solemn truths of religion, and the most devout profession of piety, with selfishness and trickery. The gospel itself becomes to them an offence, and to awaken them to repentance becomes almost hopeless. Who has hardened their hearts and stupefied their consciences ? Was not this man the keeper of the souls of his brethren, and how has he kept them?
Suppose a disciple of Christ does none of this, but contents himself with doing nothing for his Master. His most intimate friends declare with truth that he never warned them of their danger or pointed them to Christ; while they know that he believes them to be, at every moment, in danger of eternal death. He converses with the freedom of a friend on every other subject, but never utters a word about personal religion. They would gladly receive his advice and listen to his warnings, but on this subject his lips are closed in unbroken silence. They ask, Can he believe the religion which he professes? If we believed him to be in so imminent a danger, we could not let him go unwarned. Thus his very silence hardens the hearts of men. They arrive at the conclusion that there is, after all, no great danger to be apprehended from a life of irreligion, and they go on in impenitence to eternal death.
Again, the word of God teaches us that if any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Hence, when a man professes to believe in Christ, nothing is so marked as the entire change of his moral affections. The pleasures, the amusements, the ambitions, the gains of the world have lost their charms, and he turns from them with aversion, for they were ruining his soul." His affections are placed on things above, and thence he derives a happiness of which he had before no conception. Happiness was before only a shadow, now he has found the substance. His soul, wearied in the chase of that which satisfieth not, has now found rest in the bosom of God.
But what if this disciple at any time forgets all this, and mingles as before with the world ? He enters into its amusements, and drinks as
deeply as ever of the cup of its pleasures. The meeting for prayer is deserted for the ball-room, the theatre, the opera, and the card-table. In fact, in all but his profession, so far as man can see, he is just the same person that he was before. Men put these two things together. They say, Here is a man who has tried both sources of happiness, and we have tried but one. After a deliberate trial of both, he comes back to that which we have always chosen. From an adequate knowledge of both, he determines that the world is the better portion. After all this talk about religion, he evidently believes that there is nothing in it. Is not this a natural and reasonable conclusion ? And who is responsible for the production of this result? Who furnished the facts from which this conclusion is drawn? When God shall ask, Where is Abel thy brother? will not thy brother's blood cry out against thee from the ground?
And now, if all this be so, what remains to be done? Does it not become us to form a more definite conception of the character, and estimate more truly the responsibility, of a disciple of Christ ? Shall we not humbly repent of the carelessness of our lives and the worldliness of our motives? Shall we not once more lay upon our shoulders the forsaken cross, deny ourselves, and follow in the footsteps of Christ ? Shall we not, as Christ did, make the salvation of souls the object in reality for which we live. There is much land to be possessed, and we are well able to possess it? Let us thrust in the sickle and reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
The encouragements to Christian effort were never so great since the apostolic age as they are at this moment. The field is the world, and it is all white to the harvest. At home we may labour under the protection of law, and abroad the heathen are waiting for the gospel. Encouraged and refreshed by what we have seen, let us enter with tenfold earnestness upon the work of the Lord, and give him no rest until the sun of the day of Pentecost again rises upon the earth. Let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season shall we reap if we faint not.
The Benefactions of Little Christel.*
The flower at her foot, and the sun'over head,
Pondering what the preacher had said.
I suppose the story of Good Little Christel, which I have seen in English prose, and which I have here done into verse (with such alterations that its old friends will hardly know it again !) is of German origin.
• Even the youngest, humblest child
Something may do to please the Lord:' •Now, what, thought she, and half-sadly smiled,
'Can I, so little and poor, afford ?'• Never, never, a day should pass,
Without some kindness, kindly shown,' (Little Christel looked down at the grass,)
Rising like incense before the Throne. • Well, a day is before me now;
Yet, what,' thought she, can I do, if I try? If an angel of God would show me how!
But silly am I, and the hours they fly.' Then a lark sprang singing up from the sod,
And Christel thought, as he rose to the blue, • Perhaps he will carry my prayer to God;
But who would have thought the little lark knew?'
Now she entered the village street,
With book in hand, and face demure,
To a crying babe at a cottage door.
It puffed with its round red cheeks in vain,
And baby's breath could not stir it again. Poor baby beat the sail, and cried,
While no one came from the cottage door ; But litcle Christel knelt down by its side,
And set the windmill going once more. Then babe was pleased, and the little girl
Was glad when she heard it laugh and crow; Thinking, ‘Happy windmill, that has but to whirl,
To please the pretty young creature so !'
But she saw, as she walked by the side of the brook,
Some great rough stones that troubled its course, And the gurgling water seemed to say, 'Look !
I struggle, and tumble, and murmur hoarse !' How these stones obstruct my road!
How I wish they were off and gone !
Singing in silvery undertone.'
Put off the shoes from her young white feet;
The brook already sings. Thanks ! sweet ! sweet!' O then she hears the lark in the skies,
And thinks, 'What is it to God he says?'And she stumbles and falls, and cannot rise,
For the water stifles her downward face. The little brook flows on as before,
The little lark sings with as sweet a sound, The little babe crows at the cottage door,
And the red rose blooms, but Christel lies drowned!
Come in softly, this is the room;
Is not that an innocent face?
Think, child, of heaven, and Our Lord his grace. Three at the right and three at the left,
Two at the feet, and two at the head, The tapers burn. The friends bereft
Have cried till their eyes are swollen and red. Who would have thought it when little Christel
Pondered on what the preacher had told? But the good wise God does all things well,
And the fair young creature lies dead and cold !
Then a little stream crept into the place,
And rippled up to the coffin's side,
And kissed the eyes till they trembled wide :
You helped the brook, and I help you ;
I bathe your eyes with healing dew.'
And coloured her cheeks and lips with red; • I remember, and Heaven does the same,'
Was all that the faithful rose-branch said.