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THE MEANS OF RECOVERY AND ESTABLISH
Deliberate conversation with Parents as to the absolute necessity of
personal Religion. I am not insensible that this subject is of more importance than any which has preceded it, and that if I fail here, the volume I should account of very inferior value; but though volumes have been written upon it, I must rest satisfied with only one section.
Here, however, reader, instead of any formal statements, I would prefer to hold some conversation with you, if you have no objection to give me your ear, and something more. What I request more will be mentioned presently; and in the meanwhile, allow me first to say, that, a Parent myself, and acquainted with a Parent's heart, and a Parent's cares, and a Parent's difficulties, I feel in you, therefore, all the interest of sympathy, and of anxiety after your best and your highest interests. If you are already not almost only, but altogether, a Christian, you will, I trust, see the force of all that is advanced as we proceed. If you have reason to suspect that you are not, or if you suspect that there is a deficiency somewhere, then suffer me to request your unprejudiced and serious perusal of what follows, more than once.
Whatever men may say, genuine Christianity alone can rectify the disorder which sin has introduced, whether into the soul, into our families, or the world at large. Upon this supposition, you may have observed that, in Scripture, some one striking feature of genuine Christianity is, occasionally, put for the whole: some one powerful effect is mentioned as an evidence of the existence of Christianity itself. So the “turning of the heart” towards our fellow-men, and especially towards our offspring and the people of God, if that heart directs to suitable measures, is an evidence of the heart being turned to God himself,-a generous effect, and peculiar to Christianity. The shipwrecked mariner, throwing out a rope to his companions who are still buffeted by the waves, gives not more evidence of his being now in safety, than that man gives of his own salvation, who, in a scriptural way and spirit, seeks for the salvation of others. From the manner, however, in which these expressions of Malachi are introduced in the New Testament, all doubt, as to their precise meaning, is taken away, and that by the angel of God, when addressing Zacharias, the Father of John. After intimating to the Parent that his Child should be filled with the Holy Spirit, as a proof of this he
And many of the Children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God; and he shall go before Him to turn the hearts of the Fathers to their Children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just: to make ready a people prepared” or disposed for the Lord.” From this language you will evidently perceive, that the Fathers or Children referred to are such as had also turned to the Lord their God, and that, as a people, they were prepared or disposed for the Lord.
Scripture, indeed, my friend, at any time, never deals in half measures.
It begins at the beginning, and that with the heart; dealing with it through the conscience :
insists upon it that the heart is diseased, and that to such extent, that an entire change there must be effected. Men may
and do hesitate, and cavil, and so may you ; but in these hesitations Scripture discovers no such sympathy as to recede in one page from what it demands in another. To come up, therefore, to the proper meaning of this language, uttered by an angel commissioned from above, nothing short of repentance towards God, and of faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, will answer instead. No, reader, rely upon it, that nothing short of your returning back from sin and Satan, from the world and self, to God, your original happiness; as to your Sovereign Lord to be obeyed, and your best portion to be enjoyed, depending for reception and acceptance on the sacrifice and intercession of Christ alone; nothing short of this can you, with safety, rest in, when you hear of repentance towards God, and of faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
A subject of the Divine Government, and one day to render an account of all the deeds which you have done in the body, yet, at this moment, under an invincible obligation to attend to this subject, I trust you will not object to my referring you for information and conviction, to the law of God itself.
Whatever men may think and say, when living in sin, or paying to this law only the homage of a passing regard; and however even some divines may confound this law with the thunders of Sinai, the majestic circumstances which once attended its more complete display, and formal delivery, it is worthy of your deliberate consideration, that nothing has been left undone to put honor upon it. When the God of glory dwelt in the Jewish temple, in the pillar of the cloud over the mercy-seat, this law, by his special command, was deposited in the ark, the holiest place in the holiest of all, as its dearest and choicest treasure. Thus was it done to the law which God de
lighted to honor. But this, the greatest honor which could then be conferred, was but an emblem of all that followed another day. When God, our Saviour, descended and dwelt below, with a primary view to the divine glory, he placed that glory in the extent and purity of this law, as already illustrative of the interests and character of the Divine Government. Whatever darkness ihere had been, as to the manner of meeting its demands, so as to secure our salvation, in it he saw no darkness at all. No; on the contrary, He came to explain it in all its spirituality, nay, to obey it; thus to magnify and thus to make it honorable. It was during this obedience that the Father said repeatedly, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased :" it was during this obedience that the angels waited upon him, and admired, and worshipped. In the very prospect of this obedience, ages before, the Messiah himself had said, “ I delight to do thy will, yea, thy law is within my heart ;” and now, towards the close, you hear him again,--"I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Yes, under the weight and burden of his great undertaking, you will see that cordial love to the commandment, that zeal for the divine perfections and government, invariably took precedence of his boundless compassion for the souls of men; and be assured, my fellowimmortal, that that which was first in the divine mind, must, of necessity, have a corresponding place in yours.
And, oh! if it has such a place, then will this law explain to your heart's wish the necessity of a Saviour, and of such a Saviour. From Bethlehem Judah even to the place of skulls will you see him employed, in one unbroken design, of explaining and fulfilling this law; thus magnifying, and thus making it honorable. Yet after all, you will then add,-Great as this was, it was not more than the law deserved; nay, born under it, not more than the law demanded.
Now, certainly, of, at least, past indifference to this sacred law, you must be conscious, if not of present aversion ? And is not either of these evidence suficient of a disease of the heart? How are you able, after all this, or how is any man able, to dispose of all ideas, indulged, too, of its strictness, or what you once vainly considered its undue severity? Are they not shamed away before the conviction of its unbending nature--its impartial rectitude ? Has He one law for the rich and another for the poor? one for the old and another for the young ? one for the illiterate and another for the learned ? Nay, may I not add, with reverence, after this unspotted obedience and vicarious death, has He one law for us and another for Himself ? Has he not now convinced you, that this unalterable standard is as it is, not because he has been pleased only so to reveal it, but that it is, as it is, because of his character–because he is such a Godbecause the righteous God loveth righteousness, and his law is the truth ?"
Without, therefore, any reference to a single act of spiritual obedience, which at present is out of the question, though the law admits of no other, converse, oh! converse, as for yourself, with this blessed, and perfect, and unalterable standard of all human conduct.
Soon will you find, to your unconquerable assurance, that, so far from being free from blame, this law has been a domestic of yours, and an old acquaintance who has grown up with you from infancy, to whom, of all others, you have done the most violence, and used so ill. Nor is there any nation, or any man, where it is otherwise. heathen-show the work and design of this law written on their hearts : its very fragments, scattered everywhere, are known by their natural notices, and these, exerting their influence by a sense of right and wrong, appear in their daily deportment. Placed in such circumstances, if you