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of stalwart soldiers of the Cross have braved fiercest persecution, and “ played the man” to the death, unmoved by jails, racks, thumb-screws, the torture, and the stake ;-held fast their integrity under petty persecutions, many of which exist to the present day, yet persecution, with hoarse voice and blood-red hand, has been a sore hindrance in the way of many inquiring for Zion, whose eyes were gazing on the distant crown, and their hearts longing to reach it. The voice of God, by the prophet, says, “GATHER OUT THE STONES.” Let the trainbands of the whole army of Israel arise as one man to this work ; let such unveil the Flattery which tries to seduce, the Scorn which aims to terrify, and in clear, clarion notes denounce every form and phase of Persecution as dishonourable to God, and mean for man to employ. Thus “Gather out the stones.”
II. THESE STONES. Oh, these stones ! stones laid by thoughtful onts themselves, in their own path. It is not enough that the world does it, that ungodly men raise barriers and create hindrances. There are thousands in the Sabbath congregations who help, by their presence, their influence, their purse, the cause of Christ'; who read our religious literature, have a family altar in the house ; who are assured that to be a true Christian is a blessed thing; who cling to the hope, at present a fallacious one, of being “ for ever with the Lord ;” who weep under the ministry, confess their own unhappiness, love the society of the saints, and yet with their own hands place the stones which hinder their progress to the heavenly kingdom. We mention two of these stones. The first is a heavy and troublesome one. Terrible mischief it has occasioned. Paul (Heb. xii. 1) calls it a “weight," and the “ sin which easily besets us." In Job xv. 11, it is termed the “secret thing." There is some secret. some cherished sin, which, instead of being treated as an intruder, a foe, a murderer, yet lurks within, and is allowed a lodgment in the heart; under the plea of “comparative harmlessness," is yielded to; it may be seldom, and secretly, but while allowed at all, in any measure, it is a stone in the way, a hindrance in the path. Know, reader, that sin and godliness cannot co-exist in the same person. The Holy Spirit will not dwell in the heart in which they “ secret sin ” is nurtured: the foul evil must be put out ere the Spirit will enter in. “No man can serve two masters," and no man can grant indulgence to sin, and continuing to do so, ever reach heaven. “Looking to Jesus," and seeking grace and strength from him, we beseech you“ Lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset” you, or be certain of this-it will binder your coming to Christ, and cause your final ruin. The other stone is DELAY — waiting for the “convenient season." Let a fact illustrate this. Apprized one day of the sudden and serious illness of one who had long been a hearer of the Gospel, the pastor hastened to the sick man's bed. He urged two things; first, entire and immediate surrender at the Cross. “I will attend to this as soon as I get better.” “ But you may never get better, and, Behold, now is the accepted time.'” “Oh yes, I shall soon be better.” “Your position is one of great danger;” and again and again was the point urged. again and again the selfsame answer returned. “Be advised, and have your
Will' made without delay” (thinking that this would open the invalid's eyes to see his danger). Again the same answer : “ When I get better.” The minister, after prayer, retires with a bleeding heart. But a few hours passed, and he is hastily summoned to the bed-side again. The friend is dying. He hastens there, and is met with this remark : “ Directly the will is finished and signed, you will converse and pray with me, will you not, dear sir?” A few' minutes only, and the will is finished and signed; but ere the Testator's ovos signature is dry, the soul has departed, and the man is beyond the reach of converse and prayer. Oh, this terrible stone of Delay, what ruin it has wrought! With such a case as this, only one of many illustrative of the
misery of delay, what power and mercy in the command, “ Gather out the stones.”
III. THESE STONES. Oh, these stones! By whom are these laid ? By professing Christians; by men who avow that they have a hope of heaven, and are journeying there; and so laid that they have been a sore hindrance to those who were seeking to enter the kingdom. We bear no false witness when we make this statement. It is a statement distressing, humiliating, because true. Paul knew this fact, and he said, “ WE... suffer all things, lest we should hinder the Gospel of Christ" (1 Cor. ix. 12); and over those who thus hindered men he shed tears of bitterest grief. Yes; the man who was calm and peaceful in a gale of fourteen nights' continuance, and “when all hope of being saved was taken away,” could encourage the whole crew; who sang at midnight in the Philippian jail, despite his “stripes” and his 5 feet in the stocks ;” who could anticipate death by martyrdom—"The time of my departure is at hand " -he was broken-hearted when he saw professing Christians laying stones in the way. Hear his own words : “Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you EVEN WEEPING, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” There is the ill-tempered professor, whose disposition and speech are dark as “ the tents of Kedar," and sour as “ the apples of Sodom.” There is the worldlyminded professor, who can find whole days for scenes of vanity, but never one hour, save on the Sabbath (and then perhaps but once), for the house and service of God; to whom spiritual conversation is a weariness, and communion with God a “strange thing.” There is the grasping, covetous professor, who gives "grudgingly ” when he gives, and who is supposes that gain is godliness ;” the bigoted professor, who would find it very difficult to utter from the heart (and who will not try to uster it), “Grace be with all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and in truth,” whose prejudices are far stronger than his prayers, and who displays his religion by contempt for all those who differ from him. There is the quarrelsome professor, whose words are “burning arrows;" and that professor who "walks in the way of sinners, and sits in the seat of the scornful.” All these classes, and we grieve to say there are such, are serious hindrances in the way of men. These lay stones in the path of the anxious inquirer, the earnest seeker after truth and heaven. “They tithe mint, and ru , and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God.” Such “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: they neither go in, nor suffer them that are entering to go in.”
With a sorrowful heart we state these things. Well may Christians mourn ; we should be un-Christian if we did not mourn; and well may they awaken us to listen to the command, “Gather out the stones.”
THIS MUST BE DONE. The command is imperative. It proceeds from Him whose word is law; and from that law there is no appeal; that word by which we shall be judged at the last day. The command is necessary. No train can pass over the line on which stones are laid ; and these stones are insurmountable obstacles, upraised barriers in the way. The words of our Lord above quoted prove this: “Nor suffer them that are entering to go in.” The command is plain. Say not, “ They can do no harm;" facts are against you, and the command has gone forth. THEY MUST BE REMOVED. Let every means be employed by the Christian man to remove the stones which the world lays. Let seeking ones resolve to remove, to cast out, those stones which themselves have laid, listening to His words who says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Above all, let professors—for on you the deepest obligation lies—be prepared and resolved, standing by the Cross, and gaining your inspiration, and renewing your strength there, to resolve to crucify every sin, and thus "Gather out the stones.”
“Yes, my Redeemer, they shall die ;
My heart has so decreed."
The command is in the present time. Let delay have no place, no, not another Sabbath. The angel's hand presses thine, and he says, “Escape for the life ; look not behind thee; neither stay thou in all the plain.” “Lay aside every weight,” cast out the besetting sin, and walk with steady step that pilgrim path at the end of which the river rolls, and beyond thence is "the beloved city," the home, the eternal home, of every man who believes in Christ and follows him. Let his own words encourage and animate thee: “ Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
“ From strength to strength go on;
Wrestle, and fight, and pray ;
And win the well-fought day.
“Let a double portion of thy Spirit be upon me.”—2 Kings ii. 9. THERE is a vivid circumstantiality about / use, and may enable us more perfectly to the narrative of Elijah's departure that recognise its benefits. makes a deep impression upon the reader. 1. The difference between men before The expectation that the removal of the God is in the possession of the Holy Spirit prophet was about to take place, his rest - Whatever differences may be constituted lessness on the journey from Gilgal through by their mental qualities, or external cin: Bethel and Jericho to the other side of cumstances, the essential difference un Jordan, the tenacity of Elisha in following doubtedly is the possession of the Spirit him, the naturalness of their recorded con. “If any man have not the spirit of versation, the manner in which the scene Christ, he is none of his," is the sole and is described when the chariot and horses sure test dividing the lost from the saved of fire parted them asunder, and a whirl of which all others are but practical appli wind took the elder prophet up into heaven, cations. Between the saved themselves all combine to increase the interest of the the same test holds good. “There are di narrative. Elisha's request is, however, versities of gifts, but the same Spirit," and the most edifying circumstance of the as his servants, the noblest and ablest stand whole, and a prayer so appropriate and upon the same ground with the least gifted. successful has not unjustly become a fami The man who is most perfectly filled with liar petition among believers. A Christian's the Spirit, who has received a double por enjoyment of spiritual life may be unwortion, is the greatest in the kingdom o thily limited, but if he has tasted of the God. heavenly gift, and has been made a partaker The differences in religious character of the Holy Ghost, he cannot but desire among Christians, apart from the possess an increase of the Spirit, and must often sion of special gifts, must be traced to the ask our Father in heaven, who knows same cause. There is a plain and scrip how to give the Holy Spirit to them that tural distinction between the babes and the ask him, for a double portion. As there perfect in Christ Jesus, between the carpal is no condition more essential to the and the spiritual members of the Church of success of our prayers than a clear | God. Both may be truly Christian. The understanding of the consequences of an | carnal is sincere, zealous, and self-denying, answer to them, if the following remarks | but his religion is repulsive and unlovely, lead to a fuller comprehension of the import | There is a harshness about its best man of this request, they will not deter from its | festations. The man's character is sharp
and angular: his sincerity is unaccompanied power of Elijah. The voice that was heard by the spirit of meekness that considers in the wilderness of Judea cried, Repent. the frailties of others and its own liability The axe is laid to the root of the tree. O to fall; his zeal scorches much more often generation of vipers, flee from the wrath to than it warms ; and although his liberality come. It smote the hearts of the people may often be exercised at the cost of much as did the voice of Elijah; and both his self-denial, it is ungracious and ungraceful. appearance and language reminded them His integrity may command respect, but of the prophet whose return was the last his character does not attract love. It is announcement of the Holy Spirit in the Old not so with the spiritual man. His own Testament. This was indeed Elijah who sincerity is combined with full charity for was to come. On the other hand, Jesus the imperfections of others ; his fervent opens his commission in the synagogue at zeal is a shining but not a burning light; Nazareth in words full of grace and goodand his acts of self-denial and liberality will. The same Divine benignity shone are marked by sweetness and excel. through his whole life. He was never lence. The difference between these good ruffled by opposition or disturbed by men is in their possession of the Spirit. anger. “Wilt thou," said his followers, Both have the Spirit, but the one has a when indignant at the inhospitality of the double portion. This difference may often Samaritan villagers, “ that we command fire be happily discovered in the believer's own to come down from heaven, and consume progress, as his character ripens to perfec them even as Elijah did ?" But he turned tion under the influence of the Spirit of and rebuked them, and said, “Know yo God. He can remember his crude notions, not what manner of spirit ye are of ?" his imperfect judgments and unreasonable The difference between John and Jesus expectations, and if his mind is clearer and is indeed infinitely greater than can be calmer than it was, can thank God that it measured by a double portion of the Spirit; is not because the fire of youth has burned but it follows the law we are illustrating. out, but because grace has purified the John had the Spirit in his measure. He flame, and the Spirit more fully inhabits was filled with the Holy Ghost even from the living, renovated temple. This contrast his mother's womb; but it was part of his between different developments of the testimony to Jesus that “God gave not the spiritual life may also be effectively brought Spirit by measure unto Him." "In Him out by a study of the characters of Elijah dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead and Elisha. The former was the more bodily." remarkable, the latter was the more II. This difference is not one of quantity attractive. Elijah was the greater merely ; it is one of quality as well.—The prophet, Elisha was the better man. grace of God, although regular in its operaWe see in the former a majestic and tions upon the soul, does not act by mechanisublime nature, overawing by the intense cal laws. There is a transforming, vitalizing energy of its convictions and the fearless power with it which produces effects beyond ness of its bearing; but it is stern (and the reach of calculation. It would be a solitary. There is a severity in the tones most incorrect, as well as a most unworthy of his voice befitting the man at whose view for a believer to say, “If I had twice as word the heavens became brass and the much of the Spirit I should be twice better earth iron. His actions inspire wonder than I am ;" when, in fact, a double portion and terror. He is a man to be feared and would change him into another man. observed, but scarcely one to be loved. On There is a measure of the Spirit which the other hand, Elisha appears mild, placid, purifies without appearing to produce the and affable, mingling freely with his fol perfect beauty of a work of love; and an lowers, and taking an interest in their affairs. increase would at once cause the whole He has also an affluence of power to which work of grace to assume a new aspect. A Elijah can lay no claim, and it is always chemist was once appointed to test the beneficent in its working. Is not this water with which it was proposed to supply difference accounted for by the fact that a town, and found it satisfactory in every Elisha had a double portion of the spirit respect but one: it was too hard. But of the elder prophet?
he found also that if an increased quantity A comparison of the two great characters | of the material to which the water owed its of which these men were the types confirms hardness were added to it, the whole would this position. John came in the spirit and I be deposited, and the water rendered perfectly soft and pure. It is so with the l structive to note the importunity with working of grace. The goodness of some which the Saviour inculcates this lesson, very good men is hard and unpalatable; as if teaching importunity by its practice; but let them advance in the divine life, and and reiterating his assurances, as if the their stiffness, severity, and unbending in- | truth were incredible without them. We tegrity will be transformed into tempers are slow to believe it is our own fault that of heavenly sweetness. With what they , we have not a double portion of the have of the Spirit, their state is like the Spirit. But it is so. There is no truth partial cure of the blind man. On the better founded or more humbling than firet application of the Saviour's hands he this, that in religion men are just what saw, but men were like trees walking : at they wish to be. It would be a charge the second touch, he saw all men clearly against God to deny it. It may be John Bunyan relates in his autobio said, Elisha asked a hard thing. True, not graphy how in the earlier years of his for Elisha to ask, but for Elijah to give. ministry his preaching was full of terror; | But we have not to ask Elijah ; and is but after a little season it assumed a anything too hard for the Lord ? Elisha different tone, and became full of love. asked and obtained the hard thing; so did He preached the same truths, and with Solomon; and so shall we. “Ask, and ye greater power ; the sole difference being shall receive, that your joy may be full." that he then enjoyed an enlarged measure After all, the difficulty is not in receiving of the Spirit
but in retaining, the Spirit. The believer III. This difference is in a great mea is often filled with the Spirit, but his sure of our own making.- A man cannot | goodness passes quickly away. It is in make himself wise or eloquent if nature yielding to his power, in living under his has denied the necessary qualifications. He | influence, in continuing to enjoy his premight spend hours in gazing on a picture, sence amidst the temptations and cares of and have a perfect conception of its beau a state of trial, and the uncertainty and ties; but all his desires, without genius, deceitfulness of a partially renewed heart, would not enable him to produce even a tol that the great labour is found; but even erable copy of the original. There are mul here the strength of the believer is in his titudes of things we cannot do ; but this one dependence upon the Spirit, and the earthing we can all do successfully : we can nestness of his desires for a double porask; and we know that the Holy Spirit can be had for the asking. It is very in- | Berwick-on-Tweed.
THE DUTIES OF DEACONS. It may interest some of our readers to know that a discussion has been going on for some weeks in The Freeman on “ The Duties and Responsibilities of Deacons.” It ig needless to say that, in the course of the discussion, many various opinions have been expressed ; but the conclusion is, that one or two friends, interested in the discussion, and feeling its importance, have decided to offer two prizes for the best essays or papers on the subject. The prizes are respectively five and two guineas-the one for the best, and the other for the second best essay; and the essays are to be forwarded to the Editors of The Freeman, not later than the 15th of December next. It is intended that the successful essay shall appear in The Freeman, and no essay is to exeeed in length six columns when printed in the type generally used for the “Ecclesiastical” leading article in that journal. The names of the adjudicators will be hereafter announced. It is desirable that the essays should be legibly written, and the usual plan should be adopted of accompanying the manuscripts with a sealed letter, containing the name and address of the writer.
We have thought it well to mention the matter here, as some readers of THE