"Hardly a glimmer of the humbling truth of our natural depravity dawns on the dull apprehension of the worldly-wise, though souls taught from above know it and are appalled by it. In divers ways the discovery comes to those whom the Lord ordains to save. . . .
"There is a vital connection between soul-distress and sound doctrine. Sovereign grace is dear to those who have groaned deeply because they see what grievous sinners they are. Witness Joseph Hart and John Newton, whose hymns you have often sung, or David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards, whose biographies many of you have read. You seldom hear much of God's everlasting covenant in these modern times, for few men feel that thorough conviction of sin which comes directly from the teaching of the Holy Spirit. In the economy of redemption the effectual operation of the Spirit in enlightening the heart concerning its own sinfulness is sure evidence of the Father's personal love to His chosen people, and of the special atonement that the Son of God made for their transgressions."--C H. S.
Chapter 6 "Through much Tribulation"
MY heart was fallow, and covered with weeds; but, on a certain day, the great Husbandman came, and began to plough my soul. Ten black horses were His team, and it was a sharp ploughshare that He used, and the ploughers made deep furrows. The ten commandments were those black horses, and the justice of God, like a ploughshare, tore my spirit. I was condemned, undone, destroyed--lost, helpless, hopeless--I thought hell was before me. Then there came a cross-ploughing, for when I went to hear the gospel, it did not comfort me; it made me wish I had a part in it, but I feared that such a boon was out of the question. The choicest promises of God frowned upon me, and His threatenings thundered at me. I prayed, but found no answer of peace. It was long with me thus.
The abundant benefit which we now reap from the deep ploughing of our heart is enough of itself to reconcile us to the severity of the process. Precious is that wine which is pressed in the winefat of conviction; pure is that gold which is dug from the mines of repentance; and bright are those pearls which are found in the caverns of deep distress. We might never have known such deep humility if the Lord had not humbled us. We had never been so separated from fleshly trusting had He not, by His rod, revealed the corruption and disease of our heart. We had never learned to comfort the feeble-minded, and confirm the weak, had He not made us ready to halt, and caused our sinew to shrink. If we have any power to console the weary, it is the result of our remembrance of what we once suffered--for here lies our power to sympathize. If we can now look down with scorn upon the boastings of vain, self-conceited man, it is because our own vaunted strength has utterly failed us, and made us contemptible in our own eyes. If we can now plead with ardent desire for the souls of our fellow-men, and especially if we feel a more than common passion for the salvation of sinners, we must attribute it in no small degree to the fact that we have been smitten for sin, and therefore, knowing the terror of the Lord, are constrained to persuade men. The laborious pastor, the fervent minister, the ardent evangelist, the faithful teacher, the powerful intercessor, can all trace the birth of their zeal to the sufferings they endured through sin, and the knowledge they thereby attained of its evil nature. We have ever drawn the sharpest arrows from the quiver of our own experience. We find no sword-blades so true in metal as those which have been forged in the furnace of soul trouble.
A spiritual experience which is thoroughly flavoured with a deep and bitter sense of sin is of great value to him that hath had it. It is terrible in the drinking, but it is most wholesome in the bowels, and in the whole of the after-life. Possibly, much of the flimsy piety of the present day arises from the ease with which men attain to peace and joy in these evangelistic days. We would not judge modern converts, but we certainly prefer that form of spiritual exercise which leads the soul by the way of Weeping-cross, and makes it see its blackness before assuring it that it is "clean every whit". Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Saviour. He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honour of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed.
Our own experience recalls us to the period when we panted for the Lord, even for Him, our only want. Vain to us were the mere ordinances--vain as bottles scorched by the Simoom, and drained of their waters. Vain were ceremonies--vain as empty wells to the thirsty Arab. Vain were the delights of the flesh--bitter as the waters of Marah, which even the parched lips of Israel refused to drink. Vain were the directions of the legal preacher--useless as the howling of the wind to the benighted wanderer. Vain, worse than vain, were our refuges of lies, which fell about our ears like Dagon's temple on the heads of the worshippers. One only hope we had, one sole refuge for our misery. Save where that ark floated--North, South, East, and West was one broad expanse of troubled waters. Save where that star burned, the sky was one vast field of unmitigated darkness. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! He alone, He without another, had become the solitary hiding-place against the storm. As the wounded soldier, lying on the battle-field, with wounds which, like fires, consume his moisture, utters only one monotonous cry of thrilling importunity, "Water, water, water!" so did we perpetually send our prayer to Heaven, "Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me! O Jesus, come to me!" We have, we hope, many a time enjoyed nearness to the throne of grace in prayer, but, perhaps, never did such a prayer escape our lips as that which we offered in the bitterness of our spirit when seeking the Saviour. We have often poured out our hearts with greater freedom, with more delight, with stronger faith, in more eloquent language, but never, never have we cried with more vehemence of unquenchable desire, or more burning heat of insatiable longing. There was then no sleepiness or sluggishness in our devotion; we did not then need the whip of command to drive us to labours of prayer, but our soul could not be content unless with sighs and lamentations, with strong crying and tears, it gave vent to our bursting heart. Then we had no need to be dragged to our closets like oxen to the slaughter, but we flew to them like doves to their windows; and when there, we needed no pumping up of desires, but they gushed forth like a fountain of waters, although at times we felt we could scarcely find them a channel.
I remember the first time I ever sincerely prayed. I do not recollect the words I used; surely, there were few enough words in that petition. I had often repeated a form; I had been in the habit of continually repeating it. At last, I came really to pray, and then I saw myself standing before God, in the immediate presence of the heart-searching Jehovah, and, I said within myself, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." I felt like Esther when she stood before the king, faint and overcome with dread. I was full of penitence of heart, because of His majesty and my sinfulness. I think the only words I could utter were something like these, "Oh!--Ah!" And the only complete sentence was, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" The overwhelming splendour of His majesty, the greatness of His power, the severity of His justice, the immaculate character of His holiness, and all His dreadful grandeur--these things over-powered my soul, and I fell down in utter prostration of spirit, but there was in that prayer a true and real drawing near to God.
I have not many relations in Heaven, but I have one whom I dearly love, who, I doubt not, often prayed for me, for she nursed me when I was a child, and brought me up during part of my infancy, and now she sits before the throne in glory--suddenly called home. I fancy she looked upon her darling grandson, and as she saw him in the ways of sin, waywardness, and folly, she could not look with sorrow, for there are no tears in the eyes of glorified ones; she could not look with regret, because they cannot know such a feeling before the throne of God; but, ah! that moment when, by sovereign grace, I was constrained to pray, when all alone I bent my knee and wrestled, methinks I see her as she said, "Behold, he prayeth; behold, he prayeth." Oh! I can picture her countenance. She seemed to have two Heavens for a moment--a double bliss, a Heaven in me as well as in herself--when she could say, "Behold, he prayeth."
I have known some who have suspended prayer through the idea that the petitions of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, and that therefore it was but committing sin to attempt to offer their supplications. Well can I remember, when coming to Jesus myself, that for years I sought pardon, and found it not. Often, in the deep anguish of my spirit, did I stay my petitions, because I thought them hopeless; and when again the Holy Spirit drew me to the mercy-seat, a deep horror rested on me at the recollection of my repeated, but unanswered cries. I knew myself to be unworthy, and therefore I conceived that Divine justice would not allow an answer to come to me. I thought that the heavens were brass above me, and that if I cried never so earnestly, the Lord would shut out my prayer. I durst not pray, I was too guilty; and when I did dare to pray, 'twas hardly prayer, for I had no hope of being heard. "No," I said, "it is presumption; I must not plead with Him;" and when, at times, I would have prayed, I could not; something choked all utterance, and the spirit could only lament, and long, and pant, and sigh to be able to pray.
Yet I recollect, even as a child, God hearing my prayer I cannot tell what it was about, it may have been concerning a mere trifle, but to me, as a child, it was as important as the greatest prayer that Solomon ever offered for himself, and God heard that prayer, and it was thus early established in my mind that the Lord was God. And afterwards, when I came really to know Him--for, like the child Samuel I did not then know the Lord, I only felt after Him in prayer--afterwards when I came to cry to Him intelligently, I had this prayer and that petition granted, and many a time since then--I am only telling what any who know the Lord could also say--many a time since then He has answered our requests. I cannot tell all about this matter, for there is many a secret between us and our dear Lord. It would not be prudent, proper, or even possible, to mention all the answers to prayer which we have received, for there are love-passages between Christ and the soul, which never must be told, unless it be in choice company, and on rare occasions. Some of our communings with the Lord Jesus are too sacred, too spiritual, too heavenly, ever to be spoken of this side the gates of pearl, but the bulk of the Lord's replies to our petitions are such as might be written athwart the skies, that every eye might read them. It is beginning to be questioned, in many quarters, whether there is any real effect produced by prayer, except that "it excites certain pious emotions in the breasts of those who pray." This is a pretty statement! We ought to be extremely obliged to those superior persons who allow that even so much may result from our visits to the throne of grace! I wonder they did not assert that prayer was ridiculous, or hypocritical, or immoral! Their moderation puts us under obligations! And yet I do not know: when I look again at their admission, I thank them for nothing, for they as good as call us fools. Do they think that we perform a useless exercise merely for the sake of exciting pious emotions? We must be grievous idiots if we can receive benefit from a senseless function. We are not willing to whistle to the wind for the sake of the exercise. We should not be content to go on praying to a god who could be proved to be both deaf and dumb. We have still some little common sense left, despite what our judicious friends consider to be fanaticism. We are sure that we obtain answers to prayer. Of this fact I am as certain as that I am a living man, and that I preach in the Tabernacle. I solemnly declare that I have received of the Lord that which I have asked at His hands, and I am not alone in such testimony, for I am associated with multitudes of men and women who bear witness to the same fact, and declare that they also sought the Lord by prayer and supplication, and He heard them, and delivered them out of their distresses.
Neither in the Church militant nor in the host triumphant is there one who received a new heart, and was reclaimed from sin without a wound from Jesus. The pain may have been but slight, and the healing may have been speedy, but in each case there has been a real bruise, which required a Heavenly Physician to heal. With some of us, this wounding commenced in early life, for, as soon as infancy gave place to childhood, the rod was exercised upon us. We can remember early convictions of sin, and apprehensions of the wrath of God on its account. An awakened conscience in our most tender years drove us to the throne of mercy. Though we knew not the hand which chastened our spirit, yet did we "bear the yoke in our youth". How many were "the tender buds of hope" which we then put forth, alas! too soon to be withered by youthful lusts; how often were we scared with visions and terrified with dreams, while the reproof of a parent, the death of a playfellow, or a solemn sermon made our hearts melt within us! Truly, our goodness was but "as the morning cloud and the early dew"; but who can tell how much each of these separate woundings contributed toward that killing by the law, which proved to be the effectual work of God? In each of these arousings we discover a gracious purpose; we trace every one of the awakenings to His hand who watched over our path, determined to deliver us from our sins. The small end of that wedge, which has since been driven home, was inserted during these youthful hours of inward strife.
Let none despise the strivings of the Spirit in the hearts of the young; let not boyish anxieties and juvenile repentances be lightly regarded. He incurs a fearful amount of guilt who in the least promotes the aim of the evil one by trampling upon a tender conscience in a child. No one can guess at what age children become capable of conversion. I, at least, can bear my personal testimony to the fact that grace operates on some minds at a period almost too early for recollection. When but young in years, I felt with much sorrow the evil of sin. My bones waxed old with my roaring all the day long. Day and night Gods hand was heavy upon me. I. hungered for deliverance, for my soul fainted within me. I feared lest the very skies should fall upon me, and crush my guilty soul. God's law had laid hold upon me, and was showing me my sins. If I slept at night, I dreamed of the bottomless pit, and when I awoke, I seemed to feel the misery I had dreamed. Up to Gods house I went; my song was but a sigh. To my chamber I retired, and there, with tears and groans, I offered up my prayer, without a hope and without a refuge, for Gods law was flogging me with its ten-thonged whip, and then rubbing me with brine afterwards, so that I did shake and quiver with pain and anguish, and my soul chose strangling rather than life, for I was exceedingly sorrowful.
That misery was sent for this reason, that I might then be made to cry to Jesus. Our Heavenly Father does not usually cause us to seek the Saviour till He has whipped us clean out of all our confidence; He cannot make us in earnest after Heaven till He has made us feel something of the intolerable tortures of an aching conscience, which is a foretaste of hell. I remember, when I used to awake in the morning the first thing I took up was Alleine's Alarm, or Baxter's Call to the Unconverted. Oh, those books, those books! I read and devoured them when under a sense of guilt, but it was like sitting at the foot of Sinai. For five years, as a child, there was nothing before my eyes but my guilt, and though I do not hesitate to say that those who observed my life would not have seen any extraordinary sin, yet as I looked upon myself, there was not a day in which I did not commit such gross, such outrageous sins against God, that often and often have I wished I had never been born. Sickness is a terrible thing, more especially when it is accompanied with pain, when the poor body is racked to an extreme, so that the spirit fails within us, and we are dried up like a potsherd, but I bear witness that sickness, however agonizing, is nothing like the discovery of the evil of sin. I had rather pass through seven years of the most wearisome pain, and the most languishing sickness, than I would ever again pass through the terrible discovery of the evil of sin. It was my sad lot, at that time, to feel the greatness of my sin, without a discovery of the greatness of God's mercy. I had to walk through this world with more than a world upon my shoulders, and sustain a grief that as far exceeds all other griefs as a mountain exceeds a mole-hill, and I often wonder, to this day, how it was that my hand was kept from rending my own body in pieces through the awful agony which I felt when I discovered the greatness of my transgression. Yet, I had not been, openly and publicly, a greater sinner than others, but heart sins were laid bare, sins of lip and tongue were discovered, and then I knew--oh, that I may never have to learn over again in such a dreadful school this terrible lesson!--"the iniquity of Judah and of Israel is exceeding great". Before I thought upon my soul's salvation, I dreamed that my sins were very few. All my sins were dead, as I imagined, and buried in the graveyard of forgetfulness. But that trumpet of conviction, which aroused my soul to think of eternal things, sounded a resurrection-note to all my sins; and, oh, how they rose up in multitudes more countless than the sands of the sea! Now, I saw that my very thoughts were enough to damn me, that my words would sink me lower than the lowest hell, and as for my acts of sin, they now began to be a stench in my nostrils so that I could not bear them. I thought I had rather have been a frog or a toad than have been made a man. I reckoned that the most defiled creature, the most loathsome and contemptible, was a better thing than myself, for I had so grossly and grievously sinned against Almighty God.
Through the Lord's restraining grace, and the holy influence of my early home-life, both at my father's and my grandfather's, I was kept from certain outward forms of sin in which others indulged; and, sometimes, when I began to take stock of myself, I really thought I was quite a respectable lad, and might have been half inclined to boast that I was not like other boys--untruthful, dishonest, disobedient, swearing, Sabbath-breaking, and so on. But, all of a sudden, I met Moses, carrying in his hand the law of God, and as he looked at me, he seemed to search me through and through with his eyes of fire. He bade me read "God's Ten Words"--the ten commandments and as I read them, they all seemed to join in accusing and condemning me in the sight of the thrice-holy Jehovah. Then, like Daniel, "my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength;" and I understood what Paul meant when he wrote, "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." When I saw myself in this condition, I could say nothing in self-defence, or by way of excuse or extenuation. I confessed my transgression in solemn silence unto the Lord, but I could speak no word of self-justification, or apology, for I felt that I was verily guilty of grievous sins against the Holy One of Israel. At that time, a dreadful silence; reigned within my spirit; even if I had tried to say a word in my own favour, I should have been self-condemned as a liar. I felt that Job's words might be applied to me, "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me. For He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer Him."
Then there came into my startled conscience the remembrance of the universality of law. I thought of what was said of the old Roman empire that, under the rule of Ceasar, if a man once broke the law of Rome, the whole world was one vast prison to him, for he could not get out of the reach of the imperial power. So did it come to be in my aroused conscience. Wherever I went, the law had a demand upon my thoughts, upon my words, upon my rising, upon my resting. What I did, and what I did not do, all came under the cognizance of the law; and then I found that this law so surrounded me that I was always running against it, I was always breaking it. I seemed as if I was a sinner, and nothing else but a sinner. If I opened my mouth, I spoke amiss. If I sat still, there was sin in my silence. I remember that when the Spirit of God was thus dealing with me, I used to feel myself to be a sinner even when I was in the house of God. I thought that when I sang, I was mocking the Lord with a solemn sound upon a false tongue; and if I prayed, I feared that I was sinning in my prayers, insulting Him by uttering confessions which I did not feel, and asking for mercies with a faith that was not true at all, but only another form of unbelief. At the very mention of that word conviction, I seem to hear my chains rattling anew. Was there ever a bond-slave who had more bitterness of soul than I, five years a captive in the dungeons of the law, till my youth seemed as if it would turn into premature old age, and all the buoyancy of my spirit had vanished? O God of the spirits of all men, most of all ought I to hate sin, for surely most of all have I smarted beneath the lash of Thy law!
While I was in the custody of the law, I did not take any pleasure in evil. Alas! I did sin, but my sense of the law of God kept me back from many forms of iniquity. I have thanked God a thousand times in my life that, before my conversion, when I had ill desires, I had no opportunities of sinning, and, on the other hand, when I had the opportunities I had no desires towards evil. When desires and opportunities come together, like the flint and the steel, they make the spark that kindles the fire, but neither the one nor the other, though they may both be dangerous, can bring about any very great amount of evil so long as they are kept apart. I could not, as others did, plunge into profligacy or indulge in any of the grosser vices, for that law had me well in hand. I sinned enough without acting like that. Oh, I used to tremble to put one foot before another, for fear I should do wrong! I felt that my old sins seemed to be so many, that it were well to die rather than commit any more. I could not rest while in the grip of the law. If I wanted to sleep a while, or to be a little indifferent and careless, some one or other of those ten commandments roughly aroused me, and looking on me with a frowning face, said, "You have broken me." I thought that I would do some good works, but, somehow, the law always broke my good works in the making. I fancied that, if my tears flowed freely, I might make some recompense for my wrong-doing, but the law held up the looking-glass, and I soon saw my face all smeared and made more unhandsome by my tears.
The law seemed also to blight all my hopes with its stern sentence, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Only too well did I know that I had not continued in all those things, so I saw myself accursed, turn which way I might. If I had not committed one sin, that made no difference if I had committed another; I was under the curse. What if I had never blasphemed God with my tongue? Yet, if I had coveted, I had broken the law. He who breaks a chain might say, 'I did not break that link, and the other link." No, but if you break one link, you have broken the chain. Ah, me, how I seemed shut up then! I had offended against the justice of God; I was impure and polluted, and I used to say, "If God does not send me to hell, He ought to do it." I sat in judgment upon myself, and pronounced the sentence that I felt would be just. I could not have gone to Heaven with my sin unpardoned, even if I had had the offer to do it, for I knew that it would not be right that I should do so, and I justified God in my own conscience while I condemned myself. The law would not even let me despair. If I thought I would give up all desire to do right, and just go and drown my conscience in sin, the law said, "No, you cannot do that; there is no rest for you in sinning. You know the law too well to be able to sin in the blindness of a seared conscience." So the law worried and troubled me at all points; it shut me up as in an iron cage, and every way of escape was effectually blocked up.
One of the things that shut me up dreadfully was, when I knew the spirituality of the law. If the law said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," I said to myself, "Well, I have never committed adultery." Then the law, as interpreted by Christ, said, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." The law said, "Thou shalt not steal," and I said, "Well, I never stole anything;" but then I found that even the desire to possess what was not my own, was guilt. The spirituality of the law astounded me; what hope could I have of eluding such a law as this which every way surrounded me with an atmosphere from which I could not possibly escape?
Then I remembered that, even if I kept the law perfectly, and kept it for ten, twenty, or thirty years, without a fault, yet if, at the end of that time, I should break it, I must suffer its dread penalty. Those words spoken by the Lord to the prophet Ezekiel came to my mind: "If he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it." So I saw that I was, indeed, "kept under the law, shut up." I had hoped to escape this way, or that way, or some other way. Was I not "christened" when I was a child! Had I not been taken to a place of worship? Had I not been brought up to say my prayers regularly? Had I not been an honest, upright, moral youth? Was all this nothing? "Nothing," said the law, as it drew its sword of fire: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." So there was no rest for my spirit, nay, not even for a moment. What was I to do? I was in the hands of one who showed no mercy whatever, for Moses never said, "Mercy." The law has nothing to do with mercy. That comes from another mouth, and under another dispensation. But before faith came, I was "kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed."
I am bold to say that, if a man be destitute of the grace of God, his works are only works of slavery; he feels forced to do them. I know, before I came into the liberty of the children of God, if I went to God's house, I went because I thought I must do it; if I prayed, it was because I feared some misfortune would happen in the day if I did not; if I ever thanked God for a mercy, it was because I thought I should not get another if I were not thankful; if I performed a righteous deed, it was with the hope that very likely God would reward me at last, and I should be winning a crown in Heaven. I was a poor slave, a mere Gibeonite, hewing wood and drawing water! If I could have left off doing it, I should have loved to do so. If I could have had my will, there would have been no chapel-going for me, no religion for me--I would have lived in the world, and followed the ways of Satan, if I could have done as I pleased. As for righteousness, it was slavery; sin would have been my liberty. Yet, truth to tell, of all bondage and slavery in this world, there is none more horrible than the bondage of sin. Tell me of Israel in Egypt, unsupplied with straw, yet preparing the full tale of bricks; tell me of the negro beneath the lash of his cruel task-master, and I confess it is a bondage fearful to be borne; but there is one far worse--the bondage of a convinced sinner when he is brought to feel the burden of his guilt: the bondage of a man when once his sins are baying him, like hounds about a weary stag; the bondage of a man when the burden of sin is on his shoulder--a burden too heavy for his soul to bear--a burden which will sink him in the depths of everlasting torment, unless he doth escape from it. Methinks I see such a person. He hath ne'er a smile upon his face; dark clouds have gathered on his brow; solemn and serious he stands; his very words are sighs; his songs are groans, his smiles are tears; and when he seems most happy, hot drops of grief roll in burning showers, scalding furrows on his cheek. Ask him what he is, and he tells you he is "a wretch undone". Ask him how he is, and he confesses that he is "misery incarnate". Ask him what he shall be, and he says, "I shall be lost in hell for ever; there is no hope for me." Such is the poor convinced sinner under bondage. Such have I been in my days, and I declare that, of all bondage, this is the most painful--the bondage of the law, the bondage of corruption.
My impression is, that this is the history of all the people of God, more or less. We are not all alike in every respect. We differ greatly in certain particulars, yet the main features of all the children of God will be found to be the same, and their Christian experience will resemble that of the other members of the Lord's family. I do not say that all have felt the apprehension of coming judgment as I did, but this is how it came to me. I knew that I was guilty, I knew that I had offended God, I knew that I had transgressed against light and knowledge, and I did not know when God might call me to account, but I did know this, when I awoke in the morning, the first thought I had was that I had to deal with a justly-angry God, who might suddenly require my soul of me. Often, during the day, when I had a little time for quiet meditation, a great depression of spirit would come upon me because I felt that sin-sin-SIN had outlawed me from my God. I wondered that the earth bore up such a sinner as I was, and that the heavens did not fall and crush me, and the stars in their courses did not fight against such a wretch as I felt myself to be. Then, indeed, did I seem as if I should go down to the pit, and I had perpetually to endure the tortures of the never-dying worm of conscience that was gnawing at my heart. I went to the house of God, and heard what I supposed was the gospel, but it was no gospel to me. My soul abhorred all manner of meat; I could not lay hold upon a promise, or indulge a well-grounded hope of salvation. If anyone had asked me what would become of me, I must have answered, "I am going down to the pit." If anyone had entreated me to hope that mercy might come to me, I should have refused to entertain such a hope. I used to feel that I was in the condemned cell. In that dungeon, the man writes bitter things against himself; he feels absolutely sure that the wrath of God abideth on him; he wonders the stones beneath his feet do not open a grave to swallow him up; he is astonished that the walls of the prison do not compress and crush him into nothingness; he marvels that he has his breath, or that the blood in his veins does not turn into rivers of flame. His spirit is in a dreadful state; he not only feels that he shall be lost, but he thinks it is going to happen now. The condemned cell in Newgate, I am told, is just in such a corner that the criminal can hear the putting-up of the scaffold. Well do I remember hearing my scaffold built, and the sound of the hammer of the law as piece after piece was put together! It appeared as if I heard the noise of the crowd of men and devils who would witness my eternal execution, all of them howling and yelling out their accursed things against my spirit. Then there was a big bell that tolled out the hours, and I thought that very soon the last moment would arrive, and I must mount the fatal scaffold to be cast away for ever. Oh, that condemned cell! Next to Tophet, there can be no state more wretched than that of a man who is brought there!
When I was for many a month in this state, I used to read the Bible through, and the threatenings were all printed in capitals, but the promises were in such small type I could not for a long time make them out; and when I did read them, I did not believe they were mine; but the threatenings were all my own. "There," said I, "when it says, 'He that believeth not shall be damned,' that means me!" But when it said, "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him," then I thought I was shut out. When I read, "He found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears;" I thought, "Ah! that is myself again." And when I read, "That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned;" "Ah!" I said; "that describes me to the very letter." And when I heard the Master say, "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" "Ah!" thought I, "that is my text; He will have me down before long, and not let me cumber the ground any more." But when I read, "Ho! every one that thirsteth; come ye to the waters;" I said, "That does not belong to me, I am sure." And when I read, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," I said, "That belongs to my brother, to my sister," or those I knew round about me; for they were all "heavy laden", I thought, but I was not; and though, God knoweth, I would weep, and cry, and lament till my heart was breaking within me, if any man had asked me whether I sorrowed for sin, I should have told him, "No, I never had any true sorrow for sin." "Well, do you not feel the burden of sin?" "No!" "But you really are a convinced sinner!" "No," I should have said, "I am not." Is it not strange that poor sinners, when they are coming to Christ, are so much in the dark that they cannot see their own hands? They are so blind that they cannot see themselves; and though the Holy Spirit has been pleased to work in them, and give them godly fear and a tender conscience, they will stand up, and declare that they have not those blessings, and that in them there is not any good thing, and that God has not looked on them nor loved them.
I speak what I do know, and not what I have learned by report, when I say that there is a chamber in the experience of some men where the temptations of the devil exceed all belief. Read John Bunyan's Grace Abounding, if you would understand what I mean. The devil tempted him, he says, to doubt the existence of God, the truth of Scripture, the manhood of Christ, then His Deity; and once, he says, he tempted him to say things which he will never write, lest he should pollute others. Ah! I recollect a dark hour with myself when I, who do not remember to have even heard a blasphemy in my youth, much less to have uttered one, found rushing through my mind an almost infinite number of curses and blasphemies against the Most High God. I specially recall a certain narrow and crooked lane, in a country town, along which I was walking one day, while I was seeking the Saviour. On a sudden, it seemed as if the floodgates of hell had been opened; my head became a very pandemonium; ten thousand evil spirits seemed to be holding carnival within my brain, and I held my mouth lest I should give utterance to the words of blasphemy that poured into my ears. Things I had never heard or thought of before came rushing impetuously into my mind, and I could scarcely withstand their influence. It was the devil throwing me down and tearing me. These things sorely beset me; for half-an-hour together, the most fearful imprecations would dash through my brain. Oh, how I groaned and cried before God! That temptation passed away, but ere many days, it was renewed again, and when I was in prayer, or when I was reading the Bible, these blasphemous thoughts would pour in upon me more than at any other time. I consulted with an aged godly man about it. He said to me, "Oh, all this many of the people of God have proved before you! But," he asked, "do you hate these thoughts?" "I do," I truly answered. "Then," said he, "they are not yours; serve them as the old parish officers used to do with vagrants, whip them, and send them on to their own parish. So," said he, "do with those evil thoughts. Groan over them, repent of them, and send them on to the devil, the father of them, to whom they belong, for they are not yours."
I have never been thoroughly an unbeliever but once, and that was not before I knew the need of a Saviour, but after it. It was just when I wanted Christ, and panted after Him, that, on a sudden, the thought crossed my mind--which I abhorred but could not conquer--that there was no God, no Christ, no Heaven, no hell, that all my prayers were but a farce, and that I might as well have whistled to the winds or spoken to the howling waves. Ah! I remember how my ship drifted along through that sea of fire, loosened from the anchor of my faith which I had received from my fathers. I no longer moored myself hard by the coasts of Revelation; I said to reason "Be thou my captain;" I said to my own brain, "Be thou my rudder;" and I started on my mad voyage. Thank God, It is all over now, but I will tell you its brief history. It was one hurried sailing over the tempestuous ocean of free thought. I went on, and as I went, the skies began to darken, but to make up for that deficiency, the waters were gleaming with coruscations of brilliancy. I saw sparks flying upwards that pleased me, and I felt, "If this be free thought, it is a happy thing." My thoughts seemed gems, and I scattered stars with both my hands; but anon, instead of these coruscations of glory, I saw grim fiends, fierce and horrible, start up from the waters; and as I dashed on, they gnashed their teeth, and grinned upon me; they seized the prow of my ship, and dragged me on, while I, in part, gloried at the rapidity of my motion, but yet shuddered at the terrific rate with which I passed the old landmarks of my faith. I went to the very verge of the dreary realms of unbelief. I went to the very bottom of the sea of infidelity. As I hurried forward at an awful speed, I began to doubt if there was a world. I doubted everything, until at last the devil defeated himself by making me doubt my own existence. I thought I was an idea floating in the nothingness of vacuity; then, startled with that thought, and feeling that I was substantial flesh and blood after all, I saw that God was, and Christ was, and Heaven was, and hell was, and that all these things were absolute truths. The very extravagance of the doubt proved its absurdity, and there came a voice which said, "And can this doubt be true?" Then I awoke from that death-dream, which, God knows, might have damned my soul, and ruined my body, if I had not awoke. When I arose, faith took the helm; from that moment, I doubted not. Faith steered me back; faith cried, "Away, away!" I cast my anchor on Calvary; I lifted my eye to God; and here I am alive, and out of hell. Therefore, I speak what I do know. I have sailed that perilous voyage; I have come safe to land. Ask me again to be an infidel! No; I have tried it; it was sweet at first, but bitter afterwards. Now, lashed to God's gospel more firmly than ever, standing as on a rock of adamant, I defy the arguments of hell to move me, for "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him." I should not be astonished if many others, who now believe, have also been upon the very borders of atheism, and have doubted almost everything. It is when Satan finds the heart tender that he tries to stamp his own impress of infidelity upon the soul, but, blessed be God, he never accomplishes it in the sinner who is truly coming to Christ! Now, whenever I hear the sceptic's stale attacks upon the Word of God, I smile within myself, and think, "Why, you simpleton! how can you urge such trifling objections? I have felt, in the contentions of my own unbelief, ten times greater difficulties." We who have contended with horses are not to be wearied by footmen. Gordon Cumming and other lion-killers are not to be scared by wild cats; nor will those who have stood foot to foot with Satan resign the field to pretentious sceptics, or any other of the evil one's inferior servants.
I do think it often proves a great blessing to a man that he had a terrible conflict, a desperate encounter, a hard-fought engagement in passing from the empire of Satan into the kingdom of God's dear Son. Sooner or later, each saved man will have his hand-to-hand fight with the prince of darkness, and, as a general rule, it is a great mercy to have it over at the outset of one's career, and to be able afterwards to feel, "Whatever comes upon me, I never can suffer as I suffered when I was seeking Christ. Whatever staggering doubt, or hideous blasphemy, or ghastly insinuations, even of suicide itself, may assail my feeble heart, they cannot outdo the horror of great darkness through which my spirit passed when I was struggling after a Saviour." I do not say that it is desirable that we should have this painful ordeal, much less that we should seek it as an evidence of regeneration, but when we have passed through it victoriously, we may so use it that it may be a perpetual armoury to us. If we can now defy all doubts and fears that come, because they cannot be so potent as those which already, in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour, we have overthrown, shall we not use that fact for ourselves, and can we not equally well use it for others? Full often have I found it good, when I have talked with a young convert in deep distress about his sin, to tell him something more of his anxious plight than he knew how to express; and he has wondered where I found it, though he would not have wondered if he had known where I had been, and how much deeper in the mire than he. When he has talked about some horrible thought that he has had, with regard to the impossibility of his own salvation, I have said, "Why, I have thought that a thousand times, and yet have overcome it through the help of God's Spirit!" I know that a man's own experience is one of the very best weapons he can use in fighting with evil in other men's hearts. Often, their misery and despondency, aggravated, as it commonly is, by feeling of solitariness, will be greatly relieved before it is effectually driven out when they find that a brother has suffered the same, and yet has been able to overcome. Do I show him how precious the Saviour is to my soul? He glorifies God in me. Right soon will he look into the same dear face and be lightened, and then he will magnify the Lord with me, and we shall exalt His name together.
Multitudes of persons are sailing in what they think to be the good ship of self-righteousness: they are expecting that they shall get to Heaven in her. But she never did carry a soul safely into the fair Haven yet, and she never will. Self-righteousness is as rapid a road to ruin as outward sin itself. We may as certainly destroy ourselves by opposing the righteousness of Christ as by transgressing the law of God. Self-righteousness is as much an insult to God as blasphemy is, and God will never accept it, neither shall any soul enter Heaven by it. Yet this vessel manages to keep on her way against all the opposition of Scripture for, often, men have a soft South wind blowing, and things go easily with them, and they believe that through their own doings they shall assuredly find the Port of Peace. I am glad, therefore, when some terrible tempest overtakes this vessel, and when men's hopes through their own doings and their own feelings are utterly wrecked. I rejoice when the old ship parts timber from timber, when she goes aground and breaks to pieces, and men find safety in some other way, for whatever seeming safety they may have to-day will only delude them. It must end in destruction, and it is therefore a thousand mercies when they find it out soon enough to get a better hope of being saved than this, which will certainly deceive them. I recollect very well when that terrific Euroclydon blew on my vessel. It was as good a ship as any others have, although I have no doubt they would vindicate their own. Her sails needed mending, and here and there she wanted a little touch of paint; but; for; all that, she was sea-worthy, and fit to be registered "A1 at Lloyd's", and entered in the first class--at least, so I thought. The storm blew over her, and she went to pieces, and I bless God that she did, for I should have been kept on board to this very minute if I had not been washed off. I tried to cling to the old hulk to the last plank, but I was obliged to give it up, and look somewhere else for help and safety.
Before I came to Christ, I said to myself, "It surely cannot be that, if I believe in Jesus, just as I am, I shall be saved? I must feel something; I must do something."' I could pour scorn upon myself to think of some of the good resolutions I made! I blew them up, like children with their pipes and their soap, and fine bubbles they were, reflecting all the colours of the rainbow! But a touch, and they dissolved. They were good for nothing--poor stuff to build eternal hopes upon. Oh, that working for salvation! What slavery it was, but what small results it produced! I was a spinner and weaver of the poorest sort, yet I dreamed that I should be able by my own spinning to make a garment to cover myself withal. This was the trade of father Adam and mother Eve when they first lost their innocence; "they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." It is a very laborious business, and has worn out the lives of many with bitter bondage, but its worst feature is that the Lord has declared; concerning all who follow this self-righteous craft, "Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works."
Oh, the many times that I have wished the preacher would tell me something to do that I might be saved! Gladly would I have done it, if it had been possible. If he had said, "Take off your shoes and stockings; and run to John o' Groat's," I would not even have gone home first, but would have started off that very night, that I might win salvation. How often have I thought that, if he had said, "Bare your back to the scourge, and take fifty lashes;" I would have said, "Here I am! Come along with your whip, and beat as hard as you please, so long as I can obtain peace and rest, and get rid of my sin." Yet that simplest of all matters--believing in Christ crucified, accepting His finished salvation, being nothing, and letting Him be everything, doing nothing but trusting to what He has done--I could not get a hold of it. Once I thought there was salvation in good works, and I laboured hard, and strove diligently to preserve a character for integrity and uprightness; but when the Spirit of God came into my heart, "sin revived, and I died." That which I thought had been good, proved to be evil; wherein I fancied I had been holy, I found myself to be unholy. I discovered that my very best actions were sinful, that my tears needed to be wept over, and that my prayers needed Gods forgiveness. I discovered that I was seeking after salvation by the works of the law, that I was doing all my good works from a selfish motive, namely, to save myself, and therefore they could not be acceptable to God. I found out that I could not be saved by good works for two very good reasons; first, I had not got any, and secondly, if I had any, they could not save me. After that, I thought, surely salvation might be obtained, partly by reformation, and partly by trusting in Christ, so I laboured hard again, and thought; if I added a few prayers here and there, a few tears of penitence, and a few vows of improvement, all would be well. But after fagging on for many a weary day, like a poor blind horse toiling round the mill, I found I had gone no farther, for there was still the curse of God hanging over me, and there was still an aching void in my heart, which the world could never fill--a void of distress and care, for I was sorely troubled because I could not attain unto the rest which my; soul desired.
What a struggle that was which my young heart waged against sin! When God the Holy Ghost first quickened me, little did I know of the precious blood which has put my sins away and drowned them in the depths for ever. But I did know this, that I could not remain as I was; that I could not rest happy unless I became something better, something purer than I was; and, oh, how my spirit cried to God with groanings--I say it without any exaggeration--groanings that could not be uttered! and, oh, how I sought, in my poor dark way, to overcome first one sin and then another, and so to do battle, in God's strength, against the enemies that assailed me, and not, thank God, altogether without success, though still the battle had been lost unless He had come who is the Overcomer of sin and the Deliverer of His people, and had put the hosts to flight. I tried a long time to improve myself, but I never did make much of it; I found I had a devil within me when I began, and I had ten devils when I left off. Instead of becoming better, I became worse; I had now got the devil of self-righteousness, of self-trust, and self-conceit, and many others that had come and taken up their lodging within my heart. While I was busy sweeping my house, and garnishing it, behold, the one I sought to get rid of, who had only gone for a little season, returned, and brought with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they entered in and dwelt there. Then I laboured to believe. It is a strange way of putting it, yet so it was. When I wished to believe, I found I could not. It seemed to me that the way to Heaven by Christ's righteousness was as difficult as by my own, and that I could as soon get to Heaven by Sinai as by Calvary. I could do nothing, I could neither repent nor believe. I fainted with despair, feeling as if I must be lost despite the gospel, and be for ever driven from Jehovah's presence, even though Christ had died.
I must confess that I never would have been saved if I could have helped it. As long as ever I could, I rebelled, and revolted, and struggled against God. When He would have me pray, I would not pray: when He would have me listen to the sound of the ministry, I would not. And when I heard; and the tear rolled down my cheek, I wiped it away, and defied Him to melt my heart. There came an election sermon, but that did not please me. There came a law sermon, showing me my powerlessness, but I did not believe it. I thought it was the whim of some old experimental Christian, some dogma of ancient times that would not suit men now. Then there came another sermon, concerning death and sin, but I did not believe I was dead, for I thought I was alive enough, and could repent and make myself right by-and-by. Then there came a strong exhortation sermon, but I felt I could set my house in order when I liked, as well as I could do it at once. So did I continually trust in my self-sufficiency, When my heart was a little touched, I tried to divert it with sinful pleasures, and would not then have been saved, until God gave me the effectual blow, and I was obliged to submit to that irresistible effort of His grace. It conquered my depraved will, and made me bow myself before His gracious sceptre. When the Lord really brought me to myself, He sent one great shot which shivered me to pieces; and, lo, I found myself utterly defenceless. I thought I was more mighty than the angels, and could accomplish all things; but I found myself less than nothing.
Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "Make haste, and come down." Can I not remember when He also told me to come down? One of the first steps I had to take was to go right down from my good works; and, oh, what a fall was that! Then I stood upon my own self-sufficiency, and Christ said, "Come down! I have pulled you down from your good works, and now I will pull you down from your self-sufficiency." So I had another fall, and I felt sure I had gained the bottom, but again Christ said, "Come down!" and He made me come down till I fell on some point at which I felt I was yet salvable. But still the command was, "Down, sir I come down further yet." And down I came until, in despair, I had to let go every bough of the tree of my hopes, and then I said, "I can do nothing; I am ruined." The waters were wrapped round my head, and I was shut out from the light of day, and thought myself a stranger from the commonwealth of Israel. But Christ said, "Come down lower yet, sir! thou hast too much pride to be saved." Then I was brought down to see my corruption, my wickedness, my filthiness, for God always humbles the sinner whom He means to save. While I was in this state, trying to make myself believe, a voice whispered, "Vain man, vain man, if thou wouldst believe, come and see!" Then the Holy Spirit led me by the hand to a solitary place, and while I stood there, suddenly there appeared before me One upon His cross. I looked up; I had then no faith. I saw His eyes suffused with tears, and the blood still flowing; I saw His enemies about Him, hunting Him to His grave; I marked His miseries unutterable; I heard the groaning which cannot be described; and as I looked up, He opened His eyes, and said to me, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Yet I needed more than that gracious word. The general call of the gospel is like the sheet lightning we sometimes see on a summer's evening--beautiful, grand--but who ever heard of anything being struck by it? But the special call is the forked flash from heaven; it strikes somewhere. It is the arrow shot in between the joints of the harness. The call which saves is like that of Jesus, when He said, "Mary," and she said unto Him, "Rabboni." Can I not recollect the hour when He whispered my name, when He said in mine ear, 'Come unto Me"! That was an effectual call; there was no resisting it. I know I laughed at religion; I despised, I abhorred it; but oh, that call! I would not come. But Christ said, "Thou shalt come. 'All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me.'" "Lord, I will not." "But thou shalt," said Jesus. I have gone up to God's house, sometimes, almost with a resolution that I would not listen, but listen I must. Oh, how the Word came into my soul! Was there any power of resistance remaining in me? No; I was thrown down; each bone seemed to be broken. I began to think there never would be a trace of anything built up in my heart. What a trench was dug in my soul! Out went my supposed merits! What a heap of rubbish! Out went my knowledge, my good resolves, and my self-sufficiency! By-and-by, out went all my strength. When this digging-out was completed, the ditch was so deep that, as I went down into it, it seemed like my grave. Such a grief it was for me to know my own sinfulness, that it did not seem possible that this could help my upbuilding in comfort and salvation, Yet, so it is, that if the Lord means to build high, He always digs deep; and if He means to give great grace, He gives deep consciousness of need of it. Long before I began with Christ, He had begun with me; but when I, began with Him, it was, as the law-writers say, "In forma pauperis," after the style of a wretched mendicant--a pauper who had nothing of his own, and looked to Christ for everything. I know, when I first cast my eye to His dear cross, and rested in Him, I had not any merit of my own, it was all demerit. I was not deserving, except that I felt I was hell-deserving: I had not even a shade of virtue that I could confide in. It was all over with me. I had come to an extremity. I could not have found a farthing's worth of goodness in myself if I had been melted down. I seemed to be all rottenness, a dunghill of corruption, nothing better, but something a great deal worse. I could truly join with Paul at that time, and say that my own righteousnesses were dung; he used a strong expression, but I do not suppose he felt it to be strong enough: "I count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him."
I do not know what may be the peculiarity of my constitution, but I have always loved safe things. I have not, that I know of, one grain of speculation in my nature. Safe things--things that I can see to be made of rock, and that will bear the test of time--I lay hold of with avidity. I was reasoning thus in my boyish spirit: Scripture tells me that he that believeth in Christ shall never perish. Then, if I believe in Jesus, I shall be safe for time and for eternity, too. There will be no fear of my ever being in hell; I shall run no risk as to my eternal state, that will be secure for ever. I shall have the certainty that, when my eyes are closed in death, I shall see the face of Christ, and behold Him in glory. Whenever I heard the doctrine of the final preservation of the saints preached, my mouth used to water to be a child of God. When I used to hear the old saints sing that hymn of Toplady's, which begins
I thought I should never be able to sing it myself, it was too high doctrine, too sweet, too consoling, but when they came to the climax, in the last verse
my heart was as if it would leap out of my body. and I would cry to God, "Oh, that I had a part and lot in such a salvation as that!" I distinctly remember having a meditation something like this: "Now I should not like to be a thief, or a murderer, or an unclean person." I had such a training that I had an abhorrence of sin of every sort. "And yet," I thought to myself, "I may even be hanged; there is no reason why I should not turn out a thief;" because I recollected there were some of my schoolfellows, older than I was, who had already become proficient in dishonesty; and I thought, "Why may not I?" No one can tell the rapture of my spirit, when I thought I saw in my Bible the doctrine that, if I gave my heart to Christ, He would keep me from sin, and preserve me as long as I lived. I was not quite certain whether that truth was revealed in the Bible, though I thought so; but I remember, when I heard the minister of some small "Hyper" chapel utter the same doctrine, my heart was full of rapture; I panted after that kind of gospel. "Oh!" I thought, "if God would but love me, if I might but know myself to be His!" For the enchanting part of it was that, if I were so loved, He would keep me to the end. That made me so in love with the gospel that, boy as I was, knowing nothing savingly about the truth, I was all the more earnest in desiring to be saved, because, if saved, God would never turn me out of doors. That made the gospel very precious to me; so that, when the Holy Spirit showed me my guilt, and led me to seek the Saviour, that doctrine was like a bright star to my spirit. The Bible seemed to me to be full of this truth, "If you trust Christ, He will save you from all evil; He will keep you in a life of integrity and holiness while here, and He will bring you safe to Heaven at the last." I felt that I could not trust man, for I had seen some of the very best wandering far from the truth; if I trusted Christ, it was not a chance as to whether I should get to Heaven, but a certainty, and I learned that, if I rested all my weight upon Him, He would keep me, for I found it written, "The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger." I found the apostle saying, "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it," and such-like expressions. "Why," I reasoned, "I have found an Insurance Office, and a good one, too; I will insure my soul in it; I will go to Jesus as I am, for He bids me do so; I will trust myself with Him." If I had listened to the Arminian theory, I should never have been converted, for it never had any charms for me. A Saviour who casts away His people, a God who leaves His children to perish, is not worthy of my worship, and a salvation which does not save outright is neither worth preaching nor worth listening to.
I recollect the time when I was afraid that Jesus would never save me, but I used to feel in my heart that, even if He did not, I must love Him for what He had done for other poor sinners. It seemed to me, as I read the wondrous story of His life and death, that if He refused me, I would still lie at His feet, and say, "Thou mayest spurn me, but Thou art a blessed Christ for all that; and if Thou dost curse me, yet I can only say to Thee that I well deserve it at Thy hands. Do what Thou wilt with me; but Thou didst save the dying thief, and Thou didst save her out of whom Thou didst cast seven devils, and if Thou dost not deign to save me, yet Thou art a blessed Christ, and I cannot rail at Thee, or find fault with Thee, but I lie down at Thy feet, and worship Thee." I could not help saying, once, that, even if He damned me, I would love God because He was so gracious to others. One text of Scripture especially cheered me; I lived upon it for months. I felt the weight of sin, and I did not know the Saviour; I feared God would blast me with His wrath, and smite me with His hot displeasure! From chapel to chapel I went to hear the Word preached, but never a gospel sentence did I hear, but this one text preserved me from what I believe I should have been driven to--the commission of suicide through grief and sorrow. It was this sweet word, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Well, I thought, I cannot believe on Christ as I could wish, I cannot find pardon, but I know I call upon His name, I know I pray, ay, and pray with groans, and tears, and sighs, day and night; and if I am ever lost, I will plead that promise, "O God, Thou saidst, Whosoever shall call upon My name shall be saved! I did call; wilt Thou cast me away? I did plead Thy promise; I did lift up my heart in prayer; canst Thou be just, and yet condemn the sinner who did really call upon Thy name?"
My heart was greatly impressed by something which I heard my mother say. I had been some years seeking Christ, and I could not believe that He would save me. She said she had heard many people swear and blaspheme God, but one thing she had never knownshe had never heard a man say he had sought Christ, and Christ had rejected him. "And," she added, "I do not believe that God would permit any man to live to say that." I thought that I could say it; I thought I had sought Him, and He had cast me away, and I determined that I would say it; even if it destroyed my soul, I would speak what I thought was the truth. But I said to myself, "I will try once more; and I went to the Master, with nothing of my own, casting myself simply on His mercy; and I believed that He died for me, and now, blessed be His holy name, I never shall be able to say that He has cast me away! As the result of personal experience, I can add my own testimony to that of my mother. I have heard many wicked things in my life--I also have heard men swear and blaspheme God, till I have trembled; but there is one thing I never did hear a man say yet, and I think God would scarcely permit any man to utter such a lie; I never knew even a drunken man say, "I sincerely sought God with full purpose of heart, yet He has not heard me, and will not answer me, but has cast me away." I scarcely think it possible, although I know that men can be almost infinitely wicked, that any man could utter such an abominable falsehood as that. At any rate, I can say I have never heard it.