Page images
PDF
EPUB

this is true, only when the child grows up ignorant, idle, and irreligious; because whatever the joys of childhood may be, they are not equal to those pleasures which are connected with the increase of uncorrupt knowledge, or which result from the exercise of useful labor, or are secured to us by the possession of true religion. If men have more cares and trials than children have, it should be remembered that they are better able to bear them. The troubles of childhood, insignificant as we sometimes think them, and much as we may be disposed to treat them as unworthy of consideration, are to the child as real and as painful, as more important and heavier trials are to men of mature years.

There is also an opinion more or less prevalent, that the Christian has most happiness at the commencement of his Christian course; and that he then obtains clearer light and enjoys more of a sense of union and communion with God than he afterwards possesses. Those who hold this opinion speak of the days of their first love and of their early Christian enjoyment and sigh over them as lost blessings, and they talk as if the return of such days would be to them an invaluable boon. But this opinion is true only when the Christian neglects his duties or slights his privileges, so that he remains ignorant, weak, and worldly, when he ought to be wise, strong, and spiritual. We are aware that the change from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom, from danger to safety, from anxiety to peace, from fear to love, is a great and striking one ; so great that it will make a lasting impression upon the mind and will lead the Christian to look back with satisfaction and delight and to exclaim,

O happy day that fixed my choice,
On thee my Saviour and my

God."

But this is only the starting point of his Christian course, the morning of his day, the beginning of his freedom, the commencement of his safety, the introduction of his peace, the kindling of his love; and he will come to regard that day, not only on account of the change then produced, but also because of the higher and more precious blessings that have flown from it.

We think that the views we have here advanced are in accordance with the teachings of the Scriptures. Thus Peter writing to those who are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1: 2,) says to them, “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Pet. 2: 2.) And he goes on to instruct them in the course to be pursued that they may secure this end. So also, in his second letter, addressing them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” (2 Pet. 1: 1,) he not only expresses the wish concerning them, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord;” (2 Pet. 1: 2,) but he enjoins it as a personal duty to Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18.)

In the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is asserted that there had been a lack of Christian development, and the complaint is made, For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat."(Heb. 5: 12.) When he wrote to the saints “ at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus,” Paul spoke of coming “in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking the truth in love, many grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Eph. 4:13–15.) And he seems to intimate that he was himself the subject of this growth and development, when he says in his letter to Timothy, “I am now reudy to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:6, 7.) We believe that this Christian growth and development will be progressive and continued, not sudden but gradual. Thus when the growth of the child of God is referred to in the

Psalms, it is said, “ The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” (Ps. 92: 12.) The cedar of Lebanon is a tree of slow growth, but of large development. The growth of the child of God is also continued. It is not ephemeral, but persistent. The Psalmist declares this, when contrasting his condition with that of the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and strengthened himself in his wickedness," he says, “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.” (Ps. 2: 8.)

And in accordance with this view, but using another figure, it is said, “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Prov. 4:18.) The idea suggested in this text, we think, may be thus illustrated. We have sometimes started on a journey in the night before a clear and pleasant day. At first it was dark, perhaps very dark. But after awhile there were some faint streaks of light in the east. These increased in size and number, blending together, and spreading over a wider surface, till a glorious radiance covered the eastern sky. Then, as we looked, we saw the first rays of the sun, and these increased till it was fairly above the horizon and shone forth in dazzling splendor. And all this time our path had been growing brighter and brighter, till there was “perfect day.” So it is with the Christian. He is at first enveloped in the darkness of sin and of exposure to the wrath of God, but when mercy is extended to him through Jesus Christ and he is led to trust in him as his Saviour, there are streaks of light; and from this time, if there are no counteracting influences, his path becomes brighter and brighter till he reaches “the perfect day" of heavenly glory and unclouded and unending bliss.

First, we may expect the progressive and continued development of Christian character, because the Christian gains an increased acquaintance with the Bible, and hence better understands truth and duty. When the believer commences his religious life, he has but little scriptural knowledge. He may have neglected the Bible, not caring to know anything of its contents, and hence, neither reading it nor placing himself where he would hear it read and expounded. Under such circumstances, he must of course bè unacquainted with its contents. Or he may be the child of pious parents, and have been accustomed to listen to the reading of the Bible at family worship, and at other times to have it explained in the Sabbath School, and to hear it expounded and enforced from the pulpit. He may have read and studied it for himself and have felt some interest in its statements. But though under these circumstances he may have acquired considerable acquaintance with its contents and much knowledge of its doctrines, he does not fully understand it, for his eyes have been blinded by sin; and “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2: 14.) When the eyes of his understanding are opened, his previous knowledge of the Scriptures will prepare him the more readily to understand them, but he does not fully perceive the spiritual truths they contain, and he will find that many of his opinions, as to the truths taught therein, are incorrect.

When the Holy Spirit enlightens the understanding of a man, the first things that arrest his thoughts, are his guilty and dangerous condition and the depravity of his nature. And as he reads the Bible, or remembers what he has read or heard, those portions which refer to these topics, are those which most strike his attention, and he exclaims, “What shall I do to be saved ?” “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?” And then as the Holy Spirit sets Jesus Christ before him as the Saviour of the lost, he is led to trust in him as his Saviour. He has now learned most valuable scriptural knowledge, and he cannot estimate it too highly, yet it may almost all be comprised in the statement,

"I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all,

And Jesus Christ, he's my all in all." Hence, when Satan comes with evil suggestions, perhaps, (as when he tempted Jesus Christ,) accompanying them with misapplied texts of Scripture, the young Christian does not know how to repel him, and he is sorely perplexed. So also when skeptics bring their cavils against the Bible, against religion and against Christians, although he is satisfied that the skeptics are wrong, for he has an internal evidence of the truths of the Bible and of the value of Christianity, yet he is still in comparative ignorance, and does not know how to reply to their cavils. So also with reference to questions of duty. The young Christian wishes to do right, and to act in accordance with the will of God in all things. But he is often uncertain as to the manner in which he should act under certain circumstances in which he finds himself placed, because he is not sufficiently acquainted with the Bible to enable him to decide his duty. But its constant study increases his knowledge, unfolding the character of God, so that he sees it in new lights. The will of God is made plain, and he learns how he may please him. Scripture explains Scripture. An acquaintance with its various parts reconciles apparent discrepancies. In proportion to the diligence with which he studies the Bible, the clearer is the knowledge he obtains, and the brighter the light that is shed on his pathway. “For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light, and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” (Prov. 6: 23.) “ The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Thus the constant study of the Bible enables him to repel the suggestions of Satan, meet the cavils of skeptics and detect misapplications of Scripture. Hence he may say, “ By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer,” (Ps. 17: 4,) and “ Through thy precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way. (Ps. 119: 104.) A constant perusal of the Bible also teaches us the details of duty, how we should act in peculiar circumstances into which we may be brought. Sometimes this is learned from recorded examples ; at other times from direct precepts, and still again, by deduction from definite principles which are found distinctly declared. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15: 4.) “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17.) Thus as the Christian gains

« PreviousContinue »