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seem thoroughly to understand their work, and are, we think, not far wrong in their estimate of the times in which we live.
* The present age (say they) is one of progression and inquiry. Society is undergoing rapid and important changes. The aspect of the world is becoming altered. The large eye of humanity is gazing on the future with expectancy. Force, wealth, fraud, and prejudice, are losing their supremacy, and intellectuality is steadily advancing and becoming dominant. Mind is gaining an upward and elevating tendency. We seem as if we had attained the verge of a new era. Truth is the object of earnest search and serious investigation. Thought is reaping richer fruits, and thinking men are less scarce than formerly."
We hope they may be plentiful enough to support and make remunerative as well as beneficial, “The British Controversialist.”
THE UNDECIDED YOUTH. When Gideon had defeated the Midianites, he pursued Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of that people, and after a second battle, in Karkor, took them prisoners. Though taunted with the insinuation that he was not likely to secure them, and denied sustenance for his army by the very people he had so miraculously and signally defeated, he expressed no undue triumph over them, and even seemed unwilling, when they were completely in his power, to put them to death. But when he found on their own confession that they had slain his brethren in Tabor, he felt compelled to do so. "And he said unto Jether his first-born, “Up and slay them! But the youth drew not his sword, for he feared, because he was yet a youth.”
Here is our “ Undecided Youth.” He feared, he did nothing, he excused himself—for a reason evidently allowed to be as natural as it was false--because he was but a youth. Fear, excuse, indecision, inaction: these are the stages in the history of all such.
He fears. This, like all the other features, is perfectly natural, and may be good or bad according to circumstances. It may arise from an imperfect knowledge of his duty, or from a proper mistrust of his own powers, or the power of his cause. How true it is that “ Conscience makes cowards of us all” when
it turns against us, and that we are bold as a lion when our motive is a righteous one.
We believe the path of duty to be the safe one, but we are sometimes at a loss with so many ways before us to know which that is. Yet on this point we are doubly furnished; we have a light to mark out the track, and a lamp hovering about our steps, that we may not only know our course, but understand our duty in respect to it. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Yet with these beautiful and perfect appliances we are often undecided. On the broad principles of truth, right, and holiness, we cannot be mistaken if we make that Word our guide ; but in matters of less account, in the divisions, and subdivisions, and breakings up of our faith, we often err. We frequently misread a Providence, and still more frequently misconstrue its issue, whether favorable or adv se. God “means it for good" -we interpret it for advantage often low, worldly, or unworthy of our high schooling for glory, honor, and immortality. When God teaches by Providence, he must be his own interpreter.
Are there no canons, then, in the great scheme of Providence ? There are many, and those so simple, that we shall find the only difficulty in understanding them centres in an “evil heart of unbelief.” What we do not like, we will not see. are the types of unbelief in that natural, but blameworthy exclamation of the bereaved sisters of Bethany, “Lord! if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”
“ Lord! if Thou hadst been here"—true thy Providence, that conveniently-ambiguous abstraction-was here, ordering and directing—but where wast Thou—the kind, the compassionate, the all-gracious God of Providence ? The system moved on in its accustomed orbit, regulated by wise and tenderly-considerate laws, but where was the Prime Mover? O fools and slow of heart to believe the all-embracing terms of that great charter“ Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered!"
* If Thou hadst been here.” What! have you no faith in local providences? “ The Lord is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys,” is parcel of the pagan's creed. If the eyes of the Lord be in every place, beholding the evil and the good,
How many his heart is there also to overrule the one, and forward the other.” “ Trust in him at all times, ye people; pour out your hearts before him."
-“My brother had not died.” I could have spared another: would nothing less suffice ? I could have believed that God was in some bereavements--in many—perhaps in most. Then why should you think it strange concerning the fiery trial that has just tried you, as if some strange thing had happened? The Providence that whispers in the small still voice, speaks sometimes in the earthquake, the fire, or the great and strong wind.
—“My brother had not died." “ To him that is joined to all the living there is hope;" and why must that hope be cut off? Could nothing short of death vindicate God's glory, or bring back the lapsed soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living ?
These are the questionings of unbelief--the garbled and vitiated readings of the great book of Providence which all attempt to fathom more or less. “ The glory of God” was behind this fourfold cloud; yet both Mary and her sister Martha seemed to doubt it. And every day we do the same; we want to walk by sight and not by faith.
But faith is so slow of growth, that even in our veteran Christians it often errs and stumbles. We must not wonder, then, if many of our youth are undecided where the wish is not at fault. To fear is in itself not wrong
“ He has no hope who never knew a fear"and till we are certain that the Father's leading hand has hold of ours, we do well to walk tremblingly. We may be "entering the cloud,” and holy caution well becomes us.
But if Excuse creep in, the case is altered. We are bidding conscience hold his tongue. To tell the inward voice we are but youths, assumes that it has first told us we are something more. Many, like Jether, who “feared because he was yet a youth,” have heard the prompting voice, “Be strong, and quit yourselves like men,” or they would never hold a parley with their consciences. To fall below the measure of our known ability is cowardly towards God and our own souls. To be irresolute and undecided when it needs excuse, is to stand self-condemned at the tribunal of our own better natures.
On the troubled sea produced by this warfare of the Will and Conscience no principles can rest. “ He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea”—unstable as water, uncertain as the wind, Indecision is the palsy of the mind, and we think there can be no indecision without that consciousness of it, which is at once its strength and sin. A merely indifferent, droning, drowsy, dreaming youth, is scarcely to be considered an undecided one. There must be attraction and repulsion—a positive and a negative point-between which the mind is perpetually oscillating. Beautifully have our Bible translators expressed it—"How long halt ye between two thoughts?” More picturesque still is the original Hebrew—“How long hop ye about between two branches?” This is indecision-as ruinous in its kind to the mere worldling, as fatal to the peace and prosperity of the would-be Christian.
The path of Providence-of secular progress, as men will always understand it-may loom darkly, or lead away from where we wish to go; but that of Revelation must shine more and more brightly as we travel onward and homeward. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.” Inaction is Ignorance. “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
“ The revelation of Jesus Christ!"—the perfect Light that must presently dissipate all the mists of Indecision. And the day-spring of that glory is already with us if we are desirous of choosing the better part. Why then should each hesitate to pray, “Send forth into my own heart Thy light and thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me unto thy holy hill and to thy tabernacles; then will I go unto the altar of God anto God the gladness of my joy."
(From Dr. Spring's “Mercy Seat.")* It has been objected to the Lord's prayer, that it contains no ascription of thanksgiving. But is there no feeling of tender love-of grateful, subduing remembrance, when from the heart we say,
** Just reprinted by Hamilton, Adams, and Co.
“Our Father, who art in heaven ?" Is there no recognition of inexhaustible bounty, boundless beneficence, rivers of love, oceans of mercy, a generosity so disinterested and noble, and a tenderness so touching, that it were impossible to give utterance to our deep sense of them in any language half so compendiously and forcibly as in these words ? This great and good Being, this King eternal, immortal, invisible, writes his name, “Our Father;" gives us access to Him as his children! The condescension is his; the privilege ours. What have we to be thankful for compared with this? What has all this world to offer, compared with the privilege of calling God our Father ?
Let the spirit of this first sentence in the Lord's Prayer counsel us to cherish more befitting impressions of the God we worship. He is no unbending tyrant, no hard master; but the best and kindest of fathers. Vengeance is not the attribute he delights in; he delighteth in mercy. Oh, how little do they know of God, who clothe him only with terrors, and refuse to hope in his mercy! He is terrible only to incorrigible wickedness; to the penitent, gentle and mild, as a nurse toward her children. Away with this jealousy and suspicion, this distrust, fear, and aversion, when contemplating the character of your Father which is in heaven. There is no sternness and repulsiveness in that Holy One, who teaches his children to call him Father. It is not with the frown of wrath upon his brow, nor with menaced damnation on his lips, nor with the thunderbolt of vengeance in his hand, that he invites sinners to his throne. There are other discoveries of the Divine nature than these. There is the heart of love ; there is the infinitude of love, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." There is not one among all those to whom his gospel is known, who has not the warrant to accept these great provisions of their heavenly Father's love. Those who are afar off, may draw nigh; those who are aliens and enemies, may become children, and be adopted into his divine family. “ Behold,” saith he, “I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me." Though unworthy of the privilege, though we cannot acquire it by any works of