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“I would sink utterly in the deep waters through which I am passing, in the dark valley."
Yes, “the just shall live by his faith ;” for he is “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” To many, and especially to the young, all this, seems very mysterious, and even fanatical. But the “ secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” And yet it is not so mysterious after all, as many imagine. How then does faith enable the Christian to live to God, and to outlive all trials and dangers, and to conquer the last enemy? In answer to this, let me ask young men to weigh the following considerations :
1. Faith in Christ enables us to live to God, by giving a new meaning to our life here. What is the real meaning of that brief span of existence which God allots to us in this world ? and how does He intend that we should spend it? Does He mean that we should act on the infidel maxim, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die?” Many, alas ! seem to think
SO, from the manner in which their earthly life is spent, by “making provision for the flesh to ful61 the lusts thereof,” by living only for themselves, by seeking their happiness in the polluted pleasures of sin, and shutting out from their minds all serious thoughts of God and of the coming eternity. They act as if they thought that man was made to eat and drink, to toil and sleep, to sing and dance, to weep and die. And our great national poet has said, that
man was made to mourn,” as if his life here were intended to be a burden, rather than a blessing to him.
But faith in Christ gives a new meaning to life. It shows us, from God's testimony in the Word of Truth, that man was not made to mourn, but that he was made to serve and glorify God, and to increase the sum of human happiness, by works of faith and labours of love. Man has made himself to mourn by forsaking God, and following after vanity and lies; and he can never truly live, as a rational and responsible being, until he has returned to God, and devoted his heart and life to His service. Faith in Christ shows us that true life consists in the conquest of sin, in the suppression of selfishness and of all evil passions, in the practice of virtue, in the imitation of Christ, in promoting the temporal and spiritual welfare of our fellow-creatures, and in extending the “kingdom of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." These are objects worth living for, and they are worth dying for, and it is only in so far as we make these the main objects of life, that we can be said truly to live. “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." Those who idolise and pamper self, who seek only their personal gratification, who ignore their obligations to a redeeming God and Saviour, who seldom or never put their hand to any good work,
and who make no earnest preparation for the eternal future, are utterly “dead in trespasses and sins;" and though they exist, yet they do not live in the true sense of the word. It is no better than the life of a vegetable or an animal, and it is just as useless for any good or holy purpose; nay, it is far worse than that; for their rational, accountable, and immortal nature stamps, upon their worthless and unprofitable life, high criminality in the sight of the unerring Judge, and exposes them to terrible retribution. But on the other hand, faith in Christ lifts a man out of self, out of sense, and out of the things of time; and gives him purer tastes, nobler aims, and loftier aspirations. It sets his affections on things above; it constrains him to use this present life as a preparation for a higher life, and to lay up treasures in heaven, which can neither be corrupted nor lost. “He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Yes, according to the sowing here, will be the reaping hereafter. Faith in Christ, then, gives a new meaning to our life here.
2. But it also supplies a new motive. The motive is a sincere and fervent love to Christ. Every true believer can say, “Whom having not seen we love ;' and “We love Him because He first loved us." Who can comprehend the “height” of that love to sinners which fills the rt of God's eternal Son, or the depth” of that love which led Him to stoop so low and suffer so much for our sakes and for our salvation, or the “length" of that love which extends from everlasting to everlasting, or the “breadth” of that love which embraces in its ample fold men of every colour and condition and character? But though we cannot fully comprehend Christ's love, yet the believer feels its constraining power in his own heart. Being forgiven much, he loves Christ much; and this love impels him to live for Christ, and to keep His holy commandments, in “ the keeping of which there is a great reward."
“ Talk of morality! Thou bleeding Lamb,
The best morality is love to Thee.” That love has a constraining power, an impulsive energy which nothing else has, or can have. Has it not enabled multitudes to fight resolutely against sin, and to meet death, in its most appalling forms, with patient tranquillity and triumphant hope? Has it not enabled them to subdue their own passions, to resist manifold temptations, and to "rule their own spirit,” which is a far more difficult achievement than “ the taking of a city?" Has it not enabled them to adhere steadfastly to the line of their duty, and to persevere in well-doing, amid obloquy and persecution, and even when there was no eye to witness their patience and constancy, but the eye of that Saviour, whom they loved so well? Listen to the testimony of one, who was once a daring blasphemer, but who became, through grace, a humble and devoted Christian :
“ The proudest heart that ever beat
Has been subdued in me:
Is quelled, my God, by Thee !
Thy will, and not my will, be done,
My heart be ever Thine !
And make Thy Name my Sign."
3. Again, faith in Christ imparts new strength for enabling us to live to God. The difficulties of a truly Christian life are unquestionably very great, and it would be wrong, as well as foolish, to conceal or ignore them. It is no easy matter, in a world of temptation, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, “to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts,” to cherish sincere love to our fellow-men, to do them good always, and to glorify God in our bodies and spirits, which are His. It must be the Christian's daily aim to reach perfection; and though he will never actually reach it till he dies (notwithstanding the vain imagination of certain modern dreamers, who fancy that they are already perfect), yet he must strive to be always coming nearer to perfection. It is a hard struggle; but it is not a hopeless struggle. For it is made easy to the just who "lives by his faith." By