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exerting an influence against God, and against the happiness of His creatures. But I am ready to forgive you, if you will return to me now. And as public submission, in such a controversy, is always painful to the pride of the human heart, I will excuse you from this. You may come secretly, and be my friend, to save you the mortification of publicly changing sides, in a question on which your opinions and your conduct have long been known."
To this address, a spirit of any nobleness or generosity would reply: "If I have been in the wrong—and I freely acknowledge that I have-I choose openly to avow it. My recantation shall be known as extensively as my sin. I will not come and make my peace secretly with God, and leave my example to go on alluring, as it has done, others to live in sin. If pride remonstrates, I will cut her down; and if my companions deride my change, I will bear their reproaches. They cannot injure me as much as my ungodly example and influence has injured them."
Whether, however, the sinner sees the necessity of his being really humbled before he is forgiven or not, God sees it, every holy Being sees it, and Jehovah's determination is fixed. We must submit, or we cannot be pardoned.
Do you not now, my reader, see, what is one reason at least, why you cannot be a Christian? In nine out of ten of such cases, the difficulty is, that you are not cordially willing to give up all to God. Pride is not yet humbled, or the world is not yet surrendered: and until it is, you cannot expect peace. You know that you have been wrong-and you wish now to be right: but this cannot be without an open change, and this you shrink from. The jailer, who came trembling, to know what he must do to be saved, was told to repent, and be baptized immediately. How humiliating! To appear the next morning a spectacle to the whole community-a stern public officer, bowed down to submission through the
influence of the very prisoners committed to his charge. Yet he was willing to encounter it; and you, if you can just consent to yield-to yield every thing, throw down every weapon, and give up every refuge, and come now to the Saviour, bearing your cross-that is, bringing life, and reputation, and all you hold dear, and placing it at His supreme disposal, you may rest assured of the fulfilment of His promises of forgiveness and peace. But, while your heart is full of reservations, while the world retains its hold and pride is unsubdued, and you are unwilling, thus openly and decidedly, to take the right side, is it unjust or unkind in God to consider you as upon the wrong one?-Far be it from me to advocate ostentation in piety. The humble retiring Christian, who communes with his own heart and with God, is in the best road to growth in grace and to usefulness; but every one ought to be willing that the part he takes in this great question should be known.
I now dismiss this subject, not to resume it again in this volume. Knowing, as I did, that there would be many, among the readers of this book, who can only be called almost Christians, I could not avoid devoting a chapter or two to them. I have now described, as distinctly as I have been able, the submission of the heart which is necessary in becoming a Christian, and what are some of the difficulties in the way. I should evince but a slight knowledge of the human heart, if I were not to fear that some who read this will still remain only almost Christians. I must here, however, take my leave of them; and invite the others, those who are willing now cordially to take the Saviour as their portion, to go on with me through the remaining chapters of the book, which I shall devote mainly to the instruction of those who have in some measure escaped from this melancholy and most formidable position.
DIFFICULTIES IN RELIGION.
Story of the Chinese and the Map. - Difficulties in all subjects - Astronomical Difficulties.-Difficulties in Religion to be expected. - 1st Difficulty: Attempt to avoid it-Conversation continued.-2d Difficulty: Extent of the Creation.— 3d Difficulty: The Existence of Suffering inexplicable - The Pirate condemned to die.-4th Difficulty: Accountability-Foreknowledge - Story of Father and Son. - 5th Difficulty: Answering Prayer-Case supposed-the Sick Son-Miraculous Interference in answering Prayer.-Sources of Difficulty-Algebrathe Surd.-Difficulty Theoretical-none in Practice. Objects of this Chapter:-1. Inquiries-Disobedient School boy.— 2. Perplexities of Christians-Way to avoid them - Plausible Reasoning sometimes unsafeScholars in Geometry - Drawing Inferences →→ Story of the Knights and the Statue-The Shield of Brass and Iron-One kind of Controversy. 3. Difficulties of Children-Children's Questions.-4. Difficulties of Parents and Teachers-The Schoolboy's Question-The Sisters-Evening Conversation-A humble, docile Spirit.
The secret things belong unto the Lord our God."
THE Young Christian, conscientiously desiring to know and to do his duty, is often, at the outset of his course, perplexed by a multitude of difficulties which are more or less remotely connected with the subject of religion. These difficulties, in many cases, cannot be removed. The embarrassing perplexity, however, which arises from them, always can; and it is to this subject that I wish to devote the present chapter. My plan will be, in the First place, to endeavour thoroughly to convince all who read it, that difficulties must be expected-difficulties, too, which they cannot entirely surmount; and, in the Second place, to explain and illustrate the spirit with which they must be met.
It is characteristic of the human mind, not to be willing to wait long in suspense on any question presented to it for decision. When any new question or new subject comes before us, we grasp hastily at the little information in regard to it within our immediate reach, and then hurry to a decision. We are not often willing to wait and consider whether the subject is fairly within the grasp of our powers;
and whether all the facts which are important to a proper
consideration of it are before us.
We decide at once. It
is not pleasant to be in suspense.
Suspense implies igno
rance; and to admit ignorance is humiliating.
Hence, most persons have a settled conviction upon almost every question which has been brought before them. In expressing their opinions, they mention things which they do believe, and things which they do not believe; but very few people have a third class of questions, which =they acknowledge to be beyond their grasp; so that, in regard to them, they can neither believe nor disbelieve, but must remain in suspense. Now this is the secret of nine-tenths of the difference of opinion, and of the sharp disputes by which this world is made so noisy a scene. Men jump at conclusions before they distinctly understand the premises; and, as each one sees only a part of what he ought to see before forming his opinion, it is not surprising that each should see a different part, and should consequently be led to different results. They then fall into a dispute, each presenting his own partial view, and shutting his eyes to that exhibited by his opponent.
h Some of the mistakes which men thus fall into are me lancholy: others are only ludicrous. Some European traveller shewed a map of the world to a Chinese philosopher. The philosopher looked at it a few moments; and then turned, with proud and haughty look, and said to the bystanders: "This map is entirely wrong: the English know nothing of geography. They have got China out upon one side of the world; whereas it is, in fact, exactly in the middle."
Multitudes of amusing stories are related by travellers, of the misconceptions and false reasonings of semi-barbarous people, about the subjects of European science and philosophy. They go to reasoning at once, and fall into the grossest errors; but still they have much more
confidence in their silly speculations, than in any evidence which their minds are capable of receiving.
But you will say, Do such savages? Yes, the everywhere the same.
you mean to compare us with human mind, in its tendencies, is
The truths which relate to the
world of spirits are to us what European science is to a South-Sea islander. Our minds experience the same difficulty in grasping them; and we hurry into the same wild speculations and false conclusions.
It is not surprising that the truths contained in a revelation from Heaven should be beyond our grasp. cannot even fairly grasp the truths relating to the mere physical motions of this earth. We know, for instance, that the distinction downwards is only towards the earth. Now, let your imagination extend half round the globe. Think of the people who are standing upon it, exactly opposite to ourselves, and try to realize that downwards is towards the earth there. You believe it, I know; but can in the expressive phrase of children, make it seem so? Again; you know, if you believe that the earth revolves, that the room you are in revolves with it, and that consequently it was six hours ago in a position the reverse of what it now is, so that the floor was in a direction cor
responding to that of the walls now. Now, can you, by any mental effort, realize this? or will you acknowledge that even this simple astronomical subject is beyond your grasp?
Once more. Suppose the earth and sun and stars were all annihilated, and one small ball existed alone in space. You can imagine this state of things for a moment. Now there would be, as you well know, if you have the slightest astronomical knowledge, no down or up in such case, for there would be no central body to attract. Now, when you fancy this ball, thus floating in empty space, can you realize that there would be no tendency in it to