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Why it is so difficult to become a Christian.

The jailor's submission.

To this, 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 it down; and if my comrades 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 the reason why you cannot be a Christian? You say you wish to, but cannot, and in nine out of ten of such cases the difficulty is, 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 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 jailor 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 Savior, bearing your cross-that is, bringing life, and reputation, and all you hold dear, and placing it at his supreme disposal, you may depend upon forgiveness and peace. But while your heart is full of reservations, while the world retains its hold and pride is unsubdued, and you are thus unwilling openly and decidedly to take the right side, is it

Subject dismissed.


Difficulties in religion.

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, and, if he is really penitent, will 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 undoubtedly 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 explained as distinctly as I have been able to do it, the submission of the heart which is necessary in becoming a Christian, and what are the difficulties in the way. I should evince but a slight knowledge of the human heart if I were not to expect that many who read this will still remain only almost Christians. I must here, however, take my final leave of them, and invite the others-those who are willing now cordially to take the Savior as their portion, to go on with me through the remaining chapters of the book, which I shall devote entirely to those who are altogether Christians.



"The secret things belong unto the Lord our God."

THE Young Christian, conscientiously desiring to know and to do his duty, is, at the outset of his course, perplexed by a multitude of difficulties which are more or less remotely connected with the subject of religion, and which will arise to his view. These difficulties in many cases cannot be removed. The embarrassing perplexity, however, which arises from them, always can, and it is to this subject


Story of the Chinese and the map.

that I wish to devote the present chapter. My plan will be in the first place to endeavor 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 to 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. is not pleasant to be in suspense. Suspense implies ignorance, and to admit ignorance, is humiliating.


Hence most persons have a settled belief upon almost every question which has been brought before them. In expressing their opinions they mention things which they 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.

Some of the mistakes which men thus fall into are melancholy; others only ludicrous. Some European traveller showed a map of the world to a Chinese philosopher. The

Difficulties in all subjects.

Astronomical difficulties.

philosopher looked at it a few moments, and then turned with proud and haughty look and said to the by-standers, "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 mistakes and 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 perhaps ask me whether I mean to compare the readers of this book with such savages. Yes; the human mind, in its tendencies, is every where the same. 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 to 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. We cannot even fairly grasp the truths relating to the mere physical motions of this earth We know, for instance, that the distinction downward is only toward 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 downward is toward the earth there. You believe it, I know; but can you, 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 corresponding 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?

Difficulties in religion to be expected.

Difficulties described.

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 move in one direction rather than another? You may believe, on authority, that it would not move, but fix your mind upon it for a moment, and then look off from it, first in one direction, then in another, until you have looked in every direction, and can you make all these seem the same? No, we cannot divest ourselves of the impression that one of these is more properly up, and the other more properly down, though the slightest astronomical knowledge will convince us that this impression is a mere delusion. Even this simple and unquestionable truth is beyond the grasp of the human mind, at least until after it has, by very long contemplation on such subjects, divested itself of the prejudices of the senses.

Is it surprising then, that when a revelation comes to us from a world which is entirely unseen and unknown, describing to us in some degree God's character and the principles of his government, there should be many things in it which we cannot now understand? No. There are, and from the nature of the case must be, a thousand difficulties insuperable to us at present. Now if we do not cordially. feel and admit this, we shall waste much time in needless perplexity. My object, in this chapter, is to convince all who read it, that they must expect to find difficulties, insuperable difficulties in the various aspects of religious truth, and to try to persuade you to admit this, and to repose quietly in acknowledged ignorance, in those cases where the human mind cannot know. The difficulties are never questions of practical duty, and sometimes are very remotely connected with any religious truth. Some of them I

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