You may, indeed, well call upon heaven and earth to assist you in celebrating the high praises of your pardoning God. How clearly do you now see that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, were united in the great work of saving you out of the hands of all your enemies!
“Now, unbelief, stand forth, and tell
What is too hard for God.”
How peculiarly awful has been your case! Through what a scene of mental conflict have you passed! You have, indeed, paid dearly for your sin; nor is it likely you will ever repeat it, or anything similar; the penalty is too great, — you have learned wisdom from what you have suffered, — should you again backslide from God, the suffering to be endured is now no secret to your conscience. It is not, therefore, likely you will hazard another such trial. It has been in your case, during your late trial, as it is with the damned in hell. Hell begins upon earth. and therefore we may look for a similarity in some respects, such as self-reproach, self-torture, and unavailing regret. The extremes are great, it is true, as much so as time and eternity, finite and infinite; and therefore the degrees must be different, while the mental materials are the same. An hour after you felt your innocence and peace had departed, you would have given a thousand worlds the circumstance had not occurred; but what was done could not be undone, nor yet banished from your memory, — the sting was left behind; and, in all the bitterness of unavailing regret, you gave yourself up to “lamentations, and mourning, and woe.” Thus, while the justice of God has received a sufficient vindication, your future faithfulness is also secured; perhaps, your zeal and usefulness also. What humility and gratitude are manifest in your expressions! What a dread of falling into sin again! How strong and determined the resolution to avoid everything that would grieve your Lord!
“After all that I have done,
Saviour, art thou pacified?
Whither shall my vileness run?
Hide me earth, the sinner hide!
Let me sink into the dust,
Full of holy shame, adore!
Jesus Christ, the Good, the Just,
Bids me go and sin no more!
“O confirm the gracious word,
Jesus, Son of God and Man!
Let me never grieve thee, Lord,
Never turn to sin again:
Till my all in all thou art,
Till thou bring thy nature in,
Keep this feeble, trembling heart;
Save me, save me, Lord, from sin.”
How has God frustrated the designs of the devil! He thought nothing less than that he had effected a breach between God and you, which would last forever. How wonderfully has the Lord overruled the works of the devil: “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” Judges 14:14, And now that you are forgiven, — now that the storm is hushed, and a holy calm has overspread your stormbeaten heart, — now that all the clouds with which conscious guilt had overcast your sad and shuddering soul have vanished away before the sunshine of that countenance which has beamed upon you from above, — now that the light of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, has illumined your soul, you may venture a look upon the past.
Is it not a matter of surprise to yourself, that after all the rich blessings you had received from God, — the many months of sweet communion you enjoyed with himself, when
“With cords of love he drew you on,
And hast revealed his face,” –
that you should have been so much off your guard as to have permitted the devil and your own corruptions to drive you to and fro, as a leaf in the wind, until you were carried away, body and soul, into captivity and death?
Perhaps, when you take your education into the account, your astonishment may be increased. Illumined as your mind was, by the light of science as well as by that of religion, you were much better prepared to judge between vice and virtue than the vulgar herd of mankind. You were capable, both by education and religion, to look over and far beyond the multitude; qualified, not only to give an example, both in word and deed, but also to profit by the example of others, whether good or bad. The punishment of many for their follies should have been admonitory and instructive to you. It was quite enough for you to know, by observation upon others, that “the way of transgressors is hard,” without proving it to be so for yourself. Had you been faithful, the example of others should have made your cautioned soul withdraw from the road which led them to ruin; and this should have been your happiness. Instead of having obtained wisdom at so dear a rate, you might have looked upon the damage sustained by others, and so have become more wise and happy. I write not these things to reproach you, nor to cast a gloom over your happy mind, but from an anxiety that you may profit as you should from your melancholy fall. Now that you have recovered yourself out of the snare of the devil, by whom you have been “led captive,” deep humility is becoming. That is a very remarkable passage in Ezekiel 16:68:– “That thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God.” Humility is taught here. Never to open thy mouth any more to boast, to murmur to judge harshly of others.
But the passage does not mean that you should bury your talent, by refusing to speak for God, or to bear testimony as to what God has done for you, as well as to exhort others to seek the same salvation. Beware of this snare of the devil, — he will drive you to extremes, if he can. It is highly proper that you should learn some important lesson from what you have suffered, for the guidance of your future history. But I must close. Be watchful. Live much in the spirit of prayer. Live a life of faith on the Son of God.
“Forever here my rest shall be,
Close to thy bleeding side.”
If you wish to ward off “the spirit of bondage again to fear,” keep the love of God in your heart; but this you never can do unless you keep faith there, — faith in the blood of Jesus. Press after holiness: rest not till you love God with all your heart.