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Christ! But of this God, the Redeeming God had no knowledge. This mighty discovery was reserved for the Christians of later times. But to this God, this God out of Christ, this God who cannot save, we boldly deny all fealty, all allegiance.
There is indeed a God, who is a consuming fire. But the apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews, xii. 29, informs us, that this is our God. Our God is a consuming fire. John the Baptist did homage to this God, when he said, Matthew iii. 11, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."
The prophet Malachi, chapter iii. proclaiming this God, likens him to a refiner's fire. "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap:
"And he shall set as a refiner, and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold, and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."
Who does not know that the refiner's fire, is neither calculated nor designed to destroy the mettle, but to separate it from the dross with which it is mixed; and for this reason, that the proprietor may receive it in a state of purity?
Looking over the commentator upon this subject, I am gratified to find his sentiments upon this passage, in unison with the ideas which we have delighted to cherish. Thus he expresses himself: "God consumeth the dross, that he may preserve the mettle free from base alloy." I confess, I rejoice when I can obtain truth from these characters, and I am right happy to acknowledge my obligation.
The apostle Paul did not lament that our God, the God of Abraham, was a consuming fire when he affirmed,
"Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble.
"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
"If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
"If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
Yes, truly; for our God, is a God who is able to save. Perhaps, the sacred records could not furnish a more happy conclusion to our subject, than presents in the close of the chapter, from which we have selected our text:
"Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God and there is none else.
"I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness and shall not return. That unto me shall every knee bow, and every tongue shall swear.
"Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed."
"In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."
This letter contains whatever of importance, my leisure has permitted me to record for several days past. If you bring candour to the perusal, my principal subject will render it interesting, and it cannot then fail of being acceptable.
I PROCEED to give you the minutes of my conversation with our melancholy friend; your sympathy for the human family deeply interests you in their sufferings, and the smile of benignity plays upon your features, whenever you can behold a beam of divine consolation irradiating the benighted mind. Mr. Kis indeed a distressed man; thus he addressed me:
K. I am, Sir, a miserable man; my sorrows are many.
M. Well then, my friend, your Saviour has not deceived you. He told you more than seventeen hundred years since, in the world you should have tribulation; and you can set your seal to the truth of his testimony.
K. I can indeed; my sufferings are beyond conception: I am in the wilderness, and I am greatly bewildered there.
M. You remind me of the children of Israel, who when brought out of the house of bondage, and carried through the sea as on dry land, after beholding their pursuers drowned in the sea they had passed through, after standing upon the shore, and lifting up their voices in praise to God their deliverer, became forgetful of his strong arm, and turning from the consolations in their view, bitterly lamented their situation.
K. But their triumphant song of joy originated in a persuasion that their sorrows were gone past, that they should never more know distress. But, poor souls, their afflictions were indeed but beginning, yet they never returned back to Egypt.
M. True, they never did; but they ought not to be blamed for this; they often returned thither in their hearts, and many a time in their wanderings through the wilderness, even in view of the promised land, they were brought to the very brink of that Egyptian darkness, from which they had been rescued.
K. Dear Sir, how much do I feel, and know this to be precisely my situation. Rebel nature lives within me, and fills my heart with agony.
M. Then, Sir, I suppose "when you would do good, evil is present with you." But, I pray you, my dear Sir, to cast your anchor within the veil, and it will then be sure and steadfast, because it is within the veil.
K. Ah, Sir, my case is desperate; I am an unhappy man, and I am persuaded I shall never know peace, at least in this world.
M. On what, Sir, do you found this persuasion?
K. You cannot, Mr. Murray, it is impossible you should form any idea of my situation.
M. I cannot, Sir; nor do I wish for any improper communication. It is enough for me to know that the omnipotent God is acquainted with your sorrows, and knows both the cause and the effect.
He sighed bitterly, his whole frame was agitated, and his eye filled; but without noticing these symptoms, I proceeded.
It is our mercy, Sir, that the thoughts of our God are not as our thoughts, and that his ways are not as our ways. You are sorely afflicted, and it is no small part of your affliction, that you conceive the irradiating countenance of your Almighty Father will no more shine upon you.
He fixed his eyes on the ground; his native urbanity and general politeness would not permit him to treat me with disrespect; but he was manifestly uneasy, if not displeased. Yet I boldly added: I am, Sir, persuaded you will one day come forth from the pit, in which you are now inclosed. He raised his eyes, shook his head, and impressively waving his hand, replied,
K. No, Sir, my misery is fixt as fate.
M. It is so, Sir, I know it well; but you have not the same idea of fate, which the poets express; you do not believe it forges fetters for Deity. I know your woes are fixt as fate: that is, you cannot receive consolation or deliverance, until God is pleased to soothe your spirit, to emancipate your soul. But do you not admit that
God is able to deliver you
K. No doubt.
M. I remember our Saviour once told his disciples, it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The disciples questioned: Who then can be saved? This was a rational interrogation. But what said our Saviour? With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Do you, suffer me to repeat my question, do you not think it possible for your Creator to give you the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness?
K. Yes, Sir, possible, but not probable; I have been always in such a state as was known only to my own soul. I have been wedded to the world, swallowed up in its pursuits, and I have thus forfeited all claim to future bliss, and entailed upon myself certain misery, both here and hereafter!
M. It is possible, Sir, you may have set your heart too much upon the world, and the things of the world; and the scriptures of truth declare, if any man love the world, and the things of the world, the love of the Father is not in him. But this serves to evince the absolute necessity of redemption, of a substitute of a Saviour; such a substitute, such a Saviour was provided for us; and firm as the rock of ages stood the world's Saviour, when all the kingdoms of this world, and the glory of them were presented before him; he proved himself free from the love of the things of this world, by despising the world and all its fallacious toys. Now, if it were not that this head of every man, had continued upon the occasion to which I advert, thus greatly invulnerable, you could indeed have no
hope. But if Jesus is freely given, our federal head, then this his contempt is given also; and we hear his gracious words, bidding us be of good cheer, because he hath overcome the world. And this is indeed a substantial source of joy and gladness, for he overcame the world in the character of those who were always overcome by the world; and thus the love of God becomes manifest, not that we loved him, but that he first loved us, and gave himself for us.
K. But for what purpose are all the directions given by Jesus Christ himself, and by his Apostles?
M. For two important purposes; first, that knowing the extent of the divine law, we may be convicted of sin. I had not known sin, said the Apostle, except the commandment had said, thou shalt not covet. And
Secondly, That this knowledge may stop every mouth, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Jesus says, when sacrifices and burnt offerings thou wouldst not; then said I, Lo I come to do thy will, O! my God, by the which will we are sanctified through the offering up of the body of Christ once for all and that we may become acquainted with the magnitude of that righteousness, which God has freely given, which the Apostle informs us is unto all, and upon all those who believe, there being no difference; it was necessary that Jesus should magnify the law, and finally command his disciples to be perfect, as their Father who is in heaven is perfect.
The Apostles being under the influence of the spirit of Jesus, taught the same doctrine, and for the same reason that they might constantly behold the necessity which existed, and which still exists for the perfect righteousness of the Redeemer, thus living by faith, and not by sight. The Apostle informs us, that he bears about in his body the marks of the dying of the Lord Jesus.
Thus as Jesus died for sins, for the sins of mankind, even Paul had a messenger of Satan, and a thorn in the flesh, lest the elevation to which he was raised should originate forgetfulness.
"Slay them not, lest my people forget."
Surely it is from corresponding passages clearly demonstrable, that if the apostolic injunctions were given, that by obedience thereto, they themselves, or any of those to whom they were writing, might enter into bliss; both they, and all whom they addressed, must be eternally excluded, for the Apostle himself says: When I would do good, evil is present with me, and the good I would do,