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your money, your personal influence, and the sanction of your Christian profession to its support. If the church of which you are a member should allow you to pass uncensured, then, you have virtually pledged the influence of that church as so much capital for theatrical business.
4. You have brought reproach on the Christian name. Within the last week I have twice heard you mentioned, as a living proof that Christians are no better than others.
5. You have wounded the feelings of your pastor. This I know. He says that you contradict his preaching, and cripple his usefulness.
6. You have grieved the most pious and spiritual members of your church. You knew that their consciences were tender upon this point, and that your conduct would occasion them pain. It is easy to call them “bigoted,” but by so doing you do not throw off the responsibility incurred by trifling with their scruples.
Now what “reparation" can you make for such a complication of wrong? You may repent, confess, and hereafter be more considerate, and thus obtain forgiveness from God and your brethren ; but how will you extract from this community the influence of your example ? By what process can you arrest the diffusion of that influence, or counteract its injurious efficiency? You have made impressions upon minds that you may never know until you meet them at the bar of God; impressions derogatory to the religion of Christ, and unfavourable to its progress in the circle of your acquaintance. You little know how deeply the influence of your conduct may enter into the composition of your children's character, and affect the interests of their souls for eternity. How will you repair the damage which they have received ? If, in the judgment, they shall hold you responsible for the consequences of this act, what will you answer?
Here I leave the subject. I have written plainly, but with no malign intention or emotion. As a disciple of Christ, I am wounded and grieved by your departure from Christian consistency. May God forgive and restore you, and accept you at last through the merits of his beloved Son.
CONSCIENCE A PROPHET. 1. And one that will have a hearing. Other prophets have been denied this. People have stopped their ears, as in
Stephen's case, or locked the prophet up in a dungeon, as in Jeremiah's case, that the senseless walls might hear his prophesying, and not they. But here is a prophet they cannot dispose of after such fashions. Not hear conscience! Men have tried it well; but the stern voice at midday, and the whisper at midnight, louder than the noise and bustle of the world, has taught them that conscience would have a hearing.
2. And a bold and plain-spoken prophet, too, is conscience. Some prophets have been timid and time-serving, more among the moderns than among the ancients. They have dreaded to give their whole message. They have seen woe approaching, but have shrunk from giving the trumpet its full blast. But people have not to complain of conscience on this behalf. Conscience has a word to say to guilty minds, and says it. Herod and Felix shall hear, as well as the meanest of the people.
3. And here is a prophet who compels assent to his own predictions. Men who hate the prophets and their messages are very willing to disbelieve them, and succeed in making themselves believe such prophecies falsehoods. But when conscience lifts up its prophetic voice, and tells what woe betides the guilty, there is an inward response to that alarming voice. The soul's own conviction of its own guilt makes the prophet's picture a painful reality. The warning voice cannot be disbelieved. Other prophets may be lightly esteemed, and their messages set at nought by a reckless unbelief. But not so a prophesying conscience. Its very voice is one of woe, and is felt to be a specimen of the approaching sorrows it describes. Its own words are sparks, and the hearer and sufferer cannot question that they portend a great flame that cannot be quenched. They are the murmurings of the coming storm.
4. And here is a prophet whose presence cannot be escaped. Men may flee from the voice of man; or they may drive from them the proclaimers of evil tidings, as Elijah by the fury of Ahab. But there is one who cannot be thus shaken off. Its victim is guilt, and guilt shall find it on its track wherever it may flee, or wherever it may hide itself. Rush to the theatre, the dance, the banquet, the intoxicating bowl. But conscience is there. If you can stupify the soul for a moment, so that its dreadful voice is not heard, it can be but for a moment, and then the louder and more terrible is its voice, from the fact that you wickedly sought to repel so kind a friend. The wave recedes far from the shore only to rush
back with augmented violence. The attempt to flee from conscience is sure to make its presence, one day, more terrific. The effort to stifle its voice is sure to make it more terrific. Escape conscience! Can a man escape from himself? Where can he go from his own presence?
5. Conscience is a prophet which will verify all his own predictions. No Jewish or Christian prophet could do this. They would only utter what must be executed by other hands. But here is one who executes his own prophetic declarations. It speaks of future woe for guilt, and inflicts it. It speaks of "a worm that dieth not,” and is that worm; of " a fire that shall not be quenched,” and is that fire. It tells the guilty that they “ shall go away into everlasting punishment,” and then goes with them to be the executioner of it.
6. Conscience will never lose the prophetic office. Other prophets may retire from the work, or drop their mantle by a call to ascend on high, and so their prophecies cease. But conscience ever liveth. Never will it cease to prophesy to the guilty in hell, and it shall be of "wrath to come,” wrath ever coming, and its vials never all emptied !
Such is conscience as a prophet. How much every human being has at stake in the attitude taken by such a prophet towards himself! Reader, its prophecies concerning you, what are they?
THERE IS NO OTHER WAY. “ THERE is no other way,” said old Amos, who was telling his grandson how he might get health, and knowledge, and wisdom, and money, and friends, and a good hope, and peace at the last, and, after all, enter heaven, the happy dwelling, place of saints and angels, and of the Lord of life and glory. “ There is no other way,” said he: but perhaps it will be better to put down the words that passed between them.
Amos. You may as well, Thomas, attempt to get grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles, as expect to have good health without living temperately, and taking fresh air and exercise. The glutton may grow fat, and the drunkard in his cups may have high spirits, but they will both get weaker and weaker, instead of stronger and stronger. And then, look at those who are pent up in close rooms, and seldom breathe the pure air that the breezes of heaven are wafting to and fro in the earth, how dull and pale, and sickly they are; some cannot get into the open air, but those who
can should be thankful. He who would be healthy must have exercise and fresh air: there is no other way.
Thomas. There are no people who have such a colour in their cheeks as those who live in the country.
Amos. True! they are up with the lark, and work in the open fields, and have fresh air and exercise all day long. I would they were more thankful for their blessings than they are. If you wish to get knowledge and wisdom, Thomas, there is but one way; mind your book, keep your eyes and ears open, and think on all you know, ever remembering that " The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding,” Prov. ix. 10. Books of themselves will never make you wise, though you can hardly expect to be wise without them. Read, observe, think, and pray to the Father of mercies for instruction if you wish to get knowledge and wisdom : there is no other way.
Thomas. I will keep as close to my book as I can, grandfather.
Amos. That is right, Thomas, you cannot do better. If you wish to get money you must work for it, though I tell you beforehand that “ Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith,” Prov. xv. 16. 6 The hand of the diligent maketh rich,” Prov, x. 4. If therefore you will be rich, and get your riches honestly, you must be diligent: there is no other way.
Thomas. I shall never be afraid of work, I hope.
Amos. If you wish for friends, try to deserve them. The word of God says, “ A man that hath friends must show himself friendly," Prov. xviii. 24. You can neither beg, buy, borrow, nor steal real friends, and can only gain them by friendly qualities. However, you may try, by following another fashion ; I do not think you will find it answer. To gain friends, your thoughts, your words, and your deeds must be friendly; this is my plan, and I am of opinion there is no other way.
Thomas. We can hardly expect friends if we do not try to deserve them.
Amos. “ There is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” Prov. xviii. 24, even the Saviour himself, and well will it be for us if he is our friend. I have told you how to get a few good things, and now I will tell you how to obtain a few more. If you want a good hope you must look for it to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, for you may look to other quarters all the days of your life without getting it; happy is he “ whose hope is in the Lord his God," Psa. cxlvi. 5. Where is the use of hoping for that which may be here to-day and gone to-morrow! There is no hope like the hope of everlasting life, and if we ask our heavenly Father for it, having faith in his Son Jesus Christ, who died for sinners, he will give us a good hope through grace, that shall be “ as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast,” Heb. vi. 19. Never be satisfied, Thomas, till you have a good hope, and never forget where to go for it. There are two other good things yet that I wish to speak of.
Thomas. What are they, grandfather?
Amos. Why, one is peace at the last, and the other an abundant entrance into heaven; for if you have not these, all the good things that were ever enjoyed would be but a mockery to you. Oh what a blessing is peace, both in life and death! Again and again I would bid you remember, there is no peace to the wicked.
Thomas. You have told me so very often.
Amos. Not too often, I think, Thomas. You can hardly have it too frequently sounded in your ears. He who would enjoy peace must cast the load of his trials and cares, his sins and his sorrows, on the Lord of life and glory, and trust in him. The prophet Isaiah says of the Lord, “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee,” Isa. xxvi. 3. No wonder then that he should cry out, “ Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength !” There are those in the world who get riches, rank, and honour in abundance, without getting peace. Peace is of great value at all times, but it is of double value in the hour of death. The wicked and the worldly minded, and the thoughtless, look for it then in vain ; but “ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace," Psa. xxxvii. 37. I have now but one other thing to mention.
Thomas. And that is the best of all, for it is about going to heaven.
Amos. True, Thomas. You would not like to be shut out of the mansions of glory, should you ?
Thomas. No, not for the world.
Amos. I dare say not, but it is not wishing to go to heaven that will take us there; we must go beyond that. Some try to scale the battlements of heaven with the ladder of their own good works, but they always find it far, far too short. And some try to mount up to heaven in the balloon