Pray that it will not occur in the winter.
I. SACRED LITERATURE, LIKE NATURE, IS FULL OF HINTED TRUTH. "Truths in nature darkly join." So in Scripture. The mystic element in Daniel and Scripture generally was fully recognized by Christ.
II. PRUDENCE IN MEN IS THE REFLECTION OF PROVIDENCE IN GOD. It is the light within us. In unsettled times we must be more than usually on our guard. Keen love of truth will make the mind critical and sceptical of the talk that goes on. Let us not have to say, surprised by calamity, "We might have known this before."
III. THERE IS A METHOD AND A SELECTION IN THE WAYS OF PROVIDENCE. When the observer of physical nature finds a principle of "natural selection," he finds only the visible counterpart of a law in the kingdom of God. God, through all changes, "gathers his chosen" from the end of the land to the end of the sky.
IV. CHANGES IN THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM ARE NATURAL, AND THOSE THAT ARE NATURAL HAVE A SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE. Changes in plants visibly show forth changes in institutions. Below both is truth, is life. And as Christ is one with life and truth, his words abide. There is a moral conservation of force through all evolutions. - J.
That your flight be not in the winter.
I. THE DIFFICULTY OF FLIGHT IN THE WINTER; or, to drop the metaphor, THE DIFFICULTY OF CONVERSION IN OLD AGE. The Spirit doth strive with everyone; and by secret admonitions and suggestions, by working upon hope and exciting fear, it does summon all men to consider their ways, and allows not that any sinner should go on in transgression, and not have its ruinous result set before him. Well, then, if this statement be accurate — if it be true that all men are plied with inducements and threatenings, and that the Divine machinery is brought to bear on their consciences; it follows that the aged sinner must have resisted many godly motions: and now he stands, in the winter of his days, the hero of a succession of victories. But then, they have been victories won by the lust of the flesh, by the lust of the eye, and by the pride of life — over the benevolent strivings of holy angels, and the merciful interpositions of Deity Himself. And I ask whether it will not be necessarily true, that the man who has resisted such impressions will be found correspondently hardened against threatenings. The aged sinner must have been successful in stifling anxiety, and in drowning conscience: and thus he hath closed up, so to speak, the common avenues through which the gospel message finds entrance. Hence, there is less hope of the aged sinner. But not only has the aged sinner resisted much; but it will generally happen that he has invented much. He will have his own scheme of salvation: he will have devised some method of quieting alarm: he will have arranged some system of religion for himself. I cannot but suppose that this is ordinarily the case. I cannot suppose that there are many aged men, who give themselves no concern touching the things of eternity. Sometimes indeed we are presented with that sad spectacle — an old man hunting after money which his trembling hands cannot grasp; or an old woman tottering into the grave with a heap of new fashions hung on her shrivelled body. But I am ready to believe, that very commonly old people have some thought about the future; and, to use the common place phrase, cast up their account with God, and contrive by the most ingenious arithmetic to strike a balance in their own favour. They have sinned in their youth; but, thank God, He has given them time for repentance; and the seriousness of later years has made amends for the frivolities of the earlier. They may have offended a great deal, but then they have suffered a great deal; and the afflictions will be taken as an atonement for the transgression. Their lives have been excellent lives, no man was ever wronged by them: they were in trade for half a century, and kept unsullied the character of honourable dealers. They were engaged in the management of various societies, and received pieces of plate as compliments to their integrity. One old man is comforted because he has been a very moral man; and another, because he has been a very charitable man; and a third, because God is a God of wonderful mercy; and a fourth, because it is too late to alter, and things will probably not turn out so bad as they have been represented. I believe the observations I have thus advanced are grounds for deciding that conversion in the winter of life must be a work of great difficulty. It must be further obvious to you, that, as it would be in natural, so in spiritual things, the infirmities of the old man incapacitate him for flight. I ask you whether the old man, the withered man, the wasted man, is adapted for grappling with so stern a communication? Is his mind calculated to take in what is thus overpowering? Are his apprehensions likely to grasp the tidings in their length and breadth? Is one so timid, the being who is expected to arm for the battle, or to gird himself for the fight? If it be a time of hazard to set out upon a voyage when the vessel has just sprung a leak — and if it be an hour of peril to commence a journey in a foreign land when the sun has faded from the heavens — and it be a moment of danger to sit at the base of the mountain when the avalanche is just loosening from the heights — and it be an instant of imminent risk when the drawbridge is trembling between us and the citadel — then is old age and winter a dangerous season for man to flee from his present condition.
II. We have thus shown you that great difficulties are attendant on flight in the winter. We are next to consider THE DANGER THAT FLIGHT, IF DEFERRED TO THE WINTER, WILL NOT THEN BE PRACTICABLE; in other words, the grounds for believing, that, if men repent not before old age, they will never repent at all. One reason for praying against postponement is, the possibility that flight, if delayed, may never take place. It is a trite saying, that "tomorrow never comes;" and I may add, that few men practically think themselves a year nearer the grave, because they are a year older. Once more. It is the testimony of experience that men are seldom converted in old age. Who, then, would defer flight, when the Almighty is inviting him to join the ranks of the redeemed? Let us address ourselves to the journey. The days are short, and the sunbeams are watery; the time for repentance may soon be at an end.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
Baxendale's Dictionary of Anecdote.It was near the close of one of those storms that deposit a great volume of snow upon the earth that a middle-aged man, in one of the southern counties of Vermont, seated himself at a large fire in a log house. He was crossing the Green Mountains from the western to the eastern side; he had stopped at the only dwelling of man in a distance of more than twenty miles, being the width of the parallel ranges of gloomy mountains; he was determined to reach his dwelling on the eastern side that day. In reply to a kind invitation to tarry in the house and not dare the horrors of the increasing storm, he declared that he would go, and that the Almighty was not able to prevent him. His words were heard above the howling of the tempest. He travelled from the mountain valley where he had rested over one ridge, and one more intervened between him and his family. The labour of walking in that deep snow must have been great, as its depth became near the stature of a man; yet he kept on, and arrived within a few yards of the last summit, from whence he could have looked down upon his dwelling. He was near a large tree, partly supported by its trunk; his body bent forward, and his ghastly intent features told the stubbornness of his purpose to overpass that little eminence. But the Almighty had prevented him; the currents of his blood were frozen. For more than thirty years that tree stood by the solitary road, scarred to the branches with names, letters, and hieroglyphics of death, to warn the traveller that he trod over a spot of fearful interest.
(Baxendale's Dictionary of Anecdote.)
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