Lectures to Young People
William B. Sprague, 1830
DEFENSE AGAINST TEMPTATION
"Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation." Matthew 26:41.
The circumstances in which these words were spoken, were exceedingly tender and interesting. The blessed Jesus had retired to the garden of Gethsemane for prayer, with a view to fortify himself for the sufferings which awaited him. Peter, James, and John—who had previously been witnesses of his transfiguration—he took with him, on this occasion, to be witnesses of his agony. After his entrance into the garden, he apprized his three disciples of the extreme anguish of his soul, and directed them to remain where they were, and watch, while he advanced to a more retired spot, for the purpose of devotion. But strange to relate, the disciples, during their Master's absence, notwithstanding his extreme distress, and the express command he had given them to watch with him—fell asleep. Finding them in this situation, on his return, he gently reproves them, by saying, "What! could you not watch with me one hour?" and then kindly subjoins the caution in the text, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation."
The temptation to which our Lord here especially refers, is doubtless that to which his disciples were to be peculiarly exposed—of denying their Master, or deserting his cause. Their fond expectations of temporal distinction as the followers of Jesus, were about to be disappointed; and he to whom they had looked as the deliverer of Israel, was soon to die in ignominy. In these circumstances, there was great danger, as the event proved, that they would become distrustful of Jesus, and perhaps, renounce all relation to him. Hence the caution in our text was peculiarly seasonable.
But notwithstanding this caution was originally addressed to the disciples in reference to a particular case, there is enough in common between their circumstances and those of all other Christians, to warrant a general application of it. All other Christians, as well as they, so long as they continue in this world, are exposed to temptation; are in danger of turning aside from the path of duty, and thus wounding their own peace, and injuring the cause of their Master. What the Savior says, therefore, to his disciples, he says to all, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation."
There is one circumstance which seems to give this passage a peculiar application to Christians in the morning of life—it is that the words were originally addressed to people, who—whatever might have been their age—and they could not have been far advanced—were young in the school of Christ. If the fact that their views of Christianity were exceedingly imperfect, and that they had had but little experience of the trials which must attend a Christian profession, rendered it peculiarly proper that they should be thus admonished; is there not a similar reason, growing out of the circumstances of all young Christians, why the same caution should be earnestly urged upon them?
One who makes a public profession of true religion, will instantly perceive that he sustains a new relation both to the church and the world. This is the point at which he openly and professedly commences his warfare with temptation. Regarding the young Christian in this peculiarly interesting attitude, it is the design of this discourse to illustrate the fact that he is in peculiar danger of falling, and to notice the means which the text prescribes for avoiding this evil.
I. I am, first, to illustrate the fact that new Christians are peculiarly in danger from temptation.
This exposure results, partly, from a natural relish for worldly pleasure. With most youth, previous to conversion, no doubt the love of pleasure is the ruling passion. There is a natural buoyancy of spirits incident to that period, which usually finds its element, either in scenes of mirthful diversion, or sensual indulgence. Whenever the heart comes under the influence of true piety, it, of course, yields to the dominion of a new set of principles; and he who was before supremely a lover of pleasure—now becomes supremely a lover of God.
But though the change which takes place in regeneration is great, it is not entire; and the predominating principle of the unrenewed nature—though it no longer exists as the ruling passion—still continues to operate with greater or less energy. Hence it often happens that young people, after their conversion, discover something of the same thirst for worldly pleasure, which had previously constituted their most prominent characteristic. As there is no lack of opportunities for gratifying this thirst, there is great danger that they will gratify it, though at the expense of disturbing their peace of conscience, of violating their covenant engagements, and of making the cause of their Redeemer bleed.
That there are many pleasures growing out of our present condition, which, though not strictly pious, are yet rational, and may be innocently enjoyed by the Christian—far be it from me to question. Such are the pleasures resulting from the exercise of a cultivated taste, of a well regulated imagination, of the social and benevolent affections; and even of pleasures of a still lower kind—those which belong more immediately to the animal nature, the Christian may innocently partake, provided he does not transcend the limits marked out by the Creator.
But what I here refer to under the name of worldly pleasure, is that which is either wrong in itself, or which becomes so by excessive indulgence; everything, in short, which has a tendency to check the spirit of devotion, or to diminish our interest in eternal realities. Now, that this is the tendency of what are commonly called fashionable amusements, even the more decent of them, is too obvious to admit of question: all experience proves that they serve to relax the whole spiritual system. But towards some or other of these forms of worldly pleasure, the young Christian is liable to be drawn by the remains of his unsanctified nature: pleasure, more frequently than anything else, entangles him with her silken cord, and draws him away from the plain path of Christian duty.
Closely connected with the preceding remark, is another—that young Christians are in peculiar danger of yielding to temptation, from their love of social fellowship.
As the social principle is one of the original elements of our nature, it is also one of the earliest in its development; and perhaps it never operates with so much strength as in the morning of life. It is a principle common both to the good and the bad; and while it is capable of being made subservient to the most useful purposes, it may be perverted as a powerful auxiliary to the cause of true religion. Most young people, previous to their conversion, have been associated with those who are, at least, careless of piety; and who, it may ordinarily be presumed, still remain so. Now it is by no means their duty, on becoming pious, to stand aloof from their former associates, or to assume towards them any airs of artificial sanctity; but it is their duty to decline all that interaction with them, which is marked by levity and inconsideration. Let their fellowship be as frequent and intimate as it may—only let it be conducted on Christian principles—let it minister to edification and not to destruction.
But need I say that the young Christian is here in great danger of being led astray? He goes into a circle, where perhaps all but himself are professedly devoted to worldly pleasure; and where it is expected that the conversation will not only be worldly—but vain. It may indeed generally be presumed, that if he ventures unnecessarily into circumstances like these, he goes without even a wish to resist the current; but suppose he be cast into such a situation, by the providence of God, and unexpectedly to himself—there is still great danger that, from the influence of former habit, the fear of giving offence, or the dread of being looked upon as a reformer, he will at least connive at that which his conscience condemns; and perhaps may even give occasion to its being triumphantly said, by his careless associates, that they had one professor of religion among them—though his appearance would never have excited a suspicion of it. Whoever you are, my young friend, of whom this can be said, rely on it—you have already incurred the evil against which the caution in the text was intended to guard you.
But does the young Christian ask me whether all his fellowship with impious people, must be strictly of a pious character? I answer, by no means; but it ought all to be of a useful character. In ordinary cases, if you would converse with an impious friend in respect to his own condition, it had better be a matter between you and him only; but the subject of true religion is of such immense extent, that it may be introduced in some or other of its various bearings, in almost any circumstances in which the Christian ought to be found; and that too without any appearance of ostentation. In general, I would say that, in all your social fellowship with the world, you are bound to let your light shine; and while you are always to avoid whatever is inconsistent with a Christian profession, you are to make it manifest, directly, by your conversation, as often as you have opportunity—that you are on the Lord's side.
But young Christians are in danger of perverting their social fellowship, not only with the irreligious—but with each other. It usually happens, indeed, that, at their entrance on the pious life, they have a strong relish for Christian fellowship, and find great delight in an unreserved interchange of thought and feeling. But experience proves that there is great danger that it will not always be so. There is danger that, as their first pious joys subside, they will approach the subject of piety with increasing reserve, until, at no distant period, it scarcely comes in, even by way of allusion. I doubt not that there are many to whose experience I might appeal for the truth of this remark—who can remember the time when they scarcely ever met, but to encourage and assist each other in their Christian course; whose fellowship has become scarcely less worldly than that of the world itself.
But it may be asked what harm, after all, results from this fellowship of which I have been speaking? Suppose young Christians do, when they are together, prefer some other topic of conversation to that of true piety; or suppose they occasionally enter a mirthful circle, and so far conform to the world as to spend a few hours in trifling conversation, or vain amusement—does this deserve any serious reprehension? I answer, I do not see how anyone, with the Bible in his hand, can justify it. What is its tendency in respect to the person who engages in it? Ask any who have had experience, and if you get the honest answer, I venture to say, it will be, that this manner of spending time—has served to dissipate serious reflection, to unfit them for the duties of the closet, and to awaken remorse, when they came to look at their conduct, in view of the Bible and of eternity.
And what is its influence—what must be its influence, on those careless companions who have been witnesses of it? That you may estimate it aright, take into view this important truth—that mere neglect of true piety will just as certainly destroy the soul, as open contempt of it. What then though you have not profaned the name of God, or spoken irreverently of true religion, or committed any act which the world calls immoral; yet, by your presence and example, you have lent your sanction to a spirit of levity; a spirit which you know must be dislodged from those very individuals, or they must perish; a spirit, moreover, which, as it is in their case the ruling passion, constitutes the grand obstacle to their becoming pious.
And let me say, they understand the language of your conduct, even better than you do yourself; they regard you as lending the most practical testimony to the notion that true religion is gloomy; as virtually telling them that you cannot find happiness in it; and therefore you have come to seek it in the world. Or else, on the other hand, they are willing to admit, upon your authority, that true religion is consistent with a spirit of levity, or perhaps even that levity, called by the more decent name of innocent cheerfulness, makes part of true religion; and if this be so, they, very charitably for themselves, conclude that they are either Christians already, or have little to do to become so. What more effectual means could you use, to keep them at the greatest distance from serious reflection than this? I fear that many a professing Christian, if he could look into the world of woe, would see some there lifting up their eyes in torment, who would reproach him with having contributed, by his example, to that habit of carelessness, by which they were carried down to perdition.
Again: young Christians are in peculiar danger of yielding to temptation, from the fact, that their condition awakens, in an unusual degree, the vigilance and activity of the wicked. Of this fact, no person of the least observation, can entertain a doubt. It is not the Christian who has lived long, and whose character is firmly established, who is most frequently assailed by the arts of the wicked; but it is the youth, who is just turning his back upon the world, and setting his face towards heaven. This fact is often strikingly illustrated after a revival of true religion; when many young people are seen entering upon a Christian course, and all the wiles of the wicked are put in requisition, in order to oppose them.
And the reasons of this fact are as obvious as the fact itself. Young Christians have far less strength to resist temptation, than belongs to a more mature Christian experience. Moreover, the wicked not only assail them under peculiar advantages—but they feel that they must do it then or never; as there is little probability, when they have once grown into established Christians, that they will be carried back to the beggarly elements of the world. Now, is it not manifest that these circumstances invest the condition of young Christians with peculiar danger? On every side are those who watch for their halting—and among them, it may be, some with whom they are united in the most endearing earthly relations. By flattery, on the one hand, and ridicule on the other; by appealing first to one principle of their carnal nature, and then to another; here to the love of pleasure, and there to the dread of being singular, they do their utmost to turn their footsteps backward into the path of death. Happy is that young Christian, who, amidst so many snares, is enabled to walk uprightly, and to escape unhurt!
I observe, once more, that young Christians are in peculiar danger of yielding to temptation, from the fact that the principle of true religion in their hearts is comparatively feeble.
I have already said that this is a reason why they are especially liable to be assailed by the enemies of true religion: it is equally a reason why they are in peculiar danger of yielding to temptation. The rapturous exercises and burning zeal which are often manifested by the new convert, are, by no means, to be regarded as any pledge in respect to future character; nor are they to be considered as indicating even the present existence of a high degree of true religion. In almost all cases, these strong feelings, after a little period, subside; and he who, at first, imagined that he had faith enough to move mountains, soon learns that, if he has any faith at all, it is only as a grain of mustard seed. The principle of spiritual life in his soul, like the principle of natural life in an infant, is feeble in its operations; and though Almighty power and grace are pledged for its preservation, it is less able to endure the storms of temptation, than after it shall have gained more strength and maturity.
You thought, my young friend, while you were standing on the mount, and overlooking your path to heaven, that you were girded for a conflict with all your spiritual enemies. The temptations of the world appeared to you as less than nothing, and you supposed it impossible that you should ever even agitate the question whether you would yield to them. You seemed to yourself to have large stores of strength at command, and to be able to march with a firm step, even to the martyr's stake.
But since you have come down from the mount, to the actual reality of trial and conflict—Oh how differently does the case appear! Your resolution which you expected would accomplish wonders, proves to be a feeble principle. Your zeal, which once rose in a bright flame towards heaven, has, in a great measure, died away. Your hope, which had formerly mounted up well near to assurance, has sunk to a low point of doubt, and perhaps sometimes trembles on the point of extinction. In short, you now feel that, if you are a Christian, the actings of spiritual life are so weak as scarcely to be discernible; and perhaps even to give occasion for distressing apprehensions that you are yet dead in trespasses and sins. In these circumstances, how much are you in danger of yielding to temptation! How much reason is there to fear that the world will gain a victory over you, which will mar your peace, cloud your evidences, and diminish your usefulness!
II.Having now attempted to illustrate the fact that young Christians are in peculiar danger from temptation, I proceed, secondly, to illustrate the MEANS which the text prescribes for avoiding this evil. They are watchfulness and prayer. "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation."
It is a truth distinctly implied in this direction, and one of great practical importance, that watchfulness and prayer ought always to exist together. Watchfulness without prayer, is self-confidence; prayer without watchfulness, is presumption. In the one case, we proudly repose for security in our own strength; in the other, we pervert the scriptural doctrine of dependence to fatalism. They are two things which God has joined together in his word; and both reason and experience sanction the connection. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
We will now inquire in what manner the duties enjoined in the text are to be performed.
1. In respect to the first of these duties, namely,WATCHFULNESS.
I observe, thatyou are to watch against the OCCASIONS of temptation. There are indeed temptations of various kinds involved in our providential allotments: the plain path of duty is often beset with them, so that you cannot decline to encounter the one, without, at the same time, turning your back upon the other. In all cases of this kind, you are to go forward unhesitatingly; not doubting that you are called of God to the conflict, and that if you arm yourself suitably for it, he will give you the victory.
The occasions of temptation against which you are to watch, are of a different kind; they are needless occasions—those which offer themselves, not in the course of duty—but in the pursuit of mere worldly pleasure or advantage. For instance, something presents itself to your view as an object of desire, which is by no means necessary to your comfort, and which will not contribute, in any degree, to your usefulness. But in order to attain it, you must place yourself in circumstances in which you will be exceedingly liable to fall into sin. The case then is clear, that you ought not to place yourself in these circumstances; for while the good to be attained is little or nothing, the evil to which you are exposed may be immense.
Or you may think to expose yourself to temptation, where there is no other purpose to be gained than merely to test your own strength; to secure to yourself the pleasure resulting from a victory. Here again, you place yourself on the enemies' ground without a warrant; you rush into the field, before you have orders from the Captain of salvation; and you have nothing to expect but that your presumption will be punished by an ignominious defeat. I repeat, then, watch against all needless occasions of temptation! While you are careful not to decline any conflict to which you are called in the course of duty, be equally careful not to volunteer your service in this way, where there is no occasion.
Watch against the POWER of temptation.I have already said that, in the discharge of duty, you will often necessarily be placed in circumstances in which you may be tempted. Here then your whole vigilance is to be put in requisition, that you do not fall; and you have every encouragement to this course from the fact that you are engaged in the cause, and at the bidding, of your Master "Count it all joy," says the apostle James, "when you fall into divers temptations;" that is if God in his providence brings his children into temptation, it may be an occasion of joy to them, as furnishing additional evidence of his paternal kindness in bringing them through it, and of their renovation.
As temptation derives its power chiefly from a wrong state of the heart, it is especially necessary, when you are placed in these circumstances, that you shouldkeep your HEART with all diligence. You are to cultivate indeed, at all times, that lively sense of divine things, that spiritual and heavenly frame of feeling, which will be most likely to shield you from this evil—you are to take special care to bring yourself under the influence of pious feelings, as you are about to approach a scene of temptation. You are to go with your whole soul bathed in the holy influences of the gospel; with that spirit which prompted the blessed Redeemer, in similar circumstances, to say, "Get behind me, Satan." And if you discover the least drawing of your affections towards the forbidden object, you are to regard it as a signal for alarm; and when you have once begun to dally with the temptation, to institute the inquiry with yourself whether you may yield to it or not, or to cast about you for palliating circumstances, rely on it you have already begun to sink under its power. Watch, watch, my young friends, against the beginning of this evil.
Watch unto PRAYER.
Watch for opportunities of prayer. It is an important part of Christian economy to have stated seasons for private devotion; for experience proves that where this duty is made a matter of convenience merely, and is left to occupy only the remnants of time which may be occasionally gathered up from the occupations of the world, there is a chilling influence exerted, under which all the graces of the Christian languish. Be careful, therefore, that you have stated seasons for visiting your closet; and let your worldly concerns all be arranged, so far as possible, with reference to these seasons. When you foresee providential circumstances which will prevent you from observing the usual hour, anticipate your devotions. And when you are prevented by some unexpected event, instead of passing over the duty for that time, avail yourself of the first opportunity to perform it. I know indeed that the form of this duty may be observed, without the spirit: but if the form be habitually neglected, it is scarcely too much to say that the spirit is lacking of course.
I am aware that there are many situations in which the discharge of this duty is attended with peculiar difficulties; and there is much reason to fear that many young professors, after struggling with these difficulties for a while, come, at length, to regard them as constituting an apology for the neglect of the duty altogether. Hence, I have no doubt, it is, that many a youth who once gave fair promise of being a devoted Christian, has sunk into a state of spiritual apathy so deep as scarcely to be distinguished from the lethargy of impenitence. As you would avoid this tremendous evil, my young friends, guard against that neglect of secret devotion, which will be sure to lead to it.
If your circumstances subject you to peculiar embarrassment in reference to this duty, endeavor to counteract their unfavorable influence, by a double degree of watchfulness and diligence. There is hardly any condition in which you will be likely to be placed—but by proper exertion, you may secure at least some moments every day for pious retirement. And where this is impracticable, you may, and ought, to lift up your heart to God in frequent silent prayers. If, in his providence, he places you in a condition in which you can commune with him in no other manner, such an offering, no doubt, will be accepted.
But you are also towatch for the SPIRIT of prayer. Without the spirit of devotion, the form of prayer is mere hypocrisy; though, as has been already intimated, we are not to look for the spirit of prayer, where the form is habitually neglected. It should be your object to watch for this spirit constantly; not merely when you go into your closet—but amidst your ordinary cares and occupations. In the workshop, or on the farm, or in the counting-room, even in those circumstances which would seem least favorable to devotional feeling, you may still occasionally retire within yourself, and do something to fan the sacred flame. You should watch for this spirit in the events of providence, which either occur in your experience, or fall under your observation; whether they are adapted to deepen humility, to quicken faith, to nourish gratitude, or to bring into exercise any other of the elements of devotion. And whenever you discover the Holy Spirit's operation in the silent movements of your soul towards heaven—Oh cherish this divine influence with peculiar care. Be not satisfied until the spirit of devotion is plentifully shed abroad in your heart, and your soul is filled with all the fullness of God.
Moreover, you are towatch for ANSWERS to prayer. If you should ask some signal favor of an earthly superior, and it should not be granted, you would naturally be led to inquire whether there were not something in the manner of your asking, which prevented the bestowment of it. In like manner, if you do not receive the blessings which you ask of God, it may well lead you to review your prayers—especially the spirit with which they have been offered—and see whether your lack of sincerity, or faith, or perseverance, does not constitute the grand obstacle to their being answered. On the other hand, if your prayers actually are answered, you should notice it as a ground of thanksgiving and encouragement: if you have reason to believe that, in answer to your petitions, some sore temptation which threatened you has been averted, or that you have received an increased measure of strength to encounter some temptation into which you have been brought, while you give God the glory, you will feel new resolution for your future conflicts, and new encouragement to cast yourself upon divine aid.
2. But the other duty which the text enjoins as a means of defense against temptation, isPRAYER. Concerning this, let me say,
That you are to pray that God will not permit you to fall into temptation, above what you are able to bear.
"In all your ways acknowledge God, and He will direct your paths." He knows perfectly what temptations, with a given degree of strength, you will be able to overcome; and he is abundantly able so to arrange events in his providence, that the temptations to which you are exposed, shall not exceed your ability of resistance. Let it be your-prayer, then, that he will prevent you from being placed in circumstances which will involve temptations too powerful for you. And if you should heedlessly seek such a situation—that he will send insurmountable obstacles to your arriving at it.
But, on the other hand, you are to pray that, if in the providence of God, you fall into great temptation, you may be prevented, by an increased degree of grace, from falling before it. There are some cases in which the temptation cannot be anticipated; as it results from circumstances into which you are brought contrary to your expectations: but in such cases, it is your duty to send up a silent petition to God, that he will grant you grace equal to the exigency. Other cases there are in which the temptation approaches gradually, and you have time to discipline your heart, and offer your prayers, in view of it. But as you are never secure in this respect, you are always to pray for the sustaining and overcoming influences of divine grace; to pray that whatever may be the character of the temptation which you are called to meet, you may have strength from on high proportioned to it. With such preparation as this for your spiritual conflict, you will be in little danger of being vanquished.
And finally, you are to pray that you may be watchful. A spirit of watchfulness, as you have seen, is absolutely essential to preserve you from falling into sin; and is, therefore, to be regarded as a most important blessing. But, like every other blessing, it must come from God, and must be sought by prayer. Let the petition, then, often go up from your heart, that you may be enabled to carry a watchful spirit with you into all your fellowship with your fellow-Christians, and with the world; that you may watch against the occasions of temptation, and against its power; that you may watch for opportunities of prayer—for the spirit of prayer—for answers to prayer. And if you follow these directions, you will find that the two duties, or rather the two parts of the same duty, which I have been urging, will exert a mutually favorable influence upon each other; that while watchfulness will promote the spirit of prayer, prayer in its turn will increase the spirit of watchfulness; and that together they will constitute an adequate defense against temptation.
On a review of our subject, we remark, first, that the Christian life is a life of great activity. Is not the life of the soldier, stationed in an enemy's country, exposed to innumerable stratagems, and often called out to battle, an active life? What do you say then, of the life of the Christian, who has to "wrestle not against flesh and blood" only—"but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places?" And if there be occasion for every Christian to be constantly active, in order to prosecute with success the warfare to which he is called, is not this emphatically true of the young Christian, who is assailed by a thousand temptations, and yet is comparatively unfurnished for the conflict? Better a thousand fold think to remain idle on the field of battle, or when a band of murderers are plotting for your destruction, than to think to encounter the enemies which the young Christian has to meet, without severe effort.
But, though the Christian life is a life of activity, that activity is itself a source of enjoyment. It is not idleness—but exertion—persevering, successful exertion, which makes men happy. It is the privilege of the Christian who has triumphed in the conflict with his spiritual enemies, to enjoy a peaceful, grateful, confiding state of mind, in view of that grace which gives him the present victory, and of that glory which will crown his final triumph. Even Heaven itself, the abode of perfect happiness, though not a scene of warfare, is a place of activity; for its inhabitants "rest not day nor night," but "give glory, and honor, and thanks—to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever."
I ask you, then, my young friend, in view of the consideration now suggested, to examine anew your claim to the Christian character. Is your true religion a true religion of indolent ease—or of vigorous effort? Are you satisfied to float down with the current of temptation—or do you exert yourself to the utmost to resist it? Do you lead a life of watchfulness and prayer—or are you contented to leave open the doors of your heart to every temptation? Be not deceived. If the path in which you are walking is smooth and easy; if you find in it little of conflict and self-denial, you may imagine indeed that you have found an easy way to heaven—but take heed lest the event should prove that you had been walking in the broad road to hell!
Again: Learn from this subject, that the Christian's actual strength is in proportion to his sense of weakness. "When I am weak," said the apostle, "then am I strong;" and the same spiritual paradox occurs in the experience of every Christian. Observe the solution of it. When the Christian, looking around upon his spiritual enemies, and looking inward upon himself, feels his inability to grapple with them; when he is brought most deeply to realize that, in his own strength, he can do nothing; then he is induced to cast himself on the boundless resources of God's grace. If left to his own unassisted efforts, he feels that he is as helpless as an infant; but girded with Omnipotence, he can do all things.
To a spirit of activity, then, my young friends—join a spirit of dependence. Be fearless of temptation, only when you repose in Jehovah your strength. And let every victory which you gain, while it ministers to your humility by reminding you of your own weakness, carry your soul upward to Almighty God in devout thanksgiving for his all-conquering grace.
Finally: Happy they who are trained up in this world of conflict—for a world of glory! There are those who enjoy far less happiness than the Christian, who, by living here, are prepared only for a world of despair. But the Christian, by the warfare which he maintains, in the strength of Almighty grace, is becoming qualified for the everlasting communion of angels. Does the thought ever rise in your heart, my young friend, in some moments of impatience—that these struggles with temptation are almost too severe to be endured? Beyond that dark valley which lies a little way onward in your path, and into which you will soon descend, there is a bright region of immortal glory. You cannot see it now; for the darkness that hangs around that valley obstructs your vision. But as sure as you are enlisted in Jehovah's service, you will soon be there. And thence you will look back upon the conflicts of this short period of your existence, and weep, if tears can be in heaven—that you should ever have felt a sentiment of reluctance at enduring them.
Travel on then, young Christian; for though young, the hills of Canaan will soon greet your longing eyes. And is it so, that you are so near that bright inheritance? Is it so, that sweet fields beyond the swelling floods, watered by the river of life, and smiling with immortal verdure, are so soon to receive your weary feet? Welcome then all the horrors of this howling desert—welcome all the fiery serpents which hell itself can send out—welcome the most rough and stormy passage over Jordan—if this brief hour of conflict is to be succeeded by an eternity of glory!
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