"Call to remembrance the former days." — Hebrews 10:32
This will soon convince us that there is nothing new under the sun; and keep us from saying, "What is the cause that the former days were better than these?" In many respects we have the advantage. In knowledge, and civilization, and liberty, and trade, and the conveniences and comforts of life, and above all, in spiritual privileges, we far surpass our predecessors.
If we look back to the period of Judaism, we shall have reason to say, "Blessed are our eyes, for they see; and our ears, for they hear: for many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things that we see, and did not see them, and to hear the things that we hear, and did not hear them." They had the type, we have the reality; they had the promise, we have the accomplishment; they had the dawn, we have the day; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
If we look back to the period previous to the entrance of the Gospel into our own country, what were our ancestors? Naked painted savages in the woods, oppressed by cruel rites, enslaved by idolatry, being without Christ, strangers to the commonwealth of Israel; having no hope, and without God in the world.
We were called Christians long before the Reformation. But look at the period prior to that auspicious event. In what a state of mental degradation were we: religious superstition, the service performed in an unknown tongue, the Scriptures kept from the common people, and nothing suffered to peep or mutter, but as priestcraft gave leave.
And when men began to know the words of life, and to serve God in spirit and in truth, what interdictions were they under, and to what fines, imprisonments, tortures, deaths, were they exposed by the spirit of persecution, Popish and even Protestant! Remember the former times, in which your forefathers endured a great fight of affliction for conscience' sake. Think how they would have rejoiced to see a day in which we sit under our own vine and fig-tree, and none can make us afraid; in which the Gospel is spreading far and wide; in which individuals, and churches, and communities, combine to make manifest the savour of the Redeemer's knowledge in every place. Christians should judge by a rule of their own, and deem those the best times in which the best cause flourishes most. We therefore live in the most preferable era the world ever yet witnessed.
But it is well for us also to remember the earlier periods of our own personal history and experience, our days of religious nothingness, when we never called upon his Name, and had no fear of God before our eyes. What feelings does the review of these days require!
But other days, better days, blessed days followed, after we knew God, or rather were known of him. He remembers these: "Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first-fruits of his increase." And shall we forget them? Can we forget them?
"How sweet their memory still!"
In one respect the review must be humbling; for how little has our practice corresponded with our profession, or our proficiency with our advantages! Yea, instead of advancing, have not we stood still, or rather have we not gone back? We read of "the first ways of David." They were, alas, his best. The king of Israel never equalled the shepherd of Bethlehem. When at ease in Zion, his soul prospered much less than when he was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains. And have we never sighed, "Oh that it was with me as in months past?" Here is the charge, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." Let us not deny it, but remember from whence we are fallen, and repent, and do our first works.
Are we in trouble? Do we see no way for our escape? Does God seem to have forgotten to be gracious? Let us remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. His love, and power, and truth are still the same. And "because he has been my help, therefore, under the shadow of his wing will I rejoice."
Morning Exercises For Everyday In The Year
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