George Everard, 1866
It has been my earnest desire and prayer in writing these pages, to give you, my young reader, some little help on your heavenward course. I write as a brother, knowing by experience some of your difficulties and temptations. I write as one engaged in the same conflict, and beset with the same enemies. Yet, while desiring to press forward myself, I would gladly, if I could, stretch out a hand to aid and strengthen you. As Moses once spoke to Hobab, so would I say to you, "We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord has said, I will give it to you — come you with us, and we will do you good, for the Lord has spoken good concerning Israel." May I then very earnestly ask you, as in the presence of God, to lay to heart whatever in these pages may be of profit to your soul. Lay not this book aside after a single perusal: regard it as a friend, a companion who would often speak to you a word of counsel. With much prayer that the Spirit of Truth would open out to you whatever of God's truth it contains, strive to recollect and practice its various lessons.
A few parting words, and I am done.
A word to those who are strangers to Christ. Without Christ, what can life bring but disappointment? What dangerous snares is the great adversary ever placing in your way — and if Christ be not with you, who can say into how deep a pit of wretchedness you may fall, even in this life, as the fruit of your own sin? Who has not heard of one in the Eastern Counties, and what came to him as the consequence of his own folly — what a fair estate he lost, what a life he lived, what a death he died! Had he only been guided by the fear of God, how great must have been the contrast! Assuredly wild oats, sown in the thoughtlessness of early life, cannot be gathered up again, and too often bring a harvest of disease, of ruin, of death, of damnation.
But suppose you avoid all this extreme misery — as a favored child of this world you may gain the highest prizes in life; but what then — what then? Without Christ the end is far worse than a blank. To die thus, it were far better for you never to have been born. "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
The loss of friends is much,
The loss of life is more;
The loss of Christ is such
As nothing can restore.
Oh, that I might plead with you, before it be too late, that you would not forsake your own mercies! Who shall tell the incalculable loss of a wasted lifetime? To pass on through the stages of early life, fifteen — twenty — thirty years gone without thought — without prayer, the heart hardening, the conscience becoming seared, opportunities flitting by, one companion after another called to their account, but you still living in your sin and unbelief. Who shall tell the fearful peril of such a course?
You giddy, thoughtless girl, you can laugh, and dance, and be merry; you can look forward for days or weeks to some expected entertainment; you can go over again and again the favorite song, that you may not be behindhand on that evening. Why will you cast away the purer joys of Christ's love — why will you forget to prepare for a higher scene — why neglect to learn the new song which you might sing in the presence of the Lamb?
You wild, prayerless youth — you imagine to yourself life a paradise. You build many an airy castle of bright hopes and expectations — have you no time to think of that true Paradise which you might enjoy? Have you no time to think of that city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God?
Only consider your true position. Let but some sharp blast of withering disease sweep over you — let but the stroke of some unlooked for accident come upon you — and where are you? What if the corruptible body lies silent in the tomb, wrapped in its winding-sheet — but the soul be found without covering, without shelter, exposed forever to the hot, scorching blasts of God's fiery wrath and displeasure! You stand even now on the edge of a deep, unfathomable abyss of dark despair! Oh stay! this very hour, compel your reluctant heart to think — What am I? Where am I? Saved or unsaved? Near to God, or far away, a stranger an exile, a rebel? Which am I? Which am I now?
Go to the root of the matter; look well to the foundation. On what is your hope resting? Is it anything in your own life or character — or is it on the precious stone laid in Zion? And what does your hope do for you? Does it make you love God, and hate sin, and crucify the flesh, and overcome the world?
Perhaps you know well that you are not right. You dare not face death or judgment — you are not prepared to meet your God. If so, will you grant me one request? The first quiet half-hour that you can spare, will you think over the days that are past, and the sins of which a voice within reminds you? Will you then kneel down and name them one by one before God? Will you confess to Him that you have been living all your life ungrateful for His tender love, and will you beseech Him to cleanse you perfectly from every stain in the blood of His Son, and to renew your heart in love and holiness by His Holy Spirit? Only do this in sincerity and truth, and this would not be your last prayer, but God would teach you again and again to call upon His name. He would direct you in His way, and put His fear within your heart. He would mark you with His own seal, and you should rejoice that He has loved you.
But let me add a word to such as already know and love the Savior. If this is so, thrice blessed are you. Blessed, in that the dread consequences of your sin have been removed — blessed, in that you have such a Friend — blessed, in that a home above is prepared for you. If you have Christ — what can be amiss? Though all else fails, though your plans for the future come to nothing, though health and wealth depart, though pleasant pictures of domestic happiness fade away — yet be of good cheer, you have all in Christ. Your losses will all prove to be gains — and your sorrows shall usher in everlasting joys.
And though as yet it may be with you but the day of small things, though you have many fears, though you cannot yet rejoice in the full consolations of heavenly love — yet in prayer and diligence, and holy walking, follow on to know the Lord. His light shall yet shine upon you, and disperse all the darkness that still lingers around your path.
A Russian lady, Madame Swetchine, tells in striking words of the Lord's dealings with her in thus leading her forward, until the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon her heart. "My God, I did not always know You, I did not always love You; but it is now a long time since You came to me, and touched my heart, for You desired that I should love You. It was first a little light, which has become a great sun; a grain of mustard seed, which has become a great tree, under whose shade I live. For a time, O my God — a time I cannot now conceive of — You were everywhere, as You are now, and I saw You nowhere. At last I began to see You amid a crowd of objects, which yet constantly hid You from my sight, until at last You seemed to rise above them all. I saw You — Your Divine form, All-merciful One! Then Your heavenly beauty touched me. At first I often turned my eyes on You, then oftener still; at last I could take them off from gazing on Your face no more, but that dear sight was mixed with all else I saw. I had reached this point, and thought to stop there, when so it happened — I cannot tell how — that one day, one hour, I saw but You alone. O, my God, it was when beside You, all that was not of You seemed to me struck with vanity and bitterness, that at last the poor sheep knew its true Shepherd."
Be encouraged then, though the light as yet is dim. "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Think often of the Father's house. Remember that,
You nightly pitch your moving tent
A day's march nearer home.
An African woman not long ago fell asleep in Jesus, after many years of humble, consistent piety. From her dying lips, there fell a word that thrilled through and through the hearts of those around her bed. Speaking of the 14th chapter of John's Gospel, with the utmost solemnity she said, "Heaven is far, very far from the wicked — but near, very near to the righteous."
Ponder these words. Think how soon, perhaps much sooner than you think, you may come to the bright inheritance of the saints above. But if between you and that land there yet he many miles of dreary desert to be trodden, be not weary.
Oh, think of that crown of life which the Master has promised. Lift up your head in joyful hope. The glory that appertains to that crown, never fades away.
But a short while ago, have we seen a great empire shorn of its greatness, and he who ruled it compelled to yield up his fairest province to the dominion of another. But he who reigns with Christ is secure in all the glory that is granted to him. Our King must reign until all enemies lie crushed beneath His feet, and His people therefore can never lose the kingdom which He bestows.
"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 1:24-25