A Kind Wish
James Smith, 1856
The religion of Christ is always benevolent. It wishes well to all. It desires the welfare of all. Its language is, "As we have opportunity — let us do good unto all men, especially unto those who are of the household of faith." Bigotry, cruelty, covetousness, and oppression are diametrically opposed to the gospel. None of these were found in Jesus, and he is the only exact model of his own religion. Just in proportion as we resemble him, do we possess religion — but no further.
Many talk most about religion, who practice least; they are like the empty barrel, which always sounds loudest.
It was pure benevolence, or the working of the love of Christ, which led a Christian lady to say to her friend, "I hope you are not a stranger to Christ." And from the same benign principle, we wish to say to our readers, "We hope that you are not strangers to Christ."
Many hear of Christ — who do not know him; as I may hear of an officer in the field of battle — and know no more of him but that he exists.
Many read of Christ — who do not know him; as I may read of the Emperor of France — and yet not know him.
Many talk of Christ — who do not know him; as I may talk of some eminent physician — and yet be unacquainted with him.
Real religion stands in the knowledge of Christ; and the knowledge of Christ is always preceded by a knowledge of our need of him.
The knowledge of Christ is like the man's knowledge of the Physician, who has been raised from the gates of death by his skill.
Or the man's knowledge of his Liberator, who has been purchased from degrading slavery and introduced to liberty and comfort by his property.
Or the child's knowledge of his Father, who having left home, squandered his property, lost his character, and reduced himself to abject wretchedness and woe; returning, has been received, forgiven, and restored to happiness and honor.
Or like the subject's knowledge of his Sovereign, who having been a traitor, and having sought his monarch's life, has been invited to the palace, pardoned, and elevated to a most honorable post near his person.
Or like a man's knowledge of his Friend, who at the risk of his own life saved him from a watery grave, took him to his own home, and made him his bosom friend and companion.
We, who are Christians indeed, were once sick with a mortal disease; but Jesus became our physician, visited us, prescribed for us, provided for us, yes, restored us to health by applying to us his own blood, drawn from his own heart!
We were in bondage to sin, Satan, and the world; but Jesus, at the expense of his own life, ransomed us, restored us to liberty, and introduced us to plenty and peace.
We were degraded prodigals, who had wandered from God, depraved our natures, and rendered ourselves odious in his sight; but when we came back to his feet — he received us graciously, forgave us heartily, and reconciled us to our Father and our God.
We were in rebellion against God, traitors to his throne and government; but Jesus took the vile traitors place, and suffered what we deserved; he then invited us to be reconciled to his Father, won our consent, and filled Heaven with new joy when we were restored to friendship with God.
We were perishing, and were all but beyond hope, when Jesus gave himself for us, and by his power, pity, and mercy, saved us from everlasting burnings!
Our knowledge of Jesus produces confidence in him, and we commit ourselves, and all we have, into his hands. It produces love to him, and we give him our warmest affections, hearty praises, and ready services. It produces a preference of Jesus, so that he stands first in our desires, pursuits, songs, and estimation.
No one is like Jesus to us.
No name is like his.
No righteousness is like his.
No love is like his.
No commendation is like his.
No beauty like is his.
We admire him, prefer him, trust in him, commend him, obey him — and hope to spend eternity in praising his blessed name.
Reader, "I hope that you are not a stranger to Christ." Many are strangers — who imagine that they are not. John Barnes was boasting the other day that he had a good heart, and had never done anyone any harm; that he went to a place of worship, and pretty much kept to himself; and he had no doubt, as God was merciful, that if he died he should go to Heaven. But John Barnes is a stranger to Christ; he has never felt himself to he a lost and ruined sinner in the sight of God, nor his need of a better righteousness than his own, consequently he has never fled to Jesus to be saved from the wrath to come. He is trusting in his own supposed goodness, and is building upon the sand. John Barnes will find when he comes on a deathbed, and the solemnities of eternity stare him in the face — that his "bed is too short, and his covering is too narrow," as the prophet says. May the Lord open his eyes to see the true state of his own heart, the extensive requirements of the holy law, and the purity of the Heavenly world — and then he will not need to be told that he needs a Savior — but will be glad to make Christ his hiding-place, and look to his blood for peace. He will no longer live a stranger to Christ — but will pray, with Paul, "That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, being made conformable unto his death."
Miriam Margretts was brought up in a Sunday school, and had the truths of the gospel constantly presented to her mind. Her teacher labored hard and long to lead her into an acquaintance with Jesus Christ. She could repeat great portions of the New Testament by heart, and a number of very sweet hymns. Her conduct was moral, and her manners pleasing. She felt in her heart that she wanted something that she had not got. She said her prayers regularly, read her Bible, attended the house of prayer, and passed for a hopeful character. But she was not happy. She was not at peace. There was a restlessness experienced within, a dissatisfaction with herself, with the world, with almost everything. She knew there was something in real religion that she had not got — but she scarcely knew what it was. She was a stranger to Jesus.
A friend one day entered into conversation with her, and proposed the question, "Are you happy?" She confessed she was not. But why? She knew not; there was a gnawing within, on account of which she could not rest. Her friend spoke to her of Jesus, told her that he came into the world to do what the law required of her, and to suffer the punishment her sins deserved. That he had done all, and suffered all, that was necessary to make peace with God, and give her a title to Heaven. And that Jesus was prepared to place to her account, all that he had done and suffered, and allow her to plead it before God as her own, the moment she committed herself into his hands, renounced all her feelings, promises, and efforts — and trusted in him alone.
Miriam listened, thought, and felt, that this was just what she needed, and the Holy Spirit enabled her to venture on him, and to confide in Jesus alone for salvation. That moment she felt peace. She saw that Jesus had paid all the debts she had contracted, and that as the perfect work of Jesus was made over to her, she owed nothing either to the law or justice of God. This brought tears into her eyes; love sprung up in her soul; and she was filled with joy. She at once made a full, entire, and deliberate surrender of herself, her time, her talents, her all — to Jesus, to be consecrated to his service, and employed for his praise.
She began to know Jesus. She felt him to be indescribably precious. He appeared to her to be the chief among ten thousand and the altogether lovely one. The inward craving ceased. A sacred satisfaction was felt. True benevolence began to work, and she exclaimed, "Oh, that all the world knew Jesus!"
Reader, my paper is full, I must close; from my heart of hearts the expression wells up, whoever you are, "I hope that you are not a stranger to Jesus!"