James Smith, 1859
I want to improve an occurrence that has been told me, by one on whose veracity I can depend. And I love to make everything I hear, do some good if I can.
Well, the circumstance was this: A young woman had been to hear God's Word, her road home lay through a forest, the night was dark, and there were several other paths beside the one that led to her home. By mistake, through the darkness of the night, she took the wrong path, and was lost in the forest. It was getting late, and there was no house near, fear took hold of her, and she shouted with all her strength, "lost! Lost!" Her voice was heard, someone came to her rescue, and after losing much time, and being greatly alarmed, she arrived at home, truly thankful for her deliverance. I dare say if she lay awake at all that night, in her warm bed, she would contrast the difference between the comfort she enjoyed — and wandering about cold and filled with fear, in the forest all night.
Many besides this young woman have missed their way, and been lost in a forest, who have not been rescued as she was. What a mercy it is, to have someone at hand who knows the way, and to put us right when we have taken the wrong course.
If simply lost in a forest, someone may be at hand, and hearing our voice, come to our help — but to be lost in a wreck at sea, how sad! To see the vessel going to pieces, to hear the winds and the waves roaring, and no other vessel any where in sight — must be truly awful! In vain would the poor creature cry "Lost! Lost!" And yet floating on some spar, the poor creature may be picked up half dead, and so saved.
Yet it is possible to be in greater danger still, sleeping at the top of the house, awaking and finding the house on fire, and every way of escape cut off, all hope is gone, and nothing but a painful, dreadful death remains. It is of no use to cry, "Lost! Lost!" here. These are dangers that apply principally to the body — but there are dangers as imminent, and much more dreadful, which apply to the soul. Let me try and set the cases before you.
William Hawkins was the child of respectable parents, he was religiously educated, and at first promised well. But he fell in with skeptical companions, and was led to exalt reason above Scriptural revelation, and becoming inflated with pride — fell into many dangerous and destructive errors! While the bright day of health and prosperity lasted — all appeared to go on well. But the darkness of affliction overtook him, and the night of death was at hand. He had to go home in the dark, and to find his way through the forest, into which his folly had led him. He could find no safe path, he had no prospect of ever arriving at Heaven. He became alarmed, dreadfully alarmed. Deep conviction of sin seized him — and now he saw his folly. What to do, or which way to take — he knew not. At length despondency took possession of his mind, and despair was just about to make him its prey. In this state he cried, "Lost! Lost! I am lost forever!" But God had mercy on him, and sent one to take him by the hand, and lead him out of the forest. This friend set before him the Lord Jesus as the able, willing, and only Savior of sinners; and showed him that Jesus as a Savior, was provided for, and presented to the lost! In a word, that he came into our world expressly to seek and to save those who were lost. The statement of the simple gospel, was attended with the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit — and poor William began to perceive that there was a way out of the forest. He gave up all his speculations, submitted his reason to revelation, hope was awakened in his soul, he ventured for time and eternity on the perfect work of Christ alone, found peace with God, lived for a time to prove the reality of the change, and to show to all around that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation — and then died peacefully and happy. He found his way out of the forest — to the glory of free grace.
Hannah Jeffries, after having been powerfully impressed under the Word of God, and often brought to her knees before God — became giddy, carnal, and taken up with worldly society. After a time she married an ungodly man, and went on from bad to worse. She neglected the means of grace, never bowed her knee in prayer, or read God's holy Word. Thus she went on worse and worse year after year. Her conscience for a time upbraided her — but at length being resisted, it was silenced. In this state she continued for a long time.
But troubles came, sickness seized her, and death stared her in the face. Memory brought old scenes before her, and re-delivered old, long-forgotten — but solemn sermons. She called to mind her convictions, impressions, and professions. Her husband endeavored to drive away all sad thoughts from her — but in vain. She was deeply convinced of sin, brought in guilty before God, and condemned by his righteous law. She could not read her bible, had no Christian friend to speak to, and like the poor creature on the wreck out in the midst of the ocean — all hope that she would be saved, was now taken away.
She tossed on her pillow, groaned from the depths of her soul, and gave herself up for lost. But God had pity, and in the last extremity, sent a messenger of mercy unto her, who showed her that the blood ot Jesus Christ, God's dear Son, cleanses from all sin. He spoke to her as a great sinner, as one in a desperate case — but he brought the life-boat along-side, and invited her to step in. From God's own Word he showed her, that God was ready to pardon, and waiting to be gracious. As he unfolded God's gracious character, and the Savior's finished work — the Holy Spirit opened her heart, and she received the Word with all readiness of mind. By degrees her gloom was chased away, her fears were conquered, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was produced. She believed in his name. She trusted in his blood. She committed her soul into his hands. Thus she found peace. Jesus was to her, what the life-boat is to the poor wrecked mariner — she stepped into it, she trembled, she was afraid to believe that she was safe — but soon she saw that all was right, and she was at peace. She was Lost! Lost! like the poor shipwrecked creature referred to — but by grace she was saved through faith, and that not of herself, it was the gift of God.
Phinehas Halliwell once made a great profession of religion, was a member of the Church, and stood well in society. But he gave way to temptation, began to indulgo the lusts of the flesh, and at length went so far as to throw off all profession of religion. Nor did he stay here — but he ridiculed the godly, and made a jest of sacred things. He would frequent the tavern, and joke about religion there; he would drink to drown the voice of his conscience, until he could not walk home straight.
Step by step he descended, lower and lower he sunk — until he met with an accident, was carried home, and confined to his bed. The injuries were internal. His pains were very great. The doctor expressed his fears as to the result. All visitors were prohibited, and now left alone, his thoughts troubled him. His review of the past awakened the bitterest regrets — and his anticipations of the future, were most distressing. Every portion of God's Word that came to his mind, condemned him, and he became irritable, ill-tempered, and most miserable. He tried to harden himself in his sorrow — but could not. He endeavored to silence his conscience — but it would speak. The gospel was set before him — but he could not believe. He put away from him, everything that was calculated to comfort him — but most heartily believed all that condemned him. By degrees he sunk into black despair; the injuries produced by the fall proved fatal, and in hopeless gloom he died. God seemed to laugh at his calamity, and to mock now his fear was come. Like the poor creature in the attic of the burning house, he could see no way of escape, all that remained was to perish in the flames. The Word of the Lord was literally fulfilled, "Since they refused to listen when I called to them — I would not listen when they called to me, says the Lord Almighty!" Zechariah 7:13.
Reader, what is your state? Are you lost — or saved? Error brings us into the forest, and we are lost there. But the cry of distress and misery, generally brings someone to our rescue, that we may recover ourselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. There is a way out of the greatest error — into the path of truth, and into the way of salvation. But it is not found often, until after much sorrow, distress, and trouble of mind; beware therefore, lest being led away with the error of the wicked, you fall from your own steadfastness.
Do not presume — for though some have escaped — many have perished in that forest, and been lost forever! Sin places us in great peril — it wrecks the vessel, and leaves it for a time to the mercy of the winds and waves.
O the distress felt by many, while floating about on a broken piece of the ship, before the lifeboat appears in sight! Nor only so, for though the life-boat picks up some of the poor wrecked creatures — there are multitudes who never reach it — but are engulfed in misery and woe!
Beware of trifling — now there is hope; and the night comes, and then there may he none. The life-boat of free grace is along-side you now, you may step into it, and be safely conveyed to Immanuel's land — but soon it will be forever hidden from your eyes. Trifling with convictions, and indulging in sin under a profession of religion — places us in the most dangerous state of all. Seldom does anyone escape from such danger. Like the poor perishing creature in the burning attic, seldom is there any escape. It is impossible to renew some to repentance. They draw back unto perdition. Looking back, like Lot's wife, they are not fit for the kingdom of God, and therefore perish on the plain.
O reader, if you are a professor of religion, take heed. The Holy Spirit bids you to take heed. Hear his Words, "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." "Take heed that you be not deceived." "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." Make sure work, friend, make sure work for eternity. You may be lost in the forest of error; or you may be lost in the wrecked vessel of indulged sin; or you may be lost even under a profession of religion, with high views, lofty expectations, and false repose, like the man who was burnt to death in the attic.