"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."—Gen. 1:1
When Mr. Simeon, of Cambridge, was on his dying bed, his biographer relates that, "after a short pause, he looked round with one of his bright smiles, and asked, 'What do you think especially gives me comfort at this time? The creation! Did Jehovah create the world or did I? I think He did; now if He made the world, He can sufficiently take care of ME.'"
"Sin lieth at the door."—Gen. 4:7
A young friend was one day calling upon an old Christian woman, nearly eighty years of age, just waiting for the summons. Said this friend, "Oh, granny, I wish I was as sure of heaven, and as near it, as you are!" With a look of unspeakable emotion, the old woman answered, "And do you really think the devil cannot find his way up an old woman's garret-stair? Oh, if He hadn't said 'None shall pluck them out of My hand,' I would have been away wandering long ago!"
"Sin lieth at the door."—Gen. 4:7
A traveller who had fallen into the hands of some robbers, was murdered by them. In his last moments, seeing some ravens flying over his head, he exclaimed to them, "I call upon you to avenge my death." Three days after, the robbers, going into the neighbouring town, saw some ravens on the roof of the inn where they were carousing. One of them said, sneeringly: "I suppose those are the ravens come to avenge the death of the traveller we despatched the other day." The servant of the inn, overhearing these words, ran and repeated them to the magistrate, who had the robbery taken up, and, on inquiry being made, they were convicted of the murder and hanged.
"And He said, What hast thou done?"—Gen. 4:10
The Rev. Rowland Hill preaching on one occasion from this text, at Cowes, began his sermon as follows:—" In my way to your island, I visited the county jail at Winchester, and there I saw many who were accused of heavy crimes, but who seemed careless and indifferent, and to have but little sense of their awful situation. But one young man attracted my attention: he kept separate from the rest, and seemed very much troubled. I went up to him and said, 'And what have you done, young man?' 'Sir,' said he, deeply affected, 'I have done that which I cannot undo, and which has undone me.' "This, my dear friends," said the minister, "is the situation of every one of you. You have each of you done that which has undone you, and which you cannot undo."
V. My Ministry.
"And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him."—Gen. 5:24
On the 22nd of February, 1880, Dr. Raleigh preached for the last time. His text was, "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." Had he known that he would never preach again, he could not have chosen a more appropriate text, or have spoken with more impressiveness and pathos. One of the members of the congregation said, on returning home, "I have heard today what I never expect to hear again in this world." Dr. Raleigh was compelled to rest; weeks passed away, but there was no amendment in his health, and at length he had to be told that there was no hope of his recovery. When he received the intelligence he said, "Then my ministry is ended." There was a pause, and then he added, "My ministry!—it is dearer than my life." On the Tuesday before his death, he was visited by the Rev.
Joshua Harrison, to whom he freely expressed his confidence in the glorious work of the Saviour, and said: "In any case I may well be content and thankful. I am not an old man, yet I have lived long and worked hard. I have had, on the whole, a most happy, and I think I may say successful, ministry. God has blessed my work, and has always given me true friends. If I have finished my work, I am ready to go. Indeed, I should have no regrets, but for these dear ones" (his wife and children). When reminded of the prayers which were being offered on his behalf, he replied, "Yes, my people's prayers make me sometimes think I may have a little more work to do, but if not, I shall calmly march up to the Gates." Still trusting in Christ, he went "through the gates," April, 1880. In the presence of a sorrowing multitude, his coffin was lowered into a grave in Abney Park Cemetery.
"And Enoch walked with God"—Gen. 5:24
Oberlin's motto may be summed up in three words, "Walk before God." We have in him the ideal of a Christian and of a pastor. He had holy, vigilant, tender love for souls. When, of an evening, some of his flock were passing in front of his house at Waldersbach, and saw a light burning at a certain window which they well knew, "Hush!" one said to the others, "our pastor is watching for us"; and so, indeed, this valiant soldier of the cross did watch and wrestle for his people. He prayed by name for each of these souls whom he presented before God, as of old they brought the sick to the Saviour for healing. In common with all generous spirits, Oberlin had hailed with transport the clear, fair morning of revolution; but when its aspect changed—when the day darkened in crimes and bloodshed—when the Gospel was proscribed in France turned pagan, and the Age of Reason substituted in its place—do you suppose Oberlin was dumb, and spoke no more to his flock of the Gospel and of Christ? Assuredly no. This good shepherd, under the needful disguise of president of a club, contrived to retain the right of still feeding his sheep with the Divine word. For example, when the Convention despatched to all the "club presidents" the common motto or text on which they were to speak on each decade, the subject on one occasion was this:—"Against tyrants." Oberlin was in no wise embarrassed thereby—not he! "Tyrants," said he to his parishioners, "all good republicans ought to hate; yes, and to make war on them without truce or intermission. But who are these tyrants? The King of Prussia or the Emperor? No, the real tyrants are the vices, the passions, the evil lusts which war against the soul. Behold in them our worst enemies, with whom peace there must never be." And so, by a happy turn like this, the good Oberlin would soon find his way back to the Gospel he loved, and keep his people alive with the bread of life, of which there was a sore famine in other places.
"And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him."—Gen. 5:24
We know it to be a Scripture fact, that men have "walked with God," in closest intimacy, and that God hath held converse with them, "even as a man converseth with his friend." Such was the case with Enoch, Abraham, Moses, and all that luminous cloud of witnesses so brightly and clearly revealed in the Bible.
The Church of God, even down to our own time, furnishes innumerable witnesses to this truth, which we will establish by the mouth of two of them.
John Holland was an old Puritan minister, who died two hundred and fifty years ago. Little is known of him, except what relates to his deathbed. Perceiving that he was near his end, he said: "Come, oh come; death approaches. Let us gather some flowers to comfort this hour." He requested that the eighth chapter of Romans might be read to him. But at every verse he stopped the reading, while he expounded it to the comfort of his soul, and to the joy and wonder of his friends. Having thus continued his meditations above two hours, he suddenly cried out, "Oh, stay your reading. What brightness is this I see? Have you lighted any candles?" They told him, "No; it is the sunshine." "Sunshine?" said he; nay, my "Saviour's shine I Now, farewell world—welcome, heaven. The Day-star from on high hath visited my heart. Oh, speak when I am gone, and preach it at my funeral, God dealeth familiarly with man." In such transports his soul soared toward heaven. His last words, after repeating the declaration that "God doth and will deal familiarly with man," were these: "And now, thou fiery chariot, that earnest down to fetch up Elijah, carry me to my happy home. And all ye blessed angels, who attended the soul of Lazarus to bring it to heaven, bear me, oh bear me to the bosom of my best beloved, Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!"
Our other present witness is Gilbert Tennent, who was a main instrument, with Whitefield and Edwards, of the great revival in New England, one hundred years ago. In one of his letters to his brother, the holy William Tennent, he says, "Brother, shall I tell you an astonishing instance of the glorious grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? It is this, that one of the meanest of His servants has had His presence every day, in some degree, for above eleven weeks. Nor is the great, good Master yet gone. Oh, brother, it is heaven upon earth to live near to God! Verily our comfort does not depend so much upon our outward situation as is generally supposed. No, a Saviour's love is all in all. Oh, this will make any situation sweet, and turn the thickest darkness into day."
"My Spirit shall not always strive with man."—Gen. 6:3
A preacher says "It is long since I was a collegian, either as a senior here, or previously as a member of the lower classes elsewhere. I still remember vividly three young men who went about swearing by the Holy Ghost, which they considered the unpardonable sin. They were already hardened and reckless. One of them, who became a brilliant physician, died in middle age, a suicide; another of them, still earlier, a drunkard; the other yet lives, a physician, but with not a sign of religious thought or feeling. This reminiscence has led me to the subject of quenching not the Spirit, as one adapted to young men just laying the foundations of life.
"In the class of 1840, of which I was a member, were two ministers' sons, of fine minds, but neither of them Christians. During revival services near by this edifice, at about this season of the year, one of them was converted; but the other held aloof. Under an urgent appeal from his friend he had, however, been touched. He did not quench the Spirit. He became, finally, a minister, and settled at New Rochelle. In the same class was a third member, an avowed infidel. After graduation he banded with others even worse than himself to go by sea to New Orleans, and thence overland into Texas, there to form a predatory band for the commission of all kinds of iniquity. They did not all reach New Orleans. A part went on, but were attacked by disease. This student buried the last one, and was left alone. From Galveston he worked his way home, sick, diseased, and ragged, to his mother's door. He got a little school at New Rochelle, but was a gambler and misanthrope, resisting long all his classmate's advances and appeals. Touched at length by them, he did not quench the Spirit. He began a higher, a Christian life; and these three students of this college within these walls nearly fifty years ago, are now all ministers of Christ, living at the West.
"Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually"—Gen. 6:5
Emmanuel refuses even to allow a letter from Diabolus to enter the town of Mansoul. A preacher has well said: "There must be no correspondence whatever. The devil's letters are evil hints and suggestions, and if you entertain them, then you are opening up a correspondence with him. Whenever you get a letter addressed in his handwriting, with the post-mark of hell on it, destroy it at once." Luther said, "I cannot help unclean birds flying over my head, but I can keep them from building and breeding in my hair." So we cannot help evil thoughts crossing our minds, but we can keep them from dwelling there.
"And the Lord shut him in."—Gen. 7:16
In the life of the late Hugh Millar, we find the following passage from Mr. Stewart, of Cromarty, whom Millar considered one of the very best and ablest of Scotland's ministers: "Noah did not close the door. There are words that God keeps for Himself. The burden is too heavy for the back of man. To shut that door on a world about to perish would have been too great a responsibility for a son of Adam. Another moment, and another, and another might have been granted by Noah, and the door might never have been shut, and the ship that carried the life of the world might have been swamped. And so it is in the ark of salvation. It is not the Church nor the minister that shuts or opens the door. These do God's bidding; they preach righteousness; they offer salvation, and it is God that shuts and opens the door. Oh, what a sigh and shudder will pass through the listening universe when God will shut the door of the heavenly ark upon the lost!"