My heart yearns towards you, and will indulge itself a little, because we are both in the same low place—feeling our vileness, and mourning after our Beloved. Surely there never was such a one as I, so weak and wicked; so willful, not full of His will—but of my own. How I need the emptying from vessel to vessel. I need to have my purposes and enterprises broken that I may learn that His purposes shall stand fast and that He will do all His pleasure. I can say, as the repenting thief did, I am “in the same condemnation,” and “indeed justly,” receiving but the due reward of my deeds. I have been walking after the sight of my eyes. “The legs of the lame are not equal;” so when we act from sight and sense, our walk is not consistent; it is only when walking by faith that it is so. Vile, ungrateful worm that I am, what has it cost me in bitter anguish; yet the sorrow is nothing to the sin. And, as I said to you, the ill savor will come up continually, until the blessed Comforter brings the savor of rest, even the fragrant sacrifice for sin which was once offered, and which is now pleaded by Him who is the sinner’s surety and the sinner’s friend. Well, I can only lie at His feet and continue confessing all. I dare not promise to do better; I am in self-despair; but to Him will I look for pardon of the sin, and power against it.
The great enemy would suggest that you are too filthy for the fountain, too cold for the fire, too much diseased to appear in the presence of the great Physician. He does this in a wily way, bringing to mind, when you would approach the mercy-seat, some shortcoming or misdoing, in order to turn your eye away from that sprinkled blood which is the sinner’s all-prevailing plea. May the Comforter reveal Christ, as He convinces of sin, and take of His precious things–and set them against your vile ones, giving you heavenly skill and understanding to plead–His precious blood against your sin–His perfect obedience against your constant disobedience–His power to heal against your desperate disease.
“June 27.— Reading Life of David Brainerd. Most wonderful man! What conflicts, what depressions, desertions, strength, advancement, victories, within thy torn bosom! I cannot express what I think when I think of thee. To-night, more set upon missionary enterprise than ever.” “June 28.—Oh for Brainerd’s humility and sin-loathing dispositions!” “June 30.—Much carelessness, sin, and sorrow. ‘Oh wretched man than I am, who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?’ Enter thou, my soul, into the rock, and hide thee in the dust for fear of the Lord and the glory of his majesty.”
The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Chapter 7
Christian education, from the very beginning of the New England colonies, engaged the attention of the Puritans, and ample provisions were made for the instruction of all the children and youth in every branch of human and divine knowledge. This, indeed, was one object they had in coming to the New World. Cotton Mather, in presenting the considerations for the plantation of the colonies, says :— “The schools of learning and religion are so corrupted as (besides the unsupportable charge of education) most children, even the best and wittiest, and of the fairest hopes, are perverted, corrupted, and utterly overthrown by the multitude of evil examples and licentious behavior in these seminaries.”
“ The ends,” says Cotton Mather, “for which our fathers chiefly erected a college were that scholars might there be educated for the service of Christ and his churches, in the work of the ministry, and that the youth might be seasoned in their tender years with such principles as brought their blessed progenitors into this wilderness. There is no one thing of greater concernment to these churches, in present and after times, then the prosperity of that society. We cannot subsist without a college.”
The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, 1864
“Of the Puritans, it may be said,” remarks Judge Story, “with as much truth as of any men that have ever lived, that they acted up to their principles, and followed them out with an unfaltering firmness. They displayed at all times a downright honesty of heart and purpose. In the simplicity of life, in godly sincerity, in temperance, in humility, and in patience, as well as in zeal, they seemed to belong to the apostolical age. Their wisdom, while it looked on this world, reached far beyond it in its aim and objects. They valued earthly pursuits no farther than they were consistent with religion. Amidst the temptations of human grandeur, they stood unmoved, unshaken, unseduced. Their scruples of conscience, if they sometimes betrayed them into difficulties, never betrayed them into voluntary sin.
Some General Heads of the Causes why the LORD contends with the Land, agreed upon (after seeking of the LORD) by the Commission of the GENERAL ASSEMBLY 1650, with the advice of divers Ministers from several parts of the Kingdom, met at Edinburgh, October 1651, so far as for the present they could attain light therein, which they offer and advise to be made use of by all the LORD’s People in the Land, leaving place to add, as the Lord shall make further discoveries hereafter of the guiltiness of the Land, and intending more fully and particularly to enlarge this Paper.
We have not been men of prayer. The spirit of prayer has slumbered among us. The closet has been too little frequented and delighted in. We have allowed business, study or active labor to interfere with our closet hours. A feverish atmosphere has found its way into our closet, disturbing the sweet calm of its blessed solitude. Sleep, company, idle visiting, foolish talking and jesting, idle reading, unprofitable occupations, engross time that might have been redeemed for prayer. Why is there so little concern to get time to pray? Why is there so much speaking, yet so little prayer? Why is there so much running to and fro, yet so little prayer? Why so much bustle and business, yet so little prayer?
Chapter 3 of The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the U. S. 1864
The Puritan settlement on the American continent dates from the 22nd of December 1620, one hundred and twenty-eight years after a Christian navigator had greeted the New World with a song of praise, and consecrated it to Christ in prayer.
The Puritan was made of two different men: the one all self-abasement, penitence, gratitude, passion; the other, stern, calm, inflexible, sagacious. He prostrated himself in the dust before his Maker but set his foot on the neck of his king. In his devotional retirement, he prayed with groans and tears; but when he took his seat in the council, or girt on his sword for war, these workings of the soul had left no perceptible trace behind them. The intensity of their feelings on one subject made them tranquil on all others.”
This description, in substance, corresponds with what the New England Puritans say of themselves. “ We give ourselves,” say they, “ to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the word of his grace, for the teaching, ruling, and sanctifying of us, in matters of worship and conversation; resolving to cleave unto him alone for life and glory, and to reject all contrary ways,
canons, and constitutions of men in his worship.”
Introduction by Byron Sunderland, Chaplain to the United States Senate During the Civil War.
It is sadly true that a very large proportion of the population are strangers to the genuine spirit of the Christian religion, and almost, if not altogether, unacquainted even with the history of its facts and the extent of its influence in the land of our inheritance. The standing complaint of human degeneracy remains against us. Causes have been operating—and of late years with fearful rapidity and strength—to produce a state of moral obliquity and practical atheism among us, appalling in magnitude and of alarming consequence. It has become of late quite customary to sneer at the puritanism of our fathers and to speak with contempt of the severity of their manners and the bigotry of their faith. This impious treatment, by the present corruptors of society, of a generation of men whose lofty principles and illustrious virtues they seem utterly unable to comprehend, is well adapted not only to arouse the deepest indignation but also to excite the most lively concern.
No man can observe the conditions of society in our country, and, the obvious impulses of human conduct, without feeling that the perils against which the fathers warned us, and which have been so faithfully and constantly pointed out by the ministers of religion, have, notwithstanding, increased at a fearful rate, without seeing that the most alarming departures from the standard of individual rectitude and social integrity have occurred among us within the century that is past.
A PROP AGAINST ALL DESPAIR, INTENDED FOR THE CONSOLATION OF SELF-CONDEMNED SINNERS IN GENERAL, BUT MORE ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE PERISHING SOULS WHO FEAR THAT THEY HAVE SINNED BEYOND THE POSSIBILITY OF PARDON.
“I even I (saith God) am He, which blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” (Isa. xliii. 25.) ” For mine own sake, even for mine own sake will I do it, saith Jehovah. For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.” (Isa. 48:11, 9.) Do you feel astonished at this? The Lord appears to have expected you should…while we were yet sinners,” rebels, and enemies to God by wicked works, ” Christ died for us.” (Rom. v. 8.) And if the mind stands astonished, as well it may, in the view of such unparalleled mercy, the whole terminates in this reply, “I am God and not man.” (Hosea xi. 9.) This answers all objections, and stops every argument, and proves what an apostle hath observed, ” That no flesh shall glory in his presence.” (1 Cor. i. 29.)
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The almost Christians, like Agrippa, who were just now mentioned, and the half-believers, like Nicodemus, both need nothing more than the frequent recollection of the unpardonable duplicity of an unsettled and wavering conduct; and of the increased condemnation which must finally fall on such in the great day of account. Reader, art thou ashamed of prayer?— ashamed of that which is the distinguishing character of man, and the noblest privilege with which he is furnished? Anticipate, I beseech thee, that hour when the shame will be on the opposite side of the question ; when it will not be the shame of man; of a poor fleeting creature of a day, like thyself; but the shame of an offended God, an injured Redeemer, and the presence of the whole world of congregated beings, at the judgment-seat of Christ!