Thomas Carlyle.

The Christian treasury, Volume 2 online

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garded in comparison with eternal death on the
one hand, and everlasting life on the other, as
only like bubbles and sparkles on the stream
of being, that break and vanish at every breath;
then, think of the unfolding grandeurs of eter-
nity, that open, as in endless perspective, to
the view of the sanctified spirit; and then put
the momentous question of Him who, in first
propounding it, was balancing time and eternity.
If the soul be lost, then all is lost. Its destruc-
tion is not like a passing thimder storm, terri-
fic, but of brief duration; it is rather like, and
if, to that soul, the wreck of the universe. Se-
paration from God is hopelessness — helplessness
— woe — a deathless death !

But another consideration involved in the
general statement of the pre-eminent value of
the knowledge of Christ is, that it secures the
salvation in question, and consequently averts
the awful loss which ignorance and unbelief
must incur. The knowledge of Christ implies

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a just appreciation of his character, and a re-
lying faith; and the express declaration is, ^He
that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life.'*
*^ Without faith it is impossible to please God **
and secure salvation; for '^he that belicTeih not
the Son, shall not see life." By ascertaining
the natural phenomena and laws of the universe,
we may scale the heights of our intellectual
being, and become instrumental in e^t tending
the boundaries of discovery, or aid the accumu.-
lations of possession; but we cannot by these
pursuits ^ see life," or attain to the heavenly
blessedness; for amidst the utmost eagerness of
mental enthusiasm, and the finest acquisitions
of jmtural genius, it is but too common to ** ne-
glect the great salvation," and thus be the pro-
per subjects of the pertinent inquiry, " How
shall we escape I **

The attainment of salvation through, the
knowledge of Christ is a question of £act, and
not of metaphysics; for it belongs not to reason
to determine — it is not a problem given it to
solve, or submitted to it for investigation. It
is a question of pure revelation^detennining not
what might be, but what it; what^ in conse-
ouence of divine appointm^it, cannet be other-
wise, but is a fixed, unalterable law of the moml
universe. If, therefore, ** Christ died for our
sins, according to the Scriptures," nothing can
be so essential to our happiness as to ** know
him; ** it must be knowledge of infinite worth
and necessity.

IV. A further observation we have to make
in our instituted comparison, respects the moral
influence of Christianity. Although science
and religion, as we have remarked, are unhap-
pily but too often dissociated, yet general know-
ledge must be admitted to have many benefi-
cial tendencies. It detaches from inferior pur-
suits, enlaiges the mind, and imparts views of a
lofty character respecting the greatness, wis-
dom, and goodness of the Deity. It is not,
however, comparable to the science of salvation
— the knowledge of Christ, which having a
more direct bearing on man as a mcwaL bidng^
sanctifies as well as elevates his nature. There
are three points of great interest here, which,
without attempting to expatiate upon them, we
would suggest as toj^ics of thought for the medi-
tative mind.

1. The knowledge of Christ' may be said to
reveal morality — to show what it reftlly is, by
representing the peculiarities of that ** conduct
and conversation" which ''beeometh the GospeL"
The sages of antiquity never imagined such a
character as that which is the special purpose

of Christianity to form; it lay beyond the con-
ceptions of their philosophy, and is an order
of morals, constituting in fact the only sound
morality, which ^rings from principles too
pure and divine for the wisdom of this world,
or the detection of human reason.

2. The knowledge of Christ $ecuret morality
by puri^ing the heart, which is the fountain of
it The motives suggested by the Gospel to
form human character and regulate the actions
of mankind, are deduced from the example and
the cross of the Redeemer. It is perpetually
inculcated upon us that we cannot be his dis-
ciples without self-annihilation and a spiritual
conformity. The love which ensues upon the
knowle^lge of him, and is cherished by the per>
petual approximations of devotion, attracts the
aoul into resemblance, producing the moral and
permanent image of Christ upon the man. It
is true there are many who ''name the name
of Christ," but who do not " depart from ini-
quity;" this is only, however, to say that many
who profess religion act contrary to its tend^i-
cies, oppose its real spirit, and falsify their vows.
We must, therefore, ever distinguish between
intellectual speculation with an outward com-
pliance^ and a deep-seated, genuine, and soul-
renovating Christianity.

3. The knowledge of Christ perfsctt moral
conduct. The same volume which supplies the
facts of the Christian religion is replete with
precepts arising out of them and its doctrines
to promote universal holiness; and the Spirit of
Grod producing experience^ which is the know-
ledge of Christ in the heart transferred from the
Bible, tends to the advancement of spirituality
to the highest degree. Some have mistaken
the New Testament idea of detachment from
the world, by supposing it consisted in an actual
separation from the duties of life, and that the
most perfect religion was to be found in the
seehision of the desert, and the solitude of
the hermitage ; whereas, it is obvious that the
separation inculcated by Christianity is a se-
paration of the passions, a withdrawal of the
mind from its carnal associations, and a purifi-
oadon of the activities of life from base and
earthly motives; and hence the perfection of
Christian morality does not consist in repudia-
ting the claims of social and domestic life, but
in the minutest fulfilment of their various obli-
gations under the influence of a zeal for God
kindled by a live coal frmji the altar.

Y. Lastly, we remark the superiority of the
knowledge of Christ, as preparing the mind for
afBiction, death, and eternity. In these great

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critee of ovr being, nothii^ else can avail. The
man of a refined mind, indeed, who has devoted
his days to i&tellectual cultivation, b. suscep-
tible of pleasures far sorpassing those which the
proudest exploits of ambition can produce; and
from the researches of literature or the acoomn-
lations of science, especially if he has a eonsci-
oiis&esB of having used them for the benefit of
mankind, he nay enjoy the highest degree of
retroiq)ective satisfaction; but these will not
conduce to real peace of conscience, by pro-
moting reconciliation with God, or filing the
mind with the hope of eternal life. To depre-
ciate soieBce would ai^e a Gothio taate aad a
perverted jndgnsenl, nor is it in the least degree
needful in order to adjudicate the claims of re-
ligion. The argument is not that the one is
valuable, and the other nugatory; but that both,
being in their respective relations and degrees
excdlenty the one surpasses the other, by how
nrach ''godliness,'* which has ''the promise (tf
the life that now is, aad that which is to oome,"
exceeds attainmaits whose purposes, however
exalted, terminate with the present world, and
contain in them no elements of salvation. The
beam of science irradiates a lower sphere, or
man in his inferior condition; but the light of
the knowledge ef the glory of Christ shines
through the darksome valley of death, and
pours its everlasting splendours upon the r^on
that lies beyond. It is precisely at that mo-
ment when all other sources of mental or phya-
cal enjoyment fail, when the lamp of philoso-
phy expires, when the discoveries of reason
faU, and when the applauses e£ a world that
bestows all the fime it can, die upon the ear —
it is precisely then that religion, cennsting m
the knowledge of Christ, exhibits its noblest
triumphs, secures its amplest rewards, and
springs to inmiortality.

FMi TOime PSBSosta.


Youm pAiente tell you that it Is your dalgr te pny.

Your nynisttra also teH yoa the nans. This chi^itar
I is intended for yow use. It shall be taken up about
Jsome of ^e thfaags that have respect to the duty of
-prayer, which your parents and ministers are so
I anzloiis to impreM tq>on yon.

You ask what prayer is. It is a proper qaestfon.
I Yon must understand what prayer is before yon can

pray. A short descriptien will be best, and most
I easily remembered. ** Prayer is an offering up of onr

desiresuntoQed.'' *<OardeiinB;'' that is, wfaatwe

deeply feel, and earnestly wish for. '' An offering up
of our desires;** that is, a making mention of them —
a ^>eaking of them out^a telling of thenL Prayer,
then, yon will see, is an aahing. It is an asking for'
something we want— asking earnestly, that we may'

Suppose a man has for a long time been out of
work, and has no money to purchase clothes and food
for his ohildren. His children are in misery. They
are half-dead with cold and hunger. Every time he ! |
comes home he sees them dckly and phiing, and '
hears them cry for bread. He has none to give them. |
What does tiiis man want? He wishes to procure I
some employment, by which he might win some j
money, by whSdi he might boy food and dothing for
his poor dying children. And what will he do to get
this money? He will go to all his neighbours and
friends, and ask tiiem to assist him to get employ-
meat. He will go about from finm to farm, from
shop to shop, from manufactory to manufactory, and
ask employment, and never cease to ask till he find
something to do, by which he may earn bread for his
family. From this example you may learn what
prayer is. It is an asking for tiie pardon of sin, and
peace with Qod, and many other blessings that shall
be named afterwards, with the same desire and
anxiety to get them thai the poor man, whose
flMBSly is starring, feels when he goes about asking
enq>loyment and help ftom this person and that,
until he obtams them.

You will say. Now we understand what prayer is,
it is an asking for those things we stand in need ot
But if it be oa atkimg, there most be some one we
are to ask from, and who is it we are to pray to? from
whom is it we are to ask the thing we desire and seek
for in prayer? This is also a proper question. And
the answer to it is: We are to pray to Qod, and to
CkMl only. There are many reasons for this. Only
two ef them shall be told you at present; the other
reasons yon will have opportunity of learning after

The first reason why we are to pmy to God, and
to God only, is, because God only can hear our pray-
ers. TUs will perhaps seem strange to you. You
wHl siOTf If one prays aloud when another person, or
many ether persouB, are present, can they not hear
w4ut the one that prays is praying for ? Yes, they
can hear. How, then, do you say that God only can
hear prayer? Yon will see how this is, if you think
upon what follows. Suppose a person is praying in
secret, where there is no other near him— 4t may be
in Us eloset, it may be in the field, or some other
|4aoe where no other person it within si^t. None
of his oonq^anisns-can hear him then. But€K)d<
bear him. And if he is really praying, God does hear
him; for God is everywhere present— in the house, in
the field, on the sea, everywhere. You cannot go to
any place where God is not. No one can shut him-
self out for a moment from the presence of Qod.
Take another case. Many people have been at prayer
this morning. Ifany in this land, many in other
lands— in Bni^d, America, India, and many other
pkoes at groat distanoes from each other. No man
has heard all the psayess that have been offered this

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morning. No man could hear them alL You can-
not be present in two places at the same time. Let
the places be ever so near to each other, you cannot
be in two places, in this room and in the next room,
at the same time. But all these prayers which have
been offered have been heard. Though no man has
heard them, God has heard them. And how has
Gt>d heard them? It is because he is present erery-
where at the same time. England and India are
very far distant from each other. It requires some
months to pass before we can learn what is doing in
India, because of the distance between the two coun-
tries. Suppose a Christian to be praying at this
moment in this country, and another Christian to be
praying in India, Crod hears them both, because he
is equally present here and in that distant coimtiy.
This attribute or perfection of God, by which he is
present in all places, and that at all times, is called
his omnipresence. And it is the reason, or one of the
reasons, why Gk)d only is the hearer of prayer.

The other reason why we are to pray to God only,
is this; God alone can answer our prayers — God
alone has power to give us those things we stand in
need of. There are, indeed, many things that our
fellow-creatures can do for us. We have many de-
sires and wishes they can gratify. A father can do
many things for his child, a friend can do many
things for his friend; but there are many things
also which we stand in need of, which none of our
earthly friends can do for us. When a man is sick,
his friend cannot restore hun to health. When a
man is dying, his friend cannot prevent his death.
In any extremity, it would only be a loss of time and
labour, to go for assistance to any one who is utterly
unable to be of the slightest service to you. The
things which we most of all stand in need of^ and
without obtuning which we shall be miserable here
and hereafter, are the things which no earthly friend
can bestow upon us. The Lord only can help ui in
regard to them. And, therefore, it is to him only
we are to go for them, to ask them from him. What
we may ask from God in prayer, is the next thing to
be mentioned.

In praying to God, we are encouraged to ask from
him all things we stand in need o£ We have a
great number of wants. Our Saviour tells us, " What-
soever ye ask of the Father in my name, he shall
give it you.^* Our wants stand under two dividons.
Temporal mercies and Spiritual mercies. A few
words regarding these. By temporal mercies are
meant health, food, clothing, prosperity upon our
honest industry in our worldly calling. The tem-
poral mercies which the Lord bestows upon us are
very precious. When we awake in the morning, it
is a precious thing to awaken in health of body and
soundness of mind, to have our food and raiment, and
other conveniences. It might have been far other-
wise. Death might have come upon us and called us
out of this world amidst the slumber and darkness of
night It has happened so to thousands. Or we
might have awakened in dckness, or in madness.
But we have awakened in health and in comfort,
because the Lord has watched over us, and been
merciful to us. For such unwearied loving-kindneM

which the Lord extends to us, there are two thing»|
we ought to do. We ought to feel veiy gratefid for
so much undeserved loving-kindness; we ought also^
with humble and sincere hearts, to pray unto the
Lord— to ask him that he would be graciously
pleased, if it be his holy will, to continue to us the
enjoyment of these precious mercies. The!re are
many who do not do so. They do as the beasts of
the field do. A beast rises from its rest, and imme-
diately begins to eat It does so because Qod has
not endowed it with knowledge. He has not ^en
to the beast a rational souL It cannot meditate
upon his works and his goodness. There are many
persons, young and old, who do as the beasts do.
They rise from their rest to their meat, from their
meat to their work, without feeling any gratitude to
God for preserving them through the night— for con-
tinuing them in health— for furnishing a table for
them. They do not stop to give thanks to him.
They do not pray to him for a continuance of these
blessings if it be his holy wilL Let any who act thus,
endeavour to find out in what respect their conduct
differs frx>m that of a beast Who does not see how
guilty they must be, possessing a rational soul, and
yet living as the beasts that perish?

But though we may pray, and pray earnestly (for
whenever we pray it ought to be done earnestly) unto
God for a continuation of his great goodness to us as
regards temporal blessings, there should always be a
limitation introduced. The limitation is, that the
Lord would be pleased to bestow such and such tem-
poral blessmgs upon us — if they be for his glory and
our own good. The reason is, we are very ignorant
of what is best for us. The things of this world, on
which we often set our hearts most, are things which,
were they given to us according to our own measures
and wishes, might greatly damage us in our best and
highest interests. If we had our whole will regard-
ing worldly things, we would never choose rickness,
or poverty, or separaticm from our friends— no cross
providence — ^nothing that would interfere with or mar
our eigoyment in this world. This world would get
a complete mastery over us, and we should regard it as
our permanent and happy dwelling-place, which we
are too apt to do even with all the abatement of feli-
city in it, and all the temporary disrelish of it, which
the trials we meet with in it produce. Solomon^i
prayer was an admirable one. He prayed not for
health, riches, worldly prosperity and power, but for
wisdom. This also is one of the prayers of Moses in
the 90th Psalm: ^* So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.^

Another thing respecting temporal blessings to
which we should always attend is, never in our de-
skee, or in our prayers, to put them on a level with
spiritual things. It is easy to enjoin this, and veryj
easy to satisfy our understanding about the propriety
of it; but to practise it is very difficult Eveiy one
who has exercised himself upon it must constantly
have felt how difficult it is. In comparison with
spiritual things, we ought to consider worldly things,
the most predousof them, very cheap. They shouldbe
kept in a very subordinate place. Many parts of
Soiptore teach us this most impreMively. " If ye

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be riieii with Chritt, Mt your hearts oo^tyngi atere,
where Chriit litteih at the right hand of God^-.
"Set your affeotieiisoDtiiiiitBabofie.*^ Tkebeliaf«r
is only then in a preq)tpe os s t a te, wken he is looUof,
not to the things that are seen and temporal, but to
the things tiiat are unseen and etemaL The tem-
poral blessings of ^e ooienant ef grace are bread
and water. The Lord ofkoi bestows a great deal
more, but he is not pledged to bestow anything more.
Whiter more he bestows, it Is thrown in as a gra-
tuity. It is worth noticing that nothing more but
o^r bread and water are promised. It Is as if the
kl^d should say to his people: Ton shall hare your
Sreod and water. I will ibid you in these. That is

U«n6ngh for you. Your portion is not in this world.

^ It is in heayen. When you enter hearen, you shall
oome to your inheritance. Tet fear not what may
befUl you upon earth, for your bread and water shall
be sure.

Many instances are on record of the fsithAilness of
the Lord to this promise. If we are truly anxious
«bout the " better part,*^ we may be easy about the
inferior. If we are really walking in the fear of the
Lord, we need not be orer-solicitous about the things
of this world. If we are seeking the kingdom of
God and his righteousness, let us not be drawn firom
it by worldly cares, for we are assured that needful
worldly things shall be added to it. Take the case
of El^ah. The dearth has begun— the three and
a-half years during which no rain is to fislL El^ah
feels the pmching of the dearth as well as others;
but the Lord takes care of his servant. He com-
mands the prophet to go to the brook Cherith. His
water is thus proTided— *' Thou shalt drink of the
brook.** As to his bread, the ravens must fetoh it
tohim. They bring him bread and flesh twice »-day—
» repast in the morning and one in the evening. The
brook is at length dried up. Its channel is as dry as
the dust in the wilderness. This supply fiuls. But
what next? " The word of the Lwd came unto
him, saying. Arise, get tliee to Zarephath, wfaidi
bekmgeth to Zidom, and dwell there; behold, I have*
oommanded a widow woman there to enstain thee.**
*' BAag me, I pngr thee,** said El^ah to the widow,
«' a morsel of bread in thy hand.** •^ iftfl the Lord
thyOodliveth,** she answered, '^ I hsfe act a cake,
but an luadfiil of meal in a barrel, and alittle oil in
a cruse; and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that
I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we
may eat it and die. And Bfijah said. Pear not, go
and do as thou hast said; bat make me thereof a
little cake first, and bdng it mAa me, and after
make to thee and for thy sob. For thus ssith the
Lord Ood of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not
waste, neitiier shall the erase of oil fail, unto the day
that the Lord sendeih tain upon tiie earth.** Thns
the Lord took care of the prophet, the widow, and
her son, during that ftmriiw of many more also,
though their names are not mentioned. He took
care of all who placed their trust in him. He made
their bread and th^ water sure to them.

But we are also, and chiefly, to pray for spiritual
blessings. These sinritual blessiDgs which we are to
ask from God in prayer are the main concerns. They

are to be placed in our denres and pcayers Ui
above all e^r things. There are many q>iritual
WwssJngB we are to ask. Sometimes they are in
So^ptase vommed op together, and qpdken of as one.
Ota Saviour MQW, ''Seek ye first tiie kingdom of
Qedaadfais righteouMess.** Here yon observe they
are all placed together, and " called the kingdom of
Ged.** They are also mentiooed by our Saviour as
** the eoe thing aeedfuL** "< Oae thh« is needfoL*'
All other thinpi are not to be named in comparison
with this. All other tilings are to be oeonted as
drsisfrfaflapvt hi comparison with "tiie one thing
thatiaaeedfuL** All other thinp gathered togetiwr,
aad throim into ysur anv, can do yon no good, if
««theeDethfaiigBeedful^belaflidng. The«» spiritual
blessfa«i we are toask from God, are also mentk)Bed
iadiv&tal^, and set forth in detaiL And when vre
examine the Scriptures, our direetory for prayer, we
find aveiytidvg that can promote oar welfiMre and
tnse happiness is provided for, and set down as what
the Lord is wiUing to bestow upon us, and what,
tiierefore, we may fredy ask from liim.

Having tea m ed , in some measure, what prayer is,
to whom we are to pray, and what tlungs we are to
piay for; it will be proper to we are
to prsy ? After what sort->in irhat manner are we
to pray? Before answering this ^piestion, let me put
a question to you. My question is. How, or in what
manner, do you now pray ? PerbAps the f oUorwing
sentenoes may be a tolerably correct description of
year state of mind. The set time oomes at vriiidi
you are in the haUt of engaging in prayer. You
say, Now I most go about my prayers. You observe
the time rogularly. But are you concerned to feel,
every time you go to prayer, how aolenm a tiring
paajeris? Do yon feel a true wish to speak to God,
and have communion vrith him P Do you not often,
perhaps oflener than otherwise, go about prayer in
tlie same sort of vray as you would go aixmt any
common .matter? Do you not also very ofben feel
that you have no true desire and inclination to pray?
no great delight in drawing near into thepresenoe of
God ? Do yea not very often feel that you would
let the duty slip if your coDsdence would allow you
to do so? Do you not oftenfeel as if you could say,
I foel Teiy little disposed to prayer this nig^ and
had as weQ not engage in prayer, as engage in it in
so cold a frame of mind as I now feel: Ihopetofeel
in a better frame of mind in the morning, vrlien I
shall be aore to engage in prayer vrith greater deUght
and interest?

These remarks apply to the state in which your
foettDgs may be when you are about to engage in the
duty of prayer. What are your fedings vrhen you
are actually engaged in the duty ? Are they always
idiat they ought to be? Are they what they ought
to be even once in five or in ten times you engage in

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleThe Christian treasury, Volume 2 → online text (page 75 of 145)