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The customer was a young mechanic, whose duties called him up early every morning; but whose natural or acquired propensity was to keep his head on his pillow. Young Woodward was a strong and long sleeper, and he had lost one good place of emploj-ment from the simple circumstance of his being almost uniformly behind time in the morning. That is to say, his failures were uniform, though the amount of time thus cut off was irregular. Sometimes he arrived at his master's yard only half an hour after his fellow-workmen; but frequently the deficiency extended to an hour, and not very rarely to an hour and a half. At length, the inevitable consequence followed as we have stated.
Woodward was angry with himself. He made excuses to others, indeed, by laying the blame on his constitutional heaviness, over which, as he said, he had no control: but he knew in his heart that he himself was principally in fault, and that, by the exercise of strong determination, it was possible to surmount his ruinous sluggishness. At any rate, his common sense told him there were means by which he might rouse himself from his heavy morning slumbers; and one of his friends suggested an alarum.
Woodward soon obtained another situation, on the indispensable condition of keeping correct time; and this had led him to the clock-maker, to the inspection of the clock.
"We will try it if you please," said the seller, and forthwith he set the alarum, touched a spring, and thus put the machinery iu motion. And truly, the noise made was so piercing and startling that young Woodward was perfectly satisfied of its efficiency. Without any further experiment, he paid down the money for his alarum (first receiving instructions as to its management), and carried it away with him, confident that he had now a talisman to charm him out of his soundest slumbers.
And for a time, indeed, the alarum wrought wonders. For weeks, and even for months, the young mechanic was seen punctually going to his work, when the workman's bell was ringing; and before it had ceased he was at his bench. He boasted a good deal of his alarum, recommended others to get one also, and declared that there was no further danger of his losing a situation through sleepiness, or even of a fine for occasional remissness. Meanwhile, his friends rejoiced that he had apparently overcome the grievous fault which had so long been his bane.
But the reformation was only for a time. After the novelty had ceased, old habits and inclinations struggled to regain their ascendancy. Young Woodward got used to the sound of his monitor. Somehow or other, it had lost its efficacy. The sounds it gave out were not so startling; and more than once they altogether failed in their purpose. At other times, the young sleeper, only partially aroused,
"Turned his sides and his shoulders and his heavy head,"
and, after the alarum had run down, composed himself, arguing, in a sleepy sort of way, that five minutes would not make so much difference after all. Then the five i minutes' indulgence hecame ten, and the ten minutes grew j another morning into a quarter of an hour; and very soos half hours and even hours went the way of the minutes, j In short, the plan turned out to be a failure in the end; and the poor alarum had to bear the blame, the truth being that Woodward slept as sweetly and as soundly amidst all the din it caused as in the silence of midnight. The result may be supposed: the sleepy-headed mechanic once more lost his employment, and the alarum was suffered to remain ever afterwards unwound and silent.
But was it the alarum's fault or the man's that the intended end remained unanswered?
Beader, our story, such as it is, contains a spiritual lesson, and has its parallels in matters of deeper import than that of temporal prosperity.
Here, for instance, is a man, who, years ago, was persuaded or alarmed into hearing the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew that his soul was given to fatal slumbering, and required rousing to activity and earnestness in the true work of life and time. The preaching of Divine truth was to be the spiritual alarum; and, for a time, it succeeded in awakening him. Perhaps he heard it with concern, perhaps with terror, perhaps with curiosity, perhaps even with a kind of joy. At any rate, he heard, it; and he thought he should never sink back again into his former state of sluggish insensibility. But, after a while, the thunders of the broken law, and the softer, sweeter sounds of gospel invitations, became so common to his accustomed ears that they failed in their expected effect. He wanted "a little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands for sleep," and he took it; he would wake up again by and by, he said. Before long, perhaps, or it may be, after many years, the alarum was laid aside, neglected, despised. There was no use in it. But, was it the alarum's fault, or the man's?
Here, again, is a man who was persuaded to read the Bible, another of God's alarums. He, too, knew in his heart that he had a work to do in the world—soul work; and that he was not doing it. He wanted waking up; and he would have the alarum. He used it too, for a time: but, where is it now? On the topmost shelf, probably, dust-covered, neglected. "Why is this? the man did not really want to be roused; he had no right out-and-out will for the work before him; he chose to remain insensible after the first impulse had passed away; and thence the result. Was it the alarum's fault or the man's?
Header, are you the man? And will you, when the day is far spent, and the night is come on, when the summer is past and the harvest is ended, and you are not saved— will you venture then to lay the blame on the alarum? No. "The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth:" "The Scriptures are able to make wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The fault is not there; it is in yourself. Perhaps you never meant to awake and work; perhaps it was in your own unaided strength, and in presumptuous confidence in your own power and free-will, that you set about your own reformation, and tried to work out your own salvation; perhaps you undervalued the means you employed, and almost despised them, while professing to use them; perhaps you overvalued them (it is possible), and looked upon them as the end and not as the means; perhaps, when they directed you to Christ, you went to him as a helper only, and not as a Saviour. Ah, how many causes there are which stifle the sound of God's alarums, and lull the once seemingly awakened soul back again into the fatal slumbers of everlasting death!
Once more—if indeed your case is such as has been here described—listen to the sound of the too long neglected alarum: "To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart." "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
LOOK UP, AND LOOK BEFORE YOU.
In passing some railway works in our neighbourhood, I had onca occasion to cross a deep cutting by a very narrow plank. When about half way, I looked down and began to totter, probably I should have fallen had not my companion said, "Don't look down there, you will be sure to fall if you do: look up, and look before you." I did so, and crossed in safety. Ah! thought I, there was more in that advice than the warning of the moment; would that it may be spoken to me in the hour of affliction, and would that I might be made the Lord's messenger to some sorrowing brother or sister in Christ, saying to them, "Don't look down there: look up, and look before you." Christian mourner, will you receive the message?
It may be that you are now standing, as it were, over the deep chasm of temporal calamity; earthly hopes and confidences have been rent from beneath your feet; your means of subsistence have been suddenly cut off, your good name slandered; your best treasure has been snatched away; that dear being on whom your all of earthly joy rested has been removed; or perhaps sickness—hopeless, agonizing, wasting, and yet prolonged sickness—is the gulf below you? Oh, it is dark, dark, " down there!"
But it may bo, you are standing over a yet deeper and darker abyss than any yet mentioned. Your heart may have been opened to you; its depths of sinfulness unveiled, depths which seem fathomless, unsearchable; or you may be brought into such a condition of spiritual despondency as that you shall seem standing over tho very bottomless pit itself. "The good that you would you do not; the evil that you would not, that you do;" your sins rise up and call for vengeance, your evidences are clouded, your apprehension of spiritual things is obscured, Satan seems waiting to catch you, and you are just ready to fall; but oh, don't look down there: "look up, and look before you." Eemember, though over the chasm, you are not in it; there is yet a plank beneath your feet, and blessed be God that plank is firm, for it is your Father's love, " everlasting," unchangeable. But what shall keep you on it? Ah, your poor heart is asking this. What? why, his own right hand. You see it not, perhaps, but it is there; it upheld tho saints in David's days, for he says, "Thy right hand hath holden me Tip:" it sustained the church in Isaiah's days, for hear the promise, "I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." David knew this Inexperience, for he alludes to this as the cause of his security; "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is on my right hand, I shall not be moved."
"Look up" then, Christian mourner, and "look before you," What see you, or rather whom see you? Is it not Jesus, "the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely?" Is he not an object to rivet your most earnest gaze." Oh, "look unto Jesus;" behold him across the dark gulf, search into his perfections, gaze till you have fathomed them all; and how can you remember the abyss beneath you? Look at the depths of his love, are they not deeper than your sorrows? has he not unsearchable riches for you? has he not given you a name "better than precious ointment?" is he not a treasury of all "good things?" is not he your "friend who loveth at all times," your "elder brother" "born for adversity," your "mother" to comfort, your "father " to protect, your "husband," your "counsellor," your "all?" Has he not health for your sickness, healing for your wound, sympathy for your loneliness? Oh, look at him and forget your sorrows.
But "look up," poor broken-hearted sinner, and "look before you." Who stands there? Is it not Jesus? And wherefore is his name "called Jesus? Because, "he shall save his people from their sins." Gaze at his perfect righteousness, see him fulfilling "all righteousness" for you; see him the sinless, "made sin" for you; see him under the hidings of his Father's countenance, instead of you; see him enduring the vengeance for which your sins were calling; see him in conflict with Satan, and conquering for you; see him, in his mysterious oneness with his people, passing through even your darkness, your perplexity, your gloom; and say,can you withdraw your gaze? No, gaze on in steady faith till the last, the darkest, the deepest chasm, even death itself is past; and ere you are aware, you ; shall find that with it you have crossed every gulf, left be1 hind you every sorrow, surmounted every sin, and thence': forth have only to cry, " Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable '. are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Into these you will look throughout eternity: begin then nnw. Be this your motto, "Looking unto Jesus." "Let^your