In intercourse with young converts, I have very frequently longed for a suitable book in which the most important truths that they have need of for the New Life should be briefly and simply set forth. I could not find anything that entirely corresponded to what I desired. During the services in which, since Whitsuntide 1884, I have been permitted to take part, and in which I have been enabled to speak with so many who professed to have found the Lord, and who were, nevertheless, still very weak in knowledge and faith, this want was felt by me still more keenly. In the course of my journey, I felt myself pressed to take the pen in hand. Under a vivid impression of the infirmities and the perverted thoughts concerning the New Life, with which, as was manifest to me from conversations I had with them, almost all young Christians have to wrestle, I wished, in some words of instruction and encouragement, to let them see what a glorious life of power and joy is prepared for them in their Lord Jesus, and how simple the way is to enjoy all this blessing.
I have confined myself in these reflections to some of the most important topics. The first is the Word of God as the glorious and sure guide, even for the simplest souls that will only surrender themselves to it. Then, as the chief element in the word, there is the Son, the gift of the Father, to do all for us. Thereupon follows what the Scriptures teach concerning Sin, as the only thing that we have to bring to Jesus, as that which we must give to Him, and from which He will set us free. Further, there is Faith, the great word in which is expressed our inability to bring or to do anything, and that teaches us that all our salvation must be received every day of our life as a gift from above. With the Holy Spirit also must the young Christian make acquaintance, as the Person through whom the word and Jesus, with all His work, and faith in Him, can become power and truth. Then there is the Holy Life of obedience and of fruitfulness, in which the Spirit teaches us to walk. It is to these six leading thoughts of the New Life that I have confined myself, with the ceaseless prayer that God may use what I have written to make His young children understand what a glorious and mighty life it is that they have received from their Father. It was often very unwillingly that I took leave of the young converts who had to go back to lonely places, where they could have little counsel or help, and seldom mingle in the preaching of the word. It is my sure and confident expectation that what the Lord has given me to write shall prove a blessing to many of these young confessors.
[I have, in some instances, attached the names of the places where the different portions of this manual were written; in others, the names of the towns where the substance of them was spoken, as a remembrance to the friends with whom I had intercourse.]
While writing this book I have had a second wish abiding with me. I have thought what I could possibly do to secure that my little book should not draw away attention from the word of God, but rather help to make the word more precious. I resolved to furnish the work with marginal references, so that, on every point that was treated of, the reader might be stirred up still to listen to the Word itself, to GOD HIMSELF.
I am hopeful that this arrangement will yield a double benefit. Many a one does not know, and had nobody to teach him, how to examine the Scriptures properly. This book may help him in his loneliness. If he will only meditate on one and another point, and then look up the texts that are quoted, he will get into the way of consulting God's word itself on that which he wishes to understand. But it may just as readily be of service in prayer meetings or social gatherings for the study of the word. Let each one read the portion fixed on at home and review those texts that seem to him the most important. Let the president of the meeting read the portion aloud once. Let him then request that each one who pleases should announce one and another text on that point which has struck him most.
We have found in my congregation that the benefit of such meetings for bringing and reading aloud texts on a point previously announced, is very great. This practice leads to the searching of God's word, as even preaching does not. It stirs up the members of the congregation, especially the young people, to independent dealing with the word. It leads to a more living fellowship amongst the members of Christ's body, and helps also their upbuilding in love. It prepares the way for a social recognition of the word as the living communication of the thoughts of God, which with Divine power shall work in us what is pleasing to God. I am persuaded that there is many a believing man and woman that asks what they can accomplish for the Lord, who along this pathway could become the channels of great blessing. Let them once a week bring together some of their neighbours or friends (sometimes two or three household live on one farm) to hear read out texts for which all have been previously searching: the Lord shall certainly give His blessing there.
With respect to the use of this book in retirement, I would fain request one thing more. I hope that no one will think it strange. Let every portion be read over at least three times. The great bane of all our converse with Divine things is superficiality. When we read anything and understand it somewhat, we think that this is enough. No: we must give time, that it may make an impression and wield its own influence upon us. Read every portion the first time with consideration, to understand the good that is in it, and then see if you receive benefit from the thoughts that are there expressed. Read it the second time to see if it is really in accordance with God's word: take some, if not all, of the texts that are adduced on each point, and ponder them in order to come under the full force of what God has said on the point. Let your God, through His word, teach you what you must think and believe concerning Him and His will. Read it then the third time to find out the corresponding places, not in the Bible, but in your own life, in order to know if your life has been in harmony with the New Life, and to direct your life for the future entirely according to God's word. I am fully persuaded that the time and pains spent on such converse with the word of God under the teaching of this or some book that helps you in dealing with it, will be rewarded tenfold.
I conclude with a cordial brotherly greeting to all with whom I have been permitted to mingle during the past year, in speaking about the precious Saviour and His glorious salvation: also to all in other congregations, who in this last season have learned to know the beloved Lord Jesus as their Redeemer. With a heart full of peace and love, I think of you all, and I pray that the Lord may confirm His work in you. I have not become weary of crying to you: the blessedness and the power of the New Life that is in you are greater than you know, are wonderfully great: only learn to know aright and trust in Jesus, the gift of God and the Scriptures, the word of God. Only give Him time to hold converse with you and to work in you, and your heart shall overflow with the blessedness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do more than exceedingly above all that we can ask or think, to Him be glory in the Church to all eternity.