It is a lamentable fact that the Christian experience of our age is very superficial. It is a rare occurrence to hear today of inward struggles that bear any resemblance in depth or power to those recorded by Paul in Romans 7. The knowledge of sin is limited;
the feeling of guilt is weak; the apprehensions of Divine grace are very imperfect.
But the superficial experience is not confined to convertsÂ— so-calledÂ—; it pertains to a large body of younger and older Christians. They know nothing of the heights and depths of the Divine love which saints in other days have been wont to speak. They have little to say of an inward warfare between the flesh and spirit, of a wrestling and an agony as for life itself, which is so prominent in the experience of such men as Brainerd and Martyn. They seem equally ignorant of the Valley of Humiliation and of the Delectable Mountains, which lay in the route over which Bunyan’s pilgrims travelled. They are hardly conscious of a real life within them, known to others, whose source is hid with Christ in God, and feel little of that mighty power given by an indwelling Spirit to overcome the world. The religion they have is little better than nominal. It leads to no stern self-denials, excites no enthusiasm, and inspires to no labours.
We are persuaded that much of this superficial experience is due to the light reading of the day, which has become the chief staple even in Christian families. It weakens both brain and heart. It simply amuses, and stirs neither thought nor feeling. It is unfavourable to the formation of earnest character. It has no sympathy with profound religious emotion, or with the strong doctrines of the New Testament. One who becomes addicted to this kind of reading soon cares for no other kind. The Bible is not relished and devotional works are dull and unattractive.
It is impossible that a vigorous Christian life can be sustained on such thin diet. The body needs wholesome food, and the soul needs it even more. Our fathers and mothers, whose experience was rich and whose characters were stable, had quite other fare. They daily studied the Word of God, and searched it as for hid treasure. They loved writings of good men, and found in them heavenly manna. O for something of the spirit of the Ephesian converts who, in token of the genuineness of their change, brought the books in which they had found delight, and burnt them!