« السابقةمتابعة »
business and in the world our daily walk has been in heaven -when we have learnt to love our friends in Christ, and all mankind, even our enemies, for him, and his touch has cleansed us from our sins—0 then have we assuredly the essential religious knowledge, and Divine Revelation is indeed accomplishing within us its blessed work! Those passages which critics have to reconcile are perhaps the least important portions of the Scriptures. When broken down by age and infirmity, Dr. Watts said, “It is the plain promises of the gospel that are my support—so I find it now;" and we may carry out the remark, and say that the plain teachings of Christianity are not only our support when overshadowed by sorrow and trial, but are at all times our chief guidance, strength and hope. Not, indeed, that we should forget the debt we owe to learning, for the labours of the learned have been invaluable in preserving to us as nearly as possible the very words of the original sacred writings; at the same time let us remember, that while the controverted passages are few, the New Testament is full of those passages which are the daily food of our spiritual life.
My brother, you tell me that you have difficulties as to the geology of the book of Genesis, or the cruelties of the Canaan wars; but in the Scriptures have you not clearly true religion as to the creation ? Have you not a veritable picture of the patriarchal age ? Are not David and Solomon realities to you ? Have the old Hebrew temple-songs lost their sweetness or their grandeur ? Is the fire of prophecy gone out? You say you are perplexed amidst the many various theories respecting the Divine Nature: can you not draw near to Christ as a humble and earnest disciple, and to God as a fervent, devoted child ? If you know and in your heart feel, and shew in your
life that you know and feel, what the word Father meaneth, as Christ came to teach and exemplify it to us, then truly are you wise unto salvation, whatever things there may be of which you are ignorant.
In reading the Scriptures, then, fellow-christians, let us keep
steadfastly in view the great purpose of Divine Revelation,
“the union of man's soul with God in the spirit of faith, holiness and love." I have said that the essential Christian doctrines are easy to be understood, and to be found in every part of the New Testament; but the whole should be earnestly used by us to help us realize the duties and the prospects of our high calling. Those of the early Christians who thought themselves rich if they had one Gospel, had aids of other kinds which we have not. They had, if not the preaching of an apostle himself, the recollections of those who had been companions of apostles. But I would hope that with most of us there is scarcely a chapter in the Gospels or an Epistle, a part of which has not already proved itself and endeared itself to us in our own experience, by rebuking our follies, strengthening us in our temptations, comforting us in our sorrows, lifting up our aspirations, or rendering us more tender, patient or devout. Let us read about religion and about the Bible, but above all let us read the Bible itself. Let us read it with a free understanding, that we may reach its truths; and thoughtfully and reverently, that we may feel and love them. And let us fill with its precious treasures the chambers of memory, that in sickness and old age, and wherever we are and whatever we may be doing, they may be always with us. My friends, as your minister, my heartfelt hope is, that by knowledge, by argument, by persuasion, by sympathy, I may sometimes aid
efforts to attain the true Christian life; but I thank God that the great sources of spiritual strength for us all are prayer and the reading of the Bible.
GREAT MEANS AND SMALL RESULTS.
BY REV. JOHN JAMES TAYLER, B.A.
GENESIS Xxv. 22 :
“If it be so, why am I thus ?"
One of the most puzzling phenomena of our times is the marked disparity between means and results—between promise and fulfilment—in every department of the great work which society is accomplishing under Providence. When was there an age, in the whole history of our race, richer in material resources, with mightier command over all the powers of nature, with knowledge more widely diffused, with just and enlightened views on all great social questions more generally admitted—than our own ? The fruits of civilization which have been ripening for centuries, stand within our reach and seem only waiting to be plucked : when lo, at the moment we should seize them—as if some evil spirit had taken possession of humanity-our hands are paralyzed and thrown back; some cross influence suddenly darts between us and our object; and instead of entering on a new era of wider and deeper peace, of more brotherly union among the nations, and of freer, steadier social progress, we lapse again into darker depths of factiousness and religious animosity; in many countries the faint and trembling flame of freedom wanes almost to extinction; and war and revolution seem destined to mark with their bloody footsteps the remaining half of this nineteenth century. We are facing at this moment—so the subject presents itself to my mind-one of the impenetrable mysteries of Providence. We have happiness within our reach, and yet we grasp it not. Events are passing on the troubled theatre of the world, whose issue baffles all human sagacity, and whose inexplicable obscurity casts us in faith on the wisdom of a higher Mind. We are already perhaps in one of those dark and difficult passages of human development, out of which it seems to be a law in the divine administration of the universe, that every fresh advance in freedom, intelligence and virtue should slowly emerge. For I cannot admit the sad alternative of the possibility of a second return to barbarism. I cannot bring myself to believe that the mighty agencies which are everywhere at work in our time—the wonderful productiveness of industry, the unparalleled facilities of intercommunication by steam and electricity, the yet unvanquished influence of public opinion through the press, the research and enterprize of science, the efforts of philanthropy, art, literature, Christianity—that all these things, at this time more active than ever, have worked and are working in vain,-will pass away, and leave not a trace behind. I venture to say, from my simple trust in God, that this is impossible. But the question will again and again recur, “If it be so, why are we thus ?" If the external means and opportunities of human progress and happiness so richly abound, why is the natural fruit of them so mysteriously delayed? Why are thousands of honest and noble hearts all over the earth putting up their fervent prayer for the advent of the kingdom of God, and yet the kingdom of God does not come ?
The mother of patriarchs, as her hour drew nigh, was seized with pangs and sorrows, half dead with the fearful throes which announced the birth of an illustrious line. Reverting to the ancient promise of Jehovah, she could not unravel the dark enigma which perplexed her, and said, as we do now, “ If it be so, why am I thus ?" And she took the right course in her perplexities. “She went to inquire of the Lord.” She sought the resolution of her doubts in deep religious faith. Let her condition and its issue typify our own.
In conscious ignorance, she put her trust in the Sovereign Intelligence, and strove patiently and earnestly to bear and do his righteous will, as it was immediately revealed to her. And her seed became mighty in the earth ; legislators, kings and prophets ennobled it; and out of it came at length the great Redeemer of mankind. So let us look at the blessings which lie before us in a possible future, and mark how they are withheld from us as yet by the pains and the weaknesses, the follies and the sins, which still cleave to our undisciplined and unregenerate humanity. Like Rebekah, going in our doubt and our trouble to the Lord, let us learn of Him how these obstacles to our promised happiness are to be overcome; that to us, as to her, the hour of agony may be followed by the hour of joy, and the blessings which are already within our reach may come finally into our actual possession.
And now let us cast our eye for a moment on the range and the capability of our social relations, and consider the immense resources of human well-being which they involve. Look first at the industrial energies of our age.
What a wonderful engine is here at work! We produce enough to furnish cheaply with every necessary and comfort, and even with many
luxuries, every inhabitant of the earth. The home of the humblest mechanic, wherever there is a reasonable amount of prudence and good conduct, is more richly furnished with all the appliances of physical comfort and enjoyment, of mental culture and rational recreation, than the rude, dungeon-like chambers and coarse table of the mightiest feudal lord some centuries ago. The two evils of which we have been in the habit of complaining, as the source of our greatest embarrassmentredundancy of capital and redundancy of labour, that the rich can get no return for their money, and the poor no work for their hands—ought surely, if these two elements of wealth were brought into their proper mutual relation, to furnish each a cure for the other. Our complaint implies that we are oppressed and stifled by the very superfluity of the means of