صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

seriously alarmed, and sent a message to the neighbouring physician, asking him to call. He met Dr. Graham, on his arrival, with the same expression of perfect confidence. “A little cold, a passing indisposition in my daughter, Doctor, nothing at all; but you know old men get nervous.” But when they parted at her chamber-door he gazed after the physician with a look so intense

a and imploring, as to satisfy the old servant that he was vainly endeavouring to blind himself to her state. And when Dr. Graham returned into the sittingroom with a look of grave anxiety and pity, the terrible truth stood confessed to his heart that she must die. As soon as he could somewhat compose his feelings he went to her room, and clasped her in his arms, crying, “ My darling, my darling," sobbing the while like a child.

That afternoon, as my sister Deborah and I were just setting off on our usual walk, we were astonished to see Captain Bligh come up to our door. He was shown in, and in some trepidation I went to him, supposing that he had come to upbraid me for influencing his daughter's mind. To my

astonishment I found him pacing the room in great agitation. His words were incoherent from extreme excitement. He said that he was his daughter's murderer, that he had broken her heart, that he was a devil of darkness-she an angel of light. He then uttered some severe invectives against the Methodist fanatics who poisoned her mind with new-fangled notions. Ascribing this language to the excited state of his feelings, I passed over, without notice, his allusions to myself, and when he was sufliciently calm for me to enter into conversation with him, I endeavoured to allay his fears as to Miss Bligh's health, and in reply to his self-accusations of having brought her to the brink of the grave by unkindness, I assured him that she never ceased to speak of his great love for her. He seemed to clutch with a convulsive eagerness at the hope of her recovery, which I suggested and really felt. Alas! I little knew that Dr. Graham had already pronounced her life to be a question of weeks.

Next morning my sister received a note from Miss Bligh, asking us to tea that evening. Of course we assented. You, who know my dear old Deborah, will smile when I tell you that in those days she used to be fond of a bit of finery, and often vexed me by keeping me waiting whilst she was at her toilet. On that eventful afternoon I remember that, instead of exhorting her as usual to that plainness of attire which was becoming in the member of a minister's household, I said in the most careless and indifferent tone I could assume, that we had better put on our best things. She only answered me with a quaint smile. On our arrival we were both shocked at the change which a fortnight had made in the poor girl's health. When we saw her last there was little or nothing in her appearance to excite alarm. Now she was scarcely able to sit up. Weak as she was, her countenance bore an expression of happiness I had never seen in it before. The coldness and reserve of her father had passed away, and with it had gone the settled grief which had oppressed her. Shortly after tea was over, she and Deborah withdrew to her room. Left alone with Captain Bligh, we, for awhile, made desperate efforts to keep up a general and desultory conversation. We criticised the weather under all its aspects. We talked of the war and the prospects of harvest. But all in vain. We constantly came to a dead stand. He, poor man, was dreading yet desiring to approach the subject which lay at his heart. At length with a sudden effort he said,

“ Must she die ?" “I pray God to spare Miss Bligh’s life," I replied, "and trust that he will

But however great a blessing her restoration might be to her friends, she would find that to die is gain.”


do so.



“You are right,” he exclaimed, misapprehending my meaning, “I lave made her wish for death by my unkindness. I have made life a burden to her. Even death would be desirable rather than the life she has had to lead for some months past.” He then, in the bitterness of his soul, went on to pour out invectives against himself, for his cruelty to her.

I allowed the storm to expend itself by its own violence, lifting up my heart to God for guidance all the time. And truly I needed it. It was a position of extreme difficulty for a mere youth to be placed in. At length the time seemed to have come for me to speak. I told him of the sympathy and compassion of Jesus, both with him and with her. I spoke of the peace and joy which I knew his daughter had felt in the love of Christ and the hope of heaven, and ventured to point him forward to the hope of reunion with her in another world. This view of religion, as communion with a living personal Saviour, seemed quite new to him, and he eagerly caught at it; not, however, as though it contained any element of hope for himself, but because it helped him to understand the serenity and cheerfulness of Ellen under sorrow. How long this conversation lasted I do not remember, but it was broken in upon by the return of Ellen supported by Deborah's arm. In a low voice she asked her father if I might pray with them before going. His heart was too full to speak, but he made a gesture of assent; and reading portions of that most touching description of our Lord at the grave of Lazarus, I knelt down and prayed.

We had scarcely finished breakfast next morning, when Captain Bligh was again at our door. I met him with less trepidation than on the previous evening. He said that he passed a sleepless night, from reflecting upon our conversation, and that he wished to renew it. If,” said he, “my Ellen, who is innocent as an angel, needs to find a Saviour in Christ, what hope can there be for me, who am her murderer P” I need hardly say that I told him of * the blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin.” He remained with me about an hour, which I spent, vainly as it seemed, in endeavouring to make him comprehend the fullness and freedom of salvation in Jesus. His fixed idea was that he had broken his daughter's heart by unkindness, and that there was no hope of forgiveness.

For a week or two I saw him daily, either at his own house or mine, or more commonly at both, for Ellen was sinking so evidently and rapidly, that I visited her every afternoon. At length I ventured to speak to her about the state of her father's mind. She had suspected much which I told her, but did not know the whole, since from a fear of giving pain, he had concealed it from her as far as possible. She raised her eyes to heaven, with a look of tearful gratitude, and exclaimed, “I thank my heavenly Father that he is answering my prayer before I go hence.” After a brief interval of silence, she went on to say that she had never felt a doubt that God would ultimately answer her supplications on her father's behalf, but that her great grief, when she found her illness was more serious than she had apprehended, bad been that she should not live to see it. “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform ;" she exclaimed, adding, “My death will be the means of his life.”

So it proved. A few days after this conversation, I received a sudden summons to Captain Bligh’s, as Miss Bligh had been taken much worse. I went on the instant. I was told that he was in his daughter's room, where he wished me to join him. On entering I saw him kneeling by her bed, clasping her hand in his. She was propped up by pillows, and spoke with extreme difficulty ; but her countenance, which bore unmistakable indications of death

peace which

was perfectly radiant with joy. Her father had found that “ passeth all understanding." As though a veil had been lifted from the cross, he now saw clearly and plainly what had been invisible to him before, and with the simplicity of a little child, he had told her, in trembling accents, of the light which broke in upon his spirit. In her trustful faith, she was quite prepared for this glad announcement; indeed she had been confidently expecting it. She told her father this, and said that now her time here would be very short, for God had only arrested the hand of death until this answer to prayer had been given. She spoke to him of their speedy reunion before the throne of God, and bid him take comfort, for their separation would be very brief. The exertion she had made in speaking, and the excitement which could not fail to result from the glad news her father had brought, were too much for her feeble frame. After a paroxysm of coughing, blood poured profusely from the lungs, and though the discharge had ceased for a time, her end was very near.

From the expression of their faces, and from the few words they spoke, I gathered what had passed between them. She motioned to me to kneel and pray. I did 80 with an excitement of feeling which almost deprived me of utterance. On rising from my knees, I saw that she had clasped her father's hand convulsively, and was gazing into his face with intensest love. I was leaving the room noiselessly, when an exclamation from the bed stopped me. I turned round, and saw Ellen sitting erect, her disengaged hand raised towards heaven, gazing upward with a look of awe, wonder, and seraphic joy, such as I never saw before. Her lips were parted, her eyes dilated to the uttermost, as though gazing on some vision of glory. “I COME, I come!" she cried, then fell back and expired.

Her father shortly afterwards joined us, and continued an active, useful, and most devoted Christian for some years. When mortal sickness came upon him, he replied to my expression of hope that he might recover, “No, I am going to Ellen.” And so it proved ; for after a few days' illness he passed away, "rejoicing in hope."

Farewell, my friend.

THE ATONEMENT, AND THEORIES IN RELATION TO IT. The death of Christ bas given to it in the Gospel a very remarkable place. As a fact, it occupied but a few hours of his history; yet the narrative fills more space than the events of any year of his life. In the Epistles it is connected with all our blessings, and is the grand motive to holiness. Fifty or sixty times it is introduced, and always as one of the most touching and impressive truths. In nearly all professedly Christian sects, moreover, it is the badge of their religion. They may not rightly understand its meaning, but all hold that the true Christian is a Crusader, and that the history of Christianity is emphatically the history of the Cross.

This fact is instructive. It deserves investigation. There are clearly influences in the Cross which appeal to men of very different creeds, and of very different temperaments; and it is our wisdom, while relating erroneous and exclusive views of the doctrine, to do honour even to such as contain but partial truth. The true theory is of course that wbich embodies all the truth, and gives to each portion its proper place; but if our theory

leaves out important portions, those portions will revenge themselves by asserting, through some disciple, supreme or exclusive prominence; and so our partial theory will prove a source of aggravated division and multiplied error. In the hope of contributing something to a comprehensive judgment of the true cause of the influence of the death of Christ on human feeling, let us examine the various theories in relation to it. As the chemist puts into some liquids that hold precious material in solution, a substance which has affinities for it, and thereby the material is precipitated and becomes visible, so we need to bring to this study & spirit of affinity for truth. All around us there may be error. Let the reader quietly repel what is erroneous, retaining only what will stand the test of Scripture, and then let him recombine (if need be) what he thus retains with his previous views.

1. The death of Christ contains in itself all the elements of tragic influence. Men are touched by the spectacle of undeserved suffering: here, amid the taunts of his murderers, dies the only one of Adam's race who knew no sin. A life of unequalled beneficence is consummated by a death of violence and anguish. Men look with interest on greatness in'misery: here is the King of Glory, despised and rejected of men, in misery so severe that even his patient spirit cried out in agony, and rejoiced when it was “ finished." Men feel most deeply when they have some connection with the sufferer : here the man Jesus dies, and dies in the stead of men. Men are strongly affected by what they know is affecting others: this sacrifice stirs all worlds. The earth, the sky, and the temple, fit representations of all created and divine things, are moved at the scene. It is hence easy to see how the death of Christ should form one of the Mysteries of the middle ages; and how, as a fact, it contains, apart from its moral significance, all the elements of grandeur and tenderness. Thousands, perhaps, have wept over the story of the Cross, who, after all, have lived and died unrenewed men.

2. But the death of Christ is more than a tragic exhibition. It is an evidence of his sincerity, and essential to his resurrection ; while his resurrection is a proof of the divinity of his mission, and an earnest of the resurrection of the race he came to deliver—a message from God—a message of pardon for the guilty. He delivered it clearly and impressively, confirmed it by miracles, and then died attesting its truth. Through his resurrection our eternal life is seen to rest for its evidence, not on arguments, nor even upon a divine promise, but upou an actual fact. And this is all, alas ! that some see in the death of our Lord. Yet what is thus seen is true, and ought to have, as it has, a place in our ereed.

3. But some go further. It is a belief common among all nations, they say, that some sins are in themselves unpardonable.

An avenging Nemesis needs to be propitiated ; and the propitiation is often obtained through the suffering of the innocent. This notion, they add, is sanctioned in the Law, where vicarious and expiatory sacrifices abound. So deeply had this idea of vicarious suffering struck its roots into the hearts of men, that inspired teachers were unable to eradicate it. The writers of the New Testament themselves felt it; and hence all (James excepted) attribute, unfoundedly, a vicarious character to our Lord's sufferings. They, therefore, interweave in their writings the language of the Old Testament, and so convert the ignominious death of the founder of the Christian system into an argument for its truth!-(So Gesenius and De Wette.)

Our Lord's purpose, they add, was not very different. At first he

[ocr errors]



shrank from death-prayed that he might be delivered from it; but at last, foreseeing in the exercise of deep sagacity that his career was likely to have a disastrous end, he resolved to make that end an evidence of his sincerity, and the means of superseding the sacrificial rites of all nations! This is Rationalism. Fairly to state is reaily to refute it. And yet, it will be noticed, it is based on a partial truth. The idea of a divine Nemesis has struck its roots into the heart of the race.

4. Suppose, now, we tolerate for a moment the presence of the theory of Strauss, in relation to the narrative of the Gospels. The Gospels, says he, are morally true, but not historically. Their narratives are either mythical or legendary. What is mythical has no historical basis, but sets forth truth in a poetical form. What is legendary associates the truth with persons who had historical existence, only there is no ground for associating the truth with them. These narratives, therefore, are as a whole man's own tendencies and ideas projected into fact—the subjective put into objective forms! What is said of our Lord is true, not of Christ Jesus, but of the

The union of spirit and of matter in man is the true incarnation, The victories of mind over matter are the true miracles. The gradual mortification of the gross, material life, and its gradual reassumption of a diviner spiritual essence as civilisation advances, is shadowed forth in the death, the resurrection, and the ascension, ascribed to a living person, in the Gospel. In a word, the sacrifice of the Cross is the self-sacrifice of the flesh. Atonement is offered in the person of the sinner, and man,

“ Self raised,

Regains his native seat," Again, to state this theory is to refute it. And yet, it will be noticed that it adds to the first theory on the tragic influence of the Cross, a moral element that is partially true. We are crucified with Christ.

5. Even Pantheism pays homage to the Atonement, and its theory deserves a little consideration. According to the great modern teacher of that system (Hegel), the life of God is known to us in three forms; first as pure spirit, prior to creation ; then as unfolding himself in the creation of the universe and of finite minds; and then in the recall of creation into the infinite Spirit. As God, in his progress from the centre outwards, reaches his lowest degradation in sin and death, so it is just there the divine needs to re-appear, that men may see from actual facts how possible it is for a spirit to return from death and sin unto God. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit excites in men's hearts the consciousness of that union with God, which the life of Christ displays in facts. The Father, therefore, is the creating and infinite spirit; the Son is the infinite spirit, allying himself with the finite, proving by example the possibility of this alliance even in death ; while by the Holy Spirit men are brought into conscious alliance with him. Here again we have monstrous error, with partial truth,—“ We are crucified with Him that we may be glorified together."

6. The self-sacrifice of Strauss's system, and the mystical union of Hegel's, are now to take another form. They reappear as advocated first by Schleiermacher, and more recently by Maurice. In the incarnation, they say, God is seen in union with man; not simply in human nature, but in union with the whole race. The regeneration of the race begins at his birth, is aided by the trials, the discipline, and the acts of our Lord, and is consummated in his death. In that death the self-surrender of Christ as incarnate, and of man in him, is perfected; and therein consists

« السابقةمتابعة »