« السابقةمتابعة »
our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them. For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them” (Neb. ix. 34, 35).
With what entreaties, then, shall we approach the mercy-seat? First of all, let each one implore that his own soul be brought near to God, and kept faithful to him. Every man's chief charge is his own heart. No one is called to act for the public good to the exclusion of his personal salvation. Zeal, indeed, can be neither safe nor pure if it does not spring from a renewed mind. Our first care, therefore, should be to search into the foundations of our hope. Difficult it is to pass behind the veil of the spirit. The work is stern; the investigator easily deceived. But the providences of God seem to urge this duty upon us at present with peculiar force. Earthly things vanish to reveal the vast space in the heart which they had usurped. Want presses that the soul may be chased from every resting-place but God himself. Events, too, have occurred in conspicuous places, showing how a fair profession may be maintained after the soul has not only ceased to be prosperous, but has utterly let go integrity ;-events which would not have been permitted by Him who is jealous for the honour of his own name, if he had not judged it necessary, even by such costly methods, to lead his people to great “ searchings of heart.” Nor should the bare hope of salvation satisfy us. Our Lord said, “I have come that ye might have life, and that ye might have it more abundantly” (John X. 10). He desires that we should “live in his sight” (Hos. vi. 2.); should “bear much fruit” (John xv. 8); should “be holy and unblameable” (Col. i. 22); should " abound more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, ... being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Phil. i. 9, 11).
They upon whom such blessings descend will be most disposed and best qualified to intercede for their country. The Lord calls them his “ remembrancers,” and charges them to “keep not silence," and to “give him no rest” until he fulfil his promises (Is. Ixii. 1). How earnestly should we, at this season, avail ourselves of that privilege in pleading for our families and friends ; for those who are appointed to break the bread of life, and for those with whom we “go up to the house of God in company;" for our connections in business, and for, the community in which we dwell. How vast and arduous is the work, now happily more extensively conducted than at any former period, of calling out of the dark places of our population the victims of licentiousness, dishonesty, and ignorance; and how should we pour out our supplications before the Lord, that all who labour in those fires may be preserved and prospered ! In times, too, when tens of thousands, in the flower of their age, are demanded for our armies and are hurried forth to perish on foreign soils, how should our gratitude and sympathy take the form of efforts for their instruction, and prayer that they may" find mercy of the Lord !” Nor will it be possible for us to forget how much is required by those who occupy the high places of the nation ; by our gracious Queen, by her ministers, by judges and magistrates, and by both houses of Parliament. The forms fitted for public assemblies will not be sufficient to utter our desires, but our pleadings will be manifold that they may be enabled in anxious and perilous times to act with wisdom, to embody in deeds the principles of Christianity, and to make Britain honoured not less for piety than for
B 2 power.
that we may
The course of recent events emphatically bids us include in our Christian solicitude all heathen nations. The prediction can hardly be pronounced rash or irreverent, that there is about to be prepared for the church a more extensive field of action than ever. It has long been evident that all false religions were losing the power of progress. Mohammedanism, for centuries, bas scarcely held her own. Hindooism has kept within her ancient limits. Boodhism, since her expulsion from India, has acquired no new territories. Christianity alone has advanced with firm step. Hitherto her measures have been little more than preparatory. But already the living oracles are enshrined in the language of every great people ; and now the political powers upon which the most gigantic systems of superstition have leaned, begin to quit their places. Sceptres, once mighty, are falling at the feet of England, and she is lifting them up, one by one, fettered by no conditions and embarrassed by no promises. What shall be the dominion of this country before the year now opening will close, it is impossible to say ; but no difficulty appears to be experienced in determining the providential meaning of this course of events. Even men of the world tell the Church that it bears to her a command from heaven to teach Christianity to those nations; nor can the accuracy of the conclusion be well questioned. “I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezek. xxxvi. 22, 23.)
With such convictions, what can we do but hasten to "the throne of grace,
grace to help us” (Heb. iv. 16). Let no one lose himself in the crowd, or suppose that, because the work is great, it will evoke so much sympathy that he can be spared. No man may quit the ranks at such a crisis. While entreating strength and counsel for those to whom has been committed the direction of all missionary institutions, whether for Jew or Gentile, for the eastern or the southern, for the northern or the western heathen, let the youngest and the weakest Christian consider that he has, personally, a part to perform, and that by pains and prayer he may influence the most distant times.
Great are the encouragements we have thus to pray.
Our afflictions themselves encourage us. It may justly have been said of us, “They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger;" but the terrible words have not yet been added, “Why should ye be stricken any more ?” (Isa. i. 4,5). Judgments have been sent that we might “ learn righteousness.” We have been chastened that we might "set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. iii. 2); and the words which reach us in the height of the storm are these, “ Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me” (Ps. 1. 15).
The blessings which we already enjoy encourage us. We have bad " the battle of the warrior," but the “confused noise” has not been permitted to alarm our homes, nor the "garments rolled in blood" to shock our eyes; and even where these calamities have been felt, God has “ brought the counsel of the heathen to nought, and made the devices of the people of none effect.” He has warned us against undue trust in wealth by suddenly sweeping it away from thousands, but he has not deprived the nation of the sources of property,—the earth has brought forth her fruits abundantly, and commerce may be expected to
rerive and proceed on better principles. He has permitted missionary churches to be dispersed, and many of his people throughout Europe to be denied the privilege of united worship; but while the streaks of a better day are already reaching them, from us he has not withheld
of our cherished blessings,—our sanctuaries have been always open, and the voice of prayer and praise has more frequently than ever resounded in our halls and streets. If we “would declare and speak” of God's mercies, they are more than can be numbered, and every one of them is an encouragement to prayer. We can plead, “ Thou hast been our help; leave us not, neither forsake us, O God of our salvation” (Ps. xxvii. 9). He is more disposed to give us great blessings than to leave us with small ones. It is more consonant with his nature and more conducive to his glory to make us to abound in spiritual riches than to permit us to remain, in that respect, poor and needy.
We are encouraged above all by the gift of the Holy Ghost. The spirit of supplication; the faith with which we plead the promises; the perseverance which keeps us waiting until the blessing descends, come from him. It is he who imparts to us the “contrite and humble spirit,” which feels the need of mercy; it is he who breathes into us the spirit of adoption, which enters the presence of the Father without distrust; it is he by whom the “love of God is shed abroad in our hearts,” the foretaste and pledge of all possible blessing. What can be refused to supplications thus prompted and pressed ? “I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them "* (Matt. xviii. 19, 20).
C. M. B. Liverpool, Dec., 1857.
PASSAGES IN THE LIFE OF A COUNTRY PASTOR. Dear FRIEND,-Your letter reaches me as I sit musing over the fire on a dull November day. The distant hills are veiled in mist. The coppice, which you admired so, when you saw it from my study a few months ago, is now but a ghost of its former self, and looks most dreary. Gusts of wind and rain beat at intervals against the window, with a sobbing, wailing sound, as though the old year were lamenting its sins and follies, or mournfully anticipating its doom. My little garden, so trim and neat when you were here, is now strewn with withered leaves, which rustle mournfully as the wind whirls them round in eddies, or sweeps them in heaps into the corners. What wonder, then, that I should have abandoned myself to a pensive, but not painful, reverie? My thoughts were wandering up and down in the past. I was just repeating to myself that exquisite sonnet of Shakspeare's, beginning
“ When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
And with old woes new wail my dear times' waste," when the postman's horn at the gate announced the arrival of your letter. Its request that I would write down a few passages in my life, falls in aptly
Our readers will be glad to know that this admirable paper has been printed and published as a tract by the Evangelical Alliance.
enough with my present train of thought, though I do not see how these reminiscences can be of interest to anybody, save a few personal friends; and I much fear lest an old man's garrulity should become tedious even to them. However, I bow to your infallibility, on condition that you preserve my incognito inviolate. I could not speak freely without exacting this condition.
I was just recalling a scene which affected me very much at the time, and to which
my mind has often reverted since with deep interest, though perhaps the impression it made upon me arose from its being the first time that, as a pastor, I stood by the death-bed. I was then made to feel, as I never felt before, the solemnity and awfulness of the office upon which I had entered. It will be necessary to go back to the events which had happened some years before my entrance on the pastorate.
Ellen Bhigh was the only child of a retired naval officer, of somewhat straitened circumstances, who occupied a pretty little cottage, just outside the village. Her mother died whilst she was yet an infant, and she thus became doubly dear to her bereaved father. From that time she was his almost sole companion. He seemed to live for her alone. As soon as she was able to walk, they used to ramble together, hand in hand for hours; she, prematurely grave and thoughtful, from having no companion of her own age; he, a little child again in his love for her. Years rolled away, and Ellen grew up towards womanhood, without a cloud having risen for a moment between her father and herself. When she was about eighteen, some circumstance, I forget what, led her to attend the little chapel one Sabbath evening. Hitherto she had known nothing of religion but the form. The clergyman of the parish was pre-eminently “high and dry." His course of sermons, which occupied twenty minutes each, lasted through the year, and were then repeated. They consisted either of refutations of heresies of which no one had ever heard ; of invectives against republicanism and Dissent; or formal exhortations to do good works, the chief of which seemed to be the submission of the poor to the rich, and of all to the government of the day. My predecessor in the pastorate was a man of simple, earnest piety, and his discourse that night was specially adapted to Ellen's case. She has told me that up to that time she was not absolutely unhappy, but there was a sense of want, a craving for something, she knew not what, which might fill up the void in her heart. I remember her quoting the words of Augustine, as her own experience :-"Oh God! thou didst create us for thyself, and our spirits are restless till they find rest in thee." She once said to me, It seems as though I had been for years looking out into the darkness, and listening in the silence, expecting some one, I knew not whom, yet could not feel at rest till he had come;
and whilst I was feeling after him, if haply I might find him, though I knew him not, my Lord came to me saying, “I am he whom thou seekest;' and I at once recognized and received him."
The reception of this heavenly peace and joy was, however, the occasion of her first and almost only earthly grief. In these new born emotions her father not only had no sympathy, but regarded them with absolute aversion. He was from habit and instinct a steadfast adherent of Church and King. Evangelical religion was almost unknown in the church, and he looked upon dissent as treason. His strong dislike to it was increased by the fact that Ellen now had feelings and preferences in which he could not participate. Love for her, bordering on idolatry, made him intensely jealous of anything which threatened to rob him of a single thought. When she began to speak
of the evil of sin, the need of repentance, and the love of God to sinners, her language only confirmed his aversion to these new-fangled doctrines, for he supposed that the “cursed Dissenters," as he now called them, not contented with stealing the affections of his child, had poisoned her mind against him, and made her believe that he was a bad man. Her irresistible desire to steal away to chapel, whither he would not accompany her, made him the more convinced that she was ceasing to love him. Though not absolutely unkind, he became cold, reserved, and distant in manner towards her, and, in sheer jealousy, would repulse her advances. All this she bore meekly, with silent tears and prayers that God would give them “ fellowship one with another” in Christ also. Ah! poor child, her prayer was to be heard in a way she little anticipated.
When this painful state of feeling had lasted for some months, she felt it needful to her peace to make a profession of faith by baptism. After many tearful earnest prayers, she told her father of her wish, and though she pleaded with him most importunately, he forbade her. Up to this time her slightest wish had been gratified, her faintest request granted. Refusal now was doubly painful. What should she do? Should her earthly or her heavenly father be disobeyed? She came to the conclusion that for the present, at least, it was her duty to submit to her parent's prohibition, but she never ceased to pray that it might be granted to her to be “ buried with Christ in baptism." Though she endeavoured to disguise the fact as far as she could, it was only too evident that her health was breaking down under the internal conflict. Her father too, though he gave no signs of yielding, was suffering no less than his daughter. At length, after a period of patient and prayerful waiting, she renewed her request, and her father, though expressing a strong dislike to the step she wished to take, withdrew his prohibition. Her duty, though still painful, was now clear, and she was baptized by my excellent predecessor, shortly before his death. I do not know whether mental suffering had anything to do with developing the seeds of that fell disease of which her mother died, but about this time consumption began to manifest its symptoms. Her complexion became transparent; the hand and brow, white as marble, were streaked with veins blue as the azure sky; the hectic flush, the eyes fearfully bright, the slight hacking cough-all told of latent disease.
When I entered upon my pastorate, and first saw her, these fatal signs had scarcely appeared. Her slight and delicate frame seemed almost spiritual in its beauty. Was it more than a pastor's anxiety which made me think of her 80 constantly as I did ? At the time I suspected nothing else. It may be that the exquisite grace and beauty of her character, and the surpassing loveliness of her person, may have awakened a tenderer feeling. Perhaps it was so. But I do not know, and it boots not to inquire.
For some months after my settlement I met her only occasionally, and our intercourse was of a very general kind. The settled grief she felt was of a nature too private to be confided to any save the most confidential friends, but I gathered these details from others. She continued to droop, and at length one of Captain Bligh's friends spoke to him of her illness, which all save him. self had long seen. He almost angrily denied that she was suffering from anything more than a slight cold. When any one asked after her health he always replied in the same manner. But from this time he watched her more narrowly, and his vehement protestations that she was pretty well were evidently intended to silence his own rising fears. At length he became