صور الصفحة
PDF

and certain hope” that, in the case of an infant taken away, as infants undoubtedly are, from the evil to come, cannot fail to mingle a beam of gladness even with the first deep sorrow of a bereaved parent. Again I looked; and again the proud tread of those stately horses, the waving of their bright crests, and the fluttering of the white-edged pall, as a current of air passed occasionally through the windows, bespoke a character less of mourning than of triumph. I thought of the little inmate, riding there in solitary state, as of one who had conquered in the battle without striking a blow, succeeded in the race without moving a foot; and who now was crowned with glory incorruptible, never to fade away. It seemed almost a privilege to follow in such a train, to assist at such an ovation. But when the procession had reached its appointed place, and the pageantry, withdrawing, left the coffin to be laid upon its tressels in the aisle of the church, and David's touching lament over frail mortality was poured forth, the joyousness of the preceding moments gave place to feelings sad and solemn, as the mind reverted to what man was at his bright creation, and what he is become through the entrance of sin and death. Scarcely could a handful of earth be selected from the ground whereon we stood, when the coffin was lowered to its final resting-place, which had not once been instinct with rational life, capable of glorifying God, whose is the body no less than the soul; and O, among the multitude who had there become dust, how sew might I dare to hope had so glorified him! Dark indeed is the history of man, as written on earth's surface in characters formed by its rising mounds; and again I rejoiced that another had been rescued ere he could list a hand, or form a thought in rebellion against his God. Still, rebellion was his inheritance; and the taint would have speedily showed itself in open acts of presumptuous sin, proving his natural claim to a rebel's doom; a portion of which, the penalty of bodily death, had already been awarded, in token that he was liable to the whole infliction; but the short history of that babe was beautifully summed up in one line of the wellknown epitaph; “He died, for Adam sinned: he lives, for Jesus died.”

As I passed where the carriages waited to convey the mourners back to their distant residence, I looked for the white plumes; but they were gone. It was well; for what had he farther to do with any of this world's idle show ! The earth had enclosed him, to open no more that portal, till she shall be called to yield up her dead, and to restore, in power and incorruption, what had been sown in weakness and dishonour. The white plumes, wherewith parental love had done honour to the baby’s obsequies, could honour him no longer; but white robes had glittered in heaven, and palms had waved, and harps of gold had been tuned, to welcome a lamb, from among the lost sheep, to the soft green pastures and fountains of living waters, where the good Shepherd tends his happy flock for ever.

O that we could realize these things more feelingly . We live in a shadowy world, and grasp at those shadows, as though they were the only real substance: while on that which endureth for ever we cast but now and then a transient thought, or stretch forth a wishful hand, without any real and vigorous effort to lay hold on eternal life. The trappings of woe are soon laid aside, and with them, too readily, the lesson that they perchance had brought to our reluctant minds. May the Holy Spirit, helping our infirmities, put life and meaning into the prayer too often mechanically uttered, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom '''

[ocr errors]

It has osten struck me, that one of the glaring evils characteristic of these latter days, that of despising dominion, is allowed to creep into places where it ought to be especially guarded against. It is not unusual among persons who profess to take the holy Scriptures as their daily and hourly guide, to hear the proceedings of those in highest authority commented on in a severe, censorious strain, for which there is no warrant in the word of God, and to which the whole tenor and spirit, no less than the letter, of our liturgical services are strongly opposed. Among the godly men who were raised up to be the reformers of our national religion, the fathers of our English Church, no feature perhaps mdre prominently marks their characters than that of reverence for the kingly authority, even when, by its dreadful abuse, they were led to the dungeon, the rack, and the stake. They saw in the reigning monarch God’s “chosen servant,” appointed to be their sovereign. They knew that, the hearts of kings being in his rule and governance, every ordinance, whether for present prosperity, or wholesome affliction, to the militant Church, dispensed through the hand of that vicegerent, was to be received as coming from Him by whom kings rule: and it would be difficult to collect, from the voluminous annals of even Mary's reign, instances of deviation from this heaven-taught principle of loyalty. Rebuke was indeed administered occasionally by those who,

coming as “ambassadors for Christ,”

delivered a message from him, even to crowned heads: but this was done reverently and carefully; while they who were commissioned so to do, ceased not to urge on their flocks the submission due from subjects to their sovereign. Intercessory prayer then held the place which is now too often usurped by severe animadversion. “Lord, open the King of England's eyes!” were the dying words of exiled Tyndal, when suffering strangulation at the stake in a foreign land; and many a beautiful prayer of like import is recorded of that noble army of martyrs. Are we wiser, or more enlightened than they 7 A royal deviation from the straight line, even in comparatively unimportant matters, cannot now be traced, but it calls forth a strain of observations such as our pious fathers would have silenced with no light rebuke: and the evil effects of this unguarded concurrence in what is, alas ! too justly termed the spirit of the age, are incalculable. In God's word we see the welfare of Christian subjects inseparably connected with the well-being of their king; and the scriptural means of promoting that well-being distinctly pointed out. “I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings and for all that

are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.” We do greatly err, if putting aside the governing powers that be, ordained of God, we seek good things for the country apart from the recognition of that ordinance. Do we recognise it aright, when, exercising what we conceive to be Christian liberty, we bandy severe remarks, even to the extent of speaking evil of dignities 2 Our sympathies are readily awakened by a scene of poverty and grief; why are they so deadened when contemplating the splendours that necessarily surround those who must often carry an aching head and anxious heart beneath the hereditary honours that devolve on them? How frequently do we find our own feet entangled in the snares spread by our crafty foe; and if every secret fall were publicly exposed, what a spectacle would the holiest of us become! Yet the humbling effect of this individual experience appears to be lost when the actions of the great come under review; though the enemy of mankind has a manifest interest in redoubling his efforts to ensnare them. It is well known that the revered father of our present king lived in the practice of continual intercession for his people; and that his prayer was accepted, let the stupendous mercies, the wondrous deliverance that exempted our nation from the scourge which desolated Europe, testify. Do we owe no debt of grateful love to the progeny of our Hezekiah 2 Does no secret consciousness of especial obligation bid English hearts respond to the Divine call, “Honour the king?” O, if one of us, yet vigorous in life and strength, with every advantage of spiritual knowledge, and deep experience of the loving-kindness of the Lord, were to-morrow exalted to that giddy height, and surrounded with those fearfully perplexing cares that it is now the lot of one aged individual to encounter, how would he look around upon the Church that hailed him its temporal head, and from the inmost recesses of a trembling heart, exclaim, “Brethren, pray for us!” Let no Christian be beguiled into the sin of omission in this most solemn and imperative duty; it is a sin that will be visited on his children's children. Be ours, in its full, its richly spiritual meaning, that sublime aspiration which the Holy Ghost put into the mouths of Israel's high-priest and faithful prophet of old: “God save the king: long live the king: may the king live for EveR '''

THE GIPSY.

“Do you want your fortune told, ma'am 7” said one of this outcast tribe, as we met, a short time ago, on a broad heath. I shrunk instinctively from the bold, half-laughing stare of her brilliant eyes, and, with a silent shake of the head, walked on. This was followed by a feeling of self-reproach, that I could not stifle: the circumstances were such, that I could not have spoken to the unhappy creature; for a number of carriages, donkeys, and disorderly persons, were there clustered together, on the occasion of some neighbouring fair or races; and I had difficulty in conducting two or three children over the disagreeable spot which we were obliged to pass. But the question forced itself on my mind, whether, if I had been so accosted under less unfavourable circumstances, I should have resisted the impulse of natural aversion, and addressed that poor depraved gipsy as an immortal soul, destined to an eternal, unchangeable state of being, and evidently hastening along the path of destruction. I could not satisfactorily answer my own query; there is no aptitude in the natural heart to such work; and it is idle to speculate on what we would do in circumstances merely suppositious. Many have, like Peter, vaunted, in the hour of safety, how boldly they would go to prison and to death for Christ's sake and the Gospel's, who, when the trial actually came, were made ashamed of their vain boasting, and denied their faith: others, shrinking with terror from the anticipated hour of temptation, in mistrust of their own experienced weakness, have, out of that weakness, been made so strong, that their names now stand enrolled among the boldest and brightest in the noble army of martyrs. The habit of fancying scenes and situations, with the part that we ourselves should take in them, is more hurtful than is generally supposed. “As thy day, so shall thy strength be,” is the promise

given; and we ought by no means to anticipate the day, seeing that we cannot anticipate or .calculate the measure of strength that God may see good to vouchsafe. But I must return to the gipsy. The rencontre with her gave rise to a long train of thought, which occupied me during the rest of my walk. I was near an abode of royalty, and could not but recall the touching anecdote of the beloved and venerated monarch George III., who, when hunting near Windsor once, with his characteristic tenderness of feeling, relinquished the enjoyment of the chase out of compassion to his exhausted horse, and, gently riding alone through an avenue of the forest, was led by the cry of distress to an open space, where, under a branching oak, on a little pallet of straw, lay a dying gipsy woman. Dismounting and hastening to the spot, his majesty anxiously inquired of a girl, who was weeping over the sufferer, “What, my dear child, can be done for you?” “Oh, sir, my dying mother wanted a religious person to teach her, and to pray with her before she died. I ran all the way before it was light this morning to Windsor, and asked for a minister, but no one could I find to come to pray with my dear mother.” The dying woman's agitated countenance bore witness that she understood and felt the cruel disappointment. The king-O lovely lesson for kings —exclaimed, “I am a minister; and God has sent me to instruct and comfort your mother.” Then, seating himself on a pack, he took the hand of the gipsy woman, showed the nature and demerit of sin, and pointed her to Jesus, the one and all-sufficient Saviour. His words appeared to sink deep into her heart; her eyes brightened, she looked up, she smiled; and, while an expression of peace stole over her pallid features, her spirit fled away, to bear a precious testimony before the King of kings, of that MINISTER’s faithfulness to his awful charge. When the party, who had missed their sovereign, and were anxiously searching the wood for him, rode up, they found him seated by the corpse, speaking comfort to the weeping children. The sequel is not less beautiful: I quote the words of the narrative. “He now rose up, put some gold into the hands of the afflicted girls, promised them, nis protection, and bade them look to Heaven. He then, wiped the tears from his eyes, and mounted his horse. His attendants, greatly affected, stood in silent admiration. Lord L. was going to speak; but his majesty, turning to the gipsies, and pointing to the breathless corpse, and to the weeping girls, said, with strong emotion, ‘Who, my lord, who, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto these ?”

Reader, do you hold in affectionate reverence the memory of this English Hezekiah, now gone to receive a brighter crown than earth can give 2 Let, then, his eloquent example plead with you, when God gives you opportunity of following it. You will occasionally meet a gipsy in your path, or some other poor wanderer from the ways of God, to whom you can deliver the message of reconciliation, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear; and you know not but the Lord may even then be awakening in that outcast's mind a desire for the teaching, that you, if you know Christ as your Saviour, can certainly afford. Remember the good king's words, and the high authority whence he quoted them. Ask yourself. “Who is neighbour unto this wounded soul ?” and strive to be that neighbour, pouring in the wine and oil of Christian consolation, if the case be one of awakened conscience; and if the spirit be yet lulled in the fatal slumber of habitual and allowed sin, sounding the call to awake, to arise from the dead, and receive light from Christ. However bright the eye, and ruddy the cheek, and active the frame, still the poor gipsy is dying, and so are you. Work while it is day; for the night cometh, when you can work no longer.

THE NEED LE.

IN my younger days I was very fond of a pretty poem entitled “A Prayer for Indifference.” I have since learned to pray for better things, and and to look for something more in literary composition than touching thought and graceful expression: but there is a stanza in that well-known little piece that I often think on, with a different application indeed:

“Nor peace nor ease the heart can know,
That, like the needle true,
Turns at the touch of joy or woe,
And turning, trembles too.”

The property of the magnetic needle being to point due north, whatever unsettles its position produces a wavering tremulous motion, perhaps causing it to diverge greatly from its right aim, but never inducing it to fix, to rest, until it has recovered that position How truly, how strikingly does this portray the state of a heart, which, having been touched by the magnet of Divine love, finds its point of attraction in Christ, and can, by the force of that attraction, without any visible aid, remain steady, as though bound by many cords, looking to him alone. Hold forth to such a believer any other refuge, any other hope, and it is as when you suddenly reverse a mariner's compass: the needle surprised for an instant out of its right point, hurries round, eagerly seeking that from which it had been involuntarily diverted, and again settling with undeviating precision. So the heart, rightly influenced, starts away from any suggestion that would alienate it from its Lord, exclaiming, as it flies to him, “Whom have I in heaven but thee ? and there is none on earth that I desire beside thee.” In proportion, also, to the force and abruptness of the foreign and momentary impulse, is the jealous speed with which it is resisted and overcome. Has not the Christian felt his heart, as it were, spring back to Jesus, with somewhat of indignant velocity, when aught else has been set forth as a source of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, or redemption to him 7

But there is another species of distress much more trying than this. We sometimes see the compass, from being held in an unsteady hand, communicating to the needle a constant trembling motion, so that, while pointing aright, it still does not rest. This uneasy appearance gave rise to the poetical comparison already alluded to, and illustrates a state of mind familiar to multitudes of God's children. Peace and ease they cannot be said to know, being kept continually doubting whether they do indeed look unto Jesus in the way that he would have them. Conscience bears them witness that they are looking to nothing else; that they neither seek nor wish for rest in any other quarter; and that the desire of their souls is to make him their chief joy: but, either through infirmity of faith or knowledge, or else from having their minds and spirits unconsciously affected by bodily ailment, or from other causes foreign to their will, and beyond their control, they continue trembling, doubting, desponding. Not having a steady and clear view of Christ, they question their interest in him; these distressing doubts deaden and distract their prayers; such dead, distracted prayers farther obscure their already embarrassed view; and so the heart, uncertain of its portion, and tempted to look more to its own wavering frame, than to Him who cannot waver, and substituting feeling for faith, “Turns at the touch of joy or woe, And turning, trembles too.”

There is a spiritual joy, and a spiritual woe, alike inimical to spiritual peace and ease. Excitement, on the one hand, will, in religion as in other things, produce a state of collapse, the more overwhelming from the contrast connected with it. Overmuch sorrow will swallow up the comforts that God has provided for his mourning children, and be nothing the better for them. Extreme depression certainly wrongs the Lord, though it is, perhaps, a safer state than undue elation; and peace, rest, ease, are found only in such a fixed view of Christ, as presents him constantly to the soul as Him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, out of whose fulness we have received whatever is ours, although it be but the knowledge of our emptiness, and may demand whatsoever we require, on the strength of that promise, “My God shall supply all your need, according to the riches of his grace in Christ Jesus.” It is no uncommon thing for the Christian to sit down and number over his gifts, until he forgets that he is still, in himself. wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked ; or else to stretch himself along in utter despondency, restraining prayer for more, because he feels that as yet he has received but little in comparison with the acquirements of others, and his own desires. The heart may be “like the needle true” to its own sugges

tions and misgivings; but let it be true to Christ alone, and it shall know both peace and ease, in the consciousness that he is pledged, for time and eternity, to be its strength, its portion, its sufficiency, its ALL.

THE COWERT.

ATTENDING lately some lectures on electricity, I was struck by the earnestness with which the speaker dissuaded his auditors from yielding to the temptation of taking refuge under an oak, during a thunder-storm. He described this king of the forest as being the most unsafe of all apparent shelters, from its peculiar tendency to attract the electric fluid ; illustrating, by experiments, the fearful consequences of the invited shock. The subject long occupied my mind, giving rise to reflections of more deep and solemn interest than the apprehensions of mere bodily destruction could excite.

When the judgments of the Lord are abroad upon the earth, when the thunder of his reproof is heard, and the lightning of his awakened wrath flashes before the startled eye of man, the sinner, consciencestruck, will look around, seeking a covert from the storm. In less alarming seasons he found a shelter that seemed to answer all his purposes—some system of man's devising; a stately specimen, it may be: of the wisdom that is from beneath. A religion of forms, and words, and sentiments, has perhaps often helped to ward off the little peltings of a passing cloud, and moderated, or seemed to moderate, the scorching rays of temptation. It has helped to keep him externally decent; while others, who lacked such a shelter, walked about openly discomfited and defiled. Why should he now question its powers of defence 2 In vain is he cautioned, in vain admonished, that he trusts in a refuge of lies, and, by so doing, hastens to a swifter and more sure destruction. He credits not the warning voice; he clings to his old covert, his own righteousness, his moral respectability, his stated duties of lip-service and will-worship; and there he abides, until the fiery bolt descends, cleaving his vain defence, and smiting him with everlasting destruc.

« السابقةمتابعة »