صور الصفحة

prayer; it shows him his poverty, and opens at his feet a mine of wealth; it displays the feebleness of his naked hands, and gives him armour of proof-weapons wherewith he may pull down the strongholds of his enemy. I desire—because I greatly need it—to have the poor peasant's distinction ever before me, with David's prayer, “Keep thy servant also from presumptuous sins;” and, in reference to those around me, the Apostle's indignant expostulation, “Who are thou that judgest another man’s servant?” The habit of censuring others goes hand in hand with that of applauding self; and it is no unprofitable exercise to watch the risings of the former inclination in our hearts, that by its guidance we may detect the latter. O, the preciousness of that Book which is able to make the basest and most despised of our ignorant fellow-creatures wise unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus! This poor man had been brought up in strict and bigoted adherence to a system which throws the sinner altogether upon his own will-worship and meritorious works, for acceptance before God. Yet the entrance of that word, in its single majesty and simple truth, gave him such light as dispersed every shadow from his darkened understanding, and taking him off from all vain dependencies, threw him entirely upon the guidance of Him who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

[ocr errors]

ONE of the innumerable beauties of Scripture narrative is the bold and free, yet delicate, touch wherewith the inspired writers were enabled so to sketch the outline of a character as to bring the individual before us more vividly than a finished painting, executed by other hands, could do. In Boaz we have a striking instance of this. The short book of Ruth introduces him to us in three situations only : first, as superintending his reapers in the fields; then, as receiving his kinswoman's appeal; and, lastly, as effecting the redemption of the patrimony. Yet, brief as the recital is, I think we seel, while reading it, an intimate acquaint

anceship with Boaz, and a more than ordinary degree of respect for his character, grounded on that knowledge. There is something so decided, so manly, honourable, straightforward, and, withal, so essentially wise and judicious, in this noble specimen of an ancient believer, that we are attracted by the description, and never doubt but that, is Boaz were now living, and within our reach, we should bestow on him a large share of our confiding friendship. The first appearance of Boaz is very striking: he comes from Bethlehem, to overlook his extensive harvest-men, and salutes them, “The Lord be with you !” a greeting not often heard in our fields from master to man. He then casts his eye on Ruth, and, having ascertained who and what she is, addresses her in language so beautifully paternal, taking at the same time such care, not only for her personal comfort, but for her fair fame, that we are constrained to share in her grateful admiration of his unexpected courtesy. Then, again, the refined delicacy of his order, privately given to the young men, to scatter in her way the corn which she came to glean, so as to increase her gains without the appearance of bestowing an alms, is a shining point in this beautiful picture. The sobriety, kindness, and rectitude of feeling, with which he answers her subsequent appeal, when lying at his feet, partakes of the same delicacy as the former; while the plain, business-like proceeding of the next day, conducted, however, with a tact that shows he was not a little interested in the nearer kinsman's anticipated refusal, completes the character; exciting in the mind a feeling of gratification, that to one so singularly loveable as Boaz should belong the high honour of being, within three generations, the parent of David. How is it that we meet so rarely with persons of this stamp, in the daily walks of life among even the truly spiritual 7 There seems in Boaz a certain fearlessness of dispositon that would have prevented his holding back the truth under any circumstances, whether addressing the day-labourer, the attractive young female, or the elder in the gate. I could not dovetail the character of Boaz into any plan of expediency, so much in vogue among us; nor fancy him shrinking from the straight course in any matter, on a comparison of the probable numbers who might be with him or against him in that path. Simplicity and godly sincerity mark the man: they do not abound among us as might be wished. Personal interest, secret prejudice, and a most unworthy timidity, greatly mar the beauty of the Christian walk. When fully convinced that such or such a course is accordant with the known will of God, and likely to produce happy effects in glorifying him and promoting the cause of truth, how often do we see that open path abandoned on the strength of the miserable apprehension, “What will the world think? What will my neighbours say?” Rashness is a mischievous error; but is not fearfulness the sin of our day? Do we not regulate our proceedings, our demeanour, and discourse, rather by the rule of men's liking, than by that of their palpable need? Some, seeing their friends lukewarm and indifferent on points which, nevertheless, they know to be of great moment, refrain from attempting to stir them up, lest their own influence should be lessened by coming in contact with the prejudices of the other party; that is to say, they let their sword rust in the scabbard while surrounded by enemies, for fear the blade might flash too brightly in the eyes of some drowsy comrade, who prefers sleeping to fighting. Others, again, withhold their hand from doing good when fairly called upon to do it, apprehensive that some may suspect their motives, however upright they may be in the sight of Him who searcheth the hearts. This error, with a long train of consequences deducible from it, may be traced through every order of men, marring their usefulness in the church, the senate, the profession, the family, the workshop, and, perhaps, more than all others, the press. Satan's emissaries have no such qualms; they utter fearlessly their boldest conceptions, and push the practical application of evil principles into universal operation. It is among those who have the right on their side that we trace the hesitating caution which ought rather to belong to their opponents. And what is the consequence 3 They discourage the zealous, impede the active, thwart their allies, and help the enemy; at the same

time earning from the former the title of time-servers, which, perhaps, they do not deserve; and from the latter, that of double-faced hypocrities, which they certainly are not.

Decision is the prominent characteristic of Boaz. He does not whisper his pious greeting in the ears of such among the reapers as he knows will value and respond to it, but proclaims his acknowledgment of, and dependence on, the Lord, through every corner of the field, so soon as he sets foot in it. He does not secretly say, “My young men will suspect something, if I manifest concern for that engaging young woman, therefore I will keep it to myself;” but lays on them an injunction, expressive of a lively interest, yea, a marked partiality, the origin of which they might not know. He does not invite the other kinsman to a private conference, and try to manoeuvre him into a surrender of his right, but boldly takes his seat in the most public part of the city, and executes his honest, though clever design, before the world. The more I contemplate Boaz, the greater are my respect and asfection for him; and the heartier my desires to see him acknowledged, not merely in words but by deeds, as a model for God-fearing men, in every grade of society, and every walk of life; more particularly among such as, by property or public station, possess the influence of Boaz, and whose example goes far to encourage or to reprove the timid, temporising, inconsistent spirit, that forms a wrinkle, a spot, and a blemish, on that which ought to be presented before God free from any such thing.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

roof; and I believe it is the case to the present time. No scientific inquiries, no stores of astronomical knowledge, are concerned. It is one of those predilections, or involuntary associations, that neither time nor change can affect; unless, as the lapse of the one, and the bereavements of the other, draw closer the tie that endearing recollections have strengthened with every passing year. Many a wild and beautiful thought of childhood, many a romantic idea of opening youth, many a soothing reflection of riper years, seem to hang in clusters upon the magic form of Orion; revealing themselves to me, while I gaze “in dreamy mood” upon its familiar outline. In all there is a sweetness known only to such as love to look into the past: but more than the luxury of reveries I have found in that constellation. I can realise the scene with heart-thrilling accuracy, when one glimpse of that bright phantom as it then seemed, was worth to me all the splendour of a thousand noon-day suns. My nominal home was then in another hemisphere; the Atlantic rolled between me and all that could constitute a home. Winter, such as our England knows not, nor can conceive of had set in with a severity unusual even in that climate. At a very late hour I was returning from a scene of giddy mirth, where the laugh and the song had fettered a youthful party round the suppertable until midnight struck unheeded, and a reluctant separation sent them on their respective paths. Mine lay along a track sufficiently defined by the tread of many feet, and the pressure of many sleighs; but on either side of the unbroken, though undulating, surface of snow stretched off in the dreariest monotony imaginable. To the right it terminated in low lands, and the undistinguishable course of a river; on the left, a drift, that covered with its swell the intersecting views of wooden fence—-for no hedge-rows blossom there—became by degrees level with a higher range of fields; then, sinking for a space, it rose again at the horizon, not in the flat line that marked the opposite extremity, but in those peculiar masses that show a sorest, or rather an impenetrable wood of low, thick trees to be buried beneath them. We had ascended a rising ground, which shut out the cluster of

houses recently quitted; and the onward path was lost in a confused distance. Perhaps there is no time when the mind so eagerly turns inward, to brood again over an habitual sorrow, as at the close of a sustained effort to appear light-hearted and serene. It was my case, with many aggravations, just then ; and the desolateness of that frozen scenery was but a type of the dreary waste that my spirit displayed. I walked forward, endeavouring to fancy myself alone; and with gloomy satisfaction, if such a word was then admissable, I secretly claimed the character of an outcast from all that was pleasant, all that was cheering, all that was allied to joy, or hope, or consolation, in a cold and comfortless world. In this mood I looked slowly around me, then raised my eyes in listless abstraction, above the heavy line of snow-capped woods, and there, sparkling among myriads of stars, with an effulgency as indescribable as was the piercing keenness of the atmosphere, I beheld Orion. And in Orion I beheld my distant, longlost home ; I remembered the magnificent limes that shaded my favourite walk; I saw the tall spire of the venerable minster, from behind which the constellation used to steal upon my sight; I beheld the purple clusters of the vine that mantled my father's house, and the smiling faces that rejoiced beneath them. What though the abode was now another's home, and the party scattered, and the paternal head laid low in the dust beneath that massive cathedral roof, and in the scenes that rose to my mental view I could never, never more rejoice; still, for a moment—and such a moment too, of mid-winter without and within—they were again my own, with all their sunbeams and flowers, glad looks and loving smiles. My heart beat freely, my step rose lightly; and when the short sweet vision dissolved in tears, they were tears of resignation, almost of thankfulness. Any sensation is preferable to that of a warm and loving heart striving, against its nature, to become a misanthropic icicle; and from such a wretched struggle Orion had delivered me. It will be evident that at the time refer. red to, I had not learned to take heed to the light shining in a dark place, nor to watch for the rising of the day-star in my heart. I considered the heavens the work of God's fingers, but without a reserence to the vileness of man, or the amazing love of God in Christ to him. In fact, I knew neither the one nor the other. I grieved not as a sinner, but as a susferer; and the consolation to be drawn from visible things well suited an earthly nature. Far higher and holier thoughts are now interwoven with those splendid monuments of Divine power—the architecture of the heavens. But though sin atoned for, and salvation wrought out, and an incorruptible, undefiled, unfading inheritance laid up for God’s people, are the substance of the tale which the heavens are telling to earth ; still a soft and shadowy recollection of all that sweetened or that saddened bygone times, cleaves to the starry forms that won my childish attention, and have hovered around my path to this hour. They are chroniclers of much that would otherwise be forgotten, and which it is profitable to remember. They tell a tale of sin, of ingratitude, rebellion, and presumptuous pride, on the one side; of long-suffering mercy, sorbearance, forgiveness, and blessing, on the other; cf dangers wantonly dared, and deliverances miraculously wrought. With a voice more eloquent than angel’s tongue could utter, they deliver the admonitory words, “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee, these forty years, in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, and whether thou wouldst keep his commandments or no.”

[ocr errors][merged small]

a circuit of some miles must be made to reach the only track by which the ascent can be gained, and that, aster a short space, disappears, leaving the traveller to his own choice, in the four hours’ hard labour by which he may expect to reach the pinnacle of his ambition. And little of a traveller's soul can he possess who does not consider that attainment an abundant recompense for his toil. Viewing Slieve Donard's height from the demesne, I had remarked what appeared an object about as large as an ordinary mile-stone, topping its crest; and, although making all reasonable allowance for the deception that so vast an altitude might occasion as to size, I was amazed to find myself within a heap of stones, the irregular outline of which might probably enclose as much ground as a moderatesized dwelling-house stands upon. In some places the wall thus formed was several seet in thickness, and between seven and eight in height: at other points only a few scattered stones marked the boundary of the principal heap, within which was a well of excellent water, and close beside it a large slab of dark grey stone, supported by heaps of various dimensions, and formerly used as a Romish altar. Amid the exultation that naturally sollowed the success of our arduous undertaking, and the enjoyment of plentiful good cheer rendered delicious by the sharp edge that satigue and our elevated position, with the help of a rough sea-breeze, had imparted to our appetites; in spite, too, of the overpowering extent of our magnificent view, embracing England and Scotland in its range; I felt oppressed at heart, and could have stolen away—in truth, I did steal away--from the merry group, to indulge the sadness that I could not dispel. What extent of effort was requisite to bring an active unencumbered frame to that spot, I had sensible experience of in every limb and sinew; yet the stones that by hundreds and thousands lay heaped about me, many of which I could not, by any exertion, have listed from the earth, had all been brought from the plain below by the hands of devotees to the blinding and destroying system of ~ popery. It cannot be doubted, that my feeling,

in the first instance, was one of deepest compassion for my deluded fellow-sinners, and increased abhorrence of that crasty device, which, by making merchandise of their souls, maintains itself in supreme power, and holds them in abject bondage. The prevailing impression, however, was of a more personal nature. I read a rebuke in every object before me. Calculating the ponderosity of the to the length and extreme laboriousfiess of the way, and considering the debility probably induced alike by the privations of poverty and the imposed exercise of fasting, how could I look upon the evidences of what a false religion could stimulate its votaries to achieve, without being struck to the heart by a consciousness of my own fearful lack of zeal and devotion in what I KNow to be the truth ? Many a poor, emaciated creature had, “for the glory of God,” as they term and consider it, borne those burdens up to the spot where I found them: how often had I, for the glory of God, encountered as large an amount of labour, suffering, and privation? Many a diseased creature had dragged his feeble, perhaps crippled, limbs and exhausted frame to the top of Slieve Donard, to plunge them in the so-called holy well, hoping to find a healing power in its spring. Alas for my careless, lagging, reluctant steps, over smooth, and even flowery paths, to bring my death-stricken soul within reach of the waters of eternal life

The error of the poor Irish devotee consisted in attaching a notion of merit to his difficult service, and in supposing that thereby he made God his debtor to a certain amount. My sin lay in the habitual neglect of far easier duties, by the performance of which I might before men manifest somewhat of gratitude for the free gift of what the poor papist blindly toiled to purchase, and toiled to the last in vain. The conviction that struck me so deeply was this: I confess daily that it is my bounden duty to yield myself a living sacrifice to the Lord, and to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Now here is an evidence of what may be accomplished when those faculties are really and in earnest devoted to an object and an end ; and what have I ever done, or attempted, even with the offered strength of Omipotence to aid me, equal to the car

rying of one of these stones, srom the beach yonder, to this elevated spot? Bodily exercise, I know, profiteth little; and I might bring the church of Newcastle, lying far below, to the crown of Slieve Donard, and be farther from the kingdom of God at the close than at the commencement of such a task; but have I ever put forth my energies, to serve God in the Gospel of his Son, with the honesty wherewith these poor people have exerted themselves to serve them which be no gods? From the depths of self-abasement I even ventured then to cast a thought beyond myself, and asked, Are Protestants, enlightened, unfettered, spiritually instructed Protestants, as much in earnest in Christ's cause as these their degraded fellow-subjects are in that of antichrist? I fear we are too willing to act and to suffer according to the will of God, as they ignorantly are to strain every nerve in violating that will. A thousand instances in my own experience, where a little extra self-denial, a little more determined energy and perseverance in an unpleasant task, might have greatly redounded to the glory of God and the good of his people, arose to my remembrance, filling my eyes with tears, and my heart with remorse. And often, when tempted to flag in some work and labour of God I do hope that I shall, by the Lord's blessing, find a powerful stimulus in the recollection of that broken heap of stones on the lofty summit of Slieve Donard.

[ocr errors]

Of all the footmarks that betray the conquering tread of Satan over the blighted fields, originally created so fair and so good, there surely is none more unequivocally his own stamp than that of cruelty. . He who has proclaimed his name, “the Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious,” is never more insultingly braved than when man, the creature of his hand, dares to exercise the power delegated to him for the benefit of his fellowearthworms, in oppressing and torturing them. To a mind not hardened against all right feeling, even the gratification of surveying rare and beautiful specimens of living animals is embittered by a degree

« السابقةمتابعة »