Page images

present day, there is, at least in one respect, a striking contrast: theirs was the religion of contemplation, ours of action: they were more in solitude, and in the closet; we in active exertion in the cause of God. It is likely that we have improved upon them in the latter point; but we have lost much, it is to be feared, with regard to the former. No invidious reflexion upon later times, is designed by this parallel. I am aware, that at the distance of two centuries, when men are known only by their writings and their biographies, a soft and solemn shade is thrown over every unpleasing feature, while a disproportioned prominence is given to the good just as the shades of even-tide impart a charm to the most ordinary landscape; revealing nothing but its nobler features, and investing them with the interesting and solemn garb of partial obscurity. Yet, upon one point at least, the Christians of that age seem to have possessed undisputed superiority. They had a scriptural indifference, not to say contempt, of death. It would convey a very imperfect idea of the sentiments they felt upon this point, to say they were not afraid of their last enemy. In imitation of their Lord, not a few of them" made a shew of it openly, triumphing over it." They were "more than conquerors." "If this be dying," exclaimed one of them in his last hours, "dying is sweet let no true Christian ever be afraid of dying! Death, it is nothing! I long to be with Christ *." There seems to be but one satisfactory mode of accounting for this difference; namely, by assigning it to their more exalted notions of communion with God, and their consequent abstraction from the world, for the purposes of meditation and


Life of John Janeway. Those who are best acquainted with the biographies of that period, will allow that this is no more than a sample of the spirit of the times. How different from the morbid anxieties which invest the subject of death, in the believers of a later day!

sacred intercourse with Heaven. How much importance they attached to contemplative piety, we may perceive by the rules which Baxter and others of the same school have left behind them upon the subject. Their conversation was in heaven; from whence also with undiverted gaze they ever looked for the appearing of their Lord! In modern days, contemplative religion is mournfully neglected. How few of us devote to it more than minutes, where these men counted hours. The effect upon us, with regard to death, is, as might be expected. When the king of terrors-for, alas! he still retains his title-presents himself, whether by vivid pictures. to the imagination, or by his more formidable heralds of sickness and decay, we are startled at the sight. He comes upon us unawares: he is a stranger, and wears a frowning aspect. And even supposing that we are not unfit for his awful summons, we accept it with the anxiety of one who is suddenly placed in circumstances of unexpected peril. The mind must be wound up, its force concentrated, its energies condensed, before it is prepared for the encounter: and in the mean while all is confusion and alarm!

4. Once more, we fear death, because we distrust the promises of God. We do not in general expect such perfect deliverance as the Scriptures, if I mistake not, entitle us to seek. Our aim is too low, and our actual attainments are even lower. If it be true that the word of God assures the believer of an entire victory over the painful dread of death; so that he shall meet it with the composure of one who lies down to sleep in the hope of waking up in heaven; then it will be at once conceded, that these consolations are not to be obtained by doubting the possibility of their accomplishment, nor by entertaining the suspicion that there are circumstances in our own peculiar case, mental or physical, mountains of impossibility which cannot be thrown down, and

cast into the sea by the omnipotence of God! With reference to such objections, it is a just and rational, because a scriptural, exhortation; "Only believe; all things are possible to him that believeth."

I leave these few hints to serve as the basis of a more extensive inquiry, which those who are inte rested in the subject will probably institute for themselves. May the conclusion at which they shall arrive be equally satisfactory to the understanding, and cheering to the heart! May they at once perceive and enjoy the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free! It is not asserted that serenity in the contemplation of death, or victory in its last assault, are to be regarded as essential evidences that we are in a state of grace. The experience of the servants of God is diversified by endless varieties in mental, moral, and physical constitution. It is possible, for instance, barely possible I would hope, that before the grace of God began to illuminate the soul, the dread of death may, in a few cases, have obtained so firm a lodgement within, as to be ever afterwards invincible. But the contest I have engaged in, is for the general principle, and will not be much affected by objections drawn from extreme or doubtful cases. Has the Saviour promised to his people deliverance from the fear of death? then, are these promises fulfilled in our own experience? These are the two questions into which the subject must be resolved and I fear that too many of the church of Christ will find it not less difficult to give an affirmative reply to the latter, than to disprove the former of them.

J. B. M.


Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.

THERE is a richness and value in the Old Testament in reference to the conduct of life which is not

sufficiently noticed or made use of. I should much like to see in your pages a series of papers from some correspondent well versed in that portion of the inspired volume, and its application to the practical circumstances of duty; pointing out the maxims, morals, and spiritual instruction to be derived from those narratives which are often passed over as not directly instructive. I will offer, almost at hazard, one or two illustrations.

For instance, in 2 Kings xii. we find an account of the management of the funds collected for repairing the breaches of the temple. They consisted, we are told, "of the money that every man was set at, and the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord;" that is, of a fixed rate, and of voluntary donations. We may infer from this a lesson applicable to modern church-building and religious and charitable purposes; a lesson the more important at a time when all public support is sought to be withdrawn from religious and charitable purposes, and the grants to such objects are every year being retrenched. We have here, also, the precedent of the first "missionary box" on record: for “ Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar on the right side as one cometh into the house of the Lord; and the priests that kept the door put therein all the money that was brought into the house of the Lord;" where they allowed it to accumulate till it became a considerable sum, when they "told it and put it into bags." I will notice only one circumstance more: "They reckoned not with the men into whose hands they delivered the money to be bestowed upon workmen; for they dealt faithfully." This could not and ought not to be made a literal precedent; for it is indispensable to the affairs of a modern charity that there should be a careful supervision and control over the receipts and disbursements; but

the spirit of the passage ought to be
carried into effect; so that the con-
ductors may be dealt with in an
honourable and liberal manner;
choosing such men as are likely to
"deal faithfully," and when chosen
treating them in a spirit of Christian
confidence and generosity, not as
peculators who are making unjust
gains in the administration of their
trust, but as good stewards who
are anxious to discharge it, from the
purest motives, and as in the sight
of God, and who would themselves
wish the fullest investigation of
every transaction, but who, in the
innocence of their hearts, cannot but
be pained at suspicions and surmises
which they feel to be undeserved.
There has been of late a grievous
want of right feeling on this sub-
ject. Some years since a few officers
of our religious societies were per-
haps too much permitted to devise
their own measures, to choose their
own agents, and to manage the funds
of the charity with scarcely any
control; and it may be that the
frailty of human nature was not
always proof against an undue ex-
ercise of their trust; I do not
mean in the way of peculation, or
direct personal advantage; but by
permitting things to go on too la-
vishly, too much through private
interest, and with too little check
upon subordinate agents, and others
who, perhaps, made a gain of godli-
ness. The matter has however been
greatly exaggerated; for in the main
I feel persuaded the conductors of
our religious charities have acted
wisely, disinterestedly, and pru-
dently. But even allowing all that
the most captious or suspicious have
surmised, still it is not right to ex-
change the generous confiding spirit
which so honourably distinguished
the friends of our religious societies,
for a narrow, suspicious, and irri-
tating distrust, as if every com-
mittee-man, secretary, and director
of a charitable institution were a
hypocrite and a cheat. If they are
not persons whom the subscribers

can trust as likely to "deal faith-
fully" to the best of their judgment,
let them be exchanged, and better
men substituted: but if they are,
let them not be hampered with con-
stant annoying cavils, as if the pre-
sumption were that they wished to
every shilling of the society
subservient to some private selfish
purpose; that they "took a chest
and bored a hole in the lid of it,"
not that they might "put the
money in bags" for repairing the
temple of the Lord, but in order
to subtract it for some purpose of
their own. The manner in which
the agents of our societies have of
late been assailed, is enough to make
Christian and honourable men, who
wish to deal faithfully," withdraw
themselves from their post: having
to debate and haggle over every
item of their proceedings, as if the
subscribers were examining the ac-
counts of a fraudulent bankrupt, and
not calmly investigating the mea-
sures of honest and worthy men,
who at much labour and expense
of time, and perhaps of money, are
devoting themselves to the unthank-
ful office of almoners of the public

I will notice another passage illustrative of the kind of Old-Testament instruction to which I have referred : "And it fell on a day that Elisha passed to Shunem where was a great woman, and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was that as oft as he passed by he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now I perceive that this is a holy man of God which passeth by us constantly; let us make a little chamber I pray thee on the wall, and let us set for him there a bed and a table and a stool and a candlestick; and it shall be when he cometh to us that he shall turn in thither." Both clergy and laity may learn a lesson from this narrative. Here was a residence provided, with the simple comforts of life, and entertainment for the prophet and his


servant, according to the customs of the age and country. We may infer what should be the ungrudging liberality of the laity, and what the moderate contented habits of the clergy. The woman was 66 great woman," perhaps as we should say in modern language an heiress or lady of rank in her own right; and she induced her husband to form this simple endowment for the spiritual instruction of the family and neigh. bourhood. Applied to our own age and country, it might be fairly translated into a suitable village parsonage, and a reasonable stipend, for the purposes of temporal comfort and spiritual usefulness. This proper provision ought the laity cheerfully to grant and with this should the clergy he content; not making their office a passport to personal aggrandizement, but occupying their allotted post of usefulness to the glory of God, and the best welfare of mankind.



Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.

I HAVE read, not without interest, many papers which have appeared in your magazine, and elsewhere, respecting the Apocalyptic seals, vials, and trumpets, the 1260 years, and various other subjects of inspired prophecy; but when I close these human lucubrations, when I lay aside Frere, and Faber, and Drummond, and Irving, and twenty other expositors, and simply take up the sacred text, I find it impossible to think that Daniel and St. John, as inspired by the Holy Ghost, really alluded to the events which uninspired writers so familiarly bring before us as the key to their prophecies. May it not be, that our expositors begin their work upon a wrong foundation? Their minds are full of Constantine and Alaric, of Charles V. and Bona

parte, of Phocas and Justinian, of Greece and Turkey, and France and Belgium, of the Revolution of 1792, and now the revolutions of 1830: and, with all this mist of facts floating around them, they go to the word of God, and begin to adapt the oracles of Divine Writ to their systems of speculation. If I were to put the Apocalypse into the hands of a man of piety and sound sense, who happened never to have heard of any of these human expositions, and were to ask him what he thought was the meaning of some of the obscure visions in that hallowed book, would not his answer be, "I pretend not to know; and I am content to wait for a solution till the hour when all things shall be revealed. I, however, see and understand enough to impress upon my mind those feelings of devout awe, reverence, and admiration which these sublime passages are calculated to inspire; besides which, I can gather a general meaning and much spiritual and valuable information, though I cannot give a critical account of the application of each part of the imagery, or of the chronology of the events, or the precise fulfilment of any one of the visions?"

In short, sir, if a man were to reject one and all of these human interpretations, and to say at once that he found nothing about the French Revolution in the word of God, and did not know but the world and the present dispensation may last for tens or hundreds of thousands of years longer, can it be shewn that he would reject any one iota of the sacred oracles, or that he did more than refuse to bend to humanly imposed expositions of them? Would any plain man, who had never heard of human expositors, conclude from the sacred text alone that the world is nearly at an end; with much more, that it has come to be thought by many persons almost impious to disbelieve? I, for one, am inclined to

think we shall never read the prophecies aright, till we unlearn most that we have learned from their uninspired illustrators, and use them rather for spiritual medicine, than for intellectual speculation.



(Continued from page 664.) 15. On the Lord's Supper.Among the various methods, used by those who labour and long to see what they will never see-the church pure, have they ever called in to their aid the reducing to practice the first sentence in the Rubric before the Communion? The notice here required may be given in writing, at the vestry or to the Clerk.

[ocr errors]

happens that two, and on one oc-
casion three, collects are appointed
for the day, and some officiating
ministers read both collects a second
time. Much may be said for and
against this practice. If ever it be
allowable to omit the latter of the
two, it is then when the length of
the service pleads in behalf of the
omission. 66
Mercy," in this case,
"is better than sacrifice." A de-
clarative Rubric seems wanting in
this place.

18. On the title of the Epistle.When the portion of Scripture preceding the Gospel, is taken out of any other part of the Bible than the Epistles, the second title, "The portion of Scripture appointed for the Epistle," &c. is to be read, instead of "the Epistle," &c. This happens no less than twenty-four times in the year. In all these cases the portion of Scripture is entitled "for the Epistle," whereas all the rest are headed" the Epistle." It is very negligent to confound these titles, the distinction in which a moment's reflexion will point out.

[ocr errors]

The "repelling" here spoken of in the third sentence, and the "calling and advertising" in the second, are synonymous; and are supposed to be done before the time of adminis tering. If such persons, so called upon and advertised, so repelled, 19. On the title of the Gospel.— presume to come, they come as Until lately, we rarely heard the supposed penitents; and therefore proper title, "The holy Gospel,' we, who know not the heart, must announced: it was given out as not then and there refuse them the "The Gospel." elements. "To their own Master they stand or fall." We are not lords over God's heritage: we ought not to wish to have dominion over the faith of any man: we are but ministers-servants of the servants of God. See No. 3, on the Lord's Prayer.

Some ministers kneel in the antecommunion service, whereas they ought to stand during the whole.

16. On the collect for the king. --Standing as before; that is, as the minister is ordered in the last sentence in the Rubric before the Lord's Prayer, "at the north side of the table," with his face to the south; not to the west, as if addressing the people, but like Hezekiah, who turned from his attendants to the wall.

17. On the second reading of the collect for the day. It sometimes

We sometimes hear added to the Gospel, these words, "Here endeth the Gospel," or, in a mistaken imitation of the Epistle, " Thus endeth the Gospel;" but both are wrong, not being appointed. Such a sentence was appointed to be read, by the Prayer-book of Edward the Sixth: but it was afterwards omitted; why, it is hard to say.

As this addition of the clergyman is unauthorized now, equally so are the sentences generally said (with some variation) by the clerk, or sung, "Glory be to thee, O Lord;" "Thanks be given to thee, O Lord," &c. In some places, one of these sentences is said before the Gospel, and the other after it: where only one is used or sung, it is used before the Gospel, and the general form is, 'Glory be to thee, O Lord."

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »