Page images
PDF
EPUB

they are only signs. A cloud as a man's hand arises out of the ocean; the floods, we augur, are at hand. The shaft is sunk into the mine; we have seen already specimens of the mineral we are to expect; (as, for example, in the contribution of £5,000 towards the building of the new churches in the metropolis, from "One seeking treasure in heaven:"-to this may be added, £6,000 to the Church Missionary Society, by one who styles himself "Less than the least;"-but the vein will soon be fully opened. Then shall it be again, as in the days of Solomon, when silver was nothing accounted of in Jerusalem.

[ocr errors]

Do I, my dear friends, appear to you to raise the standard of Christian beneficence too high? Are there any secret objections working in your minds against the practicability of what I am recommending to you? What are those objections? I would, if possible, remove every scruple and difficulty. You may, perhaps, be disposed to urge, "The claims of my own family are great; by the time I have provided for my own household, I find little or nothing remaining for charitable purposes.' Remaining! what, then charity forms no part of your actual expenditure; it is not an item in your regular accounts; you give God none of the ore, but only the scoria, if I may so speak, of your fortunes; your libation to God is not from the brim of an overflowing cup, but from the bottom, from the dregs. The principle on which you set out is wrong. God first, and then the remainder to other purposes, should be the principle of domestic economy. But, now what are these claims of your family, which shut up the hand of liberality? Are your children in want of food, or clothing, or needful education? Are they naked, hun

gry, ignorant? No; they have no very pressing wants at present. Indeed! then I can show you those who have many a Lazarus lying at your gate, without home, without bread, without friends, and full of putrifying sores. Dare you pamper your children with many coats, while thousands want one? Dare you feed them on luxuries, while thousands ask for crumbs ? Who was it that said, " he that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none?" You answer, "that was a proverb." Oh! take heed, lest it become a by-word. Have you forgotten the feast which God hath chosen: "Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out into thy house; when thou seest the naked that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh ?" (Isaiah lviii. 7.) But it is very possible that you are liberal in showing kindness to the poor, in relieving their temporal wants. So far well. Shall we, therefore, conclude that you have done all that you can ? That is the point to be considered. What great sacrifices have you made? A little occasional charity; a loaf, a garment, or a few shillings: these cost you but little. What do you give towards the relief of the spiritual necessities of your fellow men? Have you ever given largely as God counts largeness? ever lived more selfdenyingly, that you might bestow more freely? If not, you have to show a reason for withholding here. Your reason must be a strong one; you must, indeed, make out an urgent case of necessity, ere you can be justified. Scarcely any thing short of absolute poverty will bear out the substitution of prudence for liberality. Do you know the real state of things around you? When we speak of religious desti

tution, you may, perhaps, imagine that our observations apply to heathen lands alone. Are you aware that you are dwelling in the midst of practical heathenism? Read the occasional papers published by the Church Pastoral-Aid Society. Look at the moral waste portrayed in them; can you behold it unmoved? Survey it well. Think of the

thousands hourly passing from its miseries to woe eternal; then go and lay up in banks, for future and imaginary wants, if you can.

Rather, with such a destitution around, happy the man, and wise, whose last will and testament shall run in the words of Martin Luther's " I have neither house,

[ocr errors]

nor lands, nor money to leave be hind me. Thou hast given me wife and children, whom I now restore to thee. Lord, nourish, teach, support, preserve them, aš thou hast me.' Can you believe that the Heavenly Father failed to execute this will? Let, then, the worst happen that can befal youlet it be supposed that your liberality should somewhat impoverish your children, I would remind yoù, that the poor are not despised in heaven. But is it come to this? Are you driven to this extremity? Were you to treble your charities, who would be in want? Let conscience speak. Have you done what you might? what you can ?

A SEA-SIDE MEDITATION.

THE morning was sunny and cloudless as I walked down to the beach to inhale the fresh breezes of the sea. The snow still lay on the neighbouring hills, and the air was sharp; but on the dancing waves rested the sunlight, clothed in the splendour of summer. The liquid plain seemed a huge mirror in which the sun was viewing his glorious face, while to the serious mind it reflected still more vividly the power and love of God. It is scarcely possible for any but the most thoughtless to gaze without deep interest upon the sea: there is something in a lonely walk by its side that stirs up the sublimest feelings of the heart; and a multitude of associations, connected with individual experience or the history of nations, rush upon the observer, as he lingers, in silent rapture, beside this mysterious production of creative skill. It calls his thoughts far away to other days JUNE-1845.

and scenes of his own life, reminding him of the various feelings with which, at different times, he has listened to its delightful music. It brings before him the great exploits that have been acted upon its surface, with the wondrous beings who have walked by its side, and then leads him on to the august events of which it may yet be the witness; thus crowding in bewildering confusion deeds and men, from the time when the Spirit of God first brooded upon its dark bosom, to the hour when, having been previously summoned to give

up its dead, it shall be sent back to its original nothingness. But to the Christian one class of ideas is prominent. He may be compelled to think of the battle of Salamis or the triumphs of Trafalgar, but his thoughts pass from these to muse on the Sea of Galilee, and that gracious Being who there sat on the waters and instructed the 2 K

people from a ship, bringing the minds of His hearers into subjection to the truth, and achieving a triumph in which the vanquished are crowned by their victor with imperishable wreaths. He may remember the old story of Xerxes flinging chains on the Hellespont, or he may think of the magnificent ceremonial with which the Venetian Doge was wont to be wedded to the sea; but he turns from these spectacles of human vanity, to meditate on Him who trod the azure plains with the step of a sovereign, and whom the vassal waves wafted, uninjured, to the shore.

[ocr errors]

He may think of the rapture of the Greeks, conducted by Xenophon, when they first caught a glimpse of the waters which told them their home was near, and eagerly shouted Sea! sea!" but he endeavours to picture to himself the far deeper rapture of the ransomed sinner when he shall first come within sight of the sea of glass before the throne of God, and know that he has reached the shelter of a heavenly home. He may think of Demosthenes practising those orations that were afterwards to astonish the world, but it is with far more delight that he thinks of that loftier eloquence which pleaded persuasively in the court of heaven, when St. Paul and his affectionate companions "kneeled down on the shore and prayed."

But besides these historical associations, there are other thoughts which press upon the believer's mind. How striking an image of human life do these blue waters present! Now, as I look upon them, they lie tranquil as an infant's sleep; and I see the boatmen pushing out their little skiff, which rushes into the water and bounds upon its surface, as though, animated by human feelings, it were rejoicing in the sunshine and the

calm. And thus does not youth often make its entrance on the world? All that meets the casual glance is smooth and radiant: and joyously we venture into a sea which is to bear us to some fancied island of pleasure. For a while, all may appear tolerably pleasant: it is true, a wave, now then, will shake the boat; but its violence is momentary, and the liquid depths again smile as before. But should the storm arise and the heavens become dark-should those we loved be swept from our side, or should sickness spread its black wings over us, or should we see our choicest hopes dashed to pieces before our eyes—ah! whither, then, are we to betake ourselves? How helplessly do we look towards the protecting haven, where we see vessels exposed to the same violence as our own, but which, being held firm by their anchors, are able to defy the storm! For, happily, there is an anchor provided for the mariner tossed by the storms of life. The man whose hopes are fixed on the rock, Christ Jesus, need not fear when the tempest of sorrow rages, for it will not be able to rend him from his hold. The hope which is set before us" in the Gospel is an anchor sure and stedfast," for it is not cast on the sand of our own merits and strength, nor on the loose ground of mere outward ceremonies; but it is driven into that interior and secured spot, beyond the veil of visible things, "whither the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus" to whom it clings, and who I will never let it go.

66

[ocr errors]

Here, too, the believer is reminded of that encouraging declaration of the prophet Micah, where, addressing God, he says, "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." If I take up a stone and cast it far out into

these waters how completely is it hid and swallowed up in the waves beneath! And to the convinced sinner how cheering would be the conviction that his sins would be thrown into a similar concealment! The many transgressions of his life gather in hideous array around him: he feels that it is not in human power to make that undone which has once been committed, nor to tear from the register of the Most High the page containing the record of his guilt. Oh! for some recess in which he might shroud himself; some cavern in which he might bury the memory of his shame. But earth contains no such hidingplace the sea says, "it is not with me:" and time itself, before whom the mountains crumble and rivers are dried up, refuses to lend its annihilating power to aid in the destruction of a single sin. There is but one refuge for the sinner, pursued by the memory of his guilt: there is but one voice which can confidently say, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavyladen and I will give you rest." The Gospel alone declares how the sins that agonize our hearts may be obliterated, and wrapt in a darkness which even the eye of God will not pierce. (Numbers xxiii. 21.) "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." If the grace of the Holy Spirit have led us to fly for refuge to the atonement of Christ, we have good reason to hope that in respect of us will the declaration be fulfilled, "Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." What has been thrown into these material waters may by the advancing tide be cast again on the shore: even fragments of a wrecked vessel have, after the lapse of years, been brought once more to the surface;

66

but we may be certain that those sins which God has thrown into concealment will never rise up in judgment against us.

The sea, also, is an emblem of eternity, ever flowing on without weariness or cessation, and spreading out into an expanse of which the eye can only take in a very limited part. It is a difficult task for the imagination to pass backward, through the thousands of years that have elapsed since the creation of our globe, to the period when, at the word of the Almighty, the obedient waters rolled away from the face of the earth and gathered into one place; while the "morning stars sang together" as they looked down on its blue surface, gilded by the light of the newly-created sun. Yet of this event God has been pleased to give us a written record, and we can fix with tolerable exactness the date of its occurrence. How, then, shall the mind attempt to form an idea of those distant ages which existed before time had a beginning, and the history of which lies hid in the mind of Him whose footsteps none can trace. And it is as impossible to comprehend in our imperfect vision that part of the ocean of eternity which lies before us, as it is to travel across the vast tract that lies behind. Yet on the shore of this solemn ocean it is that men are sent to wander awhile, waiting for their turn to launch forth into its boundless deeps. Some pass their days in collecting gold, others in gathering up those painted shells called honours and pleasures; while a few, guided by an invisible hand, are made to stoop down and see the pearl of great price which their companions had heedlessly passed or rejected with contempt. For to the soul bowed down in penitence the Gospel becomes a gem to be pressed eagerly to the heart; while

others find in it no attractions, or are too proud to assume the lowly attitude in which alone it can be taken up.

:

[ocr errors]

In the unfathomable depths of the ocean we have an emblem of the inscrutability of the Divine counsels: "Thy judgments, O Lord, are a great deep.' In many parts of the ocean it is in vain that the plummet is let down lower and lower it meets no resistance, it finds no resting-place, and the mariner draws it back in despair. So is it when men by searching think to find out God, to account for the many mysteries of providence and grace, and instead of contenting themselves with gazing in devout gratitude on such parts of his works as are legitimate objects of contemplation, endeavour to intrude into the pavilion of dark waters and thick clouds behind which hedwells. But instead of exhibiting an undue curiosity to know what God has hidden; it becomes fallen man to glow with thankfulness for what he has revealed. In his secret council-chamber lies concealed the volume of his decrees, but from the veiled seclusion comes forth a voice declaring that he is waiting to be gracious to the returned prodigal : and to that man on whom the Holy Ghost has bestowed grace to obey the call, it will not be a difficult task to bow in resignation at his footstool, content to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified." And, probably, hereafter it will form no small part of the enjoyment of the saints in heaven to make, day after day, fresh excursions on the ocean of truth, to learn more and more of the Divine will, to dive deeper and deeper into the depths of God, whence the soul may come back glowing with a warmer love, and fall before the throne with a more intense adoration.

66

Yonder are fishermen engaged in their hazardous labours: and can I look towards them without thinking of those fishermen of Galilee who were made "fishers of men"? Poor, unlettered men were they, such as I here meet on the beach, and yet their teachings have gone out into all lands, and their writings to the end of the world. Whence, then, but from heaven could they have received those doctrines whose sublimity and purity far exceed all systems of ethics that the world has seen? How could they have proclaimed to mankind such a history as that of Jesus of Nazareth, had they not really seen and heard what they there assert to have been done and

and said? In adopting these humble men as his first disciples and preachers, Jesus made it manifest that the work they were sent to do was entirely his own, that his kingdom was not of this world, and that it is "not by might nor by power," but by his Spirit that the minds of men are brought in subjection to the Gospel. And as, while pursuing their temporal calling, they had "toiled all the night and caught nothing," yet when, at the word of Jesus, they let down the net " they inclosed a great multitude of fishes:" so, in vain would have been their contending with the turbulence of surrounding wickedness, in vain their generous exposure of themselves to perils in the city, in the wilderness and in the sea, had not their Divine Master followed them with his invisible presence, and given success to their labours by his effectual grace.

When I watch yonder vessel in her stately progress over the waves, I am reminded of the extraordinary means by which God brings about his purposes. This mighty volume of water thrown between nation and nation, would seem calculated

« PreviousContinue »