« PreviousContinue »
JOHN KNOX (1505-1572)
THE FATHER OF THE SCOTTISH CHURCH
N his short funeral oration over the dead body of John Knox,
Murray, the Regent of Scotland, said, “ Here lies he who
never feared the face of man." These words fitly indicate the character of the hardy and indomitable religious reformer of Scotland. A Roman Catholic until 1542, he became after that year a zealous preacher of the Protestant doctrines, till then hardly known in Scotland. He suffered for his faith. Assassins were employed to take his life. A castle in which he took refuge was assailed and captured, and for nineteen months he was held captive in the French galleys. When Queen Mary came to the English throne, his friends induced him to leave Scotland, and he retired to Geneva, where he became a friend of John Calvin. In 1559 he returned to Scotland, , and here became the master-spirit of the growing body of Protestants, sustaining their courage by his own indomitable resolution, and his vehement harangues against what he designated the idolatries of the Romish Church. Few of the religious reformers of that age were his equals in courage and sagacity and in the inflexible austerity of his principles. Froude says that he was “perhaps in that extraordinary age its most extraordinary man, whose character became the mould in which the later fortunes of his country were cast.
GOD'S POWER ABOVE THAT OF KINGS [The hardiness of John Knox did not finch in the face of kingly power, and he thundered against tyranny as boldly as against any form of impiety. The following extract is from his Edinburgh sermon of August 19, 1565, its text being Isaiah xxvi, 13-16. Its tone was not a safe one in those autocratic days, but Knox had so fear of living men.)
JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791)
THE ZEALOUS ORATOR OF METHODISM
T the English University of Oxford, about 1729, a group of
religious enthusiasts among the students, including John and
Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, James Hervey, and others, associated themselves into an association so strict and methodical in its habits, that they were given the name of Methodists, and were also called, in ridicule, Bible Moths, the Godly Club, and Bible Bigots. John Wesley was recognized as their leader, and almost ruined his health by fasting and austerity. In 1735 he and his brother Charles went on a mission to Georgia, but were not very successful there. It was not until after his return to England that he broke from the ceremonies of the English Church and founded the sect since known as Methodists. The clergy of the Established Church then closed their churches against him, and he followed Whitefield's example of preaching in the open air. This he continued with extraordinary
For half a century he continued these out-door ministrations, at times from 10,000 to 30,000 people waiting for hours to hear him. During this time he traveled about the country 250,000 miles and preached 40,000 sermons, doing also a great quantity of literary work. His preaching was chiefly among the working classes, and his life was frequently in danger from hostile mobs; but he escaped all perils, and in his old age his journeys became triumphal processions. Few religious teachers have done so much good as Wesley, especially among the lowest classes of the poor, whom he earnestly sought to bring into the fold of Christ.
IRRELIGION AMONG COLLEGE PEOPLE [On August 24, 1744, Wesley preached his last sermon before the University of Oxford, to a very large audience, composed of the authorities and students of the
University, and others of note. This celebrated sermon, while deeply impressing many of his hearers, gave unpardonable offense to the authorities. The reasons for this sentiment, and the courage of the preacher in taking the professors and students so severely to account, are sufficiently evident in the extract here given.]
I beseech you, trethren, by the mercies of God, if ye do account me a madman or a fool, yet as a fool bear with me. It is utterly needful that some one should use great plainness of speech towards you.
It is more especially needful at this time; for who knoweth but it is the last? And who will use this plainness, if I do not? Therefore I, even I, will speak. And I adjure you, by the living God, that ye steel not your hearts against receiving a blessing at my hands.
Let me ask you, then, in tender love, and in the spirit of meekness, Is this city a Christian city? Is Christianity, Scriptural Christianity, found here? Are we, considered as a community of men, so filled with the Holy Ghost as to enjoy in our hearts, and show forth in our lives, the genuine fruits of that Spirit? Are all the magistrates, all heads and governors of colleges and halls, and their respective societies, (not to speak of the inhabitants of the town) of one heart and soul? Is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts ? Are our tempers the same that were in Christ, and are our lives agreeable thereto?
In the fear and in the presence of the great God, before whom both you and I shall shortly appear, I pray you that are in authority over us, whom I reverence for your office sake, to consider, Are you filled with the Holy Ghost? Are ye lively portraitures of Him whom ye are appointed to represent among men ? Ye magistrates and rulers, are all the thoughts of your hearts, all your tempers and desires, suitable to your high calling? Are all your words like unto those which come out of the mouth of God ? Is there in all your actions dignity and love?
Ye venerable men, who are more especially called to form the tender minds of youth, are you filled with the Holy Ghost ? with all those fruits of the Spirit, which your important office so indispensably requires ? Do you continually remind those under your care that the one rational end of all our studies is to know, love and serve the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent? Do you inculcate upon them, day by day, that without love all learning is but splendid ignorance, pompous folly, vexation of spirit ? Has all you teach an actual tendency to the love of God, and of all mankind for His sake? Do you put forth all your strength in the vast work you have undertaken ; using every talent which God hath lent you, and that to the uttermost of your power ?
What example is set them (the youth] by us who enjoy the beneficence of our forefathers; by fellows, students, scholars ; more especially
BENJAMIN DISRAELI AND JOHN BRIGHT Two great orators of England in the latter half of the 19th Century. The former was Prime Minister and overcame great natural obstacles to oratory; the latter was the great orator of reform, who was ir sympathy with the common people and championed their rights in and out of Parliament.