« PreviousContinue »
he gets "a little Indian bread and fried bacon, . . . a bed set upon forks and clapboards laid across, in an earthen-floor cabin." The studying goes on, but there is often no candle, and the light of the pine fire is trying on the eyes. He writes:
Kindness will not make a crowded log cabin, twelve feet by ten, agreeable; without are cold and rain, and within, six adults and as many children, one of which is all motion; the dogs, too, must sometimes be admitted. . . . Found I had the itch; and, considering the filthy houses and filthy beds, it is strange that I have not caught it twenty times. I do not see that there is any security against it but by sleeping in a brimstone shirt. Poor bishop! Have written some letters and read the book of Daniel since I have been in this house.
Add to this the mentioned morbid trait that became a taint, the physical drawback with its accompanying darkness, which he gradually learned was "constitutional;" put upon this the excessive toil and exposure, the work of twenty men, as Abel Stevens declares, the incredible tours, the one-day ride of eighty sand-hill miles," and then see him reading day after day, with relish—that man was a student.
Asbury was a student of nature, and like his Master loved the solitude of the mountain and forest. "Greatly pleased," he says, "I am to get into the woods, where, although alone, I have blessed company and sometimes think, Who so happy as myself?" Again: "O what sweetness I feel as I steal along through the solitary woods!" "Blessed with the sweet gales of God's love. Blessed breezes! how they cheer and refresh my drooping soul." His word-pictures are vivid and beautiful -the visit to the seashore, and the thunderstorm in the Alleghanies. But the bad condition of the roads forbade Asbury's reading on horseback as Wesley did in England. Wesley had opportunities for writing and editing; Asbury had the editorspirit without training or advantages. Wesley in his Journal writes with the ease and fullness of a scholar; Asbury is personal, abrupt, brief. The letters of Asbury show more literary ability than his Journal, and the length is surprising considering their average of three a day. Some go straight to the point; some tell little things concerning himself and the preachers; some contain longings for closer communion with God.
The outlines of his sermons show insight into the spiritual meaning of the text. His texts are not often clauses, parts of
sentences, but "the full corn in the ear;" or, a large white sapphire-a crystal inclusion-held by a master hand to the light, revealing within the six-rayed stars of truth. He writes the fuller the older he becomes, crying out that he is "bent on great designs for God, for Christ, for souls." In his fiftyninth year he stood one morning out of doors, fixed his blanket to screen him from the sun and his cap to shelter him from the wind, and cried, in the words of his divine Master, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." His divisions were: "First, the light of your principles and doctrine; second, the light of your experience; third, the light of your tempers; fourth, the light of your practice, that they may see it manifested in virtue and piety, and be converted to God." Often the common threefold division is followed, large attention is given to expository preaching, and the paraphrasing is remarkable for strength and fullness of meaning, no skim-milk talk, but the cream of the word. Sometimes the Journal gives a running line of thought, without formal divisions, a quaint, picturesque treatment that could not fail to be interesting. Take this text," The night is far spent." He writes:
What constitutes the natural night? Absence of light, ignorance, insecurity, uncertainty. The Gospel watchman crieth the hours. The Scripture night, from Adam to Moses. The patriarchal stars, and those who preceded them as dim lights, Adam, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham. The moonlight of the law, the Sabbaths, the sacrifices. But this night was about to pass away, although darker just before the dawn of the Gospel day; and it is thus in nature. The Jews had corrupted themselves in religion and in manners. The night of Judaism and paganism had nearly passed away. When Paul wrote in the year sixty, the Gospel had obtained in Europe, Lesser Asia, Greece, in the city of Rome; and had spread from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean. This night has returned occasionally. It came upon the Asiatic churches because of their unfaithfulness; where once were the Gospel and its martyrs are now Greek papas and Greek superstitions. From the third to the thirteenth century the Church of Rome brought darkness upon Europe by prohibiting the Bible, and by the introduction of her own mummeries and idolatries. Philosophy, so called, with Voltaire for its high priest, brought night and destruction upon France; judicially, to avenge on the bloody house of Bourbon the blood of the Protestant martyrs. And would not some of our great men, if they dared, bring a night of infidelity on this land? Who sees them in regular attendance on the house of God? "Let us cast
off the works of darkness." Let us cast off evil tempers, desires, and affections. "The armor of light" (see Eph. vi, 11-17), perfect faith, perfect hope, perfect obedience, perfect love.
These notes were written when Asbury was seventy years old. He gave due proportion to the whole New Testament, preaching from every book except the small epistles of Philemon, 2 and 3 John, and Jude.
Of his interest in education we shall not speak, for all know his relation to Sunday schools, to Cokesbury College, and to the "district schools." Many were the sermons preached by him upon the relation of religion to education. For years he carried with him a subscription book securing contributions for the cause of education. He preached the sermon at the opening of Cokesbury College. He never forgot the young preachers, and at the age of thirty-five wrote: "A great part of the day is taken up in riding, preaching, and meeting the classes; and very often at night there is a large family, but one room for all, and sometimes no candle; so that I think it would be well, under such circumstances, if the preachers could have one spare day in every week for the purpose of improving themselves."
But the crown of this student life was always the study of the English Bible, with appetite keen and relish constant, a very genius for devotion. Early in his ministry we have the record, "I now purposed, by the grace of God, as often as time will permit, to read six chapters every day in my Bible." We soon find this a minimum. He takes the book in course, thus: "This morning I ended the reading of my Bible through in about four months. It is hard work for me to find time for this; but all I read and write I owe to early rising." He begins at Genesis and swiftly moves onward. He read the Psalms in a week, in regular reading; one morning he took the entire book of Job; or in the New Testament the days go thus: 1 Corinthians, next day eleven chapters in 2 Corinthians, again, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy; another day that month, 2 Peter to end of Revelation. The next year we find him reading, with Wesley's Notes, one day the Acts of the Apostles; the next day he "read Wesley's Notes on the Epistle to the Romans;" the next day he "read Mr. Wesley's
Notes on 1 Corinthians, and ended the reading of the second book of Kings, in my reading in course the Bible through.' He adds, "Lately felt more sweetness and delight than ever before in reading the Old Testament." Again, "The Study of the Holy Scriptures affords me great pleasure. Lord, help me to dig into the Gospel field as for hidden treasure." "No book is equal to the Bible." The book of Revelation becomes a perfect delight to him. "Reading at present no other books on the Lord's days, I have lately read the Revelation, with Mr. Wesley's Notes, three times through." He read this book every Sabbath for nearly a year, although some days are "dumb Sabbaths." One Sunday he read the law delivered by Moses and our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, and preached at nine o'clock and three. One Friday he writes, "I find it of more consequence to a preacher to know his Bible well than all languages or books in the world-for he is not to preach these, but the word of God." We wonder not then, in later years, that he saved his eyes to study the old book.
This man, Asbury, of unwearied mind, to whom preachers read in the days of failing eyes-this man had on him the care of the churches, the criticism of men. We can almost hear his plaintive cry as he defended himself:
The Methodists acknowledge no superiority but what is founded on seniority, election, and long and faithful services. For myself, I pity those who cannot distinguish between a Pope of Rome and an old worn man of about sixty years, who has the power given him of riding five thousand miles a year, at a salary of eighty dollars, through summer's heat and winter's cold, traveling in all weather, preaching in all places; his best covering from rain often but a blanket; the surest sharpener of his wit, hunger-from fasts, voluntary and involuntary; his best fare, for six months of the twelve, coarse kindness; and his reward, from too many, suspicion, envy, and murmuring all the year round.
To the end books were on his heart. He willed a Bible to every child called after him, and hundreds of volumes were distributed; he willed his property to the Methodist Book Concern, and then-high student of heavenly things—he committed his spirit to the Lord whom he loved and served.
Frank Gibson Porter.
ART. VI.-THE MACHPELAH AND ISRAEL'S FAITH WHILE IN BONDAGE (ACTS VII, 15, 16).
EVERY possible attempt has been made to explain this text from the period of the oldest manuscripts down to the present time. Interpreters have availed themselves of every resource of grammar, hermeneutics, the laws of criticism, and the principles of lexicology without any success.— Lange.
Our purpose is to review some of these "attempts" and to contribute another portion of truth to the literature of the subject. Any comprehensive treatment of the text in Acts. must have to do with several different theories, each having seeming support from what their originators lay down as foundation facts. There are those who would amend the text by substituting Jacob for Abraham, while some would by means of a free translation comprehend all the factors intimated by Stephen, and in so doing give us a revised and improved version thereof. Again, others, leaving the text as it is, read consistency into it by accepting as proven Bengel's statement that "a form of sentence in which the relation between the members is such that they must be mutually supplied one from the other was not at all unusual among the Hebrews." A great name carries weight, but in the absence of illustrative examples gathered here and there from Hebrew literature it does not carry persuasion. Since we believe that the circumstances environing the speech fully explain and account for the peculiarities of the text, we shall first review the more prominent attempts that have been made to explain and amend the latter, and, failing to find logical and grammatical consistency in these, shall, secondly, proceed to establish what we have predicated of the former.
I. The Text. "The word "Abraham,' therefore, in this place is certainly a mistake, and the word 'Jacob,' which some have supplied, is doubtless more proper."* This is putting the machinery "in gear" at one place and putting it "out of gear" at another. Jacob paid for the Shechem field neither in "money" (Authorized Version, Acts vii, 16) nor "in silver"
⚫Clarke's Commentary and Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott.