Page images
PDF
EPUB

we

are

Christ's image on their souls, and neglect or Christian. But has he“ passed from death despise, or, with a sensitive and proud reserve, unto life” meanwhile ? Does he love God? withdraw from the fellowship of all the rest ? Does he adore the Saviour ? No. He still Such a man can scarcely be said to “ love the looks upon all this as the mysticism of rebrethren."

Jigion. He does not value-in truth, he 3. Nor is it enough that we love, however does not comprehend it! And yet it may cordially, all Christians of our own Church or be said he loves the brethren.”

True, sect. We are to love " the brethren ;" and we in one sense he loves them :-as a body of are to bear in mind, that not all errors in dis- philanthropists, not as the Church of the cipline, nor all errors in doctrine, exclude living God.

He loves them for the temmen from the fold of Christ. The man that poral advantages they confer upon society, is a heretic after the first or second admoni- not for the sake of Christ, and of him alone. tion reject; but on some have compassion, He loves their conduct, but not their prinmaking a difference between heresy and ciples. schism. Men

may

forsake our communion; The love to the brethren, then, which but until they deny the faith, they cannot ex- assures us of our own safety, is universal, not clude themselves from our Christian regard partial ; it is love of the character, not of and love. Nay, they may oppose and revile the individual; it is the love of Christians, us,--and this is the spirit of an angry partisan- as they are the children of God, and not on ship, rather than of such kind remonstránce account of the benefits they render to society. as it becomes Christians to employ to one --So much was necessary to explain the subanother ; but still

" to love theject. brethren." St. Paul rejoiced that “ Christ was II. 1. Let us now, secondly, consider how preached even of strife and of contention," the love in question becomes the pledge of when the design of that strife was to decry our own salvation. I answer, it is so, as, first, his own apostleship, and to defame his it is, perhaps, the strongest of all proofs that we character ; and we should learn to do so too. love God; and it affords a sort of demonOf our opponents it must first be inquired, stration that we do so, which, when conDo they seek salvation through a merciful sidered, is conclusive to the weakest mind, or Saviour ? Do they worship God in Christ ? to the most hesitating faith. For why do we Do they profess to rely only on the aid, and love the brethren ? because in some feeble to ask for the sanctification of the Spirit of measure they resemble Christ their Lord. God, acknowledging the entire corruption of They bear his image. They are enlightened human nature ? This is the true foundation; by his Spirit; nay, they are his body, whoand whatever faults we see amongst them, their exalted Head-filleth all in all: and this, and however a Christian may deplore those as we have seen, is the sole bond between us. faults, they are the “ brethren,” whom we And yet it is a bond sufficient to connect our are still to “ love."

warmest sympathies with every Christian un4. I must remark, once more, that the der heaven, Take away this mystic bond, “ love" to the brethren, which is so sure and the Church becomes a rope of sand. It a proof of our own safety, is not merely a has this in common, that each member of it universal love to the Church of Christ, but to does, in some greater or some less degree, share the Church of Christ in its spiritual character. in the moral likeness of his Lord ; and it has Imagine a philanthropist, but yet a stranger nothing else in common. There is no other tie, to the Gospel : he desires (it is a favourite --no other cement than this; for if there be, dream with some who are ignorant of Christ, what is it? Party spirit? Alas! it divides the and with them it is no better than a dream)- very family of Christ : so far from being the he desires the production of universal happi- cause of our love, it is the source of all our ness; and he observes that happiness follows disquiet. Similarity of taste and disposition? in the track where the Gospel has been. The Yes, upon religion ; but infinite diversity Gospel reclaims the drunkard; it subdues the upon every thing besides : and the cause of churl ; it promotes industry, and, with it, this agreement is now the question before us. good order and contentment. Abroad, it The heart of every Christian feels that the raises the savage to the condition of the cause is this : their fellow-Christians, in some man-clothes him- subdues his ferocity-faint degree, resemble Christ the Lord : and breaks his spear and his sword-and burn- the love we bear to him is naturally, and at eth his war-chariot in the fire; and then fol- once, transferred to them who belong to him. low the blessings of civilised and social life. Now, this is surely, brethren, no slight The philanthropist perceives all this, and is evidence that we love God; nay, in its very charmed with what he sees : and, perhaps, he nature, it is an evidence of the strongest kind. becomes the friend of missions, and learns to If the most valued friend that you possess reverence and to love the very name of a on earth were to introduce you to an almost

#

had passed, you

endless round of his associates, and com- the very badge of their profession, read and mand you to share with each and with every

known of all men. By this shall all men one of tliem the regard which he himself en- know that ye are my disciples,” said our joyed; and if, on further knowledge, you Lord, "if ye love one another.” “See that should find this a motley company, contain- ye love one another,” repeats St. Peter, " with ing men of every rank and character on earth, a pure heart fervently;" and St. John urges the but having this one point in common, that same precept with similar warmth, “ Breththey did each of them sincerely venerate the ren, let us love one another, for love is of man who was your first medium of commu- | God; and every one that loveth is born of God, nication with them,-should you not perceive and knoweth God." Such was the ancient at once that he put your friendship to him theory of Christian fellowship. But what self to a strong test, and that loving this was the ancient practice? We may trace it mixed multitude for his sake alone (if that in the love which Paul's converts bore to were possible), you gave the strongest evi- their minister, when he says, “I bear you dence of your love to him?

record, that if it had been possible, you would Or, again ; if the friend you once revered have plucked out your own eyes and given had been removed by death, and, after

years

them to me:" we may trace it in the large should meet with his child- contributions made by them of Achaia for ren, possessing his features and something the poor saints at Jerusalem ; so that out of his mind, but immeasurably his inferiors in of their own deep poverty their liberality all respects--having, in short, only the like-abounded, while they contributed to the supness and the name to recommend them; and port of those whom they had not seen in the if you were to resume with them the inter | flesh, and to whom they were only attached course which death had long ago suspended by the “ bonds of the Gospel.” And such, with their parent; and if you should so ally brethren, is Christian love at the present yourself to them as to become one family, hour. It commands you to make the interests and all for their father's sake,—who does of the Church your own, your private internot perceive how such a step would be the ests. It teaches you to forego ease and strongest evidence of your love to the parent ? advantage, that you may comfort them that

And we may affirm, too, that our love to mourn, or that you may weep with them that the Church affords a kind of demonstration | weep. When you hear of a brother suffering to the mind that it loves God, which is al- or dying, it takes you to his chamber, and ways delightful, and sometimes almost the only there it fixes you in tender devotion to his refuge from despair. For the true Christian, wants. It teaches you to bear with weakif simply asked, Do you love God? would ness, infirmity, and ignorance ; nay, to endure sometimes find it difficult to answer; for God all things for the elect's sake, and to feel in is a spirit, and no man hath seen him at any every fellow. Christian a brother's interest. time; and, perplexed with questions which And how shall we account for this? It is a concern his nature and his essence, he could proof that our own hearts are changed, and scarcely venture to affirm whether he loved that the love of Christ pervades them. Yes, God or not.

He would desire, but can he brethren, hereby we know that we have dare to do so ? He would desire, but how passed from death unto life.” difficult to love an unseen being! But now, 3. And, yet once more, it is an evidence let us ask again, Do you not love the repre- of our own adoption, inasmuch as it erposes sentatives of Christ-his Church ?

Is not

us to constant suffering for the sake of Christ; each member of it dear to your soul? Do at least this was the case in the apostles' you not rejoice in its prosperity, and sadden days, and, in some degree, it is so still, or over its defeats? And is not this a proof of else “is the offence of the cross ceased." your love to God? Such inquiries have put Those brethren whom, with a pure heart, the to flight many a doubt, and dispelled many a disciples were enjoined fervently to love, were fear.

men whose lives had been proscribed, whose 2. Love to the brethren is a further evi- society was shunned, whose goods had been dence that we are born of God, because it spoiled. They were hated of all men, and demands a constant sacrifice, and so constantly persecuted of all. Now, to love such a band displays the strength of that divine principle as this was, and to shew that love by making of faith which unites us to the Lord; for their fortunes ours—by defending their chathe love in question is not a mere senti- racters when traduced-by choosing their ment of respect or admiration, but it is a bond society whom all men shunned—by admiof the closest union. If we open the New nistering to their necessities, and cheering Testament, we cannot fail to perceive how their hours of sorrow,--surely this was proof deep, how strong it was in the breast of the enough that he who had such a preference, apostles and of the early Christians. It was and who rejoiced in such companionship, was

reason.

a true disciple of Christ Jesus. Why else ex- God of my salvation." Here he continued, as he pose himself to derision, perhaps to perse

thought, about an hour and a half; and in a sweet, cution too? The very fact, that he saw in

serene, and composed frame of mind he returned

into his house ; when, by the light of the moon through this persecuted band so much to love, was the window, he perceived something upon a stool an unanswerable evidence that his eyes were or form (for chairs they had none) before the bed ; opened ; that he saw the beauty of holiness,

and after viewing it with astonishment, and feeling

it, he found it to be a joint of meat roasted, and a though obscured in poverty, or buried in a

loaf of bread, about the size of our half-peck loaves. dungeon ; that he had “passed from death He then went to the door to look if he could see any unto life."

body; and after using his voice as well as his eyes, But I hasten to a close. To a thoughtful and neither perceiving nor hearing any one, he re

turned in, awoke his wife, who was still asleep, asked mind, no formal application of such a subject

a blessing, and then awoke the children, and gave can be necessary. But to the careless hearer

them a comfortable repast. Such was his story; but let me suggest this one reflection. The verse he could give me no further account. which forms our text condemns you, while

I related this extraordinary affair to my father and it affords consolation to the timid Christian ;

mother, who both heard it with astonishment; but

ordered me to keep it a secret as requested ; and such for if to love the brethren be a test of our

it would have ever remained, but for the following discipleship, then, surely, to despise them is

A short time after this event, I left that a proof that you are yet the servant of sin ;

country ; but on a visit about twelve years after, at a to be ashamed of them, is to be ashamed of friend's, the conversation, one evening, took a turn

about one Mr. Strangeways, commonly called StranChrist their Master. If you will not share guage, a farmer, who lived at Lowick-Highsteed, their reproach, you will be shut out from which the people named Pinch-me-near, on account those mansions which the Lord is gone to

of this miserly wretch that dwelt there. I asked what for them in heaven.

had become of his property, as I apprehended he had prepare

never done one generous action in his lifetime. An

elderly woman in the company said I was mistaken ; EXTRAORDINARY PROVIDENCE.

for she could relate one which was somewhat curious. Tuomas Hownham, the subject of the following pro

She said that she had lived with him as a servant or vidence, was a very poor man, who lived in a lone

housekeeper ; that about twelve or thirteen years ago, house or hut upon a moor, called Barmour Moor,

one Thursday morning he ordered her to have a whole about a mile from Lowick, and two miles from Dod joint of meat roasted, having given her directions a dington, in the county of Northumberland. He had

day or two before to bake two large loaves of white no means to support a wife and two young children,

bread. He then went to Wooler market, and took a save the scanty earnings obtained by keeping an ass,

bit of bread and cheese in his pocket as usual. He on which he used to carry coals from Barmour coal

came home in the evening in a very bad humour, and hill to Doddington and Wooler; or by making brooms

went soon to bed. In about two hours after, he called of the heath, and selling them round the country.

up his man-servant, and ordered him to take one of Yet, poor, and despised as he was in consequence of

the loaves, and the joint of meat, and carry them his poverty, in my forty years' acquaintance with the

down the moor to Thomas Hownham's, and leave professing world, I have scarce met with his equal,

them there. The man did so ; and finding the family as a man that lived near to God, or one who was

asleep, he set them at their bed-side, and came away. favoured with more evident answers to prayer. My

The next morning her master called her and the parents then living at a village called Hanging Hall,

man-servant in, and seemed in great agitation of mind. about one mile and a half from his hut, I had frequent

He told them that he intended to have invited a interviews with him, in one of which he was very soli

Mr. John Mool, with two or three more neighbouring citous to know whether my father or mother had sent

farmers (who were always teazing him for his nearhim any unexpected relief the night before. I an

ness), to sup with him the night before; that he would swered him in the negative, so far as I knew; at

not invite them in the market-place, as he purposed which he seemed to be uneasy. I then pressed to

to have taken them by surprise near home, as two or know what relief he had met with, and how? After

three of them passed his house ; but a smart shower requesting secrecy, unless I should hear of it from

of rain coming on, they rode off, and left him before some other quarter (and if so, he begged I would

he could get an opportunity; that going soon to bed, acquaint him), he proceeded to inform me, that being

he did not rest well, fell a-dreaming, and thought he disappointed of receiving money for his coals the day

saw Hownham's wife and children dying of hunger; before, he returned home in the evening, and, to his

that he awoke and put off the impression ; that he pain and distress, found that there was neither bread

dreamed the second time, and endeavoured again to nor meal, nor any thing to supply their place, in his

shake it oft”; but that he was altogether overcome with house ; that his wife wept sore for the poor children,

the nonsense the third time; that he believed the devil who were both crying for hunger; that they con

was in him ; but that since he was so foolish as to send tinued crying until they both fell asleep; that he got

the meat and bread, he could not now help it, and them to bed, and their mother with them, who like

charged her and the man never to speak of it, or he wise soon went to sleep, being worn out with the suf

would turn them away directly. She added, that since ferings of the children and her own tender feelings.

he was dead long ago, she thought she might relate it, Being a fine moonlight night, he went out of the

as a proof that he had done one generous action, house to a retired spot, at a little distance, to meditate

though he was grieved for it afterwards. Surely this on those remarkable expressions in Hab. iii. 17, 18 :

was a wonderful instance of God's special interposi" Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall

tion in behalf of his own children, plainly shewing us fruit be in the vines ; the labour of the olive shall fail,

that when he becomes the God of grace, he also beand the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be

comes, in a peculiar manner, the God of providence to cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the

his people. The infidel or sceptic may sneer at the stail : yet'I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the

above account as incredible, and denounce it as a

fiction got up by some fanatic or enthusiast; and, alas! • From the Cottage Magazine.

the worldly-minded and formal professor of Christianity

66

some

will be apt to join both the former in his ridicule, or, life freely ?" “ They who censure and dissuade the at any rate, may say, this is carrying the doctrine of study of it,” (the book of Revelation), says Bishop God's particular providence rather too far: but the sin

Newton, “ do it, for the most part, because they cere and genuine Christian will be prompted by this

have not studied it themselves; and imagine the affecting story to a higher and holier admiration of that gracious God and Father who “feedeth the young

difficulties to be greater than they are in reality. It ravens when they call upon him," and therefore can is still the sure word of prophecy;' and men of "give bread to his people," and supply their temporal learning and leisure cannot better employ their time wants in a way which shall call forth their deepest and abilities than in studying and explaining the gratitude, and add to his own glory. “Seek ye first

book, provided they do it, as Lord Bacon adviseth, the kingdom of God, and his rigliteousness, and all other things (needful) shall be added unto you ;" and

with great wisdom, sobriety, and reverence.' The they that fear the Lord shall not want'any good folly of interpreters has been, as Sir Isaac Newton thing."

observes, to foretel times and things by this pro

phecy, as if God designed to make them prophets. THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA.—(I.)

By this rashness they have not only exposed them

selves, but brought the prophecy also into contempt. Introduction.

The design of God was much otherwise. He gave THE “ Book of the Revelation of St. John the Divine," this, and the prophecies of the Old Testament, not to like many of the Epistles of St. Paul, contains gratify men's curiosities, by enabling them to forethings hard to be understood, which they that are un- know all things; but that after they were fulfilled, they learned and unstable” may have wrested, as they have might be interpreted by the event, and his own prodone also "the other Scriptures, unto their own de- vidence, not the interpreters, might be manifest struction." The desire to be wise above what is

thereby to the world.” written, and to inquire into the secret things which The portion of the “ Book of Revelation," which belong unto the Lord our God, instead of attending it is the purpose of these, and a few subsequent reto those things which are revealed and belong to us, marks, to illustrate, is unquestionably well worthy the is very deeply interwoven in some characters. This

serious consideration, not merely of the biblical schohas not unfrequently led to the adoption of an un- lar, but of the humble Christian. In the Epistles to warrantable mode of "private interpretation," some- the SEVEN CHURCHES OF Asia, contained in the times distinguished for the wildest Alights of enthu- second and third chapters, and dictated by the Eternal siasm, for an entire discordance with all that is rational, Spirit of God, there is nothing that can confound or and utterly subversive of sound and sober truth. As confuse the mind of the teachable inquirer, Whata natural consequence, this portion of the word of ever mystical interpretations may have been put upon God has been deemed by many as of a nature too them, they abound in the enforcement of much imabstruse for the meditation of the private Christian, portant doctrine. They shew, in liveliest colours, the who has been dissuaded from perusing its contents, Redeemer's watchful care over his Church. They and recommended to direct his thoughts more fully to abound in language of various kinds, according to the those plainer portions of the sacred oracles which set circumstances of the persons addressed, sometimes in fortlı, in clearer language, the fundamental truths of that of commendation, at other times of reproof. They

denounce in the plainest terms the judgments of the When we consider, indeed, the fearful woes de- Almighty against the backsliding, the formal, the nounced against those who either add to or take from licentious, the impenitent. They assure the faithful " the words of the prophecy of this book," it ought of the richest supply of grace, and the participation of to be approached, as indeed every other portion of endless glory. The Christian may, therefore, medi. the sacred volume ought, in a prayerful, humble tate on these passages with the vivid hope that he spirit, with a desire for the enlightening of the under- will there find much to warn, much to console, much standing, and of being led to the perception of the to cheer, much to animate. He will recollect the truth. The utmost caution should be used in en- universal call that is made to peruse the contents of deavouring to arrive at the true meaning of its con- these epistles : “He that hath an ear, let him hear tents. Notwithstanding many of its difficulties, it what the Spirit saith to the Churches." He will read may, unquestionably, afford much consolation and edi- these epistles not merely as important documents, fication to the Christian. It forms part of that Scrip- containing a faithful delineation of the character and ture which is giren by inspiration of God.” Doubts circumstances of the several Churches to which they on this subject have indeed arisen, but they have been are addressed, and pointing out, by the subsequent satisfactorily met and fully answered. The perusal fulfilment of the declarations respecting them, the of it, in a right frame, cannot fail to be conducive to faithfulness and the truth of that Jehovah whose word the Christian's spiritual advancement and growth in standeth for ever sure; but he will read them as so grace: for who can read of its glowing descriptions many messages specially addressed to himself. He of the blessedness of heaven's ransomed company, will carefully examine whether there may not be in of the triumphs of those "who have come out of great

himself somewhat of the same declension, the same tribulation, who have washed their robes and made listlessness, the same negligence, which are brought them white in the blood of the Lamb," and the unceas- as grounds of solemn accusation against some of these ing worship of those who shall stand before the throne, Churches; and he will pray that he may profit by the -and not seek that they may themselves become par- warning, ere it be too late. Assuredly such a mode of takers of the same undefiled inheritance, and not listen study will be infinitely more useful than any vain to the gracious invitations to “take of the water of attempt to calculate times and seasons, or any pre

the Gospel.

sumptuous overstepping of that boundary by which Ephesus), there were many presbyters, yet but one God has been pleased to limit the extent of human angel? If that were not in place above the rest, and investigation.

higher by the head than they, how comes he to be These epistles are addressed, not to the collective noted in the throng? Why was not the direction to members of the several Churches, but to an individual, all the angels of the Church of Ephesus ? All were styled " the angel, or messenger," and who appears angels in respect of their ministry-one was the angel to have been the chief minister or superintendent of in respect of his fixed superiority. There were thouecclesiastical affairs. The supposition has been main- sands of stars in this firmament of the Asian churches. tained, indeed, that, though the expression is em- There were but seven of the first magnitude. Who can ployed in the singular number, the epistle was ad

endure such an evasion--that one is mentioned, many dressed to all who ministered in holy things, and who are meant; as if they had said, To one-that is, to were thus to be the channels of communicating the more; to one angel-that is, to more angels than one ? Divine will and purposes to the members of the To what purpose is it to insist upon any propriety of Church at large. For this mode of interpretation, speech, if we may take such liberty with the construchowever, there does not appear to be any solid ground. tion ? ... But, to put this matter out of doubt, it is parIt is urged, indeed, for the purpose of doing away

ticularly known who some of these angels were. Holy with the notion, that there was a disparity among Polycarp was known to be the angel of the Church of the ministers of the early Church, and that there Smyrna, whom Ignatius, the blessed martyr, mentions was no bishop or overseer who had authority over as, by his episcopacy, greater than his clergy. the rest. The question, in fact, involves in it, what Timothy had been, not long before, Bishop of Ephemode of Church-government was employed in primi- sus, yea, of the Asians; now Onesimus was.". tive times--a subject of no small importance. It Nor will the Christian fail to derive hence additional appears that it was, beyond all reasonable question, proofs of the faithfulness of the Lord Jehovah. How episcopal ; and that the angel of the Church was the entirely the actual state of these Churches at the preecclesiastical superior, to whom, as chief minister, the sent time coincides with the predictions contained in letter was addressed. “Shall we maintain," says Dr. these epistles! Much light has been thrown on this Campbell, himself a Presbyterian, in his Ecclesiastical subject by travellers of modern times. The researches Lectures, “with some zealous patrons of the Pres- of Mr. Chishull at the commencement, and of M. byterian model, that, in the sublime and allegorical Peysonnel and Mr. Chandler in the middle of the last language of prophecy, a community is here personi- century, and more recently, within the last few years, fied, and addressed as one man? Shall we affirm, of Messrs. Cockerell, M'Farlane, Arundell, Rae that by the angel is meant the presbytery, which our Wilson, Hartley, and others, have added much most Lord, the better to express the union which ought to interesting information to that which existed on the subsist among the members, emphatically considers as subject of these once-favoured districts of the vineone person? With this interpretation I am equally yard of the Lord : and in the suhsequent remarks on dissatisfied. Though we have instances, especially in the epistles, the attempt will be made, by reference precepts and denunciations, wherein a community is to various important documents from the personal addressed by the singular thou and thee, I do not observation of these travellers, to arrive at a correct recollect such a use of an appellative as the applica- knowledge of the actual state of these Churches at the tion of the word angel here would be on the hypo- present moment. The inquiry is, indeed, most interestthesis of these interpretations.” Dr. Campbell would, ing. It is one on which the Christian will meditate indeed, regard this individual, addressed as the angel, with feelings of deep humiliation, when he reflects on as the “president or chairman" of their ecclesiastical the waywardness and perverseness of the human heart, assemblies. But, judging from the whole tenour of the and on the folly of man in departing from the living apostolical epistles, as well as the testimony of the God, closing his eyes to the light, and his ears to the early fathers, it would seem that the bishops of the message of saving truth, and thus exposing himself to Seven Churches were not chairmen, elected for a the merited wrath of his Almighty Judge. season, and then to resign their dignity, but bishops But, as already hinted, the subject will be conset apart for the spiritual government of these several sidered in a practical point of view : not merely to bodies of professing Christians.

instruct, but to edify—not to inform the understandThe remarks of Bishop Hall, in his Episcopacy by ing, but to impress the heart; and the design of the Divine Right, with reference to this very point, are writer will be fully answered, if the reader of these too important to be omitted. " Neither can all the remarks on this interesting portion of God's word shifts in the world," says he, “elude that pregnant shall be led, by their instrumentality, under the Spirit's vision and charge of the blessed apostle St. John (in teaching, to lay to heart the solemn warnings addressed whose longer-lasting time the government of the to many of the apocalyptic Churches ; and in this, the Church was fully settled in this threefold imparity of day of grace and merciful visitation, to attend to the the orders and degrees), who having had the special momentous concerns of his soul's eternal welfare ; lest, supervision of the whole Asian Church, was, by the warnings being despised, and invitations unbeeded, he Spirit of God, commanded to direct his seven epistles should stand forth through eternity the wretched moto the bishops of those seven famous churches, by nument of the indignation of a righteous God-the the name of so many angels : To the angel of the miserable spectacle of a man spiritually diseased, who Church of Ephesus, to the angel of the Church in would not be healed, when God would have healed Smyrna, &c. For what can be more plain, than that in every of these churches (as, for instance, that of

• Episcopacie by Divine Right asserted, by Jos. Hall, B. of Exon. London, 1640.

« PreviousContinue »