« PreviousContinue »
FINSBURY CHAPEL, FINSBURY CIRCUS.
THIS commodious and splendid sanctuary is situated immediately beside Finsbury Circus, in the very centre of the city of London. The Mission House of the London Missionary Society, and the Congregational Library, stand opposite to it on the one side, and the Roman Catholic Chapel stands opposite its front entrance.
The site of this Chapel, and the vicinity, have been long known by the name of Moorfields. In the remembrance of some living, this was a large open space of ground, intersected by aged trees, and had originally been appropriated, in some remote reign, for the recreation and amusement of apprentices and children.
It was on the occasion of a fair being held in these fields, the pious and immortal Whitfield erected the standard of the cross, and successfully preached the Gospel to admiring thousands !
Finsbury Chapel is about seventy feet in length, and nearly as much in breadth. It is capable of seating 2,260, but when the aisles are filled, and the seats crowded, it contains more than 3,000. On Christmas day, at the annual meeting of Sabbath School children, nearly 5,000 have been addressed at one time. This is certainly one of the most animating and interesting moral spectacles which can be witnessed in this metropolis.
This Chapel was opened for public worship in 1826, and originally cost upwards of £10,000. Lately £800 were expended in its repairs. As to architectural elegance, taste, and accommodation, this place is considered as unrivalled in the metropolis, or even in this kingdom. In the
lower part, the pews gradually rise above each other, forming an imposing and beautiful amphitheatre. There are two galleries. The first contains seven rows of pews; the second, or upper, is about half the depth, and set apart for children and the poor. The form of the pulpit is singular and magnificent, taken from the model of the rostrum of Demosthenes, seen in the Bodleian Library of Oxford.
This Chapel was built by the congregation of the Rev. Alexander Fletcher, and proves itself to be a remarkable testimony of their ardent and steadfast affection to their beloved pastor.
In the month of May many anniversary meetings are held of those sacred societies which shed such lustre on this city. For several years the Irish Evangelical Society, and the Christian Instruction Society, have held their annual meetings in this commodious structure, which is so well calculated for such animating and august assemblies.
May this edifice ever be a temple for the Triune Jehovah, and for the pure and unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ! Respecting it, may Zion's King ever say, "This is My rest; here will I dwell, for I have desired it." Amen.
THE BREAD CAST UPON THE WATERS.
"Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days."-Ecclesiastes xi. 1.
THE Commentators on this passage observe, that the expression, "Cast thy bread upon the waters," probably has reference to the husbandman casting his breadcorn into a marshy spot, or even upon the waters themselves, although apparently without the prospect of a harvest. If this be correct, the precept inust be considered as enjoining perseverance in well doing, even when there is the least likelihood of any success. We are not to compute the probable event; we have simply to determine the positive duty; and, when the latter is clear, we ought in no degree to suffer ourselves to be influenced by the former.
The precept evidently refers to endeavours to benefit our fellow-men, whether in temporal or spiritual respects, and urges us to continue those endeavours, in confidence of an ultimate recompense. The words are remarkable, inasmuch as they represent the same thing as found, which was originally dispersed; it is bread which was cast upon the waters, and it is this very bread which shall be found after many days. We do not indeed suppose that it will be necessary, in illustrating the words of the preacher, to prove in every case the identity or sameness of the thing cast and the thing found; it will be sufficient if we show, that a suitable and adequate reward will invariably follow on obedience to the precept, though we may have, moreover, to adduce particular instances in which this identity is apparent.
Now, it will at once appear, that the words of Solomon, taken in their largest signification, are to be classed with those passages of Scripture, which speak of the reward of good works, and use that reward as a motive to their performance. There can be nothing clearer from the Bible, than that, though man can deserve nothing from his Maker-so that his best actions, if tried by their own worth, would procure him only wrath-nevertheless he will be tried by his works, and receive a recompense, of which those works shall determine the extent. God, in His
infinite condescension and love, may resolve to deal with us as though we had been able to deserve at His hands, proportioning what He bestows to what we have done in His cause, though all the while it be only as a free gift that we receive the least of those elements, which are to constitute future happiness. And when this principle has been settled-the principle that there is no merit in us-we may speak of good works as hereafter to be rewarded, because they are as actually to regulate our portion, as though that portion were a recompense in the very strictest sense of the term.
If, then, it be lawful to speak of rewards, we may certainly speak of the bread cast upon the waters as found after many days. It will very frequently happen, that we have no means whatever of ascertaining that any beneficial results have been produced by our most unwearied and disinterested labours; and it is quite possible, moreover, that no such results have yet followed, and that none will follow. The minister may have toiled in vain, the parent may have striven in vain, the philanthropist been generous in vain. Not only may it be true, that none of these parties can discover any fruit of their exertions and sacrifices; it may be further true, that no fruit whatsoever has been yielded-so that minister, and parent, and philanthropist, have apparently spent their strength for nought. Yet, even in these extreme cases, we have only to keep in mind the retributions of eternity, and we may abundantly vindicate the statement of the preacher. The bread has been cast upon the waters, and our decision must be-if we shut out the appointments of the future-that it is utterly lost, and will never, under any form, return to its original proprietor; but, if we bring those appointments into account, we presently discover the falseness of that decision. We find that God has kept an exact register of every effort to promote His glory and the welfare of our fellow-men, and that, whatever may have been the success of that effort, He will adjudge it a recompense proportioned to its zeal and sincerity. And this at once shows, that the reward of our endeavours will be altogether independent of their achieving the proposed end—they may prosper, or they may be frustrated, but they are equally remembered, and equally marked out for a recompense by God. The bread, therefore, may, to all appearance, sink in the waters; every effort to feed the perishing with that living manna, which came down from heaven, may absolutely be defeated: but this is no proof that we shall not reap the reward of our labours; only let us put the " many days," for the interval from the present time to the day of judgment, and allow that, at this judgment, "the cup of cold water, given in the name of a disciple, shall not lose its reward," and the words of Solomon are established in their largest extent. The utmost that many of the most devoted servants of God can say, when they come to die, is, that they have been diligent in casting the bread upon the waters; they have received no testimonies to their usefulness, no evidence that the bread, thus cast-the example they have set, the exhortations they have uttered, the Bibles. they have distributed-have been instrumental to the adding a single member to the invisible church. And are they, on this account, to conclude, that they have made a wholly fruitless outlay of zeal and of exertion? It were indeed a most erroneous conclusion. The attempt to benefit others, if it spring from a pure love of God, may utterly fail, so far as its objects are concerned, but cannot fail to benefit ourselves. And when, at the last, those who have gladly spent and been spent in the service of God, and whose toils and sacrifices never have been sweetened by the knowledge that they have been effectual in accomplishing or in securing the ends which they sought-nay, whose toils and sacrifices have not only seemed, but have actually been, followed by no measure of successwhen these men shall receive their portion from the Judge, there will be given the most affecting demonstration, that" God is not unrighteous to forget any work or labour of love." To every action will be allotted a recompense, to every sacrifice a compensation. Efforts, which those who made them have forgotten-endurances, of which those who sustained them have lost the memory-actions, which seemed too inconsiderable to attract the notice of Him in whose cause they were performed, as well as more conspicuous transactions-these will be produced, without a solitary exception, from the book of God's remembrance, and not one shall pass without its remuneration. The righteous will marvel, it may be, at nothing so much as
at this thorough re-production of every particular of their conduct, and at the unerring precision with which their portion for eternity is adjusted, to what they did upon earth for God and for truth. And oh! as the tide of glory comes swelling in upon them, and they behold reflected from the mighty flood, as from a mirror, all their endeavours, and all their endurances, whilst they struggled with the wickedness of a depraved generation, will they not delightedly own, that toil was not lost because it overcame not resistance, and that zeal was not wasted because it gathered in no converts, and that prayer was not unheard because it brought down no regenerating influence? Yea, as they receive back in blessing whatever they have done and suffered, as servants of the Lord and His Christ, will they not feel, will they not acknowledge, the truth of the saying, "Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days?"
But we thus only vindicate the statement of the preacher, on the extreme supposition-namely, that our labours to do good are wholly ineffectual, so that they produce no advantageous results to those whose benefit was our object. And we call this the extreme supposition, because we believe that, ordinarily, where God is sought to be honoured in our endeavours, He crowns them with some measure of success, though He may not always allow that success to be known upon earth. We may, therefore, add, in reference to the judgment, that there will then be disclosures of the falseness of many calculations, which have decided that such and such endeavours were altogether fruitless. It is quite out of our power, in a variety—yea, in the majority of instances, to trace the consequences of any effort that we may make to confer moral benefit upon our fellow-men; we have to make the effort in faith, and we have to leave the issue with God; and of course there will be cases, in which the issue is ascertained, in which we know, that, through the Divine blessing, way has been made in converting souls; it far more frequently happens, that we are left in utter ignorance of results, and can point to no effects which can animate to fresh labours; but there may be those effects, when we have no power of discovering them. The quantity of good wrought through this or that agency, is one of those secrets which only the future can unfold. And we can believe, that this unfolding will be one of the most surprising and animating transactions which distinguish the last judgment. The minister, who has been oppressed, up to his dying day, by the melancholy conviction that his warnings, and entreaties, and expostulations, have been lost on his congregation-he may be hailed by many as the instrument of their conversion; so that he, who went down to his grave sorrowing that he had wielded to no purpose the sword of the Spirit, shall find himself surrounded by a rejoicing company, all testifying that it was by him the blow was dealt, which overthrew in their hearts the strongholds of Satan. And parents, who have had to struggle with the heaviest of human trials-the ungodliness of childrenand who have not had the least ground for hope that their counsels, and tears, and prayers, wrought any effect on their reprobate offspring-they may be met hereafter by the sons or the daughters, whose contempt of religion embittered their lives, but into whose hearts their admonitions had sunk, notwithstanding their apparent insensibility; and, on the morning of the resurrection, one of the first sounds which greets the father's ear, may be the voice of the child over whom he had sorrowed, and of whom he had almost despaired-thanking him, and blessing him, for his unwearied advice, and his faithful reproof, and exulting that the labours of an earthly parent had been successful in guiding him to reconciliation with a heavenly. And, in like manner, those who have been here assiduous in propagating the Gospel, who have concentrated their energies in spreading abroad the knowledge of salvation, but who have lived to see little or no fruit of their labours-why may we not think, that, in their cases, one of the great manifestations of the judgment will be that of the effects of their efforts; so that there will be a pressing forward of some heathen, who gained his knowledge of redemption from the missionary whom they helped to equip; and a family will arise, to ascribe its deliverance from ruin to the Bible with which they furnished their dwelling, and numbers will declare what a stimulus their example had been-so that they had given an impulse to benevolence which stirred others to liberality, and prevailed long after their spirits had entered into rest.