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ON THE RELATION BETWEEN CHRISTIANS OF
No. II. A MISUNDERSTANDING of the true principle of Christian union may be stated as the primary cause of half the coldness and reserve of the members of various churches, especially in country towns. Union, to be perfect and practical, must be the result of oneness in mind and purpose. Where there exists this soul-sympathy, real communion may be enjoyed without regard to rank or station. Such a bond of union ought to link every pastor with his people. The cordial recognition of the fact that every individual member is a vital part of one and the same organization, is the grand principle of all Christian unity. If Christians understood this better, and practised it more frequently, minor matters might be more happily adjusted than they now are. Hindrances would still remain deep seated and difficult of cure. Congregationalism permits the development of every man's true character. All the idiosyncrasies and defects remain untouched ; each can rise to the surface with equally unrestricted liberty. Hence it is that sometimes you find the talkative, self-opinionated, ill-bred man, asserting his little sentiments, and domineering over more sensible, but also more sensitive, Christians. Few congregational churches are quite free from such an excrescence (we call it such, because it forms no integral part of dissent). We cannot, however, deny the fact that there are vulgar, ill-bred, captious, and domineering Christians who only abuse the freedom of dissent by brow-beating their pastor, solely because he is more refined and better educated than himself.
Have you never noticed the involuntary shiver that runs through the whole assembly when such persons rise to address the meeting. Even the pastor invariably winces, for experience has taught him what painful jagged wounds such dull blunt blades can inflict. It needs the wisdom of the serpent, and harmlessness of the dove, to deal with such creatures; but, on the whole, they do get very fairly dealt with, and none but themselves ever feel annoyed when the pastor, with infinite tact, quietly “puts them down." When, however, the pastor is vacillating and deficient in moral courage, such rude rough spirits run riot in the church, and cause endless irritation. No cultivated minds could make such a man an intimate.
Another class of prominent Christians may be seen periodically canvassing various districts with pence-bags and reports, who positively cannot be admitted into close friendship because they are such flagrant gossips. This mischievous spirit walked the
earth in the days of the Apostles, and has not been exorcised yet. You may respect these Christians for their earnest zeal, and respond generously to their call for subscriptions, but prudence forbids your making them bosom friends.
Some Christians will fall frantically in love with a person at first sight, and seem hurt and surprised if this show of affection be not reciprocated. I imagine others beside myself object to being thus taken by storm. Friendship is too precious a pearl to be thus cast away at random. I must at least know my friend before I can love.
If nature has given me a painfully acute disgust at the smell of meat, am I showing a want of Christian love if I find some pretext for selecting my seat the other side of the room when my Christian brother (a butcher by trade) enters the room decidedly beefy in odour ?
Must I cordially greet my fair friend bedizened in feathers and finery, but mentally bare withal, because we meet at the Lord's table? I would offer her my pew, give her my cushion, and my most gorgeously bound hymn-book, but out of the church we should not have one single idea in cominon.
It is not pleasant to sit at table with one who shows an utter contempt for conventionalities; some may have witnessed how ill at ease such persons appear in cultivated society. All men are not adapted to associate as equals. There are refinements, intellectual pursuits, and luxuries, almost essential to some from habit and association, which to others would be positively irksome. In spite of this, however, you will find in almost all communities forward, pushing, and intrusive people, who, under pretence of seeking pure Christian union, scarcely conceal the real desire of their hearts, which is to associate intimately with those really superior to them in tastes and education. Such would-be aristocrats quite overlook the true principle of Christian unity, and do much to sever real Christians from each other. Much that is harshly called pride is only the result of constitutional reserve and sensitiveness which recoils from rude familiarity, and by no means warrants us in denying the beating of a kind warm heart beneath.
As a rule, it may be observed that those who are constantly harping on the pride and indifference of those around, are invariably those who have very little else to do in the Church. Busyworkers have not time to brood over the averted glance, or the cool demeanour; but old people, and others who have much time on their hands, seem to delight in magnifying their grievances, and, not content with their own only, they even trouble themselves to try and make others sensible of slights and neglects that might otherwise have passed unheeded. Such persons may be likened to the fly in the pot of ointment.
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All these hindrances to unity, however, which seem so obstinate and deep-seated, are not positively insurmountable. One grand distinguishing feature of Christian charity is, its readiness to accept poor fallen human nature as it is, and treat it kindly, not in spite of, but because of, its very imperfections. Being keenly conscious of failings and besetting sins myself, I ought to feel almost thankful to find others not too perfect for me to dare to call them friends. The growth of religion in the soul is progressive, and a man's constitutional tendencies cannot be eradicated, or even brought into perfect control at once. We are too apt, like the Apostles of old, to call some intruders and troublesome to whom Christ with His God-like discernment of character would willingly extend His hand and say “Suffer them to come.”
Let us remember that though we see too plainly the various and manifold faults of Christians, we do not see the deep contrition of soul that follows. Many a Christian has wet his couch with bitter tears at the remembrance of the dishonour his sins have brought on Christ's cause. Though like Peter they sin openly, like him too they retire to weep.
Religion has a refining influence on the character, and none can be wholly bad or hopelessly unloveable who have tasted the joy of believing in Christ. There must be this bond of union in every true Christian's heart. Granting this, we still maintain that it is utterly impossible for all the members of a Christian church to assemble intimately together. Numbers alone would prevent it. But were it possible, such intimacy would prove neither profitable nor pleasant. We admit that God has need of every workman whom He has called into His vineyard. So long, however, as He continues to dispense ten talents to some and to others only one, so long will there remain a clear protest against union degenerating into mere equality. Christian sympathy is something far higherin toneand infinitely separated from this state of disorder. It is the very vitality of a Christian church, and therefore it is that each and every member of a church should individually strive to cultivate it. Let me not watch too keenly how I am treated by others, but rather let me see to it that I conduct myself with humility and kindness to those around me.
[* A few months ago we inserted a paper with the above title, having for its object to reprove the stuck-up behaviour of some rich but vulgar Christians towards their inferiors, who are members of the same churches with themselves. As it appeared to us that this distribution of reproof was rather one-sided, we requested the authorees to address a word in season to the “inferiors" also, who sometimes, by their lack of modesty, gentleness, and respect, by their destitution of Christian grace, and by their simply secular desire of a social advancement, hinder the expression of a real Christian love between the different ranks of people in a religious community. Accordingly, our authoress, per the present paper, administers the requisite exhortation to the other side.--En. CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR.]
NOTES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN.
THE NEW TESTAMENT HEARERS.
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"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”—Joun xiv. 4. The question that naturally arises on these words is, whether our Lord referred to his return to the earth at His resurrection, or to the intermediate state of souls between death and the resurrection of believers, or to the final ascension of believers after their own resurrection to that paradise of God in the heavens which is promised as the permanent abode of redeemed men. An attentive study of the passage leaves little doubt that the reference is to the final glorification of the Church with Christ after their resurrection. It is, indeed, the privilege of every Christian to be “with Christ,” in some sense, in every stage of his spiritual history. “I will never leave you," is a promise which embraces both the infancy and the glorious maturity of the Christian life. Christ is with us now, and we are with Him. He dwells in us by His own Eternal Spirit. “He walketh among the golden candlesticks." We are " members of His body," We are “one spirit” with the Lord of Life. All these expressions denote a real and intimate present union with Jesus Christ—a union denoted by "eating His flesh and drinking His blood” in the Holy Supper—a union which is the basis of our communion with the spirits of those who have preceded us into the eternal world. Besides this, Christians are specially assured by the Lord that in death their souls are favoured with a still nearer approach to Him in the scene of His mediatorial glory. In former dispensations the souls of good men “went down into Sheol” often “mourning ;" but Christ prayed—" Father, I will that those whom Thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." Accordingly, immediately on the ascension of Jesus, we find an altogether new type of expression used by dying believers respecting the destination of their spirits. Stephen said, “ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Paul said, “It is better to depart and to be with Christ." "Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” And, we are said, in contra-distinction to the old times of revelation, to have come to the heavenly Jerusalem, with its innumerable company of angels, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. And in the Apocalypse, John sees, in vision, a multitude that no man can number, clothed in white robes, standing on the sea of glass, before the throne of God in heaven, and he is especially assured that these are they who came out of great tribulation. Putting these things together, we cannot but conclude that, although
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with reference to the body, Christians are still said to sleep in Jesus, their souls are awake and behold his glory in the upper skies, in a pre-eminent sense, being present with the Lord.”
But neither of these senses-neither Christ's spiritual presence on earth with His people, nor the ascension of their souls to be with Him when they die-fill up the requirements of the words of this text. Christ speaks of “coming again and receiving them unto Himself,” and of taking them to be with Him, after that return to the place which He was then going to “prepare" for them. It remains then only to conclude that the Lord here passes over, as merely temporary incidents, both His earthly and spiritual indwelling, and the intermediate state of souls in Paradise, and reaches forward to that full and final glorification of the Church which shall take place at His second Advent, when the children of God shall shine forth as the Sun in their heavenly Father's realm, and they shall be, both in their souls and in their spiritual bodies, for “ever with the Lord.” To us, in our present condition, and with our contracted views, that which is present, or that which comes next, may appear the most deserving of notice; but to an eye that sees all, and sees the end, and the everlasting results of redemption, the reference would naturally be to that state which will be immutable and eternal.
The subject, then, presented in this verse is the glorification of the risen Church with the risen Lord : “ That where I am, there ye may be also.” It requires a great effort of thought to throw the mind forwards and upwards sufficiently to form even the faintest conception of what that state of glory will be. Yet it is an exercise of the mind to which we are prompted not only by a holy curiosity, but by the suggestions of that Spirit whose special work it is to reveal to us “what is the eternal glory to which we are called.” We naturally dream over our successive futures. The child dreams of the future joy of being a young man or a maiden; and youth and maiden lovingly dream of the future happiness of the life which awaits them; and men and women dream of a future even on earth, when rest shall follow labour, and ease endurance, and perhaps the sweet and grateful ministeries of filial love soothe an age of competence and peace
-all of them futures which are liable to disappointment, and sometimes to strange and terrible eclipse ;- but here is a future which cannot fail to come, if only we go forth properly prepared to meet it. Here, too, is an endless future, which disappointment shall never darken, nor the shadows overcloud. And shall we not more than dream of that? It is as real as revelation-as solid a reality as the life and ascension of Jesus Christ. It is the grand secret of glory hidden from us by the veil of the starry firmament. Unless we strive to think of it, we shall scarcely