Images de page
PDF
ePub

123

AIDS TO REFLECTION.

I.

The most subtle danger for the Church is that which arises when the world has become “almost Christian" — when, through the long.continued efforts of good men in preaching, in education,

and in literature, society has laid aside its ancient grossness, and has addicted itself to the observation of the forms of religion. This is the special danger of our own time, a peril incomparably more constant than that which comes from the spread of scepticism or the occasional assaults of criticism. The “world” has become in the main a very good world, and the difference between it and the " Church" is not so striking as of yore. The Church, meanwhile, has not advanced in the spiritual and supernatural life in nearly the same proportion in which society has improved in outward morality. Thus there is going forward a destruction of the old boundary lines—the Church shades off into the world.by imperceptible degrees. It is impossible to tell where either begins or ends. Men of all degrees of goodness are united together in one great system of business and amusement, and the conventional negations of an effete “ Puritanism" exert less authority on social habits year after year. In such a state of things it is likely to follow that men will conclude on the worth lessness of a special Christian profession, or "Church-membership.” They will profit by ecclesiastical faults and individual failures to separate them. selves from organizations specially religious. Or, the Church will openly conform, through a supposed enlightenment and breadth of view," to the customs of this “good” world, both in work and play, until there is no more spirit left in her. The grand maxim is likely to be then, that "Religion never was designed to make our pleasures less.” Or, sinking down to wholly mean and unworthy views of the spiritual life, the chief efforts of " discerners of spirits" will be directed towards proving that amiable worldlings are saints in an agreeable disguise—that the secret of " catching men is to bait the hook of religion with the fire-fly of compromise, or to spread the net of Christian conformity to the amusements of the day in the main currents of society. But, as surely as God is true, the end of such delusions must be the destruction of the world and of the Church in one great conflagration of Divine displeasure. For genuine godliness will always be “ dead” to the "world,” however much the stagnant pool of unregenerate humanity may be crusted over with the film of an irridescent ritualism or a deceptive morality.

II. Those who will sacrifice nothing that is lawful, for a higher expediency of Divine service, have yet to learn the first lesson of the Cross. And those who will cagerly do all that is lawful, will soon

trespass beyond the line which divides it from wrong. There are some occupations and adventures in the sphere of business, and there are sume entertainments in the sphere of amusement, which must be judged of not simply by their intrinsic constituents, but by their associations, their tendencies, and their proved affinities with evil. These are the delicate tests by which God - discerns between the evil and the good.” Multitudes who are not “good” in the Divine sense, will yet, like Herod, “ do many things gladly" at the preaching of John, and put on an appearance which, in some aspects, might be mistaken for the “form of godliness ;” but only good men will “ depart from evil” by leaving a considerable space between themselves and the extreme line of permitted indulgence. Sacrifice is the mark of salvation, and, while the world stands, martyrdom of some kind is the condition of discipleship.

III. In a village near London a whole colony of "navvies” was recently hardened into contemptuous hostility to religion, through the base and disgraceful behaviour, in affairs of money, of two of their own body, who were

“Church members” in the locality. Similar consequences are attending the inconsistency of professed Christians daily through every rank of society. “One sinner destroyeth much good.” One “false brother” hardens a whole neighbourhood. And on such souls there rests not only the burden of their own sins, but the intolerable weight of the damnation of their fellow men. There are pleasant, smiling, smooth-faced “Christians" walking about our streets, and doing through their personal behaviour a work of soul-destruction, whose character could be fitly represented only if they themselves were visibly transformed into raging fiends, such as those who made the sepulchres of Gadara resound at night with their infernal roar. And it had been good for all such men as thus betray the Son of Man “with a kiss” if they had nerer been born.

IV. Great effects on character can seldom be produced by any but striking dispensations of providence; and since God's providence is spiritual and eternal in its aims, and does not content itself with the creation of secular happiness, it often involves procedures which to the eye of sense might appear to bear the marks of severity, or even of absolute indifference to suffering. But since the formation of character is the principal aim_" to do thee good at thy latter end”and pain of body or mind is essential to the formation of all that is most divine in man, God “chastises” those whom he loves, and leads them through deep waters, which no light can irradiate except that “pillar of fire” which is invisible to the Egyptians.

V. The bitterest inflictions often bring with them the elements of their own alleviations. There is no grief more desolating than the sudden withdrawal of those few for whom God seems to have antedated the angelic life, and who have shed a radiant light upon their earthly homes. But scarcely has this cloud overshadowed men with its darkness than they see that its edges are bright with the reflection of an eternal glory beyond. A beautiful life, serene, consistent, and affectionate, “full of mercy and good fruits,” leaves behind it a gleam in the west which foretells the bright rising again," and thus “overcomes the sharpness of death,” while it seems to open again the kingdom of heaven “ to all believers."

VI. Viewed in the presence of such a simple and luminous individua history, in which God had been the inspiration and the end, how vain and unworthy appear the strifes of theology or of ecclesiastical parties. The highest goodness belongs to no party but Christ's, to no Church but the “ Church of the Firstborn.” It breathes the air of paradise, and finds no “rest for its spirit” but in the living God. And a common life of daily labour, in the work of a home which allows of no physical repose, may exhibit religion in a form so lovely as to compel out of doors adoration of the Power which thus reveals itself in the sphere of sense. The serenity, the orderliness, the industry, the benignity of a Christian life, which disarms envy by its gentleness, and criticism by its simplicity of aim, may render a greater service to the

cause of God” than the vocal eloquence of dozen evangelista. A "meek and quiet” spirit may present religion in an aspect so charming and so mighty, that it shall • still even the enemy and the avenger."

SHORT NOTICES OF BOOKS.

Miscellaneous Essays, Critical and spirit than the irritating and and on Evangelicalism, which even This volume has an additional their author must admit will “not value, as coming from the pen of please his neighbour for his good to a Nonconformist preacher. It edification." The worst suspicion ought to rebuke the intellectual they leave on the mind of the indifference and sloth of many of reader is, that they were not meant our pastors, while it will serve either " for pleasing" or "edifica- as direction in the studies of tion," but to win a victory by the earnest and isolated. Every their sharp scorn and pitiless force. minister ought to know something We are not anxious to recall at- of the history, the grounds of tention to these defects, because authority, and the scope of the they have been sufficiently re- books out of which he has to teach marked upon, and because we his people ; he ought to be able to trust that Mr. Kirkus will con- satisfy himself that the morals tinue to write, and will yet give which he expresses in the pulpit the public something worthy of are in agreement with the constihis abilities, and that shall tution of his nature; and that the leave no stain upon his reputa- theology he extracts from the tion for good temper and good Bible is justified by a sound phitaste. Let him remember and losophy. All this has its place in act upon his own beautiful words: this volume, and shows the cha“Mere bluster and blows are but racter of its writer's pursuits. If a poor evidence of the goodness for nothing else, we would comof the cause that needs them; and mend it heartily to the notice of virtue, when she has won a vic- our ministers everywhere. tory that has been 'with confused noise, and garments rolled

made a

Theological. By the Rev. W. supercilious manner in which those KIRKUS, LL.B. London: Elliot are treated who differ from its Stock. 1864.

author in his views of popular

literature, social amusements, the This is a new edition, at a re- worth of the Sabbath, and those duced price, of a volume that matters included under the New

considerable sensation Testament phrase, “all manner of when first published, about two conversation.” Mr. Kirkus has years ago. It was felt, no less by diligently studied the Scriptures, the friends than by the literary but he does not seem to have suffiand theological opponents of Mr. ciently laid to heart the teachings Kirkus, that it contained very of St. Paul in relation to weak much that should never have been brethren and tender consciences. written by one who professes to There are passages in the essays, have the spirit of the Master. upon the works of Mr. Dickens, Nothing can be further from that upon Preachers and Preaching, D.D., Vicar of Doncaster.-1. of her form, and cramped the

The Epistles of St. Paul, for English in blood,' rejoices to put off the

Readers. By C. J. VAUGHAN, armour that concealed the grace

The First Epistle to the Thesfreedom of her action, and to prove

salonians. Cambridge and Lonnot only that she won the victory,

don: Macmillan and Co. 1864. but that she deserved it.” It is We have often thought that a because we believe that he has competent scholar would render concealed graces, and a capacity good service to students of the for freer and truer action, that we Word by editing the work of Dr. express the hope. These essays Macknight on the Epistles. Dean are well worth reading. They Stanley and Professor Jowett used evince remarkable power, sound, one part of his scheme in their shrewd sense, and, with some paraphrases, and added essays on qualification, a simple and healthy subjects arising from the texts : taste. Mr. Kirkus likes good but no one has attempted to bring books and good companions. He the whole scheme, which was a is evidently the unrelenting foe very valuable one, up to the of meanness and weakness in men; demands of modern scholarship. of artificiality and ignorance in In this new work of Dr. Vaughan, women. His paper on True we have the plan partially adopted Womapliness is an evidence of the for the benefit of the English one, and all he has written of the reader, so as to enable those "sunother.

acquainted with the Greek lan

man.

guage to enter with intelligence in awe of. Through a substantive into the meaning, connexion, and expressing

expressing an object of awe, comes phraseology of the writings of the an adjective meaning reverend, great Apostle.” The author seeks holy, and thence a verb to render to attain this very desirable end holy, to consecrate. In its applicaby giving in two parallel columns; tion to man, it is first found in first, a literal translation of the John xvii. 17: Sanctify them through 9th edition of Fischendorff's text; thy truth : thy word is truth. next, and more conspicuously, the The prayer here is, that God may Authorised English Version. Be- make that consecration not nomineath these two columns a free nal, not partial, but complete; paraphrase is placed, which serves an entire and all-pervading devoas a running commentary, and tion of all that they have and all below this a body of notes of that they are to God alone." “ mixed character, including both doctrinal explanation and verbal

Parable or Dirine Poesy. Illusillustration."

trations in Theology and Morals, We can very strongly recom

Selected from Great Divines, and mend this attempt to "convey the

systematically arranged. By

R. A. BERTRAM. Part I. Pitmind of the Spirit" to the notice and study of our readers. A careful and repeated reading of this This is the beginning of a work part would result in a sound know- which bids fair to be decidedly ledge of the epistle it contains; superior to anything of the kind while those who have at their dis- attempted heretofore. The value posal larger and more learned and variety of these “Illustracommentaries would still find it no tions in Theology and Morals” mean advantage to have reaù this. will be sufficiently attested by the

Dr. Vaughan seems to us to be mention of the following names of a model expositor. He is exact, • Great Divines" from whose terse, condensed. Reverent to works the extracts in this first Scripture writers, appreciative of part are taken: Augustine, Alfric, all that learning can do, yet never Chrysostom, Donne, Downame, confusing by inserting in his notes Flavel, Arrowsmith, Jeremy Taythe many varying and conflicting lor, Adams, Gurnall, Sibbes, opinions which learning has sug- Arnot, Guthrie, Beecher, &c. gested. We especially advise those The “Illustrations" are arranged ministers who are anxious to in sections, under appropriate return to the wholesome method headings, in alphabetical order, of exposition, and who would the subjects illustrated being Ad"give the sense" of what is read, versity, Affections, AMiction, Amto obtain the works of this author, bition, Anxiety. To preachers and more particularly the one this work will be of especial sernow before us. The notes are ad- vice, supplying a fund of the mirable guides to the meaning of choicest parables, and at the same words and phrases, and the logical time exemplifying the methods sequence of clauses is made very adopted by the greatest masters of clear. Here is an example taken the art of preaching. Ordinary at random-Chap. v. 23 : Sanc- readers will also find in it pleasant tify, from a verb denoting to stand and instructive reading for leisure

« PrécédentContinuer »