« PrécédentContinuer »
AIDS TO REFLECTION.
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 tbe 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 never 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.
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 breatnes 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 a 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
Theological. By the Rev. W
This is a new edition, at a reduced price, of a volume that made à considerable sensation when first published, about two years ago. It was felt, no less by the friends than by the literary and theological opponents of Mr. Kirkus, that it contained very much that should never have been written by one who professes to have the spirit of the Master. Nothing can be further from that
spirit than the irritating and supercilious manner in which those are treated who differ from its author in his views of popular literature, social amusements, the worth of the Sabbath, and those matters included under the New Testament phrase, “all manner of conversation." Mr. Kirkus has diligently studied the Scriptures, but he does not seem to have sufficiently laid to heart the teachings of St. Paul in relation to weak brethren and tender consciences. There are passages in the essays, upon the works of Mr. Dickens, upon Preachers and Preaching, 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 get 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
The Epistles of St. Paul, for English in blood,' rejoices to put off the
Readers. By C. J. VAUGHAN, armour that concealed the grace
D.D., Vicar of Doncaster.-1. of her form, and cramped the
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 Womanliness 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 "unother.
acquainted with the Greek lan
guage to enter with intelligence into the meaning, connexion, and phraseology of the writings of the great Apostle." The author seeks to attain this very desirable end by giving in two parallel columns; first, a literal translation of the 9th edition of Fischendorff's text; next, and more conspicuously, the Authorised English Version. Beneath these two columns a free paraphrase is placed, which serves as a running commentary, and below this a body of notes of " mixed character, including both doctrinal explanation and verbal illustration."
We can very strongly recommend this attempt to “convey the mind of the Spirit” to the notice and study of our readers. A careful and repeated reading of this part would result in a sound know ledge of the epistle it contains; while those who have at their disposal larger and more learned commentaries would still find it no mean advantage to have real this.
Dr. Vaughan seems to us to be a model expositor. He is exact, terse, condensed. Reverent to Scripture writers, appreciative of all that learning can do, yet never confusing by inserting in his notes the many varying and conflicting opinions which learning has suggested. We especially advise those ministers who are anxious to return to the wholesome method of exposition, and who would "give the sense" of what is read, to obtain the works of this author, and more particularly the one now before us. The notes are admirable guides to the meaning of words and phrases, and the logical sequence of clauses is made very clear. Here is an example taken at random-Chap. v. 23: “Sanctify, from a verb denoting to stand
in awe of. Through a substantive expressing an object of awe, comes an adjective meaning reverend, holy, and thence a verb to render holy, to consecrate. In its application to man, it is first found in John xvii. 17: Sanctify them through thy truth : thy word is truth. The prayer here is, that God may make that consecration not nominal, not partial, but complete; an entire and all-pervading devotion of all that they have and all that they are to God alone.” Parable or Divine Poesy. Ilustrations in Theology and Morals, Selected from Great Divines, and systematically arranged By R. A. BERTRAM. Part I. Pitman. This is the beginning of a work which bids fair to be decidedly superior to anything of the kind attempted heretofore. The value and variety of these “Illustrations in Theology and Morals” will be sufficiently attested by the mention of the following names of “Great Divines" from whose works the extracts in this first part are taken: Augustine, Ælfric, Chrysostom, Donne, Downame, Flavel, Arrowsmith, Jeremy Taylor, Adams, Gurnall, Sibbes, Arnot, Guthrie, Beecher, &c. The “Illustrations” are arranged in sections, under appropriate headings, in alphabetical order, the subjects illustrated being Adversity, Affections, Affliction, Ambition, Anxiety. To preachers this work will be of especial service, supplying a fund of the choicest parables, and at the same time exemplifying the methods adopted by the greatest masters of the art of preaching. Ordinary readers will also find in it pleasant and instructive reading for leisure