« PrécédentContinuer »
showing Jesus and the world “standing face to face sworn foes; each deeply conscious of the deadly hate which either felt to the other," and prepared for final and fatal strife.
After hearing much about the law of the world and its results, and after not finding how we should overcome, we had a formal appeal which would have carried an impression of solemnity, if the auditors could have felt that the way of duty or privilege had been made plain ; if forceful thought had grasped the heart, and truth had fairly come to grips with conscience.
The preacher gravely declared himself clear of the blood of all. He shifted the weight of responsibility to the hearers, specially reminding them of obligations laid on them by“ the instructions of the Church, the promises of the Word of God, the blood of Christ shed for you on the cross, and the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into you by sacraments.”
One final appeal was yet in reserve, an appeal to the affections, something to reach the heart. “It is asserted,” we were informed, " that if a child, an infant, be early taken from its own mother and brought up by a nurse, its attachment to the nurse will be apparently as strong and tender as if she were the parent. But let the real mother be afterwards known, such is the effect of maternal tenderness, and such the instinct of filial affection, that the apparently strong attachment to the nurse will yield to the superior attraction, and the real love (rightly hers) will be given to the mother.” There was a little puzzle to make out what this had to do with the subject in hand; but the perplexity did not last long. The next sentences made all as clear as noonday. "The world has been your nurse, whom you may have loved too well in your mistake and estrangement. Return now, then, to your mother, the Church. God is your father, and THE CHURCH is your mother. Return to your MOTHER, THE CHURCH ! ”
This, then, was "the conclusion of the whole matter;" this the grand and final result of a discourse which had been continued an hour and twenty minutes, by one of “the two greatest preachers in England.”
We came away musing whether the preacher had neglected to read the title of the subject as assigned him in the circular, or whether the printer had misprinted a word, or whether before going to the service we had misread “ Christ” for “Church." A wag, sotto voce, recalled for his own or his companion's benefit certain Byronic lines :
"Perhaps you may pick out some queer no meaning,
Of this weak wordy harvest the small gleaning." A gentle lady quietly said "I should be sorry to hear such preaching very often.”
hy in many either saya," or
Another observed, “ He has too much attempt at the dramatic to please me.”
A third lamented, in sad tones of disappointment, the loss of so fine an opportunity for showing such a congregation something of the excellence and glory of her Saviour; a lamentation which would find responsive sympathy in many a devout mind.
How few of the auditors, it is to be feared, either saw any sure way of “deliverance from the snares of the world,” or desired to find it, or felt the need of it, as a result of the service they had attended! It is certain they had seen little of “the manifestation of Christ.” But let us console ourselves. We had the satisfaction of having “assisted ” (to use a Romish phrase) at the service describing or denouncing the “ intangible, versatile, contagious, disguising” world, and so far as our share of it is concerned, we might have had a kind of complacent contentedness about it, an unexpressed conclusion that we might go on as we had done in the world, without any great disturbance to the conscience or danger to the soul.
Of the second service attended, little need be said, but for the sake of the conclusion, which is too good to be lost. The subject announced was “ The Manifestation of Christ, the Succour of the Sinking Soul.-Peter.” Instead of the vivacious declamation of the former evening, we had a dreary monotonous drawl utterly distressing to hear, even had the matter been angelic. There was little about Christ, or “the succour of the sinking soul." The discourse had nothing to do with the text except at the beginning and the end. At the beginning there was something about “walking on the waves of the world, and finding them hard and solid beneath the feet; but the time might come when those who walk without fear might cry out in the words of the text, “Lord, save me.'” At the close of the discourse we were suddenly directed to the efficiency of Peter's cry, and advised that we might find in it a sort of miraculous force. “ See,” said the preacher, “the marvellous effect. Immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him. . . And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.' As soon as the Apostle had come into the ship the wind ceased, and all his fears and troubles were at an end. So will it be with you. Your disturbances and distresses and troubles will all be at an end as soon as you come into THE SHIP OF THE CHURCH!”
We had one refreshing for the soul when the sermon was done. Many sweet voices joined to sing,
us, lover of my soul.” The hymn was more appropriate to the subject announced
the marvert of miraculeter's cry, and we were
than the sermon had been; and the whimsical notion of “the ship of the Church ” was absorbed in the blessed thought of shelter from the storm, and salvation from all evil in Him who is at once the “hiding-place” for His people, the loving Saviour, and the everlasting Lord.
THE REVELATION OF GOD IN A FUTURE STATE.
THERE is a should say rather that we are not able to
THERE is a strange fascination for us in “the future state," or, perhaps, we should say rather, in any state distant and different from our own. We all feel that we are living, as the poets would say, in the "Age of Iron.” We are not able to master the forces of Nature, and subdue them to our will, or rather we have not learned so to stoop as to conquer her. “One in a certain place testifieth, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels ; Thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of Thine hands. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. But now we see not yet all things put under him.” The life of man is often a long series of disappointments. The most successful man has often failed, and perhaps many of our successes have been the result only of our having had low aims and mean desires, very unworthy of the powers and destiny of human spirits. Not here, but backwards or forwards we are ever looking for the age of gold; nor does it seem to matter much in which direction men look. To picture Eden, and to anticipate Paradise regained seem to be congenial occupations; though it is strange indeed that any grown-up man should be able to persuade himself that the far-off eastward garden, with its four rivers and its tree of life, and all the calm and peace with which poets have invested it, would be a happy dwelling-place for one accustomed to all the bustle and energy of our own age. Men whose lives and thoughts have been enriched by the long accumulating treasures of many ages and many lands, would not find themselves contented with the abode of our first parents. Indeed the Eden that we sigh for is far more the creature of our own imagination than of any history. It is to us simply the opposite of what we now experience. The restlessness and rapidity of our daily life, our continual competition, the clashing of our
emelk forwarder, or of the
separate interests, the ever growing labour, the ever lessening leisure to which we have to submit; all these seem so full of evil for the individual, so fruitful of divisions, and hatreds, and strifes, that we long for any rest—the rest even of stagnation, or of the world's sleepy infancy. And when we look forward instead of backward, we still too often mistake meremetaphors for prophecies of what will really come to pass. We still think of a garden, of a tree in the midst bearing twelve manner of fruits, and leaves that can heal the nations, of a river of water of life, and the same uneventful repose that we fancy Adam and Eve enjoyed. We forget that all these are but emblems, and that the only rest we ought to long for is rest fit for a full-grown man, such rest as He entered into who, nevertheless, "worketh hitherto " and evermore.
It is not, indeed, strange that man should try to escape from the present into the future or the past. To them belong dreams, and hopes, happy recollections, vague desires, and prayers that have not yet been answered. The present, on the contrary, is possessed by our duties and our labours. It is easy to build castles in the air; to build castles on the earth is not easy. It is far easier to dream of a reward than to win it; easier to imagine the joy of victory than to fight a battle. Nevertheless, we should continually remind ourselves that there is no future blessedness of which the germs are not here; that “God is not mocked ; and that whatsoever a man soweth that he shall also reap.”
It would be extremely absurd to attempt to furnish any new description of the heavenly state. We have no map of the other world, no plan of the golden streets of the New Jerusalem Indeed, nothing is more strange than the questions with which people are continually teasing themselves about the world to come; questions to which the answer is either impossible, or implied in the questions themselves. “Will the world be burned up? Will inanimate nature and the brutes have their share in man's redemption ? Will this world be our future home, or shall we be translated to some other star or planet? Shall we recognise each other in that other state of being ?” These are questions equally common and foolish, for the answer to some of them is far beyond our each. Chemistry does not pretend to explain the final conflagration, and tell us by what combination of gases the “loud noise" will be produced with which the heavens will pass away. It is only men whose astronomy is derived from sources unknown to science, that can tell us which planet is fit to be the abode of ransomed men. And when we ask the question, shall we recognise each other in a future state ? we have, by the very fact of asking it, already suggested the only possible answer. A future cut off from the past would be
let worlothing is ually tean the ans.
Wites have hom
There how suggesterces of trutherse there is way will be se tam
only the annihilation of one being and the creation of another. It would be imposible to desire a heaven empty of all whom we love ; for the love of others has, by God's own appointment, made up by far the greater portion of our truest life, and has been the source of our best revelations of Himself. This is the very fact that constitutes the great profitableness of our Lord's parables ; above all, the parable of the Prodigal Son. We have learned far more of God's righteousness and grace from the conduct of our parents towards ourselves, and our own conduct to our children, than from whole libraries of dogmatic theology. To cut us off from all these sources of knowledge would be little better than annihilation. The word heaven would still remain for us, the reality would have perished.
Yet if we have no minute knowledge of the future state, we may perceive what sort of revelation of God we need and may expect to find there. The religion of races and of individuals begins and ends with the cry of Job, “O that I knew where I might find Him !” Many answers are granted to all of us before we die, and many and far greater have been granted to the whole race; but we are still unsatisfied, our longings are only directed and instructed, and, indeed, made more vehement. There is always a horizon to our knowledge of God. All that we know suggests more that we do not know. We have discovered many sources of truth by which God reveals Himself to us; but even in every one of these there is imperfection yet to be removed, and which, we feel sure, one day will be removed. And this is far more true if we look, not at individuals among ourselves, but at the whole race, “the colossal man.” He, at least, is but in infancy. Christianity itself professes to have a future brighter than the present; "now we know in part, we shall know even as also we are known.” But what shall we say of the heathenism that yet covers the far greater portion of the earth, and of the gross corruptions of Christ's religion; we cannot surely look to them to find all desires satisfied, men perfectly reflecting God's image, God all in all.
Every hope, however, of a fuller revelation of God in a future state implies what we acknowledge in words, but only half believe our own personal immortality. It implies that we shall share the future, that we shall have a part in all that is done under the sun. Apart from this, what were the progress of the race to us, what were even the progress of our own country, and the well-being of our own children? Nor would our indifference be merely selfish ; for to become entirely and for ever separated from our fellow-men by death would be a proof that there is no human race at all, that men do not constitute a kind, that there is no family of man, that we are not a body, and