Images de page

you an injury. It is sufficient that you forgive him, as you desire forgiveness."


In my judgment, it is highly objectionable to teach that there is no occasion to go to our Christian brother for reconcilement, if he have injured us; it is a doctrine directly opposed to Matt. xviii. 15, "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault," &c. Neither can it be legitimately deduced from the text on which it is grounded. the venerable father to be right in limiting its meaning to him whom we have injured, and that it bears no reference to him who has injured us, it is obvious that instruction respecting our duty to the offending party cannot be deduced from this silence; no inference can be drawn from one proposition to another which in both its terms is contrary to the first. Another fallacy also lurks in the argument; there is a substitution of terms. It would, indeed, be an absurdity to "ask pardon" of him who has injured us: but then, "asking pardon" is not identical with "seeking reconcilement." I demur, however, to the gloss which narrows our Lord's exhortation strictly to the case of our inflicting an injury, and thus deprives it of its practical utility. In most quarrels there are mutual offences; and it would be difficult even for an impartial judge to apportion precisely the respective demerits of each party. But, when the functions both of juror and judge are to be discharged within the narrow range of a man's own soul, we may easily foretel that few cases will arise for the application of the rule. Surely, "aught against thee" is the most indefinite expression that can be used; it has a general application: some obstacle exists to the flow of truly Christian charity; stay not to inquire nicely which of you has been most active in impeding the fertilising current; but lose no time and spare no pains in removing the impediment. You are not required to "ask pardon" in all cases; whether that will be your duty, depends on the particular circumstances of the quarrel; but in all cases diaλayn0i, be it your earnest endeavour to make a total change in his uncharitable sentiments towards you; or, as the Vulgate expresses it, reconciliare, let sentiments of friendship be renewed between you.

Mr. Bickersteth's quotation of this insulated passage cannot give the reader a correct idea of St. Augustine's mode of interpreting the text. The fact is, that he explains it in a spiritual or figurative sense. Your enemy, he says, may not be standing near the altar when you arrive with your gift. It would be absurd to leave it waiting there, while you perhaps cross the sea in quest of him. We are, therefore, compelled to understand our Lord as enjoining internal acts of reconcilement and a mental prostration before our offended brother. These we must perform, before we offer up our gift; that is, our religious discourses, our prayers, or our praises.-In the midst of this somewhat too refined explanation, the passage quoted is introduced. Evidently then the "going for reconcilement," the "asking for pardon," and the " forgiving," which in the judgment of Austin are not required of the party offended, are also mental acts. Thus, only, can he be reconciled with his recorded sentiments in other passages. For it is a widely different question whether we are not bound to strain every nerve for a reconciliation, which shall be, not merely internal, with no other witnesses than God and our own conscience; but an outward formal act, in which our brother bears as efficient a part as ourselves: and no Christian teacher is more energetic than St. Austin, in urging the necessity of our literally going to the offender in order to accomplish this exalted work of Christian charity. "Why art thou to reprove him? Is it because his offence has given thee pain? Far from it. If thou act from self-love, thou doest nothing; if from love to him, thou doest excellently. The very words of our Lord unfold the motive for obeying them: If he shall hear

thee, thou hast gained thy brother.' Do it then for his sake, that thou mayest gain him. Thou gainest him by doing it; it follows then, that he would have perished, if thou hadst not done it." Such is the substance of Augustine's argument.-V. 5, Serm. 82, on Matt. xviii. 15.

T. B.


To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

M. G. H.'s brief paper in your Number for December, in reply to "the inquiry, how may we know when we are led by the Holy Spirit," is scriptural and satisfactory so far as it goes, but it is scarcely an answer to the question; except as it says in substance, that all that is good is from God, and not least our repentance, our faith, our conversion, and our sanctification. But the particular point to be solved lies deeper. "How may I know," says a seriously disposed candidate for the ministry, "that I am really moved by the Holy Ghost, in wishing to take upon me the sacred office?" He was, perhaps, educated for it; and, even if he had never become truly devoted to the service of God, would have applied for Holy Orders. Now that it has pleased God to change his heart, the path to the sacred ministry is still open before him; but he fears lest he should be deceiving himself, and assuming a function to which he is not truly called.

This practical difficulty is found in many instances, and more especially of late years, when many young men who had proceeded to college in a careless spirit, intending almost as a matter of course to go into the Church, have by the grace of God been brought to serious thought, and in consequence dread lest in availing themselves of the facilities offered to them for entering the sacred office, notwithstanding their desires are bent that way, they should be merely following the course of their education, without being moved thereto by the Holy Spirit.

A resolution of this difficulty by some of your elder clerical correspondents would be of great service to many of your younger academical readers; who are anxious to know what is such a call to the sacred ministry as will comport with the strong language of the Ordination Service; and who cannot feel satisfied with the common-place answers which are too currently used to silence an accusing conscience, even in cases where there was not the slightest desire or qualification for this hallowed vocation.



To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

Ir is remarked by Sir J. Reynolds, that "the history of errors, properly managed, often shortens the road to truth,"-a valuable maxim, which might be acted out (so to speak), with great advantage both to themselves and others, by experienced clergymen. The field before a parochial minister is so large; the composition of sermons, arrangement of time and studies, and the task of dealing with consciences, present so many difficulties, and consequently so many probabilities of error, that he is glad to avail himself of the experience of others. In so doing, he certainly is not destitute of assistance; all approved works on the pastoral care having been confirmed by repeated experiments, if not originally deduced from them. But in general only those experiments are detailed which have succeeded; while the failures, to which we are sometimes more indebted

[ocr errors]

than to any thing else for the illustration and confirmation of truth-are kept out of sight. Thus we have our "Young Cottagers," our "Annals of the Poor," and our Visits to Infirmaries;" all admirable in their way, because all striking examples of pastoral labour graciously prospered; but how few favour us with an account of any of their early errors, accompanied with the corrections which subsequent experience has taught them. How few have taken up the pen in the bold, yet humble style of Baxter, when he wrote his affecting reminiscences at the close of his "Life and Times." And yet where can a minister find more instruction in the same number of pages? Records of this kind are calculated also to comfort, as well as to instruct: they would be welcome companions to a young clergyman on many a trying occasion, when he is ready to throw aside the instruments of a shepherd in despair, and to bewail the hour when they were entrusted to his hands. Nor would the benefit be confined to the younger clergy; for ministers of every age are at times too apt to faint in their arduous labours; and they would regard their ill-successes with less of despondence and more of holy resolution in the strength of God to bear up against them, if they had before them more repeated testimony and palpable proof of others having failed in the very same points; and of the fact, that the instructions which, next to the Bible, they regard as the most simple and important in the pastoral work, were written perhaps at the end of a long ministerial life, and collected slowly and painfully from a long train of similar mistakes and disappointments. I trust that some of your readers will consider this subject, and that the result will be seen in various authentic, though anonymous disclosures to the Christian Observer.



To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

"PARTY SPIRIT" is an expression so frequently yet so indefinitely used, that the following reflections on the subject may possibly be allowed a place in your valuable miscellany. Were I to attempt the simplest definition of the foregoing term, I should say that it implied a regard to party rather than to principle. In this sense only can the phrase be legitimately used with respect to the politician, the scholar, the natural philosopher, and the religionist himself. With the last-mentioned character, I have now more immediately to do; and that because against him the charge in question is inconsiderately preferred by some, and, I fear, uncharitably by others.

To deny that a spirit of party, as defined above, has sometimes been found in alliance with high religious profession, were to contradict the positive averment of authentic history. Instances of the kind were better forgotten than recorded. Yet while candour requires a plain admission of the . fact, it claims for the accused a patient and impartial hearing. And, since it is the practice of the multitude to confound devotedness to Christ with attachment to a party, I will endeavour to institute some tests by which the matter may be determined.

First, where religious principles may have been found previously to any connexion or intimacy with those who confessedly maintain them. For instance, when Saul of Tarsus was arrested in his sanguinary career by Jesus, whom he persecuted, and fell down before Him the captive of redeeming mercy, his immediate change of views, of principles, and of conduct was wholly independent of "a party." Though the Jews scornfully considered him as belonging to the "sect" of the Nazarenes, still he never found the latter till he had been "led by the Spirit" of God to embrace the

Christian faith. When Saul united himself to the Christian body at Damascus, he did so in no party spirit, but rather from a deep, a conscientious, a divine conviction that "Jesus was the Christ." And are there not those who first inquire, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, "What must I do to be saved?" who, though excited to that inquiry by the instrumentality of some faithful minister, still "search the Scriptures, if these things be so;" and who then associate with men, whose thoughts, feelings, and pursuits are congenial with their own? The charge of party spirit usually attends and harasses such young converts; but since their change of principles preceded their change of society, the latter cannot be said to justify the charge in question.

Another test is, a candid and devout spirit of investigation. The slave to a party is apt to turn a deaf ear to whatever is opposed to its interests, or is likely to sever him from its society. He will hear nothing but what accords with his own views, or countenances his own practice, and is, perhaps, so confident in himself as to neglect prayer to God for the guidance of His Holy Spirit. When, therefore, we are accessible to argument, either in books or conversation, however hostile to our own theory, and when we seek wisdom at the feet of an All-wise Counsellor, our love of truth may then be said to be superior to our love of party. Far different is the course of those of whom the latter is a characterestic. They notoriously read but one class of publications, and it is with them a sufficient recommendation of a work that it is circulated by one Society, and a sufficient condemnation that it issued from another. In thus speaking, I design not to deal in animadversions, but to unveil facts.

A third test is, a readiness to make sacrifices for truth and conscience sake. This is absolutely impossible to a "party" man; as the following narrative may prove. A Mohammedan was once so overpowered by the arguments employed against him by a British Missionary as, through Divine Grace, to become a follower of Christ. He even endured the loss of all his temporal possessions for his Saviour's sake; a sacrifice to which he had pledged himself, in case of his being fully satisfied of the truth of Christianity. When he was enabled to redeem that pledge, he might appear to his relatives and friends to be actuated by "a party spirit;" since he cordially joined a "sect" which is "every where spoken against," especially in Mohammedan countries but who can admit the supposition that he was not powerfully governed by the love of truth?

A similar remark is applicable to some real professors of Christianity even to the present hour. They have lost, it may be, the favour, the affection, the patronage of their fellow-creatures, and occasionally no small property, rather than offend their conscience and deny their Master. Grant that in the cases I refer to, some indiscretion may possibly have been mixed up with unfeigned love to God and to His "dear Son," and that the ardour of youth may have unduly operated on the judgment. Yet, with all such allowances and abatements, it must be owned by an impartial arbiter, that had truth not been dear to them, had conscience not swayed them, such losses had never been encountered.

If the foregoing tests appear to have been fairly instituted, it will follow, that to join a party, or what is called a party, is no indication whatever of a "party spirit." Whether we are or are not supporters of the Christian Knowledge, the Bible, and the Missionary Societies; whether with Leighton we join, or with Doddridge dissent from, the Establishment; whether the epithet of " orthodox" or "evangelical" be currently attached to us as ministers of Christ, so long as we can abide the tests which have now been submitted to your readers, we have nothing to do with party in the strict sense of that expression.


After all, it cannot be denied that the generality of men will attach them. selves to what is usually denominated a party; be it religious or worldly, of a popular or an unpopular description. I might say they do so of necessity, since side they must with a certain portion of society; which portion in Dr. Johnson's judgment must be content to be identified with party. I might go further and observe, that all who “ name the name of Christ" are included in the number either of His disciples or His enemies. There is in fact no neutrality in the Christian life: "He that is not with me is against me.' Momentous indeed, then, is the question, Do I follow those who unreservedly follow Christ; or do I "walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience?" To reply in the affirmative is easy; since by so doing we may yield to the persuasions of corrupt nature: I should say, to the dictates of self-love. But will “ the Judge of all the earth" confirm the favourable sentence, and witness that, instead of sacrificing conscience to the approbation of the world, we in fact sacrificed the approbation of the world to conscience? There will be no concealment, no evasion at His bar; and when He passes the irrevocable sentence, our union with his triumphant saints, or with His despairing enemies, must be immediate, fixed, eternal. And though I would reprobate the thought of following even a company of apostles in a party spirit, I would above all deprecate conformity to the world in time and separation from the Saviour in eternity. The bare contemplation of the latter might prove to the youthful mind a preservation from the fear of man; and a shield against every accusation that may be provoked, by the persevering effort to be "not of the world," as our blessed Lord and Saviour was "not of the world." Who that ever lent a thought to the consequences of His second advent, will not fervently breathe the following petition of our Church?" Number us among thy saints, in glory everlasting."




To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

THE prophet Samuel was privileged from his birth, in being the child of many prayers, and of a religious vow; and as it was affliction that led to those prayers and that vow, we see in his history the blessing of sanctified sorrow. Year by year, as his mother went up to the house of the Lord, she was " provoked sore by an adversary;" her "heart was grieved," therefore she wept, "and did not eat;" she was in bitterness of soul and wept sore. Still she did not relinquish her attendance on Divine ordinances, in consequence of this usage, and "she prayed unto the Lord." Her prayer was remarkable: "O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid; " an emphatic repetition, not like the "vain repetition of the heathen," but rather resembling that of Him who prayed again, "saying the same words." The opposition of her open enemy was followed by this additional discouragement, that her case was completely mistaken by Eli himself: just as Job's was by his friends. Under his false conclusion; this "woman of a sorrowful spirit," while simply "pouring out her soul before the Lord," was supposed to be under the influence of an intoxicating potion, and was taken for "a daughter of Belial." How strong must

• In his Dictionary, he thus defines party: "a number of persons confederated by similarity of designs or opinions, in opposition to others."

« PrécédentContinuer »