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systematic weekly contribution we shall also give much more than the sums to which we have been accustomed; we shall approach nearer to the Jewish standard of sacrifice; but we shall reap a harvest of blessing of which the Jews did not even dream.”
To him they agreed; and having resolved on raising a handsome sustentation fund, they resolved also that it should be expended only on men who having first been well 'proved,' should be found worthy of it, and that not all of their pastors should be eloquent orators.'
How they proceeded to obtain and constitute the desired Presbytery, needs not here to be narrated. But already the influence of this Apostolic Church of St. Charles the Martyr, has begun to tell upon the people of the establishinent, and on the country around. The pious members of the Church of England are so much struck with the phenomenon, that many of them are, one by one, resolving to abandon a system which they feel to be indefensible from the New Testament, and to join themselves to an organisation which bears all the marks of heavenly dignity, of catholicity, and of conformity to the Supreme Authority.
We are fully prepared for the comment, offered by somany readers on the three preceding papers, to be passed on this one, that such propositions as these are fitter for dreamland than for real life; as if this were not the first outcry with which every movement towards Reform is received by the multitude, until the courageous few have resolved to dare and do. Meantime, with patience and hope, we will tell our dream,' and leave it to the meditations even of hostile hearers; assured, that although the example of the town of St. Charles the Martyr should prove singular and exceptional, the influence of such reflections on the support of worthy ministers cannot but be productive of advantage. As for those who are not worthy, the sooner they retire to a 'wider sphere' the better for themselves, for the churches, and for the public.
Our next paper will probably be devoted to the exposition of the process of obtaining a new pastor for a vacant church.
OF CERTAIN PRACTICAL HINDRANCES TO THE
COMING OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM.
I wish to direct your thoughts, my reader, to some of those baneful influences which at this time are keeping back the progress of vital religion among ourselves. And with the wish to make what I have to
say practically useful, I shall speak only of ways in which ordinary folk may help religion on, or may hold it back. And in three passages of scripture of which I shall tell you, I think we have suggested to us three causes which at the present day exert no small influence in retarding the coming of Christ's kingdom ; and which practically and directly concern ourselves.
The first of these is the prevalence among Christians of a spirit such as that implied in Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper ?" It is the want among Christians of a sense of individual responsibility to save sinners. Most men act as if they thought that the care of a friend's soul-of the soul even of one very nearly related to them—was a matter belonging exclusively to the province of the minister. Many persons, of whose real Christianity we cannot doubt, will associate for years with fellow-creatures, concerning whom charity itself cannot hope that they are true believers united to Christ : and in all that time, perhaps no single word of warning or of advice will ever be addressed by the believer to the unbeliever. The presence of a person who is known to be a religious person will commonly repress, in ordinary society, anything in expression or action which might demand notice in the way, express condemnation or remonstrance. If a profane swearer inadvertently lets slip an cath, he will beg the Christian's pardon, though he may not think of asking that of his Maker: and Christians in general, often even the ministers of religion, are content with this involuntary homage paid, whether he will or not, by every reflecting unbeliever, in the presence of that authority which in the really religious man he cannot choose but feel. And thus, perhaps, many a sinner may be able to say, at the throne of final judgment, that he knew well and long some one on the right hand of the Judge: that such a one was, perhaps, an inmate of the house he dwelt in, member of the family of which his birth made him one : that they had spent together many hours, walked together many miles, held together many conversations; and yet that never once, throughout the days in which change was possible, had the Christian said to him one word that could indicate that he was a Christian, and that he knew and felt that the other was not. They had spoken, perhaps, of nearly everything but the one thing needfûl: but of that they never talked. They had spoken one to the other of their prospects in life: of the coming good and ill, fixed and appointed, which God the Giver and Disposer was keeping hid from them behind the thin yet most opaque veil of future time; but they never spoke of prospects for immortality, though knowing each how brief all other prospects are.
Think now of the state of mind of both parties here. If the Christian was so indeed, and we are taking it for granted that he was, he knew he was speaking to one who, if God's words are true, in a few days might be, in a few
years must be, the companion of the Devil and his angels in the place of woe. To him, these were not words, but realities. He knew that the friend whom his presence gladdened, the soul that his lively conversation amused and cheered, was appointed, through a long eternity, to enjoy or suffer happiness or misery, the conception of which our minds now labour after in vain ; he knew that if unchanged, if unrenewed, it was to utter loss that his friend was hurrying on; and he never once tried whether that change could not be wrought. And then look at the effect of this conduct upon the mind of the unbeliever. He also knew what was his companion's profession : he knew that his own state was no secret to his friend; and what inference could he draw from all their intercourse, but that the Christian did not really believe that religion was such a rital, essential, supremely necessary thing, as he professed to hold it to be. How could he judge otherwise ? Could he think that this man, who admitted him to familiar intercourse, who seemed to feel a deep interest in all the good and ill that befel him, who listened with pleasure to what he said, whose eye brightened at his approach, and whose look was saddened as they parted, believed, earnestly in his soul, believed that he was walking over the flames of perdition, kept from them by no more substantial thing than this fleeting breath of life! Could he think that his friend was remembering, that all through that long eternity in which he himself trusted to be happy with his God, one whom he once had loved, or at least had felt some regard for, would be bearing the never-ceasing burden of the fiery wrath of the Almighty ? Could he really be believing all that; and yet not saying one single word to save him from it! No, it could not be. If there were such a thing as regard for our brethren—if there were such a thing as common humanity—it could not be. The Christian must know, in his secret heart, that there is no real fear or danger; that somehow it will all come right. And God only knows how many souls may have encouraged themselves in the way to perdition by reasoning in that way—that ruinous but most natural
way. Now, at the foundation of all this, there doubtless is that almost invincible shyness and reserve which most among ourselves feel as to anything like freely speaking of their spiritual condition. Let me say at once that this reserve is not to be entirely condemned ; and that a perpetual dragging in of sacred subjects into common conversation, and that the fashion in which some good people insist on making public property of what ought to be their most secret thoughts and feelings—are very far indeed from being edifying; and are sometimes even worse than a manifest offence against good taste and good sepse. But, besides this natural reserve, probably a fact which prevents Christians from properly feeling their individual responsibility as regards the salvation of others, is that
there is among us an institution, an order of men, whose business it is specially to mind the cure of souls. That is the function of the Church, and by the Church many seem to understand the ministers of the Church. And it is, no doubt, a fit thing that there should be those who, with a peculiar abstraction from worldly things, should devote their energies mainly to the spiritual welfare of mankind. Let such do their work—and they do for the most part fulfil it diligently: but surely this is no reason, none whatever, why Christians should consider themselves exonerated from all responsibility in regard to the truest interests of those among whom they live.
Would any sane man stand quietly by while a friend drank unwittingly a deadly poison, because there are among us physicians, a class whose express calling it is to take care of the bodily health of men? Or would any sane man turn away when he saw a friend drowning, because there is a humane society, whose great purpose
it is to save from that kind of death? The direct agency of ministers of the Gospel can do but little; and that little is made less by the seeming want of regard on the part of true Christians for the well-being of their neighbours' souls. The natural interpretation of such conduct is, that the whole matter is of very
little concern; a conclusion to which there is too much within and without to lead already.
No doubt it needs much judgment to know when and how to introduce religious things with
profit. Practical Christianity, unlike matters of mere speculation, is a thing of which those who know the most will often talk the least: and the senseless manner, to say the best of it, in which some are found to speak of their experiences and their feelings, has sometimes had the effect of making religion repulsive and ridiculous. Let me say here, that I cannot even imagine anything more shocking and revolting than the custom wnich exists in some religious communities of requiring their members and ministers to make a declaration, at some public meeting, of the history of their conversion to God. I have read accounts of such proceedings with unutterable abhorrence. But, without anything like that, if you be truly in earnest for your friend's salvation, you will find many opportunities and many ways of promoting it, without doing anything that will give offence, or that can be deemed intrusive ; and, therefore, my friend, do you so act by those around you, that if you ever stand, as stand you must, by the bed on which a dead friend is lying, you may be able to think, as you look on the cold face in its awful stillness, that be the soul with God or without Him, you have faithfully done your part; and, it may be, earned the rich blessing of one who has turned a sinner from the error of his way. For if it must be, that looking back on the days which are past in all save their dread responsibility, you know that you never have said or done that which could turn
your friend's feet into the upward way, but that rather the tendency of your whole intercourse was to confirm him in the choice of a broader; surely there will be bitter reproach in the silence of those lips whose silence is now their only speech ; and you will not be able to discharge your conscience with the question, "Was I my brother's keeper?”
A second cause which in these days operates against the success of vital religion, is suggested to us by the second passage of Scripture of which I thought. It is the manifold divisions, strifes, and enmities,—the hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, which rend asunder the Church of Christ. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one towards another.” My friend, there are very many whom one would charitably hope to be Christ's disciples, whom no man would ever guess to be such, judging by that sign.
If all the strength which has been put forth by Christians in the endeavour to pull each other down, had been directed against the empire of Satan, how would it have shattered the dominion and confounded the wiles of that old deceiver of our race! It is inelancholy to think of the waste of power and energy, cast into the bitter sea of heartless controversy, by a party in this world which has, in comparison with those arrayed against it,'not many wise, not many mighty, not many learned and noble.' Christians, God help them, have not so much energy, and wisdom, and talent among them, as to be able to afford to throw any of it away. It is sad to think, that when we run over the list of those who have left great names in the history of the Church, the greater part of them are distinguished far less for the service they did the cause of vital religion, than for their vehement advocacy of some principle, or opinion, or crotchet, which, magnify its importance as you may, never deserved a thousandth part of the time and thought that were squandered on the discussion of it. It is something better to look back upon, when the days of a long ministry are ended, a few humble souls won to Christ and salvation, than twice as many abusive volumes or disingenuous pamphlets written on this or that vexed question, with which the blessed Gospel has nothing to do. But divisions in the Church have caused worse than the waste of energy, which might have been hastening the day when Christ's kingdom shall come. Polemical discussion is almost proverbial for the bitter, uncharitable spirit in which it is carried on: and the bad feeling it excites is prejudicial not merely to those engaged in it, but to all who become acquainted with it, and to the cause of religion in general. The multitudinous divisions of Protestant Christianity have furnished matter for severe, but not too severe, remark on the part of Romanists : and the