Images de page
PDF
ePub

prayer,” which came after the reading of the Scriptures, and before the sermon, being a formidable affair for us youngsters. I remember one Sunday morning, a missionary sermon was going to be preached – and let me say, in passing, that the missionary anniversaries used !o thrill our young minds with pleasure in anticipation, and high lelight in realization. On this particular occasion, our own minister conducted the devotional part of the service. His long prayer was commenced at ten minutes past eleven, and was not Soncluded until a quarter to twelve Oh, how wearied we were, and what a dead letter the good man's sermon was after that I occasionally we had students from the colleges to “supply,” and ulthough we were often—that is, the young folk—glad to have a hange, our elders would always rather “sit under" the good old man, our minister—who, by the way, was past his prime when he :ame amongst us. These students were some of them “promising young men,” as I have heard my father say, and I hope they have fulfilled their promises. They, some of them, used to startle us with figures in their prayers, very unlike those we had been accusomed to. I remember one of them praying that we might not »e like “dumb, driven cattle ;” another asked that we might be ble to “hold our friends in solution, and be ready to precipitate hem at any time;” and a third prayed, that “the domiciliary isitations, and catechetical instructions of the day might be lessed.” Still, as a rule, there was more of supplication, and less f preaching in the prayers of these young men I fancy, than we were accustomed to, and it began to dawn upon the minds of some of the more advanced of our people, that, after all an educated ministry may have its advantages. Our attitudes at prayer were not always the most reverential. was obliged to “assume a virtue though I had it not,” so my osture was devotional. My dear mother saw to that; but she ould not keep my young restless eyes from straying, and my lighty imagination from having its full play. The pews in the ld meeting-house at Saint Ethelreds were square, and favourable o somnolency, and from my position on the seat I could see during he “long prayer” one and another sitting down and dropping off; and often have I vowed that when I was a man and my own master, I would sleep too! Those who did remain standing were often ooking about them, and I well remember a gossiping lady, one of bur friends, talking over with my mother the dresses worn in shapel on the previous Sunday, and my mother's wonderment how the good lady could have seen them all. I could have told her, for young as I was, I knew what occupied the good woman's attention at prayer-time; she was a good woman too, a devoted Christian as I believe. She is living yet; I spoke to her only yesterday, and she has not entirely got over her old habit, although in th present day the “long prayer" has been divided into two short ones.

One Sunday our old minister preached us a sermon on secr prayer, taking as his text that verse-“ Enter into thy closet, aq when thou hast shut the door, &c., &c.” When we got home said, “Father, when people go into their closets to pray, do the stand up and look through the window, or do they lie on the sofa My poor father was sadly vexed, and said, “ John, when will yo be serious ?” I hinted that I was sure Mr. X- , Mrs. Yand Miss Z- , must do so, for they were always making the selves comfortable at prayer, or looking about them; “and," said “they are members !” Soon after I overheard my mother saj “The boy is right, such examples are very sad, and I fear they a too common.”

The prayers and the praises though, were not what we went chapel for chiefly. I am sure the bulk of the people thought mue more of the preaching. When the good old man died who ha been for so many years our pastor, I never heard a word said by th many who canvassed the merits of the numerous “ candidates who“ supplied the pulpit,” about their mode of conducting the d votional part of the service, but all was about the preachin Deacon A- , when a “supply” had been his three or for Sundays, used to turn his eye to the galleries, where the free sea were, and if they were full he was favourably inclined to the minister. But in my odd way, I used to notice that the man wh opened his sermon with a pretty anecdote, closed the third hea with a frightful denunciation of sinners; and finished up with a “ appeal” that included some strong figures, in which were intre duced “the Rapids,” a “Life-boat," or some “Terrible Conflagri tion,” was sure to fill the gallery in three Sundays—but of keepin them full I will say nothing. Deacon B- was more cautious, an would not utter his opinion until he was satisfied that the true Cal vinistic creed was sound in the man; and Deacon C- was seldon satisfied, for he never could agree with anybody. My good fathe would at any time have accepted many a man "the church” re jected ; anyone would have satisfied hira, so that he preached Jesu Christ, and Him crucified. We chose a minister, and he proved “ popular preacher.” He used to talk of “the Schoolmen," and “ Greek Philosophy," and say, “Ah, Sirs,” in his appeals to the congregation. He made use of striking figures in some of bi sermons, and occasionally gave us bursts of fiery eloquence which fairly made the hair tingle on our heads. During the sermon the gallery would be crowded, and down stairs not a sitting was to be had. In a few months though, we found that the figures were fixtures in the preacher's mind, and that his appeals were stereo

de galavourabes that

typed. His popularity waned, and when he left us we were as listless as ever. Our next pastor was not a popular preacher.

“Long were the good man's sermons,

And long they seemed to me,” Por I did get tired out when “sitting under ” him. I shall say no more about him than that on one morning, when my father was reading the twentieth chapter of the Acts at family worship, I smiled; and was of course severely taken to task for my conduct. My dear mother after took me to her room, and asked me why I smiled ; and I told her that “I thought it served Paul right that he should be obliged to restore Eutychus to life ; for it was a judgment on him for his 'long preaching.'” The narrative is a curious one, and since I have grown into manhood, I cannot help thinking that the young man was not so very wicked for falling asleep under Paul's long sermon. The sermon was long and the lights were many. ! If I carry my story further, I fear I shall offend the living. Those I have been speaking about are all dead and gone ; peace to their manes. Would that some of the manners and customs I have been noticing had been buried with them. I have long left Saint Ethelred's, and the visit of a fortnight, just ended, has reTived in my memory much that I have narrated. Still there are marks of wonderful improvement. They have erected a nice organ, which leads without overpowering the voices of the worshippers. They have displaced the jigs and dronings of former years, and substituted solid, massive music ; they even talk of chanting. Their pulpit is occupied by a minister whose sermons possess carnest thought, clothed in simple language ; and the beggingboxes have given place to the scriptural plan of a weekly offering.

Still, there are some things that need mending. The young mnen, instead of going direct to their seats on entering, and straight sway on leaving the chapel, hang about the lobbies to the annoyhoce of ladies and others, who, at times find a difficulty in passing them. Many of the people have got into the wretched habit of coming in late, by which the devotion of those who wish to worship decently and in order, is sadly disturbed. Some of the “male members” walk up the aisles after service has commenced, with bovered heads, until they arrive at their own seats. Many of the people are still listless at prayer, and take no part in the praises of their Maker. There are other evils, but I must refrain. The good folks are still too independent, and I fear no word of mine will alter them.

JOHN FRANKLEY.

[ocr errors]

SUNDAY READINGS. - No. V.
THE DIVINE PROMISE OF TEMPORAL SUPPLY TO CHRISTIANS.

“My God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory h Christ Jesus." --Phil. iv. St. Paul was independent of the whole world so long as he was a liberty; but when he became a prisoner at Rome, and was chaine by the hand to a soldier, he was unable any longer to work as tent-maker, and was compelled to accept the thankofferings of h brethren as the means of temporal support. The most self-helpin persons are ever the most gracious receivers, and Paul was po e ception to the rule. He would die of starvation rather than recei assistance from the conceited Achaians, but the gifts of his lovin Macedonian friends entered into his inmost soul, and brought the a return of blessings which must have made their hearts burn they read his epistle of acknowledgment. Let us notice in passin the resource of the servant of God, when he was unable to mal any secular return for the kindness of the Philippians. He sen them a letter, as it were, a draught of the living water from ti rivers of Paradise, which he had brought down with him whe “caught up into the third heavens," an elixir of immortality ; an with it he sends his blessing in the form of a promise from “H God.” “My God shall supply all your need." He who has int mate communion with the Father through the Son, has liberty take hold of the right hand of the Eternal—that mighty han which wields the sceptre of the universe—and to lay it on the head of those who have done him service, and given him comfort i his sufferings for the truth of the Gospel. “Whosoever shall give cup of cold water to a prophet in the name of a prophet sha receive a prophet's reward." The blessing of a sincere servant God thus uttered in the form of a divine promise, is no vain fort of speech. It is a word that is with power. We under-estimat the strength both of God's love and of His hatred, Towards tha which is evil the Consuming Fire of Deity burns unto the lowes hell. There is no strength of hatred among men comparable t the hatred of God towards every moral abomination. Towards tha which is good the heart of God burns within Him in a flame o everlasting love. All strength of human love is feeble in comparisor with that love which is “well pleased " with sacrifices of righteous ness, and which regards as a " diadem of beanty,' fit for the brown of the Deity himself, the character of those who have been truthful loving, and pure, among the crowds of the selfish and the sensual “If any man serve me him will my Father honour !“If any man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him!"

[graphic]

In the words of comfort with which Paul closes and seals his letter to the happy Philippians, there are three things. . The need of Christians. 2. The riches of God. And 3. The infallible certainty of the supply of the one by the other.

Take the last first; and let us consider to whom, and to whom alone, all these promises of God are made. They are made exclusively to good men, to persons of the order of the believers in Philippi. It is common, indeed, for men of a far different character to quote the comforting promises of the Word of God as addressed to themselves, just as the Philistines sometimes stole the Ark, and attempted to appropriate its treasures. But the Philistines and the Philippians come under very different rules of the divine government, albeit the priests of the Canaanites falsely assure then that they also are "sons of God,” and heirs of glory. The promises belong to none but practical Christians. To them belong “the glory and the covenants.”? All other men are “ children of wrath,” possessing no title except to the threatenings of the Almighty, and one conditional promise, that if, during the short day of visitation and salvation, they will “repent and believe the Gospel,” they shall pass from darkness unto light, and be reckoned among the household of God. The Scriptures comprise a body of dreadful menaces, and a body of precious promises. Each man stands in relation to one or the other, and that alternative is determined by his inward condition. If by regeneration he has become one with God by his Spirit, the Infinite grace and glory have become his portion. If still cleaving to a life of sense and unbelief, he must encounter not the embraces, but the blows of the Everlasting Arms. There are multitudes who are perpetually quoting all tủe promises of God as their ground of comfort, whose lives show to all discerning eyes that their heritage is naught but perdition. “Many walk, of whom I have told you before, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, who mind earthly things." Crowns and sceptres, ruby collars, and diamond crosses, are not for all. They are for kings and nobles only. And no man has any right to appropriate the regalia of the promises except him whose life is a spark derived from the Uncreated Sun. There is no promise that God will “supply all the need ” of a wicked soul, either temporal or eternal, either physical, intellectual, or moral. Such a person lives by uncovenanted mercies. He walks under sunbeams which, though they "rise upon the evil,” are lighting them only to perdition. He feasts himself on the product of fruitful seasons," and of the “rain from heaven” “sent on the unjust,” only to “nourish himself for the day of slaughter." God gives him much that he has never promised, in the hope that goodness and mercy may lead him to

« PrécédentContinuer »