Page images
PDF
EPUB

66

Church of England is, that in her services there is no longer any room for Jesus to be seen : and in the attacks which have been made upon the present manifestations by her ministers, neither the Bishop of London, Mr. M`Neile, Mr. B. Noel, Mr. Greenwood, &c. &c. besides the herd of Dissenters, have ever once thought of the glory of Jesus as connected with it, from the beginning to the end of all their lucubrations. It is imposşible that any glory should redound to Jesus from the services of the Church of England : much fame may be acquired, and is acquired, by man. The pulpit is a stage for successful acting ; and of this base employment of it, laymen are, or at least have been, as guilty as the clergy. If money has been required for any society, a church is engaged, like a playhouse ; a sermon is advertised, like a favourite comedy; and a preacher, like an actor, new to the London boards, is solicited to come forward for the amusement of the people : these in crowds flock to hear him : small contributions from the many, make a large total, collected into the coffers of the society; and this is intended to further the cause of religion ! It is man's eloquence, and not God's glory, that is the object, first and last, throughout the whole affair. If the preacher be a clever man, the end is obtained ; if his natural parts are inferior, the end is defeated. Enticing words of man's wisdom,” in defiance of the whole spirit and leta ter of the Scriptures, is the notorious object. God is clean cast out: the voice of the Spirit, that which is foolishness to man, is avoided; and the wisdom of man, which is odious to God, is advanced. There is no room for the wisdom of the Creator to be seen, all minds being filled with the wisdom of the creature. The church service is as entirely independent of the presence and operation of God, as the representation of a play or a meeting of the Royal Society.

The author's notion of a church goes beyond that which the word of God inculcates. A church, as we are told there, is a body of men builded together for the habitation of God: men are the stones of the church, the Spirit is the cement, and God the dweller within it. And is God to be shut up in this house as in a prison, in which He is never to be seen ? are the ceremonies and rites and ordinances which He has appointed, to be used as bars to the windows and bands to enthral him? Are not the stones of this building living men, instinct with life and motion and wills and affections and powers and faculties; and are they to be inhabited as no other men are, and yet manifest no more than other men manifest? We know it was not thus when the Master Builder finished the model at the day of Pentecost; and if we have now a house not according to that plan, He will assuredly destroy the workmen who have deserted his instructions, and built from schemes of their own de

vising.

It matters nothing, in this view of the question, whether the present manifestations of the Holy Spirit be true or false. If the Apostles themselves were to appear in the Church of England, and exercise their gifts, they would be proceeded against in the Bishops' courts as brawlers *. The rites of the Church are so constituted as that the gifts of the Spirit cannot be manifested within its pale. Thus every minister of the Church of England, who is sincerely attached to his church, has an habitual bias on his mind, which must strongly prejudice him against the admission of any claim to spiritual power. Let him think himself as impartial as he may; the better Churchman he is, the less impartial must he be: and it is only a lax churchman who is uninfluenced by this bias; while, unfortunately, a lax Churchman must be so lax on all points of conscience, that his difficulties, though from another origin, are still more insurmountable. The Churchman who thinks his church so rich and well stored with goods as to need nothing more-the condition which the author very properly censures in a note in p. 25--can never earnestly desire the manifestation of the Spirit: yet this is really the condition of the author himself, who, while he would be glad to remedy much of the administration, seems to think the services perfect: and so, if man only be considered, they are; but if God's glory be considered, then are they as much opposed to it as any other church on the globe.

Another cause of grief at the shortcoming of this tract arises from our certain conviction, after an experience more accurate than most of our readers have had opportunity of enjoying, that the voice of prophecy is not intended by the Lord to produce its full benefit to the people except under the superintendance of the pastors. But where are the pastors who will admit it? God must break down the ordinances and ceremonies which are used not for Him, but against Him; which are not helps, but hindrances, to the manifestations of His Spirit. As the state is trusting to laws in which Jesus is not acknowledged, so the church is priding herself upon forms through which His Spirit cannot appear. We beseech the author to remember, that whatever evil he has sufficient spiritual discernment to perceive in the nation is equally prevalent, in a more subtle form, in the church; and to be assured that it is for its own sins that it has now lost all honour in the eyes of the people, and become a laughingstock and derision to the basest of the rabble. It says it does not need the manifestation of the Person of the Holy Ghost; and the mob, our present sovereign, says it does not need a church.

A curious corroboration of this argument occurred lately in the London Presbytery of the Church of Scotland, where it was asserted that, even “ If he himself (Mr. Irving) was the subject of that inspiration, he could not exercise it in that church, until that gift had been recognized by that church.”Short-hand Report, p 12.

While Antichrist is revealing, in the form and under the name of Liberalism, there is a fast cleaving to Babylon as its antagonist principle-that is, to things established, merely because they are established. But if a church assume to be any thing in herself, any thing but a hand for enabling her children to set forth Jesus and his Spirit, then is she an abomination that maketh desolate, prepared and fitted only for destruction. The church which will teach us to look to her forms and creeds and confessions and ceremonies, instead of, or before, Christ, in his word and his testimony, is not His spouse, but the harlot of Babylon. The wife that would teach her children to look to any other thing for support, and all needful good, than to her husband, is trampling his honour under foot. It is this apostate condition that the Church of Scotland exhibited in the condemnation of Mr. Scott by the General Assembly : the Assembly laughed at the idea of an appeal to the law and testimony of God, but, setting up the Westminster Confession for her Tridentine Council, refused to go one hair's breadth on the one side or the other of its terms, making its verbal immaculacy equal to that of the inspired Scriptures.

Some persons are indulging in unwarrantable security, from the idea, that, if there be really a work of God now proceeding in the land, it will soon manifest itself in such a form as to be far more intelligible to human apprehension and wisdom than it is at present; and, therefore, that they may safely wait for what they call further evidence. Now, further evidence of the present manifestation being of God is truly to be gained by patient waiting upon it, examination, &c.: but from all that we have been able to learn we feel convinced that no succeeding manifestation--that is, the manifestation of some other gift of the Spirit-will be more comprehensible to the carnal mind than that now present amongst us : on the contrary, we are satisfied that the reverse will be the case ; that each successive gift will sift more and more, will cause more and more persons to stumble and fall : just as the Lord first sent away from the host of Gideon all the feeble and fearful, and lastly all that from supineness or weariness stooped down to drink. Thus we perceive the tenderness of the love which has proceeded so slowly with the actual weak state of the church's faith and love; and doubt not but an election is preparing, which, having recognised the voice of the good Shepherd as it is now heard, will be ready " to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth ;" the expression implying that the Lamb will lead us by paths of which we at present know nothing, and in a manner which we little expect, and could not yet endure. But they who are stumbled and undecided now, will be more stumbled, and made to fall, and snared, and taken, by those works of the Lord in his people that are yet to be shewn forth.

416

VISIONS-MIRACULOUS CURES-CHOLERA, It has been remarked more than once, in former Numbers of this Journal, that Visions are in general more for the personal and private guidance, comfort, and support of individuals who are called to particular services, than for the general instruction and edification of the body of Christ; and the propriety of this remark has been shewn by reference to sundry instances of visions in Scripture. The observation, however, was not intended to be universal in its application; nor was it so. Many visions in Scripture, as well as in the recent experience of God's servants, are of universal concern; and we shall from time to time communicate any that we so deem, and are well authenticated to us : that which follows will be allowed by all to bear this character in a remarkable degree. We give it in the words of the individual to whom it was vouchsafed.

After an exposition of Deut. xxxii. 1-6, and prayer, I retired to another room with two Christian friends; where, after further prayer, a strange and indescribable feeling came over me, and a scene was unexpectedly and vividly presented to my view. A large and splendid edifice, like a vast gallery or terrace supported by two elegant pillars, appeared filled with people, apparently of superior rank, enjoying some spectacle.

Let me feel the pillars,' said a low voice beneath the building that I may lean upon them :' immediately I beheld a young lad leading poor blind Samson by the hand, and, bringing him forward to the bases of the pillars ; and as soon as he had laid hold on them he raised himself from a stooping posture, and, bending forward for an instant in an attitude of prayer, he drew them together in his arms, and brought down the whole fabric in one hideous crash, burying himself and the multitude that were upon it in the pile of ruins.

The stilness of death followed the awful shriek which accompanied the fall of the building; and I heard a voice (but saw no speaker) saying, 'Long have the ministers of God made sport to the world—long have the witnesses for God been bound in fetters—long has the Spirit of truth been blind and crushed—but the hair

of the head has begun again to grow, and the Spirit of faith and power has again been sought and given :' and the scene faded away

from my view. Again I looked up, and saw a gloomy, bleak, and barren plain, like a heath, or wild mountain-side. A few grey stones appeared scattered on the surface of it, and neither men nor animals of any kind were there. The sky was dark and dismal, like the coming on of a wintry storm. Some awful clouds hung lowering on the horizon. No sun, nor moon, nor stars, were visible. had scarcely said, "What can this mean?' when the plain seemed covered with crowds of men in one tumultuous mass.

A feature of anxiety or fear was on almost every countenance. In the foreground stood a man, whose attitude led me instantly to discover that he was addressing the multitude. I remember the figure distinctly: he exclaimed, The hour of His judgment is come.' A loud and hideous laugh arose among the people, which was immediately followed by a peal of thunder. There was just light enough to shew me the faces of the men turn pale and ghastly with terror. The speaker alone stood undaunted. He looked upward, and smiled. His look was observed by many, and trembled at. A very few, and these apparently of the poorest, seemed disposed to listen, and to withdraw from the mass that surrounded the missionary, and ask each other, 'Are these things so? they may be true! They are indeed,' cried some; 'Lord, save us! save us!' Again the missionary raised his voice; and another laugh was succeeded by a bursting thunderbolt, which threw the multitude into an awful convulsion. Cries of terror arose, and an earthquake shook the whole scene. The people fell in crowds. Many joined the speaker, and cried out, with him, “The hour of judgment—the hour of judgment ! but the increasing tumult drowned their voices, and as they mingled with the mass their attitude alone indicated their character and message. It was grand and solemn, but the dreadful and appalling peals of thunder, and cries of the alarmed and convulsed crowds, utterly prevented their being heard ; and in this fearful commotion the scene passed away like the former.

“Soon afterwards a voice said to me, 'You have desired to know the progress and manifestation of infidelity; behold them here.' I looked up again, and saw one vast expanse of waters, restless, heaving, and in some places much agitated; no land, no solid thing in all the scene. “Thus universal, thus all pervading, is the spirit of infidelity,' said a voice which seemed behind me as I gazed on the shoreless ocean: "And would you behold its manifestation, see, see the sky.' I looked

up,

and saw the whole face of the heavens covered with clouds of every shape, and size, and colour, from the deepest purple of a summer evening's sky to the blackest night of a winter's tempest; and some of the purest white; all mingled, all confused; all shapes and forms were there. Thus varied, thus diversified, is the manifestation of the infidel spirit,' said the voice; and immediately added, in a louder tone, And who is the prince of the power of the air ? See, some are bright, and some are dark and charged with thunder : the wise alone shall understand.'

Again the scene changed, and presented to my sight a prayermeeting ; but all was cold and lifeless. "Why is this?I asked.

Because,' it was answered, there is mere speaking of God, and of Satan, and of Infidelity. Why not cry out to the world? the fear of being counted fools for Christ : and yet it is written, “ Wisdom crieth without, she lifteth up her voice in the streets :

« PreviousContinue »