« PreviousContinue »
what to them was truth. During twenty eventful years they had seen war succeed war, commotion follow commotion. The song of peace had become very sweet to their ears. They longed for quiet activity. It was they—the Presby. terians especially—who had brought back the King. It was their invincible faithfulness to the Constitution and the dynasty during Cromwell's ascendency which had kept alive the hope of a restoration. It was a Parliament elected under their auspices, a Parliament in which they were the majority, which invited the King to return. Was it not hard to be denied all share in the joy they had produced? Was it not hard to feel the loyalty in their hearts, which had gushed like an overflowing fountain towards Charles, turned into gall and bitterness ? It was not as in the early part of the Puritan struggle. Those were the days of commencement and of hope. There was now no gleaming of swords on the northern horizon, streaking the sky as with the lances of dawn, heralding victory for the Covenant, and encouraging every Puritan to stand firm amid present suffering. The night was falling, and they had to go out into its cheerless blackness; they might guide their steps by the stars of heaven, but every earthly lamp was extinguished. How plausibly in such circumstances might the casuistry of the heart have pleaded against refusal to comply with the Act of Uniformity! How much might a piety tender, spiritual, zealous in practical effort, but not stubborned by the iron of decision, have insinuated in favour of overlooking differences, and yielding all else for Protestantism and peace!
By the grace of God, to their own immortal honour, and to the credit of the English name in all ages, the Presbyterians and Independents, to the number of two thousand, stood firm. The day of St. Bartholomew arrived. They refused to express assent and consent to the Book of Common Prayer; to own the in validity of their ordination ; to abjure the Covenant they had sworn; or to receive on the mandate of the civil power and a dominant hierarchy, the imposition of a ritual which they did not find instituted in the Word of God. They ceased to be ministers of the Church established by law in England.
There has been much describing of the sufferings of these Two Thousand; but there is no need of imaginative colouring, of funereal drapery and hearse-like airs, in order to bring its stern and tragic pathos before the thinking mind. From being a specially-honoured class in society, from the enjoyment of a modest, but definite, competence, from peaceful employments, and kindly habitudes of ministerial duty, they passed suddenly into disgrace and penury. The ties which bound them to their congregations were rudely snapped. They had to choose between ceasing to preach, and being immured in prison. It was a stern fate." Sweet to all men is the smile of social applause. We must be more or less than men, if we are happy without the sympathy and approbation of those among whom we live ; and the contemptuously-curled lip, or superciliously-arched eyebrow, of a fool may send a pang to a right brave and resolute heart. The tone of society." the popular feeling of the time, was against the ejected ministers; there was no triumphant sympathy to bear them on; those who dared to countenance them were a meagre, disappointed, sorrowing remnant. Such were their personal hardships; and is it more than a fact that a still keener pain must have reached their bosoms through the sufferings of wives and children? These, too, were to descend in the social scale. These, too, were to be pointed at with the finger of scorn, and to feel the gnawing of the tooth of want. These, who in their feebleness looked to the father and the husband as pledged in honour and in duty to shields them from penury; these, whose speechless, uncomplaining woe-seen in the th cheek from which the bloom gradually faded-seen in the lip from which the light of smiles had departed-pierced more deeply than the loudest reproaches. N Here, in fact, is the severest strain of all persecution. For one man who has flinched in the maintenance of principle to avoid personal suffering, a hundred have put a pressure on conscience, rather than entail privation upon those in N
whose persons they suffer through the finer sensibilities of a life dearer than their own. All this the Two Thousand ministers dared for the sake of conscience,
THE PURPOSE OF GOD IN THE MISSION OF CHRIST.
BY THE REY. W. D. ELLISTON,
every one of you from his iniquities." -Acts iii. 26. THIS fragment of a discourse (for a frag1 arrested, and their wonder roused in no ment it is, inasmuch as it was never com common degree, Peter seizes the opporpleted, being abruptly broken off by the tunity for directing them into the right arrival of the officers who made prisoners path. He tells them they have no real of the apostles) was delivered on the occa ground for astonishment, and turns their sion of the healing of the lame man at the attention away from the human instruments Beautiful Gate of the Temple. This was of the miracle to Jesus of Nazareth, in the first miracle wrought within the sphere whose name and by whose power alone this of the Christian Church, and was designed had been done. But in order to their parto reveal the saving power lodged in the ticipation in the blessings that flow from Church, and thus manifestly connect it Christ, and of which this miracle was symwith Him whose mighty works they had so bolical, it was needful to bring them into a lately beheld, but who was now withdrawn right state of mind respecting Jesus. Therefrom their midst, and concealed from mor fore does Peter refer to their guilt in the tal vision by the veil of the heavenly world. crucifixion of him in such stinging lanBut a little while before, Peter had been guage ; and though he admits that they speaking to them of coming political woe: did it ignorantly, he nevertheless blames “The sun shall be turned into darkness, the ignorance as arising out of the formaand the moon into blood;" expressions tion of their own ideas concerning the Son constantly used in Scripture as symbolical of God, and that they had demanded of of the overthrow of national polity. And him first, and above all things, deliverance the meaning of all this, together with the from a foreign yoke, and the restoration of correctness of this interpretation, will be their national power and glory; that they apparent if we remember that the total had regarded this as their greatest need, destruction of the Jewish nation followed and failed wholly to recognise their far within a short time comparatively, and this deeper need of deliverance from sin, was the destruction was the consequence of their secret of their not discerning the signs of national rejection of the Messiah. We the times, and not knowing how great a shallthen understand Peter's earnest appeal, prophet they had amongst them. And founded on this threat, that they would now the apostle declares again the real deseek safety in turning to Him whom God sign of Christ's mission, and tells them it had raised up, but whom they by wicked was not to effect any change in their exterhands had crucified and slain. Now, whilst nal condition, but to meet the far deeper their ears were still tingling with the words and more pressing need of their souls. Peter had uttered, and their hearts were “ Unto you first,” as children of Abraham, failing them for fear, and alarm at the “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent horrors of the last days was fast spreading him to bless you, in turning every one of among the people, the Church was set forth you from his iniquities.” Thus does he as the great asylum of rest and safety, the seek to lead them to the crucified One as place where all disturbing influences were their Saviour, not indeed from the yoke of to be overcome. To make this more mani. Rome, but from the yoke of sin, with all its fest, and to give to the Church a prestige direst consequences. The expression “Unto in the eyes of the people, this miracle was you first," is one that shows the univerwrought as a practical confirmation of the sality of Christ's mission. He was sent to declaration of salvation to be found within man, to the Jew first; but already in that it. The attention of the multitude being | first there lies a reference to the intended
extension of the Gospel to the Gentiles. | lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils." It Jerusalem was to be the centre and start- was no part of his design to leave the world ing-point of the Messianic work, but thence in the hands of the devil, to be under the it was to spread on every hand, till the old everlasting scourge of evil, but to reclaim promise be fulfilled, “In thy seed shall all that also, and to make it yet again the fair nations of the earth be blessed.” Now let abode of righteousness, peace, and joy. His us consider
sympathies were wonderfully large; and I. The merciful purpose of God in the whilst he saw man a sinner, he did not formission of Christ. "He sent him to bless get he was a sufferer too, but declared that you.” He might have sent him as a deso the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, belating angel,'spreading his huge black wings | cause be had anointed him to preach the over all the earth, whose every footprint | Gospel to the poor, had sent him to heal might have left the mark of God's scathing the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance wrath, bringing death into every home, to the captives and recovering of sight to and sorrow into every heart. He might the blind; to set at liberty them that are have sent him to intensify human suffer bruised, and to preach the acceptable year ing, and to scatter broadcast and thick the 1 of the Lord (Luke iv. 18, 19). He seeks seeds of woe. He might have sent him to to harmonize the now discordant echoes of dash every human hope, and to blast every the universe, to give liberty to the slave, a human joy. He might have armed him refuge to the destitute, food to the hungry, with the commission to open the bottom an asylum to the orphan, gladness and less pit, like the dread angel in the Apoca comfort to all. He seeks to throw the lypse, and to let loose every hurtful thing. girdle of brotherhood around the world, But no; “He sent him to bless you.” In and by making love dominant in every stead of all this, he came with blessings in heart, to make peace an inmate of every his hands, and words of hope, peace, and home. Verily God hath sent his Son to love upon his lips. He was clad with bless us, and the benignant character of bis mercy, not with vengeance; and his power mission is declared in the whole history of went hand in hand with love. Take the his earthly life. For who can look on Christ's facts of Christ's life on earth. They are work on earth, as it revealed itself in doing all summed up in this : “He went about good to man, and not feel that the purpose doing good.” “He visited the homes which of God in sending him to us was merciful death had visited, that by his sympathy and kind? And when we look on the and love he might solace their hearts, com actual results of Christ's teaching, as seen fort their minds, and wipe away their tears. in the institution of our hospitals, orphan He entered the abodes of poverty, not to and blind asylums, schools, and all the vå. add to their burdens, and make their rious helps given to self-culture, every one poverty the greater, but that he might of which is a gem in the diadem of Chrisleave å blessing behind him, a blessing | tianity, owing its origin and support to the which should indeed enrich and add no spirit begotten by it; when we see how its sorrow. Thousands had to thank him for teaching underlies all the regard for the health restored, hunger appeased, for vision, poor which is so honourable to our nature, speech, and hearing. And all this was but constitutes the basis of our civil as well as symbolical of the inner character of his our religious liberty ; how this has snapped mission. “God sent him to bless you." the chains of the slave amongst ourselves
These were blessings men could not fail to at least, and made us not only a prosperrecognise; but whilst they were real bless ous but a brave and generous people; how ings, they were but faint adumbrations of unutterably foolish and false does that nothat richer store of blessing and of good | tion appear which allies Christianity with which he was to throw open to mankind. | melancholy, and religion with dulness, stuBut whilst we dwell in thought or speech pidity, and gloom. No; it was not to upon the higher blessings, moral and spiri. | contract our pleasures, and repress the tual in their character, which Christ came healthy action of our spirits, and reduce to bring, let us not forget that the destruc our jojs, but as the apostle declared, as the tion of physical evil was as really a part of life of Christ and our experience of Chris his purpose as the other. “The kingdom tianity proves, “ God, having raised up hi: of heaven is at hand,” said he to his dis. Son Jesus, sent him to bless you." But ciples, as two and two he sent them forth | observeinto the world : “heal the sick, cleanse the 1 II. The real nature of the blessing Christ came to impart : “ Turning away every one, their darkness, to secure his favour, and to of you from his iniquities. The source of chase away the demon of fear. And what all external evil is the evil within. The is all the history of superstition, heathen or explanation of "all the ills that flesh is heir Christian, but a stern, constant protest to is given by the prophet Isaiah: “ Your against this separation, even as Christ's sins have separated between you and your mission was God's protest against all the God.” The real evil from which man is evil to which it had given birth. Well, it suffering, and which lies at the root of all was to put an end to all this evil, and to other, is sin. It was this that broke up dispel for over all these fears, that Christ Eden; it is this that makes heaven still dis came to turn us away from our iniquity. tant. Sin, or what is the same thing, self This is his blessing. ishness, has arrayed man against his fellow, Learn then two things :and reddened the earth with blood. It First-That true blessedness consists, not has called forth the orphan's tears and the in having, nor in doing, but in being. widow's moan. It has robbed millions of Having does not satisfy, but only intensithe most inalienable rights of humanity. | fies the craving. No man was ever yet It has filled our gaols, and furnished the satisfied, much less blessed, in mere having. victims of our scaffolds. It has made men As little does it consist in doing. Man is hard of heart, so that the cry of the needy too noble, his powers too vast, capable of bas fallen upon their ears in vain ; and it is too great an extension, ever to admit of his the fountain of all injustice, unrighteous. being satisfied with past accomplishments. ness, and wrong. It has brutalized men, He is made to find his blessedness in being. and made them the slaves of passion, pre Not what he has, nor what he does, but judice, and pride. It has swept across the what he is determines his weal or woe. To face of nature, and beneath its hot and pes make man true to himself, true to God, tilential breath the beauties of nature have true to the everlasting standard, is therewithered, and all is charred and black. fore the aim of Christ. To help him not Beneath the scorching influence of sin, only to do a righteous act, or to perform a earth bas forgotten its most beauteous deed of kindness and benevolence, but to smile, and closed its otherwise generous | make him throughout, in every fibre of his band. It gives still, and gives largely, but being, a righteous, kind, and benevolent it does not give freely. Its treasures have man. To turn him away alike from the to be wrung from its bosom in the sweat | practice and the love of iniquity, to destroy of our brow. But more than all, it has | its power over him, to break the force of thrown man's nature into discord, and | his passions, to remove the film from his isolated him from God. It has thrown moral vision, and to send the full tide of a man's nature into discord. Passion is at divine life through all the channels of his war with Principle; a corrupted Will is at being, is the aim of Christ. To make the war with Conscience, Desire with Interest, | liar truthful, the angry gentle and forgivFeeling with Judgment. Self-dissatisfac ing, the drunkard temperate and sober, tion is the result. Amidst all this conflict the lustful virtuous and chaste, the of our spiritual powers, Peace plumes her querulous and complaining contented and wings, and leaves us the prey of her suc resigned, is the real object of his coming. cessor, devouring Restlessness. But it goes And this is to impart true blessedness ; for beyond this : it isolates man from God; is not sin the direst of all evils, the bitterest and this isolation is an unfailing source of of all curses ? Is it not a most fearful, a most deepest misery. A darkening sense of horrible thing to be wrong-wrongthroughorphanage and desolation settles down out-to feel not only that I have done a upon the spirit, and fears haunt the man wrong thing, but that I am wrong? Can through life. It is a consequence of this any outward evil match with that? And that men put blinkers on the soul to shut to put all that wrong right, to sanctify the out six-tenths of the road along which they heart, to bring into complete and perfect travel. What fearful pain this separation oneness with God and truth, is not that from God involves, and how terrible are indeed to bless ? There are some people the fears to which it gives birth, the history always crying out for comfort, comfort; of heathenism declares. How earnest were always wanting to hear about God's mercy all the deepest thinkers of heathendom in and the joys of heaven. Well, is it not their efforts to find out God; how fearful | “comfort” for you to know that Christ the gacrifices they made, in the midst of | has been sent to kill the life out of your sin.
selfishness, to destroy all your evil, to turn cause he shall sare his people from their you from all your iniquity? Is it not | sin.” “He came to redeem us from all
comfort” for you to know that in all your iniquity, and to purify us unto himself.” struggles he is standing by, with his heart “ God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent full of sympathy, and his hand stretched him to bless you, in turning away every one out to help ? Is it not comfort to you to of you from his iniquities." know that God is on your side, and that In conclusion, let me remind you briefly the evil you hate he hates too, and will of the method by which that was accomenable you to conquer ? Then take the plished. “He came to put away sin by comfort, and go forth in the strength of it, the sacrifice of himself.” The cross of the to do yet more valiant battle with all your Lord Jesus was the instrument of our sal
vation. “He died, the just for the unjust, Secondly—That salvation, rightly under that he might bring us to God.” On that cross stood, is indissolubly linked with character. he made atonement for our transgression, Judging from the language sometimes “magnified the law and made it honouremployed in reference to salvation, it would able, and displayed, in the most startling seem that too frequently the conception of form, the dark malignity, the awful heinousit is an extremely partial one, and that it is ness of sin. Throughout his whole life he regarded as being simply a deliverance from had displayed the beauty and the majesty punishment. That it is a deliverance from of holiness and rectitude, and now in his punishment is true, and let us thank God death he shows the turpitude and wickedfor it. That it speaks out to us in no un ness of evil. In both life and death he decertain tone, but with a voice clear and clared to man the wonderful love of God, trumpet-tongued, the gracious word of for the richness of his mercy, the tenderness of giveness, is a fact that demands our most his compassion, as well as the unswerving grateful recognition. But whilst with a rectitude, the justice, and inflexible holiness most divine and godlike compassion it of his character. And from the cross, as says, “ Thy sins are forgiven thee,” to every his life’s blood ebbs away, he bequeaths to penitent believer, it also says, “ Go, and us, as his last legacy of love, both the word sin no more.” Deliverance from suffering of forgiveness and the word of healing. can only be accomplished through deliver. Brethren, would you have the blessing of ance from sin. And this is an inseparable God as sent you by his Son ? Believe in element in that grand achievement. The him, trust him, as he says, in freest mercy, Old Book declares that to be as much a | “Thy sin be forgiven thee ;” and obey part of Christ's work as the other. “Thou him when with equal love he says, “Go, shalt call his name Jesus.” Why? “Be- | and sin no more.”
Leighton Buzzard, Beds.
THE DUTY OF DISSENTERS. *
BY THE REV. N. HAYCROFT, M.A. It is impossible for modern Nonconformists to overlook the position of inferiority and un-Christian separation in which the policy of the Church of England has placed them. The Act of Uniformity has, in connection with the natural effect of an establishment, tended to foster and perpetuate division in the one Catholic Church of Christ, by condemning to a lower social position both the ministers and laity of the Nonconforming churches. The Test Act remained till 1828 the dishonour of our legislature, keeping out of offices, to which they had as fair a right and as good a qualification as their fellow.citizens, some of the wisest and most loyal men, because they scrupled to take the Communion after the fashion of the Prayer Book. The prestige of social position has produced in the Church an impatience and superciliousness towards Dissenters * Fion an excellent !ecture, entit'ed" Heroes and Lessons of St. Bortholomew's Day." (London :