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So much for the statistics of American Methodism. As to its character, it is, we believe, pretty generally known in this country, that it has little in common with Conferencism. In a conversation we had with one of their ministers during a recent visit to the States, he remarked, after listening to some details of the doings of the Clique, that "Methodists in America could not understand such a state of things; they could form no conception of it as an existing reality." The subjoined remarks on the recent British Conference, from the Philadelphia Christian Advocate, one of their best Wesleyan papers, afford some idea of the views which prevail largely amongst them in regard to the position of the Conference :
"One of the saddest sights to be witnessed, is that of a man who has outlived his time; whose work has been done, and whose fellow-workers have passed away and left him as a monument of what has been or of that with which he has now nothing to do. His reason dim and speech weak, he can but babble. His passion remaining, he is tyrannical; accustomed to command, he threatens dissent with death; long used to travel in the ruts of custom, any divergency therefrom is a divergency from the ten commandments; trained in the old system of thought and action, though it be as rotten now as the rotten boroughs of politics, he meets Reformers with fury; sick, he meets medication with malediction. So is it with the British Wesleyan Conference; it has outlived its time, as an ecclesiastical hierarchy; it is falling to pieces by its own weight; bursting from the centre outward by the great and unjust power gathered into itself, rather than by external forces crushing upon it from without.
"The strongest assurance that God rules, and that Humanity is his child, whom he is judiciously and tenderly educating, is, that an undue assumption of power eventually destroys the holders thereof. There is no escape from it. The world exists for the benefit of all, for the education of all; and if any institution, class, or corporation monopolizes the rights of the individual; if it bends the will of the many to its own; if it treats the people as a master his slaves, governs without consulting them, then is that institution, class, or corporation fated to fall? No help for it in God, angels, or men. The destinies of humanity are in the counsels of Divinity.
"Death begins with denunciation, and with renunciation life. When reformatory movements are denounced as the effervescence of sinful passion, a blindness is gathering about the vision of the appointed seers. When the body is forced to perform illegitimate functions, diseases and deformities come on; but when these are renounced, the sap of life flows afresh, rejuvenescence begins, and with the natural action of the parts life and health return; or if not these the old dies, that the new may arise stronger and more beautiful than ever. In the United States, let any state or church structure be reared, fortified never so much by dollars and dignities, by fashion and the learned professions, yet if it does not stand upon the interests of man; if it does not gather around it the affections and well-wishes and God-speeds of humanity; if it exaggerates a truth into a lie, by making it stand or serve for all other truths, then is there a viciousness in it that dooms it: the floods will come and undergulf it; the wind will come and rack its bowing walls asunder, and men will flee therefrom; for it had its foundations on the shifting sands of tradition and fashion, and not upon the broad foundations of the divinity in humanity. The Wesleyan Organization, bursting like a shell outward, marks the dangerous centralization of power, and reads an unmistakeable lesson to the cis-atlantic followers of Wesley."
THE APOSTOLIC EPISTLES. THAT SO large a portion of the New Testament should consist of epistolary corre spondence, is a striking phenomenon; still it was natural and necessary in the circumstances. The early churches often needed counsel, warning, and instruction. They had no written oracles to appeal to, and therefore the Apostles, as the living depositaries of inspired truth, were obliged to communicate with them in the form of doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness." These letters are, therefore, the fervent outpouring of pastoral zeal and attachment. They are not abstract impersonal treatises-mere systems of theology. Like other letters, they have their peculiar charm. written without reserve, and in unaffected They are simplicity. Sentiments come warm from the heart, without the shaping, pruning, and punctilious arrangement of a formal discourse. There is such a fresh and familiar transcription of feeling, so frequent an introduction of colloquial idioms, and so much of conversational frankness and vivacity, that the reader associates the image of the writer with every paragraph, and his ear seems to catch and recognise the very tones of living address. pressions must have been often deepened These imby the thought that the letter came from "such an one as Paul, always a sufferer, and often a prisoner. If he could not speak, he wrote; if he could not see them in person, he despatched to them those silent messengers of love.
We have alluded to Paul as the principal letter-writer in the New Testament. When that change which passed over him with the shock of a spiritual earthquake had subsided into resolute attachment to the new religion, what ardour and heroism were seen to be united in him; what a rare combination of intellect and heart, of enthusiasm and perseverance ! Still with him there was no stoical abnegation of humanity; while he lived for the world, he lived in the world. He shrank from the scourge, and declared himself a citizen of Rome, and the shuddering expectation of a Roman dungeon suggested the warmth and comfort of a "cloak." of the schools was in him "baptized with The culture the Holy Ghost and with fire." Words are often unable to convey his thoughts; they reel and stagger beneath the weight and power of his conceptions. And whether
we turn to his alarmed appeal to the people of Lycaonia, where he was taken for the god of cloquence, to his oration before the critics and judges of the Areopagus, or to his pleading at the bar of Felix and Agrippa-or whether we survey his letter to the Church of Rome, in its fulness, profundity, and compacted system-or his Epistle to Corinth, so varied and magnificent in argument, so earnest and so persuasive in remonstrance and vindicationor the missive sent to Galatia, so vivid and startling in its surprise, indignation, or sorrow or that to Ephesus, so opulent in thought and exalted in sentiment, as if to compensate for the costly books of magic which had been given to the flames-or that to Philippi, so warm and exuberant in its congratulations to the first European city where the gospel had been proclaimed -or that to Colosse, exposing the insidious assaults of a specious philosophy, which corrupted the purity and marred the simplicity of the gospel-or his twin communications to Thessalonica, calm, affectionate, and consolatory-or those to Timothy and Titus, replete with the sage and cordial advices of paternal kindness, and long and varied experience-or the brief note to Philemon, concerning a dishonest and fugitive slave, who had been unexpectedly brought to "the knowledge of the truth" -or the epistolary tracts addressed to the Hebrews, with its powerful demonstration of the superior glory and the unchanging permanence and spirituality of the new dispensation; to whichever of these compositions we turn, we are struck with the same lofty genius and fervid eloquence, the same elevated and self-denying temperance, the same throbbings of a noble and yearning heart, the same masses of thought, luminous and many-tinted, like the cloud which glows under the reflected splendours of the setting sun; the same vigorous mental grasp which, amid numerous digressions, is ever tracing truths up to first principles-all these the results of a master mind, into which nature and grace had poured in royal profusion their rarest and richest endowments.
Similar in character are the other and catholic epistles of the New Testament:the Epistle of James, so severe, lofty, and individualising in its tone; so like the personal teaching of Jesus, as seen in the Sermon on the Mount-the two Epistles of Peter, the very image of himself in warm impulse and aspiration, and so full of
Jewish allusion and associations, quite in keeping with the spirit of Him who was "the Apostle of the Circumcision "--the three Epistles of John, so redolent of love, "the bond of perfectness," and ever recurring to the necessity of a holy life as the true accompaniment and realisation of an orthodox creed; and lastly, the brief chapter of Jude, a volcanic denunciation of Antinomian licentiousness and fruitless formalism.
In the epistles what specimens have we not of almost every form of composition: description, narrative, argument, oratory; bold invective and sudden apostrophe; antithesis and climax; the brief words of anger; the sad regrets of disappointed hope; the soft breathings of affection; the vehement outburst of self-vindication; the long and effective argument, often ending in an anthem; logic swelling into lyrics; the terse deliverance of ethical maxims, and the cordial greeting and kind remembrance of former friends. No wonder that Longinus adds Paul of Tarsus to a list of names "which were the crown of all eloquence and Grecian genius." There are some passages in the Epistles to the Corinthians which have all the vehement and thrilling penetration of Demosthenes, and other sections in the same books, which, in elevation, imagery, and music, have no parallel, even in the Platonic dialogues.North British Review.
THE FIRST-BORN OF EGYPT.* Ir is the Divine pleasure that the chosen people shall not effect their emancipation from the thraldom of Egypt by the ordinary course of events which we denominate "providence;" but by that direct interference of Divine power which is termed miraculous, because different from the course of things that fall within ordinary observation. Accordingly, up to that night, whose occurrences are now to claim our attention, a series of tremendous calamities have, by the Divine agency, been inflicted upon the oppressors of Israel. Nine times in succession have the arrows of Divine anger fallen among the Egyptians; and each of these afflictive dispensations is intended as an admonitory lesson to the chosen seed, to impress them at once with a sense of the power and superintendence of the Lord of Hosts; of their own deep obligation to serve and glorify him; and of their safety beneath his care.
We owe this animated and graphic sketch of the aspects which "the night to be remembered " may be supposed to have offered to the Egyptians, to the Rev. R. W. Fraser's "Sketches of the Sacred Rites of Ancient Israel."-Edinburgh: Paton and Ritchie. 1851.
Omitting any special reference to those admonitory and punitive judgments, none of which had made a deep impression upon the mind of the Egyptian monarch, we arrive at the last of them, which took place on this "night of the Lord." Let us picture to ourselves one or two scenes likely to have occurred among the Egyptians on this memorable occasion.
The sun has long been set over the northwestern shores of the distant Mediterranean, and the shadows and silence of midnight are stealing over the land. The busy hum of voices is hushed throughout the magnificent city, which the classic poet has celebrated as the "hundred-gated." The streets are becoming more and more deserted as the wearied inhabitants retire to rest; but in every dwelling there is a light, for a solitary lamp burns all the night long in each inhabited house; and even the poorest will rather stint themselves of their needful food and raiment, than resign their light during the midnight hours. Some of the greater mansions are still brilliantly lit up. There is one palace, hard by the great temple of Osiris, which is one blaze of light. Let us draw near and enter it. Hark! sounds of gladness and revelry are echoing through its spacious halls. Sweet voices are singing to the soft strains of the Egyptian harp-the minstrelsy of Thebes. They chant the praises of Memnon, the mystic statue that utters music at the dawning of day. They sing the praises of the ever-fruitful Nile. They utter in noble strains-worthy a better cause the praises of their imaginary divinities. Wherefore this festivity? It is the natal day of the owner of the mansion, one of the princes of the land, upon whose hand the Pharaoh leans. A goodly company are met to usher in the propitious hour that beheld his birth. Reclining around the festal board, even the wise and the wary among them are labouring to forget the calamities, which, according to the word of the Lord God, uttered by Moses, had recently fallen upon their land. There were a few, indeed, from whose mind the present gladness could not remove the deep impression which the exertion of Divine power in the recent judgment had made. And amid the general hilarity might be seen faces expressing deep care, perplexity, and illforeboding; for it was not forgotten that another infliction, more tremendous than any that had yet fallen upon them, had been threatened by that same terrible word, whose predictions, however much derided when they were uttered, had never been uttered in vain. And now it is the midnight hour,-"the night of the Lord."
Suddenly there is a cry of horror and dismay. The lordly owner of the mansion, the eldest-born of his family, has fallen back in his seat! Perhaps it is a feint. He is, it may be, overcome by an excess of joy. No look at his countenance. It is thy hand, O Azrael angel of death! beneath whose pressure the noble Egyptian has fallen; for thy hand alone can thus overspread the features with the pallor of the tomb! And now another and another of the company, each the eldest in his father's house, is prostrated beneath the same invisible touch. Fatal hour! How is the gladness become mourning, and the shouts of merriment changed into the wailing of anguish! Let us leave them in their despair, and turn to another scene.
Although the midnight hour is so near, strains of joyful music are re-echoing through the almost deserted streets. a procession. A band of white-robed damsels are passing cheerfully on. Each carries a lamp; and their many lights, broken into a thousand rays, are reflected from the silent waters. It is a marriage party. A company of maidens are conducting the happy bride from her father's dwelling to her future home. The bridegroom, who is waiting their approach, has already prepared the wedding feast, and lovely visions of future bliss pass in review before his delighted fancy, tinging the whole tenor of his future history with the roseate hues of youth and hope. Alas! how often does the brightest sun that ever beamed on mortal eyes set amid the gloom and darkness of a tempest! The marriage party approach the dwelling. The hour of midnight has arrived, confusion prevails in the house, and the voice of wailing and sorrow mingles with the joyous notes of the bridesmaids. The bridegroom is dead! He was one of the first-born. Slain by an invisible hand, he has perished amid his joy! Let us leave the widowed bride in her tears.
Near to the banks of the river stands a mansion of some note. It is the dwelling of an opulent Egyptian. In one of the windows, cast open to admit the cool and fragrant breeze of night, is seated a noble lady. A solitary lamp, whose rays sparkle in the waters below, hangs near her, and its light reveals that noble outline of features peculiar to a daughter of Thebes. Her dark eyes are suffused with tears; but they are tears of gladness; for she is a mother, and she is gazing with the ineffable love of a mother on her first-born. Radiant with health, a beautiful boy lies before her, wrapt in the soft sleep of infancy. It is not only her first-born, but her only son; and maternal love, more potent than Egyp
tian magicians, is presenting to her rapt imagination those gladdening scenes which a mother's heart deeply feels, and tenderly loves. As she looks forth upon the river, it would almost seem as if
"The water's calmness in her breast,
And smoothness on her brow, did rest."
But the hour of midnight is drawing nigh, and an expression of anxiety gathers upon her countenance. She is not ignorant that a terrible threat has been uttered, and it occurs to her that the moment of its exe
cution may be near. "I would," she murmurs to herself, "those children of Joseph were departed as they desire! My soul misgives me ! The words of that terrible man have never yet fallen to the ground! My child! my child! if Osiris cannot, let the God of Moses save thee !" Hark! there is a cry of anguish ! She snatches up her son; but the angel of death has swept over her dwelling, and the spirit of her child is fled. The threat is accomplished-her first-born is slain ! The whole city, the whole land is now aroused. Every house is a scene of woe, anguish, and dismay. The practitioners of the healing art find their skill utterly vain, and consternation is universal. Death has visited every family. The destroyer has trodden alike the floor of the cottage and the marble halls of the palace. The prince has found no safety in his power-the peasant no protection in his obscurity. The royal robe and princely diadem have found no more respect than the humble attire of the slave or the prisoner.
The form of the affliction thus falling upon Egypt, adds immeasurably to its weight. It is the first-born who are its victims. Those who possess the right of primogeniture have, in most nations, possessed peculiar advantages, and, in almost every family, are objects of peculiar interest. All this must have tended greatly to deepen the anguish caused by this dreadful desolation: and if we remember that the first-born of the sacred animals, whom the Egyptians worshipped, were also included in the common destruction, and that more lamentation was frequently made at the death of one of these "sacred animals" than at the decease of a child, and that it was the custom to lament such an event aloud in the public streets, we shall at once admit the force of the description of the inspired historian: "There was a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more."
The agony of their distress was the greater from its utter hopelessness. Many as are the sorrows of this life, few of them are
beyond the reach of the soothing hand of hope. How rough soever the path of life may be, yet is hope ever ready to strew it with flowers, and to whisper of a smoother path in the distance. How stormy soever the ocean of life, hope hovers over it, scattering sunshine upon its surges, and telling the mariner of a haven and a home. Poverty and privation,-unkindness and persecution,-disease of body and sickness of heart, are all alike soothed and mitigated by the sweet influence of hope: but in the eye of mere reason-to the mind unilluminated by the light of the blessed Gospel-death admits of no such mitigation; the living are separated from the objects of their devotion, and an insurmountable barrier is raised between them for ever. Thus, as the bereaved people embalmed their first-born, and consigned them to their tombs, we may judge how deeply they felt the calamity that had befallen them.
THE THRESHING-FLOOR. THE threshing-floor, which added so much to the beauty and interest of the picture at Karagol, had been seen in all the villages we had passed during our day's journey. The abundant corn harvest had been gathered in, and the corn was now to be threshed and stored for the winter. The process adopted is simple, and nearly such as it was in patriarchal times. The children either drive horses round and round over the heaps, or, standing upon a sledge stuck full of sharp flints on the under part, are drawn by oxen over the scattered sheaves. Such were "the threshing-sledges armed with teeth," mentioned in Isaiah. In no instance are the animals muzzled-" Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn;" but they linger to pick up a scanty mouthful as they are urged on by the boys and young girls, to whom the duties of the threshing-floor are chiefly assigned. The grain is winnowed by the men and women, who throw corn and straw together into the air with a wooden shovel, leaving the wind to carry away the chaff whilst the seeds fall to the ground. The wheat is then raked into heaps, and left on the threshing-floor until the tithegatherer has taken his portion. The straw is stored for the winter, as provender for the cattle. These processes of threshing and winnowing appear to have been used from the earliest time in Asia. Isaiah alludes to it when addressing the Jews (xxviii. 27, 28.) See translation by the Rev. John Jones:
"The dill is not threshed with the threshing sledge,
And his horses, he will not bruise it to dust."
"The oxen and the young asses, that till the ground
Shall eat clean provender,
Which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan." (xxx. 24.)
"Behold, I have made thee a new sharp threshing wain (sledge) armed with pointed teeth." (xl. 15.)
"Thou shalt winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away." (xii. 16.)— LAYARD'S Nineveh and Babylon.
EXTRACTS FROM BARNES' NOTES.
3 Moreover when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast," Matt. vi. 16.
Moreover when ye fast, &c.-The word fast literally signifies to abstain from food and drink, whether from necessity or as a religious observance. It is, however, commonly applied in the Bible to the latter. It is, then, an expression of grief or sorrow. Such is the constitution of the body that in a time of grief or sorrow we are not disposed to eat; or, we have no appetite. The grief of the soul is so absorbing as to destroy the natural appetites of the body. Men in deep affliction eat little, and often pine away and fall into sickness, because the body refuses, on account of the deep Borrow of the mind, to discharge the functions of health. Fasting, then, is the natural expression of grief. It is not arbitrary; it is what every person in sorrow naturally does. This is the foundation of its being applied to religion, as a sacred rite. because the soul, when oppressed and bur. dened by a sense of sin, is so filled with grief, that the body refuses food. It is, therefore, appropriated always to scenes of penitence, of godly sorrow, of suffering, and to those facts connected with religion that are fitted to produce grief,-as the prevalence of iniquity, or some dark, impending calamity, or storm, or tempest, plague, pestilence, or famine. It is also used to humble us, to bring us to reflection, to direct the thoughts away from the comforts of this world to the bliss of a better. It is not acceptable except it be the real expression of sorrow, the natural effect of feeling that we are burdened with crime.