« PreviousContinue »
God, must have their range, and it is not for us to prescribe it. Nations that give themselves, in despite of the light of nature, of reason, of experience, to stupid, licentious and blasphemous idolatries, must bear their burden, as well as leave their testimony. The “ lords many and gods many,” may not yet have wrought all the loathsome results which their votaries desire ; the thirst of the worshippers is not yet assuaged, the deadly delirium still heats the blood and bewilders the brain ; the full force of the delusion they have chosen-freely, shamelessly, guiltily, chosen,- has not yet been spent, they therefore are not yet wearied in their way. The pride of the arch-fiend may not be subdued by the waning of his designs, the misgiving of his captives, the mouldering of his empire. The lessons the powers of darkness have to learn, are as requisite, for aught we know, as those which have to be scanned by the sons of light. These systems, so degrading to man, and so insulting to God, have not yet, with their own hands, written in sufficiently indelible letters, their just and eternal doom. Beside it was requisite that the Gospel dispensation, which was to combat and destroy them, should grow up by their side, that the systems might be studied in contrast, and that their several fruits should be contemporaneously gathered. It became expedient therefore, that Evangelic truth should be nourished and arrive at a maturity of growth on some independent ground, amidst elements and laws which might be gradually conciliated to its reign ; and it pleased Almighty God to choose our favoured land as the nursery and the home of a free and enlightened Christianity. But why was this aggressive apparatus so long in preparing ? How was it that the Gospel itself was not earlier ready for the assault? Why because it had been corrupted and debased! Had our pure and sacred religion, which wrought such mighty conquests, and which survived with quenchless valour the persecutions of its youth, not been arrested, maimed, and prostituted by priestcraft till it became an offence and a curse, till the professed Church resembled a pandemonium upon earth, the intervening night had not occurred. Who is impious enough to refer these dire desecrations to the Divine appointment or approval ? Or who is unreasonable enough to attribute the delay occasioned by these ages
to the hand of God? To complain of postponement, which was occasioned by the daring impiety of man, as casting mysteriousness on the dispensations of heaven, is as illogical as it is profane.
But does not the alleged partial progress of genuine religion arise, at least in some degree, from the illusiveness of coinputations respecting it? The evil with which it has to contend, wherever the sphere of its exertion may be, is reproduced in steady and undeviating succession : while the good which is done observes no hereditary line. Sinful creatures come trooping up in endless millions from infancy and childhood, so that the gospel is confronted by a vast and ever replenished mass of hostile material ; while the truth, touching the individual, not the throng, and reaching those whom it visits at any and every stage of their passage to the grave, rests its conquests on what seem, to human observation, to be capricious laws. If all the existing communities of men were to be renewed to-morrow, others, born in sin, would promptly take their place, needing the same illuminating and restoring power. Spiritual results are tu vasire to admit of nice numerical calculations :
the arithmetic they require is far too profound and subtle for creatures of a day to compass. The hallowed aggressions of saving truth are hushed and unobserved ; they awaken but little interest outside of their own domain. If cities rise, or citizens prosper, we trace the signs in busy resorts, in commodious mansions, in splendid equipages :—if success reward the toil of the student, we read the results in seemly honours, in friendly greetings, and in advancing reputation :-- If spring revisit us, we find it graced with budding flowers, with carolling birds, and with smiling heavens :—but the Kingdom of God, compared with which all else is transient, “cometh not with observation." All calculations must be baffled, be the nature of the case, while the results which accrue, so difficult to detect, are migratory,—do not remain with us, but undergo incessant absorption and transtion. Too precious to linger amidst the ruins of time, they are carefully treasured and garnered elsewhere. Could we only draw aside the veil, my brethren, and be favoured with a glance at the aggregate results already secured in the mansions above, our disappointment would vanish, and we should indeed, with unfaltering voice, sing of the “glorious gospel of the blessed God !"
The great scheme of truth in which we delight, and whose extension we seek, has but just entered on its strictly aggressive course—who that looks abroad and around with enlightened candour, but must be surprised rather than discouraged by the results ? Evangelical Missions, be it remembered, have not been conceived in a proselytizing spirit: they do not seek to secure obedience to a Church, however venerable, or to a sect however vast: but simply to reconcile sinners to God, through the knowledge of His Son. They carry within them, therefore, none of the element which gives to false religions their mysterious power.
Error is more resolute, in the coarser sense of the word, than truth; and delusion, sincerely imbibed, more impelling than intelligence. Superstition is made up of strange ingredients; it draws its inspiration from human sources, with a quaint admixture of the Divine; it trains whatever of intellect it touches, through the imagination and the fears; it conducts its votaries along the avenue of self-imposed sacrifices, to the temple of personal merit, and leaves them there, enshrined in their self-complacency; it flatters the pride as well of the mind as of the heart ; like the presiding genius of darkness, it leads its victims “captive at its will ;" there are no lengths of endurance to which such a power will not carry its adherents; it will deck them for the stake, and induce them to yield to martyrdom, and to glory in it. To put the persistence, however, of the Jesuit, or of the more besotted Hindoo, in comparison with the graces which enlightened piety educes, is to insult reason, and to degrade religion. The missions we commend are equally free from the weakness and the strength which spurious systems induce. Apart from their more cherished aims and results, their incidental accompaniments entitle them to rank among the most robust enterprises of life. The secular difficulties they have overcome, the manly virtues they have nurtured, the arduous studies they have entailed,--the patient endurance they have drawn forth,—with the tyrannies they have rebuked, and the inhumanities they have suppressed, might well win for them an honourable place in the chronicles of time. But they have been attended by their more appropriate effects, and have conferred imperishable
benefits on their way: they have quickened thought, awakened enquiry, kindled the breath of prayer, and renewed the souls of men ; “ those who were darkness, are now light in the Lord.”
While, however, we would not underrate, but admiringly acknowledge, the numerous and well-nigh multitudinous personal conversions to the Christian faith which have crowned the efforts of the honoured labourers in this great field, it is impossible not to observe with the profoundest interest, the influence of revealed truth on the systems of iniquity which it confronts, for it especially delights in overthrowing "spiritual wickednesses in high places.” How steadfastly it looks them in the face, and yet how compassionately it settles down in their midst. How it brings out their deformities, compels them to disclose their secrets, and lays bare their awful corruptions! How silently, though reluctantly, these ancient and massive structures of idolatry here and there begin to crumble, to indicate a presence mightier than themselves : how the abashed hierarchy who minister at their altars, and haunt their gloomy shades, are beginning to be appalled at the ominous accents, “ for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." Yes! the work of demolition has to be wrought, before the Christian structure can rise superbly to the skies,-and this process is now passing after such manner as should awaken the gratitude and rouse the energies of the Church,
What has been already done is but preparatory,--is but the preface to he volume of deeds which the Gospel waits to record. It has gone forth under the auspices of the different sections of the Evangelical community, and as long as it is left unpatronized and free, impelled only by the volitions of its own great heart, it will accomplish fresh results. Its aim can no longer be regarded as an experiment, nor the taunts of inefficacy be cast in its face ; its conquests are not now a question of fact, but only of degree. While we would continue to be diligent in the use of all means which are placed within our power, and ply in the spirit of dependence and of prayer, the ordinary resources vouchsafed, we are warranted, I think, by the predictions of the sacred penmen, in looking for an augmented blessing, for more than the usual outpouring of the Spirit of God. When it may please Him to realise this anticipation, no human sagacity can foretell; but certainly, no sober-minded man, who throws his eye over the continent of Europe, and over the still vaster region of the West, and observes what is passing there ;-who turns his face to India, to China, to the African wilds, or to the Russian hordes, can deem it nigh at hand. Premature expectation can only issue in disappointment and reaction; it is enough for us to know, that, let the Millennial glory light upon the nations whenever it may, it will usher in a long and brightening day in which our Divine Redeemer shall reap his full reward, " shall be extolled and be very high,"_" shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied.” In the meantime, we have to fulfil the obligations which the Great Master imposes, and which the passing age requires at our hands. Ours is a position of strange responsibility. Our brethren who have preceded us have committed us to a course, which, to abandon would be traitorous, which, negligently to pursue, would be to lay ourselves open to suspicion. But if we would hold our places,
ritain our strength, and meet with wonted prowess the
powers which arrayed against us, we must look well to things at home; we must have no fellowship with those who would undermine the inspiration of the Word of God, -who would deprive of all distinctiveness this glorious Gospel,—who would rob us of our armour, and betray us to the foe. We must guard against the supineness which too frequently obtains where novelty ceases ; and, above all, we must ask an unction from the Holy One, cultivate humble dependence on the Divine promise, and seek to be mighty in prayer. So equipped, brethren, the gates of hell shall not prevail against us,-the Prince of the Kings of the Earth shall throw His protection around us,-while the gladdened nations shall exclaim as we advance, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation ; that saith unto Zion, " Thy God reigneth!”
But when the purposes of the Gospel have been accomplished in the history of our fallen race, may not its issues so far from terminating, in a momentous sense, have but begun? The notion entertained by some that our Lord having put down all rule, and authority, and power, will lay aside His humanity ; that He will cast it away as an unseemly vest, appears to me to be a wild and hurtful speculation ; while we have as little sympathy with the conjecture of a deceased but celebrated writer," that amid the revelations of the future, the Incarnation itself might probably be cast into comparative shade.” But, if an assumed and etherealized materialism is to be unceasingly associated with the Divine essence, what winged imagination can forecast the possible results ? Motives more intense than any which have touched the mysterious springs of moral action will retain the redeemed in free and unfailing obedience; sin will recede to an immeasurable remove, nor ever pollute again the atmosphere of heaven ; a yet more precious and reviving grace will distil on cherubim and seraphim as they encircle the eternal throne ; new orders of created intelligences may arise, creatures cast in a mould, at present fashioned only in the Divine mind ; profounder communion with the Infinite "I am ” will expand the powers and regale the spirits He has framed; fields of thought, vast and interminable, will open on every side, and mighty thinkers will trace them with reverent but nimble step in blended and blessed harmony; from this, as from a supernal centre, will stream forth beams, chaste and ceaseless beams of light which may bathe the universe itself in beauty and in glory! Great and exhaustless is the “mystery of godliness,” “God manifest in the flesh!” We, my brethren, while we give ourselves to study and to toil amid the fading scenes of time, will lift our brow in anticipation of these scenes, and contemplating the glory of God as we pass along, as it is revealed to us in the face of Jesus Christ, will seek to be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord ; till, emerging from the shades of death, we with one accord swell the anthem, with every creature in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and cry, " Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto Him who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever!”
THE COMPASSION OF CHRIST.
We have only glanced at the com- ciation. He went about, we are told, passions of Christ, for indeed they from place to place doing good. He are infinite; and if it is true that knew neither fatigue nor danger when they have descended first on the He could help or comfort. He forgot most debased and miserable beings, His hunger and exhaustion to annot the less have they been shed nounce the kingdom of God to a poor down on all the lost race. As all harassed soul; He hesitated not to men are included in the condemna- brave all dangers to bring divine suc. tion, so are all embraced by the com- cour to His afflicted friends at Bepassions of Christ. He had pity not thany. Nothing interrupted Him in only on the publicans and persons doing good, not even the announceof wicked behaviour, but also on the ment that His mother and His bre. Pharisees themselves. Did he not thren were seeking Him. He subweep over Jerusalem with all its in- ordinated alike His natural affections habitants, in the first ranks of whom and His bodily wants, to the fulfilwere found His enemies? Listen to the ment of His mission of love. We sad complaint of His slighted compas- feel that He gave Himself up withsion : "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, out reserve. His love amounted to which killest the prophets, and self-immolation, constant self-immostonest them that are sent unto thee; lation. He regarded Himself from how often would I have gathered the beginning to the end of His life thy children together, as a hen doth as the holy victim of love. He gave gather her brood under her wings, up not only His days, not only His and ye would not !” It is not now hours of rest, not only the moments over His friends that He weeps but when He might have been enjoying over His enemies. He has nothing intercourse with His family, but to expect from them but death, but even, when necessary, the hour of it matters not, He loves them in His prayer, that period of heavenly spite of themselves, because His love refreshment, of ineffable communion is not measured by what it may re- with His Father. He abridged this ceive, but is altogether free. Even divine and mysterious engagement on the cross His mercy is still dis- that He might speak to the ignorant played, and He dies forgiving His multitudes who followed Him into murderers. He has borne in His desert places, because He had given heart the burden of all our sorrows; them food by a miracle. Was there His pity has taken on itself the con- ever devotion comparable to His ? demnation of the whole world ; He You will observe that we have not has assumed the weight of it to spoken of that sacrifice which conHimself, and it was this dreadful nected and summed up all the rest load that crushed Him down in the of that sorrow of sorrows, that bleeddust of Gethsemane !
ing sacrifice, in which the most terBut, my brethren, compassion is rible sufferings of the body were but not enough, there must be also con- a feeble image of the agony of the solation. Mercy is only complete soul! If love consists, as our text when it is efficacious. The compas- says, in giving our life for our bresion of Christ always resulted in thren, shall we not say,—Yes, indeed; deliverance, and it is here that we we have learned in Him what love is must admire His life of self-denial —we have learned it in such a way and suffering which manifested the as never to forget it more - De inward by the outward self-renun- Pressensé's “ Redeemer.”