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Observer, June 1, 71.
mingled warmth and beauty-one of those pleasant spots in which a man can fitly bring his mind to the contemplation of higher themes than those of earth-a place in which there is no gaud, or glitter, or vain show, but where all is quiet and in good taste
a sort of drawing room of a Church, specially devised for the well to do.'
We wish we could honestly say as much for the service. It doesn't seem to warm one's heart to worship. All is methodical, en regle, and strictly ‘proper,' but the whole thing seems deadalive and lukewarm, as if the shell of religion was preserved, but its heart stolen away. Perhaps we are not sufficiently versed in the unemotional piety of Respectability; perhaps the still waters do, after all, run deeper than we, as mere superficial outsiders—critics of an hour-can imagine. We but judge from the seeming; there may be that within which passeth show.' But, for all that, the service seems to lack vitality. The curate reads the liturgy and the minister reads the lessons in the same droning style. The congregation joins but faintly in the singing. Ladies whose voices are often exerted to their utmost in the music of dites lui,' or · Gli angui d'inferno,' become disciples of sotto voce directly the .Te Deum' begins. However forte they may sing in the drawing-room, their style is pianissimo in church. Perhaps they miss the familiar 'pressing,'--the .Do sing, Miss Demisemiquiver, which can alone induce them to forget their 'sore throats. Very likely if the curate, accompanied by the beadle (white neckerchief included), were to go round and beseech each individual young lady to sing, there would be a chorus of vocal harmony enough to rouse the envy even of the Festival Choral Society. When we get to the Litany the 'miserable sinners' are energetic for the first three or four responses, and then they 'tail off' one by one, and by-and-by a gentleman with stentorian lungs, and a small singing boy with a shrill treble voice, in the gallery, have it all to themselves—an unaccompanied duet, to which nobody pays any attention, because by this time the rest of the congregation have (presumably) become absorbed in the contemplation of their own sinfulness. Yet, withal, the service is characterised by a certain pious decorum-we might almost say prudish propriety—which compels everyone to look attentive if they don't feel so.
With Mr. Spooner, to whom, after various calls by the way, we have really managed to get at last, we are going to deal quite frankly, feeling sure that he would rather be treated thus than made the victim of unrighteous puffery. As he can hardly lay the flattering unction to his soul that he is a brilliant preacher, he will not, as a matter of course, expect us to lay it there for him. We will nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice. We must 'a true verdict give according to the evidence, and that without fear, favour, or affection; malice, hatred, or ill-will.' The Geneva gown in which he preaches is some index to his doctrine-quiet, unostentatious, and strictly Evangelical. But first of his appearance. A man getting up in years, growing gray in his work, with a sort of quite at home,' belonging to the parish look, softening his somewhat marked features--a man who is probably impressed with the gravity of his mission; and who tries his best to fulfil it—a man, however, in whom it would be a trifle hard to confide, for his face is a face which does not readily invite confidence,-a man not, perhaps, with a strong' face, but with a square head which bespeaks a certain shrewdness in worldly matters,-a man who is careful too careful, it may be-not to offend the susceptibilities of his congregation, and who does not tread (morally speaking) on their favourite corns by attacking the peccadiloes
Observer, June 1, 71
they cannot amount to sins-of Respectability,-a man who certainly is not brilliant, but who has honesty of purpose-such a man is the Rev. Isaac Spooner. Religion sits comfortably on him. He looks as if he bore with patient fortitude and Christian resignation the many dinner parties to which, by reason of his clerical office and the fortunate circumstances of the parish, it is part of his duty to attend. He even looks as if, when the Geneva gown were thrown aside, he could crack a joke at one of those cozy Edgbaston tea-parties where theology and crumpets are digested with equal zeal.
But Mr. Spooner, as a preacher, lacks many of the qualities which would be necessary to ensure popularity with a more mixed congregation. People, unaccustomed to the use of hortatory opiates, feel the eyelids growing heavy when they listen to him. It is not so much that the matter of his sermons is dull, as that he has a most unimpressive manner. What he says is good sound common-sense, not deviating much into the byways of philosophy or speculation, clear by reason of its simplicity, and with a wholesome gospel
flavour. A child might understand his sermons--if it only could be kept awake to hear them. Mr. Spoonerwe must say it-has a most soporific delivery. Under his ministrations even Jove might condescend to nod, and be excused for introducing his celestial habits among the children of men. If Mr. Spooner would but read his sermon-for it is almost needless to say that he does read it-in a natural manner and with natural emphasis, instead of uttering commonplaces in a solemn and lugubrious fashion, his congregation would listen to him not only with more pleasure, but with vastly more profit. Still he is a fair type of the Church of England parson,-the man whom parental control, and the certain prospect of a good living' have thrust into a position which he might not have chosen for himself, but who when there does his duty with quietness and consistency."
A SURVEY OF HISTORICAL SUPERNATURALISM_No. IV.
We have now arrived at a point in the purged and sweetened world from which we may look quietly back and gather up a few lessons. There is not in existence any other record which sets forth with such dignity and simplicity the grandeur and almightiness of the one living God. All other accounts even of the introduction of man are beneath contempt, but the history in this ancient document is life-like and truth-like. The com. posite man-from nature and from God-has to sustain the material fabric by the fruits which grow from his mother-earth ; but the higher life from God his Father demands nourishment from the invisible.
Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." The dualism, the double tendency, separates him from other creatures in the visible, in all the stages of his history. Other creatures follow their instincts without check, or remorse, or disquiet, finding perfect rest in the fields or forests where they are born, where they live, and where they die. Far otherwise with man, who has relation to the invisible, and has thirst after such truth and love, such freedom, blessed. ness, and glory as he cannot find anywhere in accomplishment or realization. His animal passions drag him downward into grossness and revel, but there are trails and flashes of the ancient royalty and glory. He has fallen into a bad country, and has deep degradation and shameful com. panionship, but there are still traces of nobility and signs of high origin and great position.
The account of the fall will bear the closest scrutiny. The infidel generally argues that God should have made a being incapable of falling; but surely this belongs to the very rinsings of unreason. In other words, God should have made another beast, for the creature of their imagination would not have been a moral agent, and would have been without character. As the fire-sparks rise heavenward, as the rivers run to the sea, as the stars wheel round the centr sun—so man would have pursued the decreed road, but holiness would have been impossible. Everything of reality and glory in moral character depends upon the resolute pursuit of things which are true and good, in the face of temptation and trial. When the path of duty, which is the road of life, is chosen by the heart and seconded by an inflexible will Godward, then man becomes sublime and illustrious. It is in this way that character is formed. We are not teaching that such strife must be everlasting; it lies in the nature of things, through the mercies of God, that the period must arrive when the spiritual standing of the hero—angel or man-is determined and beyond all conflict or change. Nor can any imagination conceive or any speech declare in adequate manner the splendour and beauty of that country of life where successful soldiers of the holy war gather in the Paradise of God. Nor must we forget that though the shadows of sin be awful, the lights, miraculous and moral, are by consequence diviner and more resplendent.
When the great dome of heaven is black as the wings of a raven, the starry lamps shine out all the brighter from that dark ground; the mingling of glooms and grandeurs gives sublimity to the painting. We have had such revelations of the infinite love of God, of His fathomless wisdom and terrible power, as could not have been given or conceivable under sinless circumstances. The deep heart of God has been revealed, yearning over a guilty and lost race, and all His greatness and majesty have come into the human field in the method of recovery. Corresponding with His matchless glories in the supernatural lights and spiritual training of educational ages, will be the final result in the condition of nature and of man. The transfigured earth will be fairer than the Eden of the prime, and the glorified immortals very far above Adam in the garden. No ancient harmonies of the unconscious period when nature was sleeping in God, charming as they were, could have nourished the breadth, force, and moral grandeur, the triumphal life and
power of that throng who come shining out of great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Nor has the education been confined to the ransomed from sin and death. Beings who needed no rescue have gathered enlargement in knowledge and blessedness. By the Church on earth there has been made known to the principalities in heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God. In the divine method of redeeming the bondsman and transforming him by love and life, they have seen the manifold wisdom of their Creator as they never saw it before, and doubtless the seraphic fire of adoration has burned with finer lustre. The symbolic thing was rich when golden cherubim with outspread wing had their faces directed to the mercy-seat; the reality exists when illustrious sons of God, from His immediate presence, desire to look into the things which relate to our salvation : the sufferings of Christ and the glory which follows.
The fact of long life among the Patriachs cannot be explained on natural principles. The physical vigour of life near the source and fountain, together with the freshness of the world and the absence of subtle diseases and grinding cares, might account for lives averaging some two hundred years; but when we come to lives of ages varying from six hundred to nine
Observer, June 1, "'1
hundred years, and find that from such enormous duration there is rapid descent, first to one hundred and twenty years and afterwards to threescore years and ten, we can only resolve the matter into miracle. It is not, however, hard to see why so few arrive even at the seventy years. To countless masses life has become a travail and a burden. A thousand forms of disease descend in the blood from age to age ; great cities reek with pollution in the soil and the atmosphere; all things are so full of labour and care and distraction, and humanity is torn by so many wild horses, that we have no reason for wonder that death should reap the fields of mortality before the corn is ripe. The reason of longevity is perhaps as inscrutable as the fact. One who utters the ordinary conclu
“We have no evidence that writing was known before the deluge; but without this incomparable art there seems to be no expedient for preserving tradition but extreme length of life. To this purpose, as has been frequently observed, the antedeluvian duration would be strikingly adequate. The lives of two patriarchs would reach nearly from the creation to the deluge; and as each was the contemporary of five or six generations (with the exception of Enoch), the testimony would be delivered to his sons and his sons' sons, with the united authority of the priest, the chieftain, and the ancestor.” Another writer may be quoted, in whose conclusions on this question we have more confidence. In writing on the authority of Genesis, Dr. Lee condemns the theory of tradition as the first medium, pronouncing it a Jewish figment. “ Nor can there, as far as I can see, any good reason be assigned why we may not suppose that this document was from the very first committed to writing. It will perhaps be said that writing was unknown at this early period. But who can prove this? Were not the nine hundred years during which the first man lived space sufficient for the invention of the rudest sort of writing imaginable (for even this would be infinitely superior to tradition)? Is it necessary, I ask, to suppose that none but Egyptians could have ingenuity enough to discover something like the hieroglyphical or picture-writing, which was found some years ago among the savages of Peru ? In the first ages of the world savage life was unknown, if we may believe the Scrip. tures, and to this the nature of the case will afford abundant support. If men could in those days build cities, establish governments, make
progress in all the refinements of civilized life, I am at a loss to discover why we should suppose it impossible they could have been acquainted with any sort of writing. In the book of Job, which is manifestly as old as the Exodus, and a book of Scripture perfectly independent of anything which originated with the Jews, we have the mention of writing a book' occurring as something well known,* and there is not the least reason for supposing that Job had any intercourse whatever with the Egyptians. The probability, therefore, is that writing was in existence before the days of Moses, nor can any good reason be adduced why it may not have been known as early as the days of the first man. When, moreover, we take into account the consideration that it was just as necessary
first prophecy should be correctly delivered down as it was that it should be revealed, we are compelled, I think, to come to the conclusion that He who gave the revelation itself would have provided that it should be thus correctly retained.” On this view of the matter there might be, and the presumption is strong that there were, prior records, from the days of the first family, to which Moses had access in drawing up his more comprehensive statement. Of course, as all Scripture is given by inspiration of God
* Job xix, 28; X. 86,
Observer, June 1,'71.
the selection of the documents and the filling up of gaps equally belonged to the province of the Holy Spirit.
It is remarkable—in returning to the longevity—that the extraordinary long lives are found in the line of godliness. In the world before the flood we find the men of centuries from Seth to Noah ; in the world after the flood we still find them in that division where truth and righteousness were found, from Shem down to Eber. The men who would not work with God, but were defiant and rebellious, had, comparatively speaking, brief and stormy passages from the gates of life to the glooms of Sheol. They were agitated by passions which shake the foundations of life, and driven on by wind and tempest to darkness and perdition. But where there was even comparative purity and reverence, where there were foundations for advancement and moral elevation, where there was choice material for life, hope, and promise, God distinguished his nobles by length of days ; in their serene glory they shone for long ages, and the angel of death seemed afraid to look in upon them. If we were careful about finding secondary causes we might, perhaps, discover such, but we are satisfied in contemplating the prime reason—the affluent love of God. The prince. ly men walked in the light of His face, the saving strength of His right hand held them up, He satisfied them with long life and showed them His salvation. One of the worthies may not be lightly passed over. We read concerning him, in Gen. v., “ And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years.” In the natural order of things we might expect to read “and he died,” but something very different follows : “ And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” More than two thousand years after God took another (2 Kings ii.), perhaps of loftier proportions in prophetic insight and moral grandeur. The method of removal in the latter case is known to us, for the chariot of fire and the horses of fire transported him into the invisible. How Enoch departed we know not, but we know the ground of his exaltation, for he “walked with God,” which saying is pregnant with deep meaning. Connected with the mystery and glory of his translation there is more than ordinary conformity to the will of the Highest. The language points out a closeness of sympathy and fellowship, a depth and richness of communion not realized in the ordinary walk of believers. We learn from Heb. xi. that a mighty faith was the principle of action—"Before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." We know that he was a prophet,
” and that he prophesied of the coming of our Lord with ten thousand of His saints, and we know little more concerning him. But how much we know when we learn that he "walked with God!” Some stopped the mouths of lions, were valiant in fight, and subdued or founded kingdoms ;
walked with God." His heroism was of the inner kingdom and his life of the inner presence, “and he was not, for God took him." Possibly enough he was sought with many cries, and tears, and wild lamentations, but he was not found, for he was gone into the unseen by an unknown road. The common'road is dreary and desolate Man, in the image of God, with his fine structure of materialism and his regal intellect, stricken down motionless and ghastly, with no speculation in the eye nor movement in the brain or the heart. He whose warm touch thrilled us, and on whose eloquent lips we hung for inspiration, has like the rest to come to a choking gurgle and sink in the waves of the black river.
Besides the moral necessity, which grew from transcendent holiness, there was the typical necessity.
While we have One greater beyond
but this one