Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

becomes as nothing. But here, again, just as we increase the individual strength of the church, we diminish the chances of falling away; so that, in the end, we have little to fear,

“But again, it will be objected that if our able preachers retire from our strong churches, their present large audiences will begin to diminish for want of attraction, and that, as a result, increase of membership must, in a measure cease. But suppose our strong churches would consent to meet on every Lord's day without a fascinating preacher to attract; suppose they lived more pious lives; suppose they loved each other more, and cultivated social visiting more ; suppose they proved that the love of Christ and of their brethren took them to the meeting-house, and not the idlė wish to hear a fine speech-suppose these and a few other things were inaugurated in our strong churches, what would be the probable effect? The pious and the pure would be attracted to these churches, while the butterflies would float off elsewhere. This would be the result. Large audiences of people that do not want to be saved are of no great value to a church.

" At proper intervals, of course, these strong churches would want a fine meeting of weeks to gather into the fold such as might be ready. These meetings would have a freshness and power about them which they lack at present. Whenever a church becomes hungry for a meeting, then a meeting will do it good. For these occasions our talented men could be called in from the field. Thus they would know the state of all the churches. One such meeting held by one of these brethren-say one each year—would accomplish more for a church than preaching for it fifty-two days as at present.”.

In a subsequent issue of The Apostolic Times the subject is taken up by H. M. B., who writes :

** The difficulty will not, however, I apprehend, be found in a want of understanding of the teachings of the good book, but in an unwillingness to follow them-in the abandonment of the order of things introduced and insisted upon by the fathers of the reformation, and which, in its earlier periods, gave it so much vitality and vigour-when the brethren met together on every first day of the week to read and study the Scriptures, to break bread and to engage in prayer and mutual exhortation.

“ If this order of things could be again restored, it would do more to invigorate and give spiritual life to our churches than all the recondite truths, if truths, they be, that could be dug up out of the Bible by a lifelong study of its sacred pages. Does not our brother know that truth lies upon the surface, and that most generally the apparent is the true meaning of the Scriptures? If he would address himself to the work of restoration, rather than embarking on a voyage of discovery, he would, in the opinion of the writer, prove himself to be a blessing and a benefactor. But, unfortunately, many occupying a high position in the esteem and confidence of the brethren, have not so used their influence, but propose, as a panacea for all the ills that the church is heir to, the pastor' and the pastorate'-terms, neither of which in their present currency, nor in the ideas they represent, is known to the word of God.

"But, says an objector, the brethren and sisters cannot be interested and drawn out under the proposed regimen, and that without regular preaching by an able and accomplished preacher, our churches would languish and die. It is not to be expected that the simple order of wor. ship established by the apostles would be pleasing to a fashionable and secularized church, and it is no matter of surprise that such should desire

a

Observer, Dec. 1,171.

to be conformed to the sectarian churches around them. What, then, is to be done? We must repent and do our first work, and return to our first love which we have left, and pray earnestly that 'the love of God be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.' Then, indeed, will the church become the light of the world—a city set on a hill that cannot be hid; then shall we hear no more of so many candlesticks being removed, and their light going out in utter darkness."

Having introduced this subject last month we hoped to complete it this, and thus bring the whole into the present volume. But we could not quote less than the foregoing, and may find a little more desirable, and having something to say on our own part, it is needful to let it stand over for another month. Our conviction is that the lamented facts are the results of two extremes; and that, considering what we are and what we have been surrounded with, it was not to be expected but that those extremes would be reached-the one by some, the other by others. On a smaller scale those extremes manifest themselves in this country. The centre course is clear and marked.

Apostolic rule, as exhibited in the New Testament will save us from both, and nothing else will. It remains to be seen who will be content with God's way; but of that way we cannot now write.

ED.

A SURVEY OF HISTORICAL SUPERNATURALISM.-No. VII.

A WRITER of some force says, • The heavens are not merely a blessed state' figuratively described; but they are the higher, the essential, the archetypal world, of which the world is an image or reflection, and from which all real power and life flows down, as light flows from the sun to the earth. It is a fact on which the whole revelation rests, that there is above this visible world another world, a kingdom of God which was in existence even at creation, a perfect spiritual world, i.e., a world of light, life and love. This is the ideal world, which is indeed rather the true and real world (Luke xvi. 11, Heb. viii. 2, ix. 24); there reigns in it a purity, holiness and harmony of life, compared with which our life in the flesh is darkness and death. There is, therefore, a fulness, power, glory and blessedness of life, compared with which our present life on earth is poverty and weakness, and such a life is in its nature eternal; such a kingdom is one that stands firm, immovable, indestructible, glorious in undecaying bloom and beauty." Auberlen surely speaks well, for the men who live in this conviction and confidence are the men who overcome the world. It is in the plan of God to bring this kingdom down to earthindeed, for such a sublime reality we continually pray, when we say “ Our Father who art in the heavens, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in the heavens.”

The patriarch in the olden time had a hard pillow, but he had a spien. : did dream. Many of us would be willing to lay our heads upon a stone if we could be compensated by a vision so magnificent.' That which he beheld in his dream was one of the greatest of realities—a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, and angels of God ascending and descending. The chief thing set forth was, doubtless, the established connection between the visible and the invisible. It is well for us that no storms of earth or hell have been able to destroy the junction—there is still inviolable union betwixt heaven and earth, angels of God still ascend and descend in the ministry of love, doing the missionary work of the Father. Jacob might

well say

66

66

Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not—how dreadful is this place—this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." But in truth, if film were not over our eyes, that ladder would be always visible, the connection between things tem. poral and things eternal would never be forgotten, and the presence of God would be realized at all times and in all places.

The servant of the prophet was greatly alarmed in Dothan when the Syrian army compassed the city by night_“ Alas! master, how shall we do ?” The prophet consoled him by the assurance that there was a stronger army on their side than the one against them, and he prayed that his eyes might be opened. Before this he perhaps believed, but soon there was transition from faith to knowledge, the eyes of the spirit were opened, and lo! the mountain was crowded with horses and chariots of fire, the chivalry of God were there, the cohurts and legions of the immortals, so inconceivable in power and splendour.

Paul the holy was caught away into the third heaven, himself not knowing whether he left the mortal vesture behind or carried it with him; and heard things not lawful to be uttered. John the beloved beheld doors opened in heaven, and saw the worship of the Almighty proceeding amid thunderings and lightnings and voices, the golden altar, the divine Priest, the Seven Spirits before the throne-all within the range of his spiritual vision.

All the miraculous circumstances recorded in the Pentateuch or in the Gospels may be considered as signs, signifying the reality of the unseen yet eternal and imperishable kingdom of power and glory. Whatever additional purposes might be served by them, such is the cardinal lesson, the main and commanding aspect. Man, who is a spirit clothed in flesh, could discover no high road into the invisible. In fighting his life-long battle with hostile elements, he was in danger of concluding that this was the only life, and that death finished all. Hence, all the signs and wonders were tokens from God, proclaiming the reality of a higher life, and another dominion eternal in the heavens. In the midst of animal revel or soulical despair, the colours and insignia of God appear, the powers of the world to come" break into this world, the glories of the auspicious golden age glimmer on the peaks of this age and crimson the horizon.

The famous Strauss, who emptied the Gospel of all miracles, says, “ There is no right conception of what history is, apart from the conviction that the chain of endless causation can never be broken, and that a miracle is an impossibility.” This is, doubtless, an atheistic dogma; for if we believe in a personal God, we cannot conceive of Him as the slave of His own laws. The order which we observe among His works, the action and counteraction among great forces, may be varied from time to time according to the wisdom and pleasure of the Almiglity Creator and disposer. Unless this be admitted, it would be difficult to tell what

history” is, for ancient histories are full of wonders and the old rocks are crowded with marvels; no history, ecclesiastic or scientific, could meet with credence if we made our present experience and observation the test of reality, or the measure of the universe. Experience does nothing more than disclose to us the present order of things. This is no assurance that things have been the same in the past, or that they will be the same in the future. Hence, to argue from the present, to immutable order, backward and forward, is an offence against the majesty of reason.

One of two things is certain : either there has always been a huge blind force in existence, or there has always been a living God with intel

[ocr errors]

Observer, Dec. 1, '71

ligence and will. In the midst of a stupendous system of worlds replete with smooth-working mechanism and visible harmonies, which shall we choose? Is that universe God, which has no knowledge or will, no heart or life, or spirit, or love? Or is there one in His pavilion of unapproachable light, from eternity to eternity, where power, wisdom and love are in equal measure and in continual interpenetration ? We choose the living God who created the sun and the moon and the stars, and man in His own image, laying the foundation of the world in miracle and mystery.

Keeping before us the existence of the Almighty-the King Eternal, with thrones, dominions, principalities and powers gathered around Himwe conclude that there is a moral as well as a physical order, and that the physical must always be subservient to the moral. He who called the things which were not, as though they were, can and will give orbs to the blind, or life to the dead, whenever such signs may serve great purpose among moral agents, who are of far more consequence and of more intrinsic grandeur than stars of the blue vault or rocks by the wild seashore.

Rénan, who followed Strauss in unbelieving criticism, declares that discussion is fatal to miracles, and that it has become an absolute rule in criticism to deny the possibility of such a thing, He, however, has the grace to reveal the method by which even he might be convinced. The great deed is to be performed in Paris, before learned savans. Time and place duly specified, and a commission of physicians, chemists, critics and physiologists occupying the hall as judges, the miracle, once performed, on request to be repeated.” This is no joke, but has been seriously propounded by the learned Frenchman as the reasonable method of ending the controversy. The proposition would doubtless be received as a very common-sense one in cafés and restaurants, but if there be any merriment in regions above the earth or under the earth, it would in such places awaken considerable laughter. We cannot call for a thunder storm in the Alps, or å tempest on the Atlantic; it is vain for us to order a discharge of fiery lava from Etna, or an earthquake at Lisbon or Mexico. The extraorordinary things of mere nature are not to be summonsed when physicians and physiologists are sitting, though it is perhaps a pity that such a commission should not be gathered waiting for a miracle, and have an earthquake to drop in among them in a friendly way! There is no wisdom in the project; the common people can tell, as well as the physiologist or physician, the difference between a dead man and a living man, between a blind man and a man with sight, between a storm and a calm, between a withered, shrivelled arm and one firm in muscular tension. When men foaming at the mouth with preternatural madness, were instantaneously restored to the plenary use of reason, a fisherman could note the fact as well as a chemist or a doctor of the academy.

Miracles come according to the necessities of man, and according to the wisdom of God, and are not to be exhibited like fireworks, when King Herod or Monsieur Rénan want a spectacle. Nor are they the greatest things. The spiritual beauty of the character of Jesus is far above all columns of descending fire or troops of dead men rising ; and His words have power over the heart and the conscience, which could never come from the eclipse of the heavens, or the rending of the earth. But though this be true, miracles have been before, and miracles will be again, and who can say that we have no miraculous circumstances now. There are two seas meeting—both seas of death ; two winds blowing against each other-both evil. On one side, millions of materialists who resolutely deny

well say

Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not-how dreadful is this place—this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." But in truth, if a film were not over our eyes, that ladder would be always visible, the connection between things temporal and things eternal would never be forgotten, and the presence of God would be realized at all times and in all places.

The servant of the prophet was greatly alarmed in Dothan when the Syrian army compassed the city by night_Alas! master, how shall we do ?” The prophet consoled him by the assurance that there was a stronger army on their side than the one against them, and he prayed that his eyes might be opened. Before this he perhaps believed, but soon there was transition from faith to knowledge, the eyes of the spirit were opened, and lo! the mountain was crowded with horses and chariots of fire, the chivalry of God were there, the cohurts and legions of the immortals, so inconceivable in power and splendour.

Paul the holy was caught away into the third heaven, himself not knowing whether he left the mortal vesture behind or carried it with him; and heard things not lawful to be uttered. John the beloved beheld doors opened in heaven, and saw the worship of the Almighty proceeding amid thunderings and lightnings and voices, the golden altar, the divine Priest, the Seven Spirits before the throne--all within the range of his spiritual vision.

All the miraculous circumstances recorded in the Pentateuch or in the Gospels may be considered as signs, signifying the reality of the unseen yet eternal and imperishable kingdom of power and glory. Whatever additional purposes might be served by them, such is the cardinal lesson, the main and commanding aspect. Man, who is a spirit clothed in flesh, could discover no high road into the invisible. In fighting his life-long battle with hostile elements, he was in danger of concluding that this was the only life, and that death finished all. Hence, all the signs and wonders were tokens from God, proclaiming the reality of a higher life, and another dominion eternal in the heavens. In the midst of animal revel or soulical despair, the colours and insignia of God appear,

the

powers of the “world to come” break into this world, the glories of the auspicious golden age glimmer on the peaks of this age and crimson the horizon.

The famous Strauss, who emptied the Gospel of all miracles, says, "There is no right conception of what history is, apart from the conviction that the chain of endless causation can never be broken, and that a miracle is an impossibility." This is, doubtless, an atheistic dogma; for

.” if we believe in a personal God, we cannot conceive of Him as the slave of His own laws. The order which we observe among His works, the action and counteraction among great forces, may be varied from time to time according to the wisdom and pleasure of the Almighty Creator and disposer. Unless this be admitted, it would be difficult to tell what

history” is, for ancient histories are full of wonders and the old rocks are crowded with marvels; no history, ecclesiastic or scientific, could meet with credence if we made our present experience and observation the test of reality, or the measure of the universe. Experience does nothing more than disclose to us the present order of things. This is no assurance that things have been the same in the past, or that they will be the same in the future. Hence, to argue from the present, to immutable order, backward and forward, is an offence against the majesty of reason.

One of two things is certain : either there has always been a huge blind force in existence, or there has always been a living God with intel

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »