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Observer, Feb. 1, '71
classes, and doubtless profited largely from | the Old and New Testament, and his high the teaching of that great Christian min-appreciation of the Sacred volume was as ister. Bro. Somerville, ea rly in his marked as his knowledge of its contents. Christian life, began to addict himself to the edification of the brethren. Shortly after landing in America he was in attendance at one of the churches when the Minister for the day failing to appear, he offered his services, and addressed the meeting with much acceptance. This readiness of resource in the edification of the church, exhibited thus early, was manifested in all his after life. Teaching the church was his forte, and both in the United States and in Scotland he continued to exercise this gift. After several years' residence in America, he paid a visit to his native country intending to return to the United States; but certain considerations led him to forego this purpose, and ever since he has been in Edinburgh the constant supporter of the cause of New Testament truth. Bro. Milner's labours in Edinburgh resulted in the formation of a flourishing church, which in 1860 removed from Nicolson Street Hall to Roxburgh Place Chapel. Shortly after this, Bro. Somerville sought fellowship with the brethren meeting there, thinking he would find a wider field for Christian effort than with the church meeting in South Bridge Hall, where he had hitherto held his membership. The fact of Bro. Somerville leaving South Bridge Hall led, with other considerations, to the union of the two churches in Roxburgh Place Chapel, and since then he has continued to occupy the position of Elder in the united church. The esteem in which he was held by the brethren is sufficient testimony to his faithful labours. There are one or two prominent characteristics in his life which invite notice. His uprightness of character was most conspicuous. Those who knew him could not conceive of him doing anything mean or truckling; the wisdom of this world had no illustration in his life; and, indeed, so severe was his sense of moral rectitude that, in the estimation of some, he occasionally took an extreme view of the faults of others. His independence of thought was another marked feature of his character, and manifested itself in his adoption of New Testament principles while a very young man, and that too, while all his early training had been of an extremely opposite tendency, having been brought up in the Established Church of Scotland. No one who conversed with him or listened to his teaching could fail to mark this characteristic; it was at once felt that he was not merely repeating the views of others, but his own convictions arrived at after mature consideration. As may be supposed he had a profound knowledge of the Scriptures of
He had the greatest reverence for the Word of God, and, while he concurred in verbal alterations of the text of Scripture suggested by improved translations, he resented any suggestion which would call in question the Divine inspiration or supreme authority of the Bible. There is reason to believe that most of those questions, which, from time to time, have agitated the religious world, and especially the Churches of the Reformation, have occupied his attention, and that he had formed an intelligent judgment upon many of them; and it is ground of confidence for younger men to know that one of so much independence of thought, and so little under the influence of sectarianism, remained one with us in all the great principles advocated by the Churches in Great Britain. His addresses were full of instruction drawn almost exclusively from the Scriptures, and he was peculiarly happy in his expositions of Old Testament truth as illustrating, and enforc ing the doctrines of the New. Often too, especially of late, there was a spirit of the deepest earnestness manifest in his exhortations, as if he growingly felt the power of the world to come. For some years he had ceased from his usual occupation on account of failing health, and several months ago alarming symptoms manifested themselves. Care, and the usual appliances, Idid not ward off the encroachments of the disease, and, for some weeks before his death his most sanguine friends could not hope for any recovery. He knew his end was drawing near, and in his own quiet and methodical way, began to set his house in order, arranging in the most minute and thoughtful manner for the coming change. In the midst of much unrest and suffering he was able to say, "Not my will, but thine be done;" and in the last days of his life on earth he enjoyed much of that comfort which only a firm trust in the Saviour can give. Among his last words was a quotation from the 43rd Psalm, "O send out Thy light and Thy truth," repeating with emphasis, "Why art thou cast down O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God." As I have said, he leaves behind him the partner of his life. Not having had any family they were peculiarly each other's companions, and in his last illness Mrs. Somerville showed more than a wife's devotion in the constant and tender care with which she ministered to his comforts. She has many friends who will seek her good; but her great support must be the love of Him of whom it is said, "He
Observer, Feb. 1, '71.
regular in his attendance at all church meetings. To him "to live was Christ, and to die was gain." He was held in high estimation by all with whom he was acquainted here. Glasgow-T. McL.
Departed this life on January 5, 1871, Sister Henderson, of Sanquhar. She has been a member of the church there for about thirty years. The illness which terminated fatally lasted four years, during which time she endured great bodily suffering. Five little ones mourn their loss, whom she committed to the care of her Heavenly Father. Her end was peace, and calmly she passed away, in the blessed hope of a glorious immortality. T. McL.
Ir is very surprising how dif ferently men are too often disposed to regard the two classes of sins which are usually characterized as sins of omission, and of commission. The former are generally regarded as very light and unimportant, while the persons so regarding would not, for any consideration whatever, be guilty of the latter. A man who does nothing" may be, and often is, regarded as a pious, consistent, Christian; while the man who violates even the "least of the commandments" is, as a matter of course, scouted and despised. And yet I am persuaded that, if we look at the matter aright, it must be evident that this view is an erroneous one, and that it may lead to the most awful guilt in the sight of God.
which he feels little or no compunction. Merely to let the movement alone is so far from being a very grievous offence, that it is a stand entitled to considerable praise. because it is not rancorous opposition; to have no part in the selfdenying labours which win victories for the cause-to throw no contribution of name, or toil, or money for its successes-to deserve nothing of gratitude from its beneficiaries, is a trifling short-coming, so that he set not himself vehemently against it.
There comes to the door of a man of fortune an appeal to his humanity. The case is a clear one-a destitute widow asks relief on behalf of her fatherless children. This man of fortune is a man of honour. would not, for all the gold of CaliLook at the position which men fornia, cheat his fellow out of a take in regard to the reforms of the farthing. He never exacts from any day. Some earnest and philan- man more than his due. No price thropic movement, charged with the would tempt him to engage in a redemption of the degraded or op- fraudulent transaction. But he can pressed, presents itself to a man, turn a deaf ear to the widow's cry. asking his sympathy and support," He doesn't owe her anything." and he quietly gives it the go-by, soothing his conscience with the plea-that if he is no help to the good work, he is at least no hindrance. To be no help is a thing for
And it is a light thing in his estimation, that she turns empty-handed and sorrowing from his door. Has he not a right to do what he will with his own? He passes on his
Observer, Feb. 1, '71
way calm and erect, with no burden | dwelling-house on fire; the flames
on his conscience, no tinge of shame on his cheek. What has he done? Nothing. He has defrauded no one; he has not laid a finger on what did not belong to him; he has not oppressed the poor suppliant whose prayer he rejected; he did not reduce her to poverty; he has not taken the bread from her babes; he has-only let her alone. Is theft, then, the only crime in God's sight? Is there no record on high for this negative action of his ? I make bold to say that, compared with his cold-blooded, hard-hearted inhumanity, it would have been innocent in him to have stolen a purse of gold! It will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for many a swindler and highwayman than for this just and honourable man of marble!
The grand principle is, that God holds us responsible for the good we might do as well as the deeds we actually perform. And a member of a Christian Church, who is just pursuing the even tenor of his way, practising fair dealing in all his business relations with the world, and not staining the ermine of his profession with positive misdemeanours, may-just by his want of spirituality, his neglect of spiritual duties-by what he does not do-be all the while making out a terrible accusation against himself in the sight of God, and heaping up a terrible retribution. Was it enough for the fig-tree in the parable, that all the demonstrations which met the eye were fair and full of promise an upright trunk, with branches, boughs and a wreath of green leaves, but-only no fruit.
It is quite conceivable, then, and perfectly capable of illustration, that this negative action, that is, the not acting at all, may be of all things the most heinous and horrible. Look at a case or two! Here is a man walking at the dead of night through our streets, and he sees a
are leaping from room to room, and
Would your hearts
The blind man moves on
Observer, Feb. 1, '71.
towards the brow, piloted with his staff, nearer and nearer he draws, all unconscious of what is before him. They who watch him are silent and unmoved. No voice is lifted up; no hand is stretched out. They see him pacing steadily to the awful verge. His staff, meeting no obstacle, slips from his hand into the abyss. He takes a step forward and stoops to recover it. Still no warning, no interposition from the reapers. His foot overhangs vacancy-his bending form leans from the brink-a wild cry, and he is gone. What have they done? Nothing. They did not put out his eyes. They did not lead him to the precipice. They did not push him down. They have done nothing. They only neglected to do. And yet his blood is on their skirts; it cries like Abel's to heaven against them. They knew he was blind; they could have saved him, and did nothing.
Do not think these illustrations are extravagant or wide of the mark. Let us give them application to a single point. The impenitent around us are as it were asleep in burning dwellings going blindfold down to ruin. Their peril deepens with every hour of delay. They push on unconscious of danger. Soon it will be too late to interpose. The summer of hope and mercy is waning the day of grace is fast passing away. Death, judgment, and eternity are on the wing-are near; their awful shadows fall upon the path so securely trodden. The hapless traveller stands gaily on the verge of perdition.
Do we see? Do we know? Have we faith in eternal realities? While we sit idle and voiceless, they reel over the tremendous brink and are lost, lost for ever, Who has done this? Not we; their sins were their own, the course they pursued their own choosing. We wrought no violence upon them, we put no constraint upon their liberty, we did not drag them down to woe.
Ah! but we knew they were out of the way; we knew of the precipice, we knew they were nearing it. We knew they were blind, blinded by the delusions of sin, and we left them to their fate. We gave them no caution, we offered them no word of warning, we were often with them, on friendly terms with them, perhaps members of the family-our children, our parents, our husbands, our wives, our brothers and sisters, we knew they were not in the kingdom of our Saviour, but we allowed them to go on in their alien state, and never spoke to them about their danger.
Stand still, now, and hear the word of God written for our offence, and behold the divine judgment against us-"When I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die, and thou givest him not warning nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way to save his life, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at THINE hand." Behold the fearful guilt of being at ease in Zion! Behold the responsibility that attaches to the neglect of duty.
How many there are who "do nothing" towards making the world' better. They are drones. If they were to die, they would not be missed by either Church or world, only as the dead branches of the tree are when the gardener lops them off. How many there are in our Church who merely come to the meetings and do no more. You never see them give away a tract; you never hear of them speaking a word for Jesus to their friends and companions. They can talk about anything and everything else. But Jesus and his salvation-that is placed in the background altogether. All such act as though Christianity was a farce, and the day of judgment mere fiction. They do nothing themselves, and are generally the parties to find fault with those who do try to make themselves useful. Brethren, there is no time to be
Observer, Feb. 1, "71.
idle. The world needs workers, not | their Bibles with a candle stuck in a dreamers. We want to act upon skull. The light from a death's
the wise man's advice-" Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest." The time is short, we cannot afford to waste it. If we all lived in the light of our funerals, how well should we live. Some of the old Romish monks always read
head may be an awful one, but it is
NOTES BY THE EDITOR.
FUTURE PUNISHMENT.-In all directions this subject has come into consideration, and opinions and convictions are changing. It has had no attention in our pages, but it must come under notice. An Australian reader sends a well-written article, designed to prove that eternal torment is anti-scriptural. This article is not at all exhaustive, and would chiefly serve to provoke controversy. Then, a debate with one who is so located that he could only reply at intervals of five months is certainly undesirable; however competent the writers might prove, the lengthy intervals would tire the most patient and exhaust the interest. Nor do we desire a somewhat long and desultory discussion of the subject by such of our home readers as may have some small insight into the subject. There are three parties whose conclusions challenge attention. One defines hell as a place into which it is good but not honourable for the wicked to be cast. good is supposed to exist in the purgatorial element thereof, by means of which all will be fitted for, and, in the end attain to, eternal glory. The second holds to never-ending punishment, the final element of which is extinction of being, so that, finally, in all the universe there will be no suffering creature, and God's triumph over evil will be complete. The third believe that the lost must endure interminable suffering. Now, certainly, it is desirable that every Christian understand what that condemnation is from which he is saved and to which surrounding millions are hastening. When, then, the subject is under investigation in all directions, there can be no reason why we should completely shut it out. We, therefore, purpose to do equal justice to each of the before-named conclusions. To accomplish this we shall endeavour to obtain a clear and powerful statement and defence of the three, each to be independent of the others, and not to reply to or arise thereout. We shall not be particular whether original or reprinted, so that the work in each case is by a fully competent hand. Suggestions, as to the writers whom we can thus call to our aid, will be welcome.
There are those who hold that the men who do not believe in everlasting torment are unfit for fellowship in the Church of Christ, and there are those who teach that no one should be received into His Church who believes in the immortality of the soul or the possibility of eternal suffering. But both are wrong, and unduly exalt the question. What shall be the ultimate fate of the damned is not put among the things to be believed in order to salvation, but among the things to be learned by those who are added to the Church, if not understood before. Of course a man might make such improper use of his opinions upon this question as to disturb the Church and arrest its work, in which case he should be handled as an offender and faction-maker; not, however, on account of his opinion, but because of the bad use made of it.
CAN A CHRISTIAN BE A SOLDIER? We are informed that brethren in the Colonies desire the question examined. There is also a war-party whose voice will be heard in the next Session of our Parliament, in favour of compulsory military service. We do not think that the country will allow that state of things to be restored, but it is still possible, and we may have the question before us, sooner than we expect, in a very practicable form. We shall seek to supply an affirmative and also a negative article.
THE FELLOWSHIP. A Subscriber asks whether the term fellowship, in Acts ii. 42, merely implies a collection of money? We think not. "The Fellowship" embraces contribution but is not exhausted thereby. But the whole subject requires examination. We have a paper partly prepared, and shall be glad to present it as early as possible.