« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Observer, April 1, "71.
Mr. Adamson introduced his discourse by reading from 1 Tim. iv., "Now the spirit speaketh expressley, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith," and proceeded to say that the most noticeable thing in the religious aspect of the times was the number of prosecutions which were occupying the attention of the Church Courts, and which were coming prominently into view everywhere. Heresy had not been without existense in any age, there having been those even in the lifetime of the Apostles themselves, who set themselves in opposition to their teaching, as might readily be gathered from the epistles of their writing; but in these "latter times" the accusations of heresy had very largely increased. One peculiarity in the history of our times was, that it was not now as it was some five hundred years ago, when only the men living in Monasteries, or other religious establishments, thought carefully or definitely on religious subjects, nor as it was some three hundred years ago, when religious thought was held to be confined to what we might call profes sional men, as it were, stirred to religious thought by the influences coming in upon their lives-were active in their criticism of what was brought before them as truth, and were making themselves heard where they had an opportunity of utterance.
After referring more pointedly to some of the cases of heresy, so called, at present before the churches in Scotland, the speaker proceeded in an endeavour to trace some of the causes producing this large accession to the number: foremost amongst which he placed the fact above stated, viz., the largely increasing difficulty men felt in putting their own thoughts in other than their own words, most of all in clothing their ideas in phrases which had ceased to bear the same relations to the truths they held in men's minds as they possibly held in a former age.
He remarked that there was a great temptation to men whose living was dependent on their acceptance as professional Christian teachers, being less honest than they ought to be in the utterance of their sentiments, when these happened to be opposed to the Church standard, and he mentioned cases as known to himself in which men of good capabilities and great powers of usefulness had succumbed to the temptation, with the fatal result of destroying their own energy and usefulness by making shipwreck of a good conscience. He was inclined to regard as hopeful features, such indications of increased honesty and fearlessness as were afforded by those writings and utterances which have called forth accusations of heresy against the men making them.
He also referred at considerable length to the folly of regarding such interpretations of Scripture as were set forth in the "Confession of Faith," and the "Shorter Catechism," as of equal value with the statements of Scripture. With regard to many of the doctrines mentioned in the "Confession" he had no difficulty in accepting them as truths, but even where he could accept them in that sense he could not accept the form in which the matter was stated without doing violence to his conscience.
The doctrine of human depravity was one of the doctrines he believed in; but the doctrine of human depravity as formulated in the Confession of Faith he could by no means accept. One other of the hopeful features of the present day heresies, therefore, was that they were indications of departure-not from the Word of God-but from standards of human construction, which were, from the nature of the case, unsuited to be other than partial interpretations. The Word of God being many-sided, and the mind of man being capable of taking only one stand-point at a time, no one had a right to hold any one man's interpretation of a truth as con
Observer, April 1, 71.
veying all that the truth may hold. One of the evils of making given interpretation stand in place of ultimate truth, appeared to have a remarkable illustration in the fact that much of the avowed infidelity consisted in the rejection of truths as contained in certain formulæ only; this resulting from those who have become sceptical, viewing the standards of the churches in the same way as the churches have themselves done.
The speaker concluded with the practical exhortation to love the Bibleto study the Bible-which was indeed a "lamp to the feet and a light to the path" of those who did study it reverently. He commended this specially to the young men, in view of transitions of mind through which all pass more or less, where for a season darkness and doubt may prevail, but through which the divine light, once perceived, will lead them safely. Such an experience had the poet who sang
"Once on the raging seas I rode,
The storm was loud,-the night was dark;
It was the Star of Bethlehem.
It was my guide, my light, my all;
It bade my dark forebodings cease;
And through the storm and danger's thrall,
It led me to the port of peace.
Now safely moored, my perils o'er,
I'll sing, first in night's diadem,
For ever, and for evermore,
The Star! the Star of Bethlehem."
Writing as I do from memory I may have omitted a good deal of the discourse, but I hope I have written sufficient to show that among religious men there is a hopeful tendency to the pure fountains of knowledge, where only are to be had the truly refreshing draughts of the "Water of Life," and that in all the Churches called Christian there are rising up men who are conscious of a divergence from the old paths, and who claim fearlessly the right to seek the older and better way, and to lead others thereinto to the best of their ability. May none of them be blind guides, and may many be led into the way of life. M.
THE NEW ERA OF SUNDAY SCHOCLS.
SUCH is the heading of an article in a recent issue of the Freeman. According to the Bishop of London the effect of the Elementary Education Act will be to diminish the sectarianism of denominational schools. This, no doubt, will ultimately prove true, but in proportion as the day schools are thus affected the Sunday schools will move in the opposite direction; that is to say-they will be devoted more fully, if not solely, to the teaching of the doctrines of the Churches which sustain them. To this there can be no objection. Those parents who wish their children taught Methodism will send them to a Methodist Sunday School, and those persons only who wish Methodism taught will contribute to the support of that school; and so on with each denomination. Some of our readers are somewhat earnest and anxious as to the future of Sunday schools. Two notes are to hand which may help to awaken prayerful attention—
Observer, April 1, '71.
To the Editor of the E. O.-Dear Sir,-As disciples of Christ, pleading for progress in the religious education of the day, we are in many respects behind the times in the carrying on of Sunday schools, as a means to the training of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The Churches in most of our large towns, it is true, have their schools; still, after all, there is amongst us, as a religious community, a want of sympathy for the work and united action in it, which can only be accounted for on the ground that we take a narrow view of the gracious influences for temporal and spiritual good, which those institutions, properly conducted, are calculated to exercise upon both the old and young in and out of our Churches. I believe that in certain Churches the want of Sunday schools, with the attendant Bible classes, as a means of interesting the young mind far superior to the most excellent platform exhortation, is the cause why parents can see their once hopeful children either mingling among the "sects," or in the world living a godless life. On the other hand many things can doubtless be said against them. "They are unscriptural; the Apostle Paul never taught a Sunday school; they usurp the province of parental instruction, &c., &c." To this we reply, that the law for Sunday schools is not to be found in the mere letter of the book, but, with the authority for other expediences, such as tea meetings, libraries and visiting or other committees, in the spirit or genius of our religion, which is that of love to God and man. Paul lays down the law for the regulation of expediences in such ample terms as to fully cover the whole ground of Sunday schools. "Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report; if there be any virtue and any praise think on these things." Again, there is an educational influence in the Sunday school, as every old scholar knows, which can never be so well exercised in the private circle of parental instruction. The spirit of generous and healthy emulation is stirred up and allowed to exert itself in a wider field than that of home. Young hopeful sees far more of human nature in the school than in the family; and thus the sympathies of the heart and aspirations of the soul gain a breadth, height, and beauty often unknown to the subject of mere parental tuition. By all means then let the parents and teachers combine their influence, and thus a double benefit will be secured. In the majority of cases, however, it is found that the fathers and mothers of our children have neither the time nor ability to impart Bible instruction so well as a duly qualified Sunday school teacher. Look at it again on the broad ground of Christian philanthropy. You would save souls. Remember then the power which has been and can still be brought to bear through the medium of the children upon ungodly parents in bringing them under religious influence. All souls are alike, we say, still it is true in ethics as well as in physics, that "prevention is better than cure. Better, then, of the two, make a young and hopeful Christian, than convert an old and used up sinner. Wisdom and true economy in labour thus plead for Sunday schools, and the teacher rising to a full understanding of his noble vocation will be an able auxiliary to the evangelist. But we need not argue upon the mere philosophy of a scheme, which we are sure that most of the brethren feel to be near to their hearts as the only means of supplying known wants amongst us. My desire in the present paper is rather to stir up, by way of remembrance, all our superintendents, Sunday school and Bible class teachers, throughout the country, who profess the faith as at first delivered to the Saints, to a united and sympathetic expression of opinion from their knowledge and experience, in the pages of the Observer, upon the work lying to their hands. Why not have a Sunday School Conference either separately or with our Annual Evangelistic Meeting? Brethren, let us come to know one another in relation to our Sunday school work, so that unitedly we may advance with the times to larger usefulness in this direction. We find fault with other schools in their management and literature, and yet recognize the necessity for such institutions. As reformers, and not mere fault finders, it is surely then our duty, to the best of our ability, to embody in word and deed our ideal of the proper method of training the young for the Lord. Let us have the subject freely ventilated and thus come to know where we stand on this important question. English Churchmen, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, and Methodists are alive to their duty in it, and are working heart and hand together in the religious education of the young, and necessarily moulding the minds of thousands of children to their peculiar tenets. Let us also be up and doing as a people, and show that the principles of Primitive Christianity are dear to our hearts and identified with the welfare of the rising generation.
As a means to this end and that we may have a more united and loving fellowship in the good work, I now suggest to all whom it may concern, who are able and willing for the task, that a series of short articles upon Sunday school work be written for insertion in the Observer, from month to month. There are brethren who can do this from their own knowledge and experience of Sunday schools. The syllabus of topics might embrace :Sunday schools and their relations to the Church; superintendent's duties, or how to manage the school; teacher's duties and difficulties; the best way of interesting scholars; when to send them to school; the proper use of class books; our juvenile
Observer, April 1, 71.
literature; or, how to make the Sunbeam shine more brightly into many more little hearts; how to distribute prizes, conduct examinations, social meetings, teacher's prayer meetings, bands of hope, &c., &c.
To work then, brethren, and fill up the above outline as it seems good in your sight; and may the Lord grant that a Sunday School Union in body and in spirit may soon be realized in our midst.
66 THE SUNBEAM."
This subject is one that should interest all who are busily engaged in teaching the young in our Sunday schools. We are sure, from our own observation, that this little work is entirely neglected by some of our school friends; and the sale of other school papers, not published by our own brethren, is encouraged. True, the Sunbeam does not contain all the elements necessary to attract the mind of the child, or to enable the work to compete with other publications of the same kind; but we think the sale of it might soon be increased to such an extent as would enable the editor to add other desirable features to it, in picture illustrations, which might give it a wide circulation. We hope ere long to see this worthy little volume illustrated with such pictures as would tend to enforce the lesson taught therein from time to time. But we cannot expect this unless an effort be made to extend its circle of readers in our Sunday schools. How is this to be done? In answer to this, we propose to give an account of what has been done in the school, with which we are connected, in Summer Lane, Birmingham. During the past year we had no regular subscribers in the school for the Sunbeam. The secretary purchased a number each month and disposed of them as the scholars required; but at the close of the year, out of eighteen purchased monthly by the secretary, we had twenty-six odd numbers left on hand, thus entailing considerable loss, spoiling the volume purchased by the scholars and also what we had left. During some months all would be sold and in others only four to five. Now, for the present year we have agreed to supply a volume of the Sunbeam, neatly bound in cloth, at the close of the year, to every scholar paying one half-penny per month-the price of the work as already sold without the binding, that being given gratis. The result of this has been to obtain over fifty subscribers, and we doubt not that next year this number will be largely increased. But there are other advantages, besides in the increase of the sale, instead of the child taking the paper home every month, and getting it dirty and spoiled in less than a week, he will receive, at the close of the year, a neat little volume that he will prize and take care of. Thus the scholars who attend school and are regular subscribers to this work will, in a few years, have a nice little library, which, doubtless, will have a blessed influence upon their minds as they grow to maturity. We hope our friends in the Sunday schools will carefully consider this, for we feel sure that the extra outlay will be amply repaid by the good results obtained. THOS. SHAW.
We do not at all conclude that the little we do in Sunday school work is owing largely to indifference. Many of our Churches are small and so circumstanced that Sunday school work is next to impossible. Still there is room to move on, and it is time to look out.
BAPTISM IN THE APOSTOLIC AGE.
BY A. P. STANLEY, D.D., DEAN OF WESTMINSTER.
WHAT, then, was baptism in the Apostolic age? The fewest words will most reverently tell what indeed it requires but few words to describe. We must place before our minds the greatest religious change which the world has seen or can see. Imagine thousands of men and women seized with one common impulse-abandoning, by the irresistible conviction of a day, an hour, a moment, their former habits, friends, associates, to be enrolled in a new society, under the banner of a new faith. Conceive what that new society was-a society of "brothers"; bound by ties closer than any earthly brotherhood-filled with life and energy such as fall to the lot of none but the most ardent enthusiasts, yet tempered with a moderation, a wisdom, and a holiness such as mere enthusiasts have never possessed. Picture that society, swayed by the presence of men whose
Observer, April 1, '71.
very names seemed too sacred for the converse of ordinary mortals, and by the recollections of One, whom, not seeing, they loved with love unspeakable! Into this society they passed by an act as natural as it was expressive. The plunge into the bath of purification, long known among the Jewish nation as the symbol of a change of life, was still retained as the pledge of entrance into this new and universal communion-retained under the express sanction of Him, into whose most holy name they were by that solemn rite "baptized." The water in those eastern regions, so doubly significant of all that was pure and refreshing, closed over the heads of the converts, and they rose into the light of heaven, new and altered beings. Can we wonder if on such an act were lavished all the figures which language could furnish to express the mighty change. "Regeneration," "Illumination," "Resurrection," "A new creation," Forgiveness of sins," "Salvation?" Well might the Apostle say, 'Baptism doth even now save us," even had he left his statement in its unrestricted strength to express what in that age no one could misunderstand. But no less well was he led to add, as if with a divine prescience of coming evils, "Not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God."
Such was the Apostolic baptism. It is startling to witness the abrupt descent from the first century to the third, the fourth, the fifth. The rite was, indeed, still universally, the great change from darkness to light, from evil to good; the "second birth" of men from the corrupt society of the dying Roman Empire into the purifying and elevating influence of the living Christian church. Nay, in some respects the deep moral responsi bility of the act must have been impressed upon the converts by the severe, sometimes the life-long preparation for the final pledge, even more than by the sudden and almost instantaneous transition, which characterized the baptism of the Apostolic age. But gradually the consciousness of this answer of the good conscience towards God" was lost in the stress laid with greater and greater emphasis on the "putting away the filth of the flesh." Let us conceive ourselves present at those extraordinary scenes, to which no existing ritual of any European church offers the slightest likeness; when, between Easter and Pentecost, the crowds of catechumens poured into the baptistries of the great basilicas; let us figure to our minds the strange ceremonies handed down to us in the minutest details by contemporary documents; the exorcism and exsufflation-the torch-light of the midnight hour-the naked figures, plunging into the deep waters of the bath, the bishop, always present to receive them as they emerged,the white robes,-the anointing with oil,-the laying on of hands. Among the accompaniments of those scenes there were practices and signs which we have long ago discarded as inexpedient or indifferent, but which were then regarded as essential. Immersion, was then, even on death-beds, deemed all but absolutely necessary. The whole modern Church of Western Europe, according to the belief of those times, would be condemned as unbaptized," because it has received, without the excuse of a sick-bed, nothing but the clinical or sick-bed aspersion." (Essays on Church and State, pp. 33-34).
The Rev. Dr. Malcolm, now resident in Philadelphia, thus writes in the National Baptist :
"Some years ago, while travelling in Europe, I visited Milan, the most famous city in Northern Italy; and of course went to see the Duomo, or catheral, a building inferior only to St. Peter's at Rome. It is 500 feet long, 300 wide and 355 high to the top of the dome. It has about 100