« FöregåendeFortsätt »
conteinplated.” For ourselves we do not remember of having ever met (we must call things by their right names) with such a pitiful "get off” as this. And to our minds it carries the evidence of demonstration, that Mr. C. is consCIOUS OF HIS ERRORS AND AFRAID OF FREE AND HONORABLE DISCUSSION. It betrays a mind that has but little confidence in the truth of its own opinions, and therefore dreads and shrinks away from the light and power of sober argument. While on the other hand, the willingness of Mr. L. to enter on the proposed discussion at such disadvantage, evinces a consciousness of truth. It shows a mind firm in the conviction that its opinions are everlasting truth, and that for them therefore there is nothing to fear, but every thing to hope from discussion and argument.
Being thus cut off from the proposed discussion, Mr. Lee at once published a letter in reply to Mr. C.'s, which, like his sermon, bears the marks of having been written in view of the judgment. On a review of it, Mr. L. says to Mr. C., “I can discover nothing which, were I to give directions from my dying pillow, I should wish to have erased."
Of the merits of the letter, we would only say, that it is a conclusive reply to Mr. C., and is written so much to the purpose, that, like the sermon, it produced
no small stir” among the people at Sherburne. We believe Mr. C's friends have had a society meeting to see what shall be done with the obnoxious Mr. L. In the mean time, Mr. L.'s people have been praying that God would bless the discussion to the salvation of those whom they believe to be in fatal error.
Such is the history and outline of this controversy up to the present time. Whether it is to be continued or not, we cannot say. Be this as it may, we regard it as one of some considerable importance, not merely to the town of Sherburne, but to all the towns in that vicinity. It is on this account that we have felt justified in giving it such an extended notice. that our notice will serve to awaken public attention to it, particularly in that region. Mr. L.'s sermon ought to be studied by every one. It is rich in instruction, and shows most clearly the utter incorrectness of Unitarian sentiments on the points discussed. It contains, too, as we shall show in a subsequent number, a very happy and striking exhibition of the doctrine of atonement.
A MEMOIR OF Felix NEFF, Pastor of the High Alps.
By William STEPHEN Gilly, M. A., Prebendary of Durham, foc. From the London Edition, with Notes. Boston : 1832.
We have risen from the perusal of this little work with so much satisfaction, that we cannot refrain from recommending it to our readers as a delightful piece of Christian and pastoral biography. It is pervaded by an excellent spirit, and cannot fail of suggesting many lessons of piety and practical wisdom. It is full of interesting incidents, and has nearly all the charms of a romance. It is the history of a man marked with strong and noble traits of character with a mind highly gifted by nature, and a heart deeply humble by divine grace; peculiarly active, yet fond of meditation ; enthusiastic, but prudent and cautious; mild, yet firm; meek and unassuming, yet energetic, enterprizing, and patient of toil and suffering ; fitted for the pursuits of learning, and the sweet charities of domestic life, yet exiling himself from them all to spend his days among a people not half civilized, and amid the glens, and rocks, and znows, and ever-menacing avalanches of the High Alps. His ministry was a continual sacrifice, a daily crucifixion of his feelings as a man of intellect, taste and social refinement. His career was very brief, but crowned with efforts in the cause of Christ sufficient to fill many years of ordinary men. He was cut down in all the freshness of his first love for his work, in the very morn of his usefulness among the long-neglected mountaineers of the High Alps; but he left behind him many proofs of his fidelity and success that deserve to be put on record for the admonition and encouragement of those who are toiling, or expect ere long to toil, for the salvation of men. Few can follow his footsteps; but his spirit of entire devotedness, of high enterprize, and disinterested, untiring zeal, may and should be caught by every minister, and every disciple of Him who had not where to lay his head, yet continually went about doing good. We are glad to see the example of such men as Oberlin and Neff, Gilpin and Herbert, Payson and Brainerd drawn out from their obscurity, and held up before the whole Christian world to show what every preacher of the Gospel ought to be, and what glorious results may be expected, by the promised blessing of God, from the humble labors of a devoted, self-denying, and self-sacrificing minister of Christ.
This little book contains much to entertain and instruct every Christian reader. The strongly-marked character of Neff; the striking incidents in his life; the brevity of his career; the tenderness and triumph of its close; the fruit of his labors, and the many testimonies of his fidelity and worth left behind him among his Alpine flock; the graphic description of that people, and their rude and romantic country, with a preliminary sketch of their sufferings century after century for their steadfast attachment to the faith once delivered to the saints; all conspire to give the work a peculiar interest.
Mr. Gilly seems to have been well qualified for his task. He had travelled over the High Alps; and his familiarity with the field of Nell's labors enabled him to give us minute and vivid descriptions of Alpine scenery. He had conversed with his former flock, and received from their lips many testimonies to his character, and many anecdotes of his life. He also gleaned facts from a notice of Nefi published at Geneva soon after his death, and had access to bis private journal which had been sent to one of his patrons in England.
The life of Neff is preceded by a learned and valuable Introduction containing a general description of the scene of his labors, and a brief sketch of the inhabitants whom Mr. Gilly supposes to be the descendants of those who never bowed to the supremacy of Rome. The curious reader may regret that be did not give more at large his reasons for this opinion ; but after having had opportunity to examine libraries rich in information on subjects like this, he says :
“ The more I have read, the more I have felt convinced that the secluded glens of Piemont are not the only retreats, where the descendants of primitive Christians may be found. Under this term I mean to speak of persons who have inherited a Christianity, which the Church of Rome has not transmitted to them, and who, from father to son, have essentially preserved the mode of faith, and the form of discipline, which were received, when the Gospel was first planted in their land. I have discovered ample reason to believe, that there is scarcely a mountain region in our quarter of the globe, which is poor, and uninviting, and difficult of access, where the primitive faith, as it was preached by the earliest messengers of the truth, did not linger for many ages, after the Romish Hierarchy had established itself in the richer countries, and in the plains; and moreover, that there are still many mountain districts, where the population has continued Christian, from generation to generation, to the present hour; Christian, in non-conformity with the church usurping the appellation, Catholic. It was their obscurity and non-intercourse with the world, during the period of almost general submission to the Romish yoke, which preserved them from corruption. Traces of such churches in the Alps, in the Pyrenees, and in the Appennines, are clearly discernible in the Canons of Councils and in the writings of most of the Romish annalists and controversialists of France, Spain, and Italy, up to the great epoch of Papal supremacy in the eleventh century; and the light, which modern researches are casting every year upon the history of nations, helps us to perceive, that the chain, which connects the Primitive and the Protestant Churches, is unbroken in various places, where it was supposed to have been dissevered. There are very few readers, who do not imagine that every vestige of the Albigensians was swept from the earth, during the crusades of Simon de Montford, and that the ancient churches of Provence and Dauphine, which formed the stock, on which the Reformed congregaVOL. VI.-NO. III.
tions of the south of France were grafted in the sixteenth century, were utterly cut down, root and branch, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. This, however, was not the case : some few remnants were spared; and families in the remote valleys of the Pyrenees, and of the Alps, have been permitted to experience the promise of the Redeemer, “ where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” These have preserved the pure knowledge which their forefathers transmitted to them, and the scriptural greeting “Aquila and Priscilla salute you in the Lord, with the Church which is in their house," has oftentimes been passing from one secluded spot to another, when all were supposed to have been dragooned into the service of the Mass. And not only so, but in some few instances, whole communes, or parishes, have refused to submit, even outwardly, to the exactions of Romish usurpation.”
Neff had himself formed the design of writing a history of his Alpine charge “ in which," he said, “I shall not only give a delailed account of their present condition, but trace their origin up to the remotest antiquity." From a paper which he sent to some of his friends in England, we take a few extracts to show his views on this point, the nature of his charge, and some of the difficulties that lay in his way.
" In those dark times, when the Dragon, of whom St. John speaks, made war with the remnant of the seed, which kept the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ, some of those, who escaped from the edge of the sword, found a place of refuge among the mountains. It was then that the most rugged valleys of the French department of the High Alps, were peopled by the remains of those primitive Christians, who, after the example of Moses, when he preferred the reproach of Christ to the riches of Egypt, changed their fertile plains for a frightful wilderness. But fanati. cisin still pursued them, and neither their poverty, nor their innocence, nor the glaciers and precipices among which they dwelt, entirely protected them; and their caverns which served them for churches, were often washed with their blood. Previously to the Reformation, the Valley of Fressinière was the only place in France where they could maintain their ground, and even here, they were driven from the more productive lands, and were forced to retreat to the very foot of the glacier, where they built the village of Dormilleuse. This village, constructed like an eagle's nest, upon the side of a mountain, was the citadel where a small portion that was left established itseif, and where the race has continued, without any mixtnre with strangers, to the present day. Others took up their dwelling at the bottom of a deep glen, called La Combe, a rocky abyss, to which there is no exit, where the horizon is so bounded, that for six months of the year, the rays of the sun never penetrate. These hamlets, exposed to avalanches, and the falling of rocks, and buried under snow half the year, consist of hovels, of which some are without chimneys and glazed windows, and others have nothing but a miserable kitchen and a stable, which is seldom cleaned out more than once a year, and where the inhabitants spend the greater part of the winter with their cattle, for the sake of the warmth. The rocks, by which they are enclosed, are so barren, and the climate is so severe, that there is no knowing how these poor Alpines, with all their simplicity and temperance, contrive to subsist. Their few sterile fields hang over precipices, and are covered, in places, with enormous blocks of granite, which roll every year from the cliffs above. Some seasons even rye will not ripen there. The pasturages are, many of them, inaccessible to cattle, and scarcely safe for sheep. Such wretched soil cannot be expected to yield any thing more than what will barely sustain life, and pay the taxes, which, owing to the unfeeling negligence of the inspectors, are too often levied without proper consideration for
the unproductiveness of the land. The clothing of these poor creatures is made of coarse wool, which they dress and weave themselves. Their principal food is unsisted rye; this they bake into cakes in the autumn so a. to last the whole year.”
Neff, born in 1798, and brought up in a village near Geneva by his widowed mother, gave early proofs of a mind cast in a peculiar and promising mould. His mother was his first teacher; and from the village pastor he received some instruction in Latin, and a few branches of science. While engaged in the service of a florist-gardener, he published, at the age of sixteen, a treatise on the culture of trees that showed the bent, acuteness, and discrimination of his mind. In 1815 he entered the military service of Geneva; but after remaining in the service several years, and being promoted to office, he was thought too
, religious for such employment, and advised to quit the army, and prepare himself for the ministry. After many internal struggles, he did so, and was received as a probationer in 1819.
“ There is a practice in the Protestant churches of Switzerland and France which is extremely beneficial to candidates for ordination. The theological student, after having passed certain examinations, is received as a proposant into the confidence of some of those who exercise the pastoral office, and is employed as a lay-helper, or catechist in their parishes. This custom is as old as the Christian Church, it was the usage of the primitive churches, and cannot but be of the greatest improvement to the probationer. Ile is acting under the eye of an experienced minister; he has an example and a teacher before him to regulate his actions and opinions; he is trying his own strength, and feeling his way, and assuring himself of his preference and fitness for the sacred work, before the irrevocable step is taken. It is not too late to retire, if he finds himself in any degree unequal to the arduous charge.
“ These probationers are not permitted to put their hands to the ark, and to perforin services which are strictly sacerdotal, but they instruct the young, and visit the sick, and even preach from the pulpit, at the discretion of the pastor, in whose parish they are thus making their advance towards the min. istry.'
His probationary labors Nell commenced in the vicinity of Geneva, and continued them for two years in the cantons of Neufchatel, Berne, and the Pays de Vaud. Thence he went to Grenoble and Mens in France, where he labored four years or more with great success as a catechist, or assistant to the regular pastor ; when, finding difficulties in the way of his being licensed in France or Geneva to preach, he went to England in the spring of 1823, and received licensure from an association of dissenting ministers in London. On his return to the scene of his recent labors, he was met with very strong demonstrations of attachment from his late catechumens.
“ The reception which the Protestants of Mens gave to their former catechist, on his re-appearing among them, would have been felt like a triumphal