Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

be disposed to point out deficiencies, these critics are affectionately invited to avenge their disappointment in the best and happiest way-by supplying able articles on topics which engage their thoughts."

The only other periodical before us, silent about its circulation, is the "United Presbyterian Magazine." The editor, on completing the seventh year of his labours, says, "Troubles and vexations, more or fewer, are inseparable from journalism in any of its forms; but our sorrows certainly have not been multiplied; and we cannot help thinking that our share of these has been smaller than usual. In consequence of the unbroken harmony which, through the favour of the God of peace, has prevailed in the views and counsels of the United Church, we have been saved from what the conductors of denominational journals often find to be their most embarrassing duty-that of maintaining a position for themselves in antagonism with a portion of their brethren, while desiring, as they ought, to represent the views and interests of them all."

We conclude these extracts with a single paragraph from our young friend, "The Irish Presbyterian," who closes his first year's labours with a preface, full of the fresh, hopeful buoyancy of young life. We believe, not a few of our contemporaries, as well as ourselves, would be glad if they could write such a paragraph ::

*

"We have been sustained and cheered by a measure of success far exceeding our most sanguine hopes. The Christian public have placed us in a position which inspires us at once with gratitude and courage. *We are mainly indebted to our staff of contributors, among whom we are proud to reckon some of the most able and earnest minds of the age; to many friends among the ministers and members of our Church, who have assisted us with an enthusiasm which makes gratitude on our part a matter of positive obligation. As our Magazine was launched in prayer, and as we know that many have not ceased to plead for a blessing on our labours, we may humbly express our conviction that the Divine favour has not been withheld."

We sincerely wish that our Irish contemporary may long retain his youthful vigour, and be blessed with a still greater measure of prosperity and extended usefulness.

And now, having said so much about our neighbours, we conclude with a word regarding ourselves. The necessity for the " Messenger," as a medium of communication, is generally acknowledged, and those who know most of the Church's exigencies can best appreciate the services it has rendered; but very few make any special exertions to promote our efficiency and success. We do not expect to be assisted with such a degree of "enthusiasm as falls to the good lot of our Belfast neighbour; but, at the close of a year in which our supporters and readers have been decimated by removals and deaths to a greater extent than usual, we naturally look for an amount of special effort, equal at least to that enjoyed by brethren of other denominations. The labour of procuring an average of ten or twelve additional readers from each congregation in the Church would surely not be great; and this number, if it did not satisfy us, would lessen our difficulties and make us more contented. With limits so circumscribed, and with the quantity of Missionary and Presbyterial matter we are often obliged to publish, it is difficult to supply that amount of general information which is desiderated by a large class of readers; but to those interested in the welfare of the Church-the prosperity of her Missions, and other Evangelistic labours-even these portions have seldom been devoid of interest.

In addition to the communications of our own missionaries, we intend, in

future, to give a monthly digest of missionary intelligence, affording a brief but combined view of the labours of other denominations and Societies. It is our wish also to give more attention to subjects of present and exciting interest, and to others having special bearings upon the interests and prosperity of our own Church.

We need not further specify the nature of the assistance we require, or the means by which it can be rendered. These differ in no way from those of our denominational contemporaries, which are clearly set forth in the foregoing extracts. Let them be studied and practised, and we shall soon be cheered by the full measure of success we desire. And let those who

can aid in no other way, remember us at a throne of grace, that the Lord may grant us wisdom and all needful direction in this department of his own work. We much fear that the religious press, and those connected with it, are oftener criticised than prayed for; but let this state of things be reversed let them be frequently remembered in the prayer-meeting, the family, and the closet, and the spiritual benefits arising from their labours will be more abundantly manifest.

THE TIMES OF THE COVENANT.

It is not far from forty years, since, in the first flush of his wondrous popularity, the author of "Waverley," thinking that the public would endure every prejudice to which he chose to give the sanction of his great name, set himself to write down "the Covenanters." He had known chiefly Moderate clergymen, and had seen both their utter want of hold over the popular mind, and their entire contrariety to the spirit of covenanting times. The season seemed favourable, but he reckoned without his host. He had tasked his genius to the utmost; for we quite agree with Lockhart that, in point of intellectual power, "Old Mortality is the "Marmion" of the novels. But the greatest efforts of genius are unavailing where the cause is weak or bad; and even Scott had to retreat before the onslaught made by Dr. M'Crie in his "Historical Vindication of the Covenanters." The truth is, Scott was quite disqualified for treating of religious men in a proper way. He could depict scenery; he could delineate passion; he could call up with magic touch the "heroes bold and ladies gay" of a feudal or a semi-feudal age. But, just as with consciousness of weakness, he never attempted to write a novel of London life or first-class society in modern times, so he ought to have abstained from representing persons whom a man notoriously fond of dissipated society, and notoriously given to the use of profane swearing, could neither honour nor appreciate. The only result was to make the Covenanters better known and better loved; and the time which has elapsed since the publication of "Tales of my Landlord" has shown, that the Scottish mind has been stirred to its depths by the revived principles and restored efforts of covenanting times. In his "Tales of a Grandfather," written when bankruptcy had tamed his spirit and abated his pride, Scott found it necessary, to make his volumes sell, to treat the heroes of the Covenant with at least the profession of respect.*

How little regard Scott felt for Evangelical religion may be seen from the fact that

Were these Covenanters, then, faultless men? By no means. We affect no one-sided, no enthusiastic, no exaggerated "hero-worship hero-worship" towards them.

They were wrong in being over anxious to accomplish external conformity. It was a great blunder and a great evil to administer the covenant to Charles II. before his coronation at Scoone.

They were wrong in not seeing the duty of religious toleration. Against this some of their ablest writers specially wrote, and some of them saw the beauty and the force of the arguments in its favour.

They were wrong in allowing party feeling to operate in deadening affection to "the excellent of the earth." The strifes between Revolutioners and Protesters did somewhat account for the hostility to religion shown by many in high places after the Restoration.

They were wrong (though this applies to a considerable number of individuals rather than as a body) in looking for something like miraculous interposition in their favour. The doctrine of God's special watchfulness over his own people was turned into an exaggerated and unwarrantable dogma in such cases.

But, after making all allowance for these faults, there still remains much, very much, to call for our highest admiration. We owe them much, and, like all other debts, they should be fully paid.

The Covenanting ministers were men of thorough ministerial diligence. In preaching, in visiting, in all departments of their duty they were indefatigable. There never was a time when the ministerial office was more justly honoured in the persons of those who held it.

Not a few of these Covenanting ministers were men of great attainments in learning. An age of newspapers and magazines may well stand surprised at the amount of quotation and reference which we find in their writings. Let any one read George Gillespie's "Dispute against the English Ceremonies," or Samuel Rutherford's "Peaceable Plea for Paul's Presbytery," or John Brown's (of Womphroy) "Apologetical Relations of the Church of Scotland," and he will be amazed at the extent of erudition which they (unostentatiously) manifest.

They were men of eminent prayerfulness. They, in this, were the worthy descendants of John Knox, whose prayers awed the flippant Queen of Scots, and of John Welsh, the Reformer's son-in-law, who used to spend a third of each day in supplication. We read of Samuel Rutherford that he used to spend hours in prayer. And this prayerfulness, this "always praying and not fainting," was characteristic of their flock as well as of themselves. It was in answer to prayer, as well as in result of action and suffering, that Prelacy was cast down for ever in Scotland at the revolution settlement.

They were men of undaunted courage in defence of assailed truth. "They loved not their lives unto the death." How beautifully has an accomplished living poetess, of good family as well of good principles, described the parting of James Guthrie with his only son :

"My child, my own child, am I clasping thee now,

My God, all thy will be done!

And he whom no terror of death could bow,

Rain'd tears upon his son !

while in his correspondence every little trifle and every aristocratic fopling may be mentioned, the name of CHALMERS never occurs! In one of his letters he speaks of Charles Simeon as a leader of Radicalism!

Now rest thee, my Willie, upon my knee,

For thy father's hours are brief,

And store up my words, with thy love for me,
Engrav'd on thy heart's first grief.

"They will tell thee, my bairn, that thy father died
A death both of sin and shame:

And the finger of scorn, and the foot of pride
Will be busy with my name.

But heed them not, boy, for the cause of God
I render this day my breath,

And tread thou the path that thy father trod,
Though it lead to thy father's death.

"For my Master's honour, my Master's crown,
A martyr 'tis mine to be,

And the orphan's God shall look kindly down,
My pleasant child, on thee!

I seal thee now, with my parting kiss,

Till at his right hand we meet ;

Death! death! thy bitterest drop is this,

All else in thy cup is sweet." *

Their principles were widely circulated throughout all classes of society. In the list of the correspondents of Rutherford and Livingstone we find noblemen, ladies of rank, country gentlemen, magistrates in cities and boroughs, besides persons belonging to humbler circles of society. Few Christians in any age have been of more devoted piety than Lady Kenmure and Marion McNaught. Livingstone, in his Characteristics, enumerates a large number of pious ladies of the highest rank, some of them remarkably gifted in female fellowship meetings. Among the Scottish people of that age there was many a hospitable Philemon and many a kindly Onesiphorus, many an intelligent Priscilla and many a laborious Persis. In reading the religious literature of the Covenanting era, we seem to come upon many a country and many a town parish where, as in the Acts of the Apostles, the Gospel goes forth conquering and to conquer; we seem to come upon many a happy locality where, as in the Churches of Ephesus or Philippi, the Apostle Paul might have found much to approve and but little to censure.

It is true that in the Scottish authorship of that period we find no Bunyan who, by sheer force of his great genius, can extract the applause even of the most cultivated secular men; we find no man to rank, in extent of composition, with the twenty-two volumes of Baxter, or the twenty-four volumes of Owen. Their works are on a more limited scale, and their theological achievements are of a more contracted extent. But if it be highest praise to mould for God and heaven a nation's mind and heart-if Dr. Johnson was right when, pointing Boswell to a well-thumbed copy of "The Seasons" in a humble parlour window, he said, "This is true fame" -then may those homely but vigorous volumes of Guthrie, and Rutherford, and Dickson, which have long been found on the cottage-shelf, where the olden character of Scotland has not been broken down-be considered as entitled to no ordinary eulogy. It was worthy of the large mind of Wordsworth, that, decided Church of England man as he was, he should have, both in the "Excursion" and the "Ecclesiastical Sonnets," paid his tribute to the courage and the constancy of the Covenanters. Where he led the way, lesser literary men need not be ashamed to follow. Of their

"Lays of the Kirk and Covenant."

tombs Scotland has no reason to be ashamed; for their memories Scotland has no cause to blush. They have suffered in English estimation because there has been no contemporary historian of literary power to make the story of the Covenant as well known as Lord Clarendon has made the English civil war; and because there has been no modern writer of approved literary excellence who could do for that Scottish generation what Schiller has so nobly done for the less worthy tale of the German Thirty Years' War. Fragments, indeed, have penetrated the English mind and adhered to the English memory, as the noble death-speech of Hugh McKail, which has, perhaps, for simple sublimity, never been surpassed. And where, in all the annals of ancient or modern heroism, is there a tale so thrilling to the heart as the story of the two Galloway women, who suffered death by drowning rather than abjure the Headship of their Redeemer ?— "A peasant's tale-a humble grave-two names on earth unknown, But Jesus bears them on his heart before the eternal throne. And kings and heroes yet shall come to wish their lot were bound With those poor women slumbering, beneath the wave-girt ground. The earth keeps many a memory of blood as water pour'd, The peasant summoned at his toil to own and meet his Lord; The secret hungering in the hills where none but God might see, Ay, earth hath many martyrs, but these two were of them."

Shame on the dapper fopling of literature who abuses his power of versifying to traduce the Covenanter heroes, and to extol the ruffians who hunted them to the death. Such an abettor of slavery were far more in his element amid the lax morality and the military despotism of Austria; a Professorship of English Literature in the Vienna University would give him the opportunity for quoting with approving gusto those models of anti-Puritan authorship, the dramas of Fletcher or Ford, where all restraints are laid aside, and gentlemanly license (as practised by the Stuart's courtiers) is invariably the order of the day. Between the lax literature (which the Stuarts patronized as favourable to despotism) and the stern principles of the Puritan or Covenanting authorship there could be no alliance, there could be no peace, there could be no truce, and olden parties are again marshalled for the onset. The Cavalier who fought to uphold the Laudian hierarchy, knew well that it was no restraint upon his careless, or worse than careless, propensities; and the abettors of Tractarian follies and fopperies now are well aware, that, though some dozen of their party may be great devotees in asceticism, yet there never can be the moral power or the spiritual energy which the detested Evangelicals alone possess. Let a trivial literature, or a mocking literature, in song or newspaper, or shilling-numbered novel, do its worst against our resuscitated Evangelism. The spirit of the Covenant lasts still; the Disruption-day has given to Scotch Evangelism, and by reflection, to English Evangelism also, an influence, which, as proving to the world that self-sacrifice for conscience' sake is as real and as true as of old, will enable us to bid defiance, through the grace and by the Spirit of God, to all the scoffing and taunting host of the aliens.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »