« FöregåendeFortsätt »
that even the greatest sinner, who believed the testimony of the Scriptures concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, and placed his hope of salvation on him, as the only and all-sufficient Saviour, might enjoy the eternal blessings of his mercy. He listened with eagerness to the communications I made, and to the
prayers I offered on his account; but whether his entire neglect of all the means of grace, previously, might not have prevented bis being able to understand the way of salvation, I am unable to say: it is certain, however, that every effort I could make seemed to be but of little use in penetrating his understanding In a day or two he died, and was called before “the righteous Judge of the whole earth.”
The awful prospect of this poor man's future state has often been to me a source of much anxiety. At times, I have indulged a hope of meeting him before the throne of God, as a trophy of the grace of Jesus, shown at the last hour ; but far oftener have I feared that his long rejection of the mercy of Christ only prepared him for the torments of hell. It is true, he appeared to repent of his past sins ; but it might have been only the fear of future punishment, rather than grief of heart on account of offending a holy and gracious God. Judas himself had the former kind of repentance; but the latter is necessary to salvation, and arises from a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
THOUGHTS ON FAITH.
What blessedness to feel ourselves admitted to the presence of God, to find ourselves in prayer in the sensible presence of the Most High, to witness the change of scene from the ordinary position of mortality, in a world of sin, to the heavenly state, which is sometimes opened to us upon earth! It is nothing less than passing from the common scenes of life to the mount of the Saviour's transfiguration. The child of God there almost loses the sense of his connection with earthly objects. The world, with its joys and cares, seems too trifling to deserve a thought-its riches, its honours, its pleasures, are viewed, if a glance be cast upon them, as the merest trifles, as minute shining specks would appear in heaps of silver, gold, and precious stones. Such specks, even if most precious in their qualities, would be disregarded on account of their minuteness ; how much more if they were known to be mere counterfeits of the really valuable substances abundantly set in our view,
and offered to our possession! But how low this comparison ! The glories seen in the presence of God, as we are sometimes admitted to it in prayer, as we ought daily to behold them, infinitely transcend all created excellence. Silver, and gold, and diamonds, are utterly vile in the comparison.
Let me now ask,—is the reader acquainted with the blessed ness here in view ? If so, he will need little instruction or exhortation from a brother : for he is taught of God-he often sees what other men vainly strive to know by the hearing of the outward ear and the effort of human thought—he is inspired, not indeed for the same purpose in all respects, but just as truly as an Isaiah or a Paul. The Holy Spirit makes him a temple for his own glorious presence; and through him works divinely for the salvation of mankind. He is indeed of the salt of the earth : he is, in fact, a burning and shining light; the glory of God appears in him just as really as in the Tabernacle of Israel or the Temple of Solomon. He may
be and despised among men : but he is rich before God, inexpressibly rich ; and in the last great day will be gloriously distinguished before the saints and angels of the heavenly kingdom. The world may give its honours to heroes and statesmen, to orators, poets, and men of science: but in the end, he that holds this close communion with God, will appear in glory as far surpassing theirs as the noonday sun the faintest star of night. There is a knowledge infinitely better than that of a Newton or a Locke, a knowledge that elevates the soul as theirs never does ; which, in a word, makes the meanest man upon earth a partaker of the divine nature in a higher sense than mere intellectual achievements ever can.
And, blessed be God, this knowledge is as possible for the day-labourer in his shop, or at his plough, for the cobbler on his bench, or the woman at her house-work, as for a Baxter, a Leighton, or a Hall. Native strength of mind, acquired abilities, leisure for studious meditation, may all enhance the effect of the Spirit's influences, or may not—the great work is that of the Holy Ghost accompanying the simple truths of the Gospel to the soul. So again the manifestation of this heavenly state of the mind will vary, from the fulness and beauty of the best Christian divine, to the scantiness of words and roughness of phrase among the most ignorant : but the reality is far less diverse ; the beams of the Sun of righteousness are not so dependent for their power to enlighten and warm, as thoughts and feelings are upon language for expression.
Of all failures in life, then, his is most to be deplored who stops short of daily loving intercourse with his God and Father—who either does not say his prayers, even in form, or who contents himself with the words and gestures of devotion; who satisfies himself with a mere show of coming to the
mercy-seat, while his actual thoughts, his own spirit, have made no real approach to the Divine presence. Such an one lives in a world of illusions. He can never know where he is, nor why he is any where. The merest shows of good seem to him great realities; all that is substantial passes before him unnoticed and unknown. O what a moment will that be when he first lifts a waking eye upon his God, upon the changeless objects of an eternal state ! O that he could now be persuaded to seek his God and Saviour, to find them, and secure their favour, to gain admission to their presence as a child, with liberty to return when he will, or rather to dwell with them for ever! The Gospel has taught us to dwell in heavenly places in Christ, (Eph. ii. 6.) even while our hands re busy upon the earth.
LETTER FROM ABROAD.
It is not easy to describe one's feelings on first setting foot on a foreign land. Every thing that is dear at home seems doubly valued, while all that is seen as one moves from place to place, only tends to confirm and increase the conviction, that England is highly favoured indeed above all the other nations of the earth. Yes; happy, happy England with all its national faults and transgressions. May we never have the bulwark of our national piety removed from our defence, or have all that constitutes our national and peculiar excellence diluted and worn out by that spirit of liberalism and religious indifference which unhappily prevails.
I little dreamt that I should ever leave my own loved country; but, at the call of health, I left Ramsgate for Ostend on the 1st of September; and the hope that my wanderings may turn to good account amongst my readers, forms some little relief to the anxiety of a far-distant separation from home, with all its endearments and duties. No one can have any correct idea of what Popery really is, till he comes into a country in which it takes the lead, and is seen in its full and constant practice. I have gone into the leading churches in one town after another; and if the mind has been struck with the splendour and beauty of the architecture, how every feeling of delight has been checked and withered by beholding, in every place the people, with the name of Christian, "given to idolatry"! And in what other terms can we speak of a religion
which makes the worship paid to the Virgin even more prominent than that which is given to the Son, blessed for evermore.
At Ghent, and Antwerp, and Brussels, the most conspicuous images are those of the Virgin. At Antwerp it was the last of the eight days' feast of the Virgin, and the crowd of worsbippers were assembled before a figure of the Virgin as large as life, decked in the richest brocaded silk, with a profusion of costly jewels, and a silver crown, while the Saviour was placed at her side like a large doll, in gaudy attire. The most earnest supplications were going forward to the Virgin, the people all fondly and heartily responding. The Mariolatry of Popery is one of its most fatal and unscriptural characters. What an insult to the Saviour-to his divine power--to his infinite love-to think that he needs the interference of any human being whatever to procure his favour! And yet the Virgin is prayed to as “the queen of heaven," and entreated to "command" her Son to shew mercy, What an offence! What an awful mistake is this! I know not one Scripture that seems to give even a shadow of excuse for prayer to the Virgin Mary: but I know several in which our blessed Lord did all that human language was capable of, to shew that Mary, his mother, was no more in his esteem than any other human being. What a pity that such energy of devotion should be so misdirected. Blessed be God! we are taught, that through Christ, we have access by one Spirit unto the Father—that we have one Advocate with the Father-Jesus Christ the Righteous. And to this one living way, in all its blessed fulness and suffering, let us cling, till it lead us into the glorious presence of our Saviour in heaven.
And how shall I speak of my first Sabbath abroad? It was a lovely, cloudless morning, and I was sitting in my room at Cologne, between seven and eight o'clock, enjoying something of that calm and peaceful repose which always seems to belong to this blessed day, when a band of music struck up in the gardens of the hotel where I was, and played for above an hour. There was no English Church in Cologne; and how, under such circumstances, is the clear, Scriptural service of our Protestant Church endeared to our hearts, when, in a foreign land, or on a sick bed, we may hold communion with our distant flock or absent friends! On going out of the hotel, I was horrified to see the entire disregard of the Sabbath all around. The shops in the town were all open, and the market-place filled, not only with vegetables and other eatables, but with all kinds of merchandize, just like a common market day. Thankful, indeed, did I feel that in England, at all events, we have not arrived at this; and God grant that we never may! There is a public decency and outward observance of the Sabbath, which is England's highest honour: may it never be tarnished by the toleration of the age. We may differ in our opinions as to what may, or what may not, be done on the Lord's Day; but there can be no difficulty in condemning all that directly forbids serious thought, and seeking for that “preparation of the heart" which cometh from the Lord, to welcome and enjoy His presence within our own souls. With all my efforts to abstract myself from earth, and soar aloft, what could I do, while the band was playing beneath my windows? And if the tea gardens of London are to be regarded as rational and becoming places for the Sabbath evening, and the music is to be introduced as probably superseding something worse, what becomes of the savour of the precious ordinances of the Church, and where can be the influence of the pulpit instruction? So, again: if the shops may be open, just as on other days, what means the Sabbath as a day of rest from wonted occupationfor the express purpose of “ labouring to enter into that rest which remaineth”? I had heard of music, and open shops, and public pastimes, on the Lord's Days' evenings abroad, but I was not prepared to find this Sabbath desecration commencing with the early morning. The music in the cathedral at Cologne is very fine; but there is no reading of the Holy Scriptures in Popish churches as in our dear Church of England. There is no conducting of the services in a language understood by the people. There is the sprinkling of holy water, and the fumes of incense, and the bowings of the priests before the altar, with their gaudy and varied dresses of brocaded silk, and muslin, and lace, but there is wanting every thing that is calculated to bring men under a right Scriptural influence, and to lead them to the knowledge of Him who is "the way, the truth, and the life.” Then, the importance attached to relics is one of the absurdities of Popery, and the mischief which it engenders is very
serious. My readers have heard enough of the Holy Coat exhibited at Treves. Just before we arrived at Aix la Chapelle, 40,000 persons had assembled to gaze upon the “chemise" of the Virgin. Every church has its chest of relics, which are made a fruitful source of gain to the priests. I saw the shrine of "the Three Kings” at Cologne. In a chest studded with the most costly jewels, worth an enormous sum of money, are contained three skulls, which are said to be those of the wise men of the East, who came to worship the Saviour. A lock of the Virgin's hair is also shewn in the same place. Oh! if we did not read of such things as “strong delusion" leading men to “believe a lie,” we should be at a loss to think how rational beings could embrace a system of religion so absurd, and so contrary to common sense, as well as to every semblance of Scriptural character and authority. Let no one think that Popery is changed, and that such things as I have geen and described are only its extravagancies. I have referred to nothing but what is a fundamental and generally-accredited part of Popery. In these wily and dangerous days, you will meet with many persons who will tell you that Popery is not that faulty system which many suppose ; that “it is only the abuse of the system of Popery which leads men to do so and so." But Popery is unchanged and unchanging.