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articles. The present age, so accustomed to newspaper reading, demands directness and brevity.
We make no appeal for more general support than we already receive, though we would be well entitled to make it with considerable urgency. Be the merits of the Magazine what they may, those members and officebearers, but especially those ministers of our body, who, from one year's end to another, never see the only journal which bears its name, and is specially devoted to its interests (whatever higher qualities they may possess), are certainly not very distinguished for denominational attachment.
EDINBURGH, 1st December 1869.
UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE.
ON QUESTIONING THE PAST.
'Ask now of the days that are past.'-DEUT. IV. 32.
In the passage from which they are quoted, these words have a reference wider than it would be consistent with my present purpose to give them. They are used by the prophet with respect to a historical past: in the present use of them, I confine myself to a personal past; and as the greater always includes the less, the use of the text, with a narrower reference, cannot be accounted an improper accommodation.
The year 1868, with all its strange personal histories, in which we have had our share, is now past: we and it have parted company for the present. A part of our life has with it gone away to rest among the things that are fixed and irrevocable, there to abide our coming some future year. The past of our life is away from us: we cannot go back upon the record to correct what was mistaken, or to obliterate what was wrong. And yet, paradox as it may seem, the past is in a sense with us still-with us in our memories-with us in those impressions it has left upon life and character, for the continuity of our life is not interrupted by the changes of the years. At such a time as this, then, every thoughtful man will be concerned to ask questions of his past.
The past sometimes speaks to us unasked,-speaks with a power and intelligibility that make even the stoutest-hearted feel. So it spake to Jacob when he was returning from Padan-aram. He heard that Esau his brother was coming to meet him from the borders of Moab, with four hundred men; and immediately the ghost of his old sin looked him in the face, and he was afraid. Joseph's brethren were in peril and perplexity in Egypt, and their conscience awakened a remembrance that had long been dead, and they said, 'We are verily guilty concerning our brother,' etc.; 'therefore is this distress come upon us.' Herod the tetrarch had beheaded John, and I have no doubt he solaced himself with the thought that his royal conscience would not be troubled with the assaults of that faithful preacher any more. long after a rumour troubled him, and unnerved him, so that his conscience, terrified, burst through all Sadducean obstructions, and even contemplated the possibility of a resurrection from the dead. At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, and said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead.' The past spoke unasked to
NO. I. VOL. XIII. NEW SERIES.-JANUARY 18€9.
these men, and spoke in words sufficiently audible and articulate to be apprehended by that subtle interpreter-Conscience. And when the past speaks in this retributive way, it makes the most callous hear. That the past year will thus unwelcomely, in the natural consequences of the sins they have committed, speak to many at some future time, it would be the extravagance of charity to doubt.
The past will tell us, whether we care to ask it or not, that there is a God that judgeth in the earth,' and that he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption.' If, however, we desire to know its softer and kindlier teachings, we must entreat it with earnestness, thoughtfulness, and prayer. The past will tell us many important things about God and ourselves if we question it thus; and it should be that the wisdom we gather thence should guide us to live better lives in the days to come; for if our past cannot contribute in this way to our present and future, it is a dismal record indeed.
A review of the past will often reveal to us more of God in it than we saw, or even could see, when it was present. The Old Testament worthies were not always fully conscious of the divine nature of the manifestation, until the heavenly messenger or messengers were withdrawn. Abraham entertained angels in the belief that they were merely human strangers; and even the disciples in later times, although they companied with Jesus Christ, were not fully aware until He was gone that they had entertained the Angel of the Covenant unawares. One may, so to speak, like the disciples, be too near the glory for his weak eyes to see it, or pressing material interests may have so absorbed his thoughts that he had no faculty to spare for beholding the divine in the dispensation, and he has afterward awaked, like the dreamer at Luz, to say, 'Surely God is in this, and I knew it not.'
So, distracted as many of us are with the cares and anxieties of the present, we are apt to miss the sense of the glory or the good that is in it. The farmer, one would think, would see more of the glory of God's power and goodness in the annual wonder of the harvest than other men, because of his personal interest in it; but it is just his material interest in the result that keeps him from seeing as much of God in his waving corn-fields as the poor student who reasons piously about cause and effect in his study. One would think, too, that God's purpose in trial would be best understood just when the pressure of the trial is heaviest. It is not always so. Physical pain or mental irritation and anxiety may overwhelm for the time the filial feeling the meek and teachable spirit; and many can only see the grace of God in their trial when they look back upon it as a past experience. How few of us, until the lapse of time has softened the keenness of sorrow, could say with regard to the death of one very dear to us, with full and conscious consent of the heart and understanding, Thy will be done!'
How important, then, in this view of the case, that we should ask the days of the past year their testimony concerning God in all his dealings with us! Many things that were dark in the experience will look clearer now; many of his dealings that seemed harsh then, because they made our flesh smart, will appear, to our calmer spirits, to be kindly and merciful now. Let us ask, then, of the days that are past, for day unto day uttereth speech concerning Him.'
We can see a truer image of ourselves, too, reflected from the calm and settled past than from the disturbed mirror of the present. Our interest in the present is so intense, and our faculties of body and mind are so conually on the stretch to keep abreast of others in the race of life, that the
passions of to-day have hardly time to subside before we are called upon to mingle in the competitive struggle of to-morrow. There is little time for reflection, save on the Sabbath; and even then we are so near the acts of our life that we would review, and the passions that prompted these acts, or that arose out of them, are so strong within us, that we can hardly arrive at a strictly true judgment. A man can scarcely pass an accurate moral judgment on his sins, when he looks at them with the lingering relish in his sense of the pleasure they afforded. But let him look at them at a little distance, let him look at the sins of the last year now, when the profit of them or the pleasure of them is gone, and nothing remains but the regret and the recoil of conscience, and he will judge more sternly. He will abhor himself; he will look upon the past very much as on an abstract picture, as David looked upon the prophet's parable, and then conscience, like Nathan, will bring the likeness home-Thou art the man.'
Let us ask of the days that are past, they will answer truly. We shall find our own image there. The picture will not be a flattering one, even in the case of the best of us; but it is better to know the truth than to believe lies. The clear understanding of the truth concerning ourselves will send us to the cross of Christ, where He died for the remission of sins that are past.' May He answer for us when God requireth that which is past,' else how shall we answer!
Learning then the lessons that reflection on the past teaches, we need not linger in vain regrets over it; but, seeking atonement for the past in Christ, and praying for grace, and bracing ourselves up for more earnest work, we may in God's name hail the future with a feeling of relief.
'Now the names of the twelve apostles are these . . . Simon the Canaanite . . . '-MATT. x. 2, 4.
'He chose twelve, whom also He named Apostles . . . Simon called Zelotes. . . .'-LUKE VI. 13, 15.
THIS is the only apostle concerning whom the inspired records tell us nothing except his name. From his first name we can gather no certain information concerning him. The circumstance that in both his catalogues St. Luke places him between James the son of Alphæus, and Judas the brother of James, has led some to infer that he was their brother, and the Simeon who, according to early ecclesiastical history, was chosen to succeed James as president of the church at Jerusalem. It is true that one of the four brethren of Christ was named Simon; but the name was too common to warrant us in building much on this fact. It was probably the adaptation to the Greek form of the Hebrew name Simeon, which had been borne by the father of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and it seems to have been very popular among the Jews at the time of Christ. Besides an ancestor of Jesus, and the devout man who welcomed the infant Redeemer to the Temple-whose names are given by St. Luke in the Hebrew form-no
fewer than nine Simons are referred to in the New Testament. We read of Simon of Cyrene, Simon the Leper, Simon Magus, Simon Peter, Simon a Pharisee, Simon the tanner, Simon the father of Judas Iscariot, Simon the brother of James, and Simon Zelotes. It is probable that this name, which signifies a hearer,' attained its popularity because in those days the public reading of the law was a recognised form of religious worship, and attendance on its reading in the synagogue a symbol of religious profession. Parents so named their children, in expression of their laudable desire that they should prove attentive hearers of the oracles of God. The fact that, in his Gospel, St. Luke'places Simon's name between those of the two brothers, can be accounted for otherwise than on the supposition that he belonged to the same family. By this arrangement he brought the name of Judas the brother of James next to that of Judas Iscariot, and thus made more emphatic the distinction between them. In his catalogue in the Acts he observed the same order, only dropping the name of the traitor, who, by that time, had fallen by transgression from the apostolic office.
From Simon's surname we are able to obtain some definite knowledge of him. By St. Matthew and St. Mark he is surnamed the Canaanite. From a misapprehension of the import of this epithet, which has been, by our English translators, among others, confounded with a word bearing some resemblance to it, the conjecture has arisen that this apostle was, among the twelve, a representative of Gentile blood, being descended from the ancient inhabitants of Canaan. From a similar mistake, another conjecture has been made, that he was a native of Cana of Galilee; and yet another, that he was the bridegroom at the marriage where Jesus made the water wine. The fact is, that the surname Kananites is the Chaldee equivalent of the Greek Zelotes, which is the term employed in St. Luke's catalogues. They both mean 'zealot,' and were the distinctive epithets by which, in the provincial and imperial languages respectively, a Jewish sect was denoted. This sect was a branch of the Pharisees, and, as its name indicates, was distinguished by a peculiar zeal for the honour of the Jewish law. Its members were banded together to vindicate that law by executing summary vengeance on transgressors, without observing the ordinary forms of justice. If, for example, a man was found cursing God by the name of any idol, a Zealot hearing him was bound, by his vow, at once to put him to death, without waiting to bring him before the Sanhedrim. The grand hero of the sect, whose example it sought to follow, was Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, who, when the plague was raging in the camp of Israel, because the chosen people had fallen into sin on the borders of Moab, took a javelin and followed into the tent a man of Israel, who, with daring licentiousness, had brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman, in the sight of Moses and the weeping congregation, and thrust it through the man and the companion of his guilt. This deed of vengeance received signal commendation. The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.' It was in after ages celebrated by the Psalmist: Then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment, and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.' This noble deed,