« VorigeDoorgaan »
* mortality, the magnitude of the work to be achieved by us, the brief span ri allotted for its discharge, the innumerable accidents which may curtail our life, e and reduce it far within the expected period; bearing in mind how much has
already glided away from us, how fast it is now hurrying on, how large a portion of what remains to us will be demanded by the claims of the body for sleep and
food, how large a portion more for business, for social intercourse and relaxation, lungs --what remains ? Short as the interval is between this day and the close of the is year, the lives of some who peruse these words will be shorter still. It is a pro. bability so strong that it amounts to a certainty that some eye which reads these lines will be closed in death before the year is at an end. Reader, this year, this month, this day, thou mayst die. In a few more days, or months, or years, thou must die. “Brethren, the time is short!”
But life is illusive as well as short. “The fashion of this world passeth away." The figure suggested by the words in the original is that of a dramatic representation, in which the pageant passes over the stage with a momentary appearance of reality, but which “comes like shadows, so departs.” It is “a vain show," as the Psalmist tells us. We live among dreams and shadows, which simulate the appearance of reality, but have no substance. As the great states. - man, wearied with the turmoil of public life, exclaimed, on withdrawing from it, “ What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue !” “As a dream when one awaketh shall we despise their image.” Death is the true awak. ing. Life is the season of dreams-dreams which have all the effect of reality upon the sleeper, and which he only discovers to be shadows on awaking from them.
A review of our past lives will give us, if it be rightly made, an impressive sense of this. What changes have happened around and within us since childhood! Friends have died, have changed, have forsaken us ; new friends have come to take up the places of the departed ones; our pursuits, and hopes, and fears, our prospects and our plans, how unlike what they once were! And we ourselves have changed with the changing scenes. Our judgments, our affections—the whole " hidden man of the heart”-have been undergoing strange Fransformations. Yet, so gradually and quietly do these changes proceed, that t is difficult to perceive them whilst in progress, and only when after some nterval we recall the forgotten past can we in any measure discern how unike we now are to what we once were.
And not only of us, the actors on the stage of life, is it true that all are hanging. The great theatre of existence “ passeth away," and “the grace of ne fashion of it perisheth.” We speak of the continuity of nature. It is the untinuity of ceaseless change. Death succeeds to life, and life to death, in
dless round. The wintry blast is now wailing a requiem over the life and -auty which have passed away from the earth, and “the place of which shall ow them no more.” The everlasting hills are slowly crumbling away, under action of the elements. The fixed and changeless stars, as we call them,
all in motion, hurrying on with inconceivable velocity toward some sterious and undiscovered goal. And the day draws nearer, and ever nearer,
the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements u melt with fervent heat; and the earth also, and the works which are rein, shall be burned up.” 1
« The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
II. Since life is thus short and illusive, it follows that we should “use the world as not abusing it.” The practical lessons thus inculcated may be grouped under the following heads :
1. Use the world-be not used by it. Suffer not yourselves to become its creatures and slaves. You are greater than it. Let not the greater succumb to the legs. Child of God! Heir of Heaven ! Spirit deathless and immortal! wilt thou stoop to becoine the servant and victim of that world which is so swiftly passing away? Yet this is what every worldling does! He thinks that he uses and owns the world. Really it uses and enslaves him. The miser imagines he possesses his wealth-really he is possessed by it. The sensualist is but the creature of his sensual appetites, and is borne headlong by them. The ambitious man is the world's drudge and slave : aiming to rule over it, he is conquered and bound by it. Our hold upon the world thus becomes its hold upon us. Just in proportion to the tenacity of our grasp is the completeness of our bondage. If we give up our whole being to love, possess, larient, or enjoy any earthly thing, making that our summum bonum,-our chief good, -we forth. with become its servant. We forfeit our manhood and independence. We no longer stand above it as free men, with “ all things put under our feet.” We fall into subjection to it, sink below it, and let it use us—not we it. The apostle calls us away from this self-degradation. As in a previous versiz he had said, “Be ye not the servants of men,” so now he seems to say, Be ye not the servants of the world-make it your servant-"use the world.”
2. Use the world-do not reject or fly from it. The New Testament gives us two types of piety--the Ascetic and the Christian. Of the first of these, John the Baptist stands as the representative, and our Lord himself of the other. The first shuns the world, the second conquers it. Where we are consciously too weak to risk the conflict safely, our wisdom clearly is to shrink from it. Ascetism is better than se: asuality, flight than defeat. Yet this is not the highest type of the Chris tian character, as some erroneously suppose. In certain cases it may be necessary as the best for us ; but it is not the best in itself. John the Baptist may have been greatest among the prophets. “Nevertheless the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he;" for conflict with victory, however hardly ear ned, is a nobler thing than to escape by flight with out a scar. In the glowing words of Milton, “He that can apprehend and con. sider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and prefer that which is truly better, Fre is the true war-faring Christian. I cannot praise & fugitive and cloistered virtu e unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies forth and sees her adversary, bu't slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for not without dust and heat." The apostle does not enjoin upon us the monastic vows of celibacy and poverty. “Forbidding to marry " is one of the"marks of heretical apostacy. We are to marry, buy, weep, rejoice, and use the world without storical indifference, or pharisaical scruples, or ascetic selfmortification.
3. Use the world not abuse it. In the present day sensual abuse is more to be dreaded than stoic:al or ascetic seclusion. The tendency of the age is strongly towards a senstious, self-indulgent life. The rapid increase of wealth. the multiplication of the sources of secular enjoyment, the facilities afforded to the many of acquiring and enjoying what used to be the monopoly of the few, are rapidly making ours the most luxurious age which the world has seen since the downfal of the Roman empire. What our fathers deemed the luxuries of life we regard as necessaries. The peasant now enjoys daily what was once the rare enjoyment of princes. The world is ransacked and laid under contribo. tion to minister to the wants or the appetites of man. In all this there is nothing absolutely and of itself evil. The world was given to us that it might be possessed and enjoyed. But there is a danger lesit the innocent and temperate
use should give place to a vicious and injurious excess ; lest the love of wife, or child, or friend, should become an idolatrous attachment which forgets God or dethrones him from his rightful place in the heart; lest sorrow should be without hope because without faith or resignation to the will of Him who sent it; lest joy should become a wild, uncontrolled exultation which dissipates all grave and solemn thought, all consideration of the great themes of God, the soul, death, and eternity ; lest acquisitiveness and desire of possession should grow so strong as to pass over into avarice, leading us to hold what we have with a miser's grasp and covet more with a miser's greed ; lest, whilst we seem to ourselves to use the world, we should abuse it to purposes for which it was not intended by its Maker, which must be injurious, and may prove fatal to our own souls. We need that this caution be repeated and emphasized ; for no reflections upon the shortness and illusiveness of time will of themselves avail to correct the mournful tendency we find in ourselves to abuse the world instead of using it. Some men flatter themselves that time is long, and say, “ Soul, thou hast much good laid up for many years ; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” Others admit that it is short, and exclaim, “Let us eat and drink ; to-morrow we die.” In both cases, and under the sanction of arguments drawn from such opposite sources, the same end is reached ; sensual indulgence takes the place of a virtuous and religious use, and the lesson needs to be urged anew-"It remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it."
Perhaps we may best express the central truth of these words by quoting a preceding verse (24)" Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." The religious life does not consist in marriage or celibacy, in joy or sorrow, in wealth or poverty. It is compatible with any or with all of these, on this one condition, that we “ therein abide with God.” This will teach us to love without idolatry, to suffer without sullenness or discontent, to rejoice with a serene and temperate joy, to possess without covetousness, and use the world without abusing it. This is the grand catholicon which would preserve us from all danger, and make us in every condition safe, devout, and happy.
*Brethren, the season is shortened.” So the words of the apostle would be literally and precisely rendered. The season of privilege and opportunity draws fast to its close. Another year has almost gone. More and more brief are time and life. If this world be all your store, you must soon leave it, and bankrupt, beggared, and penniless enter the dark world beyond. All for which you have lived friends or possessions in the acquisition of which you rejoiced, in the loss of which you wept-must all, yea, ALL, be left behind. “You brought nothing into this world. It is certain that you can carry nothing out.” To you the rapid flight of time is a terrible truth, at which you do well to tremble. But if we have laid to heart, and reduced to practice, the lessons which these words teach, there is nothing appalling in the shortening of the season. Time as it glides away bears us onward to an eternal home, to the throne of that God and Father who has abode with us through all the vicissitudes of our mortal lives, and in whose " presence there are fulness of joys and pleasures for evermore.”
THE RELATIONS AND DUTIES OF THE CHURCH TO THE
BY REV. JAMES MURSELL.
ARE we mistaken, Christian friends, in ! pet plans to propound, po new and infalliour conviction that the subject we thus | ble modes of evangelical action to suggest. name, points to relations the reality of Our faith is firm and unshaken in the viwhich is too little recognised, and responsi. tality and power of the old and long-tried bilities the pressure of which is too slightly agencies of the Church, and we would far felt? We should, indeed, be loth to take rather see Christian energy and wisdom upon us the character of censors, or to find applied to the maintenance and increase of fault without cause. We have no belief in their efficiency, than to the provision of the sweeping and dolorous assertions we so substitutes for them. We do not believe frequently hear of the cold-heartedness and that piety is dwindling amongst us. We indifference of our churches ; and even if are assured that the spirit of love to the we did believe the assumed fact, we should Redeemer and consecration to his service, deem the utterance of peevish complaint, of fervent desire for the extension of his or of harsh rebuke, likely rather to aggra kingdom, and yearning anxiety for the res. vate than to remedy the mischief. There cue of perishing men, is not departed nor are persons often to be found in connection departing from our churches, but stirs and with Christian societies, who seem to mis thrills the souls of Christians now, with an take change for progress, and restlessness ardour not less intense than that which for activity;—who are apparently incapable burned within the breast of the holy men of appreciating the power of a zeal which
of former generations. But we are sure, is unattended with excitement, or the dear brethren, that you will not regard as beauty of results which come not with ob inconsistent with the cordial confidence we servation ;- who are fond of representing thus cherish and express, the reiteration of the time-honoured instrumentalities of the the conviction we have already declared, Church as decrepid and effete, and are that, as members of churches, we do but always ready with a hundred projects of inadequately realise the relations we suse their own, which cannot fail to accomplish tain, and the duties we owe, to those who the desired effect with vastly superior effi constitute the congregations assembling ciency, and would almost seem, according with us at our recurring seasons of sacred to the professions of their proposers, de worship. We must all be mournfully con signed to renew the age of miracles in the scious how frequently we need to be put in midst of our congregations. Such persons remembrance of our responsibilities to our are never satisfied but when they are Master and to those around us; and, while watching the movenients, and listening to we rejoice to know that many are pursuing the hum, of a spiritual machinery of their with unostentatious and successful diliown device and construction. The rejection gence tbe path of usefulness we would exi. of their schemes is to them a manifest token deavour to indicate, it does appear to us of the corruption of the Church, of its in- | that the majority of professing Christians difference to the cause of Christ and the
cause of Christ and the | far too greatly neglect it. The neglect salvation of souls. The Christian effort | arises, doubtless, in many instances, from which runs not in their chosen channels, lack of thought upon the matter; in others and acts not after their favourite fashions, from a sense of diffidence and inadequacy they are apt to regard as but the drowsy for the work. In either case we trust our discharge of customary exercises, lifeless in remarks will be found neither useless nor itself, and utterly ineffectual for the pro unacceptable. Those who are truly devoted auction of spiritual results. With these to the Saviour will be at all times prepare raven-voiced deplorers of the declension of to receive with gladness the admonition religious life and energy in our day, we hold | which reminds them of duties they may not the slightest sympathy. We have no ) have overlooked. Those who are mos
# Thte paper formed the Circular Letter of the Northamptonshire Association in the year lieving that its subject might with profit be brought under the notice of our churches at largo writer has ventured to offer it for publication to the Editor of “The Church,”
the year 1858. Be
les at large, the
anxious to do good will listen most thank- 1 the “ greater damnation" of having " trodfully to the hint which may help them to den underfoot the Son of God, and done fulál the desire of their heart.
despite to the Spirit of grace.” What, then, is the claim which we desire That these are no exaggerations of a to press upon you? What are the facts on gloomy fancy, but words of saddest and which it rests, and what the force of its soberest truth, none, we imagine, will deny. appeal? The facts are familiar and easily But does the consideration of these things stated ; so much so, indeed, that it is diffi affect us as it surely ought ? These facts
cult to present them in an aspect which form the basis of the appeals of the pulpit, E shall not seem common-place, or to invest ---are they recognised as addressing to each - them with the impressiveness which is due individual member of the Church an impe
to their intrinsic importance and solemnity. | rative summons to earnest personal exer[ And yet, to the Christian heart, the sin tion? We plead for these wanderers from
plest statement of such facts may well be God and heaven when we meet for the exexpected to prove the most impressive. It | ercise of social prayer, but are our hearts ought, surely, to suffice to thrill our souls moved while we pray with a pity in some with deep and intense emotion, and to humble measure akin to His, who wept over awaken us to earnest thought, and prayer, the city upon which his lips pronounced and effort, to recollect that, of those who the doom of desolation ? And when we compose our Sabbath assemblies, and fre “enter into our closet and shut our door quent our weekly meetings, the greater part about us," do we remember them then,are still far off from God, strangers to the do our souls “weep in secret places” over
Saviour and his dying love, “ aliens from their misery and danger, and do fervent - the commonwealth of Israel.” They come intercessions on their behalf mingle with
before God as his people come, and sit be- the petitions in which we spread our own fore him as his people sit; but they are not necessities before the Hearer of prayer ? aspiring after, or pressing towards, the rest May we not make our appeal more closely, which remaineth for the people of God.” | and, not daring to judge any man, but leava Their voices join to swell the song of praise, ing the question to be answered by conscience but, rising not from the altar of conse- as in the sight of God, ask of each profescrated hearts, the sacrifice they bring is but sing Christian-what have you done to save a “vain oblation” before Jehovah. Their these souls from death? What effort have bodies bend in the attitude of prayer, but you put forth to pluck one brand from the no spiritual desires ascend from the secret everlasting burning ? Has any one of these, shrine of their souls, into the ear of the as he hurried on, reckless of the destiny Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They which awaited him, felt your hand laid upon hear the story of the Cross, but their spirit's him in the kindly endeavour to arrest him melt not beneath its pathos, yield not to in his course; or heard your voice sound its moving overtures of compassion anding in his ear the anxious warning to "flee ove. With "an inheritance incorruptible, from the wrath to come," or the affectionindefiled, and that fadeth not away," held ate invitation to “behold the Lamb of God, orth for their acceptance, they remain which taketh away the sin of the world ” ; men of the world," content to “have Alas! brethren, while we are sure that all heir portion in this life.” While the path of us have reason to take to ourselves shame
o heaven is marked out by finger-posts so and confusion of face for our shortcomings -lear that “the wayfaring man, though al in this matter, we cannot divest ourselves ool, need not err therein,” they pursue, of the apprehension, that there are in our rith rapid and unfaltering footsteps, their churches members not a few, whom such reary pilgrimage to perdition. The privi. inquiries, faithfully applied, would convict eges and opportunities which attend them, 1 of an almost entire dereliction of duty ; lo but aggravate the awfulness of their who have scarcely dreamed of these things Jeril and their sin. The heathen who as forming part of their responsibility and berish without the knowledge of a Saviour's service to Christ; who would find it hard ame, go forth into eternity laden with a to call to mind a single occasion on which ghter guilt, and will assuredly incur a they have stepped aside from the path of more tolerable" doom, than those who every-day life, to make one earnest effort to ransmute by their impenitence the Gospel “turn a sinner from the error of his ways." f God's love from a gavour of life into a | But it is not only the utterly careless avour of death, and gather to themselves among the hearers of the Gospel who claim