Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

his exemplar P" And now he suggests, with a wit which no Jamaica audience could fail to understand, whether the white man had not been his chief teacher and pattern? Yea more, whether the white man had not been accustomed to employ the black man as the panderer to his own beastly appetites and passions ? And here he reaches the climax of his argument amidst enthusiastic cheers. “Who now," he asks, "are the beasts? Why, there are black beasts : yes ! but are not these white men--their teachers, and patterns, and masters—the worse beasts of the two.” Our black brother was the last ordained of our Calabar students.

It is a Sabbath morning; and, as the chapel-bell rings out the hour of prayer, we enter one of our Jamaica mountain chapels. A large congregation of black faces spreads out before us. The black pastor ascends the pulpit stairs. He lines out the hymns of praise, and reads the Scriptures, and leads our supplications at the throne of grace. Now he announces for his text the words of Balaam (Numb. xxiii. 10): “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." Having suitably introduced his subject, and shown in the first place who the righteous are, he proceeds to inquire, “What makes the death of such a man so desirable, that even a wicked man envies him P" Here is a verbatim extract of his sermon :-"The death of the righteous is desirable,” he says,

“Because he is safe at the hour of death. It matters not where he dies, whether on the road or on his bed; whether in some lonely wood, where there is not a single friend or individual to administer to him a cup of cold water to quench his thirst, or in his own house surrounded by kind friends and relations to attend to all his wants; whether he is in the wilds of Africa, among heathens and savages, or among Christian people to pray with and comfort him at that awful hour. Although he may lack all this, still his soul is safe. He makes God his trust; and none that trust in him will he leave desolate or cause to be ashamed. He says in his Word, that precious in his sight is the death of his saints. It makes no difference to the Christian when he dies. If he is taken away in the midst of his days he is only taken away from the evil to come; hence he is safe. Or if he lives to be grey-headed, ‘and shall come to his grave in full age, he will be like as a shock of corn that cometh in his season.' The righteous is safe whenever the Master cometh, whether in the first or second watch, at midnight, or at cock-crowing: for he is prepared. It makes no difference to the righteous as to what may be the cause of his death, whether he dies a natural death, or be slain by violent hands; whether he had a long and lingering sickness, or be hurried away by some national pestilence or calamity. Still he is safe! Hence those sublime sentiments of the apostle Paul : ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Why, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' Well then might Balaam say, 'Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.'

And, last of all, let us unite with one of our Africo-Jamaica brethren at the supper of the Lord. He is the pastor of the church. The men and women, joined in Christian fellowship, are gathered with quiet and seemly devotion around the table, while their own minister is presiding. We should have preferred seeing him, at such a service, without a pulpit gown. True, some of his white brethren may have set him the example; but to us it would appear to comport more with Christian simplicity to lay aside every distinctive badge in a service in which, if in any, all occupy one common level, and meet only as brethren and sisters in the Lord. But let that pass : probably our brother has never reflected upon the subject in this light: and we forget it. He begins a warm and animated address. He leads our thoughts to Calvary ; shows us Christ crucified evidently set forth crucified among us; and leaves upon our minds the impression that his heart is one with the Apostle, in the words, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Christ Jesus my Lord.”

We might mingle with our Jamaica native teachers and pastors in other

scenes at the waters of baptism with some fifty candidates, or at the meetings of the church under the superintendence of some native brother, or in the chamber of affliction where he is found pouring out his heart in prayer for the sick or the dying. But for the present, at least, we must forbear. In conclu. sion, let us say that Jamaica gives occasion for fervent gratitude and boundless hope. In the gifts and graces of its native teachers and pastors we see at once the reward of by-gone labours and the seed for a future and get more glorious harvest.

THE MARYS AT THE CROSS.

BY THE REV. W. LANDELS.

« Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”—John xix. 25. ONE evening, after visiting some of the finest ecclesiastical structures it has been our lot to behold,—structures in the adornment of which art and wealth had been employed in the most profusely lavish manner, -we entered a plain and unpretending church, in an Italian city. Behind its altar stood what was intended to be a representation of this scene.

The Mount Calvary, with the cross on its summit, and the three women by its side, appeared to have been first painted on canvas, and then the surrounding parts cut off, so as to make the picture stand out in relief against the dim light which, from a window in the roof, streamed down between it and the chancel wall. It was very rude, I suppose, considered as a work of art; but because it brought this scene vividly before the mind it excited deeper feeling than all the productions of genius we had previously witnessed. The light within the church, usually sombre, was rendered still more so by the deepening twilight without; and this, added to the stillness of the place and the hour, was favourable to reflection. One could scarcely fail to realise the scene. The mysterious darkness which attended the Saviour's death, was beginning to cover the earth. There was the cross with its victim, and the three Marys still lingering by its side, faithful and loving to the last. And though the manner of the officials, and of some of the ordinary worshippers, showed how little religious life is fostered by repeated appeals to the senses; to us strangers, for whom it had all the freshness and power of a first impression, and who were well acquainted with the evangelical narrative, it awakened thoughts and feelings which, for the time, were almost overwhelming.

Now we do not mention this as a plea for pictures. Our opinion of them is, that, though they may be of use for instructing and impressing children, they are not required for men who have, or ought to have, reached that stage of intelligence in which they can say, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child : but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Moreover, we think all such sensuous appeals, in addition to their becoming powerless through familiarity, are, even when most legitimately used, exceedingly liable to abuse. But while we do not plead for pictures, there is certainly advantage to be derived from the mental contemplation of some of those scenes which are brought before us so vividly in the words of inspiration; and the object of this reference is to show what power there is to move

ON.

the feelings in the scene which the text presents; and what advantages may be derived from our making it the subject of devout and prayerful meditation,

Most sincerely do we wish that we could place it before your mind's eye in a vivid and impressive manner; for to us it appears one of the most affecting in our Saviour's wonderful history. From the cradle to the cross there are many incidents in his life on which the pious mind loves to dwell, and on which it may dwell with propriety and profit; but there is not one, perhaps, which presents a more powerful (albeit painful) fascination than this. Whether we consider the attendant circumstances, or the relation of the parties, or the deep and strong emotions which are brought into exercise, or the reflections which are naturally awakened by the scene, there is not one which commends itself more powerfully to our meditations, and will better repay them, than that which is brought before us in the simple words of John, “ Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." Trusting that the subject may prove profitable, we request your attention to the position, the parties, and the lessons.

I. THE POSITION. * By the cross of Jesus !" There was at that moment no place in the universe of equal importance. Since the first world was made there had been no position in any world to compare with it; nor will there be until the last world is destroyed. None so great in its transactions, so sublime in its interest, so stupendous in its issues. The forces of hell were concentrated around that scene; the hosts of heaven hovered over it; yea, the eternal God was an actor there. Hell wrestled there with heaven, human passions were there brought into contact with infinite goodness. God challenged his creatures, if we may so speak, to meet him there; the unbelieving and disobedient to have their slander falsified and their disobedience condemned; the faithful to witness the most illustrious display of his perfections, and to be strengthened in their love to his person and loyalty to his throne. God summoned them to witness his conflict with evil, which had there reached its climax, that they might see, as it could not be seen elsewhere, the antagonism which existed between him and it, and his determination that it should be destroyed. On the issue of that conflict the eternal happiness of millions, the welfare of the universe, God's own character and glory, were staked. The universe watched it with eager interest. And there stood those women--in a scene on which the worlds looked in silent suspense, while the earth trembled and shook beneath the mighty struggle, and the heavens grew black with horror-where all eyes met-around which all forces were gathered-where the tide of battle swayed to and fro, until heaver triumphed in its apparent defeat, and hell was vanquished in its seeming victory.

“By the cross of Jesus !” Even the outward features of the scene were of the most extraordinary character. Nature was mysteriously affected, as if by some unparalleled event. The heavens were darkened, and the earth shook, as if with shuddering horror they gazed on the revolting spectacle. Never since the beginning of the world had there been such an upheaving and outburst of human wickedness. Never before had it assumed such dark colours, or raged with such ungovernable fury; for never had it been brought into such contact with immaculate goodness. And not only did it appear worse for the contrast, but its hatred was intensified by the very perfection which it would not copy, and by which, nevertheless, it felt itself condemned. It seemed as if God in that hour had left men to fill up the measure of their iniquities -as if he had removed all restraint in order that the universe might see how far sin would go; and as if men given over to a reprobate mind were resolved to try the uttermost of sin and to court the uttermost of suffering—as if, with the hardihood of infatuation, they disregarded all considerations of danger, and, though conscious that their procedure was both wrong and ruinous, had resolved to give full scope to their passions, no matter what awful retribution might follow their evil deeds. A populace excited by their leaders, madly clamouring for the death, and mocking the closing agonies of a victim who was the subject of long lines of prophecy, for the fulfilment of which their fathers had looked with fond anticipations, and in which they themselves professedly believed—a victim whose coming had been the hope of their nation for centuries; who verified all that the prophets foretold ; whom none of his accusers could convict of sin; who spake words of wisdom such as never man spake; who employed God-like power in working miracles of God-like benevo. lence such as never man had wrought; who had pleaded their cause, and healed their sick, and restored their dead to life,-a populace madly clamouring for the death and mocking the expiring agonies of such a victimthat was the spectacle which was witnessed by the cross of Jesus. It was a spectacle sufficient to fill the stoutest heart with trembling; for what fearful forebodings were not justified by the fact that God permitted, and that men were perpetrating, such wickedness. It was a spectacle on which men of the firmest nerve might have feared to look, and from which with good reason they might have shrunk back appalled. And yet so great was their fortitude-to such a pitch of noble daring had they risen, under the influence, no doubt, of some powerful feeling-that, in the midst of that scene," there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene."

“By the cross of Jesus !" Witnesses of his agony. They saw the thorny crown encircling his brow. They saw his face besmeared with spittle and blood. They saw the blood trickling down from his hands and feet. They saw his pale anguish-stricken countenance, his bloodshot eye, his agonised and distorted frame. They felt keenly the scorn with which his murderers assailed him. They saw it all; and they were more painfully affected by it than even his disciples would have been ; for woman's nature is more susceptible of sympathy than man's; and moreover they had given proof of a stronger attachment in standing by bis side when men had sought safety in flight. And yet, though they shared his agony—though they felt acutely every pang which rent his heartthough the sounds of mockery with which his adversaries assailed him were like swords in their bones—though in witnessing his agony, they endured the anguish of a thousand deaths in one, with a fortitude which nothing could shake, and a love which nothing could conquer, they “stood by the cross of Jesus.”

"By the cross of Jesus !" They were there almost alone. Three friends among a multitude of his enemies. Of all who followed him during his public ministry, with one exception, there are left to tend him in his death agony only three solitary women, who sympathise with, and share, if they cannot help him under, nor mitigate, his sufferings. These are all that remain to stem the torrent of hatred which has set in against him. In all that crowd no voice is raised in his defence, not a word is

uttered in his favour. In the city which but a few days ago welcomed him with hosannas, there is not one who now publicly avows himself his friend. Some more thoughtful than others, have their misgivings as to the issue, their convictions as to the impropriety, of this day's procedure. But it is the clamorous, not the thoughtful, who at such crises sway the crowd. The populace, instigated by their leaders, call loudly for his destruction. The only sounds which come up from the crowd, making themselves heard above the general hum, are shouts of execration and scorn. It is no light matter, at such a moment, publicly, though silently, to side with the victim. The wavering and timid dare not brave such opposition. His own disciples—with the exception alluded to-in unbelieving fear have forsaken him and fled; or they look on from afar, not daring to make themselves known. And to man's eternal disgrace, and to woman's everlasting honour, there stood by the cross of Jesus, besides the beloved disciple, only “his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene."

II. THE PARTIES. Although the statement just made as to the numbers of the parties present is at variance with the supposition of some commentators, it appears to us in strict accordance with the narrative. Other parties are mentioned in the other gospels, but it is not at the same point, nor are they said to have occupied the same position. Thus, in Matt. xxvii. 55, 56, we read, “ And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him : among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children." Mark (xv. 40) has a similar statement: “There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome.” Luke (xxiii. 49), without mentioning names, says: “And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.” In all these cases, however, the statement refers to a later period than that mentioned in the text. Our text describes the position of the Marys before the cry was uttered, “I thirst." The other evangelists describe the position of the women after the last cry has been uttered, and after the Saviour's death. Moreover, the position mentioned in the text is quite different from that of the other evangelists. There they stood by the cross; in the other they stood afar off beholding these things. And although the name of Mary Magdalene occurs in both instances, that is easily accounted for on the supposition that when John, after the Saviour's charge concerning his mother, took her to his own home, she left the cross along with them, and joined herself to the company of his friends who had assembled in the distance.

It is natural to inquire into the feelings which led these three to take & position more conspicuous and nearer to the Saviour than that of the other disciples—the feelings which kept them at the post of danger and duty, when others stood afar off, afraid to avow themselves—the reason of that strong attachment which stood the test under which others failed, which stood by him when, of his chosen twelve, one had denied, another betrayed, and the rest, except one, had forsaken him.

In the case of her of Magdala, we have not to suppose that there was any other than a purely spiritual affection. It was the love of a soul for its Saviour, the love of one who having received much loved much in return. She had been fearfully afflicted; seven devils had taken posses

VOL. III.-NEW SERIES.

« VorigeDoorgaan »