ORDER IS HEAVEN’S FIRST LAW A SERMON BY C. H. SPURGEON
“Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk everyone in his path.” — Joel 2:8 Those who have been able to observe the marching of an army of locusts, have been amazed beyond measure with the marvelous regularity of their advance. Solomon, who must surely have seen them, says, “The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands.” The wonder is, that creatures comparatively so insignificant in size, and so low down in the scale of intelligence, should maintain such more than martial order, both in their long flights and in their devouring marches. The ablest commanding officers would be at their wits’ end if ordered to marshal a multitude numbering even a thousandth, or perhaps a millionth part of the countless hordes of these destructive marauders; and yet by instinct, the locust soldiery can and do, keep rank better than the most veteran regiments of the line, as I can personally testify, from having seen miles of them in one of the Italian valleys. “They shall march every one on his ways,” says the prophet, and they shall not break their ranks; neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path.”
As I considered this remarkable fact in insect life, my meditations led me to note the order which reigns, not amongst locusts only, but throughout the whole of God’s world; and then I said within myself, after this fashion should there be order and arrangement in the Christian church. God has trained his great insect army, and among them order reigns; but this is no exception to the general rule, for all the hosts of God are marshaled in rank and file, and are never left to be a disorganized mob of forces. From the most minute to the most magnificent, all creatures feel the sway of order, and they well observe the laws imposed by their Creator.” “The very law that molds a tear, And bids it trickle from its source, That law preserves the earth a sphere, And guides the planets in their course.”
Look up lo the heavens, and observe the innumerable stars that glisten there so plenteously, that numeration fails. Looked at through the telescope, stars are so abundant that the heavens appear to be covered with dust of gold; and yet we have no record that one of these bodies has ever interfered with the orbit of its fellow sphere, or if such a catastrophe has ever been permitted, it has been part of the all-comprehending scheme. The majestic orbs move, each one in its own orbit, and all in perfect harmony. Even the aberrations, as we call them, are nothing but the result of regular law, and the astronomer finds that he can calculate them with the greatest possible accuracy. There are no irregularities, discords, or failures among the constellations; and if to the student of the heavens such should appear to be the case, he has but more fully to master the universal law, and he discovers with astonishment, that every eccentricity is a necessary incident in a system grander than he had thought. Mere tyros in astronomy talked of irregularities, but Newton and Kepler found a mathematical precision manifest in all. At no point need we be afraid that the universe will be thrown out of gear. If a man had placed innumerable wheels in a machine, there would be in due time a break down somewhere. Oil would be wanted here, a cog would be broken there, a band would be snapped in this place, or a piston would be immovable there; but God’s great machine of the universe, whose wheels are so high that the sublime Ezekiel, when he saw them, felt that they were terrible, has continued to revolve these many thousands, perhaps millions of years, and has never yet been stopped for cleaning or repair, because God has impressed upon every atom of it the most docile spirit of submission, and his powerful hand is at work every instant amidst the machinery giving force to his laws.
Nor is it so in the coarser inanimate forms of matter only, but the same law holds good with the whole animal creation. Not locusts alone, but the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, all observe their Maker’s bidding, and both live and move according to rule and order, all forming portions of the perfect circle struck out by the divine compasses. What a wonderful thing it is that mighty streams of fish should come during certain seasons from the North, and swarm near enough to our coasts to afford our fellow citizens so large a portion of their daily food! If there be complaining in our streets, there need not be, for extended fisheries would supply all the inhabitants of Britain, even if they were multiplied a hundred times; and yet there would be no perceptible diminution in the teeming population of the sea; for God has so arranged it that there shall be most of those kinds which are most required for food. But what a marvel that at the fixed period the unguided fish should migrate in such countless shoals, and should return again in due season to their old abodes among the Arctic waves! Mark, too, how every tribe of animals is needful to all the rest. So beautiful is the order of nature, that we cannot wantonly destroy a race of little birds without suffering from their removal. When the small birds were killed in France by the peasantry, who supposed that they ate the corn, the caterpillars came and devoured the crops. Man made a defect in an otherwise perfect circle, he took away one of the wheels which God had made, and the machine did not work perfectly; but let it alone, and no jars or grindings will occur, for all animals know their time and place, and fulfill the end of their being. You spoil the harmony of nature’s concert if even the sparrow’s chirrup is unheard. The stork and the crane fly at God’s bidding, the swallow and the marten know their pathway; the prowling beasts and rapacious birds, as well as the domestic cattle, all hold their own in nature’s arrangements. Like the bejeweled breastplate of the high priest, nature is full of gems, each one in its setting, and the glory is marred if one be wanting. Be assured that the wild ass and coney, leviathan and behemoth, eagle and dove, gnat and lizard, are all arranged for the highest good, and are beautiful in their season. “Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path.”
Rising a little higher, there is also order in the providence of God. When you view the great world of human history, it looks like a skein of thread much twisted and tangled. When you study it, you see nations rise and fall, like boiling waves of a foaming sea. You read of horrible wars, wantonly commenced and wickedly continued. The human race seems to have destroyed its sons without a motive. Men rush upon each other with all the fury of fiends, and tear each other like wolves, and yet they eat not that which they have killed. The history of mankind appears at first sight to argue the absence of God. We say, How is this? We expected to find, if God were in providence, something more orderly and regular than we see here. Instead of a grand volume from a master pen, we see words flung together without apparent connection. We expected to find a sublime poem, such as angels might love to read; but all this is confusion, void and unintelligible — strokes and dashes to us without meaning. Ay, my brethren, and so it is, but we are little children, and do not yet understand God’s hieroglyphics; we write in large text, and have not the cipher of the celestial shorthand. Our limited field of vision only lets us see a brick or two of the great house, and straightway we begin to criticize the infinite Architect and his work. After all, supposing this world to have existed six thousand years! What is that? In God’s sight it is but as a day, or as yesterday when it has passed: we see but one thread of history, a raveling of life, and then we vainly fancy that we can form a fair judgment of the tapestry curiously fashioned by the finger of the Lord.
If we shall be privileged to sit; down, in some age yet to come, and look at all God’s wondrous works, and see the end from the beginning, we shall lift up our hands in astonishment, as we perceive the perfect symmetry of providence, the consummate wisdom reflected in every event. The history of the world will astonish principalities and powers in the ages yet to come.
How apt we are to think that our own corner of human history is the major part, if not the whole! The prophets, not of Scripture, but of fancy, lately foretold that the world was coming to an end in 1866, and yet we have survived the fatal year, as perhaps we may yet; survive another such silly scare, and yet another. Our Lord comes quickly, but many thousands of years may come and go in the meantime. We should expect him constantly, but his promise will be well kept, even if he tarry till both saints and sinners cry out in weariness, “Where is the promise of his coming?” If the history of the world should have ended in 1866, it were hard to have seen its completeness; but if there are to be long centuries in which God shall gather in his elect, it is easier to understand the recompense of the Redeemer’s sufferings. If there are to be seasons of refreshing in which the called ones shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and the south, we can more readily perceive the grandeur of the cross, and its surroundings, and the magnitude of the great work which God laid upon Christ in redeeming “a number that no man can number.” The wicked have had the predominance up till now, and Satan has been triumphant; but what if this should only be the beginning of brighter days, and what if all the rest of history should continue to increase in light and brightness till the light of the sun shall be as the light of seven days! then may we begin to rejoice in the glory of history as it is written by the finger of God. But, let the era of the church militant be long & short — and we may not speculate, for we know nothing at all about it — we shall find in the consummation of it all, that none of the events of history did thrust another, but that they proceeded every one in his own path, all tending to one sublime result, namely, the glory of God.
Coming down from these great things to our own selves, depend upon it that all the events in our own little lives are marching straight on to a gracious consummation. You, child of God, sometimes say, “What can be the design of this cross? What can be meant by that bereavement? Why am I perplexed by this dilemma? Why is this difficulty piled like a barricade across my path? “Well, you know not now, but you shall know hereafter; meanwhile settle it firmly in your faith that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.” Your affliction does not jostle your prosperity, but promotes it.
Your losses do not cause your loss, they really increase your true riches.
Onward still, laden with untold blessings, every event is marching for the righteous and for the humble spirit. God has his way in the whirlwind, and the clouds are the dust of his feet: only be you patient, and wait upon him with childlike confidence, and the day shall come when you shall wonder and be astonished, that there should have been such order in your life when you thought it was all confusion, such love when you thought it unkindness, such gentleness when you thought it severity, such wisdom when you were wicked enough to impugn the rightness of your God.
Brethren, the events of our history march on as rightly as a victorious legion under a skillful leader. Do not let us arraign the wisdom of that which happens to us, or fancy that we could order our affairs in better style. Our good and ill, our joy and grief, all keep their places. “Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path.”
But we must rise a little higher. We have come from the world of matter to the world of living creatures, and up to the world of intellectual beings, and now let us think of God himself. We may say of all his attributes that neither doth one thrust another, but each one walketh in his path. Let us be careful at any time in thinking of God, that we indulge not in reflections upon one attribute to the forgetting of the rest. Many Christians are much soured in their disposition by considering God only in the light of sovereignty. Now, that he is a sovereign is a most great, deep, mysterious, but at the same time blessed truth, and we would defend divine sovereignty with all our might against all comers; but, at the same time, absolute sovereignty is not the only attribute of God, and those who keep their eye fixed upon that to the exclusion of all other qualities and prerogatives, get an ill-balanced idea of God, and very likely they fall into errors of doctrine, and, more likely still, they become hard-hearted towards their fellow men, and forget that the Lord hath no pleasure in the death of sinners, but had rather that they should turn unto him and live. On the other hand, many injure their minds very greatly by reflecting solely upon the one thought of God, that he is good. It is a blessed truth, that he is good, and benevolent, and full of compassion, and Holy Scripture tells us that the Lord is good to all, and that his tender mercies are over all his works. God forbid that we should seek to diminish the kindness of God, or think lightly of it, “for his mercy endureth for ever.” Yet some look at that one emerald ray as though it were the whole of the spectrum; they gaze upon one star, and think it the Pleiades, Orion and Arcturus, all in one; and, alas! worse results follow, for they are tempted to think sin to be a mere trifle, since they ignore the justice and sovereignty of God. God’s righteousness and vengeance they so exclude from their minds that when they hear of hell, and of the wrath that will come upon the impenitent, they shudder with in- ward unbelief, and try to doubt it, and perhaps, manage to find texts of Scripture which look as if they helped them in their perverted and jaundiced view of the Most High.
They think they are glorifying God, but they are really dishonoring him, for God is no more altogether mercy than he is altogether sovereignty, and he is no more altogether sovereignty than he is altogether mercy. The fact is, that every glory meets in God. All that is good, and excellent, and great, may be found in him in complete perfection. God would have thee so to think of him, for in the atonement, which is his grandest revelation of himself, he has been pleased to show thee “How grace and justice strangely join:
Piercing his Son with sharpest smart, To make the choicest blessings thine.” God is so merciful towards us in Christ Jesus, that his mercy shines full orbed; but, at the same time, in the sacrifice of Christ, God is so righteous that justice is uneclipsed. The various attributes do not darken, but illustrate each other; grace magnifies justice, and vengeance extols mercy; righteousness meets with peace, and love kisseth holiness. There is a blessed agreement in all the divine attributes, so that when you look at the cross, as Dr. Watts says, you cannot tell “Which of the letters best is writ, The power, the wisdom, or the grace.” Now, as God has fully revealed himself in Christ, let us think of him correctly, and not attach undue importance to any one attribute of God above the rest, seeing that “neither doth one thrust another; but each one walketh in its own path.”
This leads me on a step further, to observe that the same order is perceptible in the DOCTRINES of the WORD OFGOD. Doctrines which look as if they contradicted each other, are nevertheless fully agreed. It is the defect in our mental vision which makes separate truths appear to cross each other’s orbit, for it is certain that the truths of Scripture do not thrust each other, but each one goeth on in its own path.
Perhaps the fiercest of fights has been all the world over between the great fact that salvation is of grace, and the equally certain fact that man is responsible to God under the gospel, and that if he perishes, his ruin is at his own door, and is not to be charged upon God in any sense whatever.
This has been the arena in which intellectual gladiators have fought with each other from the very foundations of the world; and up till lately, no contest could be much more bitter than that between the Calvinist, who affirmed that salvation is all of grace, and the Arminian, who testified that damnation is the result of sin. If they had stood side by side with one another, and fought the common enemy, they would have done good service, for I believe in my soul that they both hold some truth, and that either of them will hold error unless he will yield something to his rival.
There are some who read the Bible and try to systematize it according to rigid logical creeds; but I dare not follow their method; and I feel content to let people say, “How inconsistent he is with himself!” the only thing that would grieve me would be inconsistency with the word of God. As far as I know this book, I have endeavored in my ministry to preach to you, not a part of the truth, but the whole counsel of God; but harmonize I cannot, nor am I anxious to do so. I am sure all truth is harmonious, and to my ear the harmony is clear enough, but I cannot give you a complete score of the music, or mark the harmonies on the gamut, I must leave the Chief Musician to do that. You have heard of the two travelers who met each other opposite the statue of Minerva, and one of them remarked — “What a glorious, golden shield Minerva has!” The other said “Nay, but it is bronze.” They argued with one another; they drew their swords; they slew each other, and as they fell, dying, they each looked up, and the one who said the shield was made of bronze discovered that it had a golden side to it, and the other, who was so bold in affirming that it was gold, found that it had a bronze side too. The shield was made of two different metals, and the combatants had not either of them seen both sides. It is just so with the truth of God, it is many sided and full of variety. Grand threefold lines run through it; it is one yet three, like the Godhead. Perhaps you and I have only seen two of the lines — many persons refuse to see more than one — and there may be a third yet to be discovered which will reconcile the apparently antagonistic two, when our eye shall be clarified by the baptism in the last river, and we shall ascend the hill of the Lord to read the truth of God in the light of the celestial city. However, it is clear that salvation is altogether of grace, and equally clear that if any man perishes it is not for want of invitations on God’s side, honest invitations to come to Christ. We hear our Master saying, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life.” We hear him bidding the laborer to come, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Some friends are so afraid of that text that they generally quote it “weary and heavy laden,” which is of the true reading; but the laboring ones are invited to Jesus. Such invitations did Christ give, and yet did he not also say, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him?” Amid the soft rain of tenderness we hear thundering overhead that truth, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” “Therefore, hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” As we listen to that thunder we bow to the sovereignty of God; yet amid the pauses we hear an angel voice sweetly saying, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,” and we hear the Master say, “Go into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” We cannot tell you how it is that the thunder chimes in with the fall of the grace-shower and the angel whisper, for we are dwelling down below; but if we could soar above, somewhere between the two, we should be able to discover the full clear harmony. Let us be content to believe both sets of truths, and not oppose ourselves to friends who hold either the one or the other, but seek to bring them to believe both; for as the Bible is true, they are both of them the truth of the living God, and neither need one thrust another, but each doctrine goeth on in its own path. Observation leads me to believe that those persons who are willing to hold the whole of revealed truth are generally Christians of a more active spirit, and more desirous for the conversion of souls than those who contract their minds, and will only hold some one or two great theological dogmas. If we will but lay aside our Chinese shoes, and allow our feet to grow as they should, we shall find it far better walking on the road to heaven, and we shall be more ready for any work which our Master may call us to do.
Such thoughts as these flitted across my mind on reading the text — God is a God of order everywhere, in himself, his creation, his providence, and his word.
Now we turn to the second holy and practical lesson, namely, AsTO THE CHRISTIANLIFE.
Dear friends, you and I who have entered into the kingdom of grace, and have received a life which the worldling cannot understand (for the carnal mind knoweth nothing of the spiritual life) must remember that our thoughts, graces, and actions, ought all to keep their proper position, so that it may be said of them, “Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk everyone in his path.”
As to our thoughts, we ought to endeavor, as God shall teach us by his Spirit, to keep our thoughts of God’s word in their due harmony. Some brethren, for instance, are altogether doctrinal in their inclinings. Doctrinal study is admirable; may God send us much of it! Yet doctrine is not all that we are taught in the sacred word; there are duties and promises also. Why despise these? Then, again, other professors of religion are altogether of a practical turn; and, while they value James, they depreciate Paul. They do not like an expository sermon; they cannot endure it; but if you give them a precept, they rejoice greatly. They are quite right as far as they go. The Lord send us much more practical Christianity! But then this is not all.
There are others who are altogether experimental, and some of these will hear .no sermon except it treat upon the corruption of the human heart, or upon the dark frames of the child of God: others will have no experience but the bright side, you must always preach to them out of the Canticles, inditing the good matter concerning the sweet love of Christ towards his spouse. Now, each of these forms of preaching is good in its season, but he who would keep close to the Scriptures, and preserve completeness in his thoughts, must weigh well the doctrines, and seek to get a clear view of the covenant of grace, and the economy of salvation; he musk study the precepts, and ask the Holy Spirit to give the fleshy heart, upon which those precepts may be written as upon living tablets; and then he must watch his experience, mourning over inbred sin, but rejoicing also in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, through whose blood we have the victory. We must endeavor as much as possible to exercise our thoughts upon all the subjects which God has given us to think upon in his word, and applied to our hearts by the workings of the Holy Spirit. Where this is done we shall avoid one thought thrusting another, and each will go in its own path. I have heard of doctrinal preachers who hated the very sound of the word, “duty;” I have also heard the practical brother declare that “election” he detested; while the experimental brother has affirmed that the doctrinal preacher was merely “a dead letter man,” and so on. Oh, naughty words for God’s children to use to one another! Bitter sentences which they only use because they know so little. If they had gone to school, and learned out of all books instead of sitting at home to play with their favorite toy, the one would have confessed, “How much my excellent brother excels me in doctrinal information!” and the doctrinal brother would have said, “How much more forcibly my dear brother James can inculcate practice than I can!” While the third would have said, “How experimental our dear friend is! What a master he must be of the science of the human heart! I can sit at his feel and delightedly learn, from his teaching.” Shame upon us that we say, “I am of Paul,” and “I am of Apollos,” and “I am of Cephas,” for all these are ours to profit by if we are Christ’s. Learn from the doctrinal, learn from the practical, learn from the experimental. Blend the whole together, and let not one thrust another, but allow each to go straight on in its path. The same should hold good in the graces which we cultivate. The Lord Jesus Christ is pleased to put, by his Holy Spirit, into the hearts of those whom he has saved, certain lovely and precious things, but it is not always easy to get these in due harmony. For instance, I know a brother who is very faithful; he does not mind telling you of your faults, but then, he is not affectionate in spirit, and so he never warns. you of your infirmities in a way that does you good. Now, if that brother could get affection to balance his fidelity, what an admirable man he would make! I remember well another brother who was all affection, and nothing else. He was so affectionate as to be effeminate, and I poor rough creature as I am, could never bear the sight of him. He always reminded me of a pot of treacle, and his office appeared to be the anointing of everybody he met. If he could but have mixed a little fidelity with his sweetness, he would have been a much better and stronger man. Secker says, that Christianity ought first to make “a man more of a man, and then more than a man;” and so it would if we sought, by the power of the Spirit, to cultivate all the graces. The beauty of the human countenance does not consist exclusively in having a bright eye; no, the fine eye helps, but all the other features of the face must balance it.
A man may have the finest possible forehead, and yet he may be extremely ugly because his other features are out of proportion; so it is with character, character must have all the graces, and all the graces in harmony.
Take, for instance, the virtue of meekness, it is a lovely thing to be of a meek and quiet spirit, but then, my brethren, how could reforms ever be wrought if everybody were so meek that they could not speak out against error? Where would you find your Luthers and your Calvins? Meekness must be balanced by the virtue which is its compensating quality, namely, courage. Affection must be strengthened by fidelity. A man must be patient under affliction, but he is not to be so patient as to be idle; he must couple energy with his patience, in order to manifest a practical faith. When we have each of these, so that neither doth one thrust another, but each one goeth on in his path, we shall be what Paul calls “perfect.” Then shall we have come to be “entire, wanting nothing,” having reached the “measure of the stature of men in Christ.” Christian men should be men-Christians. If your child should have a rapid growth in its arms, but not in its legs, or if its legs should lengthen, but not its arms, what a strange being it would be!
What a monster! It is the growth of each limb in proportion that brings the man to perfection. So, my brethren, when our heads grow faster than our hearts, it is an ill sign; yet how many know a great deal more than they feel, and criticize much more than they believe! It is also an evil thing when a man’s tongue grows bigger than his head; when he has more to say than he knows or does; when, like Mr. Talkative, he can talk about the road to heaven, but makes no progress in it. God give you an abundance of his Holy Spirit, that you may never deserve our Lord’s rebuke to the Pharisee, “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone,” but “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” May you have them all. The same proportions, and balancings should be found in our Christian duties. This is too large and difficult a subject to go fully into now, but we will have a word or two about it. A man is not in his outward action a complete Christian because he is attentive to one duty, for God would have his people attend to all. It will sometimes be a question with you as to how much time should be given to private devotion, how much to family worship, and how much to church-worship; and you may easily make great mistakes here. I recollect a brother, a very excellent man too, who was always at prayer-meetings and public services; but unfortunately, being always away from home, his family was so neglected that the sons grew up one after another to be the most precocious specimens of depravity that the parish could exhibit. We thought, and we hinted as much to our brother, that if he could be at home sometimes to teach the children, whose mother was as neglectful of them as the father was — and so the mischief became doubled — he would be infinitely more in the path of duty than in running after public services to the neglect of family piety; I only wish he had been able to see the propriety of our advice, for he has had to smart for his folly.
It is not often that a man’s private devotions obtrude in this way, but I knew one professor who used to spend so long a period in private prayer, that he neglected his business, and also the assembling of himself with God’s people; it was, indeed, an unusual vice, but it came to be quite a sin in his case. This last is a very unusual fault, and one that I could almost excuse, because it is so unusual; but I recommend far more strongly the careful thinking of how much time is due to God in the closet, how much at the family altar, how much at the prayer-meeting, and how much to the week-night services, for we must give to each according to its due proportion.
Again, the difficulty will often occur to you, my brethren, as to how much is due to diligence in business and how much to fervency in spirit. No one can draw the line for another. Each one must judge for himself, but this must be the law: “Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path.” There may be a season in which you may lawfully give all the hour’s of the day to business. Your business may require it, and there are junctures with commercial men when to go to week-day services would be almost insanity; they must keep to their work, or else there will come a failure; and then the name of Christ will be evil spoken of. There will be times, too, with the working-man when, if he were to insist upon coming to the Monday evening prayer-meeting, or to the Thursday night lecture, he would be altogether out of the path of duty; there is a demand for labor just at some particular time, and he must obey the call, and he is in the path of duty in so doing. I am afraid that there are not many who fail in that way, but crowds who err in the opposite direction. Some will keep the shop open so late that there is no time for family-prayer; and others will confine their servants so strict]y, that they can never get out on the weeknights to hear a sermon. It does not strike the employer’s mind that some of the young people would perhaps like to be at the prayer-meeting on Monday night, nor will the employer be there himself. Some employers so grasp at the world with both hands, that they cannot go to this service nor that; and thus God’s service is left uncured for by professing men who, if they were not false to their profession, would give much more of their time, and of their ability, to the promotion of God’s cause. Now I cannot say to you, you must give so much time to God, and so much to business; you yourselves must ask God the Holy Spirit to guide you; but recollect, you must not let one thrust another. It is a good saying of an old divine, “Never bring to God one duty stained with the blood of another.” As much as lieth in you, give to each distinct relationship its proportion.
There is a greater difficulty still with regard to the arrangement of distinct duties, when they are likely to run counter to one another. Here is a servant. His master expects him, after he has entered into an engagement with him, to do such-and-such unnecessary work on the Sabbath. The young man says “No, I cannot do that; it is clearly unscriptural, and I must obey God rather than man.” But there are certain things which come somewhere between the necessary and the unnecessary, and the servant may properly enquire, “What is my duty?” You must settle it carefully within your own mind.
Have you any sordid or selfish motive for deciding in any particular way? If so, be very cautious how you so decide; but seek the Lord’s glory and the Lord’s glory alone, and say, “While I am as a servant to serve man, yet I am the Lord’s free man, and I must walk both as a servant and the Lord’s free man, and not forget either.” Sometimes the matter of the conduct of children towards parents has come under our notice. A harsh parent has said, “My children shall not carry out their religious convictions.” In such cases we have had occasionally to recommend the child to wait until he has grown a little older; at other times we have bidden the child break through the parent’s evil command, since we cannot hold that the parent can have any right to make his child disobey God. In the matter of the child’s religion, when it is able to judge for itself, it is as free as its parent, and has a right to choose for itself; and while the parent should seek intelligently to guide it, coercion must never be tried. If the parent be ungodly, the child is free from all obedience to wicked commands; and must act then in obedience to a higher parent and to a greater law, namely the law of God.
The like happens, at times, with regard to the husband and the wife.
OF course, a good wife continually wishes to do that which will please her husband, and she is happy to be subservient to him as far as may be; but when it comes to a point of conscience, and the two relations clash, the relations of the heavenly Bridegroom and the earthly husband, it is not always easy to decide upon a fitting course of action; but we may at least, be certain that we must not be actuated by selfishness, nor by a desire to avoid persecution, nor to please men; but we must stand on the side of honesty to God, fealty to the King of kings, and a regard for the truth as it is in Jesus. Do try if it be possible, and I believe it is possible, in every case to harmonize all your relationships, so that neither one of them shall thrust another, but each shall walk in its own path.
So, brethren, my last concluding remark shall be, that if this is to be true in the little commonwealth of the heart and the home, it ought also be true of the church at large.
Pray note this, you church members — It is a great blessing when the members of the church do not thrust one another, but every one goeth in his own path. There are different orders of workers, and these must cooperate. Alas! workers in a Sabbath school do not always agree with one another. Then, workers in Sabbath schools are not always so fond, perhaps, of workers in ragged schools as they might be, and perhaps the workers in ragged schools may sometimes look down with coldness upon the distributors of tracts. It should never be so. We are like the different members of the body, and the eye must not say to the foot, “I have no need of thee,” neither must the hand say to the ear, “I have no need of thee.” Every man must work according to the gift of the Holy Spirit which dwells in him after the divine will. When a man steps out of his proper office into another, he makes a great mistake, both for himself and for the church at large; and when one brother envies another, and picks holes in his coat, and finds fault with his service, he needs to hear the Master’s word “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.” I pray all the bands of workers to maintain a holy unanimity, being of one accord, minding the same thing, provoking one another to nothing but love and good works, striving for nothing except that they together promote the glory of the Lord Jesus.
And so as it is true in any one church with regard to the laborers, so it should be also with regard to the different ranks and classes of Christians.
The rich should never say, “We do not want so many poor in the church,” neither should the poor man say, “Our minister favors the wealthy; there is more thought of the rich than there is of the poor.” There is just as much fault on the one side as there is on the other, in these things. While we sometimes find the purse-proud man looking down on the poor, it quite as often happens that the poor man takes umbrage where there is no need for it, and is much more wicked in his jealousies than the other in his pursepride.
Let it never be so among Christians, but let the brother of high degree rejoice that he is exalted, and the rich that he is brought low. We want both, and cannot do without either, and having both in the church, neither should one thrust another, but each should go in his own path.
So with the educated and the uneducated. I have been saddened oftentimes when I have heard a sneer against a brother who cannot speak grammatically. The brother who can speak grammatically, perhaps, does not try to speak at all; and yet he sneers at the other, and says, “Well, really I wonder that such fellows should preach; what is the good of them?”
Now, now, until you have done better than he, do not find fault with him.
God uses him, surely you ought not to despise him! The fact is, brethren, that the learned and educated minister is necessary and useful; we have no right to sneer at those who have gone through a college course and earned a high degree of learning, for they are useful; but, on the other hand, who among us hears of such men as Richard Weaver and Mr. Carter, and others laboring amongst the poor, and dares to despise them? If I might have my choice I should prefer to work with them rather than with the fine-spun gentlemen; but still, every man in his own order, each man after his own fashion; let the one take his position and the other take his position, and never say a jealous or an angry word of each other, neither let one thrust another, but each one go straight on in his own path.
So it ought to be with all our churches. In this great city of London there is no excuse for anything like jealousy amongst the various Christian churches. If we were to build as many places of worship as would reach, set side by side, from here to London-bridge, on both sides of the road, and without a single house or shop in all the distance, and if we were to put gospel preachers into them all, I believe they could all be filled without any of them being a hindrance to another, for the mass of three millions and more in this city is so perfectly enormous that there is no chance at all of our being jostled by one another. We are like fishermen in the deep sea; because there are a hundred boats they need not any of them come off the worse. If there were fifty thousand boats they could all be full where the fish are so abundant. Do not you say, “I hear Mr. So-and-So, and what a dear man he is?” Very likely he is, but so is somebody else. It would be a great pity if everybody could hear only one man. It would be a very sad thing if everybody wanted to come to the Tabernacle, for we cannot make it any bigger than it is; and it would be a very wretched thing if everybody wanted to go somewhere else, for then we should have an empty house; but now, each one listening according as his own spiritual taste may guide him, or as his spiritual appetite may dictate to him, we are formed into different communities, which prosper individually, but which would glorify God much more if all disunion were cast aside, and if we sought each other’s good, and profit, and edification. And so, to conclude, it ought to be with the different denominations. I sometimes think that these will continue for ever. They are of no hurt to the church of God, but a great blessing; for some of them take up one point of truth which is neglected, and others take up another; and so, between them all, the whole of truth is brought out: and it seems to me that the church is even more one than if all the various sections were brought together into one grand ecclesiastical corporation; for this would, probably, feed some ambitious person’s vanity, and raise up another dynasty of priestcraft, like the old Babylon of Rome. Perhaps it is quite as well as it is; but let each body of Christians keep to its own work and not sneer at the work of others. Let each one feel, “Now we have this to do, and we will do it in the name of God.” Let each body of Christians try to correct its neighbor in its errors and mistakes, but let each work hand in hand, and stand foot to foot in the common battle and the common service; for, O my brethren, the time will come when our little narrow jealousies will all melt away like the hoar frost when the sun arises. When the King shall come in his glory, or we are carried to the other side of the stream of death, and see beyond the curtain which parts us from the invisible world, we shall look with very different eyes upon some things which seem so important now. We shall then see that God has forbidden us to glory in anything but the cross of Christ, and that the one thing needful, after all, to contend for was, “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Now, may the Lord help us to go straight on in our paths, not one thrusting another, but all working together for God. And if there be any among us who are not converted, let me remind them that they are out of order, and let me tell them what comes of that. When a man sets himself in opposition to God’s laws, they crush him as sure as he is there. Throw yourself from the monument, and gravitation will not be suspended to save you. Even so, if you are out of order with God, there is no help for it, but your destruction is certain, if you remain opposed. O that you may be led by divine grace to get into order with God; to be reconciled unto God by the death of his Son. He tells you the way to get into order. It is this — simply trust Jesus. That is the way to rectify all errors. He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be saved. May God bless us with that salvation, for his name’s sake, Amen.
THE AGGRESIVE WORK OF THE PASTORS’ COLLEGE BY EDWARD LEACH AS a listener to the earnest and hearty short speeches addressed to some of the supporters of the Pastors’ College, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, last march, we were greatly struck by the fact, illustrated and amplified as it was in varied forms, that the institution was almost entirely of an aggressive character. To those who are best acquainted with its working, its power and success, this may appear but a trite reflection. To others who, like ourselves, have watched, as spectators, not uninterested we trust, its marvelous career, the fact comes with an acceptance second only to that felt by those who have been closely allied to its welfare and most prayerful for its success. With not a few, we fear, this distinctive character of the College is not sufficiently well understood; while some good brethren, whom from our soul we honor and love, misapprehend it altogether.
Presidents and tutors have more difficulty to meet the objections of such dissidents, than to justify the existence of an institution, the fruits of which testify most to the wisdom of its origination. An outsider may best write in defense of a movement. He may not be in possession of all the information which has filtered through the official mind; he may not be so enthusiastic as its promoters; but at least he is capable of judging from a point of view not so easily taken by the official, and he may be more dispassionate. Not that we propose to take up the cudgels in defense of an institution which courts no other defense than that supplied by its own acts. If its works speak not well for it, no other praise is needed. Let it fall, “why cubereth it the ground?” But it is right and just that the character of its work should be known. The heavy-laden fruit-tree hides not its head. It fears no light from above, no scrutiny from beneath. The College has borne fruit of which it need not be ashamed. Under a hardy clime, it has grown until the smiles of heaven and the fructifying dews of divine grace have brought it unto a fair stature. It has blossomed; it will do so again. Winds may blow — they have blown — but, well-grounded and firm, it will strike down its roots into the soil, and be stronger yet. It may not be perfect; its symmetry may be complained of; its boughs may sometimes be crooked; its leaves worse than green; its bark may be rough; its branches unequal in strength and length. But if it bear fruit it shall prosper, and the husbandman shall rejoice.
It may not live for ever; but its fruits will. It may not be immortal; but it will be immortal till its predestined work has been done. In the year of grace 1969, its machinery may appear out of date — we hope it will; but the machinery is needed now, and, the prophet of Crown-court notwithstanding, may work well for some years to come. Its appliances were not devised for another generation, but for the present. We all work for today, and sufficient for the day is the work that is earnestly and faithfully executed with eyes open and minds free. The appliances are for today; the muscles, sinews, brains, are for immediate exercise — the results shall be for eternity.
Of the majority of the students, it may be said, they have formed for themselves their own spheres of labor and influence. It is on this point, especially with reference to our villages, that we wish to dwell. In ordinary life, the man who carves his own fortune is regarded as little else than a hero. Every petty tradesman that has worked his way up to a suburban villa and a footman, is held to be a genius of no common order. We all honor if not the rising, yet the risen, man. It is no disgrace to genius that it has striven in the face of almost insuperable difficulties, and by the strength of an unconquerable perseverance has vanquished them all. There is no reason why the honor due to a young preacher who struggles might and main to plan and prepare his own field of usefulness should not be cheerfully paid him. The work is heroic. The difficulties are disheartening. The disappointments are heart-breaking. By so much the more then are the courage, faith, patience, and perseverance praiseworthy. If the College deserved kindly cooperation on no other ground, it should obtain it on this — that it does seek, and has so far succeeded, to train up a race of heroes for God’s service. These men are not allured by prospects of large salaries.
They do not enter College with the expectancy of occupying at some future time distinguished posts of Christian usefulness. They are not animated by any morbid love of popularity. It is well-nigh a matter of certainty that in business they might succeed better in obtaining riches. Nor are they encouraged in the College to expect high emoluments when out of it. We have known some of these brethren sufficiently well to have observed that, come weal or woe, they have surrendered their prospects, and their earthly future to the cause of God. We believe Mr. Spurgeon can corroborate our testimony that they have been more anxious to be in the right sphere than in the best sphere; more ambitious of serving God where he designs them to labor than where they would like to work; and that be the field small and the position unenviable, or untried, or apparently hopeless, it should nevertheless be tried, and never relinquished until failure is written indelibly on the attempt.
Few of our readers can understand the difficulties of a young village minister in starting a new effort. He goes down to a village, hitherto untried by, say, that portion of the Baptist denomination which aims to be aggressive. A room is hired. Three persons dissatisfied perhaps with the high sentiments and low practices of “Rehoboth” chapel are his only supporters. The unodorous traditions of the unpeaceful clique that has given the public such unpleasant notions of what Baptists are, are dead against him. The Congregational minister looks shy upon his impertinence in poaching near his manor. The high minister comes down low enough to preach against “the boy’s” Arminianism, charges the young people who wish to hear him with having “itching ears,” though he probably has imparted the disease by his incapacity to understand the young. The student is called one of Spurgeon’s cubs.” The curate condescends to stare at him. The parish clerk frowns; the charity boys laugh; the old women dependants on sick funds wonder at his impudence. He preaches in a lecture-hall; and he is animal to “do the grand.” He takes to the open air; and he is vulgar. He visits the people at their homes; and he is said to be proselyting. He converses with them in the streets, and he is aiming after show. He takes up special topics for special services; and he is sensational.
He preaches comforting sermons in the morning to Christians, and he goes “beyond his depth.” He seeks to arouse the sinner in the evening, and he goes beyond the Bible and the five points, and consequently the whole five are maliciously turned against him. He preaches simple elementary sermons to people who need instruction; he is devoid of thought, is always harping on one string, is unprofitable and stale. He urges Christians to practical duty, and complaints arise that he doesn’t “feed” enough — as if the sole purpose of religious instruction were to make religious gluttons, fattening on “comfort,” until they become like Jeshurun, so fat that they kick remorselessly. To add to his bewilderment, he is favored with the scum of other churches of all kinds; men who, finding their level among better Christians, sink into a distasteful obscurity; men who, ever aspiring after some petty authority, will forego convictions for honors; men who believe they were predestined to the diaconate, and who, if not believers in the “perseverance of the saints,” are firm upholders of the doctrine of the perseverance of the ambitious. Some of these new-comers are Arminians, and happily they soon get offended with the young preacher’s Calvinism; some are very “high,” and these fly away to more seasoned food; some are intellectual, and an illustration makes them dyspeptic; others are too latitudinarian, and cannot find sufficient chaff to feed their empty souls.
Thus, no sooner has the congregation been got together than the operation of weeding begins, and the process seems unending. The lecture-room is not so well filled. A few who cannot worship at all unless they worship respectably, are disappointed at the small numbers who are left. No one of position has come to hold the helm. The principal man is a butcher, and he has only just emerged from a journeyman into a tradesman in a poor way, with a small wife and a large family. Another — a veritable village gossip, with nothing to do and a superabundance of time to do it in — objects to the preacher’s notes, or else want of notes, dislikes his method and his reception of criticism; fancies he can preach better himself, and so carries off a few relatives, dependents and children, and commences very independent services on his own account, where he can sing and bawl, and rant and rave, to his own delight and other people’s wonderment.
The young minister has now, at least, this satisfaction: the sediment, earthy and gross, has fallen to its natural condition — the bottom; and the glass of the future is clearer. A few earnest souls are one in heart with him. They are not numerous; they are but poor; but they have “a mind to work,” and a heart that is capable of generous impulses. It is true that their capacity is extremely limited, and their experience in encountering difficulties small.
Authority may in time make them autocrats, unless the minister be sufficiently prudent and foreseeing to exercise his discriminative judgment.
They have much to make them dispirited — the weak become cold, but the strong remain and grow more earnest. Strangers are brought in, and good is done. Perhaps the preacher may wait, with an anxious heart and an aching head, for months ere a conversion is known. We remember one case of an esteemed friend whom God has blessed to the salvation of many souls, who labored for six months without hearing of any conversions.
Then came the tide of divine favor; the set time to encourage, commenced and continued for four years, and is not concluded yet. Conversions do come when watched for with tears and looked for with faith. A small church is formed. A small salary is given. Bread and water are sure; but little else. Then the feeble folk begin to talk of building; without the slightest prospect of success, they pray for it. Oh, the agonizing prayers that have been offered in quiet villages for a few pounds wherewith to commence the erection of an inexpensive house for God! Oh, the contumely, bitter and plausible, heaped upon those earnest hearts, who believe God can be moved, and that he who possesses the silver and gold can give it to his cause, obscure and unknown though it be! Collectors canvass the congregation, and seek contributions from the composite “powers that be,” who hold the village in their supremacy. They are rebuffed where they anticipated pounds; they are rewarded with silver where they looked for gold. For months the task seems hopeless; they draw near to the gates of despair. “Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saves them out of their distresses.” The righteous see their faith, their courage, and their enthusiasm, and rejoicing over the work their Master has given his people to do, they help to turn “the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.” Man’s extremity becomes God’s opportunity. Some generous friend sends a cheque which would be small in amount were the exigencies like those of a large effort, but which is a substantial sum in a little cause with which to commence operations. This gift necessarily stimulates others. The President of the College has his eye upon the movement, and in the “nick of time,” when additional help is absolutely needed, promises a stun which sends the fire of enthusiasm into the ranks, and is like a reviving cordial to the faint-hearted.
The foundation-stone is laid; the edifice reared. Its progress is daily and lovingly watched, as if it were to be a cathedral of massive proportions and delicate prettinesses, instead of a plain, substantial, inelegant structure. And ere the day of opening arrives, pastor and people spend restless nights of feverish excitement, with joy looking for the dawning morn when the as yet unfinished doors shall be opened for the friends and neighbors to hear some of those choice sermons one hears about in our peregrinations with which our friend, Mr. J. A. Spurgeon favors these interesting gatherings.
The building opened, part filled, church increasing, earnest preaching, fervent praying — but still a debt, very heavy to the feeble folk, and a badly paid ministry, the stinted remuneration barely covering mere necessaries.
The preacher perhaps is unmarried. He hears the glowing eloquence of married people, who move his very heart by the fervid strains in which they speak of matrimony. He makes pitiful contrasts between his cheerless home and the snug dwelling where love and sunshine are supposed perpetually to bless and to cheer. Some high-souled female, of heroic temperament, though not of exalted expectations, of suitable taste and genius, hovers around his vision, and surreptitiously gains an entrance into his heart. Byand- by, the Rev. Mr. Titus, assisted by the Rev. Mr. Timothy, conducts a ceremony that links the fortunes of poor minister and high-souled female indissolubly together. What is regarded as the inevitable blessings — though they are not always inevitable — come as intruders into the charmed circle, and add, if to the joys, yet to the expenses of life. For some years the pastor labors amidst the usual discouragements and vexations of early ministerial life, determined to succeed if success be possible, often pinched, often shunned, yet presenting a cheerful countenance, and never breathing a word to head-quarters about his difficulties. We once heard a tale of despondency that was confided to our ear with the strict injunction that not a word was to be breathed to the “governor” — a sobriquet by which Mr. Spurgeon was never christened, save by these Baptist followers who should be truer to their traditions. Indomitable energy and perseverance seem pre-eminently to characterize these young brethren.
They defy the rules of logic and propriety in their estimate of duty. They have inverted the order which prudence has enjoined. Thus one young brother writes of those among whom he is settled: — “They shun Baptists as they would a viper; therefore, there is great need that we should have a Baptist cause here.” Why, such a resolution deserves, if anything can, a successful issue. Such heroism, in obedience to an inner impulse, if it permeate the whole character, must make the word “failure” so to tingle in the ear that, brave and self-denying, the whole soul will be poured out in living flame of enthusiasm upon the altar of divine service.
Two speeches delivered by two earnest brethren, Mr. C. Williams, of Southampton, at the British and Irish Home Mission meeting, and Dr. Landels, at the Exeter Hall gathering of the Foreign Missions, ought to be printed and circulated together, with such applications and comments as a judicious writer might append. The one speaker showed how fearfully we have neglected the villages. He pointed out how Dissent unquestionably prospered in towns, and how villages retrograded. He argued with much force and judgment that if it was desirable that healthful life-giving streams should be turned into the large towns, the salt must be cast in at the source of those streams, the villages, and then most probably an improved religious life would be found in the great cities and towns. The other speech, brilliant and manly, urged in eloquent words the need of more selfdenial and heroism in the propagation of the gospel in foreign climes. But truth to tell, England also wants enthusiasm, not only in foreign missions, but also in home labors. If the spirit of Dr. Landels’ thrilling speech could but possess British Christians at home, evangelistic work would not cut so ridiculous a figure. The obstructive prudence to which Dr. Landels referred in such caustic terms, sits like a nightmare upon all aggressive work. These young brethren, who have eschewed all cold calculation, and armed with the panoply of divine truth, have sought to fight their way through hindrances and impediments that have damped the ardor of better, more cultured, but not more fervent men, demand, and deserve the smile of approval they need in the prosecution of their noble enterprise. We honor the men who, subsisting on scanty and humble fare, battling with adversity, and living down prejudice, are seeking to the best of their ability to plant new churches in apparently unhopeful districts. With the accent of conviction on their lips, the truth of God in their hearts, and undying perseverance leading them on, they must succeed in breaking the dreary monotony of a sinful village life. Their preaching may not please the highly cultured; their methods of working may not suit this decorous age; their unambitious lives may fall flat upon the feverish world; but their faithfulness to God, and persistency in his service, shall be rewarded with the divine “Well done, good and faithful.” We know no greater heroes than these sufferers of contumely and hatred, who so gloriously bear up and strike dismay into the enemy’s camp. Their imperfections are not worthy to be weighed with their virtues. If England is to be evangelized, it must be by such men. Fit them, train them to as great a degree of perfection as mortal man can bear — no standard is too high for God’s ministers but let not culture destroy Christian simplicity (it does not in the truly great); let not learning quench earnestness and enthusiasm; let not supercilious affectation snub them, or selfishness despise them. A future generation may be proud of men who today are but lightly esteemed. Our hope is that the College will turn out many more such men; for our conviction is that as soon as it, as well as similar institutions, ceases to be aggressive, its days will be numbered.
DISTANCE LENDS ENCHANTMENT ON the island of Ledo, within hail of Venice, one hears on the Sabbath a very heaven of music floating over the lagoon from the church bells of “that glorious city in the sea.” The atmosphere seems to ripple with silver waves akin to those which twinkle on the sea of glass before you. A mazy dance of sweet clear sounds bewilders you with delight; it is a mosaic of music, or, if you will, a lacework of melody. One would not wish to lose a note, or hush the glorious clangor of a single bell. How changed it all is when the gondolier’s fleet our has brought you close under the campaniles, when you are gliding smoothly along those marvelous streets, where “the salt seaweed clings to the marble of the palaces,” then the booming of the bells, incessant, impetuous, thundering, garrulous, discordant, becomes an almost unbearable affliction. On your right a little noisy demon calls from the hollow of his cracked shrine in a voice dolefully monotonous, and yet acutely piercing, awakening a whole kennel of similar sprites, each one more ill-conditioned than his brother; these, in turn, arouse a huge and monstrous Diabolus, who groans at you as if longing to grind your Protestant bones, and feed the departed souls of Inquisitors with the dainty bread. Two or three sweet little bells cast in their dulcet notes, but the ear resents as an impertinence theft unrequested addition to the deafening din; while worse than all, if perchance a moment’s pause should occur, and the discordant and the booming noise-makers should rest, as though from sheer exhaustion, some miserable cur of a bell close at hand is sure to yap out like a scalded puppy, to the utter despair of the wearied traveler.
Charles Lamb may talk of bell-ringing as “the music nighest bordering upon heaven,” but too much of it is more suggestive of another place. At certain hours in Venice, the bells of a hundred churches, all near at hand, make day hideous to the ear, and cause one to wish for night, when — “Darker and darker The black shadows fall; Sleep and oblivion Reign over all.” Thus and thus is it with this world everywhere and evermore. Far away and outside the world is harmony and delight, nearer and more closely known it is horror and confusion. To the young and inexperienced, the cadence sweet of love and mirth is rapture, and the towers of earth ring out a concert, filling hope with transport; but when the gondola of experience has brought the man into the very city of life, he hears a horde of bells— “Solemnly, mournfully Dealing their dole.” He is startled by mighty knells; wearied with piercing tones of care; and worried out of hope, as with mournful accents, troubles cleave the air, and the crazing clamors of peals of controversy, bobmajors of nonsense, and chimes of slander, frighten sacred quiet from the scene, and sound a hideous requiem to peace. “Things are not what they seem.” From afar, society is full of friendship; nearer, it is hollow and hypocritical; pleasure dreamed of is Elysium, but, mingled in, too much of it is Gehenna: philosophy seems deep and solid at a distance, but searched with care, it is proven to be vapid and pretentious. All the world’s a mirage; heaven alone is real. From thy din, O earth, we turn to the divine Sabbath bells of heaven, which from the far off hills proclaim the everlasting joy of the New Jerusalem. C. H.S. MR. GRANT ON “THE DARBY BRETHREN” f20 MR.GRANT has with very great diligence collected much valuable information as to that section of Plymouth Brethren who follow Mr. Darby. As on all hands, with a diligence never exceeded, and a subtlety never equaled, they are laboring to seduce the members of our churches to the subversion of the truth and the overthrow of the needful order and discipline of our Zion, it may be well to disseminate information concerning their sentiments and tactics. There is nothing which they have so much to dread as being thoroughly unearthed and exposed; for their grosser errors are not generally made known to their dupes until they are fairly in their meshes. Mr. Grant has done real service to the churches by his treatise on “The heresies of the Plymouth Brethren,” which we trust he will publish in a separate form. It is almost impossible for even his heavy hand to press too severely upon this malignant power, whose secret but rapid growth is among the darkest signs of the times. Our large extracts are meant to stimulate a desire for the entire work. On their errors, Mr. Grant says:— “Mr. Darby maintains that a part of Christ’s sufferings on the cross, were what he calls ‘non-atoning,’ that is, that in ‘smiting’ him as the shepherd on the cross, God did not do so with a view to an atonement for our sins, until a particular point of time, while Christ was hanging on the tree, and that then the wrath of God, in its atoning character, coalesced with his legal wrath. In association with the doctrine that much of the sufferings of Christ on the cross were without any atoning object or effect, Mr. Darby, advancing a step farther, denies that the atonement for our sins consisted even in Christ’s death. But as it is probable some persons will find it difficult to believe that any man, professing to hold evangelical principles, and especially the leader of an important religious sect, also professing to be sound in the faith, could entertain such notions, and that I must have misunderstood Mr. Darby’s meaning — it is due to him, and may be desirable for the reader, that I should quote his own words. They are given, in substance the same as in his monthly organ, ‘The Present Testimony,’ for August, 1866, a later date than that in which his other publication, ‘The Sufferings of Christ,’ made its appearance, and, therefore, notwithstanding all the remonstrances addressed to him by some of his followers against that dreadful doctrine, they are proved to have been without effect. He then stands before the religious world as still adhering to these fearful doctrines:— “‘There was, too, to him,’ says Mr. Darby, ‘in addition to the pain of the death, the legal curse appended, by God’s righteous judgment as King of Israel, to the form of the death; as it is written, ‘Cursed is is every one that bangeth upon a tree.’ But this curse of the law was not the same thing as the wrath, when he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’ The thieves bore it as he did; that thief, too, who went with him to paradise the same day, and who could go there to be with his Lord, because he, the Prince of Life, had borne the wrath due to sin in his own body on the tree.
But the cross had been endured by many an unrepentant rebel against man and God; and the cross in itself would not take away sin. Yea, more, while the time in which he endured the cross was the period in part of which the wrath came on him (when he endured the wrath of God’s judgment against sin), he only of the three that were crucified together, could or did bear the wrath; and the agony of that wrath, if his alone of the three then and there crucified, was distinct from, though present to him at the same time as the agonies (infinitely lesser) of the cross of wood!’ “The italics are not mine; they are those of the Rev. W. H. Dorman, who was for twenty-eight years the friend and admirer of Mr. Darby, and resigned the pastorship of a Congregational church in Islington to join his section of the Plymouth Brethren. “The same sentiments are expressed in various other portions of Mr. Darby’s writings; and even in some respects in language more objectionable still. That part of his theory, that Christ suffered much and long on the cross before there was anything of an atoning nature in his agonies, and simply as lying under the wrath of God in his character as King of Israel, is brought out more fully and more plainly than in the extract I have given. This is, in effect, to say that Christ actually had sins of his own in virtue of the relation which he sustained to the Jewish nation, as their king or head. There is something inexpressibly painful in the idea that our Lord suffered on the cross in any other capacity than as the Substitute or Sin-bearer for us. There is not a sentence in the word of God which gives the slightest sanction to it, but the contrary: — ‘While we were yet sinners Christ died for us;’ ‘He was made sin for us who know no sin.’ Mr. Darby says he did know sin as the King of Israel. ‘He died for our sins and rose again for our justification; he died for our sins according to the Scriptures;’ ‘Who gave himself for our sins;’ ‘He is the propitiation for our sins;’ ‘Who bore our sins in his own body on the tree;’ ‘Who washed us from our sins in his own blood,’ etc. “The effect of this fearful theory of Dr. Darby, believed in and taught, be it remembered, by all the Brethren of his party, would be (?) as is well remarked by the author of a pamphlet written in reply to the theory, in the following words:—’Let the reader distinctly notice that in place of the single view of Christ’s obedience unto death which the apostles set before us, who see God in the cross only as the smiter of his own fore-ordained Lamb, the sufferer is, by this teaching, placed under a trip1e necessity of dying under the hand of God. He kills him as Messiah; he smites him as the companion of others on the cross, and apart from atonement; and he makes him also an atoning substitute.’ What a strange theological jumble, to say nothing of its pernicious tendencies wherever adopted. “To say that our Lord suffered on the cross in any other way than as our sin-bearer, or as paying for us the debt which we owed to the justice of God, would be, to the poor law-condemned and self-condemned sinner, to divest the sufferings of Christ on the cross of much more of the grace and glory of his atoning sacrifice than language can express; while it would be to deprive the believer in them, in a corresponding measure, of that supreme comfort which he derives from looking back to the cross, and feeling that all that Christ suffered on the cross was solely for his disciples… “There is one of their doctrines which I regard as so vital that it appears to me it would, were it true, prove fatal to the whole scheme of man’s redemption. “The doctrine to which I allude is, that Christ’s obedience to the law was not vicarious — was no part of the work which he wrought out for those for whom he became surety; in other words, that believers are in nowise interested in his obedience. Until Mr. Darby advanced this astounding doctrine, I am not aware that the notion was ever before even hinted at.
The fathers, in the second, third, and fourth centuries, did entertain doctrines which were equally novel, astounding, and pernicious; but I am not aware that any of their number ever dreamt of advancing the notion that we had no interest whatever, directly or indirectly, in the obedience of our Lord when on earth. Yet there is not one single follower of Mr. Darby that does not unhesitatingly — I might almost say indignantly — repudiate the idea that our Lord obeyed for a single individual that ever lived, or now lives, or that will hereafter live, till the end of time. Were they right, the obedience, or the spotless life of Christ would, so far as relates to believers in him, be no part of the work which his Father gave him to do, and which he himself came to accomplish. This extraordinary notion involves an entire and lamentable misunderstanding of the whole scheme of man’s redemption. The law demanded obedience to its requirements, just as inexorably as it exacted the infliction of penalties because of its violation.
And, therefore, it behoved him, who became our Substitute, to render obedience on our behalf, as well as to suffer in our stead the punishment to which we had, because of our violation of the law, rendered ourselves liable… “In connection with the Plymouth Brethren’s rejection of the doctrine — most surely believed by all evangelical denominations in every age of the church’s history — of the vicarious purpose of Christ’s obedience, there is the equally unreserved rejection of another doctrine which the great bulk of believers regard as one of vital importance. I allude to the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Not contented with pronouncing this doctrine as entirely unscriptural, the Plymouth Brethren seem to regard it with special aversion… “With the deadly heresies entertained and taught by the Plymouth Brethren, in relation to some of the most momentous of all the doctrines of the gospel, and to which I have adverted at some length, I feel assured that my readers will not be surprised at any other views, however unscriptual and pernicious they may be, which the Darbyites have embraced and zealously seek to propagate. Among these, is the doctrine that the moral law is a thing with which believers in Christ have nothing to do, not even as a rule of life. This doctrine pervades the writings of the Darbyites, as well as their oral ‘teaching.’ “As the Plymouth Brethren will not use the Lord’s Prayer because it contains the expression ‘forgive us our trespasses,’ so they make no confession of their sins in the sense in which the words are usually understood. In acting thus, they are, at least, entitled to the credit of consistency. If one has no sins to be pardoned, it logically follows that he can have none to confess. The Brethren will, it is true, admit in general terms that we are all ‘poor weak creatures,’ but when they do so, they attach no definite meaning to the phraseology. It was but a few weeks ago that I had some conversation on this very point with one of the most intellectual and spiritually-minded lady members of the Darbyite party. In answer to my statement that the Brethren did not make any confession of sin, she said, ‘Where is the use of always looking at or confessing our sins, when we have Christ to look to?’ If, indeed, we had not Christ to look to, there would be no ‘use in looking at and confessing our sins,’ but it being our mercy to have Christ to look to, we shall all the more clearly discern his preciousness the deeper our sense of our sins and sinfulness. And unless we have vivid perceptions of the greatness of our guilt, we shall never sufficiently appreciate the merits of the Savior, to lay hold of his finished work for our salvation. Job and Moses, and David and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and all the most eminent Old Testament saints of whom we read, had views on this point which were the opposite of those of the Plymouth Brethren, as is abundantly testified by the frequency and depth of their confessions of sin. Job could say, ‘ Behold! I am vile, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’ And David had such a sight and sense of his sin that his Psalms are full to overflowing with heartfelt confessions of them. ‘Mine iniquities,’ he says, in one place, ‘ have taken hold on me, so that I am unable to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart faileth me.’ In another place we hear him saying in his address to the throne of grace, ‘I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.’ No Plymouth Brother would adopt this language of either Job or David. Nor is that of Isaiah ever heard in their assemblies, as applicable to those who compose them, when he says: — ‘Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips.’ Neither did Paul’s sentiments accord, in relation to this point, with those of Mr. Darby and his disciples.
Paul could say from the depths of his soul, in the overwhelming sense which he had of his guilt in the sight of God, notwithstanding the abundance of grace given him: ‘I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this sin and death?’ I cannot doubt that if the question were put to Plymouth Brethren, they would admit that Paul was at least as good a Christian as they. And yet no one ever heard a Darbyite employing this language as being applicable to himself.”
As to their modes of action and general spirit Mr. Grant writes largely, and we believe from correct data. Many facts which have come under our notice are confirmatory of Mr. Grant’s severe criticisms; we only hope none of our brother ministers may experimentally have so clear a revelation of the Darby spirit as has occurred to us. “Let me, then, first of all mention that, though as I have before stated, their numbers in London and the suburbs do not exceed 1,600, and their numbers throughout Great Britain do not exceed 20,000, they are so very active in their endeavors to make proselytes, and are so continually involved in controversies and quarrels among themselves, that they are more frequently before the public than sects of Christians who are more numerous. Take the sect called Bible Christians, for example. Their numbers in this country exceed 20,000, if, indeed, they be not considerably more; and yet for once that the name Bible Christian meets the eye we see that of the Brethren half-a-dozen times. The Plymouth Brethren, meaning the Darby section, are, indeed, at once the most active and most noisy sect of Christians of which we have any record in the annals of Christianity. And yet they have no missionary institutions, no organized propaganda of any kind; but what, I have no doubt, they find answer their purpose much better — they have their individual aggressive agents. They are first-rate tacticians. They have an intuitive perception as to who ‘among those who are without,’ to whom they have access, are likely to make the best ‘Brothers’ or ‘Sisters,’ and that conclusion come to, all their appliances are brought to bear upon them. And they are singularly happy as to the way in which they go about the work of proselytizing. But before I proceed farther, I ought to remark that, with very few exceptions, the women are the great propagandists of Plymouth Brethrenism. And, as a natural consequence, women, are almost invariably the parties whom they seek to ‘convert.’ They are wise enough in their generation to know that if a man’s wife is got over. she will give her husband no rest until she has made a resolute effort to prevail on him to join the ‘gathering’ along with her. Of course, it will be understood that I do not mean it to be inferred that there are no exceptions to this, but I do say — and I speak with no small knowledge of the philosophy and history of Plymouth Brethrenism — that the exceptions are rare indeed. In fact, I will go so far as to affirm that it would be almost incompatible with Plymouth ‘Sisterdom’ not to be a zealous and unwearied laborer in the field of proselytism. It is as true of them as a body as it was of those women to whom Paul in his Second Epistle to Timothy alludes when he represents them as creeping into houses. Their favorite plan is to single out the best members of other evangelical churches, and endeavor to get them over; and when they have succeeded in inoculating them with Brethrenism, they are advised not at once to leave the church of which they are members, but to remain for a time, in the hope of being able to convince others of the error of their way in ‘sitting under such teachers.’ The new convert to Darbyism is carefully instructed as to the way in which he or she is to proceed. They are not to seem to obtrude their denominational views on those at whose ‘conversion’ they aim, but to appear deeply grieved that so few ‘excellent Christians’ see, because they have never been taught by their ministers, the whole truth; and that this is all the more to be deplored because if they — the parties addressed — saw the truth in all its blessedness and fullness ‘they would be able to teach others also.’
Of course, in many cases this ingenious mode of propagating Plymouth Brethrenism fails, but in many it succeeds. And the proselyte, fired with a zeal, which is proverbial in new converts, to bring others to embrace the new views which he or she has just adopted, applies him or herself at once to the task of bringing over others to the new fold which he or she has just entered. The new ‘Sister’ commences with certain stereotyped phrases in endeavoring to bring over the party aimed at, by remarking that the pastor of the particular congregation is a good man — a very excellent man according to the amount of his knowledge of the truth — but that he is not sufficiently taught of the Spirit on certain important points of doctrine. His deficiencies are specifically pointed out. On the next Sunday the device is to say to the party whose conversion to Brethrenism is sought to be accomplished, something to this effect: ‘That was, in some points, a very good sermon of Mr. Smith’s yesterday morning, but there was something wanting. At any rate, I was not fed. Mr. Smith has not got the same clear view of the truth which Brother Black at the gathering at Blank Street has.
I should like you to hear him a few times.’ The other agrees; and the chances are that in a month or so she comes out a full-fledged Darbyite, accompanied by expressions of wonder that she should have been so blinded as not sooner to have seen such important truths, mingled with thanksgivings at being now mercifully brought into the light of the glorious gospel — as, of course, understood and taught by Mr. Darby. And, while the process of proselytism is going on, the kindest words are spoken, and the most winning manners practiced, on the part of the domestic missionary. A minister of the gospel, who knows from painful experience what these proselytizers are, assures me that he was personally cognizant of one instance in which a Plymouth ‘Sister,’ in her anxiety to make another ‘ Sister,’ spoke to her within a few minutes of their meeting, though they had never seen or heard of each other before, in terms of endearment as strong and as frequently employed as if they had been sisters in the flesh. ‘Oh, yes, my dear sister;’ ‘oh, no, my dearest sister,’ were phrases spoken in the most tender tones, and were among the weapons which were liberally employed with the view of ensuring another recruit to the Darbyite army. “What I have said will give some idea of the stereotyped way in which the Plymouth Brethren proceed to work in their mission of seeking to make proselytes to Darbyism. Other plans, varying according to circumstances, are resorted to. No one outside their circle can have any idea of the zeal and ingenuity which they display in their endeavors to bring other Christians over to Darbyism. The words of our Lord may, in a sense, be applied to them — ‘They would compass sea and land to make one proselyte.’ That one object consecrates every expedient to which they resort, no matter what it may be, to accomplish it. They may not be able to deny that a particular person is an eminent Christian, but still the party is not a Darbyite, and that is enough to justify whatever means they may have recourse to bring the particular party within the fold of Brethrenism. “It matters not to them that, by going into churches or chapels in this way, in parts of the country where the minister, owing to the smallness of the number of his congregation, has the greatest difficulty imaginable to continue to maintain the Christian ministry. That does not cause them the slightest compunctious visiting, even though he may be a man eminent for his personal piety and his devotedness to the cause of Christ. The minister, with his with and family, may he thrown destitute on the world. The minister’s heart, indeed, may be literally broken — still that will not cause them to experience a momentary pang. No amount, indeed, of misery they may have brought on God’s faithful ministering servant will give them even a moment’s uneasiness. On the contrary, they will rejoice at the ruin they have wrought in breaking up a church, because believing they are thereby doing God service. Many a provincial minister’s heart have they literally broken, while hundreds of others have been made miserable for life by the dissensions which these ‘ troublers in Israel ‘ have occasioned in their churches, and the dissatisfaction they have caused in the minds of many members who have not left, with the same kind of preaching to which they had for years before listened with pleasure and profit. “A Congregational minister in the country, writes to me on this matter as follows: — ‘What the Plymouth Brethren have done in country towns no one but those who are intimate with the life of country churches can tell.
There is no Congregational minister, either Baptist or Independent, who is not ready to denounce them as the greatest troublers of the peace of Israel since the days of Ahab. Much in these days is said about the Jesuits, but the Plymouth Brethren will compare with them, both in respect to stealthy slyness and persistent effort to make converts. There are always in every church a few disaffected spirits, who only need the voice of the tempter to make them cantankerous. These are so much tinder to the spark of the Plymouth Brethren’s tongue of fire, and straightway we have the following results: — The minister does not preach the gospel — the poor people are perishing for lack of food — another minister in the town cannot give it them; only let us get away from all this, and have no church, but just read the Bible for ourselves. A division ensues, and soon, instead of reading the Bible for themselves, one man gets the whole thing into his own hands, and another church is formed, virtually where there was to be no church and no minister.’ “This witness is true, and his testimony will be endorsed by hundreds of other ministers of the gospel in the country, all, like him, speaking from what they have seen and felt… “Plymouth Brethren have no feeling wherever their principles are concerned. I know indeed of no sect or denomination so utterly devoid of kindness of heart. It is the most selfish religious system with which I am acquainted. It is entirely wrapped up in itself. It recognizes no other denomination, whether the Church of England, or either of the Nonconformist denominations, as a church of Christ. Mr. Darby has again and again said in print, as well as written in private, that those who belong to his party in the metropolis, constitute the only church of Christ in London… “No one ever saw a Darbyite at any of our Bible, or Missionary, or other Evangelical Society meetings. The Brethren look upon all other denominations, however evangelical in sentiment, and however high their standard of personal religion, as so largely infected with error in doctrine, as well as wrong in relation to church government, that they believe it would be sinful to associate with them for the promotion of religious ends.
And this conviction, which is never absent from their minds, naturally has the effect of puffing them up with spiritual pride. Believing that they alone of all religious bodies have attained to the knowledge of the truth, it could hardly be otherwise than that they should look down on every other Christian sect with supreme pity, mingled, even according to the admission of some of their own number, with contempt… “With this feeling is naturally associated an amount of arrogance in the assertion of their own views, which those who differ from them often find to be unbearable. And in this respect their leader, Mr. Darby, sets them an example. In his case it assumes the form of infallibility. Mr. Darby is, to all intents and purposes a thorough Pope, though under a Protestant name. He will never admit that he is in error; and therefore very naturally declines to argue with those who controvert the soundness of his views. How, indeed, could it be otherwise? If Mr. Darby holds, which he does, with a firm grasp, the principle that whatever conclusions he and those acting in conjunction with him may come to, express beyond all question the mind of the Spirit; and if those Darbyites who gather together in London, can go so far as to exclude all other denominations, even the most godly among them, ‘believing themselves to be the one or only, assembly of God in London,’ how need we feel surprised that Mr. Darby, as the ‘ prophet, priest, and king’ of the party, should exercise a perfect despotism within the domains of Darbyism? “I have before glanced, but barely glanced, at the intensely controversial spirit which is a universal characteristic of the Plymouth Brethren. I say universal, because though I know much of them personally, as well as through the testimony of others, I know not a single instance where this controversial spirit did not exist in greater or less force. It is not for me to say that there are no exceptions to this rule; but I do advisedly say, that I am unacquainted with any single case to the contrary. This controversial feeling, often degenerating into something resembling regular quarrels, is the chronic condition of Plymouth Brethrenism. They are in a state of constant antagonism with the Bethesda party; and a minister of the gospel, who has seen much of them, seriously assures me that when they have no one of the opposite party to quarrel with, they will disagree among themselves. I can verify this statement, to a certain extent, from my own personal knowledge So great, indeed, is their disposition to engage in controversy, often ending in something like a quarrel, that it would be a thing quite new to see two of their number remain together for many minutes without a decided disagreement on some one point or other. “Their quarrels, too, occasionally acquire an intensity which bring them before the public. In the year 1860, they had what they call a Conference at the London Bridge Hotel, met together for the purpose of examining certain charges preferred by Mr. William Kelly, ‘pastor of the assembly’ in Guernsey, against a Mr. Havent, of the same island. Many of the ‘Brethren’ came from all parts of the country to this Conference. Referring to this great gathering, in connection with the leaders of the Darby party, by whom it was called, and by whom it was care- fully packed, Mr. Culverhouse, a man of standing among the Brethren, says in his published ‘ Statement of the Guernsey and London Case:’ — ‘It is impracticable to describe the true state of things, either in the gatherings or at the Conference. Every remonstrance is unheeded; and the simple fact of the services being conducted chiefly by these Brethren is of itself appalling. Insinuations, slanders, insolence, threats, and violence are resorted to for the maintenance of their position. At a meeting of Brethren, held at the Hoxton Assembly on the 25th instant, our brother, Mr. Lean, publicly avowed, in answer to inquiries by myself, that the London Bridge Conference is a ‘private’ meeting. This being so, and regarding the character of its acts and usurpations, I designate it an ‘Inquistion.’ At the meeting of the 21st instant, the doors were guarded and locked. A Brother, on applying for entrance, was seized by the throat and thrust back. The fact of the doors being guarded and locked excludes, as you see, even the ordinary excuse of ‘excitement.’ Surely, ‘these things ought not so to be.’ Do you sanction, my Brethren, such a state of things? Will you, my Brethren, submit to be governed by an Inquisition?’ “‘Behold,’ says David, ‘how good a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’ Behold a picture of the unity of Plymouth Brethren as drawn, printed, and published by one of themselves! It is a sorrowful description of the spirit and conduct of men who call themselves Brethren. Certainly this is not ‘Brethrenism’ according to what is usually understood as the scriptural meaning of the word… “So late as March last one of the most extraordinary scenes of religious discord ever witnessed took place in the Freemasons’ Hall. Between four and five hundred Brethren were asked to come from all parts of the country to hold a conference together. The Darbyites and Bethesdaites were equally invited. Those who invited them did not mention for what special purpose they were to come. It was simply said it was desirable they should assemble together, and that the Holy Ghost would direct them as to what they should say and do when they met together. The expenses of the poorer Brethren were paid by some unknown and wealthy Brethren. They had only been met an hour or so before they were found controversially fighting with each other with a fierceness which could hardly be believed.
And this state of things lasted four or five hours for three successive days.
It by-and-by transpired that the real purpose for which the Conference was called was to endeavor to bring about a reconciliation between the Darby and Bethesda sections of Brethrenism. The very idea was enough to plunge the Darbyites into a state of something more than indignation. Scenes of indescribable uproar, mingled with expressions of the very worst feelings, took place on each of the three days. And I am assured by one who was present, who does not belong to either the Darbyite or Bethesda section of the Brethren, that not only the prime, but the sole movers in these most unseemly scenes were the Darbyites. What the exhibitions were which occurred may be inferred from the fact that a lady who was present said she could have wept tears of blood at what she saw and heard; and a gentleman of education and social position, who also witnessed these lamentable scenes, remarked to me that it was enough to have made even angels weep. This may seem incredible, but it is nevertheless the fact. “But the saddest of all in connection with these deplorable scenes is that they are actually, in effect, represented as the results of the guidance of the Holy Ghost. There is no principle which the Darbyites more firmly hold, or to which they give greater prominence in their ‘teaching,’ than this — that the Holy Ghost is with them in all their assemblies, and that whatever conclusions they come to are the result of his special guidance… “But I may be asked by some one incredulously, can it really be possible that the Darbyites should ascribe the distressing scene at the London Bridge Hotel as the result of the special guidance of the Holy Spirit?
Deplorable as is the fact, it is even so. The question, as stated in Mr, Grove’s pamphlet, entitled ‘The Exclusive Brethren,’ meaning the Darbyite section of the Brethren, was put to some of the leaders of the Darbyite part in reference to this very meeting, and an affirmative answer was at once given. The question was put in various forms, that there might be no mistake in the matter, and the answer was in every instance unhesitatingly and explicitly in the affirmative. One of the forms in which the question was put was this: ‘Suppose an assembly err, what should then be done?’
The answer was, ‘Still, while you acknowledge it as an assembly, you must accept its action as that of the Holy Ghost.’ Then, continued the querist, ‘Is it the Lord’s mind that I should accept an error of judgment?’ Answer, ‘Yes.’ Again, ‘Then you would rather accept an official blunder, knowing it to be so, than act upon what you believe the Lord had shown you to be the truth?’ Answer, ‘Certainly.’“ The effect of Darbyism upon family life is perhaps its most awful feature.
With a passage upon that point we close our extracts. “There is just one point more to which I wish to advert for a moment before I conclude. It refers to the influence which Darbyism exerts on the social comfort of families. I shall be fully borne out, by the concurrent testimony of thousands of persons, all of them speaking from painful experience, when I say, that no tongue can tell what an amount of domestic unhappiness has been caused by the circumstance of some leading members of a family adopting Darbyite opinions, when the other members of the family were opposed to those opinions. I could unfold specific tales of this kind which could scarce be credited; but that would not be expedient. It might be attended with unpleasant consequences to individuals, even without mentioning names. Parties might be supposed to be pointed at in the cases in question, which I had not at all in my eye. Indeed, a greater or less number of persons, of whose names I never even heard, would imagine that either themselves or some members of their families were alluded to. I will content myself, therefore, with stating the broad fact, and giving three illustrations — that Darbyism, as a rule, changes one’s whole character, as regards the social relations of life, where a leading member of a family has plunged over head and ears into it. The former geniality, however great it may have been, disappears. The party, indeed, is no longer, as regards what is called amiability of manners, the same as before. It is a curious fact that a generous, open, agreeable Darbyite is very rarely to be met with. Plymouth Brethrenism changes the most kind, courteous, and winning manners into the opposite. And this is the case even where the family previously lived in perfect Christian harmony and happiness. I can testify from personal knowledge to an illustrative case of this kind which took place not, long ago. A gentleman of high rank in the army lived for years in as great happiness with his wife as perhaps any husband ever did. They were both eminent Christians. In an evil hour, the wife, one of the most amiable of women, fell into the hands of a Plymouth Sister, and the result of the intercourse was, that in a few weeks she became a thorough proselyte to Darbyism. The very firstfruit of her ‘conversion’ was her refusal to join in social worship with her husband and the other members of the family. Nor did the consequences of this lady’s ‘conversion’ to Darbyism end even there. She would no longer even kneel with her husband alone in prayer before retiring to rest — a practice which they never omitted from the day of their marriage until the unhappy hour in which she was entangled in the meshes of Brethrenism. None but a truly godly man can form any conception of the misery of which this change in the opinions, the feelings, and the conduct of this lady, proved productive in a formerly happy household. “Another illustration of the estrangement which Brethrenism causes in families, consisting with my own personal knowledge, presents itself at this moment to my mind. A Plymouth Sister, whose family do not share her views, cannot help expressing her dissent from any and every act of worship in the family. She even turns away her face when the head of the house asks the divine blessing on the meals of which they are all about to partake. Is not this sad? Does it not display a lamentable state of feeling on the part of the individual, and gives a deplorable view of the denominational system that could produce it. “I am also acquainted personally with another case, in which it happened that a mother and daughter had adopted the opposite views on Brethrenism. The result was, that the two would not sit down together at the same Lord’s-table. What an unhappy condition it must have been, for each to be living together in this state of antagonism ia relation to religious matters!”
NOTES ON RITUALISM.
THE Ritual Commission has issued its report, and with it a vast appendix.
From amid dustheaps almost as huge as those which Dickens has immortalized, we have, by dint of fiddling and using the sieve, extracted a few pieces of gold and silver, which we hope will pass for good metal and be as useful now as they were in the days long past.
Many of the reformers were evidently as disgusted with the ceremonials tolerated in the Anglican church as ever we can be. Royal rather than spiritual authority, was the reason for sparing those Popish mummeries which have survived the reformers’ pruning knife. Bishop Hooper, if we mistake not, was always a greater admirer of vestments than plain Hugh Latimer, but the very meager lengths to which he would have gone are illustrated by the following extracts, which it must have been to the edification of the lords and gentlemen of the Commission to have heard read. They are from his work on the prophet Jonah.
In Hooper’s fourth sermon he remarks: — “This prayer of Jonas is so acceptable, it might be thought of some men, that the place where Jonas prayed in, should have bettered it, as the foolish opinion of the world is at this time, that judgeth the prayer said at the high altar to be better than that which is said in the quire, that in the quire better than that said in the body of the church… This I would wish that the magistrates should put both the preacher, minister and the people, in one place, and shut up the partition called the chancel, that separated the congregation of Christ one from the other!”
Good advice indeed, and worthy to be carried out instanter, even if half the church edifices should need leveling to effect it. What are architecture and art compared with the vantage-ground afforded to error! If the nests were pulled down, or thoroughly altered, the birds might be led to fly to their proper quarters in the dark woods of Popery, and Protestantism would be well rid of them.
In his sixth sermon, in allusion to Baptism, he observes:-” The matter and element of this sacrament is pure water; whatsoever is added, oil, salt, cross, lights, and such other, be inventions of men, and better it were they were abolished than kept in the church… I pray the King’s Majesty and his most honorable Council to prepare a ship, as soon as may be, to send them home again to their Mother Church.”
In the same sermon Hooper says in reference to the Holy Eucharist: — “‘If we have bread, wine, and a fair table cloth, let him [‘the minister’] not be solicitous nor careful for the rest, seeing they be no things brought in by Christ, but by Popes; unto whom, if the King’s Majesty and the honorable Council have good consciences, they must be restored again; and great shame it is for a noble king, emperor, or magistrate, contrary unto God’s word, to detain and keep from the devil and his minister any of their goods and treasure, as the candles, vestments, crosses, altars, for if they be kept in the church as things indifferent, at length they will be maintained as things necessary.”
How truly did Hooper foresee! for at this hour, the tolerated millinery is cried up as essential to acceptable worship. Blessed would be the vessel which should transport all such trumpery to the Holy Fathers’ own haunts, where Garibaldi and his waiting band would be glad to make a bonfire of them like that at Ephesus.
About that same time one of the reformed, who had returned from exile, wrote to his friend Peter Martyr: — “What can I hope when three of our lately appointed bishops are to officiate at the Table of the Lord, one as priest, another as deacon, and a third as subdeacon, before the image of the crucifix, or at least not far from it, with candles, and habited in the golden vestments of the Papacy, and are thus to celebrate the Lord’s Supper without sermon!”
Archbishop Leighton, whose piety makes every word weighty, said in one of his sermons:— “What is the shining of the true church? Doth not a church then shine when church service is raised from a decent and primitive simplicity, and decorated with pompous ceremonies, with rich furniture and gaudy vestments? Is not the church then beautiful?
Yes, indeed; but all the question is, whether this be the proper genuine beauty, or no? Whether this be not strange fire, as the fire that Aaron’s sons used, which became vain, and was taken as strange fire? Methinks it cannot be better decided than to refer it to St. John in his Book of Revelation. We find there the description of two several women; the one riding in state, arrayed in purple, decked with gold and precious stones and pearls (Revelation 17:3); the other in rich attire too, but of another kind (Revelation 12), clothed with the sun, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. The other’s decorement was all earthly; this woman’s is all celestial.
What need she borrow light and beauty from precious stones, that is clothed with the sun and crowned with stars? She wears no sublunary ornaments, but, which is more noble, she treads upon them. The moon is under her feet. Now, if you know (as you do all, without doubt), which of these two is the spouse of Christ, you can easily resolve the question. The truth is, those things seem to deck religion, but they undo it. Observe where they are most used, and we shall find little or no substance of devotion under them; as we see in the apostate church of Rome. This painting is dishonorable for Chrlst’s spouse, and besides, it spoils her natural complexion.
The superstitious use of torches and lights in the church by day, is a kind of shining, but surely not commanded here. No, it is an affront done both to the sun in heaven and to the Sun of Righteousness in the church.”
The notorious Puritan, Henry Burton (as the appendix calls him), most wisely, with almost prophetic foresight, wrote:— “But besides all this, these men have one special sanctuary to fly into, and that is their cathedral churches… These be their old high places not removed…. These be those nests and nurseries of superstition and idolatry wherein the old boldarno of Rome had muzzled up her brood of popelings, and so preserved her usum Sarum in life to this present day. And now these are become impregnable bulwarks to patronize our re-builders of Babel in all their innovations. ‘Innovations,’ say they. ‘We bring in no innovations, no new rites, but what hath been in use ever since the Reformation, and that in the most eminent places, even the mother churches of the land. Now, all that we go about is to reduce inferior churches to an unity and conformity to their mother churches….’
Thus do our master builders plead.”
It is no doubt true that the gaudy performances of the cathedrals have kept alive the Popish spirit in the church, and there will be no end to Ritualism while cathedral services are kept up in their present semi-popish fashion.
Of course, what is good in a big church is good in a little one, and the cathedrals are little better than drill-grounds for Ritualistic performers.
The Puritan Smart, complains that: — “Most of the bishops of our time…. busy themselves in nothing more than in setting up altars with all manner of superstitious furniture, crosses, crucifixes, candles, candlesticks, etc. Our bishops think it their bounden duty, as soon as ever themselves are consecrated, to fall to the consecration of churches, churchyards, altars, organs, images, crucifixes, tapers, etc. Our bishops think they seek the Kingdom of God, and the righteousness thereof, when they persuade his Majesty (Charles I) to restore altars, organs, images, and all manner of Massing trinkets, more than ever they were in the time of Popery. Our bishops teach and maintain stoutly that altars, images, crosses, crucifixes, candlesticks, etc., are not repugnant to our religion, nor contrary to the authority of Scripture; [and]… would have them brought in again according to the pattern, and after the example of the King’s Royal Chapel, and…. labor with all their might and main that the offense may be spread through all the king’s dominions, both cathedral and parish churches.”
Hickeringill writes with force and common sense: — “He,” the ‘ceremony-monger,’ “does not say the mass indeed in Latin; but his hood, his cope, his surplice, his rochet, his altar railed in, his candles, and cushion and book thereon, his bowing to it, his bowing, or rather nodding, at the name of Jesus, his organs, his violins, his singing men, his singing boys, with their alternate jabbering and mouthings (as unintelligible as Latin service), are so very like popery, that I profess, when I came from beyond sea, about the year 1660, to Paul’s and Whitehall, I almost thought, at first blush, that I was still in Spain and Portugal; only the candles on our altars, most nonsensically, stand unlighted, to signify, what?
The darkness of our noddles, or to tempt the chandlers to turn downright papists, as the more suitable religion for their trade? for ours mocks them with hopes only. He gapes and stares to see the lucky minute when the candles should be lighted; but he is cheated, for they do not burn out in an age.”
O for an hour of John Knox or Martin Luther! Our comfort is that God reigns yet, and Antichrist must come down, defend her who may! He who removed the frogs from Egypt with a word, can yet send us a Moses whose uplifted rod shall consign to the Tiber a pest more dire than that which disappeared beneath the floods of the Nile.