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understand the things of God is, ' Meditate thereon day and night."" letter to Miss L- he said, “ If you would be saved the trouble of thinking, read Mr. Henry's Comment; but if you would only be assisted in thinking, read the Explanatory Notes.” * These are taken principally from Poole's Annotations, and the only extracts from Henry are to supply what is wanting in Poole.t
“My design," says he, “is not to write sermons, but to give the direct literal meaning of every verse, of every sentence, and, as far as I am able, of every word, in the oracles of God. I design only, like the hand of a dial, to point every man to this : to keep his eye fixed on the naked Bible, that he may hear and read it with understanding."
.” Wesley and Henry were perfect contrasts as expositors; for, to use the words of Hervey, if one Exposition is too corpulent,” the other is “too lean.” Hampson § describes them as “short and concise ; rather practical than critical ; and written, as may be supposed, with a view to his peculiar doctrines." He does not think it clear that they are calculated for all the purposes Wesley designed. “If intended for the use of public persons, they are too concise ; and if for families, they are equally liable to the same censure. Their true character is, they are briefly explanatory, with no great depth or ingenuity of criticism, and, in general, without any such helps towards a religious improvement as will be found in the more useful comment of Henry. Many difficult passages,” says he, on which a full elucidation was necessary, are dispatched with a brief hint ; and too much is frequently left to the ingenuity of the reader. The text,” he observes, “is altered in some places, and, in some instances, for the better.” There is a circumstance, however, respecting these Notes on the Old Testament, which is not generally known, and which is mentioned by Dr. Adam Clarke, in the General Preface to his own Commentary. (P. xii.) 6 The Rev. John Wesley published a 'Selection of Notes on the Old and New Testament, in four volumes, 4to. Bristol, 1765. The Notes on the Old Testament are allowed on all hands to be meager and unsatisfactory. This is owing to a circumstance with which few are acquainted. Mr. Pine, the printer, having set up and printed off several sheets in a type much larger than was intended, it was found impossible to get the work within the prescribed limits of four volumes, without retrenching the Notes, or cancelling what was already printed. The former measure was unfortunately adopted, and the work fell short of the expectation of the public. This account I had from the author himself.” Wesley's main objection to Henry's comment was, that it was not sufficiently spiritual and practical. “Even his exposition of the 20th of Exodus || does not answer my expectation ; nor do I remember that he has anywhere given a satisfactory account of spiritual religion, of the kingdom of God within us. This,” says he, “I hoped to have found in our Lord's Sermon on the Mount;' but I was quite disappointed.” This, in all probability, led to his publishing his thirteen
* Works, vol. xii., p. 244; or, J. Wesley's Select Letters, p. 96, published 1837. + Ibid, vol. xiv., p. 266.
“ The naked truths of the Gospel.”—Preface to his Sermons. (Wesley's Works, vol. v., p. ii., preface.)
§ Hampson's “Life of Wesley,” vol. iii., pp. 146, 147.
ữ “ These Commandments abundance of writers have attempted to explain, but most of them in a dry and superficial manner. This defect is fully supplied by the labour of Bishop Hopkins.” See a short Exposition of the Ten Commandments, extracted from Bishop Hopkins, by John Wesley. 12mo., pp. 96, 1759 ; 2d ed., London, 1799. (Wesley's Works, vol. xiv., p. 254.)
discourses on the subject contained in the fifth volume of his Works. These were often the subject of exposition : not fewer than seven times between April 1st, 1739,* and June, 1742; again, in August, 1745 ; and to these he appeals in 1759. (Vol. ix., p. 102.) + City-Road, October, 1847.
VISITING THE SICK. (To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.) When God had created the universe, and formed man out of the dust of the ground, having breathed into him a living soul, and given him power over all that he had made upon the earth, he took a survey of his creatures, and pronounced everything to be good, except the celibacy of Adam, whom he had invested with lordly authority and unrivalled control. Commiserating his unsocial state of existence, with His own peculiar and overwhelming love, he contrived to furnish him with a partner every way calculated to participate with him in the redundant benevolence of Heaven. Imagine, for a moment, the feelings of our first parent, when he awoke from his sound sleep, and found by his side a lovely woman! the perfection of created beauty! fairer than the virgin rose ! innocence itself! What must have been his reflections ? Recollecting the former period, in which he beheld no being like himself, none with whom he could converse on the enchanting subjects and scenery around him ; doubtless, amazement, blended with grateful adoration, overpowered his admiring sense ; but the aggregate of his felicity was insufficient for his exalted character and intellectual capacities. “It was not good that man should be alone,” although fulness of joy was to be derived from his intimacy with his Maker; therefore God gave him a companion, and in such a manner as needed no law to make him love her. Hence he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Society having been divinely instituted, and designed to advance man's earthly happiness, all generations have embraced and hovered around their fellow-men with reciprocal affection, although lapsed from its primeval purity and ardour; proving their dependence on each other (under God) for all that is necessary to life, and also for those enjoyments which render it easy and supportable.
All human comforts flow through channels frail as dust, but emanate from God supreme. If, then, man is dependent on man for sustenance and joy, it is right to consider who most need our assistance as individuals, Christians, and stewards of the kingdom of God's grace; and if there exist one class of persons who claim our attention more than another, it surely is that number who are deprived of health, and its retinue of enjoyments.
* See Works, vol. i., pp. 185, 212, 229, 230, 289, 293, 379, 515; and vol. xi.,
"Twenty-nine persons received remission of sins; most of them while I was opening and enforcing our Lord's "Sermon on the Mount. »
+ “So far from 'teaching men that they may be saved by a faith which is without good works, without Gospel obedience and holiness of life,' we teach exactly the reverse, continually insisting on all outward, as well as all inward, holiness. For the notorious truth of this, we appeal to the whole tenor of our Sermons, printed and unprinted; in particular to those upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount,' wherein every branch of Gospel obedience is both asserted and proved to be indispensably necessary to eternal salvation.” (Letter to Rev. Mr. Downes, in reference to his tract, entitled “Methodism examined and exposed,” Nov. 17th, 1759.)
The first question which starts itself is, Is it necessary to visit the chamber of affliction, or not? To such as propose this inquiry, a few remarks will show its unscriptural character and inutility. Behold the crowds who assemble in the theatre each succeeding evening of the week, to gratify the insatiable desires of their immortal minds with ridiculous scenes of imaginary folly, woe, and bliss! Is there any necessity for this waste of money and time, when thousands of their fellow-beings, at the same moment, and probably a vast number in their own neighbourhood, display most vividly the heart-rending anguish of real misery? How much more rational would they appear, were they to take that misapplied portion of their Master's property, and repair to the dungeon of poverty and sickness, to soothe the sorrow-smitten inhabitants of it with their sympathy and bounty! O, inethinks there is of human wretchedness quantum sufficit to unloose the cords of every heart, and of every purse, without exaggerating or inventing more. Then carry your reflections to
race-course," where multitudes throng together to feast their vicious eyes and depraved hearts with cruelty : thither resort all grades of society, of both sexes ; many of whom, not contented with the sport of the day, retire into scenes of deeper depravity and prodigality, until their lives are sacrificed at the shrine of dissipation. Is it necessary to visit the ground ?" Next, revert to the milder amusements of fashionable life, but equal in the nature of their effects, if not in the extent :—the ball-room, where disobedience to, and contempt of, parental authority are generated and nurtured ; where vanity is fed, and lust is cherished ; the resort of idleness and extravagance, which is frequently consummated by ruin. Is it necessary to visit the ball-room? Consider how great the number of those is who have recourse to inebriation, with its unhallowed concomitants, confusion, fighting, starvation, misery, and frequently death, accidental and malevolent! Is it necessary to visit prison-house?” Common sense would answer each and all of these questions in the negative. The interrogation, “Is it necessary to eat and drink in order to live?" would be deemed complete foolishness; while the inquiry, “Is it requisite to be born again?” would be doubted by some, and evaded by others. Is it needful to wait upon God in his sanctuary? Certainly, it is. Why? Because it is a divine command ; and the soul of man requires communications from his Maker, in order to sustain the ills of this mortal life. Is it essential for friends to meet together, for the purpose of holding social intercourse ? Yes. Why? Because the immortal mind craves information, interchange, and impartance of sentiment. The knowledge or experience of others, made known to him, dismisses his notions of singularity, disperses a consequent train of doubts, lenifies his sorrows, encourages him to proceed in his pursuits, and enables him to form a more correct judgment of his God, his fellow-men, and himself. If, then, it is needful for persons who are enjoying health to visit each other, surely the calls to visit the sick and dying must be much more urgent. Why? First, In consequence of being deprived of the means of seeking society by Him who commands the pestilence to rush and stay; and though many, apparently by their own imprudence, languish and die, yet God is the ruler of events, and afflicts for various reasons, but always for the benefit of the subjects thereof. He undoubtedly punishes some with sickness, as he did the Israelites, when they joined themselves to Baal-peor, &c. Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.” But to leave such unhappy beings to themselves is highly culpable in professors of religion,
and opposed to the character of their Head, who came to seek and save that which was lost. When the Israelites transgressed, their Priests did not desert them, but employed their utmost exertions to remove the plague, and to heal the serpent-bitten people. In other cases, God lays his rod on those who love him, to prove the strength of their present attachment to him, and to increase it towards him, by weaning their affections from created good ; as in the case of Job, who was a proverb of patience and fidelity to Jehovah, when he was a mass of disease, exclaiming, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” “Shall we receive good at the hands of God, and shall we not receive evil ?” And the Lord said, “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried : they shall call on my name, and I will hear them ; I will say, 'It is my people ;' and they shall say, "The Lord is my
Therefore, because afflictions come not forth from the dust, but from the hand of the Almighty, it is necessary that the sick should be visited. Secondly, Because it is a divine command. “If any among you be sick, let him call for the Elders of the church, and let them pray over him;" for the “effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much;" “and the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” The blessed Redeemer, in his description of the last day, said to his professed followers, “ Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was sick, and ye visited me not : inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of my brethren, ye did it not to me.” Thirdly, When saints are suffering from disease, the mind being intimately connected with the body, it is often depressed and weakened even to doubt the existence of genuine piety therein: at such seasons of mental dulness, Satan is not shy to shoot his fiery darts at them, to come into close contact with them, and, by every cunning artifice which he can employ, he endeavours to destroy their confidence in God, to rob them of their strength, and to pierce them through with many sorrows. In these moments of awful anguish, the visit of a fellow-Christian is most opportune and salutary, as he can unbosom the secret workings of his distracted soul to him, and ask and receive such explanation, advice, and comfort, as the important crisis demands. In the case of unbelievers, their destitution of everything that is sacred, and utter ignorance of the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, is a sufficient and potent argument in favour of their necessity to be visited.
The second part of the subject is, the nature and design of visiting the sick.
As the intention is to instruct the ignorant, and educate them for the courts of bliss; to point the dying culprit to the “ Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world ;” and to cheer the saint when he is “passing through the valley of the shadow of death,” and strengthen his confidence in the Triune God; it is of paramount importance that visiters should be persons of deep piety and mature experience. In most large towns there exist societies for the relief and visitation of the indigent sick; and it has been observed, that the committees of some of these institutions have not been sufficiently careful in their choice of “ visiting officers.” For instance, persons of superficial piety are not fit for the sacred work: they may call on the objects of need, and ascertain the truth of their temporal necessities, and also relieve them, without investigating their spiritual state ; and thus continue to visit, for a succession of weeks, or months, until the period allotted for relief (according to the society's rule) is completed, without leaving the afflicted individual one iota better than he at first found him ; but such characters are employed, and have been acting thus for several years. Others there are who possess religion, but constitutional timidity prevents them from performing the duties of the office which they are called to fill contrary to their own desire ; and fearing lest they should be suspected of possessing no piety by declining the agency, they retain it with a dissatisfied, self-smitten conscience; neglecting the duty itself, through fear of failing in the performance of it, or shame of the holy cross. There is also a third description of character unfit for the momentous engagement: these are young or inexperienced persons. There are but few young people who are calculated to perform the solemn, responsible duties of such an undertaking ; the demands of the dying are so complicated and awful, as to need a profundity of Scripture knowledge to meet the arguments of natural reason, and overthrow the conspiracies of the “powers of darkness,” which not unfrequently are of a very perplexing sort, and need the most poignant parts of the “sword of the Spirit” to attack and defeat them. There is experience essential, and deep penetrative discernment, which young persons generally do not possess; and often through an ignorant zeal, or ill-timed, unsuitable advice, rob people of their comfort, and inflict an injury, instead of administering consolation ; therefore, (with but few exceptions,) young people and new converts are unfit to engage in the sacred duties of a visiter in organized, systematic societies. Visiters should be men and women of tried, sterling piety, of clean hands and pure hearts ; practising in all their deportment the discipline and precepts of truth and self-denial which they inculcate on others ; able to give a reason for the hope which is in them ; understanding what they teach, and living under the continued influence of the Holy Spirit. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his :” and without the aid of the Holy Ghost, nothing really good can be effected. They should have skilful judgment, blended with fervent charity and vigorous faith, which are sufficient qualifications for a visiter of the sick. Less than these would not form a character equivalent to the claims of such a dignified, solemn employment; therefore, these, and these alone, are adequate and indispensable. The nature of visiting the afflicted part of the community is to be considered negatively and positively. The great design of benevolent societies is not to impart merely pecuniary assistance to the poor distressed ; (for, thank God, the laws of our country provide aliment for the cravings of nature ;) but their motive is to get acquainted with the soul ; and as the heart of man, in his natural state, is corroding with pride, it is impossible to reach it without first compassionating his bodily suffering, and relieving his temporal poverty. Therefore the design is two-fold in its nature and tendency. It is very easy to discharge the introductory part of the visit; but the principle of the business is to be entered upon with great caution, and determined perseverance, in the case where God is neither feared nor acknowledged. When a visiter enters either the castle or the dungeon of infidelity, he needs the wisdom of a serpent, and the innocence of a dove; and with affection closely united to decision, prayer in his closet and over the deluded spirit, accompanied with active faith, he may succeed in his labour to convince the unhappy being of his error, and lead him to the Saviour of lost men.