« ZurückWeiter »
highly of his character as it deserved. Accordingly, he never calls himself a barren fig-tree, nor a withered branch of the true Vine. He never calls his good works "filthy rags," nor his great services trifles. There is no whining, nor cant, nor sweeping self-condemnation, nor overdone humility about him. What is good about him, he calls good, without pride or shame; and what is bad he calls bad, without exaggeration or palliation. He speaks as highly of the law of his mind, as he does meanly of the law in his members. He respects both his spirit and his will, even whilst "wretched" on account of his weak and wayward fiesh. It was also in reference to the mighty task of being the chief apostle of the GENTILES, that he called or thought himself "less than the least of all saints." Accordingly, in reference to ordaining apostolic duty, he did not think himself "a whit behind the very chiefest of the apostles."-2 Cor. xi. 5. In like manner, it was of his works as a righteousness in law, that he said he counted them all but dross. He counted them "the fruits of the Spirit," and the proofs of faith, and the marks of sonship and meetness for heaven, as obedience to the Gospel. As a justifying righteousness, he despised even his best works; but as a sanctifying righteousness, he valued highly whatever was good in his character, and praised highly and openly whatever was good in the character of other believers. He even boasted of, and gloried in, Christians who distinguished themselves in works of faith and labours of love. So also does Christ himself. He speaks well and highly of the churches which did well, and he will say to the righteous, from the judgment-seat, "I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; thirsty, and ye gave me drink; naked, and ye clothed me; sick and in prison, and ye visited me."
No man can weigh all this praise, without perceiving that some use should be made of it, by those on whom it is bestowed. But still, the question is, What use? Now, again, the first answer must be, The praise must not be used for self-righteous, self-complacent, or selfconfident purposes. No Christian must compliment himself, nor boast, nor count himself perfect, nor reckon himself a tree of righteousness which can neither fall nor fade. He must, however, reckon himself " a good tree," if he be a Christian. He is not a Christian, if he is "a bad tree." And he is not a good tree, if he bring forth “bad fruit." A good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, nor an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Whoever, therefore, is bringing forth good fruit, ought not to think himself a bad tree. It is both his duty and his interest to think himself a good tree, of God's right-hand planting. This is the true way to grow better, and thus more fruitful.
We ought to speak sense, and sense "according to the oracles of God," on this subject. No real Christian is at liberty to call himself a bad tree or a barren tree. He may, and ought to lament that he is neither so good nor so fruitful as he ought to be; but he has no right
to give ill names to good things, even if he intend only to show humility or modesty. Humility must not sacrifice truth nor sense, in order to preserve even itself. Humility, indeed, cannot be preserved by exaggeration. We are accustomed to hear men make sweeping charges against their own hearts and holiness; and thus are hardly sensible of the impropriety of the custom. But what should we think of an honest man speaking of himself as a rogue? or of a virtuous man speaking of himself as a profligate? No man of real character would sport thus with his own reputation. Or if any man did so in mere levity, we should feel that he was very likely to become what he said. So it is in religion. He perils his own character, who accustoms himself to speak disparagingly of his piety, if he has any real piety. True, persons are not believed, nor do they believe themselves, when they run down their own piety, by extravagant confessions and complaints. But, how does this mend the. matter? Is it Christian-like to say what we neither believe, nor wish to be believed? Where is godly sincerity or common sense, if we say that of ourselves which we would allow no one to say of us, and which we would not say were any one likely to believe it? Let us be honest! If a man be a barren tree, or bring not forth good fruit,—let him look to it! Calling himself so, will not save him from that threatening, "Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire." If a man be a fruitless branch, let him look to it! Calling himself a withered branch, will not pass as an excuse nor an apology for barrenness. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, my Father taketh away," says Christ. A really barren professor, if he believed this, would do something else than talk. The dread of the felling axe, and the consuming fire, would set him to cultivate the fruits of holiness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory of God.
There are also other expressions current, which, if true of any professed believer, ought to make him tremble whenever he utters or thinks of them. If all his works be what he calls them, "filthy rags," it is high time for him to wash them and make them white in the blood of the Lamb! Calling them filthy, is not cleansing them. In like manner, if it be true of an avowed follower of Christ, that "from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, there is nothing but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores, which have neither been bound up, nor mollified with ointment," it is quite certain that that man has not employed Christ as his physician, nor the Holy Spirit as his sanctifier, nor the balm of Gilead as his medicine.
Here again, I am aware, persons say more than they mean. But, why do so? What purpose is answered by going, in words, beyond the facts of the case? True, the words are scriptural. What then? there are other scriptural words which no man of character applies to himself. There are charges and confessions of nameless vice in Scrip
ture; would it be humility to speak of ourselves in the words of them? If not, where is the humility of saying anything more than we really mean? Indeed, there is pride in it; for if I give myself bad names, without at all fearing that I shall be believed, or taken at my word, I am proud to think that my character is a security against all mistake. But there is something worse than pride in such self-abuse. For as it passes current for humility, and modesty, and lowliness, and is never believed to the letter, in the case of any man who has anything like a character-there is no small danger of resting in just enough of character, to prevent such confessions from being believed. In fact, when a man finds that he can keep his name and place in a church by saying humiliating things of himself, he is in great danger of ceasing to improve his piety. It is cheaper to talk than to act; to cry "barren" than to bear fruit.
But we must come more closely to the point on this subject. It is disgraceful to go on talking of being barren fig-trees, or empty vines, from year to year. For if we really are fruitless-the axe and the fire are not far off. And if we do bear any good fruit, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and ought not be spoken nor thought of disparagingly. It is as wrong to call good evil, as to call evil good. The work of grace in the heart is a good work" even at the beginning of it; and, therefore, it is not true that there is nothing but evil in the heart of a real Christian. It is only too true that in his "flesh dwelleth no good thing;" but it is not true that there is no good thing towards God and duty in him.
I am not at all anxious to substitute for the current phrases of our times, the oriental phrases of antiquity. But I do think that it would improve our piety, to aim at some likeness to the beautiful things which God compares the righteous unto-instead of comparing ourselves to the ugly and useless things which he compares hypocrites, apostates, and rebels to. Besides, however an humble man may shrink from such figures of himself, as the rose, the lily, the myrtle, and the cedar-he is mean-spirited, and not lowly-minded, who can succumb to the use of mock or mawkish phrases, which imply that he is worse than he really is, or dares to be, or would be if he durst. There will not be much solemn or influential humility, whilst this slang passes for humility. He will be the truly humble man who, after trying how much he can resemble God's emblem of the righteous-in fruit, flower, and fragrance-casts himself at the feet of the Master of the vineyard, crying in secret, "My leanness! my leanness!" Any one can say this, as an apology for unfruitfulness; but no one can say it in the spirit of Jeremiah, who is content to be an "empty vine" from year to year. Phrases, however penitential or self-condemnatory, are not fruit!
Besides, it is not wise to speak only of weakness or barrenness. Perpetual familiarity with the words tends to reconcile the mind to
the things; whereas, did we often remember that God calls his people roses, not thorns; myrtles, not briars; cedars, palms, or vines, and not willows or bulrushes,—we should feel stirred up to excel in holiness and virtue.
MEMORABLE DAYS IN JULY.
July 1, 1555. John Bradford burnt.
1, 1643. The “Assembly of Divines" at Westminster was opened.
2, 1620. John Robinson's farewell to his flock on the sea-shore at Delft Haven.
3, 1712. Richard Stretton (ejected from Petworth, Sussex, in 1662) died.
4, 1553. John Frith and Andrew Hewet burnt at Smithfield.
4, 1682. Richard Fairclough (ejected in 1662, from Melles, Somersetshire)
5, 1635. Richard Sibbs, Puritan, and author of many valuable treatises, died. 6, 1415. John Huss burnt at Constance.
6, 1535. Sir Thomas More executed.
6, 1553. King Edward VI. died.
6, 1583. Edmund Grindall, Archbishop of Canterbury, died.
9, 1796. Papal bull confirming the college at Maynooth.
10, 1665. Joseph Alleine apprehended for preaching, and committed, with seven
other ministers and forty private persons, to Ilchester gaol.
11, 1584. Prince of Orange assassinated.
13, 1698. The foundation-stone of the Orphan House at Halle laid.
14, 1663. Joseph Alleine brought before the sessions at Taunton.
,, 14, 1789. The Bastile destroyed.
17, 1836. Rafaravavy accused of Christianity.
20, 1683. William, Lord Russell, beheaded.
,, 21, 1773. The Jesuits suppressed at Rome.
,, 24, 1559. John Udall, reformer, tried.
,, 27, 1654. Thomas Gataker, Puritan, died.
,, 28, 1540. Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, beheaded.
,, 28, 1844. Dr. John Dalton, the distinguished chemist, died.
,, 29, 1833. William Wilberforce died.
,, 30, 1540. Three Protestants and four Papists executed together.
Ir is not our intention to detain our readers with the details of all or many of the obituary notices in this list. They are not without their interest, or they would not have been enumerated here; but a more than usual demand upon our time forbids our doing more with regard to most of them, than to refer to the sources of fuller inform
ation. For illustration of the notices respecting Cranmer and Bradford we must refer to Fox's Acts and Monuments, or to those more recent compilations (such as Thornton's or Middleton's biographies of the Reformers) from which we have frequently quoted. An original account of Sibbs is given in Clark's "Marrow of Ecclesiastical History." Notices of Stretton, Fairclough, and Alleine, may be found in Palmer's Nonconformists' Memorial; and one of Watts in Thornton's Piety Exemplified, to say nothing of Milner's Life of him, or Dr. Johnson's Memoir, which is prefixed to so many editions of his hymn-book, or that which is published in the Religious Tract Society's Christian Biography. Information respecting the emancipation of the Hottentots (the notice of which we took from Moffat's Missionary Scenes and Labours in Africa) may be found in Dr. Philip's Missionary Researches, and Pringle's South Africa. The incident relating to Rafaravavy we must also leave to be looked for in Mr. Freeman's interesting little work on the persecutions in Madagascar. But we trust that there are among our readers—and here we must own we have our younger readers particularly in view-some who will not consider it a great trouble to find some of this information for themselves; and if we offered no other special recommendation at this time, we would offer one in favour of the work last named, the "Narrative of the persecu tion of the Christians in Madagascar, by J. J. Freeman and D. Johns."
For the reason above stated, we must also omit all particular details respecting the few remarkable events connected with civil history, which the present list contains. One of them, indeed-Edward the Sixth's death, we have already incidentally noticed: see our February paper. The execution of William, Lord Russell, is a memorable fact, not more interesting in its connexion with the progress of our civil and religious liberties, than as it furnished the occasion of developing one of the most attractive female characters which have adorned the domestic history of England. The history of the Bastile furnishes some most striking moral lessons in the agreeable form of story, and we should gladly have just glanced at one or two of them; but other duties are inexorable, and we restrain our pen.
Of the few events that we can notice, the first in point of time, if not of interest, is the martyrdom of Huss. In the "Gedenktage der Alten Brüderkirche”—“ Memorial Days of the Old Church of the Brethren," Gnadau, 1821, pp. 1-39,-there is an admirable account of this distinguished Reformer, and his martyr-death. The following is an extract:
"The next day, the 6th of July, which was Huss's forty-third birthday, and a Saturday, the whole council [of Constance] assembled in their fifteenth general session, to decide upon Huss's case. The emperor himself came in state, attended by the princes and all the chivalry of the empire. The Bishop of Riga ordered the accused to be conducted by armed men out of his prison to the cathedral, where,