« PreviousContinue »
sounding a trumpet to proclaim their wits or their consciences to find out a own praise-for they were as humble in via media between the church and the their own eyes as they were exalted in world. Theirs was the nobler aim of the esteem of others—but by thorough obtaining the victory over the world, decision for God; by deep, earnest by the power of a living faith. But what emotion; by such a holy determination Christian ever yet overcame the world against sin, and for conformity to God, by exchanging caresses with it, and by as must constitute the essential differ being all but of the world? This, then, ence between the righteous and the is a voice that is echoed from the fawicked in time and in eternity. They thers to the children. For if there was unconsciously revealed their true charac
one feature of character more strongly ter in some such way as the rose, which marked than another in the religion of silently discloses its lovely tints, and our fathers, it was their superiority to makes known its presence by perfuming the spirit and course of the world. the air with its fragrance.
They had a mind to work for Christ. They lived above the spirit of the world. Cowie's church was a working church.
This, if I mistake not, was a marked Not only was its own machinery kept feature in the character of Cowie's peo in full working play, as it regarded the ple, and one which the present genera- maintenance of the public ordinances tion of professing Christians would do of religion, but it was also a centre of well seriously to consider. The religious active operations for the extension of professors of Cowie's time acted in such the kingdom of Christ, both at home a manner as that the men of the world and abroad. It had its association in might have nothing to say against them, connexion with the London Missionary except in the matter of their God; but Society very soon after the formation in so doing they never calculated upon of that noble institution, and when securing the world's smile. They well these Christian efforts were little known knew that the world would never belie in the north, except as a matter of opits true character by ceasing to contemn probrium and contempt. Cowie's peothe good ways of the Lord; and they ple were among the first, if not the very resolved not to belie theirs by a com- first, to engage heart and hand in the promise in order to gain its good will. blessed work of Sabbath-schools, at a They felt that the spirit of the world | time when such labours of love were and the spirit that is of God are essen- frowned upon even by the godly. It is tially opposed, and that the gulph that not necessary to dwell upon these things, lies between can never be narrowed which are so well known. I need not without imminent peril to the followers remind the successors of Cowie's people, of Christ. Our godly fathers were very that they have had these works of faith stringent on the score of conformity to and labours of love transmitted to them the world. No half-way measures were as a sort of heir-loom from their godly practised or countenanced by them. sires. I need not remind them, that They drew the line of demarcation it was on account of cordial sympathy within rather than without what some
with these and similar movements, that would be disposed to regard as the exact Cowie himself had the lasting honour boundary. They were content to leave of being solemnly excommunicated by a considerable space on the farther side his brethren, when, on the same day, of their line, which less scrupulous pro- that heroic man preached to his people fessors are disposed to regard as at least from the words,—“If God be for us who neutral ground, and which they may
can be against us?" But besides what very safely occupy. These good men was accomplished by Cowie's people in never thought of either stretching their I their more collective capacity, there was
An influence went forth from them of a Howe, and Charnock, besides a host of more diffusive charaoter, which was others, both of the puritanic age and of scarcely less salutary in its results. more recent times; and, more than all, Cowie had members of his church scat- who had mastered that stupendous tered here and there at a distance monument of metaphysical skill and of from twenty to thirty miles from earnest piety, “ Edwards on the Will." Huntly. And wherever you found one We are in these days too prone to comof these men, he would be forming a pliment ourselves upon our superior prayer-meeting, organizing a Sabbath- intelligence, and to look upon our school, or using his influence to secure fathers as having been far behind us in occasional ministrations of the pure gos- this respect; but it is very questionable pel of Christ in the locality. These men whether this is not a fond conceit. We were the centres of religious influence are, perhaps, in advance of them in wherever they pitched their tent; they some things, but not, I should think, in were a “dew from the Lord in the midst solid information, more especially on of many people.” The little circles they theological subjects. The reading, even were by such means enabled to draw of our intelligent people, is of a too around them, became, in many in ephemeral character, and too superficial stances, the nucleuses of Christian for this. A snatch now and then from churches, which are now " walking in the religious periodicals of the day will all the commandments and ordinances not produce the same depth of know. of the Lord." What a voice of stimu- ledge on theological points, which was lation and encouragement is thus lifted possessed by many of the distinguished up to those who are the legitimate suc- men of Cowie's time. cessors of Cowie's people! Be it yours, They were pre-eminently a praying dear brethren, to emulate the holy zeal people. of those who have gone before you, and This was, after all, perhaps, the grand who acted so worthily in their day. secret of their power--the "might and
They were persons of much informa- the mastery" by which they were ention and reading.
abled to do exploits. As princes, they Were I to mention names, I might had power with God, and prevailed. refer to Mr. John Leslie, who stood at Prayer was their element. Their breath the head of this class, not only in the was the breath of supplication, and it particular referred to, but also in the returned upon their tabernacles like the varied excellences which combine in dew of Hermon. It was no unusual forming the character of an eminently thing with these men, ay, and the useful Christian. But there were many women too, to interrupt their midnight others, who, although not possessed of slumbers, that they might arise and call an equal power of communicating by upon God. Yes, we have seen it, and the pen, were scarcely inferior to him can never lose its impression. We bave in theological knowledge, and acquaint- seen your sainted Seivewright, with pale ance with books. One, at least, I knew, visage, and in his night-clothes, pros
—my ever revered father,--who, though trate in communion with Heaven, long A working man all his days, and singu- before the summer's sun had begun to larly industrious, had succeeded in gild the eastern sky. When, O when, making himself familiar with history, brethren, shall we arouse ourselves to both ancient and modern; who was emulate this wrestling spirit? How conversant with all our great poets, and long will it be ere the whole Israel of could quote largely from their pages; God shall respond in harmonious acwho was intimately acquainted with claim to Jacob's resolution, " We will the voluminous writings of Owen, and not let thee go, except thou bless us?"
THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION: ITS MOMENTOUS
" As ages roll away,
Important occurrences recorded in Events and changes swiftly come and go. Often there are some which strike whole
the Holy Scriptures, and detailed with nations,
impressive simplicity,--such as, the And paralyse vast empires;-but what event, deliverance of the Israelites from the However great or stirring, can compare tyranny of Pharaoh, and the wanton With this ? It stands out singly, grandly; cruelty of the Egyptians,—their pasIn majesty awful and sublime." HUMAN PROGRESS.
sage through the Red Sea, and their
miraculous preservation in the wilderThe most brilliant, and, in every ness,—the promulgation of the law on respect, illustrious event, which modern Mount Sinai,—their ultimate entrance history records, and, beyond question, into the land of Canaan,—the victories the most signally advantageous to which they achieved there over nuEurope, and the world, is that of the merous and warlike enemies,—the reglorious Reformation from Popery ;- covery of their Sacred Books in the an event on which we cannot too long reign of Josiah,—their restoration from or too profoundly dwell ---one in which the Babylonish captivity,--and many Protestants of every communion are other events in their memorable annals, individually and pre-eminently inter- -were carefully registered by the Jews, ested, and which demands earnest atten- | --held by them in perpetual rememtion and universal regard. It should brance,-and the memorials of them never be lost sight of. It should never were handed down, with the utmost be undervalued, much less depreciated; precision and gratitude, from and, especially, in times like these, generation to another. when we have to fall back more than Now, we ask, If the Jewish people ever on our great Protestant principles, recurred to these events with so much and, under extraordinary circumstances, interest, should not we, as British to fight the battle of the Reformation Protestants, recur with equal interest over again. It is readily conceded, and gratitude to the great event of the that the magnificent achievement to Reformation from Popery ? unquestionwhich we refer, was not complete—that ably the most felicitous and important the work executed by our noble Reform- occurrence which has taken place since ers was imperfect in its character; that the primitive age,--the first promulgathere were many errors to correct,- tion of Christianity by the Apostles. many deficiencies to supply,-many ex- The era of the Reformation has been crescences to remove ;-still, it was a appropriately designated—“ the second gigantic undertaking—a glorious strug- dawn of gospel light"-the restoration gle; it was a splendid victory, for the of pure and undefiled religion from the achievement of which no true-minded errors, impurities, and abominations of and true-hearted Protestant can be too Popery. And it should be invariably thankful.
borne in mind, by every intelligent and Great national events—those in which reflective Protestant, that, unless the empires glory-events issuing in the lamp of truth had been re-kindled and restoration or the preservation of the elevated at the period of the Reformafreedom, the intellectual and moral tion, we should have been involved, at progress of multitudes, are recurred to this hour, in the deepest moral and with emotions the most vivid, joyous, religious gloom, “sitting"-without any and grateful.
figure" in darkness and the shadow
of death." We should have remained | youth, put his shoulders to the wheel, the degraded and fettered victims of but was cut off in the blossom of his a sordid and oppressive priesthood days!” causing everything to bend to their su His memory, however, will always perstition, domination, and rapacity. be fragrant. His name will ever be The mind would have been narrowed, mentioned with respect, admiration, and even hoodwinked. The judgment would love; and his beautiful spirit and deeds have been not only warped, but en- will be continually yielding fruit. slaved. Speech would bave been How signally are we indebted to chained. Free opinion and inquiry William Tyndale - that enlightened would have been crushed. The press and most useful man, that heroic would have been deprived of its elasti- martyr-one of the earliest Translators city and power—it would have been of the Holy Scriptures into the Enggagged and miserably crippled, or pour- lish language; whose mind dwelt on ing forth error and venom abundantly. the work with the ardour of devotion, We should have been destitute of that and with the resolution of one deter"glorious liberty” of thought, of senti- mined to die rather than not accomplish ment;—of those sublime hopes—which it,-and who, by his translation of the impart so much charm to existence, New Testament into English, did more communicate so much diguity to the towards expelling the darkness and present life, and throw around us such superstition of this kingdom, than any a halo of splendour in the prospect of man of his age. He lived for the eternity.
benefit of mankind, and died a martyr We cannot ponder, too long or grate in the cause of religion. Condemned fully, the obligations under which we to be strangled and burned, he suffered lie, as British Protestants, or British at Augsburg, in 1536, uttering, as his Christians, by God's special benedic- last and memorable words, after being tion, to that illustrious band divinely tied to the stake,—"Lord, open the raised up, called forth, and eminently King of England's eyes!” qualified, to arouse the nations from How great aro our obligations to their intellectual and moral slumbers— Huss, who was
so valiant and unto sound an alarm of the most awaken-daunted in the cause of God and the ing and startling kind throughout every Truth, and who so nobly died for the department of the Papacy—and to testimony which he bore, and for the accomplish, in a great degree, that principles which he maintained ! noble work of Reformation, in which How much do we owe to Jerome, our sainted ancestors rejoiced, and the who exhibited such firmness, dignity, priceless blessings accruing from which and true Christian heroism! What a we perpetually realize.
debt is ours to the immortal Wyckliffe, The undertaking which God enabled whose character will ever be dearthem to achieve, has won for them im whose efforts will ever be so highly perishable renown -renown of the prized by Protestants throughout the purest and noblest character, far ex- globe—whose writings have conferred ceeding that ever due to philosophers on our own country inestimable benefits the most distinguished—to statesmen —and whose spirit, in the midst of the the most sagacious and patriotic—to most fierce and brutal persecutions, warriors the most brilliant.
was the most pure, celestial, and unIt has been beautifully observed— daunted. “How much do we owe to Edward the What heartfelt gratitude should we Sixth, who, uniting the fervour of an cherish, when we recur to such men as enlightened saint with the loveliness of Ridley, Cranmer, and Latimer,—whose
principles were so boldly communicated How many of these Protestant and -whose opposition to the errors and Christian Reformers bled on the scafabuses of Popery was so fixed and de- fold, were reduced to ashes at the terminate--and who were ready to lay stake, after prolonged torments ;-endown their lives for “the Truth as it is during, for years, the most bitter priin Jesus"-indeed, who were cruelly vations and sufferings in the cause of sacrificed in defence of that Truth. truth and righteousness! And how
And—to mention no other honour- cheerfully, sometimes even most joyable names—what are our obligations, ously, were all these indignities—all above all, to the intrepid and immortal these sufferingsmall these varied deaths Luther;—that man, who, in the history experienced, -as though marked honour of Protestantism, stands out was conferred—as though signal triprominently than any other; who, with umph was gained, -in order that the a mind as firm as a rock, when Truth Truth of God might no longer be held was at stake-with a firmness as un in bondage, but be perfectly and for yielding as adamant, when the sim- ever disenthralled, and be freed from plicity and purity of Christianity were the sad incrustations—the absurd su“ blurred and blotted" by Popery- perstitions—the falsities—the miserable with a heart fired by the love of Christ distortions—the dangerous interpreta- and with a determination, which tions and glosses which Popery had nothing could shake, to conquer or die, heaped upon it; not only defacing its grappled with the enemies of intellec- beauty, and dimming its lustre, but tual and moral freedom, and with the darkening its light-sapping its foundaopponents of the “incorrupt Gospel of tion-teaching another gospel — and Christ,” in so resolute and heroic a leading the people grievously and manner, and would, at any time, have fatally astray. preferred laying down his life to the During the age of Tyndale gross abandonment or compromise of the darkness pervaded the land. The clergy great principles he so tenaciously held. themselves, everywhere, were deplorably
These—and their number could soon ignorant, superstitious in the utmost be trebled—were“ Spiritual Heroes” | degree, and encouraged persecution in indeed-giants of former days. At a its most cruel and hideous forms. Hisperiod the most peculiar and eventful; tory records of this period, that many under circumstances the most critical of the priests could scarcely read, and and alarming; when everything dear were unable to write. Doctors of the to humanity, to freedom, to Christian-Sorbonne have testified that, though ity, was at stake, they dared nobly, more than fifty years old, they had they came out in the fullest, the most never known what the New Testament transparent manner. They laboured
Even Martin Luther never saw a with unceasing energy, with heroic Bible until after he had taken a degree zeal, to release the Word of God from in the university. It is related, that its long captivity-to unsetter Divine Carolostadt had been a Doctor of DiTruth, which Popery had long en-vinity eighty years before he had read chained-and, when untrammelled, to the Scriptures, and yet, the university diffuse it widely,-circulating the un.
of Wittemburg, when he stood and obvarnished, undistorted, unadulterated tained his degree, recorded of him that Scriptures among the people, what he was sufficientissimus. If there were ever might be the consequences, though such blindness, morally and religiously, most humiliating and painful to them- among the priests, what must it have selves, and most desolating to their been in relation to the people ? At the families and prospects!
period of the great Protestant Reforma