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RELIGION_A MATTER OF SUPREME
der its blind impulse have been wrought on earth, IMPORTANCE.
they are inclined to give it just so much counte
nance as may serve to retain within safe limits, or BY THE Rev. R. S. CANDLISH, A. M.,
guide in a safe channel, the current which they Minister of St. George's Parish, Edinburgh.
cannot wholly check. Hence their policy is to The importance of Religion, as a primary and manage the religious spirit in individuals and principal element to be taken into account, in fix- communities, so as to render it harmless. They ing the conditions or reckoning the chances of would flatter it by a decent profession of civility— individual or social well-being, is held universally, or give it vent, as hy a safety valve, in gay and but on different grounds by different men, accord- gorgeous pageants, in solemn and stately formsing to the variety of their own personal views on or amuse it and lay it asleep by vague, unmeaning, the subject of Religion itself.
but fair-sounding generalities. And just as they 1. Thus, there are not a few who look upon might coax out of
an infants hands a dangerous Religion, very much as the inhabitants of a country toy, they contrive, by smooth words of respectful reclaimed from the sea may be supposed to look acknowledgment, to avoid a direct quarrel with upon the wide waste of waters around them ; or religion and to keep men in good humour on the as emigrants in a newly cleared tract of land may subject, while their aim is to remove as far as look
upon the wild tenants of the adjoining forest. possible away from their ordinary habits of thougạt The ocean displaced from his old domain, the and action, a class of motives which seem to them savage beast dispossessed of his former home, is not only practically useless for the purposes of regarded by the new intruders with suspicion and life, but even likely, unless very cautiously watchalarm, as a mischievous and dangerous neighbour, ed, to be positively dangerous and detrimental. to whose neighbourhood, however, they must We need scarcely remark that such views, howneeds submit, as a necessary condition of the very ever they may affect to coalesce with a religion of settlement they have got, and whose power, since idle ceremony, or a religion of loose indiscriminthey cannot rid themselves of it altogether, they ating sentiment, are substantially infidel and unmust just regulate or restrain as best they may. godly. In the same spirit, many view the religious senti- 2. Again, there is a numerous set of men, not ment, the instinctive feeling of veneration, which quite so suspicious or so much afraid of this pothey acknowledge to be an original principle in tent spirit, who take in hand not only to prevent the mind. Men, they say, are endowed with it by its mischievous explosions, but even to make it a nature for wise ends. It is involved in that ra- safe and quiet instrument of some little service to tional and moral constitution which is the dis- the individual and to the commonwealth. These tinctive characteristic of the human race, as su- persons, not content with erecting a barrier against perior to the race of brutes ; and without that the threatening tide, carefully open a few narrow susceptibility of reverential emotions on which sluices, and admit a measured portion of the water Religion depends, there could be no society, no into well adjusted reservoirs and canals, where it civilization. But though it be an unavoidable re- may securely be made to minister to the commerce sult of that mental organization which fits men for or convenience of the town. But still it is with society—since, to be capable of social, man must be so much anxious fear that they venture on such a made capable of something like religious, feelings-step, and with so many precautions and such constill this sentiment of religion finds no great fa- stant warnings against the risk of even an hairvour in their eyes. However indispensable to the breadth's excess or overflow, that it is well seen they formation of society, they hold it to be not very are dealing with an unfriendly element,—tamperessential to its advancement. Indeed, considering ing with a power which they dare not freely trust. the mighty energy of religious zeal when it pos- Religion, according to them, or the sentiment of deSesses the soul, and the fearful ravages which un- vout reverence and conscientiousnes, may, if duly regulated and controlled, be turned to a good and | as conscience within us attests Him to be? Has useful account. The morality of the Bible is their He been forgotten and forsaken, disowned and disfavourite theme of praise. The precepts of holiness regarded by men, his reasonable creatures, as ali and peace which it contains—its maxims of spot- experience declares ? Is He in Christ reconciling less purity and righteousness—the spirit of benig. the world unto Himself, as the Gospel proclaims? nant gentleness and love which it breathes—and Is this Religion? and is it a reality? Then, if so, the beautiful representation which it gives of all the it is a reality to be dealt with as itself alone on its highest excellencies and the fairest graces of hu- own account vitally important, and not merely on man character, in the person of the blessed Saviour, account of certain advantages or disadvantages that all these amiable features of the Gospel are felt to we may think likely to flow from it. It is not our be conducive to the virtue and the happiness of servant, to do our bidding—our instrument, to serve mankind. And the doctrine of a wise Creator, our purposes—our property, on which we may cut a bountiful and merciful Guardian and Protector, and carve, and which we may form and fashion to our is acknowledged to be a fit auxiliary to those sanc- own liking. It is our master-it must command tions of law and conscience by which men are go- us—it must have us, and all that is ours, placed Verned and society is kept together. But as the at its disposal—we, and all that is ours, belong to settlers amid the forest who might desire to make it, or rather to the God whom it reveals as reuse of its wild tenants and to turn their services conciled. And it is when in this spirit we give to to advantage, would scarcely dare to do so until God his due supremacy, and make Religion itself
, they had been first of all tamed and subdued; so and for its own sake, our chief concern, to which it is a Religion well tamed and subdued, and made all other interests must be postponed—it is then very subserviert and compliant to their own world-only that we can know its true and actual influly principles, that these admirers of the gain ofence on these very interests of ours; for then only godliness prudently patronize. They encourage do we give it a fáir trial. For, to judge fairly of just so much of the religious spirit as may be use- the effects or tendency of any plan, we must supful or convenient for checking the grosser kinds of pose its essential conditions fulfilled. Now, the vice, and adding something of the credit of the very essence of the Religion of the Gospel, is the Christian name to the superficial plausibilities of willing subjection of ourselves, and all that is ours, advancing civilization. But then the Christianity to God. We may faney a Religion which does they recommend must be trimmed into correspon- not involve such subjection, but which rather makes dence with their views of man’s nature and condi- the fear of God subject to the consideration of our tion and highest good. It must be cut and fa- own present interests. This, however, is not shioned so as to fit into their merely secular plans Christianity-nor, in truth, is it Deism eitherfor his improvement—it must be kept in a second for, if there be a God, He must be in all things and subordinate place-it must observe prescribed and over all things Supreme. The very notion, limits—it must follow a prescribed track. Not therefore, which we in that case form of Religion, for the world would they'; if they could help it, prevents us from rightly estimating its power trust it loose ainong men, free to take its own either for good or for evil--for it is a notion radiway and wield its own influence. They dread its cally wrong and self-contradictory. But now asvagaries and excesses unrestrained. They are sen- sume the reality of such a Religion as alone can sitively alive to the hazard of enthusiasm and properly be so called at all, and let its riglitful prefanaticism. They have a sacred horror of peculiar eminence be assigned to it; and then estimate is and exclusive dogmas. Thus, if they do use Re- blessings and its obligations. This reference of all ligion for the purposes of life, they use it as they things to God—to God sovereign and gracious, would use a sharp-edged tool or doubly-loaded this acknowledginent of God in all thingsfire-arms, with extreme caution and reserve; and of God as a personal friend in Jesus,—does it not while their whole plans and proceedings, arranged sweeten all, ennoble all, hallow ail? Does it not for the most part on earthly principles alone, prove give zest to every joy, soothe every sorrow, lighten it to be their real opinion, that the world could go every care, elevate every rational pursuit, and on well enough without Religion at all,—the lesi- make all labour honourable ? It is as it long troubtation with which they let in a very scanty and led and wearied with the attempt to manage an doubtfui influence of principles higher and more entangled and involved estate, in which we found heavenly, shows how much they fear, that with perpeinal vexation and annoyance, we at last gave Religion having its free course, the world would be it all over to ones kilful and faithful, who, relieva turned upside down. Surely this also is but thinly- ing us of all anxiety, provides for us in all redisguised infidelity and ungodliness.
spects far better than we were ever provided for 3. Now, the fatal error of both these views lies in before. It is as if the toil of dreary solitude their regarding Religion merely in its bearings on were cheered and gladdened by the countenance the interests of men, and not as in itself of primary and sympathy of an approving and rewarding masinoment; in their preferring the question of its uti- | ter. So blessed a thing is it to have lity to the question of its truth. For certainly, that God who will be present in the multitude of the use that may be made of Religion is but a se- our thoughts, and will establish every work of our condary consideration. The first is its own rea- hands. In the formation of character, such Relility. Is there a God above us, such in character | gion us tliis alone can be influential. Other sorts
of religion lie on the surface ; their forms and feel- | peaceful profession for that of arms, and entered the miings may be merely superadded to a state of mind litary service of Geneva in the year 1815. As a sowhich continues very much as it was before. This dier, he conducted himself to the entire satisfaction of alone goes to the very foundation. It changes his superior officers, so that in the course of two years wholly a man's relation to God, and therefore also he was promoted to the rank of serjeant of artillery. to all other things. It changes his views of God, By the rough discipline of the camp, Providence was and therefore also of all things else. It makes preparing Felix Netf for the toils and privations which God the centre to which his affections tend, and he was destined to undergo in the service of the Refrom which they go forth to other objects, so that deemer. And this fact is in beautiful accordance with all his human regards now partake of the intensity the mode in which the people of God are usually fitted and purity and stability of a regard that is eternal for the duties which the Almighty appoints them to and divine. Finally, in the conduct of affairs,
discharge. Both in the peaceful occupation of a florist, this Religion exerts a salutary power. Religion, and in the more active employment of a soldier, Neft as men often conceive of it, is to be kept close was gathering up precisely that kind of information, and prisoner to the church and to the closet, because those peculiar habits which he afterwards required. its forms and its feelings cannot find fitting time
Neff soon distinguished himself, in the corps to which space amid the busy dealings of merchants in he belonged, both by his undaunted courage, and his the streets, or the commonplace intercourse of
devoted piety. This latter quality appears to have been neighbours in their houses. But Christianity is by no means agreeable to his superior officers, who are a Religion not of form or feeling merely, but chief- represented by his biographer as having wished him out ly of Principle; and therefore it can find admit- of the service, so much did they feel offended at the tance where ceremony would be out of place and scrupulous strictness of his conduct. At length, so high wrought sensibility out of taste, for right decided did his mind become in its preference of Divine principle is never unseasonable or inapplicable.
things, that he was advised to quit the regiment, and It speaks to the conscience for God, and it has a
dedicate himself to the work of the ministry. Before word to say, in the making of every bargain—in taking a step so important, however, he spent a consithe discharge of every trust—in the issuing of derable part of his time in meditation and prayer, that every command—in the rendering of every ser
he might experience the direction of a wisdom far higher
than his own. vice in the conducting of every conversation-in
And the result was, that he left the the eating of every meal—in every meeting of army in 1819, and commenced a course of study, with
a view to the sacred office. He read the Bible with friends—in every interview of foes—in every common act of kindness done—in every injury receiv- deep and prayerful attention, and so anxious does he ed—in every transaction in every relation of life appear to have been to render Scripture familiar to his
-it has a word to say, and the word is this: “Do mind, that he made a concordance of his own, and filled justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God" the margins of several copies of the Old and New Tes-and “ whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do
tament with remarks and memoranda.
“ Some of all in the name of the Lord Jesus :"_" whether these,” says Dr Gilly, “ are still in the possession of therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do his friends, and are held in most affectionate estimation,
and are consulted as the voice of one who being dead, all to the glory of God.”
As a still further preparation for the practical duties BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF FELIX NEFF. of the sacred office, Neff was employed for two years as
Felix Neff was born in the year 1798, and brought a catechist, or lay-helper, in the Swiss cantons of Neufup in a small village, near Geneva, under the care of chatel, Berne, and the Pays de Vaud.
This office, his widowed mother. His early education appears to which has been long existent in the Protestant churches have been such as reflected great credit upon the wis- on the Continent, forms an excellent probationary dom and piety of his kind parental instructor. No exercise for candidates for the holy ministry. And pains were spared to impart to his youthful mind a taste we are glad to hail its introduction to a certain exfor knowledge, and, above all, to impress him with a tent in our own country; and we trust that, by the sense of Divine things. And it happens rarely, very blessing of God, it will be the means of raising up in rarely, indeed, that the feelings awakened, and the prin the midst of us a number of active, and energetic, and ciples imbibed, in the house of a pious parent, are ever devoted pastors. Accustomed, before receiving ordinaentirely lost. On the mind of Neff, these early im- tion, to visiting families, and catechising the young, and pressions appear to have been of the most salutary and comforting the sick, and, in short, all the other duties lasting description. From childhood, his employments, of a parish, with the exception of those which pecuand even his very amusements, were of a rational kind. liarly belong to an ordained ministry—young men are With an ardent love of natural scenery, and a taste for the better prepared to enter upon the work of parochial the sublime and beautiful, which the surrounding coun- clergymen with efficiency and success. try tended so strongly to gratify, he delighted to wander In 1821, Neff removed from Switzerland, having been among the mountains, or along the banks of the peace invited to officiate as catechist to a pastor at Grenoble, ful lake.
in France. After labouring faithfully there for six The aspiring dispositions of young Neff led him at an months, bis services were requested at Mens, in the Deearly age to look forward to a life of military enterprise; partment of the Isère, to supply, as far as possible, the and accordingly, although for a time he was employed place of an absent pastor Here, however, from various in the nursery-grounds of a florist, he exchanged his circumstances, and, among the rest, from the want of
sympathy in religious feeling between him and the | Felix Neff travelled to that inhospitable region which people among whom he was labouring, he felt his situa- was to be the scene of his future labours. His first tion by no means comfortable, so that in one of his let-employment, on reaching the place, was to become acters, written at this time, exhibiting the state of his quainted with every village and hamlet within his exmind, we find him thus expressing himself :-“ I often tensive parish. Though in the depth of winter, and retire to my chamber, ill at rest, and greatly dissatisfied exposed to the utmost severities of wind and weather, with myself. I reproach myself, on the one hand, for he went forth in the cause of his Master, preaching the having betrayed my sacred trust, and, on the other, for glad tidings of salvation from one end of the district to being a time-server, and afraid of pressing my opportu- the other. An affecting incident which occurred in nities." Yet, notwithstanding the complaining style in one of his excursions, may give some idea of the simple which this letter is couched, the labours of Neff at this character of the people among whom Neff laboured. time were unremitting, not confined to Mens, but ex
“Neff had been performing three services in the tending to the whole department, which contained no church of Dormilleuse, to a congregation which filled fewer than 8000 Protestants, scattered over a surface the little sanctuary, and he was afterwards proceeding of 80 miles square, with only three regular pastòrs, one towards Romas, the upper part of this mountain village, of whom was absent. In these circumstances, Neff was
followed by many of the inhabitants of that quarter,
who had been among his hearers. Suddenly they were employed chiefly in the work of a missionary.
alarmed by some loud cries behind them. These were After having faithfully discharged the duties of a
occasioned by the sudden illness of a young woman of catechist for four years, and more especially as his la- the party, who was stretched upon the ground without bours at Mens were brought to a close by the return of any signs of life. In fact, the vital spark had fled, and the pastor for whom he officiated, Neff was desirous of thus a young person of twenty-six years of age, of a obtaining ordination to the office of the holy ministry. robust frame, who had been present at the three services In this, however, there was some difficulty. He was
in the course of the day, and who had been joining in unwilling to apply for ordination to the Established before, was now carried home a breathless corpse.
the psalmody with great animation but a few minutes
Tlie Church of Geneva, in consequence of the unscriptural consternation of her parents was extreme, for she had doctrines held by most of its ministers; and being a been the only strong and healthy member of the family, foreigner, he had no claim upon the Protestant Church and the principal support of it; but they bore their loss of France. In this dilemma he thought of visiting without a murmur, and what they most lamented, was England, where he had become known chiefly through the suddenness of her death, without having had time the medium of the Continental Society. Though quite particular, testified
the utmost submission to the blow,
to commend her soul to God. The poor mother, in unable to speak the English language, he proceeded to although she had three children nearly blind, and her London in the beginning of May 1823, and was ordain- husband was feeble and in bad health. During the two ed, on the 19th of that month, in Mr Clayton's chapel nights that the corpse remained unburied, the house in the Poultry.
was filled with people, who came to offer their condo, During his stay in London, Neff felt himself very un
lence, and especially with young women. comfortable and solitary from his ignorance of the lan
braced the opportunity of reading appropriate passages
of Scripture, and of pouring in such consolations and guage, and accordingly he lost no time in returning to
admonitions as were most applicable, and exhorted France, and to the scene of his former labours at Mens. them to watch and pray, and to keep themselves in His reception was exceedingly gratifying. The people readiness against the coming of the Lord. When the “ left their shops and their husbandry work to meet time came for placing the corpse on the bier, the unhim. They crowded round him, some half-stified him happy mother repeated aloud a prayer, in French, for in their embraces, others kissed his hand, others wept
the dying, and then all of a sudden she burst out in with joy, and all signified the sincerity of their affection patois Alas! my poor child had not time to utter
these words. Death has seized her, as the eagle snntches and respect.” Though urged to remain among them,
up the lamh, as the rock falls and crushes the timid and to accept the office of pastor in the commune of St.
kid of the chamois; oh ! my dear Mary, the Lord has Sebastian, he judged it prudent to decline the request. taken thee at the very gate of his temple. Thy last
His affections were set upon the section of the High | thoughts were therefore, we hope, directed towards Alps. Ile thought he would rather be stationed there, Him. Oh! may He bave made thy peace before the
throne of God, and received thee in paradise !' All than in those places which are situated under the beau
the inhabitants of Dormilleuse attended the melancholy tiful sky of Languedoc. At length his wishes were
procession to the grave, and their pastor read the Ninegratified. The elders of the Protestant Churches of tieth Psalm, as the earth closed upon the cofin, and Val Queyras and Val Fressiniere applied to the Con- then delivered an address, which the mourners are not sistory in his behalf, and the consent of that body hav- likely to forget.” ing been obtained, he entered in January 1824 upon his
The indefatigable exertions of Neff for the spiritual pastoral duties. The charge assigned to this devoted welfare, and even the temporal comfort of his people, man of God was such as most men would have shrunk
were truly exemplary. No opportunities were lost, no from. It consisted of seventeen or eighteen villages, labour spared, to minister to their souls the bread and scattered over an extent of nearly 80 miles in the high the water of life. A lively description of his varied passes of the Alps,—a region of barrenness and desola- endeavours to benefit their souls, is thus given by his tion, impassable during a great part of the year from worthy biographer, Dr Gilly :the depth of the snow. Such was the scene of labour which Neff preferred to the cultivated plains and fertile of his churches, but he was ever visiting now one quar
“ It was not on Sunday only, that he went the round valleys where his lot, had he so wished, might have ter, and then another: and happy did they esteem thembeen cast.
selves at whose table he sat down, and under whose It was in the midst of a most inclement season that | roof le lodged for the night. When his arrival was ex..