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Christian refused to act thus ; the layman could not obtain either forgiveness or reconciliation. Let us see how this ended.
A terrible persecution arose against the Christians, and the ministers of that religion were the most exposed to danger. It was the practice of the pagan Romans, who then ruled most part of the known world, to seize the disciples of Christ, who had suffered under Pontius Pilate, the governor in Judea, and force them to deny their Saviour, sacrifice to the false gods, and burn incense before the image of the emperor, crying, “ Our Lord Cæsar;” but if they were strong in the faith, and persisted in giving glory to God, then they were tortured, and finally were put to death. The presbyter was seized; he acknowledged himself a Christian and a minister ; he was tortured and condemned to death. Now was tree” to be tried ; now was the nature of its “ fruits” to be made known; the presbyter was called to show his faith by his works—even by laying down his life for it: he must not count his life dear unto him, if he would finish his course with joy. And the layman, how was he now to act ? Should he say, “Ah! that unforgiving man, that inconsistent Christian ! I besought him with tears, and he would not hear; now he is suffering ; he had no mercy for me, and he meets no mercy from others.” This, or much more than this, might his former friend have thought. But the Christian tree is known by its fruits, and the layman knew that it was written, “ Judge not ;" it was not for him to account for the providence of God in the remarkable case of his unforgiving friend ; he saw what was his own duty as a Christian, and he went to perform it. He met the train bringing the condemned Christian to execution. He fell at the feet of the presbyter, “O martyr of Christ," he cried, " forgive me if in anything I have sinned against thee !"
The presbyter answered not a word; he would not forgive. He thought he was going to die for Christ, but the spirit of Christ was not his. The layman followed, with tears urging his tender request ; the Roman guards despised his conduct. What folly, they said, to trouble himself about the pardon of a condemned criminal! they mocked at his abject supplications. The place of execution was reached ; and the persevering layman approaching, at the risk of his own safety, the friend who was about to suffer, said to him, “ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you!" words how powerfully applicable to them both! to himself, as asking, seeking, knocking, at the heart of an earthly friend who refused admittance; to that friend, as reminding him of the ready access to the Lord, for whose dear sake he was going to lay down his life. But pride and resentment still lodged in the soul of the presbyter. And can he, indeed, possess the faith and the spirit of Christ ? Can he, indeed, bring forth fruit to the glory and praise of God, by confessing Jesus, and dying for the truth? Will he so utterly fail in the evidence towards man, yet so courageously yield the evidence towards God? Ah! the vineyard brings forth wild grapes! When led forward to be put to death, the unforgiving presbyter shrinks from the martyr's crown.
Stop!” he cried, “I will sacrifice to the gods !"
Did the layman turn away, and secretly exulting say, “I am justified by the event; I should have been condemned in my own mind had he died a martyr ; he was a false professor ; he is an apostate ; I am indifferent to his forgiveness, to his friendship, to his future destiny.” No, his fruits were now to be shown. He drew close to the trembling apostate; he told him of the love and sufferings of his Lord, he bade him trust in his strength; he warned him not to deny him before men; he urged him to lay hold on the crown of life. The people around heard him ; but the apostate, trembling at the sight of death, refused to hear; they were leading him away to sacrifice in the temple. The layman overcome with anguish, called out, “I am a Christian! I believe in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom that man hath denied ; I will not sacrifice to the gods.” At that time, such a declaration was all that was necessary to condemn a man to death. They sent word to the governor that the presbyter had recanted, but that his friend had confessed. The layman suffered in the presbyter's stead. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
THE AGED MANASSEH. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth
understanding,” Prov. iii. 13.
Riveraz, July 4, 18—. I HAVE come here to spend ten days, my dear friend and brother, and through the mercy of God, the fresh mountain air has already done me good. I am more comfortable, both
in body and mind, and am ready to take your advice, and walk about much, that, as you say,
make acquaintance with the good people of these parts.
I am comfortably lodged, and cannot speak too highly of the obliging conduct of my hosts. But what indifference appears, in every branch of their family, as to heaven, and all the objects of Christian hope and joy.“What book is that?” asked my landlady,
when after a short rest, upon my arrival, I took my Bible, and laid it on the table, beside my gloves. I answered the question, and her husband laughed, saying, “ You are something like a hermit, sir, with your prayer-book under your arm. How strange-the Bible !” * Very strange," said his wife, “to carry such a book about everywhere.
They have gone on as they began. Not that they are impertinent; quite the reverse. Their outward conduct is full of religious decorum. Last Sunday the family all went to church, and in the evening, at home, they read a sermon, and some prayers. But with all these outward observances, as soon as I tried to speak of the grace of God, or the love of Christ Jesus, or the comforts of the Holy Ghost, they became wearied, uneasy, and suspicious, and answered, very coolly, “We have our own religion, the same that our fathers had. This is sufficient for us, and no one can believe more firmly than we do as to God, and his providence, or the immortality of the soul.” If this is the state of those who are respectable, and have been well educated, what are the peasants ? You may judge from the following example.
Yesterday evening I was returning from my usual walk, just at the time when the labourers left the fields, and returned to their homes. I came near a group, which consisted of a pleasant-looking man, surrounded by several children, of various ages. I accosted him, saying, “ I suppose you find it pleasant to rest, in the midst of your young family, after long day of labour.”
“ Ah! they are but too young, still,” he answered ; " they can eat enough, but they gain nothing as yet.” “God never sends a bird without its nest,” I added, stroking the cheek of a fine little boy, who was carrying a heavy spade on his shoulders, " and his goodness preserves you in health to work for those who are not yet able to labour for themselves." “Very true," said the poor man," but I wish that they had been created, all ready fed and clothed.”
I could not say another word, for I felt my heart repelled by language like this, which seemed to cast a reproach on
God himself. Yet I was consoled a few minutes after, by hearing the first expressions of piety which have come in my way, since I entered this village.
I was passing near a spring of water, where some horses were drinking. A little girl came thither to fill her pitcher. One of the horses gave her a push, so that she let the pitcher fall, and it was broken. She cried, and lamented the accident, and an old man hearing her voice, came out of an adjoining cottage, and tried to comfort her.
“Do not cry, my child,” he said; “Submit yourself to the will of God. I will go with you, and tell your mother that it is not all
fault. But, my dear little girl, you should have waited till the horses were gone. Has not God given more sense to you than to creatures like them ?"
I heard no more, but I could not forget what the old man had said. If his conduct was but a simple proof of pity for a child in trouble, there was, in his manner, something so mild and wise, that I felt strongly drawn towards him. I hope soon to pay him a visit, and I shall try to find out, whether he is one of those who having felt the love of God shed abroad in their own hearts, are ready to show kindness to others.
Riveraz, July 10, 18—. MY
very dear friend, the aged man I mentioned to you is indeed a Christian brother. He is called Manasseh, and he is a true disciple of the Lord Jesus, and I speak of him with feelings of sincere regard. But in order to tell you how I was led to know that he is one of those whom the Scripture calls, - the excellent of the earth," I must tell you a long story.
I went on Sunday morning to church, with the family in which I reside. Of the sermon that we heard, alas! I might have said, like the weeping Mary, “ They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” The preacher certainly took great pains, but he only strove to show us how we might, by our virtues, deserve to be saved; how we were to reform our lives, and strive to attain perfection; nor did he say a word, as to the grace of God, the influences of the Holy Spirit, or even of the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanseth from all sin. During the whole of his address, it seemed to me as if he had spoken to persons who had lost the use of both their legs, and ordered them to climb a steep rock, or to run across the fields.
“How admirable !” said my landlord, as we returned side
by side. “What eloquence! what morality!" “Ruining a thousand souls,” I answered, warmly. “ How so ?” he asked, with astonishment. “ Because," I said, " he puts the Saviour out of sight, and tells men that they can save themselves.” “ My dear sir,” said my companion, “ do not be uncharitable. Charity-charity and forbearance are the greatest Christian virtues."
“Sir,” I said, “charity means love, and it is not love to poor souls, to be easy when a false gospel deceives and leads them astray. This was not such love or forbearance as Jesus had.” No answer was made, and my host stepped aside to visit one of his acquaintances. As for me, I walked on, and sat down for a while on a slope, from which I had a prospect of one of the richest landscapes. Yet here I found no rest ; for I saw the sacred day of the Lord profaned.
Yonder busy labourers were hastening the bringing in of the harvest. Nearer, in an open space, not far from the place of worship, about a score of young men were engaged in shooting at a mark. Not far off, there seemed to be a sort of village fair, at which drinking, games of chance, and other amusements were going on.
I retired, in much depression, to seek more quiet in my own apartment. Still I was unsuccessful, for the market people from a distance had settled not far off, with their burdens for sale, and the sounds of loud talking, singing, and quarrelling among them reached my windows. I succeeded at last in stopping my ears, by putting two of my fingers to them, and in this attitude, I was able, in some degree, to compose my mind, by reading the book of life, the word of the great God, whose name was so openly dishonoured by the oaths and blasphemies of my fellow-creatures. My host found me thus engaged, so that I had not heard his knock at my door. “ Are you quite deaf?” he asked. “I might wish to be so," I answered, “in this place, and in the midst of these people." " What is the matter ?” he asked ; “has any one affronted
“Not me," I answered," but they have insulted my Lord, and his holy law; your neighbours seem a profligate set. Remember, this is the sabbath day.”
6 Oh! my dear sir,” he answered, with some appearance of pity, “all this is mere melancholy or uncomfortable feeling. Do not put yourself into such a state, merely for the innocent amusements of a few poor people ; you are really your own enemy.”
“ But, sir," I asked, " is not the Bible known to these poor people ? and can you call those things innocent