« AnteriorContinuar »
come to a fearful end."* “ The righteous shall flourish like · a palm-tree, and shall spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus.”+ Do well, O Lord, unto those that are good and true of heart.”Now, is it not just the peculiarity of the Christian Church, not only that it is slandered, scorned, ill-used by the world; but that all this happens to it because it is holy, for righteousness' sake?
Thus, on the whole, we see that in the Psalms a very wonderful provision is made by anticipation for the wants of the Christian Church. It is just the book of devotions needed by it, as it ever has been used ; supposing it to be so great and so weak, so vast a kingdom, but not of this world, as the Prophets and the Evangelists describe it to be.
Now here, of course, it is obvious to make this objection -we are not in persecution; for us to use the language of the Psalms is unreal. Christians in our own happy country have every thing their own way. The profession of the Gospel is an honour, the rejection of it a disgrace. Either, then, we are not a part of the Kingdom of Heaven, or that Kingdom is not what Gospels, Prophecies, and Psalms describe it to be. But many answers may be made to this objection.
1. First, it is not necessary that all parts of the Church should be in persecution at once, either to fulfil the Scripture statements, or to justify the use of the Psalms. It suffers in its different portions at different times. We have had our trials before now; and other portions of the Church are now under similar, or rather worse, afflictions. Of course, if we are members of the one body of Christ, we must feel for the rest, in whatever part of the world they are, when they are persecuted, and must remember them in our prayers. Nor does it avail to say that we differ from them in faith : what is that to the purpose in a question of love? Either Christianity is shut up in Britain, or not: if it is,
* Ps. lxxiii. 3. 18.
Ib. xcii. 11.
Ib. cxxv. 4.
Christ has no longer a Catholic Church; and then, certainly, the prophecies are not now fulfilled to us : or it does exist in other lands; and then we are bound to sympathise in the troubles which Christians there undergo for the Name of Christ.
2. But again, in spite of her prosperity for the moment, even in this country, the Church of Christ is in peril, as is obvious. Can we number the tens and hundreds of thousands who shrink from our Church as if antichristian, or who hate her for being Christian, and wish her downfall? Is there no battle between the Church and the world in this country? and no malevolence, no scorn, no unbelief, no calumny; no prospect, or, at least, materials of open persecution, though persecution, through God's mercy, as yet be away? Consider our great towns, and reflect what a scourge in God's anger they might be upon our many sins, unless He were most merciful.
· 3. But, further, if we are not altogether in a position to use the words of the Psalter, if we are too happy and secure, in too great abundance and too much honour, to be able to use them naturally, is it not possible that so far we really do Jack a note of the Church? is there not a fear lest the world be friends with us, because we are friends with the world? This is no new or strange occurrence in the history of the Gospel. It is not peculiar to our age or country; it is the great disease of the Church in all ages. Whatever corruptions of doctrine there have been at particular times and places, no corruption has been so great as this practical corruption, which has existed in its measure in all times and places; the serving God for the sake of mammon; the loving religion from the love of the world. And as to ourselves, I fear, it is no declamatory statement to say, that there never was an age in which it existed more largely, never an age in which the Church contained so many untrue members; that is, so many persons who profess themselves her members, when they know little or nothing about the real meaning of membership, and remain within her pale for some reasons short of religions and right ones. For instance, to put one question on the subject,-How many supporters of Christ's Holy Catholic Church do you think would be left among us, if her cause were found to be, not the cause of order, as it happens to be now, but the cause of disorder, as it was when Christ came and His Apostles preached? It was the cry of the Jews of Thessalonica against St. Paul and St. Silas, “ These that have turned the world upside down, are come hither also."* Is it not as plain as the day, that the mass of persons who support the Church in her legal privileges, do so, not so much because they care for the Kingdom of the Saints, as because they think that the downfall of our civil institutions is involved in her downfall? I do not say that they have no love for the Church, but they have a greater love for worldly prosperity. They have just so much more love for the world than for the Church, as would lead them, were the peace of the world and the welfare of the Church at variance with each other, to side with the world against the Church. As it is, they see that the influence of the Gospel is on the side of good order; that it tends to make men contented and obedient subjects; that it keeps the lower orders from outbreaks; that it makes a firm stand against rebellion, sedition, conspiracy, riot, and fanaticism; that it is the best guarantee for the security of private property. It does all these benefits; they are benefits; and we may rightly be thankful for them. But numbers of professing Churchmen consider them the special benefits of Christ's Kingdom, caring little for the unseen and spiritual blessings, which are its true and proper gifts. Look round upon our political parties, our literature, our science, our periodical publications ; is it not too plain to need a word of
proof, that religion is in the main honoured because it tends to make this life happier, and is expedient for the preservation of our persons, property, advantages, and position in the world ? Can a greater stigma be placed upon any doctrine in the judgment of the community, than that it is anti-social, or that it is irksome, gloomy, or inconvenient?
No wonder, then, while we are in the midst of this serious corruption, that the words of inspired Psalmists, which have been the solace of the Church in every age, do not seem real to us. Let us but put off the love of the world, and follow the precepts of our Lord and His Apostles, and then see in a little while where we should all find ourselves, and what would be the condition of the Church.
Meanwhile, whether we will believe it or no, the truth remains, that the strength of the Church, as heretofore, does not lie in earthly law, or human countenance, or civil station, but in her proper gifts; in those great gists which our Lord pronounced to be beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the thirsters after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peace-makers, the persecuted.
THE APOSTOLICAL CHRISTIAN.
1 Cor. ix 24.-"Know ye not, that they which run a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize? so run, that ye may obtain.”
There was one who came running to Christ, and kneeled to Him, yet he did not obtain; for that haste of his and hurry was no type of the inward earnestness with which the true soul goes sedately forward unto salvation. He was one of the many who, in some sort, run the race, yet do not receive the prize, because they run in self-will, or lightness of mind. “If a man strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” “I have not sent” them, says the Lord by His Prophet, “yet they ran."* Many there are, who are not open sinners, who do not deny Christ, who honour Him with their lips; nay, in some sort with their lives; who, like the young man, are religious in a certain sense, and yet obtain not the crown. For they are not of those, who, with the blessed Apostle who speaks in the text, observe the rules of the contest. They have no claim upon the prize, because they run on their own ground, or at their own time; or, in other respects, after their own pleasure. They make a religion for themselves, and they have a private idea what a
* 2 Tim. ii. 5. Jer. xxiji. 21.