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ON THE BEST METHODS OF STUDYING SCRIPTURE TRUTH. By The Rev. Charles J. Brown, ifinister of Anderston Parish, Glasgow. Tire:?*: arc two principal methods of searching' ; he Will of God, as made known in the Scriptures. The one is the careful and devout perusal of the different chapters and books of Scripture, availing ourselves of such aids as we may happen to have access to, for the removing of difficulties, discovering1 the exact sense, opening up the connection of the different verses, and suggesting the practical uses to which the whole is applicable. The other, is that of drawing forth from Scripture its grand leading heads of doctrine and duty, in an order more or less regular and systematic, observing and examining them, and thus endeavouring to ascertain distinctly their nature, the Scripture evidence and authority on which they rest, the place which they severally hold in the entire system of divine truth, the light which they are capable of receiving from different quarters, and the grand uses to which God designs them to be applied.
On a very slight reflection upon these different methods, it will be found that each of them has advantages peculiar to itself. By the former, the method of studying divine truth in the very form and shape in which it lies in the Scriptures, the inquirer puts peculiar honour upon the Word of God. Instead of satisfying liimself with a selection of those particulars which appear of special importance, he marks his reverential sense of its entire excellence, by perusing in succession its various portions, endeavouring to arrive at, their penuine scope and import, and accommodating himself to that particular form in which it hus peemed meet to the wisdom of God to deliver His will to men in the Sacred Volume. Hence arises another important advantage of this method. It provides one of the best securities against error. For, in selecting from Scripture those matters which are leading and principal, there is much room for the operation of prejudice; and unless very carefully upon our guard, we shall be exceeding-] v apt to frame our system, rather on the model of our own preconceived opinions, than of God's revealed will. But when we carefully examine
work of the Mediator, the person and office of the Spirit, and so on. Unless, in our reading- of Scripture, we keep in view some 9uch classification of leading topics, and by a distinct and separate consideration of them, familiarise our minds with their nature, evidence, and practical bearings, our reading will be altogether confused and next to useless. All things will seem as if jumbled together in a heap; nor shall we be able to see in the divine will a beginning, a middle, or an end. It will be as if, when invited to survey some extensive and splendid edifice, instead of fixing our eye first and chiefly on the grand outlines, and thence proceeding to inspect the minuter parts, we should begin with the latter, and, examining them one by one, depart as ignorant as we came, of the real structure, magnificence, and uses of the building. There are very many things in Scripture which, from their occupying only a dependent and subordinate place, it is sufficient to read with care as they occur in the different portions which come before us from time to time. Not so with the grand outlines and leading heads of Scripture truth. These must be not only glanced at, but carefully studied; drawn forth from the particular connection in which they happen to stand in different passages, and examined in their nature, their various proofs, the relations they stand in to each other, and to the entire system of divine truth, and their practical bearings on human conduct and human happiness.
Having thus adverted to the two principal methods of studying the revealed will of God, pointing out the chief advantages and defects peculiar to each, and leaving it to be inferred that neither can with safety be used to the neglect of the other, let us add that, in following out these methods, there are certain aids appropriate to each, which it is of much importance for us thankfully and diligently to avail ourselves of. In pursuing the first method, we cannot fail to find such approved commentaries as those of Henry, Scott, and Brown, of the greatest use in the removing of difficulties, throwing light on peculiarities connected with climate, manners, customs, and language, opening up the connection of the various parts, and suggesting the practical uses to which they are applicable. Then, in following out the other method,—that is, selecting the leading points of doctrine and duty, and viewing them, not as they lie scattered up and down over the Sacred Volume, but in their own nature and mutual connection and dependence,—we may employ, with vast advantage, such admirable forms of sound words, as the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, where we have the leading heads of doctrine and duty selected to our hand, expressed in brief and appropriate and perspicuous terms, thoroughly arranged, and formed into one entire system, and accompanied by specimens of the Scripture authority on which the various statements are built.
But there is another aid common to both the methods of incruiry, with which, in the good pro
vidence of God, we are favoured, and which lieserves to be specially noticed. We refer to the weekly ministrations of the pulpit, and with raor* especial reference to the practice observed generally by ministers of the Presbyterian Church, of dividing their discourses into two principal kinds, the lecture and the sermon. Observing the pecuk object of each of these, it will be found that \b one is more immediately connected with the one method of inquiry, and the other with the other. It is the peculiar and characteristic business of tie lecture, to lay open-the sense of some considerable portion of the Word of God, not dwelling it large on any single topic, but rather showing the import, scope, and connection of the various |iajt< of the passage, with the practical uses of the whole. The characteristic design of the sermon. again, is not so much to expound Scripture as, taking up some one principal head in doctrine or in duty, fully to open it up in its nature, eTitlenc?. illustrations, and practical bearings. It will this be further apparent, how the lecture and the sermon, like the two corresponding- methods of inquiry into the divine will, have their respettm advantages and defects, the defects of the Om being supplied by the advantages of the other. The lecture, on the one hand, puts a peculiar honour upon the Word of God, and, if rightly nonaged, tends powerfully to raise the inspired record to its due place in the hearer's esteem anveneration. It further provides an admirable security against error; since the verses are viewa! in their connection, and the lecturer, by goin. through a complete book, as is usually done, i> preserved from all partial selection of topics, obliged to take up whatever subject happens to 0001' in his course, and thus is trained to a spirit & careful and laborious, and, at the same time. free, and fearless, and candid inquiry. In one wor:. the lecture has this mighty advantage over Uk sermon, that the various topics are preseuted, *■: in a naked, abstract form, but with all the benec; of the surrounding scenery, so to speak, of Scruv ture incident and illustration, so that an air (-■ agreeable freshness comes to be imparted eventthe most common and familiar subjects. On ti other hand, however, the very advantages of ti lecture are closely allied to its characteristic defects. The lecture, it will be remarked, does nc" thoroughly investigate any one topic Much >'. its peculiar interest just springs from this, toglancing at many, it does not dwell at much lert,on any one. But then the edification of & Church imperatively demands, that we not mere, glance at the grand subjects of Christian doctra* and duty, but, even at the risk of offendin; scrupulous taste, and seeming to grow commit place, again and again set these forth fully and ifctinctly, in their nature, their grounds and «v.donces, and their various practical applications And this is the characteristic object of the sermon as distinguished from the lecture. We shionly further add, that the sermon has this important advantage over the best standard*, thai *rives room for a variety of illustration and amplification which they, of course, do not admit of; and that it is, moreover, within the reach of those whose occupations during- the week may leave them but little leisure, either for the perusal of commentaries, or the careful examination of catechisms.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF
THE REV. OLIVER HEYWOOD, A.B.
This eminent nonconformist divine was born, March 1629, in Little Lever, in the parish of Bolton. His |arents were pious and respectable; and accordingly be, along with his eight brothers and sisters, were trained up in the fear of the Lord. But, however judiciously conducted, early education is not always sufficient to restrain the wicked propensities of the human teart j and in the case of Oliver Hey wood, the truth of this remark was strikingly exemplified. He himself bears testimony to the waywardness and improper couduct of his youthful years.
"When," says he, "one of my sisters found fault with me for profane swearing, I replied, ' I had not sworn so much as a neighbour's child with whom I used to play;' so f'oolisli was I, and ignorant. How fond was 1 of trifles! how backward to good exercises! how forward to .-inful practices! how easily led to follow bad examples! I may say, 'childhood and youth are vani!)';' }ea, next akin to brutish stupidity and atheistical blasphemy. 'When I was a child, I ppake as a child;' }ea, rather like a devil incarnate. O the desperate wickedness of my deceitful heart!"
M length it pleased God to awaken his mind to a sense of the importance of religion, and to call him eflectually " out of darkness into God's marvellous light." The instructions of his affectionate parents were not lost upon him, but, by the divine blessing, they proved the means of preserving him from the destruction into which he was but too obviously rushing. To his mother he seems to have been more especially indebted for the knowledge of divine things which he acquired in youth, and this he readily owned in after life. "I may say, " to quote his words, " I owe much to her, as the instrument under God, of that saving food I at first received; and I hope I shall never '"i^et the instructions of a mother." He early show'1 an inclination to prepare for the important and >>?hly responsible office of a minister of the Gospel. n his eighteenth year, accordingly, he was sent to "Abridge, where, besides prosecuting his studies with ib'sence and success, he enjoyed the opportunity of Mending the faithful ministry of the celebrated Dr 'ainmond. The ministrations of this distinguished ivine were much blessed to him, as well as to many ther students at the same time. Several of these ions young men were in the habit of meeting together 'enuemly for prayer and mutual edification. Mr Heywood was desirous to obtain a scholarship, ith the new of contributing towards his own support 'College; and in all probability he would have oblincd it, had he not been arrested in his studies by a •vere fever, which reduced him so low that he was it expected to live. In his sickness he solemnly vow. 1 to the Lord, that if his life should be spared, he ould dedicate it to the service of the sanctuary—a
vow which he accordingly performed, with the earnest desire of winning souls to the Redeemer.
The first situation in which Mr Heywood settled as minister was at Coley Chapel, in the parish of Halifax. After he had preached for two years among the people, with an evident blessing from the Almighty, he was at length ordained as their pastor according to the Presbyterian form. Not long after he had commenced hi9 labours among the people of Coley, he was seized with a fever so severe that his life was despaired of. The state of his mind under affliction he thus beautifully describes:—
"How is it with thee now, O my soul, when the casket that keeps this precious jewel is so cracked? What sayest thou, trembling inhabitant, when thy house begins to fail, and the foundations of this tabernacle of clay are felt to totter? Art thou troubled? Thy head was sick tluough a blind and perverse understanding, and thy heart faint through weakness in grace and strength of sinning; now thy head doth ache with pain, and thy heart is sick with a grievous distemper. God will retaliate with a judgment suitable to the offence. Acknowledge the justice of awarding suffering according to thy tin, and admire God's goodness that it is not more severe; praise hiin for his gentleness and pity; improve this blessed opportunity to get thy heart nearer heaven and further from the world j long for thy house from above, and wait for it till it come, and watch over thy heart. The alarm is sounded, the signal is given, therefore lay down thy weapons, surrender thyself as the Lord's prisoner, he will not harm, but deliver thee. Is not a happy deliverance better than a cruel slavery? Fear not God's call, it is but to bring thee to himself, and canst thou be in an evil place when in God's presence, who is the perfection of happiness? But stay, he comes not yet, thy time is not yet expired, thy sun is not yet set; knowest thou that? Granted; but will it therefore follow that he will not come at all? Will it be any disadvantage to thee to be ready long before death come? Surely not, but the contrary. What comfort will redound to thee thereby, and what glory to God!"
A short time after his restoration to health, he married Miss Elizabeth Angier, daughter of a pious and able minister, whom Mr Heywood highly esteemed. For several years after this happy union, the sunshine of prosperity seemed to gild his path. He was beloved by his people, and in the full enjoyment of every domestic comfort. But uninterrupted happiness is not allotted to mortals in this world. The truth of this remark, the faithful minister of Coley Chapel was doomed at length to feel. Besides the death of his affectionate mother, a few days after the birth of his second son Eliezer, disturbances arose in his congregation, which rendered him very uneasy. The cause of this dissatisfaction with Mr Heywood was an attempt, which he successfully made, to restore the celebration of the Lord's Supper, which had been long neglected among his people. Above one hundred and twenty persons applied on that solemn occasion, the greater number of whom were admitted to the sealing ordinance. Some persons, of improper character, intended to disturb the congregation during the service, but they were so struck with the morning sermon that their courage failed. Though foiled in this attempt, however, by the overpowering influence of the Word of God, these enemies of the truth endeavoured, by the most malicious insinuations and calumnious assertions, to weaken the hands of their devoted pastor, Aud it was a source of peculiar distress to him, that some who were most violently opposed to him, were those to whom he had hoped his ministry had been useful. His reflections on the occasion show how deeply his mind was affected.
"If God be with me, why doth all this evil come upon me? If God be for me, why are men against me? Hath not God said, that if a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him? Surely something must be amiss, else God would not thus have permitted the devil and his agents to come in upon us. Have we not miscarried in the business; in matter, manner, or end? Is not this a punishment? Certainly there is cause for deep humiliation on our part; though the work was God's, the defects were ours; what is good was from heaven, and what was evil from ourselves. O my soul, never till now didst thou feel the vigorous opposition of the prince of darkness, especially in such open hostility, opposing the power of godliness! He has been accustomed to come under a visor, but now he comes in his own colours, and with mighty force strikes at the heart of religion."
In addition to the troubles connected with his congregation, Mr Heywood became involved in the national commotions of the period. He was conscientiously opposed to the arbitrary measures of Cromwell, and earnestly desired the restoration of monarchy. The disaffected in his congregation taking advantage of his sentiments, endeavoured to find an opportunity of bringing upon him the hostility of the then existing government. An opportunity soon presented itself of effecting their malicious purposes. In August 1659, nn insurrection took place in Cheshire, headed by Sir George Booth, afterwards Lord Dclamere. The object of this plot was to put an end to the government of the Protector, and to restore the ancient family. Several of Mr Heywood's relations in Lancashire approved of the design ; and as his own sentiments were well known to be in favour of the restoration, though he took no part in the Cheshire rising, his enemies were eager to implicate him in the civil troubles which it caused. The shameful manner in which some of his people acted he thus describes:—
"They came to discourse with mc, pretendedly in love and friendship, got what they could from me on state affairs, and then, when they saw their opportunity, threatened they had, in writing, a charge against me uttered unawares by my own lips; and their own jealousy helped them to invent other things, wherein they imagined I was guilty, though far otherwise. I may truly say, as in the presence of God, 'they laid to my charge things which I knew not,' and which had not entered into my thoughts. They wrested my words, and when I desired liberty to be my own interpreter, ifit were contrary to their groundless surmising*, they charged me with falsehood, and condemned mc without trial."
The suspicions of the government being thus excited, an excuse alone was wanting for bringing him to punishment. A letter which he sent to his friends in Lancashire, announcing the birth of his third son, was intercepted; and, under the pretence that he was holding correspondence with the enemies of the government, he was seized upon, and dragged away from his afflicted wife and family. "The soldiers," to use his own words, "kept me one night, with the resolution of sending me to York, but God prevented, and raised up some to be my friends, from whom little could be expected, who obtained my release." Thus was this good man providentially delivered in a season of great trial, and restored to his beloved family and flock. His
joy, however, was soon turned into weeping, for tip child born amid these troubles, died in the course oi three weeks from his birth. The mind of Mr Heywood, naturally ardent and affectionate, felt the !>reavement deeply, and his distress was greatly Sjgjnvated by the harsh treatment to which his fidelity, a the exercise of Church discipline, now subjected Hi. The unchristian and outrageous conduct of liis pewcutors would exceed belief, were they not recorded a his own words.
"At this time," he says, "men triumphed over us with intolerable pride, threatened sequestration. she* off a pistol under our window, and had once almu-t driven me from my dear people. Once, indeed, I luu! resolved to go within a day or two, but being berw advised, I thought it best to abide the trial; for I knew I was not guilty, no, not in the breach of their Ouii law. Little, ah! little did I think, that persons whom God hath made instruments of ray trouble would have proved so. A military gentleman in the neighbourhood, to whom my heart was much endeared as a Christian friend, and who had expressed the like affection for mc, sent for me, and in private discourse obtained a full discovery of my opinion about state concerns, and, ni'j some misinterpretations, divulged the same among :'«.' soldiers and in a public meeting at the chapel. Others were sent on purpose to tempt mc to speak, and catch v* in my words, whom I formerly judged as genuine frieisk These strictly marked me, and without my obserrr. . wrote down what might be thought an accusation ». me. Some suspected me of having held correspond*, with those in Lancashire, and have been much a r;. for themselves, lest they should be una wares surr*^ in their houses. Others have watched ail night, a kept an observant eye on my habitation, as if lire their enemy, and contrived mischief against tltei.: whereas, the Searcher of Hearts knows, that sacthings never entered my thoughts."
About the commencement of his troubles at Coiey. Mr Heywood received from Sir Richard Houghton i presentation, seconded by the urgent invitation of the people, to the vicarage of Preston. After much liberation, however, and earnest prayer, lie resolved'" remain in his present sphere of duty. His distres*' were, for some time, severe and harassing, but the restoration of the second Charles—an event in which . l greatly rejoiced—brought him a period of peace a* tranquillity. This season was but of short durari'*. for in less than two years, he began to experience tlo-e trials for nonconformity which so remarkably distinguish the subsequent part of his life. These severe a:dictions, however, were preceded by a sore dome** calamity, the death of his beloved wife. His own feeing*, and her character, are thus depicted by himself:—
"What a sad breach hath the Lord mode in my besom comforts! O, my soul, he hath taken away tij dear paitner! the heaviest blow that ever I cxpenc:.o> in my outward enjoyments. I may say with Na -^ 'the Lord hath dealt very bitterly with me. I »-^ out full, and the Lord hath brought me home a^l empty.' We went with the whole of our family to «► sit our native county, and in less than two months la* not only a member, but a main pillar thereof—the "ll of my youth, a plant of grace, strong in faith, thaw weak in body. Her old nature was lung decaying, * her spiritual strength rapidly increased. The Lord I" been long adorning her soul with heavenly &&*, that she might be as a bride made ready for the n* riage of the Lamb. I have no cause to lament her ff* dition, but my own; the loss is mine, the gain he^: and both unspeakable. She is now put into the e»j-Vment of tliat which is not attainable here; she is with Christ, which is best of all. Her many doubts and fear3 are Inst in the beatific vision. Her sad complaints are changed for the triumphant song of Moses and the Lamb; her prayers and tears, for joys and praises; her sins and sufferings, for perfect holiness and happiness; her much lamented duties and performances, for uninterrupted communion with the Lord. She is removed from a tempestuous sea to a quiet haven, where the weary are at rest, and the wicked cease from troubli rig." At the restoration of Charles II., the nonconformists had good reason to believe that their conscientious scruples would be respected by the government. The prelates, however, having been reinstated in their offices, exerted all their power and influence to force the rlcrr/ to a uniformity in ceremonies. On their own responsibility they established ecclesiastical courts, to which tbe nonconformist ministers were cited, and arliitrarily punished. In these troubles Mr Heywood did not cfenpe. During a whole year he was harassed with repeated citations for refusing to read the Book of Common Prayer, and at length he was suspended from the csercise of his ministry at Coley, and thus reluctantly driven, even before the act of uniformity had passed, from the bosom of that establishment in which it had bjen his anxiety to labour as a faithful and conscientious minister. His reflections on that mournful occasion me remarkably pathetic.
"Now I am as a dead man out of mind; my voice must no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel. I am nit only turned out of the pulpit, but out of the Church, and must neither speak nor hear God's Word. I am cast out of the synagogue by men, yet the Lord doth not east me off: though I be as dead, yet through merry I am alive to praise my God, yen, alive to God through Jesus Christ. Though I be cast out of the virile Church-state, yet not out of the mystical body of Christ, who can and will.take up those that are cast out by men. I am thrust out from communion with a corrupt administration, yet, through rich grace, I may enjoy communion with God and his saints in private: none can banish me from the presence of the Lord. O the days of liberty, the opportunities of salvation we have enjoyed! when God's candle shone upon my head, !'id when, through grace, my candle shone upon others; when, by the lipht of his love, I walked through the darkness of temptation. 'Remembering these things, I pour out my soul in me; for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with the multitude that kept holy-day.' But those pleasant days of the Son of -Man are gone for the present; and behold a gloomy day, j-ca, a dark iind lonesome night."
Not contented with his excommunication, warrants were issued for the apprehension of his person, if he should venture to appear in Lancashire. Thus kept in » constant state of alarm, he was under the necessity of preaching only in private houses, and during the night. And even on such occasions, more especially after the conventicle act had passed, he felt himself in constant dinger of being seized and imprisoned. At length he resolved to procure an acquittal, if possible; and if that could not be obtained, liberty to attend public preaching without fear of disturbance. Both requests, however, were denied; and he was compelled to worship in the utmost secrecy and retirement.
Mr Heywood's trials were, for some time, consideribly mitigated by the kindness shown him by his friends it Coley. Of this privilege he was also deprived, by m act which was passed prohibiting nonconformist mi
nisters from coming within five miles of any place in which they had acted as ministers. On the 24th of March 1666, the day appointed for putting in force the five-mile act, as it was termed, Mr Heywood commenced his diary, containing a minute account of his journcyings at this interesting period of his life. Having left his two motherless sons in care of his faithful servant Martha, he set out on his pilgrimage, scarcely knowing whither he went. At the earnest entreaty of his friends and relatives, he lingered in the neighbourhood, preaching by night in private houses. He took occasional journeys also into various parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Cheshire.
After having remained in a state of widowhood above six years, Mr Heywood married Miss Abigail Crompton of Breightmet, near Bolton, not far from his native place. During all his wanderings, and amid his frequent exposures to danger, this lady proved a source of great comfort and enroursigemcnt. Feeling himself conscientiously called upon to preach the Gospel, unawed by the threats or the opposition of man, he continued to prosecute his ministerial vocation wherever opportunity offered. For a few years he was permitted to do so without any direct interference on the part of the civil authorities. This forbearance, however, was not always extended to him. On the 14th of March 1670, he was apprehended at Leeds, at a private meeting, and carried before the Mayor, who treated him harshly, and ordered him to be confined in a dungeon. By the mediation of some of the respectable inhabitants of the town, he was set at liberty the next day.
About this timethe noneonformistsbegantoindulge the prospect of a favourable disposition being manifested towards them, on the part of the king. In this, however, they were disappointed. The conventicle act was renewed with severer penalties than before. But Mr Heywood continued indefatigable in his exertions to promote the honour of his master, as far as he possibly could. On one occasion the authorities entered his house, and seized upon his goods, for having contravened the act forbidding him to preach. This did not deter him from declaring the truth wherever he could find an audience. Such was the severity of the law, however, that his ministrations were conducted under cloud of night, in garrets, and secret chambers. Finding himself precluded from publicly preaching the Gospel, Mr Heywood resolved to attempt the diffusion of the truth by means of his pen. At this period, accordingly, he published several works of a practical nature. The late Dr Fawcett records an anecdote of Mr Heywood, which, as referring to his wanderings, may probably belong to that part of his life which we are now considering.
"One winter's morning, while it was yet dark, the horse was saddled, and this good man set out, like Abraham, when he left his father's house, not knowing whither he went. He went along in bye-ways for soiije time, for fear of being see::. Hiving nothing in his pocket to bear his travelling expenses, he committed himself to the protection of Providence. He determined at length to leave his horse ut full liberty to go what way he would; and thus travelled on till both were weary. Towards evening, the horse bent his course to a farm-house, a little out of the road. Mr II. called at the door, and a decent woman came out to inquire what he wanted. 'I have reason,' said he, * to make an apology for giving you this trouble, being an entire