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How should I know ? I never got any larning. I have not committed any sin in my lifetime, and if God does not take me to heaven, I don't deserve to go anywhere else.” A man unable to read was given to understand that Henry the Eighth and the devil founded the Protestant religion. He was not partial to Martin Luther either, because, as a disreputable character, Martin was turned out of heaven. “My good friend,” said one better informed, “you are mistaken ; Martin Luther was never turned out of heaven. You must refer to Satan and his angels.” “Oh, well,” said the other, “I suppose it was the devil. I knew it was one of them, and one was as bad as the other."
A woman with weak eyes said that her complaint arose from entering a cabin in Ireland where a death occurred from fever. The ghost of the departed came in the night, and, blowing a horrid blast in her face, had caused a soreness. One visit to “Father Power's grave" had already done some good, and she thought one more pilgrimage would ensure complete restoration. Such is the working, and such are the fruits, of Romanism in London.
It may be objected against these cases that they are exceptional, and belong to a remote outer circle of society which, whether it profess Protestantism or Romanism is difficult to reclaim. Such cavils could be answered by taking the objector into a home of taste and culture, where the inmates have profited by all the advantages which their church can supply. In some special cases city missionaries gain access to the sick rooms of well-to-do persons. They go by particular request, or some unusual circumstance leads them aside from their ordinary path. About four years ago an accomplished and beautiful young actress was visited in this manner. Marrying a man of her own profession at sixteen, the two were enabled to earn about seven pounds weekly, until at the youthful age of twenty-two the wife lay on a bed of death. Though reared a Protestant she was now a professed Romanist, having been rebaptised to please her husband, who was extremely fond of her. “ This affliction has been laid on me for good,” she said ; " and has been the means of taking me from my course of life, which you know was sinful.” Patients of this rank are sure of receiving the zealous attention of the priests, and of being tenderly protected, if need be, from the intrusion of heretics, by those about them. Even the toilet-table by the bedside bore testimony to the solicitude of Mother Church. There lay a scapular which had been prayed over, and though nothing more than a circular piece of metal, it was reputed to possess charms which heretics could neither enjoy nor gainsay. There also lay a rose wbich seven “holy men" had obligingly blessed, and the flower was warranted to ease pain and cure disease. On hearing the gospel explained, however, the sinking actress willingly surrendered these toys and trifles; and after receiving a few visits from her newly-found friend, he was welcomed very cordially. “I do feel Jesus very precious," was now her language. In her last hours the husband stood by the bedside supporting the fragile form of his best earthly treasure, bathed in tears and regarding with astonishment the strength his wife derived from simple faith. He followed his friend to the door with many expressions of gratitude. He now comprehended what was meant by being a true catholic according to the Bible standard.
The antipathy of Romish priests to Protestant ministers and evangelists is excessive, and neither pains nor money are spared to hinder the progress of the gospel among the poor. An example of their zealous care and watchfulness happened some years ago. A city missionary lived in the house of a man whose wife embracing Romanism, influenced her husband to do the like, and having a daughter who had been affectionately advised about religion, the mother acquainted a father in the confessional of the condition of affairs. Two priests immediately hastened to set matters right. The girl was sent for, and in order to remove her from the hated Protestant influence she was removed into another lodging, the expenses were paid, and care taken that she should have neither Bible nor religious books. Subsequently she was sent to America; but before embarking she was even commissioned to wait on the offending city missionary and to attempt to win him over to Popery, by offering in the service of the Pope double the salary received in the Protestant communion.
Considerable difficulty must attend our coping with a body of men who are moved by this surprising zeal. We do not hesitate to say that such men, together with their allies, the ritualistic Anglicans, are directly engaged in hindering the benighted poor from arriving at a saving knowledge of Christ. One might have supposed that the amazing amount of sin, pain, and poverty gathered in London would have healed differences of opinion in men professing Christ and professing to be his, while engaged in the work of restoring those for whom he died. It is not so. There are men in the metropolis, as there are others in foreign mission fields, who for the sake of useless ceremonies and ecclesiastical drapery, find their employment in pulling down the work of others. So far as lies in their power they delight in undoing what others have done, and moved by blind bigotry they live to create doubt and misgiving. If our readers would learn in what the workings and tactics of Ritualism really consist, we would refer them to the last Report of the Religious Tract Society, where a statement of the progress of the evil is succinctly given. Salvation by trust in sacraments and ceremonies, and the exalting of “ priests” into beings endowed with supernatural powers, make up the programme of a grovelling system which threatens to transform the Church of England into a doorway leading to Rome.
what was become of Peter ?
A SERMON BY C, H, SPURGEON.
Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.-Acts xii. 18. W E can very well understand that there would be great excitement.
V It was the most improbable thing in the world that Peter should escape from custody. In the innermost dungeon, securely chained, watched by a four-fold guard, with no powerful friends outside to attempt a rescue—it was marvellous that in the morning the bird was
flown: the prison doors were closed and the guards in their places, but Peter-where was he? We marvel not that “there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter”?
We will use this striking narrative as an illustration-what if we make it into an allegory ? The sinner fast bound in his sin is, by the mercy of God, set free, brought out from his spiritual prison into the streets of the New Jerusalem, and then there is no small stir among his old companions, what has become of him. Many questions are asked, and many strange answers are given. They cannot understand it. The vain world esteems it strange: much it admires, but hates the change. The carnal mind cannot understand conversion. There is “no small stir, what has become of Peter.”
We shall, first of all, dwell a little upon the escape of Peter, as illustrating the salvation of certain sinners; then upon the consequent stir about it, and then upon the quiet conduct of the man who is the object of all this stir,-“What has become of Peter" ?
I. First, then, THE IMPROBABLE EVENT. Peter was in prison. It was a most unlikely thing that he should come forth from Herod's gaol, but it is a far more unlikely thing that sinners should be set free from the dungeons of sin. For the iron gate which opened into the city to turn upon its hinges of its own accord was wonderful; but for a sinful heart to loathe its sin is stranger far. Who can escape from the grasp of sin ? No person is more straitly shut up than is the sinner in the prison-house of original depravity ; it is not around us merely, but in us, compassing our path, whether we lie down or rise up. Stronger than granite walls and bars of iron are the forces of evil. Evil has penetrated our souls, it has become part of ourselves. Whither shall we fly from its presence? or how shall we escape from its power ? Vain are the wings of the morning; they cannot enable us to fly from our own selves.
0, marvellous thing, that the Ethiopian should escape from his blackness, and the leopard from his spots! There are some men in whom evil is more than ordinarily conspicuous. They have done violence to conscience; they have quenched, as far as possible, the inner light; they have defied the customs of society; they have resolved to sin at random, and they do so. What a miracle it is that such as these should be emancipated from the slavery they choose so eagerly; that these, who are set fast in the stocks of vice, in the innermost dungeon of transgression, should ever be set at liberty! And yet how often this has happened! The foundations of the prison have been shaken, and every one's bands have been loosed. The saints of God can, all of them, bless him for liberty from sin; “the snare is broken and they are escaped”! Ay, and many of them can praise him for deliverance from very great sins, black sins, iron sins, sins which had entered into their souls and held their spirits captive. No man can set another man free from iniquity, nor can any man burst down his own prisondoors: no Samson is strong enough for that; but there is One, "mighty to save," who has come to proclaim liberty to the captives of sin, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound by iniquity, and he has so proclaimed it that many of us are now free through his grace. O that many others now shut up in the spiritual Bastille may be set free!
But, besides being in prison, Peter was in the dark. All the lamps had been quenched for the night in his miserable place of confinement. Such is the estate, spiritually, of every unconverted sinner, he is in the dark ; he does not know Christ, nor apprehend his own condition, nor comprehend eternal realities. What a state of darkness is he in who has never heard the gospel! But alas! there are some who have heard it, often heard it, and yet their eyes are holden so that they cannot see the light, and they are as badly in the dark as those upon whom the lamp has never shone. Does it not seem impossible to convert such darkened ones? You have held up, as it were, the very san in the heavens before their eye-balls, while you have preached salvation by Christ, and yet so blind are they that they have seen nothing! Can these blind eyes see? Can these prisoners of midnight escape from the prison through its long corridors and winding passages ? The thousands in this city who never attend the house of prayer,-is it possible ever to get at them ? Can the grace of God ever come to them ? Yes, we bless God that, as the angel came into Peter's prison and brought a light with him, so the Spirit can comc into the prison of man's sin and bring heavenly illumination with him, and then he will see, in a moment, the truth as it is in Jesus, which he never knew before. Glory be to God, he can lead the blinded mind into daylight, and give it eyes to see and a heart to love the truth divine. We can testify of this, for so hath God wrought upon us, and why should he not thus work upon others; but it is a great marvel, and, when it is performed, there is “no small stir.”
Peter's case, in the third place, had another mark of hopelessness about it. He was in prison; he was in the dark; and he was asleep. How can you lead a man out of prison who is sound asleep? If you cannot enter and arouse him, what can you do for him ? Suppose the doors were opened and the chains were snapped, yet if he remained asleep how could he escape ? We find that the angel smote Peter on the side. I dare say it was a hard blow, but it was a kind one. Oh, bow I wish the Spirit of God would smite some sleeping sinner on the side at this moment! I would not mind how sharp or cutting the blow might be for the time being, if it made him start up, and say, “How can I escape from this dreadful cell of sin ?” My brethren, how difficult it is to arouse some minds from their indifference. The most indifferent people in this world are those who have prospered in business for a long time without a break; they are accumulating money as fast as they can count it, and they have not time to think about eternal things. Another very hardened class consists of those who have enjoyed good health for a long time, and have scarcely known an ache or a pain. They do not think about eternity. It is a great blessing to enjoy health, but it is also a great blessing to suffer sickness, for it is often the means of awakening the slumbering heart. Many dream that because things go smoothly with them they are all right; and yet they are peculiarly in danger. O Spirit of the living God, smite them on the side! I have known this smiting come to some by a sermon, to others by the personal remark of a friend, to others by the death of a companion, or by the loss of a dear child, or by great trouble and want. Well, if your souls are saved, you will not in after days be sorry for the
awakening trouble which helped to bring you to the Saviour. Yes, the inost indifferent have been awakened ; and why should it not be so again? The church prayed for Peter, and those prayers brought the angel to awaken him; let us pray for indifferent sons and careless daughters ; let us pray for the godless, Christless population around us, and God's Spirit will yet arouse them, and make them cry with a bitter cry, “Lord save us, or we perish!”.
There was further difficulty about Peter's case. He was in the prison, in the dark, asleep, and he was also chained. Each hand was fastened to a soldier's hand. How could he possibly escape ? And herein is the difficulty with some sinners, they cannot leave their old companions. Suppose the gay young man should propose to think about religion ? Why, this very night he would be ridiculed for it. Suppose he endeavoured to walk in the ways of holiness, is there not chained to his left hand an unholy companion ? It may be some unchaste connection has been made; how shall he break away ? Let a man be joined to an ungodly woman, or let a woman have once given up herself to an unholy alliance, and how hard it is to set them free! Yet Peter did come out of prison, though he was chained to his guards ; and Christ can save a sinner though he is bound hand and foot by his intimate association with other sinners as bad as himself. It seems impossible that he should be set at liberty ; but nothing is impossible with God. There may be some here who have had to snap many an old connection, and get rid of many an evil association ; but by divine grace it has been done. We give God the glory of it, and do not wonder at the “stir” which it has made.
In addition to all this, Peter was not only chained, but he was guarded by soldiers placed outside the prison. And, oh, how some sinners God means to bless are similarly guarded! The devil seems to have an inkling that God will save them one day, and therefore he watches them : fearful lest by any means they should escape out of his hands, he guards them day and night. When men receive a tender conscience, or have their minds a little aroused, Satan will not trust them to enter the house of prayer; or if they do come, he comes with them, and distracts their attention by vain thoughts or fierce temptations; or if they are able to hear the serinon attentively, he will meet them outside and try to steal away the good seed from their hearts. He will assail the man with temptation here and temptation there ; he will assault him through some chosen instrument, and then again by another messenger of a like character, if by any means he may keep him from being saved. But when the Lord means to save, he makes short work of the guards, the prison, the darkness, the chains, the devil and all his allies. If the Lord means to save you, man, whoever you are, he will overcome your old master and his guards ; the Lord's eternal will shall assuredly overcome your will and the will of Satan, and the lusts of the flesh, and your own resolves, and, although you may have made a league with death and a covenant with hell, yet if the eternal Jehovah wills it, he can break your covenant and set you free, and lead you a captive at the wheels of his chariot of mercy ; for with God nothing is impossible.
Once more, Peter was, in addition to all this, on the eve of death.