Imágenes de páginas
PDF
[ocr errors][merged small]

"BrethrenI we have one common Father. He has informed us by his prophets, and finally by his Son, that the sorrow* and sins in which we are now involved will soon all terminate for ever, and the dark night of life will give place to the dawn of a happy and eternal morning. Every one of you, no matter what your present character or woes, will, the moment you die, ascend to heaven, an angel of glory, spiritualized, purified, enraptured. No matter what crimes you may have already committed, or intend still to commit, all will be forgiven and forgotten in another world. Love, then, and serve this heavenly Father now, and it will promote your happiness in this life, for all wrong-doing carries with it its own punishment. But if you unwisely choose still to live a life of ein, though you must expect to suffer the natural consequences in this world, I can assure you that you have nothing to fear hereafter, but may look forward to endless and perfect happiness in the life which is to come."

Look now, for a moment, at the concourse assembled around the apostle, listening to this discourse. There stands the assassin, whose hands are red with the blood of the last night's murder, and who is plotting new deeds of robbery and blood in the dark hours to come. His eye brightens, and even his malignant features are forced into such a smile as can curl upon a fiend's lip. "This is glorious tidings indeed," he says, "too good, I am almost afraid, to be true. There is no devil, then; no hell; no retribution for my life of crime. This is good news indeed. Paul is the preacher for me. Long life to Paul," he shouts from the crowd.

Is this the "offence of the oross?" Is this the preaching which extorted execrations from the crowds of Lystra and Derbe and Autioch; and brought from murderous hands stones and every missile of death around the head of the devoted apostle t

But here stands another man; a rich profligate, sqandering health and fortune in the worst scenes of voluptuousness and debauchery. With eager mind he listens to the doctrine of the apostle- "This," he says, "is truly delightful. It is just the religion for me and my associates. It is far better even than the pagan eystem. For when I heard of Tantalus suffering eternal thirst; and Sisyphus toiling unceasingly up the hill in everlasting disappointment; and Ixion whirled arou«d eternally by the revolving wheel, I trembled in view of my life of sin. But v>w I find that there is no awful judgment, no condemning sentence, no scenes of retribution.

The apostle says that it will be for my interest to obey God now, but I think that I will enjoy the pleasures of sin in this world, and the pleasures of holiness in the world that is to come, and thus can I judge which of the two I like the best."

Is this the "offence of the cross?" Is this that preaching which so bitterly aroused the hostility of the carnal mind? Can it be possible that Paul preached in this way, and that wicked men stoned him for it, and cried, Away with such a fellow from the earth 1 it is not fit that he should live? Answer this question, ye who say "that after death there is no judgment;" that "the dead shall not stand before the bar of God;" that "no man shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt;" that "the wicked and they that fear not God, shall not be cast into hell." Tell us where is the offence to the carnal mind in the cross you preach.

Let us contemplate another supposition. Paul goes to Corinth, the boasted intellectual eye of Greece; the emporium of philosophy. He gathers around him a large concourse of the haughty nobles, the self-righteous moralists, and the prond philosophers of the academy and the grove, and thus addresses them: "Brethren, I have come to teach you some new views upon the subject of religion. There is one God, infinitely wise and good. He has sent a messenger, called his Son, either an angel of very exalted character, or a man, it is uncertain which, to instruct us respecting our duty. That messenger has taught us that if we cherish feelings of gratitude towards our heavenly Father, and are just and benevolent, we shall soon be taken to the mansions of heaven. Whatever may have been your past sins, repentance will blot them out. This Teacher died to prove the sincerity of his instructions. If you do not live an upright life, I do not know what will be the future consequence. Whether there is any punishment hereafter, and if so, how long it will continue, or how severe it will be, I cannot tell. But this I can assure you, that if you are only just and benevolent in your dealings, and grateful to God, you are going as fast as time can bear you to the mansions of eternal bliss."

Is there any offence of the cross here! Is there a single word in this address which can plunge the dagger of conviction into the sinner's heart? Is there an idea here which can arouse the dead conscience, and awaken the remorse of the self-righteous and the proud? Would not the Scribes and Pharisees of Judea greet such an

THE OFFENCE OF THE CROSS.

ass

orator with commendation and flattery, rather than with denunciation and contempt? Is there any unrenewed heart which can perceive any thing offensive or unpalatable in this doctrine I The sinners of Judea would no more stone a man | for such preaching as this, than would the worldlings of our .own land. Where then is x" the offence of the cross I''

Let as then make one more supposition, and from the recorded sermons of the apostle, let us select such truths as the Holy Spirit testifies that he did preach. Paul enters the market-place of a dissolute city. The report runs through the thronged streets, that "these men who have turned the world upside down, have come hither also." The proud Pharisee, the self-righteous Scribe, the conceited philosopher, the debauchee, the robber and the beggar gather around him. "Fellow-immortals," says the apostle, "you have all broken the law of God, incurred its penalty, and are justly exposed to the doom of eternal destruction. You are all so sinful in the sight of God; the depravity of your hearts is so deep and inveterate, that you must be radically changed, regenerated, before you can be made fit far heaven.

"God himself had pity upon your lost condition, and in the person of his Son, took upon him human nature, and bore the penalty of the law in your stead; died upon the cross to make atonement for your sins. And now, through the virtues of this atonement, God is ready to forgive you all, guilty as you are, if you will repent of your sins, trust in this Saviour, and commence a new life of consecration to his glory. These are the conditions upon which salvation is now offered to the world; and there is no other way by which any soul can be saved, for all are alike lost in guilt and condemnation. Accept these terms, and God will purify your heart and receive you to heaven. Reject them, and you must be eternally consigned to the world of woe, with the Devil and his angels."

How look at the audience. Agitation and murmurings are manifested, as when the rising storm begins to move and speak in the boughs of the silent forest . "Whatl" says the Pharisee, "does he tell me that I am depraved in heart; a guilty and condemned sinner?" "Whatl" says the self-righteous moralist, "is there no merit in my prayers; no merit in my punctilious observance of the ceremonies of the law? Is godlike human nature to be thus vilified; the divinity within us to be thus traduced? Away with such a fellow from the earth I"

"This is a babbler, truly," indignantly exclaims the philosopher; "he seems to regard all our wisdom, the logic of the schools, the acute speculations of our most powerful minds, as of no avail in reforming the world; and preaches salvation through faith in one Jesus, who was executed upon the cross. He must be either a fool or a madman, and whichever he may be, he is unworthy of my attention."

"Let us stone him," exclaimes the debauchee, and the robber, and all the loose fellows of the baser sort; "let us stone him. He says that we are going to hell; that unless we repent we shall be for ever miserable. He is dishonoring God by such horrible doctrine."

But pressing through the crowd, there gathers around the apostle a multitude with tearful eyes and sorrowful countenances, and anxiously inquire, "Sir, what shall we do to be saved? "We feel that we are the guilty creatures you have described us to be. We deserve God's eternal displeasure. Can there be mercy for us I"

"Yes," replies the apostle, "there is mercy for you all . This blessed Jesus has made full atonement for your sins, and now, whosoever cometh to him, he will in no wise cast out . Trust in him, openly confess him before men, and consecrate your life to his glory, and he will pardon you and purify you from every sin, and present you faultless before the throne."

Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they joyfully embrace these offers of salvation. And as there can be no temptation to make a false profession— for by that profession they put life to hazard— Paul does not delay to test by time the reality of their conversion. He calls for water to be brought. One after another of the young converts stands before him; and dipping his hand into the font, he sprinkles their brows with pure water, in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

This is the offence of the cross. This is the gospel of Christ . This is that faith which to the Jew is a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness; but which, to them that are saved, is the wisdom of God, and the power of God.

Wisr men mingle mirth with their cares as a help either to forget or overcome them; but to resort to intoxication for the ease of one's mind is to cure melancholy with madness.

Hr who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will seldom do any good at all.

236

THE PROMISE AND THE FULFILMENT.

THE PROMISE AND THE FULFILMENT.

BY JEOSE MHLR03B.

Sleep breathes at last from out thee,

My little patient boy,
And balmy rest about thee

Smoothes off the day's annoy.—Lhgh Hcst.

How qtrietly he sleeps, said Mrs. B., half aloud, as she looked over the crib upon her little thrceyears-old boy. Though sure of it, still she lingered to gaze upon the curls, the dimples, the rose-tinted cheek; and the round uncovered anus; and if we may judge from the pleased expression of her face, she looked with more delight than artist gazes upon his master-production. No wonder! Rosebud imbedded in its mossy calyx never looked sweeter than Charley's pretty face peering out from the white coverleU and pillow. How still those features, yet living; there was the repose of death in the soft embrace of glowing existence: this union of death and life ia a beautiful, miracle unsolved by our finite faculties, but the mystery of which may all be shown us when we awake to life. With the mother's eye, mark the perfection of those features; are you not reminded of a vivified statue? what a beautiful union of color and form,—of quiet and eoft pulsation I We can easily believe that viewless spirits watch the sleeping-pillow of childhood, for earth has no other Bo pure, so charmed a spot

As the mother stands half-inclined over her sleeping boy, a lamp burning near, casta a strong light upon her features, already radiant with excited affection. Had Charley at that moment told her some of his pretty nonsense, her face would not have revealed more admiration. What a beautiful pioture of affection I See her eye vibrating softly in its socket, surveying feature after feature of the intelligent face of the child. She looks long and meditatively; finally a tear courses down her cheek, a emile still clustering around her mouth: though the tears flow, it is not for grief, or sad premonition, but the overflowing of a heart brim full of—shall I say joy. No I That is too noisy a word, expressive of associations too mirthful. It was neither grief nor joy that prompted those tears, but the overflowing of a heart brimfull of love.

Let us read the thoughts imprinted upon the mother's face, and which vivify it with a beauty so superior. See the kindling of the soul, marked in her lineaments, as the sun illuminates a cloud.

With an electric glance of thought, she sees

the future of her boy .traced, it is true, in uncertain lines, but still with a seeming reality. What she desires, that she mentally delineates in the bright picture. She resolves that her watchfulness shall shield him from temptation—her love will strike down every danger from his path. She will so earnestly inspire him with a love of truth, that virtue will become the natural habit of his mind.

Recalling his ready apprehension, and the many other traits that give promise of a strong mind, she feels that he must be successful iu mental pursuits. Her little sleeping baby becomes a hero, and she has fondly garlanded every virtue with which to crown him. She pictures no mere negative goodness, but a positive character; one so eminently virtuous that it will stand out from the mass of mankind, as the solitary tree rises above a forest. She thinks he may be deemed worthy to fill offices of trust; a nation may yet listen to his counsel; he may urge the millions to sanction the right and oppose the wrong. Whatever his sphere, he will be one of the towering in soul. Nobility of mind and firmness of purpose, she thinks, will be inscribed upon his character in hold relief.

Call not her hopeful ardor vanity. It was no ephemeral fancy that inspired her thoughts, but a stern, soul-resolve—a determination faithfully to cultivate so rich a soil, and a bright faith that she would reap fruit. This was the promise of his yonth; we will see what was the fulfilment of his advancing years.

This is but one picture of the mental longing of a mother's soul. How frequent the same pulsations of hope are felt, a mother only can realize. Her day-dream and her night-dream is the happiness and success of her child.

Time sped, and soon brought Charley from a little lispiug boy to an active, vivacious, studious youth. The mother seemed, so far, most strikingly to realize her expectations.

But he was not thus always to be shielded by an ever-present angel, who could turn even the very evil of his path into good; whose voice of gentle affection charmed to silence the passion and waywardness of youth; who stimulated every noble desire, and censured with feeling and reluctance the faults of inexperience.

The time came when he must leave his home, (a temple of sacred and protecting influences,) to pursue further his education, of which his mother had taught him the elements.

Away from tho associations of home, the archenemy of virtue seemed sure of a victim. The

[merged small][ocr errors]

unsuspecting youth, who had learned to love goodness, would not be on the watch for evil. With true fiendish policy, he made pleasure (the love of which is so natural to youth) the lure to draw him into dangerous water, where his malignant influence, like a heavy mist, obscured the good, and embodied evil before him in siren forms.

The fascinating Charles eoon drew around him a group of associates, whose flattery, like hotbed influence, gave rapid growth to the pride his mother had always so prudently checked.

He now became confident he could tread the very verge of evil, and yet his firmness would keep him unharmed.

A defiant love of braving danger influenced him more than a desire to share it. "Wisdom hath sounded her voice in the street," but he, like many others, would not hear.

To shorten the tale, we will not relate how Charles yielded to one temptation and another, until at last he drank of the classic, the social, the convivial cup—the cup with rose-leaves at the surface, and a snare at the dregs, whose ruby sparkle is soft as the light of stars, but deadly as the Stygian tide. False cup, of which if you drink, and drink again, the very fumea will mist the light of the soul—the very odor blight the love of virtue, and with demoniac speed will, in a few short years, transform beautiful youth to crushed, and mad, and hopeless age; in fine, whose mission on earth is death not the peaceful slumbering of the body in the grave, but that death which, like a demon, haunts the living body, and drives from the soul the innocence and hope which alone make life endurable; which makes of the body a crumbling, yet a sustained sepulchre, wherein the hollow voices of reproach, remorse, and despair hold carnival. This is a death to which the fee'd spirit reposing in the mercy of God, is life. Oh that a trumpet, startling as the thunder of Sinai, could echo from mountain to valley, from valley to glen, to arrest the thoughtless, to marshal every true heart against this insidious evil! Oh that one as eloquent as Paul could show the blinded world the many ruins on the vast plain of humanity which are the triumphs of this death; could point out the wrecks on the sea of life with this death at the helm!

But we are wandering from our story. At first it was only the social cup in which Charles indulged. It would have been unmanly to have refused. Temperance is a virtue recommended in Holy Writ — not total self-denial. Wine

maketh the heart glad; v-hy should not youth be glad J With such reasonings Charles quieted his conscience. Kelying in his firmness, the vaunted security of those most easily tempted, he shortly became another of those victims whose name is legion.

When he returned to his mother, her hitherto powerful but gentle influence could not induce him to taste not. Not a long period elapsed before Charles loved the intoxicating cup better than health, food, clothing, or reputation. Still, with.this burning passion, he managed to maintain a respectful deportment in the presence of his mother. Did she relinquish one hope that she had cherished for him in his childhood? When a doubt came into her mind, did she not banish it, as though it had been an evil presence!

At last appetite for the cup triumphed over self-respect, and he often permitted himself to be seen by his mother intoxieated. It would be but relating an oft-told tale, to tell how, late at night, she waited bis return; how often the moon rose and went down, and left the night gloomy and lightless ere he came; that Orion rose and passed over, until not one of his burning orbs could be seen from the window where she watched hia coming; that in the forgetful ness of her anxiety the embers were left to die upon the hearth; that the gray streaks of the dawn mingled with the grim departing shadows of the night, and she still alone. We cannot express the weariness of such watching, yet so often bitterly experienced by so many mothers and sisters.

Many a strong, tender appeal was made by Mrs. B. to her son, in hia sober, reflective moments. Often they mingled their tears: his seemed repentant, hers those of a wounded heart. But when he was absent from her, temptation assailed him like an Apollyon, beneath which he sank powerless. Still that mother fainted not, nor abated one hope. She possessed a bright powerful weapon, which she felt must cut the snare. It was no idle necromAncy that was to charm down the evil spirit of temptation, but the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God and prayer. She knew well ite power.

She knew the covenant, evoked by prayer, had caused the flame and the pillar to guida Israel through the wilderness. She knew that prayer, and the sling of the shepherd boy, had slain a giant as defiant as intemperance. She knew thai prayer had called down an angel from heaven, to listen to the deserted, wandering Hagar. The meek Jesus had taught her an

[blocks in formation]

hnmble, but heaven-reaching petition. He, too, had prayed while alone, in the hour of sorrow, the night-dews of Gethsemane weeping around him. His followershad continued instant in prayer, opening the eyes of the blind, causing the lame to walk, by the faithfulness of their supplications. John was lost in a vision of prayer, when, upon the lone island of Patmos, he sow an angel standing in the sun—saw embodied pale death, and the mysterious forms of change, revolution, empire, carnage, decay, dissolution, and the new and glorious city. Is not prayer, indeed, powerful? She trusted in it, and her faith was not disappointed. The sweet odor of her many prayers ascended to heaven, and brought a glorious fulfilment .

At length Mrs. B. was thrown upon a sick-bed, her strength failed rapidly, and she expected soon to try the reality of the unseen, to slumber in the silent vale of the departed. This trial awoke the consciousness of her dissipated son; he felt that were his mother to die, with the guilt of his delinquency embittering her last hours, he would ever reproach himself with her death. Awake to his guilt, he vowed hatred to that which had ensnared him. Seeking the bedside of his mother, he made her a promise which he had never before trusted to escape his lips. That promise was, never again, under any circumstances, to taste of the fascinating but deadly cup.

The vow was not rashly made; he sought the assistance of Heaven to aid him in the hour of trial, when passion assailed him in myriad forms. The kindling of hope in the heart of the mother renewed the decayed energies of her nature, and she recovered from an illness which many feared would be her last, to be again the guerdian genins of her beloved Charles.

It were a long tale to relate how, and by what means, he came to realize the proud anticipations his mother had always cherished for him. The meridian of life found him a man of integrity and lofty magnanimity of character. He possessed those qualities which fitted him for political duties and political trust . He benefited his age, and his age honored him. This was the reward of a mother's faithfulness and prayers, this the fulfilment of youthful promise.

"It is very curious," said an old gentleman, a few days since, to his friend, "that a watch should be perfectly dry when it has a running spring inside."

THE TWO DREAMS.

In a little room, scantily and neatly furnished, lighted, not from the window, for it was dark without, and the shutters were closed, but from the peaked flame of a very small but clear-burning lamp, sat a young man, with his back to the lamp and his face to the fire. No book or paper on the table indicated labor just forsaken; nor could one tell from his eyes, in which the light had all retreated inwards, whether his consciousness was absorbed in thought, or reverie only. The window-curtains, which scarcely concealed the shutters, were of coarse texture, but brilliant scarlet—for he loved bright colors; and the faint reflection they threw on his pale, rather thin face, made it look more delicate than it seemed in pure daylight . Two or three book-shelves, suspended by cords from a nail in the wall, contained a collection, poverty-stricken as to numbers, with but few books to fill up the chronological gap between the Greek New Testament and stray volumes of the poets of the present century. But his love for the souls of his individual books was the stronger that there was no possibility of its degenerating into avarice for the bodies or outaides of books which constitute the house furniture called a library. Some years before, the young man (my story is so short, and calls in so few personages, that I need not give him a name) had aspired, under the influence of religious and sympathetic feeling, to be a olergyman; but Providence, in the form of poverty, had prevented his prosecuting, to the requisite degree, the studies he considered necessary for qualification. And now he was only a village schoolmaster, nor likely to advance farther. I have said only a village schoolmaster; but is it not better to be a teacher of babes than a preacher to men, at any time; not to speak of those troublous times of transition, wherein a difference of degree must so often assume the appearance of a difference of kind 1 That man is more happy—I will not say more blessed— who, loving boys and girls, is loved and revered by them, than he who, ministering unto men and women, is compelled to pour his words into the filter of religious suspicion, whence the water is allowed to pass away unheeded, and only the residuum is retained for further chemical examination and analysis.

He had married a slmple village girl, in whose eyes he was nobler than the noblest—to whom he was the mirror, in which the real forms of all things around were reflected. Who dares pity

« AnteriorContinuar »