« AnteriorContinuar »
that Miss Berger long hesitated to take it. Her one desire was to be in the path of Providence, and in her perplexity as to whether the powerful impression upon her mind was Divinely made, she found great help from Mr. Wesley's directions on How to know what is the will of God,'* which she copied into a note-book, and devoutly pondered. The following dream also, which she viewed as foreshadowing her future course, assisted her to arrive at definite decision :
· Homerton, January 23rd, 1815.- I dreamed last Monday night that a great work was appointed me to do. It seemed that there was a vast iron machine, which I was required to lift ap. Attempting to do this, I found that there were enemies opposing me, who had so altered the form of the machinery as to cause me the greatest possible perplexity in discovering the best method of performing my task. I thought: What must Christ have suffered when the powers of darkness were permitted to assault Him! Persisting in my endeavour, I at length, by the exertion of all my strength, drew the machine, by an iron handle attached thereto, quite open, and extricated it from its bed in the earth, causing thereby most alarming commotion. After this, seeming to be left in the midst of my opponents, who were worldly-minded persons, I experienced a painful sinking of mind, from which, however, I was soon delivered, by adopting my kind friend's advice to cry, “Lord, I am Thine ; save me !” Awaking, and pondering over my dream, the second verse of Isaiah xlv. came to my mind : “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight : I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.",
Now fully satisfied that it was the Divine design that she should cast in her lot with Mrs. Webster, Miss Berger felt that whatever difficulty hindered her from doing so must be removed. The greatest trial to her affectionate spirit which this decision involved was the very natural objection to it entertained at first by her widowed mother. But the increasingly powerful conviction that she had a special call from her Heavenly Father to this course, together with the consideration that, had she married, like her brothers and sisters, she would have left home for what seemed to her a less important reason, helped to prevent her swerving from what she felt to be the path of duty. Having made every arrangement that love could devise for her dear parent's comfort, and having deliberately refused several offers of marriage by which her earthly riches would have been greatly increased, she, on Whit-Sunday, May 14th, 1815, took the prayerfully considered step of going to reside where she could give herself up fully to the work of Christ, Whom she afterwards designated her sole Bridegroom.' Subsequent events amply showed that this course was well-advised and providential, her mother, to whom she paid frequent visits, becoming fully reconciled to it, and all the members of her new home circle proving invaluable helpers of her faith.
A few extracts from her journal will sufficiently evidence Miss Berger's early joy in this enlarged sphere of usefulness, and the relation that existed between Mrs. Webster and herself :
June 25th.–Remarked to my dear Mrs. W., “I desire to have a first-rate place in heaven." "Then," said she, “you must be a first-rate Christian on earth.”
* See Sermons, vol. I., pp. 473-475. 8vo, edition.-EDITOR.
'June 26th.—Praised and blessed be Thy name, O Lord God, who hast so mercifully preserved us, so kindly provided for us, and so graciously dealt with us altogether! We are stimulated in the heavenly race. O Thou, Who hast, above all Thy other good gifts, bestowed on us Thy Love and Fear, make us humbly grateful, and grant us an increase of light and love.
* July 5th.—I desire a greater conformity to Thine Image, 0 blessed Lord God I and I know Thou wilt grant the desire which Thou hast implanted. I perceive that to love much is more blessed than to know much. I once was tempted to prefer the latter ; but my God has enabled me to see the superior excellence of the former.'
At this period, Miss Berger began to break through the prejudices which she had cherished from earliest life with regard to female work in the Church; and very interesting are the records of her first public services for Christ, as well as of the principles which actuated her therein. The Apostle Paul's, and similar words, 'Let your women keep silence, etc.,' were duly and anxiously considered ; but all doubts as to her vocation were eventually removed by such views as those contained in one of Mr. Wesley's letters to Mrs. Crosby (Works, fifth edition, vol. xii., p. 356), which Miss Berger transcribed. The following remarks on 2 Kings xxii. 14, by the Rev. Thomas Scott, were also of great service to her:
* The ordinary ministry, both under the Old and New Testament, is confined to men ; but the Lord is not bound by those restrictions which He imposes upon us ; and He has often conferred on women the spirit of prophecy ......In communicating His special blessings, the Lord does not restrict Himself to age, or sex, or order, or condition in society, but divideth severally to every one, as He will."
Nevertheless, public speaking, which she designated the most arduous of all my undertakings,' remained a trial to her sensitive, feminine spirit to the end of her days—a heavy burden taken up for the Master. She considered herself, like Deborah, to have an extraordinary call from God, and expected in attestation thereof extraordinary results—an expectation which was not disappointed, as the subsequent pages of this Memoir will abundantly show. She writes, about this time :
July 8th, 1815.—The Lord enabled me to pray aloud with more liberty than ever I had before. I will praise Thee, O God, for Thou hast loosed my tongue ....... What do I desire to pray in public for? Will He not help me in that which I would do for His glory?
“July 28th.—Last night I passed a most solemn season with Mrs. Webster. Apprebending that some trial was at hand, she addressed me thus :"A Christian should be humble, thankful, watchful and cheerful.”
Sunday evening, December 10th.-0 what days of peace and rest, my sonl, are now thy portion! The promise I now find fulfilled in my experience : “And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace ; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin."
January 11th, 1816.-Surely the Lord hath worked on my behalf with a high hand and an outstretched arm, as the God of Providence, as well as Grace !
January 26th.—For the conversion of my relatives I felt my mind engaged this morning ; and was greatly encouraged by the words : “ By prayer let me wrestle, and He will perform."
(To be continued.)
WHAT IS TRUTH?'
THE SUBSTANCE OF A SERMON PREACHED BY THE LATE REV, WILLIAM JAY, IN THE WESLEYAN CHAPEL, NEW KING STREET, BATH, ON OCCASION OF THE
WESLEYAN MISSIONARY ANNIVERSARY, MAY 12TH, 1845.*
• Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth ?'-JOHN XVIII. 38. Pilate asked the question in the text, and received no answer ; but there are two ways of accounting for this, and the one leads to the other. First of all, it is obvious that Pilate did not wait for an answer to his question ; for we read, “When he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews. Now, if he did not ask his question in a profane manner, he at least showed a disregard to its importance; and therefore, secondly, the Saviour saw that he was in a state of mind that would render an answer worse than useless ; that, having an aversion to truth, every information would be treated with
If a man asks the way to Zion with his face thitherward, direction will be thankfully received ; but when a man abuses or neglects the degree of light he has already, the addition of more would only enhance his guilt and misery. Remember the words of the Apostle James : 'Ye have not,
. because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss.' So it was in the case before us; and there are many enquirers who will succeed no better than Pontius Pilate.
There is the superficial enquirer. Do you ask, “What is truth?' We answer, It is that which you are too frivolous and thoughtless either to discover or comprehend.
There is the inattentive enquirer. Do you ask, "What is truth ?' that which you are too indolent, too indifferent, to attain the knowledge of. You seldom or never read or hear the Word of God, and when you do it is in a careless manner.
But the promise of success is to the diligent: 'If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for bid treasures ; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.'
There is the prejudiced enquirer. Do you ask, "What is truth?' It is that which you never sincerely desire, or fully and impartially examine. You are disposed to teach rather than to learn, to decide for others rather than investigate for yourself. You take your Bible in hand to raise objections; not to sit at the feet of the Great Teacher, and become 'wise unto salvation.'
There is the proud enquirer. Do you ask, “What is truth ?' It is that which is too reasonable and too humbling for you to submit to ; for it casts down 'imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.' 'It is no easy thing,' says Dr. South, to put our heads under
* Communicated by the Rev. R. Dagdale.
Christ's feet.' It is no easy thing, as the Saviour Himself says, to receive the kingdom of God as a little child.'
There is the sensual enquirer. Do you ask, “What is truth ?' It is that which is too pure and holy for your lust; for the carnal mind is enmity against God.' You make the Bible your enemy by your wickedness; and
; then you hate it because it does not prophesy good concerning you, but evil.
But is there no different enquirer who can be brought forward on this occasion ? O yes; there is one who sincerely and earnestly asks, 'What is truth?' We will therefore take the question from the sincere enquirer rather than from Pilate, and arrange our remarks in three divisions. The first will regard the truth itself; the second, the importance of finding it; and the third, the use we are to make of it.
I. The Truth itself.
1. Much has been said about it, but we are not going to consider it metaphysically. I wish my brethren in the Ministry were persuaded with myself that when metaphysics get into the pulpit, profit goes out. In popular discourses it is better to describe than to define, and better to exemplify than to describe. The sacred writers do not hold things forth in the nakedness of abstraction. For instance, when they speak of faith they tell us what it does rather than what it is : that it sets the soul in motion towards Christ ; that it is a looking to Him, a coming to Him, a trusting in Him; that it works by love ; that it purifies the heart ; and that it overcomes the world.
; We would only observe here that moral truth, truth between man and man, consists in the agreement between our thoughts and words. Religious truth is that which shows us things as they are in relation to God and our own responsibility to Him; which shows us what God is, what man is, what sin is, and what salvation is. Truth shows us things also as they ought to be, God being the Judge; and assures us of many things as they are discerned by Omniscience. It is possible for truth to be made known; and it has been made known so far as is necessary; and if this be admitted, it is easy to see where alone it is to be found in purity and perfection. This Book which I hold in my hand is true and faithful. This Word is truth : the truth of God, the truth as it is in Jesus, and the truth by which the Saviour prayed that His people might be sanctified,
Probably some of you have wished that our Lord had answered the question of Pilate ; for in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,' and never man spake like' Him. What light would He have thrown on the subject if He had said, This is truth, and again, That is truth! But the fact is, He has answered the question, and you have the answer in your own hands, and in your own language. All that He spake by His Spirit through the prophets; all that He Himself taught in the days of His flesh, and all that He directed His Apostles to communicate to the world and to the Church-all this is an answer to the question, “What is truth?' And whatever some may say, it is a sufficient answer. If you come to this Book and
ask, How it was that sin was permitted to enter into this world ; how it is that moral evil has existed in an empire of almighty benevolence ; how God's foreknowledge and man's free agency can be harmonized; how it is that God does certain things and not others ; you will read no answer here. OD the contrary, you will find your questions covered with the darkness of death and the silence of the grave. But if you come and ask, 'What must I do to be saved ?' How shall I procure a title to heaven and a meetness for it? How shall I'obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need'?—the information given is so plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err.
2. Viewing the Gospel, then, as an answer to the enquiry, 'What is truth?' let us refer to its facts. Now, the birth of Jesus Christ, the miracles He wrought, His death, His resurrection and His ascension—these are either facts or they are nothing. The Gospels report them as having taken place. Is the report true ? Let us refer to one of them : the resurrection of Christ. Everything else depends on this. 'If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.' But if He be risen from the dead, it follows that He is the promised Messiah ; that He is the Son of God; that His death was the offering of a sacrifice; that He has gone to heaven as the Forerunner of His people; and that He will come again to be our Judge.
If the resurrection of Christ be incapable of proof, there is no past event which can be proved by any testimony whatever. Observe, first, that this fact was immediately proclaimed in the very place where it occurred. Impostors would begin their work at a distance ; for they well know that distance of place and of time adds to the difficulty of detection, and creates embarrassment and perplexity. Secondly, the fact was declared in the presence of those whose honour and interest were involved in it. Thirdly, it was reported by honest men, who proved their sincerity by the endurance of persecution, and even of death, rather than deny or conceal it.
If it be said, May not the reporters have been deceived? They were eyewitnesses and ear-witnesses, and, we had almost said, manual witnesses ; for we read that they 'handled the Word of Life.' "He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once. You have not, therefore, 'followed cunningly devised fables' when you believed in this inspired Book, the testimony in favour of which is superior to that of every other historical document,
3. But it is alleged that controversies and discrepancies have arisen with regard to the doctrines taught in these Scriptures. Then let us examine this point, that we may give a satisfactory answer to the enquiry, “What is truth ?' for it is absurd to say that satisfaction cannot be obtained. The Apostle does, indeed, speak of some who are ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth'; but the reason he assigns for this is not to their credit. On the other hand, he speaks of those who are no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.'
Dr. Price was an amiable man and a profound philosopher. A little before his death, a friend of mine saw him and said, 'Well, doctor, and how are you going on now?' He answered, “Still an humble enquirer after