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The scene changes to Bruges. Wicliffe is commissioner, to treat with a papal embassy respecting the reservation of ecclesiastical benefices. Rome had been growing in rapacity. Statutes of "provisors" and "premunire" had been passed to curb its covetousness of wealth and power. Further interference was necessary. So a meeting was appointed between the ministers of the pope and the messengers of the king. Wicliffe was among the latter. The city was then in the height of its commercial splendour and civic freedom. The English commissioner would see much of quaint architecture, sumptuously furnished dwellings, gay and glittering attire, processions and pageants; and something too he would discover of a stern, indomitable, resistful will in merchant princes, who could beard even despotic monarchs. The former would only impress him with the world's vanity; the latter, in which he could sympathise, might strengthen his own strong individuality and force of
A year later, A.D. 1361, Wicliffe is in academic office. He was appointed warden of Baliol College, and afterwards of Canterbury Hall. A reversal of his appointment was sought, and the case was submitted to Urban V. While it was sub judice, the pontiff revived certain claims in the form of tribute on the English nation, which Edward III. was determined to resist. Wicliffe in the dispute took part against the pope, a proof of his disinterested-independent purpose. Perhaps, too, the reformer might at Bruges hear something of men who along the Rhine, and in German and Flemish cities, were, under the name of "friends of God," promoting spiritual religion-undermining formalism and priestcraft― and preparing for changes they little dreamt of. Moreover, at Bruges, we know, he learnt so much of the corruption of the Roman court as made him more its enemy than ever.
ness, while his own official position was at the mercy of the court of Rome. Nor can his attacks on the papacy, when the cause had been decided against him, be ascribed to resentment, inasmuch as his battle with the papacy had begun before. In 1372 he took his degree as Doctor in Divinity, and was chosen a theological lecturer. A work which he wrote on the Decalogue, about this time, illustrates the growth of his religious views; with a few exceptions, there is nothing in the treatise which could offend any Protestant reader. "I say thee for certain," he boldly writes, "though thou have priests and friars to sing for thee, and though thou each day hear many masses, and found chauntries and colleges, and go on pilgrimages all thy life, and give all thy goods to pardoners; all this shall not bring thy soul to heaven. While, if the commandments of God are revered to the end, though neither penny nor halfpenny be possessed, there shall be everlasting pardon, and the bliss of heaven."
reformer's life, fully makes known to us the grounds of his opposition; and it is apparent, that "while other disputants sought to reform particulars, Wicliffe saw the institute itself as uncommanded, and of evil tendency; and instead of supposing, as some good men had done, that the introduction of such agents formed the most efficient means by which to elevate the character of the more authorized priesthood, he inculcated strongly, that nothing short of a removal of the intruders could restore the Church to its long-lost order and prosperity."
We must now visit old St. Paul's. There Wicliffe stands forth in his proper character as Reformer. He was cited to meet charges of heresy. John of Gaunt-whom he had known on the Continent-accompanied him to the tribunal, where the scene took place so graphically described by Foxe and Fuller. "The Lord Percy, Lord Marshal of England, had much ado to break through the crowd in the church; so that the bustle he kept with the people highly offended the Bishop of London, as profaning the place, and disturbing the assembly. Whereon
men, he might have had similar situations opened to him; and also, by seeing that a poor peasant must be incapable of judging the wisdom of the ways of Providence, because he is not in a position to judge, in most instances, the wisdom of the ways of men. He felt that his lot was-to work, and that it was his duty to wait upon God in working; and to me there always appeared as real dignity in this poor man's working, as there was in my own, or in that of a bishop, or an emperor. He often said to me, that he could not do much to honour his Lord, but that he was happy in doing the best he could in his station. It never seems to have struck him that there was anything degrading in working for small wages, and he never murmured that he had not been taught some skilful art. His wants were few and simple. His family consisted of one daughter, who was out at service, and he spent his solitary hours in sleep, or in reading good books, or in company with good men who met together to pray. Nothing seemed to delight him so much as the visits of his minister, which were always made at his noon-tide hour of rest, or in the evening of the day. These were, to his minister, golden hours, and richly did he enjoy them. Few subjects, that find their centre in the Bible, were omitted in these calm cottage colloquies. Robert's nature was not sceptical. Nothing could have driven it out of his mind that scepticism was a hard word for weakness of mind. When he found anything too hard for his own mind, he gave it up as a matter which he had nothing to do with, exactly as he never plagued himself about geometry or Greek. He knew that there were geometricians and Greek scholars, but he was not one, and had no ambition to become one. The providence of God and the Bible lay open before him. In his thoughts he compared the one with the other, and he saw in them distinct chapters of the same revelation. He
thought he understood something of both. He did not pretend to understand much in either, but what was plain in the Bible was equally plain in Providence, and what was dark in the one was equally dark in the other. His talk did not differ much from that of other men in his position, excepting that he preferred to talk on Christian topics when he had a fair opportunity; and when he had, I observed that he never used any of those expressions which are commonly called "cant" expressions. This it was that drew me so much to him. As he had read his Bible very much, was familiar with "The Pilgrim," "The Holy War," and other writings of Bunyan, knew a little about Ambrose, and Sibbs, and not a little about Matthew Henry; his language, when he spoke freely, as he always did with me, was wonderfully rich, strong, and good, and seemed to express exactly what he meant. He could not talk ob. scurely, because when he did not see clearly he would not talk at all. He was most sensibly and most gratefully alive to the advantages he enjoyed, but I never had any evidence that would justify a suspicion that he was proud of them. I have known men among our English peasantry a good deal like him in many respects, but I think I hardly ever saw so much of a man in his situation whom I respected and really loved, as I did him.
I had not known him more than four or five years, when I missed him one Sunday morning from the chapel, and on a week evening, soon afterwards, he was not present in the village chapel at the service. On visiting his cottage, I found that he was able to go daily to his work, but not able to walk to the town, and unable to go out in the evening after his return from labour. I could not stay long with him then, but took the first favourable opportunity of repeating my visit. It seems he had been labouring for some years under a painful internal disease, which the medical adviser told me was aggra
vated by labour, and he advised that, | his tongue that the parting hour had
if possible, he should be required to remain in bed. It was not difficult to show him the desirableness of this, though he knew quite well that there was no prospect of his ever rising from that bed. He lay for many weeks of most excruciating suffering; and whenever I asked him if he wished me to pray for his bodily relief, or for his removal from this world of pain, he always replied with a cheerful smile, "As you like, Sir; but help me to pray that I may have no wish for myself but what God means to grant me." This was evidently the tenor of his mind: not the imagination that it was so, but his prevailing desire and heart-prayer. He never asked me to pray for him in his presence, but to help his prayers with mine. Oh, it was good for one of us so to pray, for he knew how Robert Gray's prayers had often helped him to pray and to preach! I wonder how many of our hearers understand this? Is it not one of the secret causes of the singular success of some men of God?
I have only space, at present, to describe one of my interviews with this holy man; not that it was in any way an exception to the rest, but because it lives in my memory with special sacredness, as the last, and as most frequently present to my mind's vision. He had been suffering, for more than a week, the most exhausting agonies, and we were sure, by many signs, that nature could not hold out much longer. We both had the feeling that we should | meet on earth no more; and Robert expressed by his eyes rather than by
come. It was a calm, solemn scene. Few words passed between us, but we understood each other's silence.
"Robert," I said at last, "what sort of look-out have you?"
"Ah, Sir," he said, "I can hardly tell you. I am in such pain that I feel as if I had no look-out at all." "What! none ?"
"Oh! there is hanging just before me something like a thick carpet. I cannot see through it. It has been there a very long time. It is very thick. I wish I could see through it. But God has put it there. I suppose he means to hide something from me."
"Yes; of course he does. But is the carpet always there, and nothing else?"
"Yes, Sir, it is always there; but it is not as it used to be. I don't like to look at it too much. Let us pray, will you? You know what I want, don't
We prayed for some minutes-not very continuously, but in mingled whispers. When I rose from the floor, I asked him if he dared to look at the carpet now. He smiled, and said, “The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you in your pulpit, and in every sick man's chamber. I feel that I am going. That curtain is not so thick as it was. It is getting thinner and thinner, Sir, especially in the middle "--pointing forward his pale finger-" and soon, Lord Jesus, I shall see thee in the light behind." I left him. We met no more. That evening he was removed to the light side of that DARK LOOK-OUT, and I rejoiced in the ripening of a soul for heaven.
TIME: OR, REFLECTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR.
"Time speeds away, away, away;
OUR immortal Watts has said of time, that, "like an everflowing stream, it makes haste into eternity, and is for ever lost and swallowed up there; and while it is hastening to its period, it sweeps away all things with it which are not immortal. There is a limit appointed by Providence to the duration of all the pleasant and desirable scenes of life, to all the works of the hands of men, with all the glories and excellences of animal nature, and all that is made of flesh and blood. Let us not dote upon anything here below, for Heaven hath inscribed vanity upon it. The moment is hastening when the decree of Heaven shall be uttered, and Providence shall pronounce upon every glory of the earth, Its time shall be no longer.'"
The true Christian, with this prospect distinctly before him, feels, however, no dismay. He can calmly hear, in anticipation, the awful voice of the angel-commissioner, as he stands with one foot on the earth and the other on the sea, declaring the moment come for the consummation of all things. He has his eye unflinchingly fixed upon a region and a state where all is changeless as the throne of God, and perfect as His divine character. Time is but a day, or rather, but a night, for of it, as a state of ignorance, will be born the day of our immortality. It is but a moment contrasted with infinite duration, " a parenthesis in eternity." It is, however, only such in regard to our views of it. To the eye of HIM who comprehends at a glance all the past,
present and to come, there can be no "parenthesis in eternity." With Jehovah duration is the same, and has been, and ever will be the same, whether or not designated by the dividing terms of years or ages. These are but accommodations to our limited powers of conception, and by them are deeply impressed upon us the shortness and hastiness of our life here.
"We take no note of time but by its loss."
To God, however, there is no loss of time, for he holds all the past in the grasp of his Almighty mind, as entirely as all the present and the future. "A thousand years in his sight are but as yesterday when it is past." We cannot, at least in this stage of our being, dispense with the divisions of time into hours, and days, and years, which rush past, and bear us with them in their hasty flight.
All our time is made up but of moments, which are of quicker flight than anything else in the universe. We cannot recognise their existence as measurable, so rapidly do they fly away from us. While we attempt to speak of them they are gone and numbered with the awful past. "We have but a moment," says a great and good man, "in our power, and a moment that is lost in the very instant in which we think to grasp it. Time is so subtle in its nature, that it were to weigh the fire and measure the wind to strive to stay this Proteus; in an instant he vanishes, and while you think to show him with your finger, he is gone."
Nothing is so evanescent as human life. In God's word it is compared to "a flower of the field, that to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven”— to "a weaver's shuttle”—to “an arrow's flight" to "a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth away."
"I have seen the morning vapour
Scatter'd by the eve of day;
Light and shade, and ill and good,
The best, and wisest, and oldest of men have been of one opinion respecting the brevity of life, and the fleetness of time. Job lived more than two hundred years, and he found trouble and sorrow, and pronounced life but a shadow. David, under the strong light of eternity, and in contrast with the Divine nature, viewed his own existence as defective and short-lived, and exclaimed, "Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is"-how limited, and short, and soon run out my little term of life"that I may know," and duly consider, and constantly bear in mind, "how frail I am," or "what time I have here." "Behold, thou hast made my days as a hand-breadth, and mine age is as nothing before Thee:"-then, rising from the view of his own nothingness to the general view of the frailty of human nature, he exclaims-"Verily, every man at his best state is altogether vanity,"-man thoroughly established and settled in the earth, surrounded with all the blandishments of the best state here below, is, nevertheless, vanity. "He walks only in a vain show, and is disquieted in vain" about the things that surround him. Men heap up riches, which they shall only leave to unknown heirs, who will be equally vain and transitory with themselves. It is the witness also of another saint of God, who had as good an opportunity as David of judging of the nature and brevity of life, that "we spend our years as a tale that is told"
that "the days of our years are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore
years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow, for it is soon cut off,"--the brittle thread that detains us to earth is soon snapped asunder, "and we fly away." "Thou carriest them away as with a flood. They are as a sleep. In the morning they are like grass that groweth up; in the morning it flourisheth and groweth up, and in the evening it is cut down and withereth."
There is, however, a state into which we shall pass, "where life is not a dream;" where duration, unmarked by the succession of years and ages, is everlasting; where the being of men shall receive the stamp of eternity, and lose for ever the character of frailty and feebleness. How vastly different are the two states of existence for which man is destined! A short, hasty, troublous hour spent in this sinblighted world, ushering him into an unending condition of happiness or misery.
It is impossible adequately to conceive the difference between man here and man beyond the limits of time. His powers here, however expanded and noble, are but the mere capacities of an infant intellect compared with those of his spirit either in bliss or woe hereafter. How precious, then, is time, which is so obviously the seedplot of eternity! What fruits of joy or woe will be reaped from it! Though we pass our years thus swiftly, yet their transactions must regulate our state in the world to come. How important, therefore, is it that we should now "exercise ourselves unto godliness," that we may find our expanded powers sources of happiness throughout eternity-that we, while our flying moments bear us so quickly away to the infinite realities of the unseen state, should prepare to pass our eternity in the realms of the pure and the good, in the presence of God, and not in the regions of darkness and unutterable woe. Reader, learn the momentous import of the apostolic injunction to redeem the time, because thy conduct here will fix thy condition there.