Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the character of this non-essential ? It is not an ordinance designed by Christ to convey any occult influence to the soul, nor is it necessary to salvation, nor even contributive to it. In this sense, it is certainly a non-essential. To those who go to Christ simply that they may be delivered from damnation, and who rejoice to be quit of all claims save faith in himself, it must be a merciful deliverance from bearing the cross to creep through this hole, or leap over this wall of non-essential, into the privileges of the Christian life. But to those who maintain that, when they believe, they have only come to the beginning, there is a still small voice which says, “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much.” We are not content with confessing Christ, but desire to confess him in his own ordained way. Now this confession of him involves more than we see upon the surface. There must be faith in his resurrection. This is the point upon which the apostle speaks so distinctly, “If thou shalt confess with thy lips the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Why does he set belief in the fact of Christ's resurrection so prominently forth in this confession. For this reason, as Dr. Raleigh suggests, “ The fact of the resurrection, as an isolated thing, would be nothing. That fact, as the representative of many more, which are gathered inseparably about it, is everything. ... Thus, to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead is, of course, to believe that he died. .... The resurrection from its relative position among the facts of Christianity, has often been likened to the keystone of an arch. .... A man who believes in a keystone must believe in a whole arch. So he who believes that God raised up Jesus from the dead believes in advent, incarnation, atonement, sacrificial death, and in ascension, in heaven, in coming judgment, in eternal blessedness.” But we believe the matter has another relation than even this. The passage which we have quoted about confession is found in the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Go back about two pages in your Bible, and you will find in the same epistle these words, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” The cutting up of the book into chapters causes us to lose the force of the argument which appears, in the fewest words, to be somewhat thus :-Your baptism is a symbol of faith in a risen Christ. But that very baptism which signified resurrection signified also death. It becomes then a sign of your allegiance to the doctrine of the cross, as well as of your faith in the doctrine of the resurrection. The force of the symbol is lost either when the subject is an unconverted person, or the mode is other than immersion. Holding, as we do, then, the naked simplicity of the command of Christ, we do so for two reasons among many others. First : Because Christ was far wiser in his choice of the method of baptism, than those who would substitute for it an invention of their own. Secondly: That it would be impossible to renounce or alter the mode of this ordinance, without losing a most important means of bearing

the door deplo, fact,

witness to the cardinal articles of our faith. It is a fact, challenge it who will, that with all our divisions—and we deplore them before God-the Baptists have clung closer to the doctrines of atonement, substitution, and the vicarious sufferings of Christ, than many denominations of Christians. Ther have erred less on the side of sacramentarianism on the one hand and rationalism on the other. Their hold of this doctrine of baptism, always to their own personal disadvantage, and frequently at the expense of prestige and honor, has been as the chain cable to hold the sheet anchor of their faith. They have been tempted by emoluments and office to give up the point; so small, so infinitesimally small, and yet so fought about by their adversaries ; and in their resistance of the temptation to renounce one of the least, they have gained the strength necessary to maintain the greatest. They have said, we dare not alter one word of the command which fell from lips so sacred, much less dare we yield one point of our faith in that death into which we have been baptised.

Depend upon it, it is a fatal sign when a minister renounces his Baptist principles. Those who go out from us usually do so because they are not of us upon many other points than this one upon which they break the tie of our fellowship. It is but the language of a grandiloquent braggart, when a man boasts of the few that he has baptised since he entered the Baptist ministry, and declares that his free spirit soars towards a wider church with a larger creed; it may be that could we have heard bis mental reservation, there would have been added—and a larger salary. We do not wish to forecast the future of those who leave us—thank God they are but few—but the same subtle quibblings, sophistical reasonings, and special pleadings, which have influenced their decision upon this point, will most probably influence their decision upon others; and their frail bark will be stranded, where others before them have been, upon the rocks of rationalism or the quicksands of ritualism.

We might pursue this theme, but our time fails us. My brethren, we love our Alma Mater, and we only do it the barest justice when we remark that whatever our severest critics have to say about it, they can never truthfully declare that we have learned anything from our foster mother subversive of the doctrine of the cross. There is no muffled bell to spoil the peal which rings forth its sonorous notes from our presidential chair or our professors' seats, and God forbid that the muffled bell should ever mar the clear ringing accents of our ministry. And when we meet together in these true fraternal gatherings, may the communion table never lose its sweetness because the Saviour has lost his charms, or the cross has ceased to be the fountain of our preaching and the source of our life. The years roll on, and as they pass away they bear one and another with whom we took sweet counsel together into the presence of our Father on high. And if at any time those who have thus gone from us have made any mistakes in their ministry, -as we all do, there has not been any mistake in the testimony of their dying hours concerning the infinite value of the atonement which was made on Calvary. From this they have drawn the consolation which made their eye grow brighter the nearer death approached, because throughout their ministry they had not failed to hear their Master's words, “I, if I be

lifted up will draw all men unto me." Let us follow them. “The morning cometh,” for such is the reply of the watchman, when we ask in gloomy accents, “What of the night?” “The morning cometh,” and without a succeeding night; and even as he speaks the black mist is edged with a rosy tint that is soon to be shot through with glory, till that mist itself appears like a rainbow crest upon the mountain's brow, and when the sun rises to its full height in the noon of heaven, all its radiance shall be focussed upon one point, and that point not indeed the cross, but the glorious person upon whom the cross has left its marks for ever—"the Lamb as it had been elain.”

A Edelsh Rebival.

BY EDWARD LEACH. MHE pedestrian in Wales is struck with the number of plain, grey

1 stone meeting-houses of the Calvinistic Methodists. In some districts, where the population is scarcely observable, the parish church is dwarfed by the larger, and certainly uglier, conventicle of the Dissenters, while scarcely a village nestling in the leafy shade or in the brow of some romantic hill, is without the square structure in which the Welsh prefer to worship God. You ask to what denomination the homely “ four walls” belong, and the answer affords another proof of the striking fact that an earnest, enterprising body of Christians may be represented in spots which but for them might be surrendered to a cheerless Anglicanism or to absolute ignorance of the gospel. Certainly, where the Welsh Baptists are not, the Calvinistic Methodists are to be found; in too many places both communities exist together; while in small towns, where there is room for all, and an energetic and commendable disposition not to neglect the worship of the sanctuary, both bodies have considerable adherents. If the English visitor venture into their tabernacles, while mourning for the nonce, at least, his ignorance of the lively language of the worshippers, he cannot fail to rejoice as he observes their enthusiasm and devoutness. Their preachers have a strong hold upon the masses, and know how to keep it; their labours are greatly blessed of God, and are appreciated by the working population.

The rise of the Calvinistic Methodists, and the evangelical work they have done, is remarkable in many respects. The religious condition of Wales in the last century was sadly similar to that of England prior to the better days of Whitfield and Wesley's evangelisation. Not all, but most of the churches were slumbering. Religious zeal was at a discount; the Establishment was spiritless and Nonconformity tended towards lukewarmness, and, in many cases, Socinianism. A young man, aroused to earnest regard for his highest welfare, having returned from Oxford to Brecon, in South Wales, at the close of the term, began exhorting from house to house; and without any consciousness of preaching, or ambition thus to labour, urged his friends and neighbours to seek the salvation he had himself found. Not only in the town in which he resided, but also in the surrounding parishes was this earnest, unpretentious work done. In the course of a little while, the gatherings in houses assumed a serious character; and persons assembled in so large a number that no building was commodious enough to contain them. This was the commencement of what has been termed the Welsh Methodist revival. The preaching of Howell Harris was accompanied with such power that numbers were led to anxious concern, the churches became crowded with earnest enquiring men and women, and a permanent religious and moral improvement was the result. About forty miles away from this happy scene, in a village in the county of Cardigan, a similar work was going on, under peculiar circumstances. A curate, named Daniel Rowlands, whose love for the world was greater than his love for Christ, was anxious to excel an earnest Independent minister hard by in the power of gathering a large congregation, and fired with this unworthy motive, was determined to ascertain the secret of the Dissenter's success. He concluded that it was due to “ thundering," and he thought thunder should be introduced into his own pulpit utterances. Accordingly, he chose the most awfully solemn texts as the subjects for his discourses, and preached from them such sermons on sin, and death, and everlasting punishment as threw terror and dismay into the hearts of the people. Many were brought into the church, which soon became crowded, and it is said that before the truths he preached really affected his own soul, over one hundred of his congregation were under deep impressions. Happily, the preacher himself was subdued under the power of God, and then he entered upon bis ministry with other and better motives. Still, his preaching was sadly defective: it was all law, no gospel, -all threatening and terror, and no winsome entreaty and healing balm. The Independent minister whom he had sought to emulate, observed this defect, and desirous that Mr. Rowlands should be a great soul-winner, he urged upon the young curate the importance of declaring the saving grace of Christ. “If you go on,” said he, "preaching the law after this fashion, you will kill half the population, for you thunder those awful curses in such a terrible manner that it is impossible for any man to stand before you." The suitable advice was wisely accepted, and henceforth instead of the deep groans of dismay and despair, cries of " Gogoniant,” “Hallelujah," arose from rejoicing hearts.

The nature of Mr. Rowland's most powerful oratory is described by the author of the little fascinating volume indicated below,* as such that it could not fail to produce mighty effects. Certainly it wrought wonders in Llangeitho.

A third wave of revival, unconnected with the two preceding, was sweeping over the indifference of the people of Llysyfran, in Pembrokeshire. A young curate, named Howell Davies, commenced his ministry amid tokens of a most remarkable blessing. Some big-wigs in the parish, who did not approve of conversions and penetrating truths of any kind, secured his dismissal from the curacy; and then he travelled the country, preaching in churches and out of them, and with such

* Welsh Calvinistic Methodism : a Historical Sketch. By the Rev. Wm. Williams (Nisbet). Price 38, 6d. The reader would do well to obtain this admirable history. It reads like a romance.

converting power that it was said Mr. Davies had at one time more than two thousand communicants in the county of Pembroke.

These three earnest Evangelists were the means of raising up a number of others, among whom was one to whom the whole church of Christ is indebted for the two hymns, “Guide me, thou great Jehovah," and “O'er the gloomy hills of darkness." Mr. Williams, of Pantycelyn, is well described as the sacred poet of Wales; the popularity of his hymns in the Principality can be seen in the hymnbooks used by all the various churches. He was too good and useful for an Established Church which could not brook such offences as not using the sign of the cross and obeying the command of the Master in going into the highways and hedges to compel sidners to come into the fold of Christ. A number of offences of this kind were alleged against him, the Bishop in consequence refused to ordain him as priest, and he left a sect that would not allow him to do Christ's work with freedom. and energy. Others left the Episcopal Church because the lukewarm and the snobocracy made the holding of their curacies impossible if they remained true to their Lord. The manly piety of the earnestly religious was despised ; and what can be said for a church that can tolerate any- . thing but evangelic zeal ? Can it be a church of Christ? It is ton late now for churchmen to acknowledge that their procedure, which brought secession, was a mistake. The acknowledgment is largely due to ecclesiastical selfishness, and would probably not be made if the secessionists had not been a power which, at this day, threatens the very existence of the Establishment.

The movement owes not a little to the impetus which George Whitfield gave it. He, from the earliest time, tras deeply interested in the work of the brave spirits in the Principality, and the first Association of Welsh Calvinistic Methodists was held under his chairmanship. The leaders were very young men and needed counsel; moreover, their position was novel to themselves and a little doubtful to many who sympathised with them. Although compelled to leave the Establishment they were deeply attached to its articles and offices, but while respecting all the honest restrictions it imposed, they would not bow to the dictation of those who desired to cramp their energies within the narrowest mechanical limits. Men were perishing ; they had received from the Lord the truth that would save them, and they felt bound, in all loyalty of spirit to the Christ they loved and the gospel committed to their trust, to preach his salvation. Wherever there were souls needing the Bread of Life, they went to present it; and if, in so doing, they poached upon the preserves of some indolent, self-indulgent, perhaps sottish gamekeeper, so much the worse for him when the Lord maketh inquest on the dead opportunities of the neglectful watchman. These Fathers of Welsh Methodism, as they have been called, entertaining the mildest form of meek dissent, were not prepared to throw their energies into any other religious organisation, and were not desirous of forming a separate community. Not having been trained in th: principles of nonconformity, they were afraid of being regarded as Dis. senters. Accordingly they instituted, instead of a church in each locality, a “society” of believers; instead of designating their ministers, who had not gone through the occult process of ordination from the

« AnteriorContinuar »