« PreviousContinue »
as he doth in us? O surprising truth! Christ Jesus rejoices over his poor, tempted, tried, and erring people.
It is not to be forgotten that sometimes the Lord Jesus tells his people his love thoughts. "He does not think it enough behind her back to tell
“ it, but in her very presence, he says, 'Thou art all fair my love. It is true, this is not his ordinary method; he is a wise lover, that knows when to keep back the intimation of love and when to let it out; but there are times when he will make no secret of it; times when he will put it beyond all dispute in the souls of his people."* The Holy Spirit is often pleased in a most gracious manner, to witness with our spirits of the love of Jesus. He takes of the things of Christ and reveals them unto us. No voice is heard from the clouds and no vision is seen in the night, but we have a testimony more sure than either of these. If an angel should fly from heaven and inform the saint personally of the Saviour's love to him, the evidence would not be one whit more satisfactory than that which is born in the heart by the Holy Ghost. Ask those of the Lord's people who have lived the nearest to the gates of heaven, and they will tell you that they have had seasons when the love of Christ towards them has been a fact so clear and sure, that they could no more doubt it than they could question their own existence. Yes, beloved believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has mounted to the topmost heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the bosom of our Lord, and we have had no more question about our Master's affection than John had when in that blessed posture, nay, nor so much; for the dark question, “Lord is it I that shall betray thee,” has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of his love, and killed our doubts by the closeness of his embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls. We felt that we could sing, left hand is under my head and his right hand doth embrace me.” (Sol. Song viii. 3.) Then all earthly troubles were light as the chaff of the threshing-floor, and the pleasures of the world as tasteless as the white of an egg. We would have welcomed death as the messenger who would introduce us to our Lord to whom we were in haste to be gone; for his love had stirred us to desire more of him, even his immediate and glorious presence. I have sometimes, when the Lord has assured me of his love, felt as if I could not contain more joy and delight. My eyes ran down with tears of gratitude. I fell upon my knees to bless him, but rose again in haste, feeling as if I had nothing more to ask for, but must stand up and praise him; then have I lifted my hands to heaven longing to fill my arms with him; panting to talk with him, as a man talketh with his friend, and to see him in his own person, that I might tell him how happy he had made his unworthy servant, and might fall on my face and kiss his feet in unutterable thankfulness and love. Such a banquet have I had upon one word of my beloved—“ thou art mine," that I wished like Peter to build tabernacles in that mount and dwell for ever. But alas, we who are young saints, have not yet learned how to preserve such assurance. We stir up our beloved and awake him, and then he leaves our unquiet chamber, and we grope after him in the night and make many a weary journey after him. If we were wiser and more careful, we might preserve the fragrance of Christ's words far longer; for they are not like the ordinary manna which soon rotted, but are comparable to that omer of it which was put in the golden pot and preserved for many generations. The sweet Lord Jesus has been known to write his love-thoughts on the hearts of his people in so clear and deep a manner, that they have for months and even years enjoyed an abiding sense of his affection. A few doubts have. flitted across their minds like thin clouds before a summer's sun, but the warmth of their assurance has remained the same for many a gladsome day. Their path has been a smooth one, they have fed in the green pastures beside the still waters, for his rod and staff have comforted them, and his right hand hath led them. I am inclined to think, that there is more of this in the Church than some men would allow. We have a goodly number who dwell upon the hills, and behold the light of the sun. There are giants in these days, though the times are not such as to allow them room to display their gigantic strength; in many a humble cot, in many a crowded workshop, in many a village manse there are to be found men of the liouse of David, men after God's own heart, anointed with the holy oil. It is, however, a mournful truth, that whole ranks in the army of our Lord are composed of dwarfish Littlefaiths. The men of fearful mind, and desponding heart are everywhere to be seen. Why is this? Is it the Master's fault, or ours ? Surely he cannot be blamed. Is it not then a matter of enquiry in our own souls. Can I not grow stronger? Must I be a mourner all my days ? How can I
* R. Erskine's Sermons,
my doubts? The answer must be: yes, you can be comforted, but only the mouth of the Lord can do it, for anything less than this will be unsatisfactory. I doubt not, that there are means, by the use of which, those who are now weak and trembling, may attain unto boldness in faith and confidence in hope ; but I see not how this can be done unless the Lord Jesus Christ manifest his love to them, and tell them of their union to him. This he will do, if we seek it of him. The importunate pleader shall not lack his reward. Haste thee to him, O timid one, and tell him that nothimg will content thee, but a smile from his own face, and a word from his own lip. Speak to him, and say, "O, my Lord Jesus, I cannot rest unless I know that thou lovest
I desire to have proof of thy love under thine own hand and seal. I cannot live upon guesses and surmises; nothing but certainty will satisfy my trembling heart. Lord, look upon me, if, indeed, thou lovest me, and though I be less than the least of all saints, say unto my soul, 'I am thy salvation.”” When this prayer is heard, the castle of despair must totter, there is not one stone of it which can remain upon another, if Christ whispers forth his love. Even Despondency and Much-afraid will dance, and Ready-to-Halt leap upon his crutches.
O, for more of these Bethel visits, more frequent visitations from the God of Israel! O, how sweet to hear him say to us, as he did to Abraham, " Fear not Abram, I am thy shield, thine exceeding great reward.” (Gen. xv. 1.) To be addressed as Daniel was of old, “0, man, grealy beloved,” (Dan. X. 19.) is worth a thousand ages of this world's joy. What more can a creature want this side of heaven to
make him peaceful and happy than a plain avowal of love from his Lord's own lips. Let me ever hear thee speak in mercy to my soul, and O, my Lord, I ask no more while here I dwell in the land of my pilgrimage.
Brethren, let us labour to obtain a confident assurance of the Lord's delight in us, for this, as it enables him to commune with us, will be one of the readiest ways to produce a like feeling in our hearts towards him. Christ is well-pleased with us; let us approach him with holy familiarity; let us unbosom our thoughts to him, for his delight in us will secure us an audience. The child may stay away from the father, when he is conscious that he has aroused his father's displeasure, but why should we keep at a distance, when Christ Jesus is smiling upon us. No! since his smiles attract us, let us enter into his courts, and touch his golden sceptre. 0, Holy Spirit, help us to live in happy fellowship with him whose soul is knit unto us.
“O Jesus! let eternal blessings dwell
Let me be wholly thine from this blest hour.
Let me be wholly thine from this blest hour.
Ou Plymouth Brethrenism.
BY G. ROGERS.
ago which, on account of its pretentions to superior piety, and the countenance it received from a few distinguished individuals, excited much attention, both in the Church and the world. By its advocates it was hailed as the commencement of a new era in Christianity, as the dawn of a second Reformation, and as the immediate precursor of millennial glory ; while Christians in general looked on with mingled doubt and approbation, and wisely determined to suspend their judgment until the new movement had been tested by experience. It soon became evident that it was far more imposing in theory than in practice ; and that it failed most in the very points in which it professed to be most pure. It assumed to be no sect, but to be pure Bible-Christianity, which was either the most childish fiction, or the most uncharitable presumption. It must have embraced either all Christians in the world, or a part. If it refused to be considered a sect, or section, or part, it arrogantly assumed to be the whole. It professes to have the true apostolic creed, and yet no sect, perhaps, for its size and period of duration, is more divided in its doctrinal views. It pretends to have made the Bible its own and only interpreter, and yet it appeals to the sentiments of its leaders with all the confidence that others have displayed in similar circumstances. In theory, it has no minister ; in practice, it has many. In theory, it is a most united body ; in reality, it is most divided. On these accounts, considering its high pretentions, and how completely they have failed, it may be affirmed, without any violation of charity, to have been weighed in the balance, and found wanting. After many years, it is scarcely more extensive than soon after its origin, and certainly is in less general repute.
In the spiritual, as well as in the natural world, causes have their own effects, or, in other words, “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” A great mixture of truth and error has been sown in the field we are now surveying, and a plentiful crop of both has appeared ; but the tares, to our thinking, are in unusual proportion to the wheat. New sects have generally branched off at some neglected point of doctrine or discipline in the Christian Church. Where the deficiency has been most felt, efforts have been made to supply it. Those efforts have been made with sincere motives, but have not, perhaps, on account of the unofficial source from whence they came, received the attention they deserve ; or they may not have had a full response in the minds and hearts of fellow Christians. In either case distinction is conferred upon the author of the change. If he be a man whose strength is not equal to his day, and whose humility does not increase with his reputation, he will be seen unduly to magnify both himself and his suggested improvement to the discomfort of his brethren, and commonly to a final separation from them. Accompanied by a few others he forms a community upon new principles, necessarily based upon the peculiarity of his own religious views. In this way, that which was good at first is carried to excess, and becomes a positive evil ; less evil in itself than in the irregularities and errors with which in the hands of the ignorant and self-conceited it is accompanied.
In circumstances like these, Plymouth Brethrenism had its origin. It was a revival of the ancient sect of the Bereans, who “searched the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." In every age of the Church, men have been too ready to take the truths of Scripture from the lips of the preacher second-hand, instead of deriving them from the Scriptures themselves. They have been content with the stream, when they might have repaired to the fountain. They have been guided and pleased with the reflection, when they might have gazed upon the source of the light. In some cases, this is unavoidable; but, as a test of truth, the living preacher is never to be preferred to the written Word. To the twelve, Jesus could say, "He that heareth you, heareth me,” because they were inspired to make known what he had taught them to others, and the New Testament at first was in preaching only. As that authority was gradually withdrawn, the more sure word of prophecy was gradually introduced, until the Church was left wholly to the authority of the inspired record. The assumption of authority in pastors and teachers equal to the written Word has been the source of incalculable evils, both in the Church and the world. The only security for the preservation of the Gospel, as taught by Christ and his apostles, in after agcs, was in the NewTestament Scriptures. Its teachers had to invent nothing; they were neither to add unto the things written in this book, nor to take from them; they were to interpret, explain, and enforce, the volume of Inspiration, as men science have to do with the volume of Nature. The same rule holds good now, as in the time of Isaiah, and will to the end of the world: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.” Such a standard of appeal was absolutely needful, and it was indispensable that it should be within the reach of all, or how could hearers know for certainty what they ought to believe, when their teachers often differed from each other, and sometimes from themselves? Ministers are not, therefore, substitutes for the Bible, but its interpreters. They can claim no authority for their teaching, except so far as it is the teaching of the written Word. They do not supersede, but render more needful, the study of the Scriptures by their hearers for themselves.
On this point the new sect took their stand. Hearers were too ready to put their teachers in the place of the Scriptures they taught. The Bible itself was greatly neglected by them. “Let us look into the Scriptures for ourselves,” said one, “let us study it closely! Let us examine it as our teachers have done!” “Well said,” replied another. A social party is then formed for the purpose. It is found to be profitable and reviving. It increases. New parties are formed for the study of the Word of God only. This was an admirable appendage to the hearing of the Word, and other parts of public ordinances; and such as we would highly recommend to all Christian people. The Scriptures cannot be too much studied by our hearers; and we would urge them to its study in the original languages as far as ever they may be inclined to go. Would God that all the Lord's people were learned in the Scriptures! This goodly practice, however, soon became abused. From an auxiliary, it was made the principal thing: a part was magnified to a whole. Separation from other means of grace followed; an internal government of its own was instituted; and within its own little sphere, all true Christian doctrine and discipline were contained. Under this delusive exterior, it must be admitted, there were instances of piety not unworthy of primitive simplicity, in superiority to the pleasures of the world, in love to the brethren, and in the continual cultivation of a spirit of devotion by the Word of God and by prayer. The goodness, however, was counterbalanced by enormous evils. The