Page images

for the ridiculous light in which his eloquent friend's indiscretion has placed him. He puts forth no claims to the character of a prophet, but writes like a modest and pious, though visionary man. His errors of judgement, however, we should have thought sufficiently numerous and palpable, to deter any man of sound mind from implicitly surrendering himself to such a guide ; for, not to speak of his raising the pretended prophecies of Esdras to a level with those of Daniel and St. John,-an indication of a radical want of judgement at the very outset,- many of his expository reveries are so wild and puerile, and some of them so very exceptionable, as to render the tendency of his volume, though not its design, extremely questionable.* Mr. Irving confesses, that when he first met with Mr. Frere, he was completely ignorant on the subject of the Prophecies; and we may admire the simplehearted ingenuousness with which,' as became one that is • ignorant towards his teacher,' he received without cavilling' the whole scheme and substance of the Author's Interpreta. tions. But a little less rashness and dogmatism than are exhibited in his pages, would have become a novice in these studies. We admit that Mr. Irving, if not more worthy,' is in some respects wiser than his teacher ; yet, he goes beyond him in credulity. Mr. Frere only believes in the prophecies of Esdras : Mr. Irving vouches for the revelations made to Mr. Frere ; and he is willing, apparently, that his own qualifications as an expositor of prophecy should be estimated by this signal display of easy faith and infirmity of judgement. We are unfeignedly sorry that he should have exhibited himself in this light. It is said of Saul, that he was a goodly person : “ from the shoulders and upwards he was higher than any of the people;" yet, great was the general surprise when he appeared among the prophets. “ And they said, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish?" Mr. Irving's appearance among the expounders of prophecy is in like manner adapted to provoke an application of the well-known proverb—Is Saul also among the prophets? Most assuredly he is out of his element,

A man of Mr. Irving's powers of mind could not produce a work absolutely worthless, and the present volumes will not

* See Eclectic Review, Vol. VII. (N. S.) p. 483. This gentleman finds in Dan. xi., the overthrow of the French monarchy, Bonaparte's campaign in Italy, the destruction of the French fleet by Lord Nelson, and the attack, on the Danish fleet in 1801, &c. &c. He makes the British nation to be the 144,000 sealed ones, Rev. vii., the 144,000 palm-bearing virgins, Rev. xiv., and the Holy Cove• nant' of Daniel. We refer to his first edition.

be found wanting in splendid passages of declamatory and hortatory eloquence. Much unquestionable truth and seasonable admonition are blended with his fanciful interpretations and minatory fulminations, in which he not only professes to have deciphered the scroll of prophecy, but would seem to have seized upon the Apocalyptic trumpet, and to have merged the feelings of a man in the stern commission of a destroying angel.

As a specimen of his style, we give the conclusion of his seventh • 'fytte.'

• But before concluding this and the former part, I beg, for what hath been set forth therein, to apologize, to the soft and effeminate spirit of this generation of saints, whose untempered edge I must oft have injured-and to the political and expedient spirit of this gene. ration of saints, whose zeal for parliamentary questions I must oft have taken aback-and to every spirit of loving-kindness for the ene. mies of Christ, and of compromise with the powers of this present world, to whom my discourse must have been like gall and worm. wood. To all such spirits, sorely tried by the above discourse, I have my apology to make, before I leave the subject of this stroke of doom ;—which I make by referring them back to the history and enumeration which I made of God's former dealings with the impeni. tent generations of men since the world began ; therewith preparing the way to the unwelcome strain which I had to sing. But if they will not be satisfied with the analogy of the doings of the Lord, nor interpret his future purposes by the past, then I have in the next place to make this other apology for the unsavoury discourse ;-that it sticketh close to the letter of the word of God, not magnifying that which the holy and true word hath to the utmost magnified; nor imagining in more terrible forms, that scenery of destruction, which the Spirit of truth hath exhausted the whole machinery of terrible imaginations to body forth. But, if they will not take these my two good and sufficient apologies—if they will not be enlightened by the past history of truth, natural and revealed, nor give ear to the perpetual voice of prophecy since the world began; what do these dreamers of poetical and sentimental fancies—these good-natured despoilers of Christian charity, whereof they affect the reve. rence, say to the awful and overwhelming debt of justice, which the enemies of Christ and his Church have contracted upon their unbelieving and persecuting heads ? Or is Christ a king no more, and hath he forgotten to be the deliverer of his people? And is God no more a man of war, aad hath the Lord of hosts ceased to be his name? And shall his dealings with his saints no longer be justified in their sight, and in the sight of all the heathen round about? And, what! shall he allow his children to be captive for ever, and for ever to hang their harps upon the willows, and mourn for Zion which is desolate? Shall the remnant which still remaineth scattered amongst the nations, and oppressed with scorn and cruelty, remain a despised and rejected people? And shall the names with which they rail

against us, not be written against them, and the evil measures which they served out, be returned upon their own heads, and their curs. ings return into their own throats, and their prosperity perish, and all their glory and their strength be scattered like chaff before the wind? Then hath the Lord forgotten to be gracious, and his covepant is no longer sure ; and there is no more a Judge over all the earth, who doeth righteously. Call they this hardness of heart? that the wicked should perish. Call they this unmerciful? that the nations which forget God, should be cast into hell. What would these soft-hearted fools? That God should cease to be holy? That Christ should cease to be the manifestation of love and holiness in kissing communion; of mercy and justice in sweetest accordancy? that the Holy Spirit should cease from being named Holy, and True, and Comforter that there should be no separate people-n0 EXKRECIA, or elected Church ? no apostate and perishing world ? all things returned to chaos again, all things confused and intermingled ? As the Lord liveth and hath testified for what he liveth, they are ignorant, and blind, and foolish, and wicked, who pervert the minds of men with such wretched imaginings of short-sighted good-nature, of all tolerating injustice. · · To the soul of every truly spiritual man, who hath been made a partaker of the divine nature, there is nothing but the most blinded error and ill-directed spirit in that puling pity, which sigheth, and weepeth, and maketh lamentation over the poor souls whom the papal superstition doth oppress, and whom the son of infidelity doll gall unto the death ; but while it sighs, and weeps, and makes its pitiful lamentations over the captive and imprisoned souls, will lift no voice of hatred and rebuke, utter no withering curses, and bring no effectual blow against thosc evil powers which have caught the sioner in their iniquities, and by their iniquities continue to secure them in their fearful hold. If they have faith in the doctrine of Christ, and the all prevalency of his kingdom, why do they not set the battle in array against these, his enemies, who maintain so mighty a head against him? As I live, it is because I love the souls of men, that I hate these oppressors of the souls of men. If the life of the soul were not dear in my sight, I would not be moved with horror against those who consume souls by thousands and tens of thousands. If the liberty of the soul were not glorious, I would not thus be grieved by the captivity of so many millions, or rejoice that the day of their redemption draweth nigh. The Lord judge between me and those soft-hearted optimists, if I love not the souls of men better than they ; and endeavour to frame my discourse according to His word, more exactly than they. But if I utter any malice to the person of any man, or wish any wish but redemption to any man, while I hate the oppressors, and rejoice that their rod is to be so soon broken, the Lord forgive me, for I mean it not so, and do only desire to be the mouth of his holy prophets, who have prophesied since the world began, and of his Son Jesus Christ, whose testimony is the spirit of prophecy.

"These apologies for that which I have set forth concerning the

last catastrophe of divine wrath, I make as to a generation of Zion'a children, whose travail in the prophecy is small, and whose faith of it is therefore faint; who have forsaken the promises which God hath given them, and are leaning unto the broken reed of state-policy and power, and look for their salvation from ungodly and unbelieving statesmen, of whom many will be found themselves underlaying the captivity of superstition, on the wide-spread sore of infidelity. But the true apology is to teach them what this battle of Armageddon is, if indeed they will be taught; which I count to be no less than the last crisis of the strife between good and evil which hath been waged upon the earth since the world began, whereof the event is to determine, whether Satan or Christ shall have it, and hold it for ever: when in their true sepse and full significancy, all the promises made to the saints, which have but budded, or shown tender and delicate shoots, shall flourish like the cedar of Lebanon, and all the prophecies fully ripened, shall shed fruit every where ; and the weary way. worn Church shall begin to enter into rest, and its labours be accom. plished; and Canaan shall no longer be a figure, and Christ's king. dom shall no longer be a figure, the resurrection shall no longer be an expectation, but å reality; and there can be no more scepticism, when the faithful people are standing in their lots-Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the Patriarchs-Job, David, and Daniel, and all the Prophets. And let no man, calling himself a Christian, go to sicken the life of these conclusions from the faithful word of God, by his puling sentiment concerning this miserable earth, and his desire to escape from it as fast as may be. Who art thou ? a man ! that speaketh. so of this earth, to reclaim which the Lord of glory came down, and was a despised and rejected servant? And what are thy sentiments, thou fallen reptile, to set them up against the true and faithful book of God; which, forsooth, thou wilt foreclose, because thou hast a sentiment? Perish thy sentiment, which thus veileth one word of the everlasting truth. Of which, before one iota shall pass, heaven and earth, and thou too, with all thy sentiment, shall like. wise pass. But if thou wilt bring thy meagre mind, and more mea. gre faith to take a moment's thought upon the subject, wilt thou please to answer me this question-If this earth was deemed of God worthy to be the place of the contest between Christ and Satan, why should it not be worthy to be the place of the triumph? If saints are regenerated on earth, and on earth maintained in their warfare, why on earth should they not have the rest and the victory ? Thou and thy sentimentality are hateful to God, and pitiful in the sight of true and sufficient reason.

• But besides this childish sentiment of the mind, there is another of the heart widely prevalent in the Church, (if I might call that heterogeneous mixture of worldly wisdom and divine wisdom, of human fancies and faithful doctrines, of form and expediency, by the holy name of Church,) that these judgements of the Lord upon the heathen, and upon the papal nations, are not to be spoken in charitable ears; and that the man who broacheth such doctrines, is a hard. hearted fanatic, and blinded apostle of his own maliciousness. Ye

[ocr errors]

tender-hearted objectors to God's most righteous judgements, what say ye, to the holocaust of a generation at the deluge? what, to the smiting of Egypt's first-born of man and beast? what, to the root-andbranch destruction of the Canaanitish nations and to Saul's cutting off, because he spared any creature of Amalek which breathed the breath of life? And what say you to the five city-fulls of men, who were consumed with fire from heaven? And what say you of all the burdens of the prophets ? Nineveh had but sixty days for repentance. These nations have had almost 2000 years. Oh! but the Lord will not send such as you to do his errands! Fear not that your tender hearts will be wounded. Ye who cannot hear his messages, shall not know his works. Now, was not Jesus of Nazareth as tender as you, who wept over Jerusalem, yet brought on it that destruction which maketh the ear still to tingle. Weep, yea, weep; and because you pity, cry aloud like Jonah. It is a weighty commission, but flee not from it, ye who bear the name of prophets; lest the Lord overtake you in the way, or swift destruction overtake you. Ye lovers of your natural tastes, and your natural feelings, more than of the revelation of God! Ye disbelievers of his holiness and his truth! Ye intolerant indulgers of heresy, and the arch heretic! Ye disguised lovers of the mother of harlots! Fear greatly-fear I say, lest ye be overwhelmed with her. But take not on you the name of God's prophets, call yourselves no longer preachers of Christ, if ye dare not declare his fearful messages. Let' others stand forth to be the videttes of the camp, the watchmen of the holy city, if ye will speak favourable words, and hold out signals of peace to the enemy. The promises shall be taken from you, and ye shall not enter into his rest, by means of unbelief. Fear, fear, lest a promise being left you of entering in, any of you should seem to fall short.

Vol. II. pp. 231–40. We have heard it observed, that Mr. Irving has sounded a faithful alarm, but that there is a crack in his trumpet, which gives a harshness to its sounds. This was meant as no unfriendly criticism, nor do we know that we can state the case more correctly. The misfortune is, that those who stand most in need of warning, will, it is to be feared, be more struck with the dismal harshness of its notes, than arrested by their import. Mr. Irving has not the art of making himself forgotten in his message. His very sentences are all thrown into attitudes, and his mannerism steals away the attention from his matter. For instance, when we find a speaker or a writer introducing a statement or opinion with a solemn adjuration in the very language of the Deity himself—' As I live,' or in the words of the Saviour, · Verily, verily, I say unto you,'—the revolting impropriety of the phraseology destroys all confidence in the judgement of the individual, and bars the mind against his communication. In such a case, there is nothing between implicitly submitting to the man as a Divinely commissioned

« PreviousContinue »