صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Privy Council therefore remains where it was. This again is a subject of much thankfulness.

But we must record, as the great event of the month in connection with this subject, the publication of Mr. Goode's reply to the Bishop of Exeter's letter to the Primate. As it is our hope to give this work a place in our next Number, better suited to its importance, we shall not anticipate that examination further than to say, that it would be difficult to conceive any reply more complete. Let any reader who has the "shadow of the shade" of a doubt, as to the true character of the Bishop of Exeter's work, make haste to secure that of Mr. Goode's. It has already, we perceive, honestly, reached its fourth edition; and we have no doubt it will travel into every town and village in the land.

The spirit of the Bishop, and of some of his adherents, renders the maintenance of a calm and charitable temper of mind a matter of rather unusual difficulty. But we have seen that some distinguished persons who, to a certain extent, accord with him in his general views on Baptism, have come forward as the champions of forbearance, charity, and union. The friends of Mr. Gorham, or those who, without absolutely adopting his opinions, rejoice that those who entertain them should not find their entrance into the National Church obstructed, have infinitely less to try their spirits and their temper. A tone of insolence, of sarcasm, or of haughty triumph would ill become those who have to acknowledge so great a mercy at the hands of God. The winners in a game are proverbial for keeping their temper; and it is for them to prove to the world, that while they contend for a deeper and wider work of the Spirit of God in a human soul than the ordinary grace of Baptism, their contention is not for a mere shadow, for the mere ghost and mockery of a new nature, temper, and habits, but for qualities which are the elements of the beatified existence, of which the seed is sown here, and the full harvest reaped in the kingdom of God.

The week in which the Number of the "Christian Observer" will be laid on the tables of our readers will be that of the anniversaries of several of our principal religious Societies. These Societies must be regarded as constituting one of the chief moral peculiarities of our country. And they are among its noblest distinctions, inasmuch as they intimate, by undeniable tokens, the earnestness with which our people long for the extension of Christianity, and their readiness to sacrifice time, ease, and property for the benefit of their fellow men. These Societies are the offspring, not of Tractarianism or of Anglo-Catholicism, but of "Evangelical" religion. Wherever the former of these systems enter in, such institutions wither and die. There is one way in which they may do honour to the religious system which gave them birth-if only, in these anniversaries, the assembled members discover such a temper of moderation, lowliness, and devotion as proves that their religion is more than a name, and that they breathe the spirit and tread in the steps of the holy Master whose they are, and whom they profess to serve.

P.S. We had not, of course, received the slightest intimation that the distinguished person, the religious character of whose poetical works is examined in this Volume, was in so reduced a state of health at the time when that article went to press. This fact must apologize for any thing which may have the appearance of incongruity with the solemn event which the journals have recently announced.


We have to thank our correspondents for many volumes, letters, encouragements, remonstrances; none of which are the less regarded because we cannot find space to notice them.

[blocks in formation]

[The Editor desires to be considered as not responsible, except for the general tone and character of the Papers in the "Miscellaneous" department of this Work.]


THE subject named at the head of this article is one that cannot fail perpetually and painfully to force itself on the notice of every "Christian Observer." These words will not meet the eye of a single experienced minister of Christ, who will not immediately recollect how often this character of mind has cheated his hopes, and distressed his mind in individual instances; and, perhaps, by its extensive prevalence, caused a shaking in the whole spiritual building on which he has been labouring, and inspired him with the most painful doubts of its soundness and capability of endurance. There is scarcely a watchful parent, a faithful teacher of the young, a Christian visitor of the poor, who has not found himself, from the same cause, deprived of expected satisfaction, and filled with anxieties and fears. Nor can we doubt that many of our readers, whom experience has taught to know something of themselves, will feel that the subject has for them a still nearer interest.

To describe generally the kind of character we have in view, we should say that the person in question has (so far as it goes) a real religion; he is no hypocrite, though his conduct may sometimes make him look like one; he means what he expresses, and feels what he professes to feel; he has known the seriousness of that fear which asks "What shall I do to be saved ?" has felt his heart warmed by the glow of thankfulness and love; he has prayed in secret; the tear of sincerity has been in his eye; he knows how Christians view things, for he has stood himself at their point of view, and caught something of the prospect; he knows their motives, for at times he has acted on them himselfin fact, he "has tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come." But, as time goes on, trials occur, and circumstances change; there appears reason for grave doubts as to the depth and solidity of the work, and the real change of the CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 150.

3 C

principle of action. He is a different man at different times; he seems to be at the mercy of circumstances. See him in sickness, in trouble, in his serious hours, under some sobering influence, you look on him with comfort and hope; you recognise the sentiments of a child of God. See him again in health, spirits, prosperity, amid the interests and attractions of the world; you would not know the man, he avoids the subjects which once interested him, he seems at home in the midst of vanity; his heart is evidently full of the world-he savours not the things that be of God, but those that be of men; in fact, it appears as if the place, the company, the time, made the character. This is often glaringly the case; often also less obviously, but in a degree sufficient to occasion serious anxiety, in one who watches for the soul. Before any great change has become apparent, there may be discerned the indications of an unsettled mind, a doubtful principle, a readiness to yield in the day of trial, a helpless dependance upon outward influences. To this instability of conduct is very often, and very naturally, joined an instability of opinion. The man's principles of thought and feeling have not wrought themselves so deeply into his heart, but that they can be easily tampered with by "the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Sensible of a weakness somewhere, he is more inclined to impute it to his system of doctrine than to himself, and is therefore easily persuaded to try something new, while the necessity for an outward stimulus, arising from the weakness within, makes a fresh excitement welcome when the old springs of emotion grow languid in their action. Well does the Scripture liken such a character to that element, in which the principle of coherence is so weak, that it yields to every touch, is displaced by the slightest shock, and agitated even by the motion of the air. "Unstable as water." "He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed."

We would not now speak of this disposition in its extreme form, when we see resolution paralysed, conviction expiring, and the man drawing back to perdition, but rather, as it exists in those instances, where it is still possible to hope that there is a true principle of grace. If such persons would learn the penalty inexorably attached to their fault, we would direct them to a dying chamber in Egypt. The scene occurred more than 3,500 years ago; but the results of human errors were the same then as now. The dying patriarch addresses his sons. Their characters he well knew from long observation; the future fortunes of their descendants he was inspired to pronounce. He reminds the eldest of his natural advantages, which seemed to mark him as destined to excel among his brethren; but this unhappy fault of character has neutralized the priority of birth. "Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: unstable as water, thou shalt not excel. This short description of the man

exactly tallies with the little which is recorded of him. It was this weakness which deprived him of authority among his brethren, and the character of the father decided the fortunes of the tribe-they possessed neither "the excellency of dignity" nor "the excellency of power;" and the inferior place occupied by the tribe of the firstborn through all the history of Israel, is a long enduring witness of the certainty of the sentence that the unstable shall not excel.

They shall not excel in holiness. How can they? Such persons may possibly rise at times to high devotional feelings, and even to admirable actions. But holiness is a gradual and solid growth, a formation of the whole character on the principles of the Gospel, by the Spirit of God, after the likeness of Christ. It is the result produced when the secret life of the seed is developed into maturity, when the influence of the leaven has penetrated the whole man. Like the growth of a tree, it advances by the daily accessions of a continual development; like the rise of a building, by patient additions which settle into solidity, and afford fresh foundation for still higher attainment. We do not recognise holiness in the accidental and evanescent presence of what is good; but when feelings and motives, once transient and occasional, are fixed in their places in the character, as the permanent habits of the mind. Now in the unstable, this process is perpetually interrupted, and repeatedly reversed. There is no dependence on what he seems to have gained, he does not "hold that fast which he has," he "loses the things which he has wrought;" the grace of God, however it may appear here and there, now and then, does not seem to pervade the character as a principle of solidity and coherence. His habits cannot be matured in the midst of vacillation; his views cannot grow clearer when he is ever losing the right focus; his conscience cannot become more tender when it meets with continual injuries; nor his convictions acquire strength when they are often eluded or belied. We sometimes regard him with surprise and sorrow, sometimes with sympathy and hope. But who can look with admiration upon a reed shaken with the wind? He remains in an inferior state; his attainments are fragmentary and small, he can never become an eminent character; in holiness he "shall not excel."

Neither can he excel in usefulness. He often does positive injury to the cause which he wishes to advance; weak minds are offended, ignorant minds confused, by the inconsistencies of his course; and he scatters around him many a hurtful suspicion that the practical power of the truth is, after all, a fable. But independently of this, it is difficult to calculate the extent to which personal instability weakens the power of doing good. The wish to benefit others may exist, and sometimes be strongly felt there may be a sense of the value of the soul, and concern for less enlightened friends; but the opinion of the unstable has little weight; and when he attempts to use his influence for good,

he finds that he has none to use. Nothing gives a person such influence with others as a steady persevering consistency. We see it in common matters, and we see it in regard to religion. The character may be ordinary, and the circle narrow; but the power is felt where the man is known. The weak and the doubting are fain to lean on one who knows his own mind, sees his way clearly, acts systematically on the same principle, and invariably exemplifies the same convictions. On the other hand, instances are not rare which shew how far an unstable character will prevail to deprive a man of that influence which other advantages seem to qualify him to obtain, and to neutralize the effect of station, abilities, gifts, and even shining qualities, which might promise an excellency in usefulness among men.

Lastly, we must add, that the unstable shall not excel in hoppiness. If there be reality in his religion, he will often want common peace. In his best moments he must be followed by distressing remembrances, and his mind must be open to painful doubts of his own state. The comfort of those seasons when he turns again to the Lord is sensibly impaired by the facility with which former impressions have been effaced and former resolutions broken. There arises a kind of distrust and contempt of self, different from that which it is right and safe to cherish, and tending to feebleness and despondency. And what is worse, there arises too often a distrust of truth and of God. Occasion has been given to the tempter, and the person cannot oppose him with that effectual answer, "I have the witness in myself." His own experience has not been such as can dissipate the doubts which are suggested, of the reality of Christ's presence, and the faithfulness of God's promises. The word of God and prayer are losing their power. He reads a promise, but hardly knows how to rest upon it: he goes to pray, but cannot "ask in faith nothing wavering :" and when the very sources of comfort are drying up, what becomes of spiritual joy?

On the subject of stability, the Scripture exhortations are urgent. "Be ye stedfast, unmoveable." "We are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end." "Continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel." "Stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved." "Hold that fast which thou hast." "The God of all glory, who hath called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.'

[ocr errors]

But we will not conclude with the mere repetition of Scriptural exhortations or Apostolic prayers. Having spoken of the malady, we may fairly be asked for some suggestions on the remedy.

First, then, let not the patient despair. We know how naturally the words "it is all of no use, and I cannot help it," break from the lips of the unstable: but though the case may be a difficult one, the grace of God and the Gospel of Christ are

« السابقةمتابعة »