« PreviousContinue »
nation, attracted by the great sight, discovered the glory of the Lord, and, like the pious Israelite, waited for the consolation of Israel. We have not, of course, the history of each individual ; but we read of Naaman the SyrianRuth, the Moabitess—the widow of Sarepta—the wise men of the East-Cornelius, the Roman centurion—the Ethiopian eunuch—and bands of “devout men,” who feared God, and hailed the glad tidings of the gospel as unfolding “the Desire of all nations,” and the very object of their own prayers and aspirations. Now, these persons were not bound by the Jewish ceremonial. They did not sacrifice. They were wholly independent of its sprinklings, its washings, and its feasts. The minute and multiplied religious rites and ceremonies of Leviticus were no rites and ceremonies to them! It is true we read of Cornelius. But then he did not, indeed he could not worship in the Jewish form, and yet, his worship not only went up as a memorial before God, but it was viewed and treated with peculiar interest and favour! Here, then, alongside of a Church chosen, and separated, and moulded into singularity by the visible hand of God Himself! Here, in the page of history, where we should least expect to find it, we have “ different administrations, but the same Lord.” In fact, the Lord Almighty has never erected a sole exclusive religious corporation upon this earth. He has never given His sanction to universal authority, unvarying uniformity and artificial salvation. Man, indeed, has attempted to do so-blind and selfish man has attempted to confine the mercy of God within mechanical forms, and boundaries of his own creation. The Church of Rome, has limited it to communion with the Pope. There are others who would limit it to Episcopal ordination and Baptism. There are others again who limit it to a Catechism of assembled dogmas. Others to their own privileged and eclectic community, to which they apply the peculiar title of, “ The one assembly of God,” and regard everybody else as the excluded world outside! Such “fantastic tricks before High Heaven are calculated to make an angel weep!” And, how tightly must this narrow-hearted selfishness be twined around the very core of our nature, when our Lord's own disciples, blest with His immediate presence, and concourse, attempted to draw it around the Spirit of the Redeemer Himself. "Master! we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and we forbade him, because he followeth not WITH US." And Jesus said, “Forbid him not.”* What bitter strife, and envyings the spirit of exclusiveness has occasioned ! What blood it has shed in the name of Christ. What wars and desolations it hath wrough- on the earth. How completely it has travestied the Catholic
spirit of true religion, and given just cause to the enemy to blaspheme! And what a lesson is conveyed to every denomination of Christians in our Blessed Lord's reply! “ Forbid them not" !! It is the death wound of universal authority, and mechanical exclusion. And, dare we intrude into the private feelings of the Redeemer, it might be safely asserted, that no one thing gave greater pleasure to His human mind than breaking this “true exclusive Church ” notion into pieces! And how triumphantly He has done it. He who said to the woman of Canaan, “O! woman, great is thy faith"*He who said to the afflicted heathen Centurion, “ I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel "+-[The true Church!] He who turned the illuminated face of His star to the wise men of the East, and greeted them with an infant's smile -He, who told the woman of Samaria, “ The time cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth,”—He, who gave His Word to the Ethiopian eunuch, and sent His servant to expound it,—He, who tore the cancer of Bigotry, by its living roots, from the heart of His struggling Apostle, and compelled him to stammer out, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but, in every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of Him,"S—He, it is, who has crushed Church selfishness, and arrogance, with an Almighty hand. He has taken that “molten calf,” and, having ground it into impalpable powder, has scattered it along the stream of Time, that as it floats to each succeeding generation, a scriptural little child may see its glaring falsehood, and its contemptible insignificance !
* Matt. xv. 28.
† Matt. viii. 10
| Acts x. 34, 35.
Now, He, who breathed the soul of true Religion, has also arranged its history. Therefore, whether we look at Abraham on Mount Moriah, or, Jacob before his ladder, or, the Israelites in Egypt, or, the pillar of fire in the Wilderness, or, the Tabernacle in Canaan, or, the Temple under Solomon, or, the Church deprived of all its rites in Babylon, or, the bands of devout Gentiles in every age, who worshipped acceptably without the Jewish forms in all and each of them we find the facts of true religion in unison with its spirit.
THE EVIDENCE OF THE DIVINE ARRANGEMENT.
...." The world harmoniously composed,
Where order in variety we see,
Pope (Windsor Forest).
WE, now, proceed to examine the evidence that is presented to us by the Divine arrangement.
Here are men of every caste and character, separated from each other by centuries and continents—having no earthly communication-ignorant of each other's words, and, to a certain extent, ignorant of the full meaning of their own —and what is more important, differing in the forms of their religious worship—yet here they are standing on the same Rock, breathing the same Spirit, rejoicing in the same hope, and bearing their UNITED TESTIMONY to the same loving kindness. It is out of the power of man to conceive any testimony more free from question. Now, suppose this testimony came down to us in another way. Suppose, for a moment, that in the early history