« PreviousContinue »
he should not come saying, 'I am so holy that I think I must go in among the saints,' but, 'O brethren, I find I am 80 weak and wicked that I cannot stand alone; so, if you can help me, open the door and let me enter.'
A man will confess sins in general; but those sins which he would not have his neighbour know for his right hand, which bow him down with shame like a wind-stricken bulrush, those he passes over in his prayer. Men are willing to be thought sinful in disposition ; but in special acts they are disposed to praise themselves. They therefore confess their depravity and defend their conduct. They are wrong in general, but right in particular.
No man can go down into the dungeon of his experience, and hold the torch of God's word to all its dark chambers, and hidden cavities, and slimy recesses, and not come up with a shudder and a chill, and an earnest cry to God for divine mercy and cleansing.
Men think religion bears the same relation to life that flowers do to trees. The tree must grow through a long period before the blossoming time; so they think religion is to be a blossom just before death, to secure heaven. But the Bible represents religion, not as the latest fruit of life, but as the whole of it, beginning, middle, and end. It is simply right living.
When engineers would bridge a stream, they often carry over at first but a single cord. With that, next, they stretch a wire across. Then strand is added to strand, until a foundation is laid for planks; and now the bold engineer finds safe footway, and walks from side to side. So God takes from us some golden-threaded pleasure, and stretches it hence into heaven. Then he takes a child, and then a friend. Thus he bridges death, and teaches the thoughts of the most timid to find their way hither and thither between the shores.
God has appointed certain insects, birds, and beasts to be destroyers. They consume decaying matters; they roll up and feast on filth. To their palate life is unseasoned and insipid, but death has flavour. Such, also, are minor critics in literature, cynics in morals, and heresy-hunters in religion.
Many pray to be made men in Christ Jesus,' and think in some miraculous way it will be given to them; but God says, 'I will try my child, and see if he is sincere,' and so he lays a burden upon him, and says, “Now stand up under it, for thus you are to grow strong.' He sends a provocation, and says to him, 'Be patient.' He throws him into perplexities, and says, Where
are thy resources ?"" If the ambitious ore dreads the furnace, the forge, the anvil, the rasp, and the file, it should never desire to be made a sword. Man is the iron, and God is the smith; and we are always either in the forge or on the anvil. God is shaping us for higher things.
Three natural philosophers go out into the forest and find a nightingale's nest, and forth with they begin to discuss the habits of the bird, its size, its colour, and the number of eggs it lays, and one pulls out of his pocket a treatise of Buffon, and another of Cuvier, and another of Audubon, and they read and dispute till at length the quarrel runs so high over the empty nest, that they tear each other's leaves, and get red in the face, and the woods ring with their conflict; when, lo! out of the green shade of a neighbouring thicket, the bird itself, rested, and disturbed by these side noises, begins to sing. At first its song is soft and low, and then it rises and swells, and waves of melody float up over the trees, and fill the air with tremulous music, and all the forest doth hush; and the entranced philosophers, subdued and ashamed of their quarrel, shut their books, and walk home without a word,
I am suspicious of that church whose members are one in their beliefs and opinions. When a tree is dead, it will lie any way; alive, it will have its own growth. When men's deadness is in the church, and their life elsewhere, all will be alike. They can be cut and polished any way.
When they are alive, they are like a tropical forestsome shooting up, like the mahogany tree, some spreading, like the vine; some darkling, like the shrub; some lying, herblike, on the ground; but all obeying their own laws of growth,-& common law of growth variously expressed in each,--and so contributing to the richness and beauty of the wood.
Record of Christian Missions.
THE CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR is avowedly a Nonconformist periodical. Indeed, it has not sought at any time to conceal the fact that it would be identified with the most advanced rank of Dissent—its dissidence' being, necessarily, one of the vital principles of its Christianity. But we have very rarely, we believe, sought to obtrude this feature before our readers, and in the 'Record of Christian Missions' we have not merely studiously, but of freest choice and pleasure, made no distinction of sects or denominations. Here we are glad, as we read and write, to look at the world from the purely Christian point of view only,—to endeavour to look at it in some measure as we may when we shall see all things without the dark glass of the present life. We have rejoiced, yea, and we shall rejoice, with the same joy over all the successes of missionary effort. We ask not whether this man or that has turned from his dead idols to serve in the ranks of Episcopary or Independency-we only ask, has he turned unto the living God ? For we believe that we walk most closely in the footsteps of the great Son of God when we recognise his children only as Sons with him of God, and heirs of the same glorious promise.
What, now, can we say of our Episcopal brethren, when we find them quarrelling over not even a form of principle, but the mere time for the application of a rule of government, and month after month fighting each other in the columns of their missionary journals ? In such a war are the Colonial Chronicle' and the Church Missionary Intelligencer' now engaged. And about what ? does the reader ask. Why, simply and solely about the time that bishops should be sent to missionary stations! Says the Chronicle'-Bishops first, priests second, laymen third, the heathen last - as though that was to be the order of their accession to heavenly and spiritual dignities ! Says the 'Intelligencer'Any Christian first who will do the work of a Christian in seeking to convert souls to God! Of course the ‘Intelligencer' is right, but is it not an indignity to our common Christianity to discuss such a question ? Who, in his heart, believes that there should be no missions until there is a ‘Bishop'to superintend them ? The Chronicle' says so—but any good Christian will say, the Chronicle' is but asleep, or at worst tipsy--and though a tipsy Christian may be an anomaly, yet the wine of spiritual or sectarian pride may be so strong as to overcome a good man unawares. Good Christian men, both of you drop the subject, and for once let your Episcopacy give way to your Christianity!
But there is a paragraph in the ‘Intelligencer' which, as Dissenters, we are anxious to quote for the sake of Dissent itself. It relates to right of individual action in religious matters, and expresses a good' opinion so aptly and well that we quote it with unusual pleasure. We are not sure whether certain Nonconformist churches might not study it. Is not the reader of the same opinion :
' But is it true that individual earnestness, unless brought into action by the authority of the Church, and moving in the precise channel which that authority prescribes, is to be considered as something irregular, defective, without any scriptural warrant that it will be recognised, and even when it is blessed, yet from its inherent inadequacy to any great work, carrying with it only a very limited measure of success ? The spontaneous prompting of the love of Christ, must it
needs wait for the Church's call, before it addresses itself to do God's work, and improve the present, yet quickly passing opportunity ? One of the most remarkable missionary movements in the early missionary action of the Christian Church, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, was the occupation of Antioch as a missionary station. What decided its selection ? The apostles at Jerusalem, as the body in which was centralized the power of action, did they recognise its importance as a door of access to heathen lands beyond, and did they select the men who were to go forward to the fulfilment of this important undertaking ? Not at all : its occupation was, as it were, incidental, under unseen influences, not under human direction. “They who were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” They went in different directions, as circumstances led them, and some of them reached to Antioch, and there, in a new place, they commenced a new work, of which the apostles knew nothing. It was a more matter of individual earnestness ; and yet so large and important did the work become, that when tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem, they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. We say, then, that the theory, plausible as it seems, and likely to impose on some minds, is not scriptural : nay, indeed, and likely to tie up all the actings of individual earnestness to some central human authority, to which everything must be deferred, and which must dictate in all matters, would be to interfere with the free action of the Spirit of God, who is the great living administrator, dwelling in the mystical body of Christ's people, and working through the various members as seemeth best to him for the accomplishment of his own purposes.'
Now let us leave sects and forms, and come to the work that is being done for Christ.
The Bishop of New Zealand is an evangelist as well as a bishop. We have quoted before from his admirably written journals. He has lately been making a tour of his extensive and rather romantic diocese, and in the most familiar style has described what he has seen. He is here evdeavouring, not too obtrusively or pertinaciously, to establish friendly intercourse with the savages. There is a painter's hand as well as a Christian's heart in the subjoined sketches :
• As we approached Lopevi, the mountain presented a grand appearance, with light misty clouds, resting on the top of the great cone of cinders, which seemed as fresh as if the volcanic fire had but just gone out. The base of the mountain was fringed with bright foliage, resting upon the dark masses of igneous rock, against which a thin line of sparkling surf was breaking gently, as each heave of the deep blue sea rolled in from without. At the sight of our boat the rocks swarmed with men and boys, jumping from mass to mass as we rocked along ; and if we paused for a moment, throwing themselves into the sea to swim to the boat. At one place a large canoe was launched, but it was swamped immediately by the crowd which rushed into it. Knowing that our boat would soon be in the same plight if we allowed any number of swimmers to approach us, we held on our course till we came to the west side of the island, where a smooth beach of dark sand offered a convenient landing-place. Most of our pursuers had been left behind ; but there was still a considerable number ready to receive us, and among them an old man partially blind, who had persevered in following us for some distance, waving, as he went along, a bunch of a tree in token of friendship. With some trouble we made the rest of the party sit down on the beach, while the old man came into the water up to his knees, to meet Mr. Patteson and myself, when we left the boat with a hatchet to present to him. But the quiet of our interview was soon broken by one of those island bores (the counterparts of one or two members of every London club) who will not be denied. Every island has its bore; seldom more than one, for the creature is a kind of phonix in its nature, and cannot co-exist with others of its own kind. He follows you everywhere : in vain you pull or sail a mile or two to shake him off ; the moment the boat's head is turned to the shore, you see his disagreeable face among the foremost : you cannot give a present to any one, bat his hand is stretched out to snatch at it; you cannot ask a question about anything for the incessant clack of his voice raised to its highest pitch, and close to your ears. This is the bore as he is found in a state of nature ; but if he should chance to have had a Sydney education, then he becomes indeed insufferable.
• However, we gained our point in a great measure, and the old purblind chief was evidently pleased with our kindness; and the rule, which we hope to establish everywhere, was understood, and acted upon by the crowd remaining quietly seated, while the chief men on both sides meet and hold friendly intercourse together. Where this can be done, all suspicion is removed. At this island, as at so many others, we found ourselves totally ignorant of the language.'
Here is a new curiosity for the museum of a Missionary Institution :
* At a little distance from the beach we came to a large house, apparently uninhabited and sacred. In front of it were several trunks of large trees, hollowed out to serve as gongs or drums; and under them a heap of coral, placed as if for the covering of a grave. Around the open space in which the house stood were planted the shrubs, bearing bright red leaves, which are common in all these islands. But the great wonder was in the house itself; for under the gable, from the ridge of the roof, and just over the low door, there hung the stuffed skin and skeleton of a man, perhaps the former owner of the house; but our very scanty knowledge of the language prevented us from ascertaining the reason of this extraordinary custom.'
Another lightly touched painting:
• At daybreak we ran down to the south end of Whitsuntide, where a canoe came off to us with one of the island “bores ” already described, who, besides making himself extremely disagreeable, was so evidently one of the light-fingered class, that we were obliged to hand him overboard, which was done with as little violence as possible. We then rowed to the shore, to the mouth of a fine stream running into the sea over sand and rocks, with deep water close to the mouth. Here we found a most friendly party, sixty in number, with a chief named Mankau at their head. It may be remarked, generally, that we do not find that aristocracy has that withering and blighting effect which journalists in England are in the habit of imputing to it. We are glad to find out a chief, because we can then conduct our intercourse with the tribe with much more safety to ourselves, and much more benefit to them. Several times at other places we have been obliged to retire altogether, not from any fear of the people, or suspicion of unfriendliness, but because they all rushed to our boat, and crowded round us, each trying to be the first to exchange his yam or his club. The present instance was an example of a really gentlemanlike interview, ending in a traffic conducted with all the regularity of civilized people. Mankau first met us in the water up to his knees, and presented me with his branch of bright colours, a compliment which I acknowledged by the gift of a hatchet. Mr. Patteson and I then stepped into the water, and walked with him to the mouth of the stream. We then explained, by the usual signs, that we wanted water; and having learned the words for "sit down” in Ambrym, we tried the effect of them here. The words “mura ravanna” were taken up and repeated, and the whole party sat quietly down upon the beach, while Mr. Patteson handed to the party in the boat as many buckets-full of water as filled three casks. We then produced our stores, which, at first, disturbed the equilibrium of the party; but we soon succeeded in explaining that we wished the chief to conduct the exchanges, upon which every man came forward quietly, and gave his yams or cocoa-nuts to the chief, and received the payment through him. When this was over, we wrote down names, and exchanged those expressive looks which supply the want of words, and which are so effectual, that, in a circle of perfect strangers, you may see every dark brow lifted up, and every dark eye glisten, when some look of ours has convinced them that we come to them as friends.'
Would you not fancy that these were portrait sketches from some thorough English town, instead of from the half-cannibals of the South Pacific ? One cannot help fancying that the good heart of Bishop Selwyn led him here to feel more than he saw:
A PORTRAIT.-Swimmers came off from the shore, and a canoe filled with bright cheerful boys, whose confidence we gained in a moment.
Pleasant open faces they were, with that air of natural gentility and unobtrusive frankness which is seen in the best class of Eton fellows. We were loth to leave them.'
Another: "The boat was soon filled, and my own immediate guest at the stern was a little child of about ten years of age, one of those open and guileless countenances which at once win the affection and confidence of all who see them.'
One more for the walls of the future New Zealand Academy:
*Just below him, hanging on to the gunwale, for want of room in the boat, was a thorough good honest English face of an elderly man, with his head powdered with coral lime, and a complete suit of dark blue water covering all other deficiencies; his face was his fortune in a small way, for I could not help giving him a hatchet for his good looks.'
We can well imagine that such a man, forgetful of his awful rank, may, by his thorough humanity, open a door into these men's hearts, such as no episcopal 'key' could unlock.
The most interesting contents of the Chronicle' consist of the report of the deputation voyaging in the John Williams, in her twelfth missionary voyage to Western Polynesia. The ship visits island after island, finding here nothing but backsliding, and there nothing but progress. At Fate they hear of the celebrated Pomare again, and the writer says:
We asked Lare to tell the men in the canoe to go for Pomare. And, having put on board the vessel “the man speak Sunday,” the other two went off for the old chief with great glee. After some time he arrived, in company with those "who make Sunday,'' and one of his sons, a nice looking youth. He expressed a very strong desire for teachers; and he said, the whole village in which he lived wanted teachers. We had only one Rarotongan teacher on board, and we were unwilling to leave him alone; but we promised to try and get another at Nengone, and then