Page images

maxims and the traditions of former generations no longer applicable to the wants and exigencies of the day, and being therefore laid aside, we are ready to thinķ that all is going to the bad. It is not so. Only croakers and traditionalists—only men wanting themselves all true life, and wedded to the old and the antiquated, however dead and lifeless, think thus. Old things must give way, that all things may become new; and the new which is coming is a higher, purer, more spiritual Christianity. For ourselves, we see nothing in the future but good to the cause and kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. What others apprehend danger from, we apprehend only good. Whatever others dread as calamitous and destructive, we look forward to with feelings of mingled hope and confidence. Lift up your head, ye Church and people of God, for behold your redemption draweth nigh. “The Lord reigneth.” And whatever

. the disorder and confusion which now prevail, out of them shall emerge, under God, "the kingdom which is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

J. G.


Good morning, Thomas, I hope I find you well ?

Ι T.-Much obliged to you, sir; I am not that ill, although I am not what I once was.

Minister.—We are all changing, and I have no doubt that for us it is for the better. You are the older of the two, and so likely, humanly speaking, to be nearer the term of your stay here than

I am.

T.—Indeed, that is true ; but I sometimes wish I were like my little grandson there, only beginning my time here, as I should so like to see the better days that will be fifty years after this. However, it is my belief when we get to a better world we shall see them. We shall see them in the distance, and it will be out of hårm's reach. Just as we see the town from the hill behind the house here. We see its streets, and hear the sound of its traffic, but we are out of its smoke, and there is no danger of our being ridden over as we walk about.

M.-You are right; and your comparison is both beautiful and just. In the book of Revelation, John records that he heard the voice of much people in heaven rejoicing over the destruction of Antichrist, and they could not have done so unless they had seen what had been going on on earth. I am glad, too, that you are so hopeful of better times.


T.-Well, sir, I have cause, for I believe in God. I believe in His Word, and I believe in His power; and I have lived years enough in the world to see that His enemies have in the long run no chance against Him. They may vapour for a time, and poison the air with their smoke, but when the Sun of Righteousness ariseth, then, in the words of the prophet, they flee away, and their place is not known where they are.

M.—You are a cheery old man, Thomas. It does one's heart good to be with you for an hour. T.-Think who likes, I certainly think I am warranted in taking

I a bright view of things. For one thing, I enjoy good health; and it is my belief there is a much closer connection between mind and body than most people suppose. When I meet a man complaining of his stomach, or that has a temper like a steel trap, or a lucifer match, apt to go off at a touch, or that has an ill-regulated house, I am almost certain to meet a friend that takes a dark view of the course of things, and generally inclined to differ from his neighbours; and the poor body has some reason, and I pity him.

M.-With your cheery view of things, Thomas, I hope you voted at the last election ?

T.-I am happy to say I did, and so did all our people here, and on the right side, so far as I know, except one, and his heart was with us, but the factor got the better of him. His lease is about out, and so, much against his will, he had to vote for the Tory candidate. I am glad I voted, for I think my example was not without its effect with our folks in persuading them to vote; and all were needed, for we had a close run.

M.-I scarcely thought, Thomas, you were such a politician.

T.-Indeed, sir, I am no politician, but I had no other way of it. I have prayed this many a long year for the downfall of the Papacy; and the Whigs, with Mr Gladstone at their head, have declared so plainly for the withdrawal of the Maynooth grant, and the disestablishment of the Irish Prelatical Church, that I could not consistently have withheld my vote.

M.-I believe, Thomas, you have voted at several elections ?

T.-Indeed, sir, I have done so for the Whigs at every contest since the passing of the Reform Bill. The rest of the members of session knew of my voting. Indeed, I did my best to persuade them I was acting in accordance with the principles embodied in our Covenants. do not know that I convinced them that I was right, but, at all events, they did nothing to me. And now, that years are gone by, I am certain they wish they could have done what I did long ago.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

M.-I quite agree with you. I, too, have voted in the last election. I could not have done so some years ago, for I was not quite persuaded that I was warranted in voting, but I have no doubt now.

T.-Although I have never had any doubts myself as to the propriety of voting, in perfect consistency with our principles, yet, as you say you have voted, I would be obliged to you if you would state at large your grounds for doing so.

M.-With pleasure. There can be no doubt, that during last century it was a very general belief that the oath of allegiance was a solemn pledge to maintain the British Constitution inviolate. This belief was fostered by the large number of citizens who dislike changes of any sort, until it almost became with many an axiom that could not be disputed. No one will deny the general excellence of the constitution of this country, even during the latter part of last century; but it had many grave faults and shortcomings. Our fathers were not blind. They had the seeing eye; and the idea of taking an oath that bound the swearer to preserve the British Constitution, as a whole, intact, they could not entertain for a moment. The natural consequence is, they held aloof from everything that looked like a pledge to maintain in its integrity a constitution that they believed in many essential points to be radically wrong. With the Reform Bill, Whig principles triumphed, and have been the principles upon which the country, even under Conservative administrations, has been more or less governed ever since; and the essence of these principles is, that everything in the administration and legislation of the country can be altered, if it be done with the voice of the people. Parliament has twice over changed the professed religion of the country, and has altered the hereditary succession to the throne; and what it has done in the past it can do again, if the people will it. If I remember rightly, Sir Edward Coke, one of the leading constitutional writers, affirms the power of Parliament to be so transcendent and absolute, that it cannot be confined, either for causes or persons, within any bounds. The oath, therefore, in the estimation of our rulers and the body of the people,-the alone competent parties to say what it is,-being simply a pledge to act constitutionally, to use legal means for the removal of wrong, and the maintenance of right, I have had no hesitation in taking it through the member of Parliament for whom I voted. That the oath means no more than this, is perfectly evident from what Parliament has done during the past session, in resolving, by a large majority, that the State shall withdraw endowment from all denominations in Ireland. With such illustration of the meaning in which my countrymen take the oath of allegiance, and without at

all reflecting on our fathers for refusing to take the oath during the reign of Tory principles, nay, thinking they were perfectly right, I cannot see that any course was left for me but to vote for the Whig candidate, and thus do what I can for the removal of what has been the curse of Ireland for at least two centuries.

T.-I perfectly agree in all you have said. Last century, if the opportunity could have been given me, I am not clear I could have voted; but in regard to the last election I had no doubt whatsoever. Indeed I cannot see how any genuine Covenanter, if really true to the principles for which our Church has testified for two hundred years, could at all have hesitated to record his vote against Disraeli, a man who expressly proposed the complete endowment of Popery, and who as expressly, in his manifesto, solicited the votes of the nation for the support of the Erastian supremacy.

M.—Yes, Thomas, the very supremacy in virtue of which Lord Westbury so lately decided, that a minister of the Church of England might deny the inspiration of the Bible, the reality of the atonement, and the eternity of future punishments.

T.-And how much of Christianity is left ?


The inquiry in regard to man's future condition, is one which has engaged the thoughts of mankind in all ages of the world. the introduction of Christianity, the views generally entertained on this supremely important subject were vague and unsatisfactory. The mass of the people among the various heathen nations held, indeed, the notion, that the soul continued to exist after the dissolution of the body, and that it experienced in the unseen world some sort of reward or punishment, according to the life spent on earth. In this popular view of the future state certain schools of philosophy concurred; but the highest point to which the religion of the one, and the speculative inquiries of the other, were able to attain, was a somewhat probable conjecture; and in regard to the precise nature of future judgments, the principles according to which they were to be awarded, or the means by which future rewards were to be secured, they knew absolutely nothing. Moreover, there flourished in their midst, from time to time, philosophers who openly maintained the doctrine, that all things were controlled by a rigid fate, and that, after death, man ceased to preserve his personal identity, and again became part and parcel of the great universe whence he sprang.

In the midst of all this ignorance and doubt and disbelief, the Son of God came to earth and published to men His sublime revelation, which, while disclosing other important truths, clearly established by a Divine warrant the reality of the future state and the


certainty of a final judgment. But explicit as are the statements of Scripture in regard to the world to come, they have failed alike to check the materialistic tendency of the human heart, or to soothe thie restlessness of human fancy. Even within the pale of the Church, the controversy, although reduced within narrower limits—since it now relates chiefly to man's condition between death and the resurrection, -yet continues to rage with unabated vehemence. The present century continues to furnish men who, with the Bible as their text-book, yet strenuously maintain that, apart from the body, the soul of man has no existence; or, at all events, that without a living physical frame, man can have no conscious activity. Many, on the other hand, would seem either to demur to the certain amount of obscurity in which Scripture envelopes this mysterious subject, or endeavour to find in its statements a basis for their own wild specula. tions. Prompted by a restless curiosity, they would fain penetrate the gloom overhanging "that undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveller returns,” and giving the reins to their fancy, they at length sink into a superstitious belief of the fictions of the ancient world. Our object in the present Paper will be to glance at some of the more important errors on the subject in question, that have been propagated within the Christian Church, and to test their character by what we conceive to be the teaching of the Word of God. Three of these false theories, in particular, seem to call for our attention, which, for brevity's sake, we shall designate respectively, the Romish, the Materialistic, and the Auglican views.

The first of these doctrines, so far as can be discovered from the ever-changing and often conflicting views of Romish divines, is in substance somewhat as follows:-The satisfaction of Christ secures men only against eternal punishments, and that for original sins, or such as have been committed before baptism. Men are, therefore, still liable to temporal punishments, which must be undergone either in this life or in the future state ; and since every man does not expiate all his sins here, it is held that there must be some intermediate place in which the soul is detained till it has paid the penalties due for the sins in question. It is to be borne in recollection, moreover, that the doctrine applies only to certain sins. What are called mortal sins do not come into consideration here, since they consign the sinner to immediate and eternal punishment. None but venial or pardonable sins can entitle a soul to the trial of the intermediate state, and the hope of a final entry into heaven.

Now, if we examine this theory in the light of Scripture, we cannot but find it to be glaringly opposed to the fundamental principles of the Gospel. Let us take, e.g., the doctrine of the atonement as set forth in the Word of God. Its infinite value surely admits of clear demonstration when we consider the infinite dignity of the Saviour's person, and bear in recollection such passages as Heb. ix. 25–28, x. 1-14, and 1 John i. 1-7. Romanists themselves acknowledge, in words at least, the infinite value of the atonement; nevertheless, they depreciate that value and virtually cancel their own statements,


« PreviousContinue »