Page images
PDF
EPUB

disgrace by their presence the assemblies of God's people ! Not a few wrought at the wall opposite their own doors, patriotism and personal benefit being thus not improperly united. If every one,” says Matthew Henry in his own quaint style,–“If every one will sweep before his own door, the street will be clean; if every one will mend one, we shall all be mended.” Most honourable mention is made of the daughters of Shallum. He was ruler of the half of Jerusalem ; and though his daughters thus belonged to the higher class of society, and could therefore have easily excused themselves, they considered it a distinction to help their father with all their might in accomplishing his share of the labour. Perhaps they carried stones and mortar to the actual builders, if they did not themselves use the hammer and the trowel. In any case, their self-denying exertions have secured them, like Mary of Bethany, a prominent position in the record of heaven; and wheresoever, in the whole world, the word of God is received, there is set up this memorial of the devotion of these young

women.

To many it seems as if they had no such opportunity and means of distinguishing themselves on the Lord's side ; and because they can do little, they are apt to do nothing at all. It ought, however, to be remembered that we shall never be judged by the talents and circumstances of others, but by our employment of what has been conferred upon ourselves. It is the heart to which Jehovah looks. No nobler commendation was ever bestowed by the Saviour than on the poor widow who contributed only two mites to the temple treasury; and even one little stone, dug by our prayers and pains out of the quarry of nature, and laid on the Rock Christ as a contribution to the walls of His Temple, shall shine eternally there to our unfading honour and joy. Happy are all of whom it can be said,—"They have done what they could.”

As the fortifications of Jerusalem were rapidly advancing towards completion, the enemies already referred to were exceedingly angry. Their wrath found vent in scornful speers. These, if not spoken in the hearing of the builders, were at least reported to Nehemiah. Filled with the spirit of prophecy, he besought the judgment of heaven upon them, for their contemptuous reproaches of the work of the Lord. This is not an example for us, for we are not prophets. Our great exemplar is the Lord Jesus. Copying Him, we should pray for our enemies, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

From cruel jibes, Sanballat and his companions soon advanced to more determined efforts, for the purpose of constraining the Jews to stop their operations. They resolved to unite their forces, and attack the city. Duly informed of their intentions, the governor was equal to the occasion. He says (chap iv. 9),—“We made our prayers to our God, and set a watch against them night and day.” Some of the Jews grew faint-hearted, but Nehemiah never quailed. Encouraging the people and their rulers to fight manfully for their children and their homes, remembering that the Lord great and terrible was on their side, he laid his plans most wisely to hasten forward the building, and yet to have weapons of war always at hand, wherever it was possible for an attack to be made. He was himself constantly on the move, with a trumpeter by his side ; and his orders were that wherever the sound of the trumpet might be heard, thither should the people burry to resist their enemies. Verse 17 (chap iv.) is somewhat figurative, for it would hardly be possible to build well with only one hand. Verses 16 and 18 explain the matter somewhat; and from the whole we gather that every builder while labouring had his sword girded by his side. Some were engaged carrying off rubbish, or bringing forward stones and mortar, while a relay of hands stood near, in charge of spears, and shields, and bows, and habergeons (or coats of mail). Those who had come from the villages around, to give what help they could, were instructed to lodge at night within the walls. Strong guards appear to have been posted every evening at the weakest points; and Nehemiah himself, with his body guard and servants, went not to bed for many nights, but kept patrolling from post to post, so as to be always ready to meet and repel the foe, present himself where he might.

Like these Jews on the walls of Jerusalem, every Christian has to be ready both to work and to fight.

“Herein,” said Christ, “is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit ;” and if we are really God's dear children, our lives will be devoted to the service of Him who gave His Son to die for us. We have, however, many enemies. Within, there is the old corrupt nature, warring against the desire of our hearts to glorify God alone, while doing good to all around. Without, there is the devil, and all his hosts seen and unseen, cunningly watching every opportunity to hinder us in carrying out the instructions of our Saviour. How shall we succeed ? By doing as Nehemiah did, making our prayer unto our God, and setting a watch against them night and day.

Massa,” said an old negro to a student of divinity, “ Massa, me hear you are going to be a minister.” “Yes.” “ Will

you Tom say one thing to you ?” “O yer.” “Well, you know the good Master says, 'Watch and pray.' Now you may watch all the time, and if you no pray, the devil will get in. You may pray all the time, and if you no watch too, the devil will get in. But if you

[ocr errors]

let poor watch and pray all the time, the devil no get in; for it is just like the sword of God put into the hand of the angel at the entering of the garden—it turns every way. If the devil come before, it turn there; if the devil come behind, it turn there. Yes, Massa, it tum every way.”

It may be asked, why should sin be left within the believer in Jesus, and why should foes and tempters from without be permitted to assail him? To humble him—to exercise all his graces—to endear the Saviour--to strengthen faith and hope-to increase patience—to quicken prayer. Sin felt within, and temptations attacking without should lead, and will lead the true child of God, to appeal the more earnestly to his father in heaven. And let it be very specially noted, that when evil is stirring most in our souls, it should drive us to Jesus, not from Him. He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil; and He will destroy them in us, if we cry to Him.

Dear readers, very dangerous it is to be feared is your condition if

you have never any spiritual fighting to do, and never any earnest petitions to send to heaven for help. Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey ; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Search and see whether you are Christ's soldiers, or the devil's slaves. Nehemiah says,

“We made our prayer unto our God.” He was one of God's reconciled children. He believed in the love of the Father, and was looking for the mercy of God through the coming Messiah.

On us, with an effulgence all unknown in Old Testament times, beams the warm, loving sunshine of the Gospel day. To every reader not yet at peace with his Maker, there is freely offered through Jesus the pardon of all transgression, and acceptance with God. If he will, he may at this moment become a member of the family of heaven,

we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” And when the offered mercy and grace have been accepted, he will then have a right to say OUR God;” or, as David pithily puts it in the 31st Psalm,

“But as for me, O Lord, my trust

Upon Thee I did lay;
And I to Thee, Thou art my God,

Did confidently say."

for «

66

Repent and believe ; believe and love ; love and obey ; obey in love, and be as happy as you can in this world.-Adams.

Literature.

Annals of the Disruption. Parts I. and II. Edinburgh : Maclaren and

Macniven. As the full title informs us, these “Annals” consist chiefly of extracts from the autograph narratives of Disruption ministers, and are published by authority of a Committee of the General Assembly of the Free Church. They have been carefully selected and arranged by the Rev. Thomas Brown, F.R.S.E., convener of committee, who has also skilfully connected the different extracts by means of a brief narrative of his own, so as to impart a degree of unity to the work. The first part deals with the various phases of “the conflict” which led up to the Disruption, with the great event itself, and with what immediately followed in the experiences of those who went out, both ministers and people; while part second describes the subsequent work of Church organization, which included the building of churches and manses, the erection of schools and colleges, the establishment of the Sustentation Fund, and other matters. It will thus be seen that the “Annals" form a kind of supplement, from the private records of individual ministers, to the well-known “History of the Ten Years' Conflict," which sets forth “the general and more public aspects” of the important event that is the subject of both works. We have read them with deep interest; by many things they contain we have been much impressed; and our perusal of them has tended to increase our grateful admiration of the men who were enabled to display the moral heroism of surrendering so much that was dear to them—in a sense their earthly all—at the call of duty, for the sake of truth and conscience. And should these volumes be the means, as we trust they may, of fostering in any who read them a similar self-denying spirit of fidelity in regard to Scriptural principle -a spirit so much needed in the present day—their publication will have proved a blessing.

The generation that witnessed and took part in the Disruption having well nigh passed away, it was right that steps should be taken to make those “who have risen into the place of their Disruption Fathers" acquainted with the Church's contendings, and the principles for wbich she was called to contend; and perhaps this could have been done in no way more interesting and impressive than by allowing, as is here done, the men of the Disruption to tell in their own words what it was that led them to act as they did, and what difficulties they had to encounter in taking up their new position. An additional reason for the publication of such “Annals" at the present time may probably be found in the circumstance that, by the recent abolition of Patronage in the Established Church, the relative positions of ecclesiastical parties in Scotland have been more or less affected. And one design of this work seems to be to show that, notwithsta ing this change, the Free Church has still sufficient ground in principle for continuing to occupy her position of separation from the Establishment. If she herself is convinced of this, we have nothing to say to the contrary, for she should know best what her principles are. But while she persists in keeping clear of the slightest taint of what she still regards as Erastianism in the Established Church, we wish she had continued to manifest equal vigilance and zeal in maintaining her full Disruption testimony in opposition to the Voluntaryism with which, at that period, she so strenuously refused to be identified. The Free Church came out of the Establishment bearing aloft a noble testimony in behalf of “The Crown Rights of the Redeemer," as at once Head of His own Church and King of nations, to whom the homage of this realm beboved to be rendered, in those ways He Himself has directed. Is this twofold testimony being faithfully exhibited by her, in an unmutilated form at the present moment? To this question let the past negotiations for union, and the present movement for disestablishment, furnish an answer. We would rejoice to see the Free Church again rallying to her old position in its entirety, beneath the banner unfurled by the men of whom these “Annals” tell us; and we would rejoice still more to see her going on from that position to the higher and nobler one of embracing a testimony for Britain's Covenanted Reformation. This we believe is her Scriptural duty, and this is what the character of the times and the state of our country urgently require and emphatically demand. It is not a mere destructive work of Disestablishment, but the reconstructive work of reviving the Reformation in Church and State, that will alone be a healing measure for the maladies from which we are suffering, and which threaten, ere long, to prove fatal to the life of the nation.

Historical Sketch of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland, to its Union

with the Free Church in 1876. By the Rev. Robert Naismith, Chirn.

side. Edinburgh: Johnstone, Hunter, & Co. 1877. THOUGH brief, this is a well-arranged and well written sketch of the leading events in the ecclesiastical history of Scotland, from the time of the first Reformation, and in particular of the rise and progress of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Were we disposed, and had space at our command, we might take exception to the way in which the writer occasionally puts things; but on the whole he presents us with a trustworthy survey of events and facts which cannot but continue fraught with deepest interest down to the latest generations. We turned with special eagerness to the chapter near the end in which our author treats of “ Division and Union," to see what he has to say regarding the Disruption of 1863, and what followed. Regret is of course expressed at the “secession” of the minority, but comfort is drawn from the fact that it evidently “facilitated the subsequent union.” “Had the protesting seceders remained,” it is remarked, "they would likely have proved anti-unionists." And so we are left to infer that the pro-unionists felt they were well rid of them! This is all Mr. Naismith thinks it proper to say cting his protesting, seceding brethren. Surely he might have had the

« PreviousContinue »