« PreviousContinue »
gratification and gratitude on the fact, that since the day when the apostles so boldly asserted Christ's sole right to reign in his church, and to regulate all matters of doctrine and discipline, government and duty therein, few countries have been more honored to testify and to suffer for that truth than has our own. I do not refer only to recent events, nor to the long and bloody struggles of the seventeenth century, nor to the part she played at the glorious Reformation. Her practical testimony to this doctrine dates from a much earlier period. Rude in arts and rough in manners as our forefathers might be, they were the last of the nations to bow the neck to the yoke of Popery. Popish, like Pagan Rome, found our countrymen hard to conquer. And thus, when the lights of Iona were extinguished, and nothing was left of a faith comparatively pure but the lonely cells and ruined sanctuaries of Culdee worship, the dreary period of Popish darkness was shorter here than elsewhere—just as is the duration of night on those rugged storm-beaten heights, which catch the morning sun before it has risen on the val. leys, and stand up glowing in golden light when the shades of evening have wrapped these in deepening dusky gloom.
And after the era of the Reformation, who does not know, who las not read, now with weeping cyes, and now with burning indignation, what our good forefathers suffered for Christ's crowa ? It was dearer to them than their liberties or lives. Handed down, like an heirloom, from martyred sire to son, this cause is interwoven with our nation's history, and runs through it like a silver thread. It runs, I may say, in our very blood. We have imbibed it with our mother's milk. Far away
from the smoke and din of cities, it is asso
ciated with many a wild weeping glen, the dark moss hag, and those misty mountains where our fathers were hunted down like partridges. There the moss-gray stone which still bears the rude outlines of a Bible and a sword, is regarded with veneration by a pious peasantry; for it shows that here a true man fell, and a martyr for Christ's kingly crown sleeps in his lonely grave, waiting the resurrection of the just. How much of its undying interest does our city owe to the localities with which this cause is associated! There, rose the gallows, on which the best and worthiest of the land were hung like caitiffs; and yonder, half-way between that castle and the palace, stood the gate above which their heads sat in ghastly rows, bleaching in the wind, and rain, and sun. In the neighborhood of this very church we seem to tread on sacred ground. This winding street, these low-browed windows, these old quaint tenements that see us quietly gathering for Sabbath worship, were crowded two hundred years ago with the spectators of a different, I might say a holier, certainly a more stirring scene. “ They come !" runs through the anxious crowd, and fixes every wandering eye on the advancing procession. And there, with slow but firm step, comes hoar old age, and there, noble manhood, and there, most wept for by mothers and maidens, fair gentle youth-a band of candidates for martyrdom, witnesses for Christ's kingly rights, heroes who esteemed it noble for such a cause to die. In truth, our fathers set a higher value on Christ's headship than they set upon their own heads; and for that cause alone not less than eighteen thousand were faithful unto death during the long, and bloody, but glorious years of persecution. They have gone to their reward. Called, in some form or other, to deny
ourselves, and take up our cross, may we follow them, even as they followed Christ! He has said, “Whosoever loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whosoever loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and he that taketh not up his cross and followeth me is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life shall find it.
A few years ago, as the world knows, we felt ourselves called on to revive our fathers' testimony, and shake the dust of two centuries from their time-worn banner. We had a cross to take up. Without knowing its weight, we took it up. And, while it becomes us to confess with sorrow before God and man, that human passions mingled “strange fire" with our service, and that fighting sometimes for victory as much as for truth, dross adulterated the gold of our offering, we thought then, and think still, that ours was a call of duty, and a righteous cause. We were martyrs neither by desire nor by mistake. But, as I have no wish to lay open old wounds, and would only dwell on those views of this doctrine which may edify the whole church and promote mutual love, I will only say further, that I hope, and trust, and pray, that the more the churches are called to suffer for Christ's headship, they will hold it the more resolutely. Never fear. There are other things beside the sturdy oak which the roaring tempest nurses into strength. The storms that strip the tree of some leaves, perhaps of some rotten branches, but moor it deeper in the rifts of the everlasting rock. Christ's words cannot fail, On this rock have I built my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
In now entering on the subject-matter of my text, I remark
I. That Christ's body is his church.
One to examine, but not to dissect, while all other bodies shall die, this is deathless. “ Because I live," says our Lord, " ye shall live also." Paradox as it sounds, this body is ever changing, yet unchangeable : different and the same; an undying whole formed of dying parts. Strange! yet not more strange than many things in nature.
You are not the same person, for example, who, worshipped here twelve months ago. In name, in form, in features the same, in substance you are entirely different. Like Michael and Satan, who contended for the body of Moses, life and death have been contending for yours ; death attacking, life defending ; so that, the former constantly repairing what the latter is constantly destroying, the corporeal forms which we animate and inhabit, are undergoing such rapid as well as perpetual change, that a period much shorter than seven years renews our whole system. Life is just a long siege ; and, though death triumph in the end, looking at the many years over which the struggle is protracted, surely we are fearfully and wonderfully preserved as well as made. But take another, and more familiar illustration. Look at a river. The exile returns to the haunts of his early years, and there, emblem of the peace of God, the river flows as it flowed when his life was young. Tumbling in snowy foam over the same rock, winding its snake-like way through the same verdant meadows, washing the feet of the same everlasting hills, it rushes through the glen with the impetuous passions of a perpetual youth, to pursue its course onward to the ocean that lies gleam
ing like a silver rim around the land. A gray old man, he seats himself on the bank where wild roses still shed their blossoms on a bed of thyme, and the crystal pool at his feet, these waters foaming round the old gray stone, that bright dancing stream, as they recall many touching memories of happy childhood and companions dead or gone, seem the same. are not. The liquid atoms, the component parts of the river, have been undergoing perpetual change. Even so it is with the church of Christ. The stream of time bears on to eternity, and the stream of grace bears on to glory, successive generations, while the church herself, like a river fed by perennial fountains, remains—unchangeable in Christ's immutability, in his immortality immortal.
These figures, however, fail in one important point. That river is one. The body is one. Unfortunately, the churches are many, split into such numerous, and, in not a few instances, such senseless divisions, that I know nothing better fitted to make a man recoil from the spirit of sectarianism than to see, drawn out to its full length, the long, wondrous, weary roll of the various sects that exist in Christendom. Fancy all these urging their claims on a newly-converted heathen! What a Babel of tongues! With what perplexity might he ask, amid so many contending factions, Which is the true church and body of Christ ? Let us sce.
Seven sons of Jesse are summoned into Samuel's presence. Goodly men, they stand before him, candidates for the crown of Israel. But they cannot all be kings; and which of them is to be the Lord's anointed ? One after another, all the seven are rejected. Amazed at the result, the prophet turns to their father, saying, " Are here all thy children?" and on being told,