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Many years probably will elapse ere I become possessed of moneyed resources, and it must now be my endeavour to find out other methods of doing good. I sometimes think of taking orders, and D
says, that, with my rigid notions of religion, it is the only suitable profession ; I think differently, however, and in case my friends wished me to study the law, I should have no objection ; in either case, it is to be hoped that utility to others, not self-interest, will be my leading concern. The first wish of my heart is to become an instrument (however humble) of Divine Providence, in annihilating, or at least ameliorating, West Indian Slavery.
"I beseech your prayers, therefore, my dear sir, not for any temporal prosperity, but that I may be saved from folly, vanity, and vice, and every low pursuit, and be enabled to devote my life to the service of God and the welfare of my fellow-creatures. I know that at last I shall be a miserable, unprotitable servant, but great, exceeding great, are the riches of Christ's grace. Trusting in his merits alone, I hope and rejoice.
“ You will, doubtless, be kind enough to answer this letter, and express to me your opinion of the opium business. I am rather glad that my determination has been made since your departure, for it might have been said that you intiuenced me in adopting a course which is so irreconcileable with worldly usage and opinion. By some probably it may be deemed a mark or great presumption in me to disapprove of a traffic in which almost all eastern merchants, with the court of direc. tors at their head, do not scruple to participate ; but the same might have been said of the Slave Trade before it was abolished, and the Bible orders us not to follow the multitude to do evil. Under these circumstances, therefore, I bid an eternal adieu to China, although not without hopes, if God spare our lives, of meeting you once again in old England. At present it only remains for me to subscribe myself, with grateful respect, your obliged young friend, and affectionate fellow-disciple,
G. F. M."
Who the writer of the above letter was, is not mentioned; but would that every young man entered upon business with the same conscientious determination to set the Lord always before him ; and therefore to abhor every evil way.
While the book is in hand, two or three memoranda of Dr. More rison may not be unacceptable.
It is to be lamented that he was not an Episcopalian ; but when it is remembered that he had been educated as a Presbyterian; his father being an elder of a Scotch church at Newcastle, where young More rison was born and brought up ;—that when his literary acquirements and his wish to become a minister, with an ultimate view to be a missionary, induced him to give up his trade as a last-maker, he was drafted to Hoxton Academy (now “ Highbury College ") where he was not likely to hear more in favour of Episcopacy than that it was too like Presbyterianism in not being democratical ;—and that even when he pursued his missionary studies under Dr. Bogue of Gosport, and was preparing to set out for China as an ordained missionary, he had never, as he confesses in his Diary, "examined thoroughly the claims of the Episcopalian body,” for which he “ charges himself with slothfulness of mind in not pursuing the subject with sufficient vigour;the arguments for episcopacy are not to be thought the worse of, because this learned and good man did not happen to be convinced by them. He however translated portions of the Anglican formularies into the Chinese language; and he made use of our Liturgy, which he highly valued, in his Sunday morning service at Canton.
Dr. Morrison's missionary labours were gratuitous, as he supported his family by his services to the East India Company as a linguist and interpreter. He exemplified through life what he expressed with much emotion in his Diary at first quitting the shores of England :
“ I took farewell of the land I shall visit no more. It is a land that is dear to methe land of my fathers' sepulchres. There rests my mother,- epithets fail me. Suffice it to say she was my mother. With maternal feeling and anxiety, on her dying pillow, she inquired what would be my future destinies. In that land live my father, my brothers, and my sisters. There lives my friend. The God of heaven bless that happy land! But-there is a better country'than that from which I have gone out. I believe its existence, and I hope I have there an inheritance. I go not to the East to make my fortune; my fortune is made. I trust that the ord God Almighty has constituted me a joint-beir with Jesus Christ, and that in a few years he will put me in possession of the rich estate."
The late Mr. Butterworth treasured up the following pleasing reminiscence:
“ It is now many years ago, that in visiting the library of the British Museum, I frequently saw a young man, who appeared to be deeply occupied in his studies. The book be was reading was in a language and character totally unknown to me. My curiosity was awakened, and apologizing to him for the liberty I was taking, I ventured to ask what was the language that engaged so much of his attention. • The Chinese,' he modestly replied. * And do you understand the language,' I said. I am trying to understand it,' he added; but it is attended with singular difficulty.' And what may be your object,' continued Mr. Butterworth, ' in studying a language so proverbially difficult of attainment, and considered to be even insuperable to European talent and industry ?' 'I can scarcely define my motives,' he remarked; all that I know is, that my mind is powerfully wrought upon by some strong and indescribable impulse; and if the language be capable of being surmounted by human zeal and perseverance, I mean to make the experi
What may be the final result, time only can develope: I have as yet no determinate object in contemplation, beyond acquisition of the language itself.'
• Little did I think,' said Mr. Butterworth, in closing this interesting narrative,' that I then beheld the germ, as it were, of that great undertaking, the 'completion of which we have witnessed this day; that such small beginnings would lead to such mighty results; and that I saw before me the honoured instrument raised up by the providence of God, for enlightening so large a portion of the human race, and bringing them under the dominion of the great truths of the Gospel.'”
The following interesting picture must conclude these sketches :
“ He continued, as usual, his public English service on the Sabbath mornings ; and knowing that many of the foreign residents and visitors spent the evening of that day in what are called innocent recreations, he made several attempts in this, as well as in past seasons, to induce them to spend an hour in a more rational and profitable manner, by giving an evening lecture; there being service only once a day at the Episcopal Chapel. Strangers to Dr. Morrison's habits, who occasionally attended these devotional exercises, were sui prised at the mental and bodily fatigue he seemed capable of enduring ; especially upon finding the English service was immediately succeeded by one for the natives; this was intimated by the sound of voices singing the praises of God-a devotional exercise in which he took peculiar delight, and which he never omitted, although he often had to complain of not being assisted in it by his congregation. He always read the Prayers of the Church of England in the morning, modifying them to suit the peculiar circumstances of his hearers. In the intervals between public worship, he was occupied in reading, or in hearing his children repeat their hymns, &c. This indulgence was generally solicited by themselves; for although his manner on the Lord's-day was marked by a more than usual degrees of seriousness, which would repress any approach to levity, still there was not in it the slightest tincture of austerity.
“ On these occasions, bis usual resort was a retired terrace in the front of his residence, beyond which lay the bay of Macao, encircled by barren hills. terrace was shaded by beautifully flowering shrubs, and bordered with European shrubs and flowers. Here, generally accompanied by the whole of his family, the little ones on his knees, or, according to Asiatic custom, sitting on mats spread on the grass, with their attendants of various nations, Chinese, Portuguese, and Caffres, and a favourite Newfoundland dog invariably making one of the group-might be seen the beloved subject of this narrative, whose presence diffused general happiness throughout that favoured circle. Often, while viewing with benignant complacency the interesting scene thus feebly depicted, he would express the pleasure it afforded him, and his grateful sense of the mercies and
blessings be enjoyed; yet reflecting on the uncertain tenure by which all earthly good is held, he would frequently add, “But I rejoice with trembling.' Such simple pleasures as those by which he was surrounded, Dr. Morrison enjoyed in a high degree; yet his taste for them was never gratitied at the expense of more serious duties: therefore sacred music, conversation, or the contemplations of the beauties of nature, were by him only indulged in occasionally, as a relaxation from intense study. Often at the close of a day, such as above described, wben he must bave suffered extreme weariness from five or six hours standing and speaking, his general reply to inquiries, whether he did not feel very tired ? was, Yes love, tired in my work, but not of it-I delight in the work.'
ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE FATHERS.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. I hear (as who does not ?) frequent discussions respecting the authority of the Fathers; to which of them individually, to what concurrence of them, and in what degree authority belongs. But the first question which needs determination is, what is meant by authority? In what sense is the word used ? Now, Dr. Waterland says, “ As to authority, in a strict and proper sense, I do not know that the Fathers have any over us ; they are all dead men.” (Doct. of Trin., c.7.) Here the point is accurately touched ; for I cannot conceive how any proper authority over the living can reside in the dead. The words of St. Paul are authoritative, because they are the words of the Spirit who ever lives to enforce them. The laws enacted by past generations may be still laws, but their authority is derived from the living rulers, not from their dead framers ; for the authority of a human lawgiver must cease with his power to enforce his laws. If the Fathers were inspired, their authority would be intelligible ; yet not as a personal authority, but that of God speaking directly by them: but as they are not, how can I be bound to receive doctrines and ceremonies, which they say ought to be received ?
If then the fathers have no proper authority, their writings can claim no more than deference and respect, as due to the superior intel. ligence and knowledge of their authors : but to what does this amount? It merely binds us to a more careful consideration before we reject their judgment; and thus makes them suggesters, while it constitutes us the judges of their suggestions. And so says Archbishop Potter, “We have full liberty, upon a candid and impartial consideration, to follow their conclusions, or to reject them, as we find them well or ill-grounded." (Ch. Gov. Ch. 4). Scripture then is law, and the Fathers only special pleaders; their pleadings may have great weight with us, but we must be influenced by the reasonableness of what they say, and not because they are the Fathers who say it. I conclude, therefore, that the opinions of the Fathers have no authority, not because many are palpably absurd and erroneous, many contradictory, but because the authority of an uninspired opinion is an absurdity.
As to the testimony of the Fathers to facts, which is sometimes called authority, I yield them the same credit which we give to other honest witnesses; just as we appeal to a traveller for a foreign custom, or to an historian for a past event; but I cannot assent to the conclusion, that the testimony of a Father to the universality of a doctrine in the Church in his time, is an authoritative decision in favour of that doctrine. The most strenuous advocates of the purity of the early Church can urge only a strong probability that it did not err ; and what authority can such probability have over us to whom the inspired oracles of God are given ? A multiplication of fallible opinions may indeed afford additional evidence of that which they affirm ; but still to use the words of South in a Sermon on the Trinity, “ Reason, the star that guides all wise men to Christ, the lanthorn that leads the eye of faith," must pass final judgment according to Scripture. The difference between Scripture and uninspired antiquity is obvious; the sense of Scripture is authoritative ; the meaning of Fathers, Councils, &c., is not so; but must be referred to a higher tribunal. If the latter agree with the former, it is satisfactory and confirming ; but if it disagree, we need no new voice from heaven to tell us, “ If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
ANXIETY OF THE PIOUS LAITY FOR PASTORAL VISITING.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. I HAVE the privilege of hearing the Gospel preached in its purity, by a highly talented, spiritually minded, and faithful clergyman, whose ministry has often been blessed to my soul, and from whose hands I have been accustomed to receive the sacred elements at the Sacramental table. But although I and my family have sat under his ministry seven years, and during the three last have resided within a very short distance from the Chapel, we have only twice during that period been visited by him; once for a winter subscription for the poor, and once in a morning call, at a time when I am unavoidably from home on my daily business. I have been led to notice this more particularly, because I have been recently absent from my accustomed pew for eight weeks, from severe illness, without any notice having been taken of it, although my seat is in the immediate view of the minister, whose eye could not have failed to detect my absence, but who nevertheless passed my door during that period at least twice a week, without calling. Although, therefore, I am blessed with an evangelical ministry, I cannot feel that I have a Pastor !
Being necessarily engaged in worldly business during the week, and exposed to its deadening influence, and desirous of sustaining the Christian character in the various relations of life, I feel that I need at times the advice and consolation which the occasional visits of our Pastor would afford; and a similar feeling prevails among those Christian friends to whom I have spoken upon the subject ; and I am therefore desirous that the attention of ministers should be drawn to it ; as I am fearful that their apparent disregard to the spiritual wants of their congregations, beyond the exercises of the pulpit, will in no small degree account for the coldness and sterility of those, who, though constant hearers of the word, are of the number by whom our Lord is so seldom remembered in their attendance at his Table.
I have reason to believe that this neglect is not confined to my own case, or my own minister. Among the Dissenters, a much more intimate acquaintance is kept up between the minister and his people ; and it is to be lamented that members of the Church of England are not equally privileged: but this, I fear, will never be the case till its
ministers are more impressed with the importance of their being not only Preachers but Pastors.
C. S. *** We know not whence this letter comes; and the circumstances described are so general that they cannot be applied to any one locality. We insert the paper for the following reasons. First, it shews the value which pious laymen attach to the pastoral labours of their clergyman, and hence is calculated to stimulate the faithful minister, to admonish the indolent, and to encourage those who fear their visits would be unwelcome, though they would not withhold them if they thought they were sought for or appreciated. Secondly, the insertion enables us to correct a popular misapprehension, of which this case may be an instance—though we know nothing of its merits—as if a clergyman was unwilling when perhaps he is only unable. In large parishes, and even in many chapels, the worshippers in which are widely scattered, the clergy are so pressed down with their arduous, onerous, and incessantly recurring labours, that they can do little in the way of visiting, except where they are sent for, and this only very imperfectly. Again, under the chapel system, they are sometimes actually prohibited by the incumbent of the parish fron cising any pastoral function within the limits of his jurisdiction; so that they are confined by law to their ministrations within the walls of their chapel. The remedy for both these evils is to divide large parishes into manageable smaller ones, and to make a convenient portion of the district around a chapel a distinct parish attached to it. Within these bounds a clergyman ought to keep up pastoral intercourse, and he would be enabled to do so; but at present he is often rather to be pitied than blamed. It is scarcely to be believed that such a clergyman as C. S. describes his minister to be, would wilfully neglect pastoral visitation; though he may err as to the proportion of time which he devotes to it, in apportioning out his labours. It may be that the demand of fixed engagements-schools, committees, church services, and the preparation for the pulpit, and special calls to visit the sick - are more than he can keep up with, so that he has not much opportunity or energy for seeking out his flock in their retirements. This is an afflicting state of things; but it is only just to faithful ministers that their difficulties should be known and appreciated; but no excuse is thereby furnished for indolence or indifference.
With regard to what C. S. says of dissenting ministers, it should be recollected that their congregations are in general small compared with a parochial or district population; besides which they have not the numerous claims upon their time which press upon many clergymen. The salutary advice of C. S., that ministers should be “not only preachers but pastors ” is more applicable to them than to the Anglican clergy; and it is often because a clergyman considers himself the pastor of a parish that he does not pay more minute attention to what dissenters would call his “hearers.” Our correspondent is much to be sympathised with ; and so perhaps, if all the facts were known, is his minister, though appearances are against him. Why did not C. S. let him know he was ill? There is often too much reserve on each side; but a minister should break through it, and consider every house open to him till he finds it barred; and even then strive to unbar it.