Imatges de pÓgina

assist and encourage each other in the prosecution of their labours; and several, whose faith had hitherto been wavering, were made partakers of that vital godliness, without which the minister of the gospel is but as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.

Neff, having left the neighbourhood of Geneva in 1819, spent the whole of the two following years in alternate labours in the Cantons of Vaud and Neufchatel, and the French portion of the Canton of Berne. Throughout this extensive district, he established numerous associations for prayer and religious conversation, many of which are still in existence. In these efforts to do good to the souls of men, he had to encounter many adverse circumstances.

To arouse professing Christians from their luke-warmness was his first effort; and in this he happily succeeded; although at the same time he was obliged to proceed with the greatest circumspection towards a stillmore numerous party, who were actuated by a fierce and pertinacious spirit of religious controversy. In one of his letters at this period, dated Lausanne, he thus writes; “ In this Canton the

Lord has opened a wide door for the dissemination of gospel truths, which will not easily be closed, provided our efforts are conducted with zeal and prudence. For this purpose, it is highly necessary that no inferior question should be agitated, which, instead of being directly conducive to the salvation of souls, too often serve only to produce schism, and create feelings of alarm. Whilst, however, it is thus necessary to act with caution, even in a country where the clergy are professedly attached to orthodox doctrines, it is yet of much higher importance that our labours should be so conducted as to arouse sinners from their lethargy, and to awaken a deep interest in the true and living faith.”

Many pages might be filled with the history of Neff's eminent usefulness in this part of Switzerland; but we refrain from entering more into detail, in order to conduct the reader to that more interesting period of his ministerial labours at Mens, and afterwards upon the Alps, where the piety, the zeal, and the extraordinary resources of this remarkable man were more fully developed.




Neff returned to Geneva in 1821, and had no sooner arrived there, than he accepted an invitation from a church at Grenoble to supply the place of its pastor, Monsieur Bonifas, who was about to be absent for a few months. He was now in his twentyfourth year; but his fervent spirit was so intensely occupied in the prosecution of his important duties, that his days seemed to glide imperceptibly away. The sphere of his labours being less extensive than when he was in Switzerland, he had more leisure for private meditation; and in a letter written to his mother, he thus adverts to the awful rapidity with which mankind are hurried along the stream of life. "The prophet has very aptly compared the flight of time to


the rapid descent of the mountain torrent. Let us, however, give thanks to God for his mercy towards us; for, although we are hurried along on the surface of its impetuous waves, we are enabled to repose the fullest confidence in the faithfulness of our heavenly Father, who will sustain us amidst all the perils we have to encounter, and will speedily bring us to a haven of security and perpetual rest. How different are the emotions which the rapid and unceasing flow of time produces in the minds of the men of the world. Without God, and without hope, they dare not hazard a thought respecting eternity, although they count the quick succession of days with the same mental anguish, as the condemned criminal views the rapidly approaching hour which consigns him to an ignominious death. The christian, however, regarding himself as an exile and a prisoner in this world, hails with delight the first indistinct glimpses of those shores, in which, when released from bondage, he shall enjoy the society of heaven, and shall be infinitely and for ever happy in the presence of his God. How hallowed, and how delightful, these anticipations, which, together with the conviction of the brevity of our earthly pilgrimage, are so well adapted to suppress our murmurs, and to support us under the burden and the heat of the day.”

During his short residence at Grenoble, Neff was assiduous in his efforts to do good; but the tone of his piety was too elevated for those amongst whom he was thus labouring, and his sensitive mind was torn with anguish, when it contemplated the cold and heartless christianity which was here prevalent. In another letter he deplores the fruitlessness of his labours, and the state of religion, at Grenoble. He compares this city to a sepulchre, so entirely was it destitute of the vivifying influences of genuine piety. Accustomed to see numbers brought under the power of the gospel in other places, he was grieved to perceive that here his preaching had no visible effects; whilst, at the same time, it forcibly reminded him of the inefficiency of merely human efforts, and the necessity of urgent prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

« AnteriorContinua »