« AnteriorContinua »
"NOW ABIDETH THESE THREE."
see Him, and be like Him, stirred me up to consider what
Perhaps the time was not then come for the people to
A vessel which is constructed to stand upon three feet cannot stand upon one, or even upon two, without being propped up. When propped and stayed up, it will stand, to be sure, in some way; but there is effort and agency superadded, which would be needless if the vessel were allowed to rest by itself, upon its own feet. So it is with the Christian. He is intended to rest in Christ, in a threefold way: as the object of Faith, and Love, and Hope. No man can really and truly rest upon one, or even two, of these without taking from God's word, or adding to it. In ordinary life he cannot be happy if he does not trust, and love, and hope. Imagine a man who can trust no one; how harassed and distressed he is with suspicions! Or suppose he is trustful; yet if he does not love anybody or anything, his present life is marred by an insipid and dull selfishness. Or take one who
is trustful even to credulity; but suppose he has no hope, his future is black, and dark with forebodings, in trying to look into the terrible clouds of darkness which stand before him.
So much for man in his finite life. But when we remember that he is created for infinity and eternity, and has life which is to endure for ever, how much more needful is it for him to have these three Christian graces combined—faith, charity, and hope! By this I mean, Christ the object of Faith, for salvation; Christ Himself the object of Love, for devotion and service; and Christ in His coming glory, the object of Hope, for separation from the world.
A man must have the first, or he is not saved at all; for there is no Saviour and no salvation but in Christ, whether it be from the penalty, or from the power of sin. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world," and is here still, "to save sinners" (1 Tim. i. 15). He is the only one who can, and does save; and, moreover, this honour He never gives to another.
Next, to a person who has Christ's work before him, surely nothing less than a personal Christ can be a sufficient incentive for the devotion of his life and energies.
Then again, if Christ is the object of faith and love, a believer cannot be satisfied with anything less for the object of hope; and therefore Christ, in His coming glory, is set before him for this purpose.
I can see all this plainly enough now, but there was a time when I could not do so.
HEN I was on the eve of leaving Perranzabuloe, and before I knew that I was to go, I felt there was a gulf between the people and myself. Whatever else they held, they were quite ignorant of ecclesiastical antiquities, Church history, and Catholic truth; what is more, they were unwilling to learn about such matters.
Now I began to feel that another gulf was opening between my present people and myself. It was not as before, about ecclesiastical things; but on another score altogether. I wanted them to believe in a living Saviour: they were trying to content themselves with salvation instead. I wanted them to trust the Giver: they preferred to rejoice in the gift. I longed to lead them on to trust Christ as the object of faith, and from this to go on to devote themselves to His service, for very love of Him-to be loosed from the present world, by the hope of the Lord's coming. I could not get the people to receive this teaching, though it was God's truth, and could be verified by the Word.
I confess that this threefold truth was not so satisfying
to my own soul as I expected it would be. I remembered that I had not learned it from men or books, but experimentally, by God's teaching, in answer to prayer. I could not imagine what was wanting, and did not discover, for several years after, that the mere knowledge of a truth by itself, even though it is about Christ, cannot deliver. It is not the truth of Christ that delivers, but the Christ of the truth. In itself, it is but an instrument in the hand of the Spirit; and our expectation should be not from it, but from the Divine Person, whose it is.
I have found out that the power is Christ Himself; that where He is really the object of faith, He keeps the believer in peace; and that if there is no peace, it is only because there is a deficiency of trust: that He, as the object of love, constrains us to work for His Father's glory; and that He, as the object of hope, can and does separate us from the world and its entanglements, by drawing our affections to things above and beyond the present. Not having discovered this simple yet important truth, I was restless; and from God's Word came down to read the words and thoughts of men. I fell in with the "Life of Madame Guyon." Here I found much sympathy, but somehow not that peace I was looking for. Then I read the writings of the Port Royal school, the Jansenists, Butler's "Lives of the Saints," and other such books. These diverted my mind, employed and interested it; but I cannot say they satisfied me. I was craving for something which I had not found yet, and had to wait three years or more before I did so.
About this time I was invited to go to a parish in Plymouth, to a church where sacramental teaching was the rule. The incumbent was evidently as much dissatisfied with the state of his congregation as I was with mine. He wanted something new, and I thought that I did likewise.
INVITED TO PLYMOUTH.
Accordingly I went and preached in his pulpit, and the word spoken produced a marked sensation. My sermon brought to the vicar's mind many truths he had heard and loved in early days, and for this reason he urged me to stay and preach again. Then, to my surprise, he invited me to leave Cornwall and come to Plymouth, in order to take a district in his parish, that I might help him occasionally in his church. This was altogether such an unsought-for thing, and so unexpected, that I took time to consider. The next day I told him that I could not entertain his proposition, and that for three reasons:
I. I said, "I am sure that the Bishop would not consent."
2. "I have a debt laid on me by my patron for nearly £3,000, which I spent in building the church for him."
3. "I am responsible for a debt of £300 as security." He still urged it, and said he would go and see the Bishop, and speak with him on the subject. In his zeal he set off that very morning. The Bishop at first said flatly, "No," and then, upon further inquiry, recalled the word, and said, “You may try it if you will." He returned in the evening with this information, which surprised me greatly. But what made me wonder still more, was the receipt of two letters the next morning by the same post-one from London and the other from Paris, releasing me from the responsibility of the two debts; and this without any request on my part. The three difficulties, which were like mountains before me only three days before, were now removed. I did not know what to say, and therefore determined, in all haste, to go home and consider the step.
When I had related these astonishing circumstances to my dear wife, we agreed to go together to consult with Mr. Aitken. On arriving I said to him, "You must please to sit still and hear all before you speak." Then I told him of