« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
kery, “ the apostolical succession,” and all pretensions like it, we know not how Divine Providence could construct one. It is just as clear as the Saviour's own personal rebuke of the same intolerant proud spirit in his day; and the feeling with which its application is received by the pretenders to the only true church in our day is remarkably similar. “I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land ; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet,; and none of them was cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue when they heard these things were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill, whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong !" Why, what mighty evil hath our blessed Lord done to awaken this dreadful hell of wrath and malignity in this synagogue of satan? He hath simply told them that their church was no longer to be the only true church of Christ on earth, but that he was going to preach to the gentiles! And the wickedness of this Jewish hierarchy is but a specimen of the wickedness which this pretence of being the only true church inevitably sets in motion and brings with it, wherever such a pretended true church can get the power to enforce its excommunications. It will lead our blessed Lord him
self to the brow of the hill, and cast him down headlong, if he visit this earth in a conventicle, if he come to any other than an Established Church.
The same principle thus marvelously illustrated in the life of Bunyan, was that by which God passed by the many thousands of Israel of loftier genealogy and prouder claims, and fixed upon David the son of Jesse, the keeper of his father's flock in the wilderness, and anointed and crowned him King of Israel ; passed by also the great towns and beautiful cities of Judea, and Jerusalem itself, and fixed upon Bethlehem as the birth-place of our Saviour; passed by also the learned and excellent, the princes and scholars of the land, when he would found a new spiritual kingdom to last for ever, and took the fishermen and the tax-gatherers ; and to step out of sacred history once more, into common, in a case in some respects of great similarity to Bunyan's own, passed by the godliest learned men of honor, title and rank, and chose a chaplain in Oliver Cromwell's parliamentary army to write the Saint's Rest. The two greatest, most important, most efficacious spiritual works the world has ever seen, written by men cast out, persecuted, imprisoned, as not being members of the true church, as not conforming to the will of the Established hierarchy! The world is full of these blessed instances of God's wisdom to cast down the pride of man, and abase his pretensions, that no flesh may glory in his presence.
And as to these hierarchical arrogancies, it would seem that Divine Wisdom itself could resort to no expedient more
sure to put them to shame, than when the Holy Spirit takes up his abode, and displays his glory, in beings cast out, persecuted, imprisoned, and burned, by such bigotry and violence. The great overshadowing, remorseless, hierarchical unity of the Church, when it is any thing else but unity in the possession and exercise of the Spirit of Christ, becomes a destructive unity of evil, a unity of ambition, consecrated under the name of religion, a unity of earthly power and aggrandizement, in which the passion of universal conquest, that like a chariot of fire whirled a Nimrod or Napoleon over the world, kindles in the bosom of church-men, and makes out of the church itself the most perfect, awful form of despotism. It is such a dreadful unity, that has anathematised and destroyed some of the brightest temples of the Holy Ghost, out of which God has shined in this world of darkness. It was indeed this remorseless, despotic, persecuting unity, to which our blessed Lord himself was sacrificed, to prevent a schism in the Jewish hierarchy.
But under whatever form, save that of love to Christ, and participation in his spirit, this unity is vaunted, it becomes an unhallowed, worldly, vain, ambitious boast; and powerfully, indeed, are its pretensions shown to be vanity, when God raises up, beyond its precincts, such men as Baxter and Bunyan, Owen and Doddridge, Calamy and Howe, Brainard and Edwards, Payson and Dwight. Rather let every Christian be in himself a separate sect, than the church of Christ a compulsory despotism.
And how may we suppose the great Head of
the church regards such daring presumption, whether under pretence of apostolical succession or prelatical consecration, that shuts out such men from the church of Christ on earth, and gives them over even to God's uncovenanted mercies in Heaven? Merely the statement of such pretensions is enough to show how opposed they are to the spirit of the gospel. If a desire to spread that gospel, and to bring all men into the fold of Christ had prevailed, or were now prevalent, we should hear nothing of such pretensions ; if that unity of love existed, which our blessed Lord requires, and without which all other unity is worthless, there would be the kindest charity and piety, but no pride ; Christians would, as Paul requires, receive one another, but not to doubtful disputations; and all sects would be found vying with each other, not to spread their own name, but the knowledge of the gospel ; not to eject each other from the missionary field, but to fill the world with love and mercy. We trust in God that this spirit shall prevail over every other, and when it does, then will be the time, when there shall be nothing to hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain.
The prison hours of such men as Bunyan have done much to bring the full blessedness of such a period, and out of Bunyan's prison shone much of that rosy light, that in the morning of the Reformation is more romantically beautiful, than even the clear shining of the sun at noon. His prison work was one of the stars, co-herald with the dawn, reflecting the Sun of Righteousness, but struggling with the darkness all night long. If, during his confinement,
I could pre
he wrote those Divine Emblems, of which I have spoken, as is very probable, there was calm, sweet light, shining out of the soul of the true poet, hidden, as by God's mercy, in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.
As the tuneful bird of night sits even amidst the rain, and sings darkling, so the heart of Bunyan sang, while the storm raged round his prison; nay, it may be said of him, as of Luther, that he poured the music of truth from his soul as from a church organ. sent some of his finished pieces in verse, that may well be compared with the best of our elder poets, and that, contrasted with the doggrel of his early days, show an intellectual transformation as wonderful, almost, as his spiritual new creation. And yet, I must remark, in regard to those rude verses, which, with such inconceivably bad spelling, and with such cramped and distorted chirography, Bunyan used to write in the margin of his old copy of Fox's Book of Martyrs, that they do not make upon the mind the impression of that word doggrel ; the mint out of which they fall is too sacred for that, and the metal, though wrought with such extreme rudeness, manifestly too precious. As we gaze upon that chirography, in connection with the martyrdom that excited the passionate emotion of the writer, we seem to see the very soul of Bunyan impressing, as with the point of a diamond, in the only language he then knew how to command, the hieroglyphics of the martyr's spirit in his own bosom. Those verses are as Indian arrows, tipped with flint, in comparison with a rifle inlaid with