Archibald Forbes.

The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

. (page 15 of 121)
Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 15 of 121)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

pares itself for sufiering : it kx^ difficulties in the
Nice, coimts the cost, and heroically exclaims, —
'* None of these things move me, so that I nuMr
diminish the evil^ and promote the happiness, or
others." It will rise before the break of day. linger
on the field of labor till midnight, toil amidst the
sultry heat of summer, brave the northera blasts of
winter, submit to derision, give the energies of body
and the comfort of mind : ail to do good.

MitconsirucUon is another thing that love endures
Some men's minds are ignorant, and cannot under-
stand its schemed : others are contracted, and can-
not comprehend them ; others are selfish, and can-
not approve them ; others are envious^ and cannot
applaud them ; and all these will unite, either to
suspect or to condemn : but this virrae, " like the
eagle, pursues its noble, lofly, heaven-bound course,
rmrdless of the flock of little pecking caviling birds,
which, unable to foUow, amuse themselves fcy twit-
tering their objections and ill will in the hedges be-
low.'^ Or, to borrow a scriptural allusion, love, Uke
its great pattern, when he was upon the earth, goes
about doing good, notwithstanding the malignant
perversion of its motives and actions on the part of
Its enemies. ** I must do good," she exclaims : ** if
yon cannot understand my plans, I pity your igno-
rance ; if you misconstrae .my mouves, I forgive
your malignity; but the clouds that are exhaled
from the earth, may as well attempt to arrest the ca^
reer of the sun, as for your dulness or malevolence
to stop my attempts to d,o good. I must go on, with-
out your approbation, and against vour opposition.''

Envy often tries the patience or love, and is an-
other of the ills which it bears, without being turaed
aside by it. There are men who would enjov the
praise of benevolence without enduring its laoors ;
that is, they would wear the laurel of victory with-
out exposing themselves to the peril of war: they
are sure to envy the braver, mohler spirits, whose

Digitized by






fpeneroiis conquests, having been preceded bv labor,
are followed by praise. To be good, and to do good,
are alike the objects of env;^ with many persons.—
** A man of great merit," sud a French author, " is
a kind of public enemy. By engrossing a multitude
of applauses, which would serve to gratify a great
many others, he cannot but be envied : men natur-
ally hate what thev highly esteem, yet cannot love."
The feeling of the countryman at Athens, who,
vpoD being asked why he gave his vote for the ba-
nishment of Aristides, replied, " Becatise he is every
where caUed the just " is by no means tmcommon.
The Ephesians expelled the best of their citizens,
with im public announcement of this reason, " If
any are determined to excel their neighbors, let
them find another place to do it" Envy is that
which love hates and proscribes, and, in revenue,
envy hates and persecutes love in return ; but mt
terror of envy does not intimidate love, nor its ma-
lignity disgust it : it can bear even the perversions,
misrepresentations, and opposition of this fiend-like
passion, and pursues its course, simply saying, '* Gtot
thee behind me, Satan."

IngrutUudt is often the hard usage which love
has to sustain, and which it patiently endur^. Into
such a state of turpitude is man fallen, that he would
bear any weight tather than that of obligation. —
Men will acknowledge smdU obligations, out often
return malice for such as are extraordinary ,- and
some will sooner forgive great injuries than great
services. Many persons do not know their bene-
lactOTs, many more will not acknowled^ ihem. and
others will not reward them, even with the cheap
offering of thanks. These things are eiu>ugh to
make us sick of the world : yes ; but ought not to
make us weary of trying to mend it ; for the more
tmgrateful it isw the more it needs our benevolence.
Here is the noble, the lofty, the godlike temper of
charity : it pursues its course like the providence of
Jehovah, wnich continues to cause its sun to rise
and its rain to descend, not only upon the irrational
creatures, who have no capacity to know their bene-
fiictor, but upon the rational ones, many of whom
have no disposition to acknowledge him.

Derisian is often employed to oppose the efforts
of love by all the artillery of scorn. Spiritual reli-
gion, and especially that view of it which this suh-
^t exhibits, has ever been an object of contempt to
iiDg(>dlymen. Banter and ridicule are brousntto
stop its progress; the greatest profaneness and buf-
foonery are sometimes employed to laugh it out of
countenance ;— but it has learned to treat with in-
difference even the cruel mockings of irony, and to
receive upon its shield-arm all the arh)ws of the
most envenomed wit.

Opposition does not disgust, nor persevering obsti-
nacff weary it. It can endure to nave its schemes
examined and sifted by those who cannot under-
stand them, cavilled at by those who cannot mend
them, and resisted by those who have nothing to
offi»r in their place. It does not throw all up m a
fit of passion, nor suffer the tongue of petulance, nor
the clamor of envy, to stop its efforts.

WamtofmuesSy'itaX most discouraging considera-
tion to activity, is not sufficient to drive it fVom the
field ; but in tne expectation of the fUture harvest,
it continues to plough and to sow in hope. ' Its ob-
ject is too important to be relinquishea for a few
fiiilores ; and nothing but the demonstration of ab-
solute impossibility can induce it to give up its be-
nevolent purpose.

If instances of this view of Christian love be ne-
cessary to illustrate and enforce it by the power of
example, many and striking ones are at hand.—
Pew, very few, are worthy of being put in competi-
tion with that of Mr. CiJuikbon, whose illustrious
asms, and that of his no less illustrious coadjutor,

Mr. WiLBBRPORCE^^ ?**^ ^'^P *^«»* sourccs
tears of gratiiudeby^f'* ^ ^ the skies, and be
the work of inducing tfift*]^ ^rtvn^ at the regioa
tion upon earth to abolishHF^®^' ^^ wisdom, the
man beings ; and ought to b^^Jf ^^ , .

rold by their grateful countryffln"«^<^?. h%s
livered the nation from the grcatdK"|f"*«r digres.
her modem history, she ever comm«*^®f J">*ce.
the greatest curse which she could ok™^ i^^*
hands of retributive iustice. Perhaps no thj* 1*{-
book may be so f^riy regarded as a beautiny^^
toent on the expression, " Charity enduretfcc-
things," as Clarkson's ^ History of the Abolit&
of the Slave Trade.** Twenty years of that goo
man's life were occupied in long and fatiguing jour-
nies, at all seasons of the year : in labors of an
almost incredible extent, to trace reports to their
source, to collect information, and to gather evi-
dence : in braving opposition, bearing ail kinds of
ridicule, encountering savages, whose trade had
made them reckless of crime, and thirsty for blood ;
in personal exposure, so great, that by nothing less
thui supernatural strength, granted f6r the occasion,
would he have been re^ued at one time f^om threat-
ened and intended death. Nor was this the fhll
measure of the endurance ; disappointment the most
bitter and discouraging often extinguished his
brighttet hopes : lukewarmness on the part of those
firom whom he nad a right to expect the most zeal-
ous co-operation often saddened his hearty though
it never paralyzed his zeal ; and, to try his perse-
verance and put his benevolence to th6 severest lest,
his cause Was of a nature which, bv the sufierings
it brought cmder review. Was enough to sicken and
turn from its p urp ose a compassion of less hardi-
hood than his. What must that man have had to
endure, who thus describes his feelings after the de-
tails of evidence furnished by only one of the thou-
sands of days spent in familiarizing himself with the
various scenes of the biggest outrase ever cotnmit-
ted against the rights of humanity ?—" The differ-
ent scenes of barbarity which these represented to
me. greatly added to the affliction (^ my mind. My
feelings became now almost insupportable. I was
agonized to think that this trade should last another
day : I was in a state of agitation fVom morning till
night : I determined I would soon leave the place
in which I saw nothing but misery. I had collected
now, I believe, all the evidence it would afford;
and to stay a day longer in it than was necessary,
would be only an interruption to my happiness and

Who but a Christian philanthropist of the highest
order could have pursued such a career, year after
year, and not be so wearied by labor— so disheart-
ened by opposition— so disgusted by cruelty,— as to
abandon tne olnect of his pursuit X Here was, in-
deed, a beautiful illustration of the " loue timt tn^
dureth oil things.''

But a greater than Clarkson might be mentioned.
Let the history of St. Paul be studied, and ins su^
fering career be traced, and his declarations heard
concerning his varied and heavy tribulations. " I
think that Ood hath sent forth us the apostles last,
as it were appointed to death ; for we are made a
spectacle tmto the world, and to angels, and to men.
We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise m
Christ : we are weak, but ye are strong ; ye are
honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this
present hour, we both hunger and thirst, and arc!
naked, and are bofieted, and have no certain dwell-
ing place ; and labor, working with our own hands :
being reviled, we bless : being persecuted, we suffer
it : being defhmed, wc entreat : we are made as the
filth of the earth, and are the officouring of all things
unto this day." " In labors more abundant, in siri pes
above measure, in prisons more fte<iuent, in deaths

Digitized by




gobaeaoeBt oppotjnc

with hi clearer evit

•tatement, can effectuall;

ibU etery case has

esperiooicntaUy acqi^

iB^ till we have b^S H ^ S ,

«tioB to oar Tt

ul to take aj


of beinj






w Bem^v-jj- o art) a* g z 6

61 iff-




things}^ - - . . . j

^d a greater, far greater 'iiDitt*%.» > great

apostle of the Qentiles, might be also introduced, as
affording, by his condoct, a most striking illastra-
tion of this property of Christian charity. Who
Dul himself can conceive of what the Son of GKxi
endured while he sojourned in this world 1 Who
can imagine the magnitude of his sufferings, and
the extent of that opposition, ini^titude, and hard
usage, amidst which those suffermgs were sustained,
and by which thev were so greatly increased!
Kever was so much mercy treated with so much
cruelty; the constant labor he sustained, and the
many privations to which he submitted, were little,
compared with the maUgnant contradiction, resist-
ance, hnd persecution, he received from those who
were the oojects of his mercy. The work of man's
redemption was not accomplished, as was the work
of creation, by a mere nat delivered from the
throne, on which Omnipotence reigned in the calm
repose of infinite majes^: no — the Word was made
flesh, and dwelt amonc us^ a man of sorrow and
acquainted with grief. The wrath of Gk)d, the
Ally of devils, the rage of man, the malignity of
enemies, the wayward follies and fickleness of
friends, the baseless of treachery, the scorn of
official rank, and the many stings of ingratitude,
calumny, and incoi^stancy— all poured their venom
into that heart which glowed with affection to the
children of men. Nothing turned him from his
purpose— nothing abated his ardor jn the work of
our salvation. &is, too, and above all others, was
indeed a love which " eiidwreik all thingt."

Such is the model we are to copy. In doing good
we mu^ prepare ourselves for opposition, and all
its attendant train of evils. Whether our object
be the conversion of souls, or the well-being of
man's corporeal nature — ^whether we are seeking
to build up the temporal, or to establish the eternal,
interests of mankind— we must remember that we
have undertaken a task which will call for patient,
self-denjring, and persevering effort. In the midst
of difficulties, we must not utter the vain cowardly
wish, that we had not set our hand to the plough ;
but press onward in humble dependence upon the
grace of the Holy Spirit, and animated by tne hope
cf cither being rewarded by success, or by the con-
sciousness that we did every thing to obtam it : and
we shall do this, if we possess much of the power
of love ; for its ardor is such, that many waters
cannot quench it. Its energies increase with the
difficulty that requires them, and, like a well con-
structed arch, it becomes more firm and consoli-
dated by the weight it has to sustain. In short, it
is "steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the
work of the Lord, forasmuch as it knows that its
labpr shall not be in vain in the liord."



" Cha/rity ntoer faiUth,'*

Pkrmanencb is the climax of excellence. How
oAen has the sigh been heaved, and the tear been
shed, over the perishable nature of earthly pos-
sessions. Their transient duration presented a pain-
ful contrast to their great worth, and extorted the
sorrowful exclamation, Alas I that such excellence
should be mortal! The charm of beauty soon
fades, the force of genius is at length exhausted,
the moniunents o( art decay; an incurable taint
of corruption has infected every thing earthly, and
even religion itself does not confer immortality
upon every thing that belongs to its sacred economy.
One thin^ there is, which shall remain for ever,
for " chanty never faileth ;" and its permanence is
the crown and glory of all its other noble qualities.
It is a truly immortal disposition— bearing no ex-
clusive relation to earth or to time, but destined to
pass away from the world with the souls in which
U exists, to dwell in heaven, and flourish through

When it is said that it never faileth, we are not
merely to understand, that being once planted in
the soul, it remains there a^ the centre and support
of all the other practical vutues : that it vfiU so re-
main, is unquestionable, for its continuance is es-
sential to the existence of personal and social reli-
gion. A man ma^ change his opinions on some
subjects— he may give up some sentiments once be-
lieved by him to be truth ; but he cannot give up
love, without ceasing to be a Christian.

Nor does the aposBe mean that it re^iains as the
spirit of Christianity till the end of time, amidst
every change of external administration; that it
shall so abide is unquestlooable. The genius of
piety is Unchangeable. This was the temper obli-
gatory upon the primitive Christian ; it is obliga-
tory upon us ; and it will be no less so upon every
future generation. A holier and happier age is in
reserve fur the church of Christ; "compared with
which, invisible thou§[h it be at present, and hid
behina the clouds which envelope this dark and
troubled scene, the brightest day that has yet shone
upon the world is midnight, and the highest splen-
dors that have invested it the shadow of death ;•*
bqt this glory shall consist in a more perfect and
conspicuous manifestation of the grace of love. It
is in this, combined with a clearer perception of the
truth, that the Christians of the millermium will
surpass those of every preceding ase.

^ut the apostle's reference is evidently to another
world : his eye was upon heaven, and he was look-
inff at things unseen and eternal, when he said that
" charity never faileth." He was then soaring on
the wing of iaith, and exploring the scenes of eter-
nit)r, among which he saw this celestial plant, sur-
viving the dl^iijc^ution of the universe, outliving
the earthly state of the churchy transplanted to the
paradise of God, and flourishing in the spirits of
just men made perfect near the fountain of light
and love.

To give still greater emphasis to what he says of
its continuance, he contrasts it with some things,
which, however highly valued by the Corinthian
believers, were of a transient duration, and, there«
fore^ of greatly inferior value to this.

" Whetker there be prophecies, they shall faiV* By
prophecies here, we are to understand inspired in-
terpretation of the Scriptures ; all new revelations
from God, by oral or written communication, for
the instruction and edification of the saints. These,
so far from belonging to the heavenly state of the
church, did not survive Its primitive ages. Th^

Digitized by




gift of ittfpirstion was sood withdrawn, the oracle
of prophecy was hashed, and all further re^nmsea
atom heaven wer.e denied.

^^ Whether tkert be iong%eu Huy shdU ceas€.^ This,
of coarse, refers to the miraculous power of speak-
ing any language without previous study. This
rift also ce^ed with the other extraordinary en-
dowments of the primitive ag(K, and bears no rela-
tion to the heavenly world. Whether the commu-
nication of ideas in the celestial state will be car-
ried on by speech, is, at present, unknown to us ; if
it be so, what the language will be is beyond con-

" Wheiker tken be knowledge^ U shall tumuA awayi**
This expression most probably refers to what is
called, in the preceding chapter, "the word of
knowledge ;** and of which the apostle speaks in
the beginning of this chapter—" Though I under-
stand all mysteries, and all knowledge, and have
not love, I am nothing." It means an inspired
knowledge of the types, predictions, and mjrsteries,
of the Old Testament, and of their accoinplishment
by the facts of the Christian economy. This, also,
was among the signs and wonders which were to
Tanish away; which^ having been jmiated as at-
testations to the divine authority of the word of
God, and for the edification of the chnrch, were
discontinued when the canon of Scripture was com-
pleted and settled.

Some extend the apostle's reasoninc^ ao far, as
to include every kind of our present knowledge ;
which, as to its imperfect attainments, and inade-
qpAte mediums, ana present modes of communica-
tiona^ shall be renu^ved, and give place to a more
^asy and perfect method of acauirmg truth, and a
more entire comprehension or its nature and re-

As to the knowledge of the arts of the practical
sciences and of literature, this shall be lost and for-
gotten, as utterly uselm. and as bearing no relation
whatever to the celestial state. Ye master spirits,
ye commanding geniuses, ye lordly minds^ who
exhaust the force of your intellect, and lavish its
treasures upon themes of mere earthly interest-
see here the termination o£ all your labors. Scho-
lars, poets, painters, sculptors, warriors, ye who as-
semble in the temple of tame, amidst the mightiest
productions of human skill, to pay homage to each
other, to receive the admiration of the world, and
10 immortalize your names—giving to your mighty
works the full measure of their value, in reference
to earth and to time — admitting that, in this view,
thev are bright seenes in the history of man ; yet
still, in reference to heaven and its eternity, they
are nothing— less than nothing— and vanity. Not
an angel would turn to ^aze upon the noblest pro-
duction of human imaffmation. nor will a plea be
put in by a single inhabitant of heaven, to exempt
horn the destruction of the last fire the sublimest
specimens of human skill. Myriads of volumes
have been already lost and forgotten; mvriads
more are cm their wav to oblivion ; myriadb still
riiall rise, only to vanish;— and of all the accumu-
lations that sliall have been made by the time of the
Millennium, and which shall have been going on
through the longest and the purest age of reason-
not one shall be saved from the general conflagra-
tion, as worthy to be borne to the heavenly world.
" Knowledge shall vanish away."

But not only shall the knowledge contained in
die scientific, and literary, and imaginative, pro-
ductions of men vanish, together with the volumes
by which it was circulated; but all theological
works— our creeds, our catechisms, our articles of
ftith, oar bodies of divinity, our works of biblical
criticism, our valued, and justly valued, commen-
cariss— our sermons, and our tre ati ses all shall va-

nish. The knowledge we gain from these sources
is not that which vmi attend us to the skies, and be
sofficient for us when we have arrived at the region
of cloudless splendor, the element of wisdom, the
native land, and dwelUn^-place of truth.

The introduction of this idea, by the i^ostle, hm
given occasion for one of the most striking digres-
sions from his tract of thought which he ever made.
His argument onljr required him to state that love
is better than the gift of knowledge, because the lat-
ter shall cease ; but he proceeds to show why it shall
cease, and ascribes its continuance to its imperfec-
tion: he then takes an opportuaitv to draw one of
the most sublime contrasts to be found in the word
of Qod, between oar knowledge in the present world,
and our more pec^t comprehension of truth in the
world that is to come.

And why shall knowledge vanish away 1 because

'< We know in part, and we prophesy in part."

A part only of truth is made known, and, therefore,
a part only is received by us. This may imply tktU
there are vMuwif tkti^s we do lut know ai ail. Who
can doubt this 1 Upon the supposition that we are
perfectly acquainted with all tnat is proper to be
known, all that could be acquired by the aid of rea-
son and the discoveries of revelation, still we shotild
hear a voice, sa3ring to us, " Lo, these are a part of
his wajrs, but the thunder of his porwer who can un-
derstand 1" There are, doubtless, truths of vast
importance and of deep interest, which have never
yet approached, and. m the present world, never
will approach, the bori2on of the human undeiv
standing. There are paths in the region of truth
which the vulture's eve has not sem, and which are
hid from the view of idl living.

When, on his death-bed, the peat Niwrow was
conpattUated upon the discoveries he had made, he
replied, with the modesty usually attendant on vast
attainments, ''I have bieen ohly walking on the
shores of truth, and have, perhaps, picked up a gem
or two, of greater value than others; but the vast
ocean itself lies all before me.** This is strictly cor-
rect in reference to the material universe, to which
the remark was intended to apply. Of natural truth,
the ocean, with its depths, its islands, and the con-
tinents and kingdoms to which it leads, is all before
wt. We have only looked upon the surface, and
seen some of the objects passing upon it : we have
only seen a few land-marks, on one part of one of
its shores; but the infinitude of its ample space,
and the innumerable objects which that space con-
tains, are yet to be explored. And witk respect to
the spirit>ual world, although we possess, in the vo-
lume of inspiration, a revelation or the most sobliias^
important, and interesting objects of knowledge : yot
probably, there are truths of which, after all Uiat di-
vines and philosophers have written, we can form
no more conception, than we can of tne objects of a
sixth sense; or than a blind man can of colors. ** We
know only in part"

It is implied also that what we do know, we know
but imperfectUf, In some cases, our knowledj^ is
uncertainty, and amounts only to opinion ; ftiith is
weak, and mixed with many doobte. We cannot

exultingly exclaim, '* I know ;" we can scarceljr say.
** I believe." The object sometimes presents itseli
to our mind, like the sun seen dimly torough a

—now appearing, and then lost agam, in the density
of the fog. Now a truth comes upcn us, in a thin
and shadowy form ; we think we see it, but it is
again obscured We only see glimmerings. Wo per-
ceive appearances, ratner than demonstrations;
dark onUines, not perfie<» meturea.

And where no doubt ondermiaas the mr i ai miff of
our knowledge, what dark limils bonnd its extenTi

Digitized by




We walk, as through a valley aknt in on each side

Sr lolty mountains, whose tqps are lost amidst the
oodB, whose shadows add to the obscnrity of our
situation, and whose mi^uy masses stand between
OS and the prospect which lies bejond. How im-
perflBct and limited is our knowledge of the great
Qod— of the spirituality of his nature— of his neces-

Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 15 of 121)