網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

there is one.

A scbeme of grace came up from the depth of the infinite resources. In this terrible crisis the Atonement appeared, adumbrated in the promise of the woman's conquering seed, and thus implanted immortal hope in the human heart when condemned and helpless. Still, we instinctively ask, How can this be? We do not know the how, and cannot know it. However, we know the fact, and that it is God's plan and God's doing, and that should suffice. There is a connection between the Atonement and forgiveness, though we see it not. There is connection between the vegitative life and growth of the tree and the precious fruit it bears, though we see it not. The little seed sown germinates, and from it springs the lovely flower. We do not see the connection between the seed and the flower, and cannot explain it; but

We know the fact, and that is enough. And we equally know, on the testimony of God Himself, that there is connection between the Atonement of Christ and salvation from sin and its awful curse. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died. He died for our sins and rose again for our justification.'

The Christian faith is openly and plainly declared a mystery by the pen of inspiration. The Apostle, speaking of the knowledge of Christ as experienced by the saints at Ephesus, said, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of His will. The same Apostle, alluding to his own call to the Gospel ministry and his knowledge in the mystery of Christ, said, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery which, from the beginning of the world, hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.' Paul desired the church at Ephesus to pray that utterance might be given him, and that he might open his mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the Gospel.' And, writing to Timothy respecting those who were engaged as ministers of the Gospel, he speaks of them holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience.' Paul, also refering the Corinthians to his own preaching among them not being with the enticing words of man's wisdom, &c., said, “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, &c., which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.'

The mystery of the faith of God and Christ and of salvation for lost man in God's appointed way is ever to be proclaimed and main

tained, notwithstanding all that bold Infidelity and subtle Scepticism may say and do. Receive the unbeliever's system of faith, and what would be the state of things? Blot out the Christian system, bury the Word of God, treat the Gospel as a huge complicated myth, and annihilate all Christian institutions, and what then? Let lands and peoples testify where the Christian religion is not known. The habitations of cruelty, the darkest superstitions, the foulest ignorance, and the worst of human passions holding unbridled sway bear witness. Christianity is the great conservator of almost all that is ennobling and good where it prevails; and could Christendom be sunk into nothingness to-day, its countries would present ere long one great abyssmal scene of seething evils. The history of the world substantially proves this. Let Christianity cease operation and wait a generation or two till its influence and principles have fallen into disuetude, and the results would be most terrible; for human nature unrestrained, unguided, unenlightened by truth and law from heaven, would not show itself in much better phases, if any better, than in the past. Though a large amount of wrong still abounds in nominally Christian lands, yet who can tell the awful consequences if the restraining and modifying influences of Christianity against evil and its propagating and conservative power for good were withdrawn, and if the whole place it now holds in the world were a total blank?

But the great verities of the Christian faith, though wrapped in mystery, are absolutely certain. The foundation for immortal hope standeth sure.

God has laid it in infinite wisdom, power, and love. His word is firmer than the pillars of heaven. With Him is no variableness, nor shadow of turning. His truth is eternal and immutable. Its mysteries do not invalidate it. The love of God, the uplifted cross, and the glorious plan of salvation must continue to be presented to the world's gaze, that the Divine purposes of mercy and love may be accomplished in the well-being of universal man. Canada.

T. CROMPTON,

XI.—WESLEY & THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.

JOHN WESLEY was an evangelist, one whose great business it was to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation to men.

Viewed in this aspect, it is scarcely possible to overestimate either his character or his labours. But while this was the great work of his life, he interested himself to some extent in secular affairs, both social and political. He had a respectable knowledge of bistory, philosophy, science, politics, and other general subjects. The correctness of his religious teachings and his zeal for God and the purity of his motives are freely acknowledged, but one may dissent from many of his opinions on other subjects, and especially in respect to politics. The balo thrown around him by some of his earlier biographers, though sometimes concealing and sometimes justifying his mistakes, has injured rather than elevated his reputation. Men of the present generation desire to know the man as he was, not as he may be represented by partial biographers. And to be known as he was, is to assure his good name to the end of time.

The American Revolution with its precedent disputes occurred when Wesley was in the maturity of his years. As the differences between the Colonies and the home government caused an intense agitation in England, it was natural that Wesley became interested in them. Early in the struggle it is well known he arrayed himself on the side of the English Government, and attempted to use his influence over his American followers in favour of the government. This was greatly regretted by them at the time, and they have since tried to apologize for it as well as they have been able, but they have always felt that the action was quite indefensible. A recent writer, however, contends that Wesley was in favour of the Americans at the commencement of the conflict, was misled by Johnson so as to write his Calm Address ;' but ere the year closed saw his error, repented of having written the pamphlet, and would have recalled it could he have done so, and during the continuance of the contest remained firm on the American side. Is this a correct view of the case ? Let us look into the matter.

As a preliminary point it may be proper to remark that on the accession of George III. to the throne of England there was a revival of the old contest between royal prerogative and popular rights. The king resolved to increase the royal power. There were men in England who saw the initial steps taken to promote this end, and were prepared

rigidly to oppose them. The contest produced a turmoil in English politics such as had not been seen for a century. As the cabinet, under the instigation of the king, proceeded to grasp more and more authority, the attempt was met at every step by a powerful opposition. It was during this agitation that Wesley wrote the earlier of his political tracts, decidedly in favour of the king. His · Free Thought on Public Affairs, published probably in 1770 (Works vi, 247), and his “Thoughts upon Liberty' (vi, 261), published in 1772, give no uncertain sound. The principles laid down are all in favour of the king, and, with one exception, in vindication of the acts of the government. Had Wesley's principles been carried out, England would have commenced a retrogression towards the arbitrary measures of the Stuarts. His

His Thoughts Concerning the Origin of Power '(vi, 269), are of the same character.

The exception Wesley made in vindicating the acts of the government had reference to America. He said, I do not defend the measures which had been taken with regard to America. I doubt whether any man can defend them, either on the foot of law, equity, or prudence.' This is very strong. We find nothing more in Wesley on the subject till the commencement of hostilities in 1775. In February of that year Parliament voted soldiers and supplies to compel the Colonists to submit to British rule. This act Wesley deprecated. He hated war, especially between England and America. He was afraid the cause of religion would suffer, that the Colonies would be lost to England, and further, that this might lead to the overthrow of the English Government. Hence, he urged upon his friends everywhere to pray that the conflict might be averted.

The elements of strife, however, were not to be checked. The battle of Concord and Lexington was fought on April 19, and the intelligence reached England near the close of the following month. Wesley was in Ireland at this time, and did not receive the intelligence till a week or two later. According to Bancroft, he waited but one day after receiving the news before he wrote his celebrated letter to Lord North, sending a copy to Lord Dartmouth, the Colonial Secretary. In this letter Wesley took the part of the Colonists upon every point. He said, “An oppressed people asked for nothing more than their legal rights, and that in the most modest and inoffensive manner the nature of the thing will allow,' and proceeded to show the impolicy of going to war with them. The letter is remarkable for the foresight evinced in reference to the contest should it continue, and scarcely a word in the prediction need be altered to harmonise it with history. Well would it have been had the Ministers of the Crown heeded the warning.

This, however, the King had determined not to do, and his obsequious Ministers echoed his wishes. George wrote, "All men feel that the fatal compliance of 1766 (the repeal of the Stamp Act) has increased the pretensions of the Americans to absolute independence.' Again he wrote, “The die is cast. The Colonists must either triumph or submit. If we take the resolute part, undoubtedly they will be very meek.' Against such views and resolves on the part of the King, Wesley's letter proved powerless. Still, it shows his opinions at that time. And as late as August in this year, 1875, we find him recommending a pamphlet written in defence of the exclusive right of the Americans to tax themselves.

Thus far Wesley was on the side of the Colonists. Still his position was anomalous. The political party opposed to the King favoured the Americans, the party which sided with the King opposed them. Wesley was on the King's side generally, yet favoured the American cause. Upon this point he was opposed to his own party and acting with the opposite one. He must have felt this, his inconsistency, keenly, and probably was not indisposed to change his views. We know that about this time he withdrew his patronage from Pine, the Bristol printer, because Pine, in a weekly paper, opposed the King and his measures.

He very shortly went further than this. Samuel Johnson published a pamphlet against America, entitled, Taxation no Tyranny. This converted Wesley to the author's views. Let it be distinctly marked that this was a change in Wesley's opinions. He speaks of it as such repeatedly. When reminded of his former statements, he frankly acknowledged them, but said he now thought differently. Johnson's tract had taught him better. Yet it was surprising that a tract so feeble should have convinced such a logician as Wesley. The whole affair seems to show a willingness to be convinced, that he might again fall into line with his party.

Johnson's pamphlet, written in his high-flown style, was not adapted to the popular mind. Wesley immediately wrote a tract presenting Johnson's arguments, or fallacies, in his own every-day, nervous style, and without any intimation that for its substance he was indebted to Johnson. This tract he designed for circulation in America, hence entitled it “ A Calm Address to the American Colonies,' and evidently with the hope that it might induce the Americans to return to their allegiance. Before, however, he could send it, he learned that the ports were closed by the Colonists, hence the tract could not reach them. Its sale in England, however, was immense. Wesley speaks of a

« 上一頁繼續 »