Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

more

only to call out three words to yonder crowd, and you are a dead man."

" And Edward is a dead man too. Remember that."

“ I do. If he stood beside me here, his own lips would say, better die a thousand times than be false to the Prince."

“Whom you put in the place of God. So God has judged him, and given him over to his enemies."

« That He has not. "After death, no that they can do!' Neither to the Prince, nor to Edward.”

“ You will repent this frenzy one day. Enough, I will not stoop to protestations or entreaties. If it please you to sacrifice two lives, one of which ought to be dear to you, I will not hinder you. A man

can die but once.” He folded his arms and took his stand beside her in the window,

“ CERTAIN 'MID ALL UNCERTAINTIES."

“In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”—Isa. xxx. 15.

THI

[ocr errors]

HE sweet persuasiveness of these words is in

striking contrast to the tone of those which

immediately precede and follow them. For the prophet is full of righteous indignation; his spirit is all on fire. The people about him have disregarded his warnings, set at nought his counsels, and entered upon a policy which can only end in disappointment and in ruin. With eloquent scorn Isaiah denounces their conduct, exposes their folly, and tells them of the shame which must ensue. Yet, blended with all this, there is a gracious setting forth of the mercy and patience of God.

The occasion of the prophetic utterance was the endeavour, on the part of the rulers of Judah, to conclude an alliance with Egypt for the purposes of mutual defence against the invasion of Assyria. Against this alliance Isaiah fought with all his might. He knew that it was worse than useless to depend on Egypt. “She helpeth in vain," he cried, " and to no purpose.” In words of pungent satire he adds: “ Therefore have I called her Rahab that sitteth still ” (R.v.). It was a nickname for Egypt, on account of her big promises-Rahab (blusterer), one who brags of what she will do, but who, when the time comes for action, simply stays at home and sits still. Scornful, however, as is Isaiah's language in condemnation of the politics of Judah's rulers, what grieves him most is, that this policy is no mere mistake-its source lay in the irreligion of the people. They took counsel, but not of God; they wanted smooth things spoken unto them, whether true or not; they said, “We are tired of hearing about this Holy One of Israel ; cause Him to cease from before us." But their ungodly impatience only made the prophet the more urgent in his message. His reply is, that this iniquity of theirs is to cause terrible results-like a bulging wall it is suddenly to break down; it is to issue in a national calamity.

“ For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved ; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength ; and ye would not. But ye said, “No ; for we will flee upon horses'; '

' therefore shall we flee : and, “We will ride upon the swift'; therefore shall they that pursue you

be swift. One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one ; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee : till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on a hill.” Yet, amidst all the desolation which must follow, they shall not be utterly forsaken ; a remnant shall be preserved. “And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you : for the Lord is a God of judgment; blessed are all they that wait for Him."

The words which forin the subject of this paper have a deep significance for the age in which we live. They recall us, as it were, to the very camp of God. We are reminded of the abode of safety and source of strengthế" the secret place of the Most High," "under the shadow of the Almighty." We are warned of our instant and imminent danger if we allow ourselves to be drawn away from it by the specious promises of what will only prove to be some hollow Egyptian refuge.

It is not implied that the Christian Church is in danger of forsaking or forgetting her God. Surely all who can say, “We know whom we have believed,” will add also, “ We are persuaded that in Him is all good, and that He will keep what we have committed unto Him against that day.” Yet no one will deny that amidst the complexity and unsettlement of modern life, in all its phases-social, political, intellectual, religious -questions and problems are constantly arising, to which precise answers and solutions cannot at present be given. Many are wondering in dismay what the meaning of all this unrest is, and what the issues will be, and they speak in the language, not of faith, but of fear.

For our encouragement, however, whilst rightly endeavouring to learn all that we may, we must ever remember that truth-the full, accurate knowledge of what is—can never be in antagonism to Him who said, “I am the Truth,” or out of harmony with the teaching He has given us. We may find, at times, truths running on almost parallel lines ; the point where they meet and become indivisible will be beyond the limits of our vision.

But this should not betray us into mistrust; we must quietly accept the inevitable

[ocr errors]

yoke of incomplete knowledge, until we are taken to where we shall know even as also we are known.

His rule and guidance, as One who is now working in our midst. With Browning, we need to ask, “Is not God still in the world His power first made?” “When,” says Dr. S. A. Smith, " He know that God reigns, how quiet and free it makes us ! When things and men are part of His scheme, and working out His ends, when we understand that they are not monsters but ministers, how reasonably we can look at them!" A restful, abiding confidence in God should and will make us

“ Cheerful and brave and strong and free,

Calm as a rock, 'mid striving seas;
Certain 'mid all uncertainties."

I. We ought, then, to take to heart the counsel and assurance that “in returning and rest we shall be saved." Our safety-our salvationdepends, not on being able to solve this problem or that, not on rushing hither and thither in wild excitement, only to find that supposed refuges are shadows, our trust in which becomes confusion, but in getting closer to Him who is the Lord and Ruler of our lives. Surely a downright earnest, practical belief in God is what is sadly wanted by very many of us to-day. A belief that, not simply does He rule the universe, sitting upon His throne “high and lifted up,” but that here in our very midst He is present with us, caring, with a Father's care, about all that concerns us, and really directing the steps of those who commit their way unto Him. This was the secret of Isaiah's strength and calmness amidst all the unrest of his time.

Kings and rulers became panic-stricken in the presence of danger. When Ahaz heard that the kings of Syria and Israel had conspired against him he was utterly paralysed with fear. “ His heart," says the prophet, was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the forest are moved with the wind.” But Isaiah was full of hopeful confidence and courage.

He said to the king, 6. Be not afraid of these men. What are they? Two tails of smoking firebrands ! What harm can they do you? Have faith in God; for if ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.” Here, again, in the chapter before us, he is endeavouring to lead Hezekiah and his people into the same lofty faith.

And unless we believe to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living - what then? There will inevitably be faintness of heart, a moral cowardice that is begotten of mistrust and fear. When we come to think of it, how wonderful was the faith of these Old Testament saints ! How the Psalms—those earliest hymns of the people of God-breathe throughout the atmosphere of trust and hope. Sorrow, fear, persecution, the apparent prosperity of the wicked-all these things, and many more, were known to the writers of the Psalms, and yet how they could rejoice! “Put thou my tears in thy bottle," cried one, in the depth of his emotion; and then the next moment exulting in the consciousness that they were already there, with the next stroke of his pen he added, “ Are they not in thy book? This I know, that God is for me. In Him have I put my trust. I will not be afraid. What can man do unto me?Is not this what we all need? A returning from our own selfchosen paths, a resting from self-confident efforts, and an abiding, unflinching, vigorous faith that God is ours and we are His—a belief, not only that He is, but that He is a rewarder of them that seek after Him.

Do we not need to realise God more? We have not banished, and shall not banish, God from our creed, but we need to think of Him more as One who has the hearts of men under

We of to-day can look backward upon

Isaiah's words. We can read into them all the meaning that the New Testament adds to the Old. To us Christ has come. God has spoken unto us in His Son, and the message is one of infinite kindness and love. Through Christ we are admitted into closest fellowship with God. It is He who says,

“Ye believe in God, believe also in Me; let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” “I remember,” says Dr. Maclaren, "once standing by the side of a little Highland loch, on a calm autumn day, when all the winds were still, and every birch tree stood unmoved, and every twig reflected on the steadfast mirror into the depths of which Heaven's own blue seemed to have found its

way.

That is what our hearts may be if we let Christ put His guarding hand round them to keep the storms away, and have Him within us for our rest." Keeping close to Christ, then, we shall be safe from all Assyrian forces, however powerful and menacing they may be. “In returning and read shall

ye

be saved.”

II. “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” What Isaiah wanted the people to understand was that when their hearts had returned to God, and their faith had found its centre in Him, they would have discovered their true source of strength, He says, in effect, ** In God is all you need; by Him you shall be kept

. Your strength depends neither on cleverness, nor in intriguing with this nation or that, but in reliance on the Lord your God. Your engrossing anxiety and your bustling activity are of no avail

. Give all this up. Though you may be conscious of much self-weakness, have confidence in your covenant God, and leave the issues to Him.”

The message is as timely as ever. us still to test Him.

Let us learn again from Isaiah. One of his leading ideas is, that God is possessed of, and works by, a spirit of intelligence and wisdom. He says here, “The Lord is a God of judgment ; blessed are all they that wait for Him." Many a reader must have missed the meaning of these words. "Judgment" is not to be taken in its familiar sense. Smith says, a sudden deed of doom, but a long process of law,

“It means manner, method, design, order, systein-the ideas, in short, which

sum up under the word law." Just as

God invites

It is not, as Dr.

we

man

and thirst for gold ; to the lonely thinker there comes doubt, in all its grim forms, and to all, the struggles of the flesh with the spirit. But let us not be dismayed. Not in anarchism, or dishonesty, or recreancy to right principle, or surrender of faith and hope, shall we find escape or safety, but in a closer fellowship with the Divine and Holy One, and the quickened and fuller life which He will impart to us. “Oh, how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast

laid up for them that fear Thee, Which Thou hast wrought for them that put their

trust in Thee, before the sons of men! In the covert of Thy presence shalt Thou hide them

from the plottings of man : Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the

strife of tongues.” If, on

our part, there be this “fear” and trust," then will the Lord direct our hearts “ into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.”

ERNEST E. ORMISTON.

a

we say of a man, He is a man of judgment, and mean thereby, not that by office he is a doomster, but that by character he is a of discernment and prudence, so simply does Isaiah mean that God is not one whose habit is sudden and awful deeds of penalty or salvation, but on the contrary, that, having laid down His lines according to righteousness, and established His laws in wisdom, He remains in His dealings with men consistent with these.

When we apprehend God in this way, surely we cannot help resting in Him?

The counsel of the prophet has nothing in it of the elements of fatalism. We are not bidden blindly and senselessly to bow before the will of an arbitrary despot; we are not asked to surrender the rights which belong to our own personality. It is an inviiation to us to consider our ways, and bring our conduct into harmony with God's “reasonable plan.”

Here, again, we have the revelation of Christ to fall back upon. It is easier, and not more difficult, for us to believe in this Anno Domini than in the ages before Christ. We can trace the unfolding of His purposes, the manifold applications of His redemptive work, through all the centuries. In a very real sense His revelation is not yet complete. “It hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive” what God will do. It is in vain that men tell us Christianity is effete ; for we know, and are assured, that the resources of Jesus Christ are not exhausted, and that what the individual heart needs, and what the world's heart needs, is to be found in Him.

"A sovereign balm for every wound,

All, all we want is Thee." Writing to a friend, Charles Kingsley said: "An atheist I never was, but in my early life I wandered through many doubts and vain attempts to explain to myself the riddle of life and this world, till I found that no explanation was so complete as the one which one had learnt at one's mother's knee. Complete, nothing can be said to be on this side of the grave, of which Paul said he saw through a glass darkly, but complete enough to give comfort to the weary hearts of my poor labouring folk, and to mine also, which is weary enough at times.” So men of all temperaments, in all ages, have found that in this way, and this way only, can rest and peace and assurance be obtained.

In our personal and collective experience there is much that baffles comprehension, and we have to remind ourselves that we are not omniscient, and that a monɔpoly of wisdom is not our inheritance. When reason and skill fail, the heart can speak the language of faith, and an answer comes which assures us we are not deceived.

So across the centuries the old message of the prophet comes to us, and amid all the change and upheaval of our day bids us not lose heart, nor be beguiled by seductive Egyptian voices. Assyrian forces press on us still on every hand. To the lowly worker there are social wrongs and disabilities under which he has groaned long and wearily; to the business man there are the temptations which arise from the keenness of competition

<6

SO

PARDON DAY IN BRITTANY. MR.

R. RAINEY las pictured on another page “Pardon

Day in Brittany,” as he saw it towards evening.

Mr. E. H. Barker, in his interesting volume, “Wayfarers in France,” describes a Pardon Day as he witnessed it at Locronan, where people from all parts assemble:

“On each side of the road was a long line of little tents, in front of which were men and boys, ringing bells to attract attention. Inside each tent, upon a table covered with a white cloth, stood the image of a saint. There were St. Anne, St. Peter, St. Joseph-saints whose names are in the calendar, and others that are unknown out of Brittany. Some of them were painfully odd-looking specimens of wood-carving. They all belonged to the church, where they had been accumulating century after century, and were now brought out for their annual airing. Each image had a plate in front of it, to receive the sous of the passers-by, and the bell-ringers solicited in the names of St. Anne, St. Joseph, and so on. ... The church itself was crowded that it was with difficulty I could get standingplace. Two or three hours later the procession started from the church to make the circuit of the hill, like the oxen that carried St. Ronan's body. . . . A shrine containing the relics of St. Ronan was greeted with a religious murmur from the crowd, as it issued from the sombre porch and the broad sunlight of the July afternoon blazed upon its gilt. There was also St. Ronan's bell, which looked more like a battered old copper pot than a bell; but it was an object of peculiar veneration with the pilgrims. Fleecy clouds of incense arose, and Breten hymns were sung by hundreds of voices. The general crowd of pilgrims formed the tail of the procession, and it was a very long one. The strangest part of the spectacle, to me, was the old men of Cornouaille stalking along in their astonishing trunk hose, bareheaded, with their white hair falling upon their shoulders, saying their prayers by their rosaries, a religious fervour expressed so absorbingly in their faces, that they seemed to be walking in a trance."

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

а.

is feeding now on the bread of life. Very frequently when one meets inquirers or Christians, and asks how they first heard, one learns that it was at some such place, and that the word spoken sank in, and eagerly they came back, to learn more of the wonderful truth. Yet often, at the time, the word is as bread upon the waters, and the preacher himself may then see only a part of the result.

Frequently we come upon instances of men who have been thus influenced. In a country journey once I got out of my jinriksha to walk up a hill, and began talking to the man who, had been drawing me. He at once said he had heard a good deal of what I was speaking for he had often been at preaching places, and did believe on our God, but he was rather confused with the many things he had beard.

“ Will you tell me,” he said, “shortly and clearly, what are the chief things you believe ?” So, as simply as I could, I told him, and after speaking of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, I said, And now we are waiting for Him to come again.”

Oh,” he replied, “I should think that is the best of all. How grand it will be when He comes again!” I was much struck by this man, belonging to the despised coolie class, and still very ignorant, grasping something of the grandeur of this truth.

This preaching is the commonest mode of aggressive mission work, and is carried on with energy by all churches, and in town and country alike. The native workers, whether experienced pastors or young recruits, take part in this. In Hakodate the Church army has been introduced with considerable success, and several young men give ten minute addresses in succession, interspersed with hymn singing. A capital thing it is to train the young Japanese speaker to be short, and to the point, for marvellous is the usual flow of language, and discursiveness the common rule of speaking

The Japanese, however, are not only good talkers, but good listeners, and would not feel that they had been fairly treated without a sermon considerably longer than would, as a rule, be welcomed in England. I have been at a service at which we had three addresses of nearly sixty, of thirty-five, and of forty minutes respectively, in close succession, and the congregation went home well satisfied with their repast.

In the country villages, and in many towns too, the very presence of a foreigner is sufficient quickly to attract a crowd, and many are the opportunities thus presented for sowing the seed. At one such gathering I was behind the crowd, and it was amusing to hear the personal remarks passed upon the speaker at first. Listen, he talks language.” “ Beef-eating seems to suit him. How tall he is !” And then the talk died down, as they became interested in his message, and only wanted to hear it.

Travelling presents infinite opportunities. We are proceeding by a coasting steamer. Yes, a steamboat of modern build, but adapted to Japanese, not to European requirements. We go into the little first-class cabin, and are thankful for once that we are not tall, and can just stand

upright in it, most of our fellow-countrymen having to stoop considerably. All round runs what looks like a seat, and we proceed to use it as such. But no, that is meant for luggage, and the passengers sit on the floor. We sit down amongst them, for “In Japan, do as the Japanese do,” is a good rule, as far as it can be carried out. The cabin is warranted to hold twenty, i.e. there is just room for twenty people to lie on the floor side by side, close together. Happily the number is not quite made up, but the mixed company smoking and

, talking round the little charcoal braziers is a goodly one. We begin talking to a woman near us, and soon her husband joins in, then others, and we have an opportunity of letting them all hear of the Saviour who came for them as well as for us.

Talk often goes on to far into the night, interspersed with tea drinking, and then the company roll themselves each in a blanket, and settle down to sleep.

Railway travelling of course does not give quite the same opportunities, but many a talk one gets, and we are helped by the fact that the people expect us to speak to them. When, for instance, a tract is offered to one's right hand neighbour, hands from other parts of the carriage are eagerly stretched out for more. The Japanese are reading and a thinking nation, and one constantly comes across cases where the books thus given have been means of blessing.

Then in walks through the fields and along country roads opportunities for conversation, either to individuals or little groups, are boundless; and when we are resting at a tea-house or spending the night at a native inn, especially when out of the ordinary traveller's path, crowds quickly gather to see, and stay to listen.

A word as to the Christian literature touched on just now. Amongst an educated race, such as the Japanese, its importance is, of course, very great. As “ The Bible in Japan ” has lately been fully treated of in these pages, I will say no more of it but that the value of the work of the Bible Society, in translation and distribution of the Scriptures, is indeed incalculable. Besides this, the American and English Bible Societies, now united in their work, have been the producers and publishers of a very large number of commentaries, tracts, biographies and devotional books, without which mission work could hardly be carried on. But with all that has been accomplished, very much remains yet to be done, and perhaps one of the greatest needs, just now, is that some one of linguistic ability should be able to devote himself specially to the translation and preparation of such books as may help the Christians in their spiritual life. A comparatively new feature in Japanese literature is the number of magazines started by Christian bodies. One or two of these are very widely circulated, whilst others again are intended for one congregation or

trict only.

Within the last few years not a few Buddhist priests have come out into the light, and this mainly by the private study of the Bible in their monasteries. It is said that there is scarcely a monastery in Japan now without its Bible, care

а

our

« PredošláPokračovať »