Page images

how you intend to employ your money, if you shall become rich? Is it your intention to spend it upon yourself, or upon others? Is it that you may have it in your power to provide necessary food and decent raiment for your household? or that you may purchase for yourself the luxurious enjoyments and vain pleasures of the world? If God should give you power to get wealth, would you honour him with your substance? would you be ready to say, with Jacob of old, "Of all which thou givest me, I will give unto thee the tenth?" Would you delight in almsgiving and charity? would you remember the heathen, and share your silver and your gold with the poor missionary, who carries the Gospel of grace to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death? Would you honour the house of God in your native land, and count it both a duty and a pleasure to adorn the place where he hath set his name? And would you, in your prosperity, cast your tribute in the treasury, that in desolate and destitute places a new sanctuary might be built, where the poor and needy might worship God "without money and without price?" Let a man thus search his heart, and prove his inward motives, and he will readily discover whether his diligence is the diligence of Joseph, or the covetousness of that fool who said to his soul, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry;" whereas God was on the eve of saying to him, "This night shall thy soul be required of thee."

But I remarked, that in spiritual things as well as in temporal, every man has something which may be improved by diligence, or ruined by sloth. A man's heart may be called his garden or his vineyard; and there is as great a difference between one man's heart and another's, as there is between one man's garden and another's-between the field of the sluggard and the field of the diligent husbandman. And suffer me to remind you, that it is of infinitely greater consequence to cultivate the garden of the heart than any earthly heritage. Whatever becomes of your field, at least "keep thine heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."

Have you never beheld a man whose heart was a neglected wilderness? Have you never seen one whose passions had run wild, whose tempers, whose dispositions, whose will, judgment, and affections, were ungovernable, unmanageable, alike useless and pernicious to himself and others? Hear the description of a ruined and neglected heart, as given by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, in St. Mark, vii. 21: "From within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness." Is not this worse than the field of the sluggard? Is it not more shameful than the vineyard of the man void of understanding? Surely the weeds which grow in such a heart are more hateful than nettles, more dangerous than thorns and briars! What good can be expected from such a character ? "Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?" Even so, such hearts as these-and, alas! how common and how numerous they are!-can yield nothing but guilt and misery, till such time as the great Husbandman is pleased to put forth his power and grace to root up sin, and to cast in the good seed of eternal life.

plainly warned us, that he will take account of his servants. To every one of us he has intrusted something which we are bound to improve for his glory; some talent which at our peril we may not neglect. Let every man, then, consider his own heart as a garden, which it is his duty to cultivate for the use and pleasure of Christ. And let not your heavenly Master come year after year seeking fruit and finding none. Be ye not unfruitful towards God. Ye know the doom of the barren tree-" Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" And in the epistle to the Hebrews, vi. 7, 8, you may see the doom of the unfruitful garden, as well as the blessing of the profitable one: "The earth, which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, whose end is to be burned."

In conclusion, I would say in the words of St. Paul, "Judge yourselves, that ye be not judged of the Lord." Every thing around us is fitted to yield instruction to a thoughtful and serious mind; and when we consider how short and uncertain life is, and how surely "the hour of death and the day of judgment" are coming upon us, it will become us all, young and old, rich and poor, to prepare for that account of our talents which we must soon render up at the judgment-seat of Christ. We have all a Master in heaven, who has very


JOSEPH BUTLER, D.C.L., LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM. THE Commencement of the last century must be regarded as presenting in our country an aspect very far from favourable to the advancement of Christianity. The zeal of puritan times, unquestionably not always "according to knowledge," had waxed cold a species of lethargy seemed to have crept over the Church, notwithstanding the vehemence of a Sacheverel. Infidelity had insinuated itself into the minds of many who outwardly professed to be believers; and the whole aspect of the times was such as could not but excite the deepest anxiety in the Christian mind. Many of the opponents of the truth were men of talent; and the insinuating mode of their writings, and the plausible arguments which they adduced, were all calculated to undermine an adherence to the truth as it is in Jesus. It pleased God, however, to raise up men eminently qualified, by their strength of mind and profound erudition, to stem the course of the pestilential currentmen fully able to sift to the bottom the sophistry of the deist, and to set forth the shallowness of the would-be philosopher: and of these, none occupied a higher place than the subject of the present memoir. "The Analogy of Religion, natural and revealed," has stamped the name of Joseph Butler with the impress of perpetual fame; and while this great work remains, a ready answer is prepared for the gainsayer.

"The German Reformation," says Dr. Croly, “revived the learning of the Scriptures. Rome was still the prominent adversary; but she had changed the ground of her title: she no longer reposed upon the mere arrogant assumption of power, nor attempted to silence all question by the sword. Her orb was falling into the wane; it could now no more scorch than enlighten. She now grounded her claims upon antiquity, the promise of miracles, and the deposit of ecclesiastical supremacy in the hands of St. Peter. To break through those barriers, the rustic hands of the Italian reformers would have been inadequate : learning, vigorous research, and practised intellectual activity, were the true means; and a race of scholars suddenly raised their heads in Europe, the vastness, variety, and perseverance of whose learned toil, still rank among the wonders of the human mind.


"Another age brought the struggle into our own country. A new enemy was now to be encountered, in the infidelity of France. . . . The dissolute manners of a French court, transferred to our country, at once enervated the national habits, corrupted the national mind, and repelled the national religion. Infidelity

• See Memoir of Bishop Butler, by Dr. Croly, appended to the edition of the Analogy in the Sacred Classics, edited by the Revs. R. Cattermole and H. Stebbing. London, Hatchards.

always shuns a direct collision with Scripture; and the force of the tempter was developed in leading the national understanding into metaphysical mysteries, obscure inquiries into the origin of things, and arrogant presumptions of the designs of Providence. The direct doctrines and plain facts of revelation were thus equally avoided; and the controversy was absorbed in inquiries into fore-knowledge, free-will, and fate-those exciting, yet bewildering subjects, which the great poet of England not unsuitably assigns for the endless and melancholy employment of fallen angels. But in this crisis, the manlier virtue of the country nobly vindicated itself by the genius of its Church. Stillingfleet, Conybeare, Cumberland, and a crowd of divines, whose learning had not blunted their original sagacity, nor their sagacity had been too fastidious for the labour of learning, stood forward to clear religion of the clouds raised by the malice of infidelity, to convict the deist out of his own lips, and to reinstate the national faith on the foundations of the Bible. Among those highly-gifted men, the foremost in force of understanding, the most fortunate in immediate and acknowledged victory, and the most permanently useful in laying down principles applicable in every future age to the great system of the divine dealings with man, was the author of the volume of the Analogy."

Of Bishop Butler, it is to be regretted, that, comparatively speaking, little is left on record. By a codicil to his will, he expressly required that his papers should be burned without being read. How great must have been the loss to religion by obedience to this requirement, it is not easy to determine; but judging from what he did publish, it may be regarded as almost irreparable; for "of all the uninspired authors," it has been well observed, "whose writings tend to clear up difficulties, to enlarge, and illuminate, and steady the mind, we know of none to be compared with Butler. That which doth make manifest is light;' and truly the manifestation that is made of the moral constitution of our nature, in his wonderful sermons on the subject, is as though the clear shining of a candle' gave us light. In nothing, perhaps, is the value of Butler's profound researches more evident than in the manner in which they thus serve to shew the wisdom, the fitness, and the excellence of the salvation provided for us in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ."

[ocr errors]

Joseph Butler was born at Wantage, in Berkshire. His father, "a substantial and respectable woollendraper," was a Presbyterian; and it was his design to educate this son, his eighth child, as a minister of that communion. Joseph was first sent to the grammar-school of his native place, then under the tuition of the Rev. Philip Barton, a clergyman of the established Church, where his talents and assiduity gained him his master's regard. When nearly twenty, he entered a dissenting academy at Gloucester, which was afterwards removed to Tewkesbury; and of his fellowstudents, not a few distinguished themselves in afterlife. Among these were Archbishop Secker, and John Bowes, afterwards Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and created a peer as Lord Bowes of Clonlyon.

It was while at this academy that the vast powers of Butler's mind began more fully to be developed. Dr. Samuel Clarke's work on an "a priori Demonstration of the Divine Existence and Attributes," became the subject of an anonymous correspondence between the author and the young student. Butler's modesty would not permit him to acknowledge that he was the writer of the letters, which were conveyed privately to the post-office at Gloucester, and answers brought back by Secker. Dr. Clarke, however, subsequently learned the name of his correspondent, and suffered

See review in the "Christian Examiner," March 1839, of Memoirs of the Life, Character, and Writings of Joseph Butler, D.C.L., by Thomas Bartlett, A.M. London, J. W. Parker, 1839.

the correspondence itself to be appended to subsequent editions of his work.

Butler soon after this left the academy. "His mind had been exercised for some time on the subject of conforming to the established Church, and was at length made up on the duty of doing so. His father, and his father's Presbyterian friends, reasoned with him on the subject, but without being able to alter his determination. His design of becoming a dissenting minister being abandoned, he seems to have determined at once to seek admission into the ministry of the Church of England; and he entered as a commoner of Oriel College, Oxford, on the 17th of March, 1714. It would seem as if scruples about the nonconformist ministry had spread among the pupils at Tewkesbury; for Secker, being unable to make up his mind on the subject, left the academy, and commenced the study of medicine in London. Scott* removed at the same time to Utrecht; and Bowes applied himself to the study of the law, and conformed." It is important to bear in mind, that Mr. Butler's conformity must have been the result of rational conviction, and that in the mind of one peculiarly well qualified to form a proper estimate as to the true position of churchmanship and dissent. The habits of early years, the prejudices of early education, the anxious desire of those most dear to him, to whose suggestions he was bound to pay deference, and whose opinions must have swayed with him not a little, were all marshalled in favour of his exercising his ministry among dissenters; but his mighty mind was enabled fully to enter into the merits of the subject, and rational conviction led him to the established Church. And let it be borne in mind, that no worldly motive could possibly have actuated him to adopt this line of proceeding; no prospect of advancement, or attainment of high preferment. The son of a tradesman, a conscientious, still a confirmed, dissenter; himself the member of a dissenting academy,-what possible prospect had he, that he should fill any other than the humblest office in the ministry of the church-the humblest, not of course as far as usefulness, but as emolument, was concerned? and yet, on weighing the matter, he found he had no alternative. The evils of non-conformity he doubtless saw in all their length and breadth, their height and depth; and assuredly those evils are not diminished to the present day. It were well if many who rail at the established Church, and whose minds unquestionably are not precisely of the same grasp as that of Bishop Butler, would seriously consider whether the circumstance of his conformity should not induce them seriously, prayerfully, and humbly, and not politically, to view the important question of churchmanship and dissent. "No stigma of worldliness," observes Dr. Croly, "can attach to the conduct of the young inquirer on this occasion. The Church of England could offer but few hopes to an obscure youth; certainly none equal to balance the difficulties occasioned by the resistance of his family, the disappointment of his father's views, and the general bitterness of a period when party mingled strongly with religious opinion, and the convert to reason incurred the almost inevitable fate of being denounced as a traitor to principle; the connexions which so rapidly raised him were yet unformed; and when he at length entered himself of Oriel College in 1714, he probably looked forward to a life of privation, solaced only by the feeling that he had acted according to his conscience."

When Butler entered at Oriel, Edward Talbot, son of the Bishop of Oxford, was fellow of the college;

The son of a merchant in London, went to Utrecht, and took the degree of LL.D. He became a Baptist, but did not enter the ministry, and we believe adopted Socinian sentiments. See review of Bartlett's Memoirs of Bishop Butler, in the "Christian Examiner" for March 1839, to which the writer is indebted for much information.

and a mutual friendship was formed between them. The following year, however, Mr. Talbot married, and subsequently became archdeacon of Berks, and rector of East Hendred, near Wantage. "Butler, it would seem, left the university before he took his degree, was admitted into holy orders, and occasionally assisted his friend in performing the duties of his parish during the spring, summer, and autumn of 1717. His autograph is to be seen in the register of several baptisms and burials in the books of that parish. In the year following he was settled in London, being appointed preacher at the Rolls, on the joint nomination of Archdeacon Talbot and Dr. Clarke."

In 1722, Dr. Talbot, then advanced to the see of Durham, presented Mr. Butler to the rectory of Haughton-le-Skerne; and afterwards, in 1725, to the valuable rectory of Stanhope, in Weardale. Having resigned his preachership at the Rolls, the year following that in which bis "Fifteen Sermons" were published, he now devoted himself to the pursuit of those duties by which he afterwards gained so great a name. He remained in the retirement of Stanhope for seven years; his time being spent on his "Analogy," and the performance of his parochial duties. His temperament, to use the language of Dr. Croly, "must have been always studious and speculative: it is incidentally described as tending to melancholy; and his letters to his friends give a strong impression that he regretted the loss of his earlier intercourse with the world, even as a refreshment of the mind." The following letter from Dr. Philpotts, bishop of Exeter, rector of Stanhope at the period of his elevation to the episcopate, will be read with much interest, as bearing on the subject before us. It is addressed to Dr. Goddard, archdeacon of Lincoln, and dated Exeter, Jan. 25, 1835:"I earnestly wish I could justify the report made to you by the Provost of Oriel, that I could supply you with several anecdotes of Bishop Butler. The truth, however, is, that although tantalised by seeming opportunities of acquiring some information respecting the private life and habits of one to whom I have been accustomed to look up as the greatest of uninspired men, I have been mortified by my almost entire failure. In the rectory of Stanhope I was successor to him after an interval of eighty years; and one of my earliest employments there was, to search for reliques of my illustrious predecessor. I was assured, that an old parishioner, who, with a tolerably clear memory, had reached the age of ninety-three or ninety-four, recollected him well. To him I frequently went, and in almost all my conversations endeavoured to elicit something respecting 'Rector Butler.' He remembered him well; but, as I ought perhaps to have anticipated, could tell me nothing: for what chance was there, that one who was a joiner's apprentice, of 13 years of age, when Butler left Stanhope, could, fourscore years afterwards, tell any thing about him? That he was respected and beloved by his parishioners, which was known before, was confirmed by my inform


He lived very retired, was very kind, and could not resist the importunities of common beggars, who, knowing his infirmity, pursued him so earnestly, as sometimes to drive him back into his house, as his only escape. I confess I do not think my authority for this trait of character in Butler is quite sufficient to justify my reporting it with any confidence. There was, moreover, a tradition of his riding a black pony, and riding always very fast. I examined the parish-books, not with much hope of discovering any thing worth recording of him, and was unhappily as unsuccessful as I expected. His name, indeed, was subscribed to one or two acts of vestry, in a very neat and easy character; but if it was amusing, it was mortifying to find the only trace of such a man's labours recorded by his own hand, to be the passing of a parish account, authorising the payment of a few shillings to some adventurous clown who had destroyed a 'foumart,' or

wood-marten, the marten-cat, or some other equally important matter."

While Mr. Butler was resident in the retirement of Stanhope, Secker was advancing rapidly in court-preferment, and, to his credit, did not forget his old friend. He was anxious, if possible, to bring him to town; and with this view even ventured to speak to the queen, whose chaplain he was, on the subject. The queen seems not to have been offended with the application made to her; and at Secker's request, Butler was appointed by the lord chancellor one of his chaplains. This entitled him to non-residence on his living; but he conscientiously stipulated that he should reside six months in the year at Stanhope. His elevation rapidly followed he was appointed by the chancellor to a stall at Rochester; and in 1736, by the queen, clerk of the closet; and was now required by her majesty to be in attendance every evening, from seven to nine, for conversation. In the same year he finished "The Analogy." The queen died soon afterwards; but Mr. Butler was presented to the bishopric of Bristol in 1738, and to the deanery of St. Paul's in 1740. He now resigned Stanhope. He was appointed clerk of the closet to the king in 1746, and bishop of Durham in 1750.

[ocr errors]


His first charge to the clergy of Durham was the cause of no little aspersion being thrown on Bishop Butler's character as a theologian and soundness as a Protestant. "Adverting strongly," says Dr. Croly, "to the general decay of manners, he advised his clergy to do their duty towards reviving a practical sense of religion among the people committed to their care;' and for this purpose to instruct them in the use of external religion, namely, the use of external and visible means of promoting virtue. 'Thus,' as the bishop observed in his charge, if the sight of a church should remind the spectators of some pious sentiment; if, from glancing at this building dedicated to God, he should be led to think of his body as the temple of the Holy Spirit; and therefore, as he knew the indecency and offence of profaning the edifice before his eyes, he should reflect on the guilt of suffering his own body to be the vehicle of impure, cruel, or irreverent thoughts,'-could it be conceived that this sentiment was superstitious, or that it was not a right and Christian use of emblems?" These remarks were the subject of attack. A pamphlet appeared containing severe strictures on the opinions advocated by the bishop, under the title of "A serious Enquiry into the use and importance of External Religion, occasioned by some passages in the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Durham's charge to the Clergy of his Diocese." Fifteen years afterwards, it was asserted, in an anonymous publication, that he was in heart a papist; and that he had died in full communion with the church of Rome. A more unwarranted charge it was impossible to have brought. It was chiefly founded on his love of ascetic habits; his study of some papistical authors; and his putting up a marble cross in the palace chapel of Bristol. Secker regretted deeply this last-mentioned circumstance, for he felt it might be turned against the bishop, as in fact it was. the act arose from a mere feeling of the infinite value of the sacrifice of the death of the Lord Jesus. It is, however, well to remark, that there is some danger of such emblems being regarded with superstitious reverence. The erection of a cross is a matter of comparatively little moment, as far as the erection itself is concerned; but it is of much moment, if it leads, as it has done in the Roman Catholic Church, to a feeling little, if at all, removed from downright idolatry.


What Bishop Butler's views, however, were of the true character of the Romish Church, are clearly set forth in his sermon before the house of Lords, June 14th, 1747, on the day of the king's accession. He there maintains, that "the value of our religious establishment ought to be very much heightened in our

esteem, by considering from what it is a security: I mean, that great corruption of Christianity-popery, which is ever hard at work to bring us under its yoke. Whoever will consider the popish claims to the disposal of the whole earth as of Divine right; to dispense with the most sacred engagements; the claims to supreme, absolute authority in religion; in short, the general claims which the canonists express by the words plenitude of power; whoever, I say, will consider popery as it is professed at Rome, may see that it is a manifest and open usurpation of all human and Divine authority. Yet, even in those Roman Catholic countries where those monstrous claims are not admitted, and the civil power does, in many respects, restrain the papal, persecution is professed, as it is absolutely enjoined, by what is acknowledged to be their highest authority-a general council so called, with the pope at the head of it; and is practised in all of them, I think, without exception, where it can be done safely. And thus corruptions of the grossest sort have been in vogue, for many generations, in many parts of Christendom, and are so still, even where popery obtains in its least absurd form. And their antiquity and wide extent are insisted on as a proof of their truth,—a kind of proof which, at best, can be only presumptive; but which loses all its little weight in proportion as the long and large prevalence of such corruptions has been obtained by force."

The bishop's " promotion to the see of Durham," to use the language of Dr. Croly, "placed him in the enjoyment of all that his benevolence had so long wished, and more than his ambition had ever desired. He could now give way to his charity; and it seems probable that the greater part of his income was thus employed. He had always been remarkable for liberality in the dispensation of his means,-the most obvious and pressing exercise of the public virtues of a Christian. He was a warm and steady friend to the poor; but his well-regulated mind also acknowledged the fitness of sustaining the rank in which he was placed; and his residence at Durham was distinguished for the stately hospitality suitable to the see. Like his patron, bishop Talbot, he received the nobility and chief gentry of the north at his palace three times a-week during a considerable portion of the year, and entertained them as became their prelate and friend."

But the munificent spirit of this distinguished per

son extended itself to every object.

While at Bristol

he contributed four thousand pounds to the repairs of the palace, a sum greater than his entire receipts from the bishopric. He also subscribed to infirmaries and hospitals in remote parts of the kingdom; and generously attended to the personal difficulties of his clergy. But the diocese was not long to possess its eminent prelate; his constitution, enfeebled by unremitting study, began to fail soon after his arrival at Durham. As his weakness increased, he was induced to try the Bristol waters, then in high reputation; but he was evidently dying; and was finally removed to Bath, where he expired, June 16th, 1752.

The mortal remains of the bishop were interred in the cathedral of Bristol, where a plain marble, with a Latin inscription, was put over them; but a more suitable memorial has been lately erected.


A Sermon,

Rector of Exeter College, Oxford; and Vicar of
Kidlington, Oxfordshire.

JOHN, XX. 19.

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you."

THIS was probably the first time the Christian Church ever met on earth. It was on the evening of that day, which has ever since been considered sacred to prayer and to religious exercises. It is impossible to contrast this little band of Christians thus gathered in fear and trembling, with the countless congregations that on this day are assembled throughout the Christian world, and not to feel how strikingly our Lord's prophecy has been fulfilled of the grain of mustard-seed, which should "shoot out its branches into all the earth" (Mark, iv. 30-33); and without having our faith strengthened in that promise of its further extension and final triumph, when" the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" (Rev. xi. 15); when "all kings shall fall down before him, all nations shall do him service" (Psalm lxxii. 11).

The manner in which the evangelist expresses himself shews that he was anxious to mark the day on which the disciples met: "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the disciples were assembled." And within a few verses he records their meeting again on the same day in the following week: "And after eight days," i. e. according to the Jewish mode of computing time, on the eighth day afterwards, "again his disciples were within.". We cannot doubt, therefore, that their meeting was designed and by appointment; and that this day was thus early set apart by the Church, and dedicated to the service of God, as we know it to have been a few years afterwards, of which we have abundant record in the Acts of the Apostles. That they met also for purposes of Christian communion and social worship, there can be little doubt. The precaution which they had taken to close the doors, which is noted on both the occasions to which I have referred, shews that they were assembled for an object which they knew to be criminal in the eyes of their enemies, and which would expose them to persecution. And there was no act held so criminal, and which brought upon them such persecution, as their private assemblies for the purposes of social worship. This we know from the testimony of heathen writers,

as well as from the evidence of Scripture itself. It was to discover these assemblies that Saul, when the persecutor of the Church, entered, as we read, "into private houses, and dragged from thence men and women to prison and to death" (Acts viii. 3).

I have therefore drawn your attention to this passage of Scripture, as recording what was probably the earliest assembly of the Christian Church for the act of social worship; and it is this duty which I wish to set before you. It would occupy far too much of your time, if I were to enter at large into the argument in favour of social and public worship: I shall content myself, therefore, with simply setting before you the example and commands of our Lord and his apostles in regard to this duty, as furnishing quite sufficient evidence on the point, and exhibiting an authority for it, which none who admit the truth of Scripture can attempt to gainsay.

In the first place, then, let us observe the example of our Lord and Saviour Christ. We are told by St. Luke, in the opening of his ministry, that "he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and, as his custom was, went into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day" (Luke, iv. 16). I have quoted this passage, as it renders it unnecessary to refer to the many instances which are recorded of our Lord's stated attendance on the worship of the Jewish Church. St. Luke here expressly states that it was his regular custom to do so. Nor need I refer to his invariable practice of attending the stated festivals in the temple, as they must be familiar to all. Nor does our Lord appear ever to have held any private assemblies for worship; and his appeal to the Jews on his trial seems to shew that he had not: "I ever taught openly in the temple, and in the synagogue, and in secret have I said nothing" (John, xviii. 20). But when, after his death, a new rite was added to the Church, which it was not allowable to celebrate either in the temple or in the synagogues, the Christians were compelled to form separate assemblies for the purposes of social worship; still not forsaking altogether the services of the temple or the synagogues till they were swept away by the destruction of the Jewish polity and nation. It is to these private assemblies, formed under the authority and sanction of the apostles, to whom was committed the power to establish a new mode of worship, that I wish now to call your attention. The earliest of these have been already noticed; and if we pursue the track of the sacred history, we shall discover abundant instances of them as we go along. I will call your attention to a few only of these. In the very first

[ocr errors]

chapter of the Acts we find that, immediately after the ascension "they returned to Jerusalem," and "went up into an upper room;"probably the very same in which our Lord had partaken with them of the last supper, and which could not but be consecrated in their eyes by the most powerful and endearing associations,-that they went up into this chamber, where about one hundred and twenty were assembled, including many of the apostles, who are mentioned by name, and continued for some time with one accord, i. e. animated with one spirit and one heart, in prayer and supplication to God (Acts, i. 13-16). It was probably in the same place, and for the same purpose, that they were assembled on the day of Pentecost, as we read in the following chapter: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place" (Acts, ii. 1); and in the same chapter we have this testimony to their perseverance in acts of communion and social worship: "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship." It was not enough, we see, that they held to the doctrine of the apostles; they conformed also to their fellowship. Churchcommunion and unity was held to be no less essential than sound doctrine, in conformity with that beautiful prayer of our Lord for his disciples, "that they all might be one, even as he was with his heavenly Father" (John, xvii. 21) — one in name one in heart and sentiment; and "lifting up their voices," as it is beautifully expressed," with one accord to God" (Acts, iv. 24). It will be sufficient, perhaps, if I mention one other instance of their continuance in the practice of social prayer, which I will select further on in the history of the Acts. When Peter was imprisoned, we are told that "prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him" (Acts, xii. 5): and when he was released by the angel out of prison, we read that he went immediately to the house of Mary, where "many were gathered together praying" (Acts, xii. 12). That there were very early stated places and times for these acts of public worship, there can be little doubt, as in the instance before us St. Peter appears to have gone immediately to their assembly as a place of well-known resort; as did also Peter and John when released from a former imprisonment; for we read, that "being let go, they went to their own company (Acts, iv. 23); i. e. apparently, as if they knew they should find them assembled; and they, when they heard of their delivery, immediately lifted up their voices with one accord, in that beautiful prayer which is recorded in the fourth chapter of the Acts. The places in which they

« PreviousContinue »