Page images
PDF
EPUB

to an open covenant—to do things which, as a professing Christian, he would not for a moment allow. He will most likely stand aloof from duties, in public and in private, from which he would never think of being excused if he were a member of a Christian Church. Is he fulfilling his obligation to himself? He ought to avail himself of every accessible help to holy living. He ought to subject himself voluntarily to every constraining influence that will bind him to a laborious fidelity. He ought not to consult for a moment how he may

allow himself latitude in his new walk. He owes it to his own soul, he owes it to Christ, he owes it to his brethren, he owes it to the world, to cultivate and bring out the most exalted Christian virtues, the highest style of Christian living, and therefore he ought to profess Christ

A. L. STONE.

“before men.

[blocks in formation]

a

The Minimum Christian. The minimum Christian! And who is he? The Christian who is going to heaven at the cheapest rate possible. The Christian who intends to get all of the world he can, and not meet the worldling's doom. The Christian who aims to have as little religion as may be without lacking it altogether.

The minimum Christian goes to church in the morning; and in the afternoon also, unless it rains, or is too warm, or too cold, or he is sleepy, or has the headache from eating too much at dinner. He listens most respectfully to the preacher, and joins in prayer and praise. He applies the truth very judiciously, sometimes to himself, oftener to his neighbours.

The minimum Christian is very friendly to all good works. He wishes them well, but it is not in his power to do much for them. The Sabbathschool he looks upon as an admirable institution, especially for the neglected and ignorant. It is not convenient, however, for him to take a class. His business engagements are so pressing during the week that he needs the Sabbath as a day of rest; nor does he think himself qualified to act as a teacher. There are so many persons better prepared for this important duty, that he must beg to be excused. He is very friendly to home and foreign missions and colportage, and gives his mite. He thinks there are “ too many appeals ;” but he gives, if not enough to save his reputation, pretty near it; at all events he aims at it.

The minimum Christian is not clear on a number of points. The opera and dancing, the theatre and card-playing, and large fashionable parties, give him much trouble. He cannot see the harm in this, or that, or the other popular amusement. There is nothing in the Bible against it. He does not see but that a man may be a Christian, and dance or go to the opera. He knows several excellent persons who do. Why should not he? He stands so close to the dividing line between the people of God and the people of the world, that it is hard to say on which side of it he is actually to be found.

Ah, my brother, are you making this attempt? Beware, lest you find at last that in trying to get to heaven with a little religion, you miss it altogether; lest, without gaining the whole world, you lose your own soul.

a

It is backward and downward with the wicked—it is onward and upward with the righteous.

Worty, and not wealth, is a nation's safety.
When love is warmest, praise is loudest—the heart helps the tongue.
What can grace not do? for it raised up saints even in Cesar's house hold.
Oxe may be sincere without being safe.
Sin forgiven is peace restored.

We cannot be too thankful for small mercies, but we may be too much troubled about small miseries.

Joy is peace in the fruit.

now

one

Roger Williams and Rhode Island. BRISTOL, which stands somewhere in the neighbourhood of Williams' first resting place after his banishment, is

of a
group

of fashionable watering places, which adorn and enliven Narragansett Bay, and the river which runs into it. There, from year to year, when summer heat oppresses the inhabitants of the United States, thousands congregate, to enjoy invigorating sea breezes, and visit charming spots which dot the spreading shores. Brenton's Cove and Spouting Cave, Purgatory, and Berkeley's Seat-so called from its being the resort of the metaphysical Bishop of that name-with all their rocky wonders—with all their picturesque charms, attract multitudes of pleasure-seekers, and of those who love to gaze upon the works of God. Whilst to the latter, forms of nature are loveliest when left in their simplicity; for the former there are provided by enterprising speculators, fountains and flower baskets, artificial ruins clothed with vines, ponds for fish and seals, and a park for deer. At Rocky Point swarms of visitors assemble to feast upon clams freshly drawn from neighbouring waters, and roasted in heated seaweed, after a culinary Indian fashion, in the days of Williams. The hotels, which enliven the shores of the Bay and the river, are in the season crowded with inmates, and are scenes of bustle and dissipation, such as nobody can imagine who has not been in America, and spent a few days at some place of fashionable resort.

It is interesting to think of the present appearance of this region, in contrast with its aspect, nearly two centuries and a half ago, when the Bay, the river, and the rocks were sleeping in silence, save as children of the forest now and then glided in their rude canoes o'er the glassy waters, and sang their simple songs of love and war. In that pristine state, they Decame familiar to the eye of the exiled pastor of Salem ; and here for many years he found his home and haunts. When he left his first resting place, he proceeded across the Seekonk River with five companions, in one of the log-boats used by natives ; and according to the world-known tradition, touched on Slate Rock, where he was seen from a neighbouring hillock by a few aborigines, who saluted them with the friendly cry “ What cheer" words which have given a title to no end of objects, in the city and suburbs, which have clustered round the memorable landing place.

The native Sachems were friendly to the Puritan wanderer, and from them he obtained, what in his view was essential, a grant of land in return for money raised on mortgage of his property at Salem. He was as liberal in the distribution, as he was honest in the acquisition of this primitive estate in the Indian wilderness; for he freely conveyed to new comers what he had bought of the chiefs, and among the fragments remaining of the ancient records of the State, is a grant to thirteen associates, of the meadow ground of Pawtuxet, lying on the other side the Bay.

Williams determined to plant near the rock which his feet first touched, a settlement which might grow into a home for such as sympathised with him in the love of freedom ; and so he laid the foundation of a thriving city, to

[ocr errors]

a

which, as an expression of faith in God, he gave the name of Providence. Some form of government was necessary, but on principle he chose the simplest possible; and providing for the fullest freedom of opinion, he appointed a permanent board of “five disposers,” to be chosen by the inhabitants, for the adjustment of disputes, and the regulation of affairs. The State thus founded was smaller than those of New Plymouth and Massachusetts, and partook even more than they of the character of a family gathering, or a few neighbours seeking to live together in peace. A written covenant was signed by the members of this Arcadian fellowship, to the effect that they would submit to all agreements made by a majority for the common good, so far only as related to civil things. At the beginning, of course, there was no need of representation, for all the people old enough to have a voice could easily confer about their affairs whenever they wished. The little colony increased by degrees, and drew towards it, as was natural, those disaffected to neighbouring Governments. Mrs. Hutchinson, who had so much troubled the rulers of Boston, there found a home, where she lived quietly enough, until she removed to the neighbourhood of New York, to be, alas ! murdered by a band of savages.

When the New England League was formed, Williams and his friends were not invited to join, professedly because they had no charter; really, perhaps, because they were not in sympathy, as to constitutional questions, with their Puritan neighbours. They sought, in vain, to be included in the Confederation, and then afterwards resolved to seek for a charter from the mother country—a resolution scarcely consistent with Williams' previous treatment of the legal instrument possessed by Massachusetts, or even with the principle he had laid down, that all landed rights were vested in the Indians, and that they and their country were independent of England. If the country of the Narragansett tribes were in no way subject to the Crown, or Commonwealth of Great Britain, what business had either to authorise a settlement there, and to legalise a constitution for new occupiers of the soil ? However, Roger Williams came to England in 1643 to seek a charter, and as the men at that time in power had sympathy with him—indeed the friendship of Sir Henry Vane he had secured, when that distinguished person was Governor of Massachusetts, the charter was easily obtained. The Houses of Parliament granted an absolute charter of civil government for the people on the shores of Narrayansett Bay. In 1647 a constitution was framed on the basis of this Charter, at a general meeting of the Providence plantations, appointing a president and four assistants as the executive authority, and devolving legislative powers on a body composed of six commissioners from each town in the colony. The fundamental law embodied Williams' favourite doctrine" All men may walk as their consciences persuade them in the name of their God."

The city of Providence, which will ever be identified with the name of Roger Williams, and which, as we passed by it, appeared a monument to his memory, is now the second place of importance in New England. It is one of the wealthiest, and perhaps the most industrious town in that part of America ; but what it is in this respect it did not begin to be, till long after

a

its founder had been carried to the grave. For a century it possessed little wealth ; and it is remarkable that it contains very few ancient buildings of any kind, public or private. The Abbott House is, we believe, a solitary relic of the primitive abodes of Providence; and this is represented as a wooden edifice of a very humble description, deriving all its interest from a tradition, that, within its little rooms, Roger Williams used to hold prayer meetings. The streets of the city bear names which remind one of some allegorical metropolis, such as John Bunyan might have beheld in his dreams. Benevolent-street, Benefit-street, Faith-street, Happy-street, Hope-street, Joystreet-these are the names given to thoroughfares, which take the citizens up and down hills and hollows covered by houses and public edifices, as if piled one on the other; and whilst these names lead us back to Puritan days, when the selection of them was the fashion, they bear testimony to the cheerful spirit in which from the beginning and onwards, from generation to generation, this prosperous place on the banks of the old Seekonk River has been gradually built up.

The progress of the State, like that of the city, was slow, and, in early days, scarcely in accordance with the bright names given to the streets. It long remained little more than a rural district. The Royal Commissioners who visited New England in 1666, reported that in Rhode Island were the best English grass and most sheep, the ground very fruitful, ewes bringing ordinarily two lambs, corn yielding eighty for one ; and, in some places, they said corn grew successively for twenty-two years without need of manure. Then it is added, “In this province only, they had not any places set apart for the worship of God: there being so many subdivided sects, they could not agree to meet together in one place, but according to their several judgments, they sometimes associated in one house, sometimes in another."

The last and ablest historian of New England paints the early story of Rhode Island in sombre colours, and gives no favourable impression of the working power of Williams' political constitution at first. The community was distracted, and fertile in the produce of trouble to neighbouring states. An earlier historian, Bancroft, lays brighter colours on his palette ; yet even he gives a picture of Anabaptists and Antinomians, fanatics and infidels so various in their shades, that he says, if a man had lost his religious opinions he would have found them again in Rhode Island. “All men were equalall might meet and debate in the public assemblies, all might aspire to office; the people for a season constituted itself its own tribune, and every public law required confirmation in the primary assemblies.

And so it came to pass, that the little 'democracie,' which at the beat of the drum, or the voice of the herald, used to assemble beneath an oak, or by the open seaside, was famous for its headiness and tumults, its stormy town-meetings, and the angry feuds of its herdsmen and shepherds. But, Bancroft adds, true as the needle to the pole, the popular will instinctively pursued the popular interest. Amidst the jarring quarrels of rival statesmen in the plantations, good men were chosen to administer government, and the spirit of mercy, of liberality and wisdom was impressed on its legislation.” This, it should be remembered, is the language of a sympathetic republican author. From

« PreviousContinue »