Page images

The Two Seers.

It is startling at times to see how men under almost identical circumstances set the law of probabilities at defiance, and reach exactly opposite results. Away back in the primitive ages lived an Arabian seer, “the greatest of all the men of the East.” He was a man of extraordinary wealth, and of the highest rank in society. His property had increased upon his hands without making him proud ; he came to honour without becoming arrogant; he loved and was reverenced by his children without forgetting the friendless and the poor. He was by no means a perfect man, but his words have come down to us through the centuries like the echo of God's thoughts, and the world to-day is devoutly deciphering their meaning.

Some three or four hundred years later there lived a Midianite seer, similarly gifted and equally remarkable, a leader of his people, a genius, a soldier, a poet, a prophet of the Most High. In rank, knowledge, intellect, grandeur of demeanour, he towers above his fellows like a mountain peak above the inferior hills.

These two men, Job and Balaam, alike and yet sadly unlike, seem to stand up grandly through the ages, speaking to each other and mankind, across the deserts of their far eastern homes, out of the deep silence of the Gentile world. They had many points in common. Both were Gentiles, connecting their names strangely with the history of Redemption, but stand ing outside of the chosen people. Both were prophets, holding the same religious faith. Like Noah and Abraham, Job believed in the one personal God, Balaam did the same. Job stood alone among his people lifted to a higher plane. Balaam also among his. Both were men of strong passions and deep convictions. Job had a mind supremely gifted, blessed with high inspirations, faith in immortality, and a vision of the coming Christ. Balaam was his peer.

But here the likeness stops, and the contrast begins. Hitherto they have stood together, but they reach the crises of their lives and each takes his own course, and goes “to his own place." Both are sorely tried, the one with suffering, the other with bribes. The result reveals the under-current in the life of each. When the calamity fell on Job, see how the man grew ! After the first stunning effect was over, see how his heart, desolate and baffled, flying hither and thither amid the shifting sands of disappointment, rested at last on the Rock of Ages. See how his reason, chastened, invigorated through affliction, gazed into the dim future, lifted itself to the Infinite, and, outrunning the ages, grappled with the problems of eternity. See how his soul, crushed to the very dust, became aware of its own capacity, and, cut off from the perishable, claimed kindred with the “ Ancient of Days !” That was the crisis of life and there was the compensation of adversity, a godlike manhood.

The test hour of Balaam gives an opposite result, vacillation, cowardice, crime ; exercising his noble mission, but against his will ; on the way to wrong, yet longing to do right; afraid to go forward, unable to go baɔk' conscience in the one hand, bribes in the other; hungering inwardly for money and reputation, struggling outwardly for the favour of God, and defeated in both! Thus the’lives of the two seers, starting from the same point of privilege, diverge till they stand in different realms.

Job and Balaam, the one out of a life-long habit of obedience to God arose from his trials a wiser, humbler, holier man; the other, fell out of a life of habitual selfishness into a grave of eternal dishonour! Each in the midst of his crisis saw visions and uttered prophecies that have thrilled the world. Both beheld the coming of the Messiah. But the one saw that Christ as his only hope, the vindicator of right and the healer of his soul. I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upori the earth, whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not another. The other saw Him as clearly, but with sullen thought and dim foreboding. I shall see Him, but not now ; I shall behold Him, but not nigh.

The contrast explains itself. It is not what surrounds, but what is in the man, that moulds the results. Either of these types is possible in every life. Each can make his vision of the Son of God like that of Balaam or like that of Job. Hence the peril and the glory of living. But the contrast is no accident. Each present view of Christ is the result of something in the past. Speak the truth with the lips but live a lie, have a subordinate desire for God, and a ruling passion for the gifts of Balak, and you may write Balaam on your foreheads without waiting for the crisis. Don't shun, however, the test. Great manhood and mean manhood both come to light through God's crucial fires, but are not created by them.

The men exist before the fires.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Evangelisation in France. By the establishment of an Inner Mission our French brethren are trying to call forth the latent energies of the Churches, and to impress on every Christian man and woman the importance of personal efforts for the promotion of the Kingdom of Christ. As might have been expected, this has proved no easy task. It is too much the practice in France to leave the inauguration of new movements to the government. Independent and individual action is the exception, not the rule. Or, if an idea is taken up and a society formed, and rules and statutes laid down, it often happens that when the moment for work has come, the courage and zeal of the promoters have well-nigh vanished. In connection with religious operations there is the additional difficulty arising from the fear of awakening the suspicion and ill-will of the authorities, who are always averse to what they call Protestant propaganda. Again, all who know anything of Christian life among our neighbours across the Channel must have observed that along with much that is very simple and very real, there seems to be a sort of fear lest the days of persecution should return, and that therefore caution must be exercised as to the public profession and exercise of religion. Under such circumstances, it can hardly be deemed strange that the Inner Mission


has not met with any great amount of success. But we are glad to find tha the leaders of the movement are not discouraged, and that by the meetings for consecration which they have organised in every part of the country, and by the evangelistic tours which they have set on foot, they are doing their utmost to revive the Churches and to rouse them to action. In some localities a good work is in progress.

Churches that were apathetic have been stimulated, and many a pastor has been led to look after the lost, or, at least, the scattered sheep. We could mention places where a revived life is very manifest, but we want to say a few words about a district where extensive operations have been carried on, and with very happy results, since the conclusion of the war.

All our readers who have travelled in Switzerland are aware that the French frontier runs in one direction almost up to the gates of Geneva, and then passing nearly parallel with the lake, at length trends across the Jura mountains. This portion of France lying on the Swiss side of the Juras is often called the Pays de Gex, and forms a part of the Département de l'Ain. Protestantism obtained a firm footing in this district and in the neighbouring province of La Bresse, but was fairly extirpated by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and the other ferocious measures adopted by the pious (!) monarch Louis XIV. Towards the close of the last century little Protestant colonies came to be formed here and there, and in 1795 worship was reestablished at Ferney, a town only five miles distant from Geneva, and for nearly twenty years (1759 to 1777) the residence of Voltaire. A place where the memory of the arch-sceptic was still fresh could hardly have been a favourable one for the growth of spiritual religion. In the neighbouring city of Calvin, too, with the exception of a little company of Moravians, there was scarcely a person who had any notion of true religion. Certainly, so far as the history of that period is known, there was not a pulpit in the city or canton in which the Gospel was preached. We fear, therefore, that the Protestantism that was established in Ferney was of a very formal type, and that this continued to be its character almost up to 1860, when the present pastor, M. Pasquet, settled there. We well remember going to Gex, in 1855, in company with the excellent agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Berlin, to visit a lady then resident there. Talking about the state of religion in the district, we learnt to our surprise and sorrow that though there were several Protestant families in the town, worship was only celebrated once a month by the pastor from Ferney, and that such was the deplorable character of the teaching, that our good friend, the widow of a minister who in his day had rendered good service to the cause of Christ, felt it to be worse than useless to attend the services. It may be said, therefore, that up to 1860, the whole region was in spiritual darkness. The advent of M. Pasquet soon wrought a change. Asiles were established for the purpose of gathering together the poor and orphan Protestant children throughout the Pays de Gex, and rescuing them from the teachings of Rome. These asiles contain about fifty children of both sexes, and have already sent out many young people furnished with the elements of a good Christian education, and fitted to earn their living.

The population of the Ain amounts to 371,600 souls. Of these about 1,000 are Protestants, three-fourths of whom live in the Pays de Ger. Ferney is, as we should call it, the mother-church, and up to 1865 M. Pasquet was the only pastor. In that year an assistant minister was appointed, and took up his abode at Bourg en Bresse, the chef-lieu of the Department, but on the other side of the Juras, and many miles distant from Ferney. In 1870, after the commencement of the war, and when probably the regular services were much interrupted, M. Pasquet determined to try and hold meetings in several of the villages on the Swiss side of the Juras. As perfect freedom of worship did not then, nor does it yet, prevail, cards of invitation were issued.

The experiment was made in eight localities, and on each occasion tracts were distributed. In one instance the influence of the curé prevailed over the curiosity of the people, but in every other case the results were such as to encourage M. Pasquet to determine that the message of grace should be proclaimed once at least in every village throughout the district. One or two schools were also opened, both for the benefit of the few Protestant children, and with a view to lay hold of some of the Roman Catholic children. Small libraries were formed, and a colporteur was sent out. Thus the sphere of labour extended from month to month, and additional helpers were required. A second assistant pastor was stationed at Divonne-a place much frequented for its mineral waters. A new minister was appointed to Bourg en Bresse, and at once began to visit the fairs held in the surrounding towns and villages, carrying with him an abundant supply of books and tracts, and everywhere trying to get an opportunity to explain the Gospel and enforce its lessons. A Bible-woman was sent to Oyonnax, and obtained ready access to many homes and hearts. Tracts were readily received, and she says in her journal that the people are asking that a regular service may be held every week. In June, 1872, M. Rosseu St. Hilaire, Professor at the Sorbonne, came to lecture on “ The moral renovation of France.” So great was the concourse (1,200 persons), that it was necessary for the speaker to address the assembly from the balcony of a house in the market-place. Thus the work went on extending, and at the end of 1872, instead of there being one pastor with an assistant minister for the whole Department, there were four pastors or evangelists, two Bible-women, three schools, and eight libraries.

But operations carried on on such a scale and with such vigour, could not but awaken the serious attention of “the government of public order," which replaced that of M. Thiers in 1873, and very soon colportage of every kind was forbidden throughout the Department, and all public meetings were stopped. Vexing as these hindrances were, they have, perhaps, led to a consolidation of the work already performed. The report of 1876 says

that during the last two years, although the governmental restrictions are not removed, progress has been made, and souls have been converted. But it is hoped that at no very distant period the present government will, in spite of clerical opposition, give full liberty of action to all who desire to extend the Kingdom of Christ. It is a pity to see such a field, so white to harvest, left comparatively unreaped, and the more so as in this case the labourers


[ocr errors]

are there waiting to work. The agency we have described appears to be what is needed, but liberty is required. The present regulations are not only a hindrance to the labourers, but also a means of intimidating many who might otherwise come and hear the Gospel. Our prayer, therefore, should be that the day of perfect freedom may soon dawn, and that there may arise among all French Evangelical Churches a determination that the whole country shall hear the message of Divine love.

R. S. Ashton.


The Service of Suffering. “Fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ.” There is, then, something “ behind of the afflictions of Christ !” and the Apostle felt he was to do something towards filling it up. Who now fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh ?" But how are we to understand this ? How is it that there is a certain residuum of Christ's sufferings which the Apostle can fill up? After the ascension, Christ could only suffer in His body, and He does suffer in the sufferings of that, as He said to Saul when persecuting the Church, “Why persecutest thou Me?” Hence, " that which is behind” refers to the remainder of the sufferings which the Church, the body of Christ, has yet to endure ; and a portion of this Paul fills up, and to that extent therefore relieves the rest. According to this interpretation, which is the one adopted by Augustine, Calvin, Luther, as well as others more recently, we reach the idea that in order to accomplish the ministry of suffering for the spiritual good of mankind, a part of which Christ bears in person, and a part in His body, God has appointed a certain definite amount to the latter, the Church ; and that each sufferer diminishes that amount in the proportion of His divinely ordered endurance. God from the first saw how much would be needed to fulfil its ends-how much should be centred on Christ personally, and how much be distributed over His body, and when and where it would be needed ; and, by the same wisdom and goodness as all His other purposes were matured, it was so appointednot, however, in any such sovereign way as to interfere with human causation in introducing or removing it—but blending with it. Every tear, therefore, which God wrings from the eyes of His people does something to liquidate the great black mass of woe hanging over the Church. Every time the iron enters a godly heart a deduction is made from the sum total of pious • calamity. Every section of humble mourners who follow their all to the grave, shortens by just so much the long line of earthly sorrow. Every steamer swimming across the great waters, like a fair ocean bird with lithe but strong limbs, that suddenly cripples and dives beneath the waves to rise no more, and whelms the Church with grief---carries down a segment of the awful bulk of misery that was in store for her. Every fever, every disappointment, every hardship wrong endured, makes its subtraction from the great totality of that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ in the Church. Thus we see here, also, that those who suffer for Christ bear the

« PreviousContinue »