Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

our churches generally for years past, the pastor may have been able to do the work, but it is not possible in such conditions as are happily found in connection with not a few of our churches at the present time. Help of some kind must be had, the only question is who are to be the helpers, and under what kind of supervision and guidance shall they work. No doubt there are forward, ill-qualified persons connected with most churches who are quite ready to jump into this or any other kind of work that is new, but there are others of a different type who, by their intelligence and piety, are eminently qualified for the work. The teachers of our young men's and young women's classes are usually fitted for this work, and, as a rule, they are quite prepared to take it up. The same may be said of many of our church members. It seems to us that it rests very much with the pastor to invite the co-operation of those persons whom he knows to be qualified to do such work. It was the custom in the large towns in Scotland during the revival services to select well.qualified persons from the various congregations, and to allow no others to enter the inquiry room. In this way the greatest possible amount of good was secured, while everything was done to prevent what might otherwise have been misleading and injurious. We cannot see how any great and general awakening, such as was met with in London and elsewhere during the past year, is to be dealt with except by calling in a large number of helpers, who shall endeavour in a quiet and earnest way to guide the seeking soul. And not only should each one be spoken to personally and treated according to the condition of mind in which he is then found, but the name, place of abode, the church he usually goes to, &c., should be taken, so that he may be handed over to the pastor whose ministry he attends. The same thing should be done where the work may be confined to one place of worship. It is absolutely necessary that the young convert should feel, and that the churches and the world outside should know, that the one object is to lead sinners to the Saviour, and not to draw people from one place of worship to another. It is a great cause for thankfulness that there has been so little of this. The leaders in the movement felt too much absorbed in the great work of saving the lost to care much about where the people attended so long as they were under the care of godly men who would seek to instruct and build them up in the faith and hope of the Gospel. This very important and necessary part of the work, which was so well managed in Scotland, seems to have been relinquished in London. Why this should have been done we confess we are at a loss to understand. Granted that London is a monster city, containing within its postal radius more souls than are found in the whole of Scot reason why the far greater numbers of anxious souls should not have been dealt with and taken account of ? If there were more seekers, there

nd, is that any were a larger number of workers to do all that was necessary. We know that some who helped at the after-meetings in London were so impressed with the need of taking names and places of abode, &c., in spite of orders being given that it would not or could not be attended to, that they did it in many cases.

If the result does not prove that many (who were spoken to in the inquiry room, and then left to take their own course) drop back again into the world, we shall be only too thankful. With proper care those who were really sincere, and most of them doubtless were, might have been brought to decision, and led to take their stand among God's people as followers of Christ.

Those who have not been thrown into a great work of the kind we are speaking of, and have not in any way taken part in meetings for the anxious, may hesitate to give their sanction to the after-meeting, like his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, who ventured to write a grave letter on the subject, based upon hearsay! Many have felt strongly prejudiced against the meetings for the anxious while they have looked at them from a distance, but numbers of these, who have tried the work, have entirely changed their opinions when once they have seen how eagerly their instructions have been received, and have marked how the countenance which bespoke deep anguish of spirit has gradually -in some cases suddenly--assumed an expression which told of the rising sun of a new hope and joy that filled the breast. Looking at the question of the after-meeting fairly, it seems to us that the evils connected with it are its accidents, while the good is the natural outcome of the method, and although there may not always be a need for such a method of working, there is a needs be to work in this

way

whenever there shall be what happily there now is in so many places, a great and blessed revival of true religion.

G. SNASHALL, B.A.

a

The Auticipation of Death.

"A VERIFIED EXPERIMENT.” CERTAIN scientists of our time assert for the conclusions of physics an authority higher than that of other descriptions of knowledge or faith, on the ground that they are "verified by experiment.” No sound or rightminded man will be disposed to dispute the claim that sagacious experiments, when properly applied, do settle for ever many questions between truth and falsehood, between fact and fancy. There is no error in principle, on the part of any scientist who claims for experiment the special or sole preéminence. It is possible, however, that some error or haste may be manifested in the application of the soundest and most unquestioned principles. To deny that experiments can be verified when applied to moral and spiritual phenomena seems to betray a very superficial view of the nature of experimentation and to indicate a narrow range of intellectual vision. It would involve the denial that man can settle by scientific tests any truth in political economy or social science, in law, trade or government, in ethics, common sense or religion, nay, even in the philosophy of induction itself.

The only tenable position is to concede and affirm that very many conclusions which we receive should in some sense be affirmed by experiment, and to vary and adjust our experiments with the subject matter to which they are applied. To do this may require no little reflection, but there is no occasion for the friends of the spiritual sciences to deny the value of experiment or to deprive themselves of its confirmation of the truths and conclusions which they hold.

The writer does not care to discuss this point in a speculative fashion, but rather to illustrate it in a practical way by a brief narrative of what has occurred under his own observation. A friend, a lady whom he has known familiarly for years, has recently made the experiment of death. No one would deny that so far as dying is a physical or physiological event, the single experiment made by herself has verified to her what it is for a human being to die ; nor that if her experience could be accurately known and reported it would furnish to mankind the knowledge of death, or what it is to die-involving of course the possibility, the reality and nature of continued life, if to die is, as many believe, to continue to live under new conditions. No philosopher, no man of common sense, expects to be made acquainted with the record of such an experiment, although it is made every day by thousands of individuals. The anticipation of death is an experience or an experiment of another kind, the feelings, the fears, the uncertainty and the disquiet which the near approach of death is fitted to excite in almost every human being are matters of common observation upon men as they

Let it be conceded that physically to die is as pleasant as to go to sleep, and that spiritually there is nothing to fear, if indeed there is anything at all to find or to meet in the other life; still the fact is undisputed, being verified by that species of induction which satisfies every one, that men are unwilling or are afraid to die, in the majority of instances in which they look death in the face.

The narrative which follows is a literal statement of the experiences of a very intelligent and sensitive lady in the anticipation of death. It is peculiar to this : that for much or most of the time there was no disturbance or excitement of mind from weakness or disease, or, to use a phrase from the inductive philosophy, there was an almost complete separation of every disturbing accessory which might cast doubt upon the result of the experiment. Other favourable circumstances will be suggested by the narrative itself. It is recorded as a single “ instance" or datum towards the verification by experiment of the truth that an intelligent and hearty Christian faith is adequate to the wants of man in anticipation of death. The writer is aware that many exceptions might be taken to the decisiveness of the experiment. He is content, however, to submit the case further without argument. The lady referred to was Miss Apphia Thacher, sister of Prof. Thomas A. Thacher, of Yale College.

In the month of February, 1874, Prof. Thacher confided to me the fact,

are.

a

[ocr errors]

a

which till then had been known only to his family, that his sister had for nearly two years been struggling with a fearful disease, which, it was then certain, must within a few months inevitably end her earthly life. He informed me that about two years before she had suddenly been made aware of the existence of the disease when apparently in full health, and was at the same time informed that her only hope of relief was to submit to a severe surgical operation. The operation was performed almost immediately, without the knowledge of her most intimate friends out of the family; and after an interval of a few months a second operation, as privately as the first. Both were ineffectual, and there was no longer hope except for an alleviation of suffering and a delay of death. In reply to my questions as to her feelings, he informed me that she was perfectly peaceful and cheerful, and prosecuted her ordinary services of love in the household so far as she was able, and that she received visits from her friends, and would be very glad to see me as her pastor, as frequently as might be convenient.

Having known Miss Thacher familiarly ever since I came to New Haven, in 1847, and being somewhat acquainted with her temperament and mental habits, I feared that as death should approach, the long continued trial to her courage, her affections, and her faith would at times be severe, and might involve her in depressing apprehensions or unconquerable gloom. Her brother shared in these forebodings. For brother and sister, and all her relatives and friends, these months that were to come seemed shrouded in darkness.

At my first visit Miss Thacher received me with her usual cheerfulness, and conversed in respect to her occupations and her ability to meet them ; she also talked very freely of her own conditions and prospects. We compared our views in respect to the Christian life, and the evidence of its. presence in the soul, and of her own title to the comforts of the Christian hope. I found myself most happily relieved of all my apprehensions as to any immediate depression on her part. Indeed, from this my first visit she seemed to me to have already faced death by her simple and rational confidence in the promises and power of her Master, and in facing it to have already conquered it. My visits were more or less frequent till I left town about the first of August, a few weeks before her death. They were always somewhat long, and we uniformly conversed very freely in respect to her thoughts and feelings. In all these conversations she gave evidence of a careful scrutiny of her own desires and purposes, and an earnest wish to be thoroughly honest with herself. She usually would talk for a long time in continuance, bringing out very fully the results of her meditations and selfcommunings, and with the utmost clearness of analysis and precision of statement ; invariably manifesting the peace of a quiet and steady resignation to the will of her Master. Her interest in others did not in the least abate. Her pleasure in her friends and her concern for their welfare, and her hopeful spirit in respect to all those persons and interests to which her life had been devoted, were the same as in the fulness of life and health. She received frequent and cheerful visits from her most valued friends, and shared with a heightened interest in the sports and studies of the young children of the household who came in and out of her parlour at their pleasure. Early in the summer her strength began visibly to abate. At every visit I could see

F

the plainest evidence of a failure of strength. But there was not the least ripple upon the steady and quiet composure of her spirit. Her words were as distinct, her thoughts were as clear, and her account of her feelings as subtle and as comprehensive as at the first. Only as thought and speech were more and more slow her peace seemed more complete, and her hopes more calmly confident. Towards the last she spoke with a kind of surprise of the absence of all apprehensions or disturbances of mind, and referred not infrequently to her own fears, and those of her friends, lest in moments of physical agitation and mental weakness her serenity might be disturbed. She had no excitement or rapture to disclose, no conscious exaltation of any faculty of mind or heart, only a completeness of acquiescence and a fulness of peace which left nothing to be desired. How this should be she did not explain. It was a puzzle to herself; it was unlike anything which her temperament and previous experience would lead her to expect, but she found in her own soul such an equipoise of her impulses and desires with one another, and such a harmony with the will of her Saviour, that it well might bo described as the peace of God which passeth understanding. At my last interview with her she was more feeble in body and stronger in spirit than I had ever known her. I hoped but scarcely expected to see her living when I should return. I learned from her brother that she continued to decline as gently and as calmly till the end.

I have never known a person who looked death so clearly in the face for so many months, who was at the same time so intelligent, so quiet, and yet so steadily and manifestly the conqueror of death through a strong and simple faith in the word and person of Christ. Miss Thacher was by nature timid and self-distrustful. Her intelligence and culture had served to exalt her ideal of moral and spiritual excellence, and taught her to judge herself more and more severely ; her introverted and self-suspecting habits had in previous years involved her in painful self-examinations, and withdrawn her emotions from those objective truths on which the heart only can rest. But under the pressure of impending death she had quietly yet firmly trusted the Author and Finisher of her faith, and His promise was accomplished—“My peace I give unto you." The house in which she conquered death has, within the last few years, been thrice hallowed by the departure of inmates loved and honoured. The first who went had a poet's elevation and ideality, and as she mused on what was before her, her responsive spirit seemed to be kindled and elevated into such an unearthly elevation, coupled with such tenderness of earthly affection, as is rarely granted even to departing believers. The second waited so long in quiet expectation for the call of God that the peace of that man whose “heart is fixed trusting in the Lord” seemed to have been fully perfected in his placid, venerable, and saintly nature. The third and last left the example of a quiet triumph over death which has been recorded. Her experience was protracted for months under no excitement, and with all the manifold struggles which painful days and wakeful nights bring of necessity to a thoughtful and intelligent nature of superior endowments and enlarged culture.

“Is that a death-bed where the Christian lies ?

Yes; but not his— tis death itself there dies !” Yale College.

N. P.

« PreviousContinue »