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short distances in its field of view, and that one all-absorbing future which had riveted its eye, gave it an aspect too solemn and ascetic—the look of a pilgrim leaving earth rather than an heir of glory going home. Still it was England's most erect and earnest century; and none who believe that worship is the highest work of man can doubt that, of all its predecessors, this Puritan generation lived to the grandest purpose. Pity that, in so many ears, the din of Naseby and Marston Moor has drowned the most sublime of national melodies—the joyful noise of a people praising God. The religion of the period was full of reverence and adoration and self-denial. Connecting common life and its meanest incidents with the unseen realities, and advancing to battle in the strength of psalms, its worthies were more awful than heroes. They were incorruptible and irresistible men, who lived under the all-seeing Eye and leaned on the omnipotent Arm, and who found in God's nearness a consecration for every spot, and a solemn uplifting influence for every moment. Then, after a dreary intervalafter the boisterous irreligion of the later Stuarts and the cold flippancy which so long outlived them, came the Evangelical Revival of last century.
Full-hearted and affectionate, sometimes brisk and vivacious, but always downright and practical, the gospel of that era spoke to the good sense and warm feelings of the nation. In the electric fire of Whitefield, the rapid fervour of Romaine, the caustic force of Berridge and Rowland Hill, and the fatherly wisdom of John Newton and Henry Venn—in those modern evangelists there was not the momentum whose long range demolished error's strongest holds, nor the massive doctrine which built up the tall and stately pile of Puritan theology. That day was past, and that work was accomplished. For the Christian warfare these solemn ironsides and deep-sounding culverines were no longer wanted; but, equipped with the brief logic and telling earnestness of their eager sincerity, the lighter troops of this modern campaign scoured
the country, and brought in, company by company, the happy captives whom they intercepted amongst the “highways and hedges.” The great glory of this recent gospel is the sacred element which it has infused into an age which, but for it, would be wholly secular, and the sustaining element which it has inspired into a community which, but for its blessed hope, would be toil-worn and life-weary. No generation ever drudged so hard as this, and yet none has worked more cheerily. None was ever so tempted to churlish selfishness, and yet none has been more bountiful, and given such strength and
And none was ever more beset with facilities for vice and folly, and yet none has more abounded in disinterested characters and loving families full of loveliness. Other ages may surpass it in the lone grandeur and awful goodness of some pre-eminent name; but in the diffusion of piety, in the simplicity and gladness of domestic religion, and in the many forms of intelligent and practical Christianity, it surpasses them all. With “GOD is LOVE” for the sunny legend in its open sky, and with Bible-texts efflorescing in every-day duties round its agile feet, this latter gospel has left along its path countless specimens of talents consecrated and industry evangelised. Nor till all missionaries like Henry Martyn and John Williams, and all sweet singers like Kirk White and Jane Taylor, and all friends of humanity like Fowell Buxton and Elizabeth Fry, have passed away; nor till the Bible, Tract and Missionary Societies have done their work, will it be known how benign and heart-expanding was that gospel largess which a hundred years ago began to bless the land. Three evangelic eras have come, and two of them are gone. The first of these made its subjects Bible-readers, brave and free. The second made them Bible-singers, full of its deep harmonies and high devotion, and from earthly toil and tumult hid in the pavilion of its stately song. The third made them Bible-doers, kind, liberal, and active, and social withalmutually attractive and mutually confiding-loving to work and worship together. The first found the English commoner little better than a serf; but it gave him a patent of nobility, and converted his cottage into a castle. The second period saw that castle exalted into a sanctuary, and heard it re-echo with worship rapt and high. And the third blended all the rest and added one thing more: in the cottage, castle, sanctuary, it planted a pious family living for either world—diligent but tranquil, manly but devout, self-contained but not exclusive, retired but redundant with truest life; and in this creation it produced the most blessed thing on earth—a happy Christian English Home.
Never has century risen on Christian England so void of soul and faith as that which opened with Queen Anne, and which reached its misty noon beneath the second George—a dewless night succeeded by a sunless dawn.
There was no freshness in the past, and no promise in the future. The memory of Baxter and Ussher possessed no spell, and calls to revival or reform fell dead on the echo. Confessions of sin, and national covenants, and all projects towards a public and visible acknowledgment of the Most High, were voted obsolete, and the golden dreams of Westminster worthies only lived in Hudibras. The Puritans were buried and the Methodists were not born. The philosopher of the age was Bolingbroke, the moralist was Steele, the minstrel was Pope, and the preacher was Atterbury. The world had the idle discontented look of the morning after some mad holiday; and, like rocket-sticks and the singed paper from last night's squibs, the spent jokes of Charles and Rochester lay all about, and people yawned to look at them. It was a listless, joyless morning, when the slip-shod citizens were cross, and even the merry-Andrew joined the incurious public, and, forbearing his ineffectual pranks, sat down to wonder at the vacancy. The reign of buffoonery was past, but the reign of faith and earnestness had not commenced.
A DISPENSATION DEPARTING.
“ It was
During the first forty years of that century, the eye that seeks for spiritual life can hardly find it; least of all that hopeful and diffusive life which is the harbinger of more. taken for granted that Christianity was not so much as a subject for inquiry, but was at length discovered to be fictitious. And men treated it as if this were an agreed point among all people of discernment. Doubtless there were divines, like Beveridge and Watts and Doddridge, men of profound devotion, and desirous of doing good; but the little which they accomplished only shews how adverse was the time. And their
appearance was no presage. They were not the Ararats of an emerging economy. The zone of piety grew no wider, and they saw no symptoms of a new world appearing. But, like the Coral Islands of the Southern Pacific, slowly descending, they were the dwindling peaks of an older dispensation, and felt the water deepening round them. In their devout but sequestered walk, and in their faithful but mournful appeals to their congregations and country, they looked like the pensive mementoes of a glory departed, not the hopeful precursors of a glory to come. Remembrance and regret are feeble reformers; and the story of godly ancestors has seldom shamed into repentance their lax and irreverent sons. The power which startles or melts a people is zeal surcharged with faith in the great realities, and baptized with the fire of heaven—that fervour which, incandescent with hope and confidence, bursts in flame at the sight of a glorious future, and which, heaping " coals of fire” on the heads of opponents, at once consumes the obstacle, and augments its own transforming conflagration.
Of this power the splendid example was WHITEFIELD.+ The son of a Gloucester innkeeper, and sent to Pembroke College, his mind became so burdened with a sense of sin, that he had little heart for study. God and eternity, a holy law * Bishop Butler.
+ Born 1714. Died 1770.
and his own personal shortcoming, were thoughts which haunted every moment, and compelled him to live for the salvation of his soul; but, except his tutor Wesley and a few gownsmen, he met with none who shared his earnestness. And though earnest, they were all more or less in error. Among the influential minds of the University there was no one to lead them into the knowledge of the gospel, and they had no religious guides except the genius of the place and books of their own choosing. The genius of the place was an ascetic quietism. Its libraries full of clasped schoolmen and tall fathers, its cloisters so solemn that to congenial spirits a hearty laugh or hurried step seemed sinful, and its halls lit with medieval sunshine, perpetually invited their inmates to meditation and silent recollection; whilst the early tinkle of the chapel bell and the frosty routine of winter matins, the rubric and the founder's rules, proclaimed the religious benefits of bodily exercise. The Romish postern had not then been re-opened; but with no devotional models, save the marble Bernards and de Wykhams, and no spiritual illumination except what came in by the North windows of the past, it is not surprising that ardent but reverential spirits should in such a place have unwittingly groped into a Romish pietism. With an awakened conscience and a resolute will, young Whitefield went through the sanatory specifics of A-Kempis, Castanza, and William Law; and, in his anxiety to exceed all that is required by the rubric, he would fast during Lent on black bread and sugarless tea, and stand in the cold till his nose was red and his fingers blue, whilst, in the hope of temptation and wild beasts, he would wander through Christ-Church meadows over dark. whilst pursuing this course of self-righteous fanaticism that he was seized with alarming illness. It sent him to his Bible, and, whilst praying and yearning over his Greek Testament, the open secret” flashed
upon his view. The discovery of a completed and gratuitous salvation filled with ecstasy a spirit pre