Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

REFERENCE TO THE MOTHER CHURCH.

169

Every man of them had come forward in his defence and justification, to set their name and credit to the stake on which he had put his heart and life. They were his earliest and closest friends in London, stout Churchmen, pious Christians, sufficiently Scotch and ecclesiastical, attached to all the traditions of the Church, to make it possible to forget that they stood, a little recalcitrant community, and “inferior court,” in opposition to the orthodox jurisdiction of the next superior circle of rulers. Minister and Session alike delivered themselves triumphantly from this dilemma, by direct reference to the Church of Scotland. It is possible that a little unconscious jesuitry lay in this appeal; for the Church of Scotland was as powerless to interfere on the southern side of the Tweed, as the Bishop of London would be on the north; and so long as the minister of the National Scotch Church refrained from asking anything from her, could not interfere, otherwise than by distant and ineffectual censures, with his proceedings. Such, however, was the attitude they assumed ; a position not dissimilar from that of certain English clergymen in Scotland, who, professing to be of the English Church, refuse the jurisdiction of the Scottish Episcopal, and live bishopless, and beyond the reach of government, in visionary allegiance to their distant mother.

Amid all these outward agitations, Irving's heart still throbbed with personal sorrows and joys; from the sad experience of the former comes the following letter, written to his sister, Mrs. Fergusson and her husband, on the loss, so well known to himself, of one of their children :

170

THE USURY OF TEARS.

;

"London, 17th January, 1831. “MY DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER, - You have at length been made to prove the bitterest of mortal trials, and to feel it is a season of peculiar grace to the people of God. George felt desirous to answer your letter communicating the painful information, and I was glad to permit him, that you may see he has not forgotten you. I think he is very true-hearted and honest in his affections.

“Now, my dear brethren, while you are exercised with this sorrow, while the wound and smart of it is still fresh in your hearts, be exercised much in faith and prayer towards God, in humility, and repentance, and confession of sin for all your house. That being exercised with the affliction, you may

be made partakers of His holiness. I remember well when I lost my darling Edward: it taught me two lessons ; the first, how little I had dealt faithfully towards God in his baptism, not having surrendered him altogether to the Lord, and used him as the Lord's stewardship, to be surrendered when it seemed good to his Father and to my Father. Let me pray you to take this view of the children who are still spared to you. The second lesson which I learned was, to know how little of human existence is on this side the grave, and by how much the better and nobler portion of it is in eternity. This comforted me exceedingly, and I seek to comfort you with the consolation with which I have myself been comforted of Christ.

“For our own affairs, I have had much to suffer for the truth's sake since I was with you, and expect to have much more to suffer in the course of not many months. I know not where nor how it is to come, but I know it is coming; and in the foreview of it, I ask your prayers and the prayers of all the faithful near you.

Early in the year, the mournful household was gladdened by another prosperous birth, that of the only surviving son of the family, Martin Irving, now Principal of the University of Melbourne. On this occasion, Irving, writing to his father-in-law, Dr. Martin,

[ocr errors]

* His younger brother, then practising as a surgeon in London.

IRVING'S REPETITION OF HIS BELIEF.

171

to “give him joy of a grandson," enters as follows into affairs less personal, but equally engrossing:

“Though I have not time now to answer your muchesteemed letter, I will just say this to keep your mind at ease, —that I never suppose the union of the Son of God with our nature to be otherwise than by the Holy Ghost; and therefore, whatever in our nature is predisposed to evil, was always by the Holy Ghost disposed to good; moreover, that there are not two persons, the one the person of the Holy Ghost, and the other, the person of the Son, in Him, but that He, the Son of God, acting within the limits of the Son of man, or as the Christ, did Himself ever use the Holy Ghost to the use and end of presenting His members a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God. That it should be a sacrifice doth not render it unholy, for the text saith holy; and how was it a living sacrifice, but by continually putting to death and keeping in death the law of the flesh. The difference, so far as I can apprehend your doctrine between us, is, that you suppose the Holy Spirit to have at once and for aye sanctified the flesh of Christ before He took it, that He might take it; I say that Christ did this ever by the Holy Spirit, but that it was as completely done at the first as at the last; and to your notion I object many things which I will draw out in order and send to you. Oh! how you mistake in thinking that such a letter as you wrote me would not be most acceptable! I thank you exceedingly for it. I would that others had done likewise. But, dear and honoured sir, be assured that my confidence in the truth of what I hold is not of the teaching of man, but is of the teaching of the Word and Spirit of God. . My blessing be upon you all, - the blessing of one of Christ's servants, who loves his Lord, and is ready, by His grace, to give up all for His name's sake!”

.

In the same spring, while still explaining and re-explaining to his friends, with inexhaustible patience, this special doctrine, Irving was also preparing another work on the same subject, published shortly afterwards

172

“ CHRIST'S HOLINESS IN FLESH.”

under the title of Christ's Holiness in Flesh; the Form and Fountain-head of all Holiness in Flesh. The preface to this book consists of a long, minute, and animated narrative of the progress of the controversy as far as it had proceeded, and especially of the dealings of the London Presbytery with himself, from which I have already repeatedly quoted. The story is told with a certain flush of indignation and self-assertion, as of a man unable to deny his own consciousness of being himself a servant and soldier of Jesus Christ, more zealous and more fully acknowledged of his Master than those who, in Christ's name, had condemned him. The book itself is one which he seems to have been satisfied with as a fit and careful statement of his views. “I should like that it were sent among the clergy," he writes to his friend Mr. Macdonald, in Edinburgh, “I think it will be popular enough to pay its own expenses in time.” In the same letter he declares that “I intend being in Edinburgh at the Assembly, if I should crawl and beg my way. God give me both strength of body and mind to endure what is before me! I intend proceeding by Galloway and Dumfriesshire; and desire to preach in Edinburgh twice a day the first week of the Assembly; the second, to be at leisure for conference and busi

This intention, however, he did not succeed in carrying out The still more engrossing interest then springing up at home, or motives of prudence, strange to his usual mode of procedure, kept Irving away from the actual arena at that momentous period. He did not go to Edinburgh for that Assembly, nor thrust himself into conflict with the Church. What happened

ness."

PRAYER FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

173

there he watched with the utmost eagerness and interest; but the prudence of his friends, or his own interest in matters more immediately calling his attention, kept him at that moment from personal collision with the excited and jealous courts of the Scotch Church.

He did, however, all that an earnest man could do to influence their proceedings. Having already exhausted himself in explanation and appeal to the tribunal, where he still hoped to find mercy and wisdom in the case of his friends, and patience and consideration for himself, he did the only thing which remained possible to his devout and believing heart. He besought the prayers of his people for the direction of the ecclesiastical parliament. In the brightening mornings of spring he invited around him the members of the Church, to pray for wisdom and guidance to the General Assembly—an Assembly which, to many of these members, had been hitherto little known, and less cared for. He collected not only his staunch Scottish remnant, but his new and still more fervent disciples, who knew nothing of Scotland or her Church, to agree upon this thing which they should ask of God. They met at half-past six in the morning for this object; and there, in the Church so fondly called National, Irving, fervent and impassioned, presented the prayers—not only of the Scotch Churchmen who understood the matter fully, but of the puzzled English adherents who believed in him, and were content to join their supplications with his for a matter so near his heart-on behalf of the ecclesiastical rulers who were about to brand and stigmatise him as a heretic. This prayer-meeting for the benefit of the General

« PoprzedniaDalej »