Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

THE THRESHOLD OF A NEW FUTURE.

59

а

kind than at any former period of my life.” He “distinctly foresees” that one of the books he is about to publish is “ a book for much good or evil, both to the

a Church and myself,” though convinced that there is also more for God's glory in it than “in all

my

other writings put together :" he has, in short, come to the threshold of a new world, which yet he cannot see, but which vaguely thrills him with prophetic tremors — a world to him radiant with ever-unfolding truth, persecutions, glories, martyrdoms, one like unto the Son of Man in the midst of the fiery burning with him, and the Lord visible in the flesh, vindicating his saints at the end. Such was not the future which awaited the heroic devoted soul ; but such was the form in which his anticipations presented it now.

I may be pardoned for lingering on this splendid and overflowing year. Irving had already controversies enough on hand ; vulgar antagonists, whom he scorned; assaults from without which could not harm him, having no point of vantage upon his heart; but nothing which touched his life or honour. He had enemies ; but none whose enmity wounded him. Everything he had touched as yet had opened and sublimed under his hand; and no authoritative voice had yet interfered to attempt to drive back to doctrine and forms of words a man whose faith seized upon a Divine reality instead, and converted dogmas into things. He stood, open-eyed and eager, trembling on the verge of an opening world of truth, every particular of which was yet to gleam forth as vivid on his mind as those which he had already apprehended out of the dim domain of theology. And other men, who had

60

HIGH ANTICIPATIOXS.

also found light unthought of gleaming out of the familiar text which use had dulled to most, were gathering round him, bringing each his trembling certainty, his new hope. Whether they were right or wrong had as yet come under the question of no serious tribunal. Wrong or right, it was the love of God glowing radiant over the human creatures he had made that inspired them all ; and to many an eye less vivid than Irving's, this wonderful combination seemed the beginning of a new era, the manifestation of a higher power. For himself, he was at the height of his activity and the fulness of his powers: his anticipations were all grand, like his thoughts. He looked for susering on an heroic scale, not the harassing repetitions of Presbyterial prosecution; and he looked to be splendidly vindicated at the last by the Lord himself, in glory and majesty. His heart swelled and his thoughts rose upon that high tide of hope and genius ; shades of passing ailment might now and then glide across him; but it was "excess of strength” resisting the intellectual and spiritual commotions within, and not any prevision of bodily weakness. His friends stood round him close and cordial, an undiminished band; and every vein throbbing with life, and every capacity of heart and mind in the fullest sway of action, he marched along in the force and fulness of his manhood, prescient of splendid conflict and great sorrow; unaware and unbelieving of failure or defeat.

In the beginning of winter he paid a hurried visit to Leicester, to his friend Mr. Vaughan, whose life was then nearly drawing to its close. The short time they appear to have had together was spent “ conversing

VAUGHAN OF LEICESTER.

61

[ocr errors]

about the things pertaining to our high calling as ministers of the Gospel and Church of Christ.” And the letter in which Irving records this is ended by an amusing conjugal advice, more in the strain of ordinary husbands than is common to his chivalrous and tender heart :-“I will hope to be with you, under Miss Macdonald's roof, on Thursday evening, which let us have quietly together,” he writes. “And therefore be not over-wearied, for nothing afflicts me so much as to see you incapable of enjoying the society and love for which you do not always give me credit, but which I trust I always feel.” And in a postscript, he adds a message to the little daughter, now, at three years old, capable of entering into the correspondence. “Tell Maggy,” he says,

" that at Dunstable a man would have sold me twelve larks for a shilling, to bake into a pie, four-and-twenty blackbirds baking in a pie; and that at Newport-Pagnell one of the horses laid down when he should have started to run, which is like Meg, not Maggy, when she will not do Ma's bidding, but stands still and cries. Not Maggy, but Meg; for Maggy is like the other three, who would have gone on cheerfully, except when Meg is restive.” This is the first appearance of the little woman in the father's letters, which afterwards contain many communications for her. A week or two later he writes from Albury, where the second prophetical conference was now taking place, and after a brief announcement to his wife of his arrival, devotes his second letter from thence entirely to his three-year-old correspondent. I find no more serious account of this second meeting than the one Irving thus sends to his child :

62

SECOND ALBURY CONFERENCE.

“My Maggy, -- Papa is living in a great house with a great many men who preach. The house is Mr. Drummond's and Lady Harriet Drummond's. They have two daughters and two little boys. . . . . This house where we live is all round with great trees, like great-grandpapa's, and the black crows build their nests, and always cry caw, caw, caw.

There is a sweet little river that runs murmuring along, making a gentle noise among the trees. And there is a large, large garden. . . . . Now, my Maggy, tell your papa what he and the great many preaching gentlemen are doing at Albury Park, where Mr. Drummond and Lady Harriet live? We are all reading the Bible, which is God's Word - the book we read at worship. God speaks to us in that book, and we tell one another what He tells to us. Every morning, about half-past six o'clock, a man goes round and awakens us all. Then, soon after, comes a maid, like Elizabeth, and puts on a fire in all our rooms, and then we get up. ... Then we go

down stairs into a great room and sit round a great table, and speak concerning God and Christ. Here is the table, and all the gentlemen about it.” (Here follows a rude drawing of the table, with the names of all the members of the conference scribbled in, in their places, Irving's own seat being distinguished by the title, “My Papa.") “But it is time for dinner. Farewell, my dear Maggy. Mamma will tell all this to you, and you must tell it all to Miss Macdonald and little brother. “ The Lord bless my Maggy!

“ Your Papa,

“ EDWARD IRVING."

.

The Albury conference once more produced its volume of records, travestied by a lifeless form and obsolete treatment, out of all human interest; but in Irving's domestic chronicle retains no memorial but this simple description. Immediately after its conclusion his father-in-law, Dr. Martin, writes thus to one of his younger daughters :

[ocr errors]

DR. MARTIN'S ACCOUNT OF ITS RESULTS.

63

“We had a long letter from Isabella the other day. All with her seems to be well. Edward's visit to Albury had not, she thinks, done him much good, in body at least. The vehemence with which he goes after every object that impresses him is extraordinary. Some things stated at Albury had impressed him much with the ignorance of the poorer population of London, and with the sin of those who are more enlightened in not doing more for their instruction; and he has resolved to preach every night to the poor of London and its vicinity, while Mr. Scott is to do, or at least to attempt to do, the like in Westminster. The Lord be with them! But there are limits to mortal strength,- Mr. Scott's is not great, and Edward's, though more than ordinary, is not invincible. I suppose his conviction of the near approach of the second Advent has been increased by his attendance on the late meeting; and viewing it as the hour of doom to all who are not reconciled to God, he feels it the more imperatively his duty to warn all to flee from the wrath to come. After giving the subject the most careful and impartial consideration I can," adds the sober-minded Scottish pastor, “I am unable to see things as he and his friends do; nay, I am more and more convinced that they are wrong. But supposing them to be right, and they doubtless imagine they are, his conduct, which many will be apt to represent as that of a madman, is that of a generous lover of his fellowcreatures, and a faithful ambassador of Christ."

Such was not the spirit, however, in which Irving's deviations from the ordinary views were to be generally received. He concluded this year with enough of these deviations to alarm any prudent friend. On the subject of the Millennium, and on that of Baptism (his doctrine on which differs from that commonly known as Baptismal Regeneration, by the most inappreciable hair’s-breadth), the authorities of the Church seem to have had nothing to say to him, and

« PoprzedniaDalej »