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America is becoming convinced of the comparative futility of mere Secular Education to produce those qualities which most enrich a nation, it would ill become us to think of casting adrift our Scriptural Education, and adopting a secular, or, as some would call it, a godless system. With the adoption of a system of Compulsory Rating, all direct influence on the part of the clergyman would be lost. Rates so administered would involve committees of management for the schools not constituted as now, but it might be the local board of guardians, or other persons whose views would not be in harmony with the conduct of schools as now managed. As regards the religious influence of the clergy over the national schools, no greater evil could arise than the adoption of Compulsory Rating
Two dangers cause misgivings to those who might otherwise view without anxiety the attacks of the enemy from without. On the one hand, Congregationalism is becoming the bane of our corporate Church vitality. There is but little union in that common work which would tend much to the general health and successful growth of our Church. Had it not been for this increase of congregationalism, every clergyman for his congregation, and every congregation for itself, Ritualism had been nipped in the bud. Many-nay, most of the members of the Establishment were indifferent that the mischief was in the Church, provided it were not in their own parish. The general expression of authoritative opinion and common interest brought to bear on the plague spots, at first few and far between, would have been sufficient to stamp them out. Such union, even now, would, by God's blessing, be most successful in stemming the torrent which threatens us, and accomplishing the great work which lies before us. Again, it is our misfortune, as a National Church, to delay when we ought to act. Had the Irish Church. reformed herself, instead of lingering, as was the case, she would not now be in the throes of dissolution. She postponed until reform came too late. Surely it ill becomes the position of a National Church to be compelled at last ungraciously to accept any hostile measure which may be thrust upon her, instead of, true to her position, inaugurating such measures as might be desirable.
A great statesman was once asked what was the greatest thought that ever occupied his mind. “My accountability to God," was the suggestive solemn reply. Such an answer ought not to be less fitting in the mouth of a minister of Christ than from the lips of a worldly politician. There would be no fear for the great question of Education, if only as individual Christians, and unitedly as an Established Church, the clergy remembered their accountability to Him " whose will it is not that one of these little ones should perish.”.
Jn. W. B.
LIFE AND WRITINGS OF CÆSAR MALAN. Life, Labours, and Writings of Cæsar Malan, Minister of the Gospel in the Church of Geneva, Doctor of Divinity, and Pastor of L'Eglise du Témoignage. By one of his Sons. London : Nisbet and Co., Berners Street. 1869.
The beginning of the sixteenth century was the memorable time when, breaking loose from the gloomy prison in which it had been so long immured, the truth as it is in Jesus came forth into the light and resumed its ministrations of mercy amongst the children of men. It would be erroneous to desig. nate that period as the time of its resurrection, for that would imply that it had been dead, and revealed truth never dies. It was not dead in the pre-Reformation times. There were stirrings enough in individuals, and in isolated bodies of men, such as the Lollards of England and the Vaudois of Piedmont, which more than sufficed to show that truth was not dead. But it was closely watched by its oppressors, and whenever it ventured to show itself, it was hunted and driven back into seclusion,
The time, however, was now come when God determined that it should be no longer under restraint; that the barriers should be broken, and it should be freed. By His divine power, He moved the hearts of men to feel their need of truth, and enquire after it as that which could no longer be dispensed with. Questions of primary importance began to be intensely agitated—“What is true Christianity ?” “Does the Church teach it as God gave it, and as man requires it?” Men in general had long been contented abjectly to receive what the Church imposed; but now they began to question, and that increasingly, as through the art of printing access to the Bible was facilitated.
That they should begin to question, is not surprising. Ample opportunity had been afforded to the Romish system to verify its assumptions, and prove its efficacy. To its requirements men had implicitly submitted themselves; the result was unsatisfactory; they were nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. They wanted help, but the Christianity which Rome taught did not help them. At the present time it is otherwise ; numbers do not want to be helped, and the pure Christianity which would help them they put away from them. In the beginning of the sixteenth century numbers longed to emerge out of darkness; but now, in this latter half of the nineteenth century, numbers desire to escape from the light. Vol. 68.-No. 380.
The spirit of earnest enquiry showed itself, not merely in one place or at one centre, but simultaneously at many places. France claims to be the first of the European countries in which this movement in the direction of Christian light and liberty was felt. A doctor of theology, Lefevre by name, led the way; and Farel, a pupil of his, whose birthplace had been among the mountains of Dauphiny, and who had come to the University of Paris to pursue his studies, caught from Lefevre the first spark of Evangelical truth, which, kindling up into a powerful flame, revealed to him the utter corruption of the Romish Church, and constituted him one of the most resolute of the European reformers. After his emancipation, when looking back upon the slavery in which he had been held, he exclaimed, “I was busied day and night in serving the devil after the fashion of the Pope, that man of sin. I had my pantheon in my heart, and so many intercessors, so many saviours, so many gods, that I might well have passed for a Popish register.”
Thus, before 1512, the Reformation had begun in France. It was the first shock of an earthquake, which startled the priests of Rome from their security, and warned them to awake because the foundations of their rule over the souls of men were being shaken. The great movement was soon felt in other places. In 1513, Zuinglius commenced to study Greek, and having his eyes opened to the value of the Scriptures, raised in the mountains of Glarus the standard of the Gospel. In 1517, Luther grappled with Tetzel, and affixed his propositions to the outer pillars of the gate of the church of All Saints, Wittenberg. Thus the movement gathered strength. In France it stirred individuals, a doctor of theology and his pupils; in Switzerland it was heard in the pulpit; in Germany it became an indignant public protest against the corruptions of the Church of Rome. About the end of 1522, Tyndale arrived in London, anxious to find some safe retreat, where in quiet he might be permitted to carry out the great purpose of his heart-translating the Scriptures of God into his native tongue. Twenty-five years more, and the Reformation was nationalized in England.
Thus, as of old, God said, “Let there be light.” In so many places the high command was simultaneously responded to, and—as of old, so now-it was through the Word that this great change was produced. The art of printing had multiplied copies of the Scriptures, and afforded to men access to the great instrument of spiritual light, such as they had not previously enjoyed. The earliest book printed was the Bible, and that earliest Bible, the Mazarine Bible, is supposed to have been issued from the press of Guttenberg and Fust, at Mentz, about the year 1455. It is on vellum, and in Latin, and a copy of it may be seen in the British Museum. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, Erasmus published the New Testament in Greek, with a new Latin translation, and this was the first step to the translation of the Bible into the vernacular. It proved to be so in England. The students of Oxford and Cambridge, attracted in the first instance by the classical aspect of the book, soon discovered what riches it contained. Bilney, long disquieted, found peace as he read, “It is a faithful saying, and worthy to be received by all men, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Tyndale, as the truth flashed in its brightness on his soul, exclaimed, eŰpnka! and what he had found himself he resolved to give to others.
Rome, with an instinctive perception of her danger, arose to meet it with those carnal weapons which she so well knows how to use. By her vindictive persecution of the Vaudois, she had familiarized herself with such proceedings, and the sword fell first on the reformers of France. “In April, 1521, the University of Paris decreed that the writings of Luther should be publicly committed to the flames.” Lefevre met the challenge by publishing the French translation, first, of the four Gospels, then of the remaining books of the New Testament. In November, 1524, the whole of these were collected into one volume at Meaux; and this was followed by a French version of the Psalms, which Lefevre published in 1525. Many there were who gladly received the Scriptures. They read them in their families and in private, and the Bible became increasingly the subject of conversation.” The persecutors had burned books; now they proceeded to burn men. Many of the French reformers suffered; the rest were scattered, and amongst them Farel. Quitting France, he entered Switzerland in 1524. So it was of old : “they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen, went everywhere evangelizing.” France has expelled, from time to time, the most precious part of her population, and has enriched other countries by impoverishing herself.
The period was a critical one in Switzerland. The reformers of Zurich had mistaken their path. They had confounded the political with the spiritual element, and at the battle of Cappell had experienced how true it is that they which take the sword shall perish by the sword. The cause of the Reformation had been dealt with as the Ark of God of old; when brought down into the battle-field, it was taken by the Philistines. It is a great danger when the men who profess to be on the Lord's side forsake the principles of their Great Leader, and forget His own words, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my
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kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence.” It had been so with the people of Zurich; instead of the spiritual, the carnal weapon had been resorted to, and it had failed. The reaction was great. The restoration of Romanism to the ascendancy which it had lost seemed imminent. Priests and monks overran town and country; the deserted cells were reoccupied.
What part was Geneva about to enact at this great national crisis? Her position was an important one. If won to the cause of truth, she was qualified to exercise a great influence for good ; lost to it, the injurious consequences would be proportionate. Had she received the truth in the love of it? Not as yet. Despotism and superstition she had repudiated, but spiritual Christianity she had not embraced. A negative Protestantism may continue to be professed while circumstances are favourable ; but should it appear that to persist therein exposes men to temporal loss, while an abandonment of it would result in temporal advantages, then the negative Protestantism will exhibit its inherent weakness, and what is expedient will be preferred to what is right.
If, in the critical times which had come upon the world, Geneva were to exercise an influence for good, it needed that her Protestantism should be more than negative, that it should improve into an earnest and living Christianity.
It was just then, when and where they were most needed, that the good men, whom France had expelled from her borders, entered Switzerland. Persecuted in one country, they fled into another. Switzerland gave them a refuge, and they repaid the gift with interest. Robert Olivétan, Calvin's cousin, commenced the work of evangelization at Geneva; so that, when Farel arrived, he found a little company who knew and valued spiritual Christianity. Driven forth for a time, Farel soon returned, and uniting with him Froment and Peter Viret, so laboured, that in 1535 the Council declared themselves on the side of the Reformation. Calvin, on his arrival in 1536, completed the organization of the Geneva Church-a Church which, although unlike the Church of England in constitution and form of worship, united with our forefathers in the recognition of those distinctive truths which are the very essence of Christianity, and which, while forms and discipline may be changed, cannot be changed without dishonour to God and ruin to the souls of men. In 1558, a college was founded in Geneva, where Calvin and Beza taught, and to which great numbers of students repaired from France, Italy, Germany, England, and Scotland. Thus the Church of Geneva became a reservoir of truth, and sent forth healthful streams from its abundance to irrigate and fertilize less favoured lands.