Page images

cultivation of them, which is one thing that thus, yet without in the least hindering. we need to guard against.

Having lost much of your youthful fire and Not that we go continuously in fear of fury, impulsiveness and passion, beware of death, of which, indeed, we think less, pro- becoming injuriously obstructive, of sinking bably, than others; less than the old whose into a hard and rigid fear of movement. Mix faces are turned toward it; less, even, than a good deal with the young. In spite of the young, to whose intense vitality and your own youthful mistakes and blunders, vivid ardour it is often suggested by its con- cultivate trust in their instincts and sympathy trasted silence and gloom, and to whose with their enthusiasms. Do not allow yourwonder its mystery appeals. But it would selves to sneer at their Quixotisms and wild be peculiarly hard for us to be arrested and ideas, because you once had the same, and summoned away. Yet it becomes us to re- have learnt how foolish they were. member that the characteristic of middle age In middle life we are apt to become selfish, ---its tendency to conservatism, to grow to consider increasingly our ease, our comrigid and indisposed for change—is just the fort, our possessions; to think less of what beginning of the sentence of death in us; would be the true and best thing for society the woodman's mark upon the tree, in token than of what would be most lucrative or most that it is not to remain, but stands destined safe for ourselves. Our love of“ stability" to be cut down before long; it is the fore- is often little other than a form of selfishness. shadowing of our departure, the whisper in “Let be, ye restless, reforming souls; we are us that we are meant for removal. For suited with things as they are ; why should death, you know, which is God's pain to the there be any change? It might not be half individual and family, is God's mercy to so well for us; at all events, would be inconsociety, one of the blessed and beautiful venient and disturbing. We have gained means by which He is ever preventing the and achieved prosperity under the old order, stagnation of humanity and keeping the and protest, therefore, against its being world in progress; and every death in ma- superseded by a new.” ture age is the sacrifice and offering up of a

“Oh woodman, spare that tree! man in the interest of men, since, after a

Touch not a single bough; time we are rather in the way, or at least un

In youth it sheltered me

And I'll protect it now." helpful to the forward movement; and not only so, but, ineffectual to prevent it, in To the men amongst us who have been sweeping on, it leaves us behind, forlorn successful, I would say, do not suffer your and fretful.

success to tempt you to make your own The kindred spirits with whom we once comfort the standard of right. took sweet counsel are gone ; we are com- the things of others. Retain and cherish paratively alone in the crowd ; and thus, the generosity, if you have outlived the when at length death comes, in the sacrifice of passion and dreams of youth. Be capable the individual there is, generally speaking, still of forgetting yourselves in sympathy much mercy to the individual. The necessity with the cause of humanity. Let nothing of death lies in the diminution of receptivity, be more real or more certain to you than in the fixedness of nature, which, beyond a man's divine sonship and heirship, and the certain point, the growing years entail; and supremacy of character and moral worth. the tendency to it, which middle age brings, Let nothing be to you so authoritative or is the beginning of death's claim upon us; then beautiful, and nothing so precious, as truth; it is that we begin to be set with our faces in aid of which walk in daily communion gravewards.

with Christ; contemplate Him, sit at His In the meanwhile, however, this desire to feet. None will be likely to lose trust in the abide as we are, ever present in the midst, human, or to fail from worship of the good ; through the continual ripening of youth none will be likely to sink into a state in toward maturity, has its great use and bene- which their secular prospects or investments fit. A world given up to the fervid aspira- shall be more thought of than truth and tions, reckless experiments, adventurous, righteousness; none will be likely to grow impetuous essays of the young, would be in sensual, cynical, hard, or unduly conservasore peril of suffering wreck in its plunges tive as they grow older, who are wont to after higher things. Our comparative con- set Christ before them, and to walk often in servatism serves to keep the onward striving retirement with Him.

He will give you sober and afe, to guard and guide; and the dew of your youth ; He will preserve your here is our work and mission, even to help heart fresh and pure.

Look upon


OUR paths are all deserted,

Our roses all have died ;
In some dim spot, frequented not,

The winter violets hide ;
But leaves that lisped above your head

Are scattered by the blast,
And the swallow's glancing wing has fled,

For summer time is past.
O for the wild wood shadows,

Solemn, and cool, and sweet!
That flowery way from day to day

Was trodden by your feet ;
But now across the moss-grown sod

No golden lights are cast,
And the little feet went home to God

When summer time was past.
I cannot read the poems

Your voice has made too dear,
Nor tread again that ferny lane

I loved when you were here ;
But One will take my weary hand

And hold me, safe and fast,
Till I find in His own fatherland
The summer that is past.





BY THE REV. W. DORLING, BY Y the death of Thomas Erskine of supporter of the Prince of Orange; but

Linlathen on the oth of March, 1870, while devoted to William, had great scruples a large blank was made in a circle of devoted in respect to the oaths of allegiance and friends and followers. Erskine had not abjuration, because of what he felt to be the taken any particular share in what we call countenance which would be given by such public life, for he had abandoned his profes- acts to the connection of the Church of sion as an Advocate very early; and had not England with the State. The King was too assumed any prominent position before the sensible to make much of his resusal, as he world, nor had he written many books. knew him to be a faithful supporter. His Some of those books had made a very deep uncle was the celebrated Dr. John Erskine, impression on the minds of certain readers; the eminent author and preacher, who for and especially one of them which had passed fifty years was the centre of a large religious through many editions. But Erskine's in- circle, and had among his correspondents fluence was not owing to any literary talent, such men as Bishops Warburton and Hurd but to the hold which he gained over those in England; Jonathan Edwards and Dr. who came in his way by his own personal Cotton Mather in America, and many attraction and character. His books had eminent continental divines. Dr. Hanna been welcomed by not a few thoughtful considers that Dr. Erskine, “more perhaps and devout minds in all the Churches; than any other individual, contributed to but some of them were scarcely known whatever progress literature made in Scotland, beyond the circle which was immediately during the last half of the eighteenth affected by his personal influence. Having century.” We have not space to indicate the attained a patriarchal age, and wearing other numerous and cellent connections in beautiful simplicity the most benign of Mr. Erskine's family. Having been at Christian virtues, he was a man to envy. school in Durham, Thomas Erskine was He had lived long enough to see a marvel- entered as a student in the University of lous alteration in the attitude and expression Edinburgh, where he attended the law of Christian thought, and to rejoice over the classes, and was admitted a member of the complete triumph of some of those views of Faculty of Advocates in 1810, and remained truth which, in the judgment of most | in Edinburgh for the next six years. He Christian men, brighten the face of God and formed many pleasant associations in the strengthen the hopes of man. He had city which stimulated and enlarged his mind. taken part, in a quiet but most serviceable While he attended the Parliament House, way, in many of the struggles which had Walter Scott was daily sitting as one of the been waged in the Church of Scotland for clerks of the Court of Session, and the greater freedom of thought, and was the Edinburgh Review was at the height of its faithful friend and loving counsellor of some fame. In his early manhood he had misof the ablest of the champions in those con- givings of a sceptical nature in respect to the flicts.

gospel history; but “by patient study of the Mr. Erskine's admirers will be more than narrative, and of its place in the history of grateful for the recently published volumes the world,” he was led into a conviction of of his letters.* The editor tells briefly the its truth. We gather that from early life story of his early life, and, to use his his mind was peculiarly under the impression own expression, “ interlaces his letters occa- of all events which seemed to bring him into sionally with illustrative

illustrative narrative, that nearer contact with the spiritual world. The by its setting, the mirror may be made removal of friends by death produced a deep to reflect as clearly and fully as possible effect upon him. This was particularly the the pure bright image of one, who moved case when his brother James died of typhus so lovingly and attractively among his fever in 1816 at the age of twenty-eight. fellow-men; who walked so closely and con- This brother he greatly venerated, although stantly with God.” Erskine owned a noble he was but a year older than himself. His ancestry. His great grandfather, Colonel memory of him was fresh and green even in John Erskine, was warm friend and his latest years. By his death the succession

to the estate of Linlathen fell to Thomas, .“ Letters of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen." by William Hanna, D.D. David Douglas, Edinburgh.

and he left Edinburgh and bade farewell to



the bar at the age of twenty-seven. He took any Covenanter ever dreamed, but that it is this step very solemnly, and desired to place applicable because it is a continual witness some of his most earnest views of religion in for a God of righteousness, not only against the hands of his professional companions. idolatry, but against that notion of a mere He had now risen with all the energy of mind sovereign Baal or Bel which underlies all and heart to that earnest position of inquiry idolatry, all tyranny, all immorality, I may and devotion in the matter of religion which claim you as their spiritual progenitor.” henceforth marked his whole life.

This would seem sufficient to stamp Mr. As a Scotch laird of comfortable means, Erskine as an author of uncommon power, he had been unfamiliar with the difficulties who directly and indirectly exerted a great which often befel men of wide sympathy influence on his generation. and earnest toil in the realm of patient. We learn that about 1820, Erskine began thought, and had therefore been able since to exercise a kind of evangelistic ministry he was a young man to devote his time in Linlathen and its neighbourhood. In and energy without hindrance to whatever Broughty-Ferry there was a chapel which had inquiries and pursuits engaged his mind and been used as a missionary station. Mr. heart. And on this account, perhaps, he Erskine bought it, and invited ministers of was brought into contact with those men various churches to occupy the pulpit. and women whose lives it was his peculiar Sometimes on Sunday evenings he preached, work to influence so powerfully. He was himself. He also gave addresses of much a preacher to the upper rather than to the interest at his own morning and evening lower class; a preacher, too, by unconscious domestic services. personal influence more than by any gift of But Erskine's letters are the pleasing tongue or pen. Still, by both pen and tongue memorials of his life. He was, above all did he tell powersully on men. No small things else, a letter writer. His letters tribute to the effect of his writings on such too, have a wide and unusual interest as men as the Rev. Frederick Denison Maurice they are often to and about some of the is found in the dedication to Mr. Erskine of now most widely known European names, Mr. Maurice's “ Prophets and Kings of the and they afford pleasing glimpses of the Old Testament,” published in 1852. Mr. effects which these persons produced on Maurice says,

“The pleasure of associat- Erskine when they had not yet gained their ing my name with yours, and the kind in- present fame. When writing from St. Gerterest which you expressed in some of these mains, in 1838, he says, “ Dr. Chalmers has sermons when you heard them preached, come to Paris, and is over head and ears might not be a sufficient excuse for the with delight; he has an honest, natural, liberty which I take in dedicating them to unsuppressed pleasure in seeing everything you. But I have a much stronger reason. and every person. My entire want of curiI am under obligations to you which the osity makes me an unfit companion for him. subject of this volume especially brings to But I see a good deal of him, and love his my mind, and which other motives besides honest bigness (a cognate, probably, of personal gratitude urge me to acknowledge. highness).”

Have we a gospel for men-for all men ? During a continental tourfrom 1822 to 1832 Is it a gospel that God's will is a will to all he made the acquaintance of Merle D'Aubigné good, a will to deliver them from all evil? Is and of Professor Tholuck. Of D’Aubigné he it a gospel that He has reconciled the world wrote in 1822, “He is an estimable man, a unto Himself? Is it this absolutely, or this faithful preacher, and, what is rare here, an with a multitude of reservations, explanations, unprejudiced and unmystical student of the contradictions? It is more than twenty years word of God.” Of Tholuck he writes at the since a book of yours brought home to my same time, “At Berlin I made the acquaintmind the conviction that no gospel but this ance of a young professor, who lectures in can be of any use to the world, and that the their university, on theology, and on the books gospel of Jesus Christ is such a one. of the Old and New Testament. He loves Many of my conclusions may differ widely the Truth, and will, I hope, be more and from those into which you have been led. I more enlightened himself and blessed in his should be grieved to make you responsible instructions to others.” for them. But if I have tried in these One line in a letter from Albano, in 1827, sermons to show that the story of the is interesting. “I like the Prussian chargé prophets and kings of the Old Testament is d'affaires at Rome.” This was Chevalier as directly applicable to the modern world as Bunsen. In the end of July, in another


letter from the same place, he says, “I conscience and spiritual reason are not to be expect the Prussian chargé d'affaires out effected by such works as these. It is not in this neighbourhood immediately, which I by such criticism that man can be helped to look to with pleasure, for I really like the read and understand the Bible.” Still less

He has a fine, wide, adventurous, did he like the Bishop of Natal's book on the metaphysical capacity, and is, I believe, a non-historical character of the Exodus. Of Christian. He is married to an English that he writes, “It is a remarkable fact, woman-a very good woman.”

which may shake much of that faith which One reference to an estimable lady, who not does not rest on God alone. I grieve for it, long ago passed away from us, Lady Augusta and yet I believe the man to be an earnest Stanley, has just now a melancholy interest. and good man. I have myself always been Mr. Erskine was staying at or near Paris in seeking a self-evidencing light in Divine 1838. To his sister, Mrs. Stirling, he says, truth, not resting on any authority whatever; En revanche, I am near the Elgins, and near but children must begin by trusting to Madame de B., who, alas ! however, has left authority, and throughout the land nine town for Normandy; and near one other of hundred and ninety-nine out of every thoumy ancient friends. I love Lord Elgin very sand are children.” Biblical dogmas, he much, and the two girls, who are as fine says, are “the ropes and pulleys and creatures as ever I saw in my life; I am not wheels by which the human spirit may be sure that ever I knew girls of their age that listed out of the horrible pit and miry clay of I could so readily make companions of. sin and selfishness into a harmony with the Dear Lady Augusta is a perfect angel.” mind of God. . . Renan complained of the

While on the Continent, Mr. Erskine had Christian dogmas as encumbrances on the acquired the friendship of Madame de Staël, beautiful morality of the Sermon on the the daughter-in-law of the celebrated woman Mount, not considering whether it would be of that name, and the daughter of Madame possible to obey those precepts by mere Vernet; as also of Madame de Broglie, wife efforts, without knowing what the dogmas of the Duc de Broglie and daughter of the teach of the spiritual relations in which we great Madame de Staël. A reference to stand, both to God and man.” For the Madame Vernet shows Erskine's feeling on Bible he had a love second only to his love of friendship, we may say his religion of friend. God. Referring to the supernatural in it, he ship. Writing to Mrs. Burnett in 1842 he says, “ The value of the Bible, according to says, · “Madame Vernet, of Geneva, my reason and conscience, consists in what was one of the most highly favoured children it contains, not in the manner in which it of God that ever I have been privileged to was composed. I cannot fully estimate what know, and God gave her friendship to me as it has been to myself or to the race. From a gist which I hope to bless Him for through the history of human thought I see that there out eternity.”

has been hardly any true apprehension of He became an intimate acquaintance of the nature and character of God or of our Mr. M'Leod Campbell, and of the young relation to Him out of the pale of its infriend of Mr. Campbell's, Mr. A. J. Scott, fluence. That this light should have been son of the Rev. Dr. Scott of Greenock. He enjoyed by one small tribe, and that it should took a very deep interest in the movement have been continued amongst them through which finally brought about the deposition a succession of teachers, whilst even Greece of Mr. M'Leod Campbell from the office and Rome were comparatively dark until of the ministry on account of his alleged cultivated through them, seems to suggest doctrinal defection, and the withdrawal of that there must have been the interposition Mr. Scott's licence to preach, and was greatly of a supernatural agency. But I believe this aifected by the result.

on account of the truth which I find. I do But Erskine was

iconoclast not believe in the truth on account of the amongst men's current opinions. What he supernatural agency.” rejected was the result of what his love of In these opinions largely lay the secret God, or rather of God's love to him, bound power of Erskine over his friends and his him to believe. It was profound reverence for age, especially in his large views of the God, the Redeeming God, which determined love of God, which he thus briefly puts in a the morally impossible of his creed. Hence letter to M. Gaussen, of Geneva, who was his he had no sympathy with the Essays and Re- friend : “Do you not believe that the heart of views. Writing of them, he says, “Agree God does indeed grieve and yearn over every ments between our Christianity and our sinner that continues at a distance from Him?



« PreviousContinue »