« EdellinenJatka »
THE “ Present Day Papers on Prominent Questions in Theology," originated and edited by the late Dr. Ewing, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, were begun in November, 1869, and continued monthly until May, 1871, when, owing to the failure of the editor's health, the publication was suspended. But at the beginning of the present year, hopeful of obtaining from various quarters more frequent assistance than he had hitherto received, he resolved to go on with the work, which meanwhile had never been absent from his thoughts. Before recommencing it, however, or rather as an appropriate way of recommencing it, he occupied himself with preparing for the press several of his own sermons, to be published " in connection with, though not forming a part of, the Present Day Papers," and to be entitled “Revelation considered as Light.” A sentence in one of these sermons, that on the new year, one now reads with mournful interest : “What is before us in the coming year, before ourselves and those we love, we know not.
Sure we are that, ere it ends, some accustomed chair will be empty, some well-known voice still” (p. 97): for the year had run but a short part of its course ere the good bishop's own chair was empty, his own voice still. Yet, in the highest sense, not still; for it so happened that within a few hours of his death his sermons were in the hands of the public. He died on Ascension Day; the aspiration of the collect for which day, that "like as we do believe our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens, so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with Him continually dwell,” had ever been lifted up in his heart, and is reflected in every page of his sermons; of the general tone and spirit of which the following passage is but a characteristic specimen :
“God, seen as our Father, makes all things sweet, all paths straight, reconciles all things. His Fatherhood, once truly accepted, solves all perplexities, and makes the difficulties of life clear and plain. He is our Father, and whatever is meant by that name is He, and always so. As He was this in the beginning, He is now, and ever shall be. Life, death, make no alteration in this relationship. In life, after death, He is equally the same, and Father. Beyond the shores of death we do not go into a strange country; it is still our Father's house, where the Father is dealing with His children as they require” (p. 94).
Felix opportunitate mortis ! How greatly would he have rejoiced, not for his own sake, but for that of convictions that were dear to him, could he have foreseen what additional weight his death would lend to his living words !
But even if he had foreseen it, he would still have said that he had a more important legacy to leave behind him
than any utterances of his own. For, just as of late years nothing had given him greater pleasure than the interest excited by the publication, in the third series of the “ Present Day Papers," of the letters addressed to himself on various occasions and subjects by the late Mr. Erskine, of Linlathen, so he had been looking forward with peculiar satisfaction to the publication, in a fourth and fifth series, of the “Catholic Thoughts” of the late Rev. Frederic Myers, of Keswick, and was on the point of writing an introduction to them when overtaken by his fatal illness. He had had no personal knowledge of Mr. Myers; but having become acquainted with his “Catholic Thoughts,” which, though written many years ago, had hitherto been printed only for private circulation, he earnestly desired that they should be introduced to the notice of the public, and accordingly sought and obtained permission from Mr. Myers's representatives to publish them in the “ Present Day Papers," being convinced that not only had they lost none of their interest by the lapse of time, but that at no time since they were written has the need for their publication been greater than in the present day. And, indeed, it is evident that Mr. Myers himself, whilst firmly believing that the tendency of the ecclesiastical opinions and the tone of the religious feeling" exhibited in his “Catholic Thoughts" were such as would be “characteristically permanent” (p. 1), had no expectation that “the principles of the exclusive system” (p. 442) against which he contended were destined soon to retire into the background. Rather
he foresaw that these principles would certainly advance and “spread for a while” (p. 442); and perhaps no greater service can be rendered to any one who is disposed to view with alarm the still increasing development of sacerdotal assumptions, than to bid him observe the composure with which this devout and learned divine nearly forty years ago could not only predict what is now passing before our eyes, but could even look forward to it with some degree of satisfaction as tending to clear the ground for a close conflict of principles, which, he believed, “must bring to a speedier decision than was likely heretofore the great questions, whether there is a divinely-appointed priesthood on earth, or whether all Christians have essentially the same relationship to God and Christ—whether the Church of Christ is as a kingdom of this world as to its constitution and its government, or whether it is characteristically a spiritual brotherhood, a divinely-incorporated commonwealth” (p. 442). Not that he supposed that in such a controversy even “a speedier decision than was likely heretofore” was to be arrived at off-hand, either in his own or in our generation, as an immediate result of the approaching conflict. Nothing is more noteworthy in the following pages than our author's persistent inculcation of patience upon all who incline to the latter of the abovementioned views of the kingdom of Christ. It sufficed him, and he would have it suffice them, to rest assured that, whatever might be the immediate issues of the controversy, the ultimate victory will not remain with those who adhere