Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

other offender that repenteth ; for we know that if we do not, neither will Christ forgive us at the last day. Therefore, behold! with our hearts we forgive thee, as required by the law of Christ, and with our hands we punish thee, even as if we had not forgiven. Wherefore, I say again unto thee, prepare to die, for thou mightest escape out of the fangs of the tiger or the hyena, but thou canst not escape out of the hands of thy brethren. And now I command that thou be straightway taken back to the place from whence thou camest, and be hanged by the neck until thou art dead, and that thy body be buried within the precincts of the jail, that all men may know what kind of forgiveness Christian brethren give to Christian brethren, and what kind of forgiveness they expect to receive at the hands of God, when they stand before his judgment seat at the last day ; for the Lord, that cannot lie, hath promised that it will be, and they themselves pray that it may be, such as they here award one to another. Even so be it, O Lord ! both with me and all those who hear me this day. Amen!” And then turning to the jailer, he said, " Take this man and let him be killed, as I have commanded ; but, first, let him have the consolations of religion.

So the jailer took the prisoner, and brought him back to the jail, and kept him in the condemned cell until the day on which he should be killed. And the minister whom the people of those islands kept for the purpose of preaching the Gospel to the prisoners, and especially to those of them who were to be killed, visited the prisoner every day, and read and explained to him all that the Lord and his apostles had said and commanded about judgment and punishment, and the forgiveness of injuries.

And on the Lord's day next before the day on which the prisoner was to be killed, the jailer took him and made him stand in the centre of the prison chapel, and caused two peace-officers to stand, one on his right side, and the other on his left, each holding him fast by an arm; and when he had so placed him, the chapel bell tolled, and the doors were thrown open, and as many of the Christian brethren admitted as had been able to obtain tickets, until the chapel cou¡d hold no more, and many went away disappointed, say:ng, “When will the next killing be?” and, “ We would rather have been disappointed of a seat at the play or the opera.”

[ocr errors]

ور

And when the noise of the people who crowded into the chapel had subsided, the minister opened the book of the Lord, and read aloud in the hearing of all the people what the Lord said to those who brought to him the woman taken in adultery, and also the parable of the servant whom the king his master rebuked for having cast his fellow servant into prison. And when he had done reading, he kneeled down, he and all the people with him, and prayed, saying, “ Lord be merciful unto us, and forgive us our trespasses, even as we forgive those that trespass against us, and especially as we forgive this repentant brother in Christ.” And all the time the people were praying, they kept their eyes fixed on the prisoner, whom the peace-officers had made to kneel down between them and to join in the prayer,

the

peace-officers themselves also kneeling, one on each side of him, and holding him fast by the arms, and praying. And the people rejoiced and said in their hearts, “We thank, O Lord, that thou hast delivered this great sinner into our hands.” And one of them whispered to his neighbour, and said, “ The torments of this man are worse than those of Samson in the temple of Dagon.” And his neighbour answered. “It is meet they should, for we are not Philistines but Christians, and this is not, an idol's temple, but the house of the living God; neither is this man an enemy but a brother, and moreover, we fear him not, for his frame is weak, and his cheeks are pale, and his lips quiver, and his knees knock together, and behold even now he fainteth.”

And when the prisoner had fainted away, and could no longer hear the prayers of the minister or the people, the two peace-officers took him and carried him back to the condemned cell; and the next morning the chapel bell tolled again, and the window of the prison opened, and the prisoner came out with his hands tied behind his back, and his shirt collar turned down, and a rope about his neck; and the executioner walked behind him and the peace-officers, one on each side of him, supporting his weight and moving him along; and the minister with the prayer book

open in his hand went before him, and when the bell had ceased tolling, prayed, saying, “Thou that breakest not the bruised reed and quenchest not the smoking flax, bless the work which we are going to do.”

[ocr errors]

Then the executioner took the prisoner and placed him on the drop, and drew the cap over his eyes and adjusted the rope ; and the minister pressed his cold damp hand, and whispered in his ear of repentance and forgiveness of sins, and of the love and charity he owed to all his brethren ; and then, still pressing his hand and whispering, drew back, and the drop fell, and the repentant and forgiven brother in Christ was strangled like a dog.

And when the last convulsive twitch was over, and all the multitude which had gathered together to witness the dying agonies of their brother, had separated and returned to their homes, the widow came weeping with her children in her hand, and threw herself at the jailer's feet, and besought him, saying, “Give me at least his body, that I may bury it in the churchyard beside his fathers, where, perhaps, myself and my children may one day be laid.” But the jailer drove her away, saying, “Begone, woman, and know that the vengeance of man pursueth its victim even beyond death.” And he took the body, and buried it in the jail yard. And the widow went away sorrowful, and begged bread for her children among those who had killed their father, until they arrested her for being a vagrant, and imprisoned her in that samé jail, and sent her children to the workhouse.

THOUGHTS ON THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN.* “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.”—Ecclesiastes vii. 29.

It is not uncommon to hear these words quoted, as though they afforded some countenance to that lamentable corruption of Christian doctrine, which has received the name of Original or Birth Sin. As the fair įnference appears to me to be precisely the reverse, a few remarks on them may be a suitable introduction to what is further to be offered on this subject.

I observe, therefore, that when it is said “God made man upright,” it is not any particular individual man that is spoken of ; least of all our first progenitor Adam, whose name is not mentioned, either here or in any part of this book—but the human race, or human nature in general. This will be obvious when we consider the connection, “God hath made man or mankind upright, but they have sought out many inventions.” It is not the sin of Adam, or of any other individual, which is said to have introduced universal corruption in place of the original purity and uprightness of human nature, and thus defeated the wise purpose and design of the beneficent Creator. On the contrary, as to his frame and constitution, every human being is what his Maker intended him to be. God has formed him upright, or rather (as the word might be more exactly translated), formed him right. The whole frame of human nature, such as we find it in ourselves and our fellow-creatures around us—the constitution both of body and of mind, with which we are endowed, liable though the one may be to disease and death, and the other to error, temptation and sin, bears no marks of the wrath of Him who made it, but, on the contrary, exhibits the proofs of His wisdom and parental kindness. Man is in truth the creature of God. He is fearfully and wonderfully made, and in all respects admirably adapted to the situation in which he is placed, considered as a scene of trial, probation, and discipline, which is intended to fit and prepare him for a future immortal state.

* A Reprint of a Tract, published by W. TURNER, Jun.,

M.A.

And here I am desirous to observe in the outset, that in using these expressions, I would be understood as speaking, not of Adam, or of any peculiar nature or faculty which he is supposed to have possessed, but of men as they now exist—of that constitution of which we are conscious in ourselves, which renders us rational and moral beings; fit subjects of that moral government which our heavenly Father exercises over those whom he calls not merely His creatures but His children, in virtae of which they are even said to be created in his image. For in such terms do we find the sacred writers speaking, not merely of Adam, but of all his descendants after him. It is true, these latter are often spoken of as a lost and abandoned race ; fallen man is said to be degraded from his first estate, depraved and corrupted to the very core, altogether born in sins. Such language as this, however, is used, not in Scripture, which alone could authorize its employment by us, but only in catechisms and creeds, the compositions of fallible

In short, I see no ground, either from Scripture or from our experience of the actual condition of man, to suppose that in natural capacity for knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, he is now, or ever has been, inferior to his first progenitor.

Nevertheless, man has fallen ; he has sinned ;-all men have sinned, and come far short of their duty. This unhappily admits of no dispute ; and it becomes every one, in meditating upon man's liability to sin, as evinced in his own multiplied failings and transgressions, to humble himself before God in a deep feeling of his own unworthiness ; not to cast the blame upon his Maker, as though he had been framed with an especial leaning and propensity to sin ; but to refer his offences to their true cause in his own abuse and neglect of opportunities, in his own uncontrolled or unsubdued passions, in “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the of life."*

“Let no man,” says another apostle, “when he is tempted, say, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man, but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed.”+

It has been justly remarked, and the saying well deserves our attention on many accounts, that the mere fact of man's liability to * I. John, ii. 16.

James i., 13, 14.

men.

66

sin is so far from being in itself a mark of God's displeasure, either against ourselves or against the first transgressor, that it results from, and seems in the present state of things to be a necessary consequence of, his bounty and great goodness to his rational creatures. * For, first, what is sin ? The apostle John defines it,

a transgression of the law.” But a law, properly speaking, is a rule of action prescribed to a rational and intelligent. being, of which he is able to perceive the propriety, and acknowledge the obligation. If there were no law, there could be no transgression ; as St. Paul says,ti“ sin is not imputed where there is no law ;” and again, I “ the strength of sin is the law.” In this respect, therefore, it is undoubtedly true, that man was and is liable to sin, not in consequence of any fall or degradation of his nature, but as the result of his high powers, and the eminent intellectual and moral faculties with which he has been endowed by his Maker. Brutes cannot sin ; but is this any mark of excellence or superiority in their nature ? By no means ; it is because they are not furnished with faculties which enables them to receive a law, to discern its wise adaptation to their own wants and circumstances, to acknowledge the superior authority of the source from which it proceeds, and their own consequent obligation to observe and obey it.

Again, all the principles of our nature which expose us to temptation are in fact essential and indispensable parts of our constitution. They are not corruptions of our nature, but desirable endowments with which it has been furnished and adorned by its Author-not in His wrath and sore displeasure, but out of the overflowing of His great love and kindness to the children of men. Thus our bodily senses, which enable us to discern and admire the works of creation, to acquire the materials upon which the powers of the mind are afterwards to be employed, and without which they could not be called into exercise and cultivation at all—what are these, but iniets to temptation ? Our eyes enable us to see many desirable objects ; among the rest many things which cannot be obtained without transgressing the laws of God and committing sin. Our eyes thus bring temptation in our way, and may be the instruments by which we are seduced into the paths of sin ; but shall we therefore contend that our being able to see is a proof that our natures are corrupt and depraved ? In like manner, our appetites are useful and necessary parts of our constitution, the occasions of much immediate pleasure, and as such, a mark of God's bounty and kindness in making a provision for our comfort. able passage through this world. When kept in due subordination, and taken into connection with other more elevated principles of our nature, which they often excite and call into action, they are the means of enlarging our powers, of gradually preparing us for more refined and valuable enjoyments, and a more spiritual state of existence. Without them, man could not have been what he is ; nor would he have been adapted for the place he now holds in the scale of God's creation. But it is evident that they also often lead

See “Last Thoughts on Various Important Subjects,” by Noah Worcester, D.D., p. 15. † Romans v., 13.

1. Corint) ians, XV., 56.

« AnteriorContinuar »