Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

can any man who is aware of the fact that the Seven Churches of Asia have come to nothing, read the second and third chapters of the Revelations without being fully convinced that sin proved their overthrow. Christ reproves them for sin, exhorts them to repent, and denounces destruction upon them if they repent not. Those chapters are worthy of the frequent attention and prayerful study of the Churches in all ages, but especially in the present age, seeing there are so many false doctrines propagated, so many corrupt principles advocated, and so many bad practices tolerated in the Churches. Persecution cannot hinder the prosperity of the Churches. The slanders, the reproaches, the calumnies of the world cannot hinder the spread of truth, nor stop the progress of religion. The number, power, subtlety and malice of devils can neither prevent nor retard a revival of God's work; but the sins of God's people can and will do all this. The Churches of God in the present day need not wonder at their want of prosperity, and at the slow progress of truth in the earth, while they are guilty of sinning against God. Sin in the Churches is peculiarly offensive to the blessed and holy God. Let the Churches of God put away the evil of their doings, if they want the blessing of God to succeed their efforts. Churches are bound by the most solemn obligations to rectify everything that is wrong in them, and to remove everything that is impure from their midst. God has raised up Churches to reflect his glory upon the world, to enlighten and purify this dark and corrupt earth; therefore the utmost care should be taken not to obscure his glory, and not to prevent the enlightenment and purification of the children of men by our wrong principles, our wayward movements, and our indolent workings. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord," that the world may be allured by the beauty of holiness, and not repelled by the ugliness of sin. When our Churches put away all evil and all weakness, when they put on their beautiful garment of holiness, and clothe themselves with the strength of God, then, and not till then, “ the wilderness and solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose :" then, but not till then, shall the glorious prediction be fulfilled, “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off.”

Sin must withhold good things from us; for if God were to give, either to individuals or Churches, “good things," while they love and practise sin, he would thereby sanction sin. He would by so doing declare emphatically that sin is no very great evil, that continuance in sin is no bar to his favour, that sin is no dishonour to his majesty, that he can look upon it with allowance, and permit it to exist with indifference. Such conduct on the part of God would confirm men in their sins. They would be still less concerned about pleasing God than they now are, if they could enjoy spiritual blessings and eternal good without forsaking sin; and hence rebellion against God's government would be far more prevalent than it is now. If he were to sanction sin by imparting " good things" to sinners, our earth would become the theatre of far more awful and extensive crimes than have ever yet been perpetrated on this globe. Then all the laws of men would be set at defiance. He must indeed be a stranger to this world's history who does not know that the best security for property, innocence and life, is the dread of God's anger, who hates sin, and whose "wrath . . . is revealed from

heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." When men dread the displeasure of God, both in this world and in that which is to come, they shudder at the crimes of robbery, seduction and morder; but deprive them of this salatary dread of God, and then rou open the way for the commission of everv foul crime, and the perpetration of every dark and hateful deed. If God were to sanction sin, by giving his best things to sinners, our earth would become a complete hell.

If God were to give good things to those who love and practise sins he would take away all encouragements to piety. What encouragements should we have to seek large measures of holiness-vea, to seek for holiness at all-if we saw all the rich blessings of divine grace bestowed upon the servants of sin? None whatever. We should think directly, and perhaps give utterance to our thoughts, “Why should we repent and believe in Jesus? Why should we watch, and fast, and pray, and deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and follow Jesus, when all the comforts and consolations of divine grace are given to those who do none of these things as well as to us? Who does not see that if God did not withhold good things from sinners, he would positively discourage piety, and soon drive it from among the children of men. In like manner, too, would Churches reason if they saw God pouring down “showers of blessing" upon proud, or ambitious, or idle, or worldly, or self-sufficient, or qnarrelling, or unbelieving, or corrupt Churches. God withholds, and ever will withhold, good things from sinful men and sinful Churches, because by giving them to snch he would destroy all incentives to piety in individuals, and all motives to exertion in his Churches.

God withholds good things from those who love and practise sin, because his justice, truth, holiness and goodness forbid that it shonld be otherwise. God's justice is such that he cannot connive at sin. He has given many proofs of this. We need only refer to one. The death of Christ. in his death we behold written, in characters of blood, the fact that Jehovah is “ a just God," as well as “ a Saviour." His truth forbids him to give good things to the ungodly; for he has said, “ Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of bis hands shall be given him." God cannot lie, therefore he withholds good things from all who love and practise sin. His holiness forbids him to give good things to unboly men and unholy Churches. He is of “ purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity" with approbation. He is “ glorious in holiness," and sin is the “ abominable thing" which he hates and abhors; therefore he cannot impart good things to those who love sin, which he infinitely detests. His goodness forbids him to bestow good things upon sinners; for sin is not only the transgression of his holy law, but treason against his majesty, rebellion against his government, and the destruction of the happiness of his creatures; therefore to bestow good things upon those who commit sin would be unkindness to himself, the destruction of his blessed government, and the cause of everlasting misery to his creatures. These thoughts might be easily expanded, but we leave them for our readers to ponder; and if they are pondered aright, they will produce the solemn conviction that God is wise and just, holy and good, in refusing to impart good things to all who will not give up sin.

How awful it is to reflect that, though it is so clearly a revealed fact that sin withholds good things from us, sinners will not give up sin ; that many believers will apologize for and hold fast their besetting sins, instead of seeking their instant destruction! that Churches will hold long-cherished errors, will maintain their pernicious principles, and will be guilty of their corrupt practices ! Surely it is no wonder that men are miserable, that believers are cold and lifeless, and that Churches are not prosperous. We say, then, to the men of the world, Give up sin, or you never can be happy; to the followers of Jesus, Be delivered from all sin, or you can never bc eminently holy and useful; and to everyone of the Churches, Become "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing," or you never can answer the end of your organization.

THE DISCOVERIES OF ASTRONOMY IN THE PRIMITIVE

AGES. To those who have given but little attention to the science of astronomy, its truths, its predictions, its revelations, are astonishing; and, but for their rigorous verification, would be absolutely incredible. When we look out upon the multitude of stars which adorn the nocturnal heavens, scattered in bright profusion in all directions, without law, and regardless of order; when, with telescopic aid, thousands are increased to millions, and suns and systems and universes rise in sublime perspective as the visual ray sweeps outward to distances which defy the power of arithmetic to express; how utterly futile does it seem for the mind to dare to pierce and penetrate, to number, weigh, measure and circumscribe these innumerable millions! It is only when we remember that, from the very cradle of our race, strong and powerful minds have, in rapid and continuous succession, bent their energies upon the solution of this grand problem, that we can comprehend how it is that light now breaks in upon us from the very confines of the universe, dimly revealing the mysterious forms which lie yet half concealed in the unfathomable gulfs of space. When I reflect on the recent triumphs of human genius, when I stand on the shore of that mighty stream of discovery which has grown broader and deeper as successive centuries have rolled away, gathering in strength and intensity, until it has embraced the whole universe of God, I am carried backward through thousands of years, following this stream, as it contracts towards its source, till finally its silver thread is lost in the clouds and mists of antiquity. I would fain stand at the very source of discovery, and commune with that unknown god-like mind which first conceived the grand thought that even these mysterious stars might be read, and that the bright page which was nightly unfolded to the vision of man needed no interpreter of its solemn beauties but human genius. There is, to my mind, no finer specimen of moral grandeur than that presented by him who first resolved to read and comprehend the heavens. On some lofty peak he stood, in the stillness of the midnight hour, with the listening stars as witnesses of his vows, and there, conscious of his high destiny, and of that of his race, resolves to commence the work of ages. “Here," he exclaims, “is my watch-tower, and yonder bright orbs are henceforth my solitary companions. Night after night, year after year, will I watch and wait, ponder and reflect, until some ray shall pierce the deep gloom which now wraps the world."

Thus resolved the unknown founder of the science of the stars. His name and his country are lost for ever. What matters this, since his works, his discoveries, have endured for thousands of years, and will endure so long as the moon shall continue to fill her silver horn, and the planets to roll and shine ?

Go with me, then, in imagination, and let us stand beside this primitive observer, at the close of his career of nearly a thousand years (for we must pass beyond the epoch of the Deluge, and seek our first discoveries among those sages, whom, for their virtues, God permitted to count their age, not by years but by centuries), and here we shall learn the order in which the secrets of the starry world slowly yielded themselves to long and persevering scrutiny. And now let me unfold, in plain and simple language, the train of thought, of reasoning and research, which marked this primitive era of astronomical science. It is true that history yields no light, and tradition even fails; but such is the beautiful order in the golden chain of discovery, that the bright links which are known reveal with certainty those which are buried in the voiceless past. If, then, it were possible to read the records of the founder of astronomy, graven on some column of granite, dug from the carth, whither it had been borne by the fury of the Deluge, we know now what its hieroglyphics would reveal, with a certainty scarcely less than that which would be given by an actual discovery, such as we have imagined. We are certain that the first discovery ever recorded, as the result of human observation. was on the moon.

The sun, the moon, the stars had long continued to rise and climb the heavens, and slowly sink beneath the western horizon. The spectacle of day and night was then, as now, familiar to every eye; but in gazing there was no observation, and in mute wonder there was no science. When the solitary observer took his post, it was to watch the moon. Her extraordinary phases had long fixed his attention. Whence came these changes? The sun was ever round and brilliant, the stars shone with undimmed splendour, while the moon was ever waxing and waning, sometimes a silver crescent hanging in the western sky, or full orbed, walking in majesty among the stars, and eclipsing their radiance with her overwhelming splendour. Scarcely had the second observation been made upon the moon, when the observer was struck with the wonderful fact, that she had left her place among the fixed stars, which, on the preceding night, he had accurately marked. Astonished, he again fixes her place by certain bright stars close to her position, and waits the coming of the following night. His suspicions are confirmed, the moon is moving; and what to him is far more wonderful, her motion is precisely contrary to the general revolution of the heavens, from east to west. With a curiosity deeply roused, he watches from night to night, to learn whether she will return upon her track; but she marches steadily onward among the stars, until she sweeps the entire circuit of the heavens, and returns to the point first occupied, to recommence her ceaseless cycles.

An inquiry now arose, whether the changes in the moon, her increase and decrease, could in any way depend upon her place among the fixed stars. To solve this question required a longer period. The group of stars among which the new moon was first seen was accurately noted, so as to be recognized at the following new moon; and doubtless our primitive astronomer hoped to find that in this same group the silver

crescent, when it should next appear, would be found. But in this he was disappointed; for when the moon became first faintly visible in the western sky, the group of stars which had ushered her in before had disappeared below the horizon, and a new group had taken its place; and thus it was discovered that each successive new moon fell farther and farther backward among the stars. By counting the days from new moon to new moon, and those which elapsed while the moon was passing round the heavens from a certain fixed star to this same star again, it was found that these two periods were different; the revolution from new to new occupying twenty-nine and a half days, while the sidereal revolution, from star to star, required twenty-seven one-third days.

This backward motion of the moon among the stars must have perplexed the early astronomers ; and for a long while it was utterly impossible to decide whether the motion was real or only apparent. Analogy would lead to the conclusion that all motion must be in the same direction; and as the heavens revolved from east to west, it seemed impossible that the moon, which manifestly participated in this general movement, should have another and a different motion from west to east. There was one solution of this mystery, and I have no doubt it was for a long while accepted and believed. It was this. By giving to the moon a slower motion from east to west than the general motion of the heavens, she would appear to lag behind the stars, which would by their swifter velocity pass by her, and thus occasion in her the observed apparent motion from west to east. We shall see presently how this error was detected.

The long and accurate vigils of the moon, and the necessity of recognizing her place by the clusters or groups of stars among which she was nightly found, had already familiarized the eye with those along her track, and even thus early the heavens began to be divided into constellations. The eye was not long in detecting the singular fact that this stream of constellations, lying along the moon's path, was constantly flowing to the west, and one group after another apparently dropping into the sun, or at least becoming invisible, in consequence of their proximity to this brilliant orb. A closer examination revealed the fact, that the aspect of the whole heavens was changing from month to month. Constellations which had been conspicuous in the west, and whose brighter stars were the first to appear as the twilight faded, were found to sink lower and lower towards the horizon, till they were no longer seen; while new groups were constantly appearing in the east.

These wonderful changes, so strange and inexplicable, must have long perplexed the early student of the heavens. Hitherto, the stars along the moon's route had engaged special attention ; but at length certain bright and conspicuous contellations towards the north arrested the eye; and these were watched to see whether they would disappear. Some were found to dip below the western horizon, soon to re-appear in the cast; while others, revolving with the general heavens, rose high above the horizon, swept steadily round, sank far down, but never disappeared from the sight. This remarkable discovery soon led to another equally important. In watching the stars in the north through an entire night, they all seemed to describe circles; having a common centre, these circles grew smaller and smaller as the stars approached nearer to the centre of revolution, until finally one bright star was found whose position was ever fixed, alone unchanged while all else was slowly moving. The

« ZurückWeiter »