Imágenes de páginas

offered the terms of pardon and peace to them. If there be any here who live in sin, and have always lived in sin;-if there be any here who do not pray, and never have prayed, these are the publicans and sinners whom the Saviour invites. But it is not the hardened sinner whom Jesus calls; they remain at a distance from him, and desire not to approach him, because they love sin and sinful pleasure too well; it is the penitent, the contrite, Christ loves and invites. May Almighty God therefore rouse and awake the hearts of those who do not know what prayer or sorrow or penitence is; you who are living without God, and without any wish to know him-you who live in the practice of known sin and unholiness, tremble at the words of our Lord, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." If there is such joy over the repenting sinner, what must the grief be over him who refuses to repent? In what a dangerous state must the obstinate sinner be, if the blessed angels are so overjoyed at his deliverance ! It can be no slight danger, no trifling deliverance that can cause joy in those heavenly bosoms. No doubt they lament to see so many millions still living without the light of the gospel at all, and they grieve yet more to see so many living within the sound of the gospel, and never listening to the joyful news. But if God's grace, which is always working and acting in a guilty world, does touch the heart of some poor sinner, and make him feel the misery of those guilty acts or dispositions which degrade and enslave him; if some one, after living long far from God and truth, begins to draw near to the Saviour, and listen to the sound of the gospel, and feel and lament his sin; then the whole chorus of the heavenly host rejoice before the throne of God. They rejoice to see another praying soul added to the list of those who worship before God's footstool; for there is no point in which men can resemble the angels more than in this-in offering up prayer to God. Prayer and praise, love and adoration, are the delight and the employment of the angels above, and they look upon the weakest sinner who begins to pray as a new brother enrolled with them into the service of the Lord of hosts. The careless, the worldly, the unholy, the profane, are the servants of Satan, whose will and law they obey. It is to win them from this cruel master that Jesus now by his ministers proclaims himself as a Saviour, willing to give full and entire pardon for the past, and grace and hope and strength for the future; may God enable more and more of them to accept his call, that joy may be increased in heaven, and souls be sanctified and saved!

But repentance may be viewed in another light-as a renewed and reiterated act, after lapsing from an original state of penitence into a sinful condition. In this case the springs of truth are destroyed, and must be replaced; the fire of love is extinct, and a coal from the altar must rekindle it. This perhaps is the repentance which the greater portion of those who frequent our churches stand in need to be reminded of. Would that our minds were more deeply and abidingly impressed with the hateful nature of sin and its rueful consequences! But is it not the fact that many who once prayed, and loved, and felt the warmth of piety, and denied themselves, and enjoyed somewhat of the supreme blessing of a peaceful conscience and a reconciled Saviour, begin first to cool, then to leave off prayer, then commit sin, and then fall away from

the grace of God? Is it not the fact that many of us, while in our early youth, have been deeply moved by the pious instruction of parents, or teachers, or friends, have felt sorrow for sin, have enjoyed innocence and peace in a recurrence to the Saviour of sinners? A child, let us remember, is in many respects as capable of repentance as a man, for he who is old enough to sin is surely old enough to pray ; for in the sight of God what are all our prayers, the prayers even of the most intellectual among us, but (as has been beautifully said) cries of babies, who can scarcely understand all they utter! But whether old or young, it is a truth that we do often fall back, and gradually relapse into carelessness and wickedness after having once enjoyed the comforts, and blessings, and consolations, and purifying influences of God's Holy Spirit: they who do this, however, are never perfectly happy. He whose heart has once been enlightened and aroused, may faint, and draw back, and fall into sin; but he never can restore himself to a state of perfect carelessness and ignorance. There is an impress, a mark upon him, which will remain for ever, whether he be saved or condemned at last. The relapsed and apostate sinner feels always an uneasiness and restlessness which no dissipation will drown. He seems to think that the eye of God which spies out all his ways is continually upon him, and that those angels who perhaps walk upon the earth unseen are gazing sadly upon him.

My brethren, if any of you are in this condition, if you have fallen back from God, either in youth or in age, and now feel this uneasiness and regret, rejoice on that very account. The very uneasiness and pain of conscience of which you are sensible is of itself a proof that you are not given up to final impenitency and hardness of heart. God still waits to be gracious to you, and holy angels are longing for the time when they may again rejoice over you and with you. Turn, and be turned then; leave off your sins at once. Perhaps God is pleased to try you with affliction, and your heart is sad and downcast; even that may be a proof of God's love, so that the tears you shed on account of your sorrow may soon be shed by reason of your sin. Nothing can be more full, more complete, than the offer of pardon and forgiveness through a crucified Saviour: that merciful Saviour will forgive your debt of sin, because you acknowledge that you cannot pay. "For thy name's sake, O Lord," says David, "pardon mine iniquity, for it is great." "If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die, all his transgressions that he hath committed they shall not be mentioned unto him." Repent, and turn yourselves from your transgressions; so iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; therefore turn yourselves, and live ye!" God will lead you by his grace to his beloved Son, in whom you will have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness and remission of sins that are past!


These are the gracious promises of God to repentant sinners-these are the "glad tidings" of the salvation which Jesus lived and died to purchase for guilty and unholy beings. Is there not in the offer of

pardon thus held out to repentance something which man wanted and longed for? There is a conscience within us by which we see clearly that sorrow and punishment must follow sin: what the conscience requires, is confession, and then pardon. This only can satisfy us, and this is given to us in the gospel. It is given to us however in only one way-by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the inexhaustible merits of his all-sufficient sacrifice of himself. Without the blood of Jesus, neither would contrition, or confession, or repentance avail us, or pardon be granted to us. But if any trembling penitent with faith in the blood of Jesus, believing that he is able to save him, humbly confess his guilt, humbly sorrow for and leave his guilt, and humbly seek pardon for guilt, then the word of God declares that the sinner shall be justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. Then there is joy in heaven-joy to see a being to whom reason has been given rising at length above the level of brutes which have no understanding-joy to see a being capable of union and communion with God, restored to that long forfeited privilege-joy to see a being capable of endless happiness brought into the way of obtaining that unspeakable blessing. May God's Holy Spirit shine into the hearts of all among us who are now in a state of sin, and work in them the repentance which may cause a joy like this!

In conclusion, let us remember, that although God is ever ready to receive the returning penitent, yet that there is danger, very great danger in presuming too much upon this, and continually or too often yielding to known sin, and breaking off our intercourse with the Saviour; there is danger of grieving the Holy Spirit of grace; there is danger of despair; there is danger of death; there is danger of a reprobate mind and a hardened conscience. Trifle not with God, but when you humbly trust you are reconciled to him, by the Holy Spirit, through the Saviour, then pray for grace to cleave unto him with full purpose of heart. "He hath no pleasure in fools; pay that which thou hast vowed," viz. thy soul and body, which is your reasonable service, lest by falling away too often you at last die in sin. For repentance is given to us here; and here only God hears prayer, and grants pardon here and here alone. We should endeavour deeply to think upon this. We find it difficult to imagine that a time will ever come when God will no more be entreated, and no more be gracious, yet such is the truth, and must be so since God is a God of justice as well as of mercy. There are innumerable occasions in this world where the deepest sorrow and entreaty will avail us nothing; look at the youth who from carelessness or from sin, wastes the opportunity of fame, or fortune, or usefulness-does he not frequently wear out his subsequent life in inanition, despondence or contempt? Look at the man who is suffering from intemperancewill his deepest repentance restore his decayed body? Alas! in all the concerns of the world there are times of probation, and inevitable consequences, and stern decrees of Providence. Neither penitence, or cries, or entreaties, will save the ruined soul that goes into the other world without having received God's grace and mercy and the Saviour's pardon in this. Here the Father loves you, the Son invites you, the Holy Spirit pleads and struggles within you. May that beloved Trinity which has


arranged this great salvation for you work within you the will to accept it! "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and unto our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Grant, O God, that thy holy angels may rejoice over us now, and that we may rejoice with them hereafter !



With Observations on the Romish Worship, and the State of Religion Abroad. No. IV. ANTWERP CATHEDRAL.

(Concluded from p. 356.)

In the year 1566 a band of religious fanatics, called Iconoclasts, or Image-breakers, committed dreadful ravages in the churches of Antwerp, overthrowing the statues, and destroying or pillaging every ornament which they chose to regard as symbols of idolatry. Altars, pictures, vases, monuments, were thrown together in ruins, and the most monstrous excesses were perpetrated under the guise of religion. The rapidity with which the deed of darkness was executed has been attributed by many of the historians to the agency of demons; and the loss sustained by the cathedral in treasure and in relics is said to have been immense. Amongst other precious articles that which seems to have been most deeply bewailed was the veritable foreskin of the Saviour, which had been sent from Jerusalem by Godefroid-de-Bouillon; but being of course imperishable, and endued with virtues pre-eminently miraculous, it was subsequently discovered in the cathedral of Aix-laChapelle, where it is still preserved. Before the French revolution the cathedral had been reinstated in its pristine magnificence, and the wealth accumulated within its precincts was immense. One hundred chandeliers of massive silver hung suspended from the roofs; the rails of the altars were of the same metal; and the host and sacred relics were enclosed in a case of gold, which had cost 5000 florins, and was moreover enriched with diamonds presented by Francis I. and other sovereigns. All these treasures, together with the pictures and sculptures upon the walls and in the chapels, fell a prey to revolutionary fury. Most of the works of art, however, have been restored, and constitute a collection every way worthy the attention of the connoisseur.

The statues in white marble, representing respectively St. Peter and St. Paul, are placed in the front of the western porch, Proceeding onwards along the south aisle, beyond the monument of Ambrose Capello and the pulpit, the visitor finds himself in face of the chapel of the Saint Sacrement. The altar, of white marble, is surrounded by a semicircular cornice supported by columns, and is considered one of the finest works of A. Quellyn. The tabernacle, which represents the ark of the covenant, was executed by De Potter and Piccaret, after the design

[blocks in formation]

of Verbruggen. It is in brass, gilt, and ornamented with bas-reliefs of considerable merit. Above the altar is a fine picture, by G. Herreyns, of the two disciples at Emmaus, to whom our Lord is discovered in the breaking of bread. The painted window adjoining is a Last Supper by Diessenbeck, in which the kneeling figure is a portrait of one of the Princes of Orange, to whose memory it is consecrated.

On the eastern wall of the south transept is suspended the celebrated picture of the Descent from the Cross, which has ever been regarded as the chef-d'œuvre of Rubens. Botched and varnished as it has been at different periods, it seems to have suffered very little injury; and the best judges of art continually arrive from all quarters for the sole purpose of examining a production, to which the palm of excellence is unanimously assigned. Admiration is alike excited by the grandeur of the conception, the sublimity of the subject, and the splendour of the execution. Sir Joshua Reynolds pronounces the Christ to be "one of the finest figures that was ever invented," and observes, that "the hanging of the head on his shoulder, the falling of his body on one side, gives such an appearance of the heaviness of death, that nothing can exceed it." The deep affliction of the Virgin, the beautiful features of the weeping Magdalene, and the expressive sorrow of St. John, are portrayed with the true force of nature. There is something also very natural, though not perhaps very dignified, in the mode adopted by the figure, leaning over the cross in order to drop down the body. He takes the white sheet (which by the way is so adjusted as to throw a great mass of light on the picture,) between his teeth, so as to have his hand at liberty. There is a story told respecting this picture, that the pupils of Rubens, having obtained access to his private room during one of his evening walks, one of them was tumbled by his companion over the unfinished canvas, and defaced the arm of the Magdalene, and the face of the Virgin. Alarmed at the accident, they agreed that the greatest proficient among them should retrieve the damage, and Vandyke was selected for the task. Though distrustful of his own powers, he nevertheless yielded to their wishes, and on the following morning, Rubens is said to have addressed his pupils in these terms"There is a head and an arm which are greatly superior to those which I painted yesterday." The current tradition respecting the origin of the painting is also somewhat amusing. Rubens had purchased a house at Antwerp; and in making some additions to the building, had trespassed upon a piece of ground belonging to the society of Arquebusiers, who complained of the inroad thus made upon their property. At first the painter was disposed to dispute their claims, but being convinced of their justice, he agreed to paint for them a full-length portrait of their patron, St. Christopher, as an indemnification for the piece of ground. Not relishing perhaps the subject imposed upon him by the society, he chose to understand the name Christopher in its etymological sense of one who carries Christ; and accordingly in the Descent from the Cross, the Christ is represented as supported by several persons, who thus became Christophores. With a like intent he painted on the left wing the Visitation of the Virgin, during her pregnancy, to her cousin Elizabeth, and on the right the Presentation in the Temple, with Simeon bearing the infant Christ in his arms. lt

« AnteriorContinuar »