Page images

suffered wickedness to grow to so great a height. I have, I bless God, to the best of my skill and power, discharged my duty in this place, which you will hear from most persons who came from hence; I have preached so seasonably to them, and so plain. In the last sermon I delivered in the church, I set before them what would be the issue of their impeni. tence and wickedness so clearly that they have since acknowledged it was more like a prophecy than a sermon. I had, I confess, an impulse on me to do it; and many times I have preached in this pulpit things which I never premeditated at home, and could not, methought, do otherwise."-(From the First Letter, written June 22, 1692.)

“ Sunday last I preached among them in a tent, the houses which remain being so shattered, that I durst not venture in them. The people are overjoyed to see me among them, and wept bitterly when I preached. I hope, by this terrible judgment, God will make them reform their lives, for there was not a more ungodly people on the face of the earth."-(Second Letter, June 28, 1692)

The Transactions of the Royal Society have numerous statements of this earthquake ; from them the following particulars are collected. “ As soon as the violent shake was over, the minister desired all people to join with him in prayer ; and amongst them were several Jews, who kneeled and answered as the rest did : nay, the author was told that they were heard to call upon Jesus Christ ; a thing (says he) worth observation. (Lowth, Abridg. Vol. II. p. 412.)

During the earthquakes which shook Nevis, St. Kitts, and others of the Leeward Islands, from the 8th of February to the 27th of March, 1833, many circumstances occurred worthy of remembrance.* At Nevis, the populace were su alarmed, that they flocked to the churches at all hours of the day, having supplicated the minister of St. Paul's in Charlestown (the Rev. Mr. Leacock) to open the church that they might there find the security which was elsewhere denied them. Contrary to the prognostica. tion of some worldly-minded scoffers, the church did not fall. I'he poor negroes crowded it at all hours of the day, beseeching Mr. L. to pray with them; and it is a fact, attested by eye witnesses worthy of the highest credit, that a great and abiding change was wrought upon the inhabitants; they who never went to church before, now attended devoutly, and have since continued to attend; and many whose lives were any thing but christian became decidedly christian, under the terror arising from the earthquake, improved by the faithful preaching of the man of God. Like the gaoler at Philippi, they asked, “ What must I do to be saved ?" like Paul and Silas, he answered, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” I could multiply details of these earthquakes in Nevis; but I can only find room for another. Mrs. Harding, a lady of respectability, was reading the 24th chapter of St. Matthew when the first shock was felt; she had just read the 7th verse" and there shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in divers places," when the house was shaken violently. She immediately fell from her seat, and was taken up insensible, in which condition she remained some time. At St. Kitts there were similar instances of violent mental impressions, though a party, who were dancing at the time at a public ball, and felt the room

• This information is private, but may be relied on as authentic.

[blocks in formation]

4 L

in which they were, tremble from the shock, continued their dance, reminding one less of what Christians might be supposed to feel, than of what Byron has described of the ball at the duke of Richmond's in Brussels, the eve before the battle of Quatre Bras, June, 1815.

“ Did ye not hear it? No; 'twas but the wind,

Or the car rattling o'er the stony street;
On with the dance ! let joy be unconfined ;
No sleep till morn, when youth and pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.”

Childe Harold, III, 22. Such instances will probably occur again and again, according to the character of the persons concerned ; but I cannot help remarking that whatever the infidel or free-thinker (or rather the no-thinker) may say to the contrary, about impressions on weak minds and so forth, the believer cannot fail to recognize in these narratives a proof of that principle upon which every " operative Clergyman" (to borrow a cant expression of the day,) will sooner or later stumble, that the Almighty seems oftentimes to send visitations of his power to a mass of people, as well as to an individual, for the purpose of opening a door to the preaching of the gospel, where, perhaps, human sin had closed up every avenue to exhortation and the common method of teaching. We recognize this principle in the fever, the accident, the loss of property, and the loss of friends; and we make those private and individual calamities the means of furthering our work. Why, then, should we doubt that, as in the case of “the keeper of the prison” at Philippi, so, now-a-days, “the earthquake” is often sent not only to open the prison doors of the minister of the gospel, in a spiritual sense, but also to open the hearts of many who, but for such an event, would never have felt a conviction that they need salvation, or opened their ears to the remedy which is provided in the preaching of faith in Christ? God must will and work with a man, else he cannot work out his own salvation,

I have two more incidents to mention here, because the facts to be stated prove that the changes alluded were, as far as regards the particular offence there mentioned, genuine changes.

Amongst other particulars of what occurred in Guatemala and Yucatan during the violent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes of January, 1835, it is related, that “so great was the terror of the inhabitants, that, at Alancho, three hundred of those who had lived in a state of concubinage became married, that they might be, or seem to be, honest, before the day of judgment.”+

But the most exact parallel with the passage from St. Luke is in the Romaic work, before quoted, (Súvobis Alapopūv 'loroprūv)where, towards the end of the reign of Constantine the Great, it mentions, to

• As a further illustration of these facts, it may be mentioned that when the great earthquake of the 10th February, 1749-50, occurred at or near London, there was a public masquerade that night; the king refused to go, and said he thought no one would after such a judgment; nevertheless, it was as much crowded as ever.Extruct from Diary of that Time, in the Gentleman's Magazine.

† Quoted in the Magazine of Natural History, Vol. VIII, p. 428, in No. VII. of a Series of Essays "On certain recent Meteoric Phenomena, Vicissitudes in the Seasons, Prevalent Disorders, &c. contemporaneous, and in supposed connexion with Volcanic Emanations. By the Rev. W. B. Clarke, A.M. F.G.S. &c.” Now in a course of publication.

δε, ιβ'. χρόνο της αυτου Βασιλείας έγινε σεισμός μέγας εις το Βερούτι και έχαλάσε το περισσοτέρον μέρος και πολλοί Αιρετικοί από τον φόβον του σεισμού έφυγαν και επήγαν εις την Εκκλησίαν των Χριστιανών, και εφυλάχθησαν εκεί, και έγλυτώσαν από την οργήν του θεού, ότι υπεσχέθησαν να γένουν δούλοι Χριστού, να φύγουν από την αίρεσιν, και ούτως εποίησαν. (P. 193.)

I might end my remarks here without farther moralizing, but I cannot refrain from quoting the words with which Bertrand (M. E.) commences his work, entitled Mémoires Historiques et Physiques sur les Tremblemens de Terre.” (A la Haye, 1757.) “Il n'est point d'événement qui n'instruise le Chrétien: il n'en est point qui ne le conduise à celui qui en est le Souverain Dispensateur. Voilà le centre de ses meditations, l'objet de ses lectures, le but de ses recherches, le sujet de ses observations : c'est là toute sa philosophie. Plus les événemens sont frappans, plus les phénomènes sont extraordinaires, plus aussi il s'applique à y trouver Dieu : et personne ne le cherche de bonne foi, qui ne le trouve avec facilité.” "Après avoir envisagé comme Predicateur* des relations si propres à nous toucher, je me propose de les rassembler en Physicien, pour en former un systême d'observations.” “Ce n'est pas être Physi. cien, que de dire que Dieu est la cause immédiate des tremblemens de terre, sans le secours des causes secondes, ou subordonneés, qui sont en sa puissance. Mais ce n'est pas être Philosophe que de vouloir expliquer ces effrayans phénomènes, comme s'ils étaient indépendans de la Providence, à laquelle tout est soumis. La même volonté, qui établit au commencement toutes choses, les soutient, les conserve, les dirige; et c'est par une suite de ces lois établies, pour des fins infiniment sages, que ces grands événemens, qui nous étonnent, ou nous épouvantent, arrivent icibas." (Pp. 3-6.)

We cannot do better than act on this principle in our reasonings upon the phenomena related in the Scriptures, or recorded in the book of Nature. The passage which elicited these details, does actually bring us to a point in our inquiries from which we cannot safely recede. In the other similar cases, of St. Peter's confinement in prison, (Acts v. 19; xii. 7,) the agent who delivers the apostle is expressly said to be the Angel of the Lord ;” and as there is mention made of a bodily act, we are bound to receive that statement as, literally interpreted, it must mean, that a messenger did descend from heaven to accomplish his emancipation. But here, the same effect is produced by the earthquake ;” and without sheltering ourselves under the acknowledged and allowed method of employing the term "angel of the Lord," to signify any messenger, animate or inanimate, or any act emanating directly from God, as in the case of Daniel in the den of lions, (Dan. vi. 22,) &c., this transaction seems to have been permitted and ordained for the very purpose of exhibiting the control which the Almighty has over all things, and as an example of the use he makes of his created works to serve the ends of man's redemption.

There are several other examples in the sacred volume of the employment of an earthquake to serve the purposes of Omnipotence. An earthquake attended the promulgation of the law on Sinai ; an earthquake celebrated

He alludes here to four sermons, preached on the subject of the earthquakes of 1755, published at Vevey, 1756. M. Lertrand was Chief Minister of the French Church at Berne.

its fulfilment upon Calvary. And without taking into the account the numerous instances which are related in the bistorical and prophetical books of Scripture, these two will serve to shed a great interest over all the cases that occur. Perhaps, at a future time, they may be employed as further subjects of illustration ; for the present, it is hoped that this attempt to illustrate the “ earthquake at Philippi” is not altogether useless towards establishing the truth of the holy writings, as proved by its conformity to the evidence from nature, and the propriety of the desig. nation used by the historian to distinguish a particular phenomenon, as well as vindicating the power of God over all things, as proving that unto Christ is given “ all power in heaven and in earth,(Matt.xxvii, 18.)

W. B. C.


LONDON. We have no hesitation in offering to our readers the following letter of the late Bishop Heber, as containing many excellent observations upon a subject which still occupies our own mind, and as affording an answer to many of our correspondents upon the introduction of Hymns.

Hodnet Rectory, October 4, 1820. “ My LORD,—I had so frequent experience of your kindness during your residence in Oxford, that I cannot help hoping that you will excuse the trouble which I am now going to give you in requesting your advice, and, possibly, your assistance, on a subject in which I feel much interested. And I am the more anxious to recur to you, not only on account of your very accurate and extensive knowledge of Church discipline and ecclesiastical antiquity, but because the great age and infirmity of my own diocesan, the Bishop of Lichfield, make it improper to plague him with any business not absolutely necessary.

"I have for several years back been from time to time, and during the intervals of more serious study, engaged in forming a collection of hymns for the different Sundays in the year, as well as for the principal festivals and Saints' days, connected, for the most part, with the history or doctrine contained in the Gospel for each day. I began this work with the intention of using it in my own church, a liberty which, I need not tell your Lordship, has been, for many years back, pretty generally taken by the Clergy, and which, if custom alone were to be our guide, would seem already sufficiently authorized. Thus the morning and evening hymn of Bishop Kenn are, in country parishes, almost universally used. Hardly a collection is made for charitable purposes without a hymn for the occasion. Of the anthems used in our cathe. drals, many are taken from other sources than either the Scripture or the Liturgy. And even in sacred oratories, such songs as · Angels ever bright and fair,' &c. may be considered as admissions of the right to introduce into places of Worship, compositions not regularly authorized by the rubric. But the most remarkable instance of the kind, which I have met with, was during the installation of the duke of Gloucester, at Cambridge, when, during divine service, in the University church, and

in the presence of her Reverend and Right Reverend heads, I heard a poem sung in the style of Darwin, in which the passion-flower was described as a virgin, devoting herself to religion, attended by as many youths as the plant has stamina.

"I might, then, perhaps, without troubling your Lordship, have been content to transgress the rubric in so good company, and have taken the same licence with my neighbours, had I not, in looking over the popular collection from which I wished to glean for my own, been much shocked and scandalized at many things which I found, and which are detestable, not in taste only, but, to the highest degree, in doctrine and sentiment. The famous couplet,

• Come ragged and guilty,

Come loathsome and bare,'is far more tolerable than many which I could instance; and, I own, I began to dislike a liberty, however conceded or assumed, which had been abused so shamefully. Many of my friends, indeed, quote such passages as a sufficient reason for excluding from the Church service all but the authorized versions of Psalms. But thus to argue from the abuse of hymns against their decent and orderly use, does not seem very accurate logic, and there are many reasons why I should regret passing so severe a sentence on all for the faults of some.

“ Ist. The fondness of the lower classes for these compositions is well known. Every clergyman finds that, if he does not furnish his singers with hymns, they are continually favouring him with some of their own selection; their use has been always the principal engine of popularity with the dissenters, and with those who are called the · Evangelical' party; and I have found, in conversing with the lower classes, that they really do not understand or appreciate the prophetic allusions of the Psalms of David, and require, besides the glorious moral and devotional lessons which these last contain, something more directly applicable to Christ, the Trinity, and the different holydays which the Christian Church observes. And it may, therefore, be thought unwise to surrender to the service of our enemies a means which is, in their hands, so powerful in attracting the multitude, and of which we ourselves might make so good a use. Nor can it be replied that this would prove too much, and operate in favour even of those abominations which I have just reprobated, and which are supposed to be, many of them, but too popular with the lower orders.

The taste of the lower orders is, in this respect, often underrated. Their love of devotional poetry is ardent, and they, therefore, take whatever comes in their way; while those who have catered for them, have not been very scrupulous as to the nature of the aliment which they procured. But that they can taste the good as well as the bad, is plain from the universal popularity of the two beautiful hymns for morning and evening, by Bishop Kenn, which are more generally sung by a cottage fire-side than any other compositions with which I am acquainted. It might seem, then, no difficult matter to accustom them to a better style of poetry than that with which they are now satisfied.

“ 2dly. The whole stream of precedent in the Christian Church,

« PreviousContinue »