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EXPERIENCE AGAINST MR. STOW.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
You might, I think, have grappled more closely with Mr. Stow. He says, as quoted in your February Number, that in the Normal Seminary of Glasgow, not only boys and girls up to the age of fourteen or fifteen, but between seven and eight hundred students from eighteen to thirtythree fourths of whom are young men, and one fourth young women—are educated together in the same model-schools, class-rooms, and playgrounds; and that during fifteen years "not one case of impropriety has occurred," and only one marriage taken place between the students, and this a very prudent one; and the parties had been acquainted before becoming class-mates. In your last Number he affirms that if his system of training prevailed, the same intercourse at work and play might be carried on at Eton and Winchester, at Oxford and Cambridge, between several hundred boys and girls, young men and young women, not only without hazard, "for hazard there actually is none, "but with inestimable advantage to the young persons, and to society. There would not, according to the Glasgow average, be so much as one case of impropriety, one imprudent marriage, and only one prudent one, (and that in a case of previous acquaintanceship) among seven or eight hundred young gentlemen and ladies during fifteen years.
Now in reply to all this we have the conclusive fact, that even in the most guarded system of education, and under the most favourable circumstances for prosecuting the experiment—as where a clergyman educates only four or six young gentlemen, or a clergyman's wife as many young ladies-the pupils being well-trained young persons, and the establishment resembling an ordinary family, only under more vigilant discipline-even here the heads of the family are under the painful necessity of sending their sons from home, if the pupils are girls, or their daughters, if the pupils are boys; the association between them being found altogether inconvenient and undesirable. Parents would not send their children even to one of those private seminaries, which are conducted upon the principles of domestic training, if associates of the other sex were admitted. One such result of experience is conclusive. Among the poor, necessity may prevent due classification; but here we find the rich adopting it from obvious propriety and necessity.
THE LATE MR. ROE'S CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
SIR,-While reading the Review of the Life of my father (the Rev. Peter Roe) in your Magazine, I thought perhaps it might not be uninteresting to you to be informed that he took in the Christian Observer from its commencement to the period of his removal from this world; and that he was a very warm admirer of that publication. I have often heard him express most strongly his high estimate of the talent and judgment displayed by the mode in which it was conducted-particularly the Review department. He preferred it to every other Review. His pen and pencil marks evince the feeling of interest and approval with
which he perused each successive Number. I have been able to trace only two communications from him in its pages, and they are so short as to be hardly worth mentioning: one in Nov. 1839, and the other in Jan. 1841-both under the signature of "Bedell." The latter was one of the last communications he ever made to any periodical work, and I well remember the anxiety with which he looked for a reply to his question. I trust I have not intruded unwarrantably; and remain, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
MARY ANNE ROE.
*** We did not know that Mr. Roe was among our correspondents or readers; but we are glad that so good a man considered our pages "to the use of edifying." We have inserted the above for the sake of the reference to the papers signed "Bedell." The first was a remarkable extract from Bishop Pococke's will; the second an inquiry respecting the plurality of Archangels; and which was replied to by three writers in the Number for March. In those papers is contained the substance of what can be said upon the subject. As Mr. Roe died in April, his illness probably prevented his replying to, or perhaps reading, those answers to his inquiry.
ON THE INFIRMITIES OF PIOUS MEN.
For the Christian Observer.
THAT the crown of primæval excellence has long since fallen from the head of mankind, is generally admitted. Whether we look to history or fable, to the song of poets or the musing of philosophers, we find this humiliating fact more or less distinctly recognized. Both history and fable contain the darkest representation of the character and crimes of man. Poetry in like manner has its four ages, than which, as it regards the last, the iron age- a stronger exhibition of our first apostacy from God cannot easily be conceived. Fable again, in all its wonders and horrors and abominations, presents us with not a few images of that dreadful reality. Indeed the every-day intercourse of man with man amounts to a moral demonstration of it. I allude to oaths, bonds, receipts, and whatever, in our pecuniary transactions, proves (except so far as is requisite to assist memory and to record facts in case of deaths and other occurrences) the insufficiency of promises unaccompanied by some security for their fulfilment. If we pass on to Revelation, we meet with such a history of our departure from the Lord our God, and with such full-length pictures of that corruption which is its consequence, as are overpowering to the Christian mind. Had we been left to ourselves in this our deplorable condition, soon must we have sunk into final and absolutely hopeless ruin. Our sole dependence was "on the everlasting arms" of Divine Mercy.
Blessed be God, He has not left us to ourselves, but has made a provision, or rather a sacrifice, for man; by which, if we duly comply with the requisitions of Divine grace, we may yet rise from our fall, and recover more of holiness and happiness in Christ, than was forfeited in Adam. And the more we are endued with that "power of the Holy Ghost," which makes all things new within us, the more do we realize this cheering thought, this blessed anticipation. Then the language of prophecy, however figurative, is fulfilled, "I will make her wilderness CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 64. 2 F
like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” (Isaiah li. 3.) Yet this gracious and happy restoration is so sadly incomplete in this life, that (as Solomon too truly asseverates, 1 Kings viii. 46) "there is no man that sinneth not." Shades and spots are discernible even in our purest state of spiritual existence. Of this fact Scripture affords abundant proofs; observation confirms it; and experience brings it home, surely and painfully, to our bosoms; so that the greater our progress in "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ," and the more matured our love to Him and one another, the readier and the humbler is our confession of remaining "sins, negligences, and ignorances;" of the iniquity that cleaves even to our holy things, and dims the brightness of those hours in which we pour out our souls in holiest communion with God.
What wonder, then, that the most advanced saints in all ages have been mournfully imperfect in their graces, and wanting in their best endeavours to "glorify their Father which is in Heaven." Nor is this fact, when scripturally regarded, calculated to encourage the scorner, and the man of this world, in their animadversions on the man of God. But (as I hope presently to shew) it is well fitted to awaken us to a fresh acknowlegment of our fall, and to a deeper consideration of that grace of God our Saviour, which restores us to His favour and to His image.
What, then, is the general signification of the word infirmity, when applied to the true believer in the Lord Jesus? That word may be said in some measure to explain itself—and that because it evidently denotes weakness, or inability to perform all our moral intentions; as when St. Paul confesses (Rom. vii. 19), "The good that I would I do not ;" and (ver. 18) "To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not." So that to constitute "infirmity," in the scriptural sense of the expression, the full purpose of the heart to do the will of the Almighty must be coupled with that human imperfection which fails wholly to accomplish it. If such a "purpose" be wanting, our transgression of the Divine law is allowed, wanton, deliberate. It is like that of the Israelites of old, who said, (Jeremiah vi. 16), "We will not walk therein," i.e. in the ways of God. Nor is it unworthy of notice that the typical sacrifices, offered under the law of Moses, were generally for sins of ignorance, not of presumption. (Leviticus iv. 2.) In these sacrifices there was a clear and marked distinction between offences of an obstinate and those of an involuntary character. Even the latter presuppose the diligent and conscientious use of the appointed means of grace; especially of prayer for the protecting and strengthening influences of the Holy Spirit. If we refuse habitually to implore them, we act in deliberate opposition to the declared will of God; or we rely, like the too confident Peter, on our own imaginary strength; and thus, in the hour of temptation, prove our essential weakness.
Taking, then, the word "infirmity" in its legitimate, its scriptural sense, we come to the conclusion that no man is so renewed by grace as to be independent of the cross of Christ for the remission of sins, for spiritual strength, and for the attainment of eternal life. I should rather say that every man, when weighed in the scales of Heaven, is found so grievously deficient, that he must confess with the Christian prophet (Isaiah xlv. 24), "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength;" and with the great Apostle (Col. ii. 10), "Ye are complete in Him." Hence boasting is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith." (Rom. iii. 27.) But having, in a late paper (Christian Observer
for Feb. p. 65) enlarged on this important subject, I shall now proceed with it no further.
Yet it may not be unnecessary to point out such instances of human “infirmity as meet us in the sacred page. If we begin with "the father of the faithful," we find him, even Abraham, departing from the path of strict truth in order to preserve his life. We perceive Isaac (the force of parental example seems to have powerfully swayed him) resorting to a similar expedient, when placed in like circumstances of difficulty and danger. (Gen. xii. 13, and xxvi. 7.) Need I advert next to the meek Moses speaking unadvisedly with his lips (Exod. v. 23); the patient Job giving loose to intemperate expressions under the pressure of accumulated troubles? Turn to what character we may out of those recorded, for our imitation, in the sacred Volume (if we except such as are only very generally mentioned), we shall find some cloud to bedew the sky of their moral excellences; some gall to embitter their new, their heavenly affections; something to demonstrate their loss of that Divine image which arrayed the countenance of Adam, and shed lustre on his heart. I deem it superfluous to prove the imperfection of living "saints," (for such every Christian is "called to be," (1 Cor. i. 2,) or to go into details, in order to shew that "the gold is become dim, that the most fine gold is changed."
But what is the practical use to be made of the foregoing doctrine? First, to cultivate humility. Whatever be the elevation of our rank, the largeness of our possessions, the grasp of our intellect, the stores of our memory, the splendour of our imagination, and even the fame of our achievements; these natural gifts of God form no shadow of pretence for human pride and arrogancy. Neither are our spiritual attainments any plea for self admiration. One sin will more than balance our secular titles and distinctions, and should lay us low, as penitents," at the feet of Jesus." And all our Christian graces, if marred by one un-Christian thought, should lead us to abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes. Thus it has invariably been with the devoted followers of "the Lamb," when contrasting their own natural though subdued depravity with the perfections of "the Holy One of Israel." Thus it will be with every one who is endued with that deep knowledge of his own heart, which "the Spirit of Truth only can impart to our benighted minds. Such a one, at the conclusion of the best spent day, and when most richly laden with the fruits of true religion, will not be slow to adopt either the words or the posture of the publican, who "went down to his house justified," while the proud pharisee was condemned by Him who "looketh to the heart." (Luke xviii. 13.)
Next, we learn charity as often as we seriously regard "the infirmities of pious men." With such humiliating facts before us, we can neither treat the unconverted with severity, nor our brethren in Christ with harshness. On the contrary, whether we look into our own hearts, or mark the character of our fellow Christians, we shall see enough of remaining pravity in both, to make us mild, patient, tender, charitable to all men; and particularly to those who are partakers of our present trials, and "joint heirs" of that blessed immortality in which there "will be no more crying." Nor shall we fail to distinguish between those transgressions which are the fruit of obstinacy, indifference, and the neglect of prayer, and those which are the consequence of that weakness of our nature which, notwithstanding all our watchfulness and all our prayers, will cause us too frequently to fail in our encounters with the hellish
adversary." Over offences of the latter class Christian charity would throw her silken mantle, and thus "cover the multitude of sins." these it seems that St. John alluded when he said (1 John ii. 1), "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righ
Next, my subject may teach us not to expect perfection in the most advanced mortal saint. Here I would speak with equal distinctness and decision. For assuredly it is among the failures of the young Christian to look for something in the aged disciple of Christ approaching to angelic purity. I myself formerly fell into this very error. Had I then been told that our Wilberforces, our Venns, our Hannah Mores, while members of the Church militant, were still "miserable sinners" in the sight of God, I could scarcely have credited the statement. This incredulity, I am ashamed to say, arose from my very imperfect acquaintance with the "Holy Scriptures," and my consequent ignorance of the moral interior of man. For, when once conversant with the Bible, and enlightened by the Spirit, to discern our true character, we no longer look for absolute sanctity on earth; and we regard the holiest of men but as creatures that are upheld by grace, and that entirely depend on its support for power to overcome their enemies, and to "press toward the mark for the prize of their high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Therefore, when we hold frequent intercourse with persons of established piety, we are prepared to find in each (unwillingly as in truth we witness it) something, whether in word or temper, that may remind us of the memorable hour when Adam fell from perfection because he fell from God. Though preserved from "presumptuous sins," if truly we believe in Christ, we are still so beset with dangers, and encompassed with infirmities, that "we cannot always stand upright." (Collect for 4th Sunday after Epiphany.)
As nothing is more easy, so nothing is more unjust, than to found the charge of hypocrisy, as it regards Christian men, on the facts that I have just noticed. Yet those who "hate the righteous," and despise the "followers of God," are so delighted to detect one spot or shade in their character, that they quickly draw the inference, "Their religion is a mere pretence, and, in spite of all their professions, their practice is no better than our own." Yet there exists as much dissimilarity between themselves and "the people of God," in the matter of trangression; as between the faithful son who undesignedly offends his father, and the prodigal who wholly disregards all his wishes and commands. When, therefore, we unhappily do the evil that we "would not," we may exhibit much of imperfection, but not a particle of insincerity. "The best of men are but men at the best."
The above lamentable facts, when duly and Scripturally considered, command us, as with a voice from Heaven, to "watch unto prayer.' For, while " 'kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation," since it is He "that worketh in you to will and to do of His good pleasure," it is our part to stand upon the watch-tower, and to discover every approach of those enemies that "assault" the soul; yea to "walk circumspectly," not only in act but in word, remembering that the tongue is "an unruly member," and needs no feeble check, no nominal controul. The greater our natural infirmity, so much the more earnest should be our supplication for Divine strength; and the more subtle the devices of Satan, so much the more intense our vigilance in order to "overcome the wicked one." Like travellers on some icy