Page images
PDF
EPUB

that intent, like the runners and wrestlers in the ancient Grecian games. Preaching must be a passion with him, excellence therein the object of an intense longing which nothing can satisfy. Brooding over his theme until his soul is set on fire with it, catching in the process an inspiration which elevates his conceptions and intensifies his utterances, he must go into the pulpit bearing his whole man with him, every faculty strung up into its best and loftiest state. This should be the aim, so far as human nature can bear it, of every preacher of the Cross. The most gifted men, without it, will not be greatly successful. He who has ten talents, and is content to take only one into the pulpit, or who suffers them to lie in disuse the greater part of the week, is, notwithstanding his ability, very likely to fail.

There is in Dr. Landels' "True Manhood” a chapter on the cultivation of individuality, in which he has unquestionably depicted his own character, and in this light the whole of it is worth reading. He claims for all men the right of giving fair and reasonable scope to their natural peculiarities, and

and among other valuable things, says :

Those who would be men must dare to be themselves to think their own thoughts, and to speak out the thing that is in them. They may possibly make mistakes-very likely will, all men are liable to that-but better be mistaken occasionally than not think at all. Better advance, though at the risk of making a false motion, than stand for ever still. Better through many blunders attain to the right and the true than remain always where and what you are. Prudence may be a very profitable virtue, but it is none of the most admirable even in its best estate, and it is capable of being carried to such an extent as to become a positive vice, and one of the meanest of the vices withal. I cannot, for the life of me, admire the man who never goes wrong because he stands still ; and if there be one whom I detest more than another, who is more than another the object of my intensest scorn, it is he who waits to know how the wind of public opinion blows before he dare give utterance to his own thoughts, and refuses to stir a step until it has become so popular that he can do so with perfect safety to his reputation or his purse.

The substance of Dr. Landels' preaching is unquestionably " the truth as it is in Jesus.” On grounds which satisfy the demands of his reason and conscience, he accepts the Bible as the Word of God, and yields an implicit assent to its testimony. The proclamation of God's great love in Jesus Christ; the necessity for and the sufficiency of Our Lord's atonement for sin; the duty of exercising repentance and faith; the need of inward renewal, of assimilation to the image of Christ; the certainty and glory of our final blessedness-these are the themes on which he delights to dwell. His religion is thoroughly practical--occupied with matters of “every-day," and touching the interests and duties of all classes alike. He does so far touch on current questions and events, but never does he bring them into undue prominence, or act in a manner that justifies the assertion that he is "essentially a political parson ”—an assertion which could not well be wider of the mark. Dr. Landels is conversant with every aspect of Scripture, and in spirit his preaching is eminently Biblical. His sermons on connected parts of the Divine Word-e.g., John xvii.; --the incidents of the Crucifixion-the Resurrection of our Lord-Heb. xi.; &c.—are among the happiest of his efforts. He teaches largely by example and illustration, and there are few more valuable works in our language on the heroes of faith than his “Great Cloud of Witresses." As samples of a popular and effective ministry, in which there is, at the same time, a quiet thoughtfulness and profound spirituality of tone, these sermons are admirable.

Reminiscences of Birmingham.

No. III.

E concluded our second paper by a reference to the praise

worthy efforts of the Sabbath-school teachers of the town

and neighbourhood. Nor is Sabbath-school tuition the only way in which lay agency successfully exerts itself there, as well as elsewhere. In the days of our youth,“ village preachers,” more or less numerous, were connected with all the evangelical Dissenting churches of the town, and doubtless accomplished much and varied good.

As a near relative of our own was one of these local preachers, and as in our early days we often walked with him on Sunday mornings, several miles into the country, to attend the services which he conducted, we have a lively recollection of many of the circumstances and details of these home missionary efforts. To us dwellers in a dingy town, a country walk was in itself a pleasurable sensation; then came the somewhat novel sight of men in white “smock frocks," and of their wives in scarlet cloaks ; and the climax of the sensuous part of the pleasures of the day was reached when, after the morning service, we took our dinner in a real farm-house, with a duck-pond at the front door, a large garden at the back, and with right pleasant bucolic scenes and sounds all around us. The meeting-houses in these villages were, fifty years since, very small, their architectural features very unpretentious, and the general appliances of the service, like the congregations, of a decidedly primitive character. The "service of song was, artistically considered, utterly void of science and good taste. Haydn, the great composer, confessed to receiving "a new sensation" when he first heard the Old Hundredth Psalm sung by the charity children under the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral ; but what his sensations would have been in listening to a band of twenty instruments (including kettle-drums), and about twenty vocal performers, " giving" the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel, in a chapel holding a hundred people, we would rather not attempt to define. It is true, this musical explosion of the “ thundering legion” occurred in connection with anniversary services; but it was merely the expansion, on a

grand scale, of the usual musical style prevalent in these village chapels when George the Fourth was king.

It would be scarcely reverent to criticise with much strictness the sermons which were delivered in these rustic sanctuaries. Probably the theology of the preachers was often very crude, theirelocution by no meanscorrect; and, like a certain Hibernian we lately heard of, they made fewer “invidious distinctions” in grammar than Murray would approve of; yet, doubtless, they often preached the blessings of the Great Salvation with fervour and success, We have a grateful recollection of one of these sermons, to which we listened soon after we began to take a personal interest in spiritual truth. The discourse was founded, or professed to be, upon the well-known words of the prophet Malachi:

They that feared the Lord spake often one to another," &c. Logically considered, the treatment of the text was doubtless very defective, about nine-tenths of the sermon being occupied with a tenth part of the text; but it was a rich spiritual treat to us, nevertheless. We have since listened to some of the greatest preachers whom Britain has produced, but without feeling a deeper spiritual joy than we realised in listening to the words of that humble village teacher. Nor is the reason far to seek. Our newly-awakened mind was thoroughly in accord with Scriptural truth; we were “hungering and thirsting after righteousness;" whereas in after years some degree of satiety had dulled the mental appetite; and thus we proved the truthfulness of the inspired words: “ The full soul loatheth the honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet."

In after years we ourselves were occasionally privileged to occupy some of these rustic pulpits, and to hold Christian fellowship with some of our hearers, of one of whom we still retain a lively recollection--belonging to the fair sex. We only knew her by the familiar designation of " Old Betty."

Old Betty.” She earned her bread by nail-making, as many of her neighbours did ; and when at work in her humble shop, with no superabundance of vesture, the copious perspiration falling and hissing upon the heated iron which her brawny and busy arm was beating into shape, she was certainly a subject more fit for the canvas of Teniers than that of Sir Thomas Lawrence; but the rough casket contained a real gem, for she was one of those “ of whom the world was not worthy.” In part, probably, out of respect to our relative, she seemed to take an interest in our youthful attempts at preaching, and, with a smile, emphatically nodded her head at the utterance of what appeared to her somewhat worthy of commendation. Old Betty did not make a public profession of religion until she was a little "stricken in years ;” and the friend who administered the ordinance of baptism found the manual labour no light one, for her bodily girth bore a closer resemblance to that of Charles James Fox than that of William Pitt. After the service we took dinner with her at the hospitable table of our kind minister, the Rev. Thomas Morgan. During the repast her naive deportment made her “the observed of all observers ;"* for when she drank, the goblet was placed on the carpet at her side, and when the repast was concluded she employed the table-cloth as a substitute for a tablenapkin. She has long since gone to her rest; and, perchance, upon the site of her humble cottage and dingy forge, there now stands a " respectable” villa, unfamiliar with the sights and sounds of fifty years ago, possibly occupied by some of her own descendants; and our earnest wish is that they, with increased prosperity, may be sharers in the moral worth and piety of “Old Betty" the nailer.

It would be easy for us to give many similarillustrations of the spiritual good accomplished by the local preachers and Sabbath-school teachers in the various villages near Birmingham half a century ago, and we are pleased to believe that the number and efficiency of these worthy persons have increased with the larger population and intellectual culture of the town.

It would be a decided treat to us to meet with some of the descendants, for example, of good farmer Wakeman, of Beech Lanes, and to converse with them about “Auld lang syne." have not forgotten his quiet kindness to us in the days of our youth, nor the pleasant talks we held with him upon "things in general,” when we had reached the years of early manhood. He took, we remember, rather sombre views of the state of national affairs—being one of the Laudatores temporis acti; showed little favour to new-fangled notions of farming, and had a decided shake of the head against railways—then a new thing in the land. Nevertheless, he was a true-hearted man, and had he lived two centuries before would probably have been numbered among Cromwell's Ironsides, or, at least, in full accord with the farmers who rode behind John Hampden to London to protest against the tyranny of Charles I. We are pleased to add, that though he indulged a little in grumbling—as became an English farmer-he gradually prospered ; and at length, notwithstanding a very large family, he saved sufficient cash (so we heard) to purchase the freehold of the land which for so many years he had industriously and honourably tilled. May such men never grow fewer among us!

We should be doing injustice to the inhabitants of Birmingham if we did not make honourable mention of their liberal and zealous efforts for the benefit of the heathen nations of the world. As Baptists we are glad to remember that our denomination was one of the earliest labourers in the field of foreign missions, and that the Baptists of Birmingham have ever rendered the most ready and efficient aid. The name of Samuel Pearce is an honoured one among those of "the fathers and founders” of the Baptist Missionary Society. As is well known, he was among its earliest members, and, inspired by the friendship of Carey and Fuller, resolved to dedicate himself personally to mission work. Providence ordered it otherwise ; but it has been often told that whereas the first mission collection amounted to only the modest sum of £13 2s.6d., the next collection reached the noble sum of £70, raised by Mr. Pearce among the Baptists of Birmingham. We have often heard our elders speak in

terms of the warmest commendation concerning this eminently good man. We knew a lady who, nearly fifty years after his decease, told us with evident emotion, of his last words to her in his dying hours ; and we knew another member of his church who was so affected by his death that for months she could not bear to pass in sight of the house in which he breathed his last.

We have a vivid recollection of the contemporary portrait of the good pastor, from which the later engraved likenesses were taken, the features of which, suffused with a glow of heavenly brightness, warranted the enviable title given to him of the “Seraphic Pearce," and which led Mr. Jay, of Bath, to say that “ he seemed more to resemble the Lord Jesus Christ than any man of whom he had ever heard." Such a man could not fail to be a very useful Christian preacher and pastor, and hence the fact that the Baptist Church meeting in Cannon Street has for many years past been regarded with especial affection and reverence. The increasing prosperity of the town, operating with other causes, has, however, impaired its strength, and the following short report of proceedings in the Court of Chancery will be read with feelings of sombre interest :

“ Ex-parte the trustees of the Cannon Street Baptist Chapel, Birmingham.

“The Particular Baptists have for about 200 years possessed a chapel and other buildings and burial ground in Cannon Street, Birmingham. These premises have been taken by the Birmingham School Board at the price of £26,500, and the purchase money paip into Court. The trustees petitioned that the money might be paid out to them, and be held on trust to be declared by a deed to be executed by them for the purpose of providing and assisting in providing chapels, lecture rooms, schools, and other buildings to be used for religious purposes by congregations of Particular Baptists within a radius of four miles from Cannon Street. There was evidence that the burial ground had not been used for 18 years, and that there were public cemeteries used by the Baptists of Birmingham, and no burial ground was wanted, and also that the neighbourhood of the site of the old building was occupied entirely for business purposes and was almost deserted on Sundays."

Thousands of Baptists, and many who are not so, will regret the approaching extinction of the Cannon Street Church ; but as Mr. Pearce took unusual interest in the education of the young, and his successors zealously carried on the good work, there is much propriety in selling the chapel property to the Birmingham School Board, if sold it must be, and we trust that the large sum of money which the trustees have received may, for years to come, be successfully employed in diffusing the blessings of that Gospel which Samuel Pearce so fervently loved and preached

After the passage of many years we still retain a lively recollection of the interesting annual missionary meetings which we attended in our native town. The first we recollect was in connection with the

« PreviousContinue »