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SHORT LESSONS FOR SIMPLE MINDS.No. IX.
Matt. xix. 16.
This life is full of questions. The little infant, unable to speak, still shows by its vain efforts to grasp at things, which to its unpractised eye appear near at hand, that it is seeking to know something which it cannot find out. No svoner does the child begin to think and speak, than the questions, “Why may I not do this or that?” or, “How is this made?" and others of a similar nature, fall wearisomely upon the ear of all but those whose love is ever watching to fill the mind of the young immortal with true thoughts and right principles.
A few more years pass, and the human being becomes conscious that the body and what concerns it is not everything, that there are deeper longings in the souls than mere natural gratifications can satisfy, that there is something wanting which has not yet been grasped. Learning, science, and art, each in turn are appealed to; and as the varied beauties of the vast domain of knowledge are unfolded to the mental eye, it seems as if at length the soul must find a full measure of enjoyment.
But it is not so;'the outward mind is well supplied with food to satisfy every craving, but there is still in the inmost heart a yearning after something hitherto unattained. Then the great question of all comes, bringing with it a thousand other questions : Why am I here? How came this mixture of order and disorder, of joy and sorrow, of harmony and discord? Is this the home of my soul ? If not, where can I find it, and with it that rest of mind, gladness of heart, sympathizing affection and unrestrained intercourse, which we always associate with the idea of home ?
When such questions arise, as they will do in the minds of all who are not bound to the earth by mere sensual gratification, the negative
soon presents itself. These blessings will not be found amongst the wicked, for the Bible tells us “there is no rest for the wicked ; ” and we know that as “a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit,” there will be no loving hearts, no seeking to make others happy and at home, amongst them. The heart sinks at the thought of dwelling eternally amongst those who are full of "malice, hatred, and ill-will.”
It is no wonder that the young man of whom we read in this chapter, should ask, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal
life?" He knew that he should live after death, but to live amongst the wicked in misery and suffering would be worse than death, and so he asks about eternal life.
How simple the answer which our Lord gives him! “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Yes, there is no escape from that duty, and no life without it; for it is a necessary law of our existence as happy beings, throughout eternity. And why? Could we be happy even in heaven,
if we loved more than God? All the life which we possess flows from Him alone, and that life is love to Him and to those whom He has made ; but to distort that life and turn it to forbidden objects would cause unhappiness to our souls. As the diseased eye feels the light to be painful, and seeks the darkened room, so the soul that has lost its innocence turns away from that heaven where “the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days ;” or as the pure atmosphere of the mountain top oppresses the breathing of those who are accustomed to dwell in the plains, in a corresponding manner does the soul that has led a grovelling life, satisfied with earthly joys, find itself unable to breathe an atmosphere which can only support those elevated affections which are founded on love to the Lord and obedience to His commandments.
If we would inherit eternal life, then, we must open our hearts to receive that life which flows from God. And what is it as it comes from Him?
The Bible teils us "God is Love." Therefore anger and hatred, impurity and deceit, cannot come from Him, for they are contrary to love. Love deals in no hard words, no taunting expressions, no desire to revenge ourselves, no rejoicing when any one suffers because they have been unkind to us, but it is gentle and forgiving, and really to do a kindness even to the unkind.
It may be thought that persons may love each other and yet be impure and use bad language ; but if we really love any one, we shall be sorry to injure him, and if we use bad words, and still more, if we do what is wrong, we injure both the souls and bodies of our fellowcreatures.
We see, then, that if we are wicked we cannot go to heaven, because we should not be happy there. In this world wicked persons feel the presence of the good a great restraint, and long to get out of their society, and take the first opportunity of doing so. They are like the evil spirits, who, when they were cast out of a man, prayed to be allowed to enter into the swine, because everything that was coarse and unclean was more to their taste than the opposite. And so it will be with us; if we choose evil associates here, we shall have them hereafter, and the same end will await us, for “the swine ran violently down a steep place and perished in the sea.” Such an end is the opposite of life eternal, but “ blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."
M. S. B.
ON THE POSITION AND DUTIES OF REPRESENTATIVES
In an article entitled “The General Conference," which appeared in the August issue of this magazine, certain views upon the subject of Conference representation are propounded which demand the thoughtful consideration of the Church at large ; and as the said article is not by any means in accord with a large section of the Church, conveying, as it does, an implied censure of the action of a considerable number of Societies in the Conference of 1875, it is only fair that the matter should be fully discussed in all its bearings, so that representatives may clearly understand their position and duties in the general assembly of the Church.
While all true New Churchmen must ever most earnestly pray and work for the “unity of the brethren,” such unity will never resolve itself into external uniformity; and it is vain to imagine that either Societies or individuals can be induced to yield up deep-seated convictions upon questions that they have well thought out, even should they be outvoted by a large majority when the division comes on. And it is not desirable that they should. To retain the views we hold, until convinced that they are untruthful or unwise, is surely right; to assent to measures passed by Conference, or any other Society, when opposed to honest conviction, is weak and wrong. chiefly need is unity of purpose-the high purpose of promoting the spiritual welfare of the Church. Probably we shall always differ more or less as to the best means of securing this object; but if in purpose we are one, such differences become almost sacred things, not to be treated lightly nor easily abandoned, especially where it is seen and felt that fundamental principles are at stake. Honest differences, held in all charity, may, and should, remain. They enlarge the true Church of Christ.
Two classes of subjects usually engage the attention of Conference; the one comprising matters of which Societies are notified in the Secretary's Circular; the other, such topics as arise in the course of the deliberations, but which are not prearranged.
Concerning questions of the latter kind, it is evident that Societies can give no instructions to their representatives; they must leave everything to their judgment, in which the fullest confidence is reposed. But it is otherwise with important matters of which the Societies have previous knowledge. In the Secretary's Circular, it may be, various notices of motion are announced for discussion. Among these is a subject which has on other occasions engaged the attention of the Church. Points of doctrine are involved; and before a correct judgment can be formed pro or con, careful thought is needed, and an extensive reference to the word and to the writings of Swedenborg. The Societies discuss the matter freely and fully, and decide how they wish it settled; and finally they elect gentlemen, who for the most part entertain personally the same views, to represent them in Conference, and to vote on their behalf. Is this desirable? Is it a lawful procedure on the part of Societies ? The article affirms that it is not. The contrary opinion is here advocated, reasons for which shall now be given.
It is assumed on all hands that Conference is, or ought to be, a representative body. That is, its members are supposed to hold such opinions as are commonly received among the various Societies of the Church. Societies cannot themselves assemble together for deliberation upon Church matters, therefore they elect certain gentlemen to represent them. Each representative is thus the servant of his Society. He is not sent to advocate his own individual views, except so far as they are in harmony with those of his constituents. When he speaks or votes upon all important questions which have been thoroughly canvassed in his Society, perfect loyalty to all its convictions is expected from him ; and it is not affirming more than the truth to say, that if his sentiments and votes upon such subjects run counter to their wishes, he is so far unfaithful to the trust reposed in him, and instead of representing his constituency, he sinks into a purely personal voter. What occurs in such a case but this—that the judgment and united intelligence of the Society is set aside, in fact, that it is misrepresented ?
Conference is truly set forth as "our ecclesiastical parliament." In Parliament sit gentlemen of various political opinions, and they in almost all cases go pledged to vote for and support such great measures or men as their constituents favour. A wise member also frequently refers to his friends for their views upon questions which may unexpectedly have arisen, and respecting which he is not very clear, in order to prevent the possibility of collision or misrepresentation. But this does not destroy the deliberative character of Parliament. Any other course would certainly destroy its representative character, and cause its deliberations to lose their national value : they would no longer so fully manifest the national will. Now, if Conference means anything, it means the whole Church in session by its representatives, and although a small minority of its members unfortunately do not come into this category, but are purely personal voters, the Church, having provided that the majority of members shall be representative and not personal, thereby signifies her desire that Conference shall be so regarded. The word “unfortunately” is here used advisedly, for it is well ascertained that many thoughtful New Churchmen are opposed to any ex officio members having seats in Conference ; and in a few instances even ministers have requested their Societies to constitute them representatives, so that they might occupy a broader and firmer basis than their ex officio qualification could supply. Among many other considerations which might be adduced, there is one point in favour of the representative character of Conference being jealously preserved which should never be overlooked. It is well known that the atmosphere of Conference is not conducive to deep thinking. So much routine and other business has to be transacted, that the minds of members are not usually in the best form for considering vexed questions demanding for their solution calm thought and unbiassed judgment. It is imperative that all such questions shall be discussed in advance, otherwise a hasty and ill-considered decision will very probably result in a decision which runs great risk of reversal at some succeeding Conference. Hence the importance of having great questions ventilated fully through the whole Church; and this can only be done either by the Repository opening its pages to such discussions, under certain judicious regulations, or by the commencement of some other periodical where subjects of this kind may find a fitter place.