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Who has ever visited Geneva and failed to observe how pure are the waters of the Rhone as they flow forth from the Geneva lake-how peculiar and exquisite their tint. How blue, clear, and stately the river emerges from the crescentshaped reservoir, as though resolved to retain its purity throughout the entire of its course. Alas! how short-lived this distinctiveness! Scarcely has it passed the city of Geneva than it is encountered by a stream the very contrast of itself, the Arve, turbid and brawling, descending with a sudden impetuosity from the Col de Balme, and making directly for the nearest point of junction with the Rhone. The stronglycontrasted waters meet, and for a time the Rhone, as though unwilling to have its purity destroyed, declines to receive the Arve into its current. Gradually, however imperceptibly, the reluctance is overcome, and before Bellegarde is reached, the river is the Rhone in name, but the Arve in its turbid aspect.
How often has the stream of truth been defiled by the turbid waters which have their sources in the unregenerated heart, and that which is Divine in its origin been sullied by the traditions and inventions of men, until that which had been pure truth becomes a base admixture.
So it proved to be with the Church of Geneva. Personal religion first declined. Men withdrew themselves from the sancti. fying power of the truth, and then, troubled by the discrepancy which existed between what they admitted to be true and what they did, began to dilute the pure doctrines of the Gospel, and adapt them to their own worldliness and corrupt tendencies.
The process was gradual. The first phase of declension was characterized by keen disputations on the election of God, and the responsibility of man. There are the two extremes ; the one which so explains the sovereignty of the Divine decrees as to destroy the responsibility of man; and the other, which, while contending that man is responsible for his rejection of the Gospel, lapses into the idea of a universal grace, the efficacy of which depends upon the man himself. Extremes beget extremes. The Supralapsarian theory has scared many into Pelagianism. That the salvation of the righteous is of God, and the condemnation of the wicked of themselves, are truths distinctly set forth upon the page of Scripture, the one as vividly as the other. There is between them an apparent discrepancy, which at present, seeing as we do through a glass darkly, we cannot reconcile. We must nevertheless believe both and teach both, the one as strongly as the other.
Disputations on points like these indicate a declension from that submissiveness which, remembering that secret things belong to the Lord our God, but that those things which are revealed belong to us and our children, tells us to veil ourselves in the presence of His high mysteries, and imitate the seraphim, each one of whom bad six wings, but of these one pair only was reserved for flight, while with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet before the Lord.
The faith which is purifying in its influence eschews speculative points, as not only not conducive to, but injuriously affecting, spiritual growth. It would know more of God and of His word and ways, but it desires to advance with a lowly reverence.
The Churches of Switzerland, as well as others of the Reformed Churches, were disturbed by such controversies, in the prosecution of which the human mind swayed violently from one extreme to another. The rigid tension of the Supralapsarian theory caused a reaction, the results of which appeared in the Arminianism of the Dutch, and the Universalism of Amyraldus. Keen controversies arose, in which much religious energy was wasted. Synods and formulas were in vain resorted to in the hope of terminating these contentions, and healing the divisions which prevailed, such as the Synod of Dort, in 1618, and the “Formula Consensus" of 1675, drawn up under the sanction of the principal divines of Switzerland. The enforced addition of this Formula to the recognized standards of the Helvetic Churches caused great dissatisfaction. By such controversies Geneva was much agitated. The results were injurious. True spirituality suffered as from a blight; and the process of religious declension advanced so rapidly that, “in the middle of the seventeenth century, D'Alembert, in the French Encyclopédie, publicly charges the company of its pastors with denying the divinity of Christ,” a departure from the ancient purity of their theological creed in which Voltaire exulted. The discrepancy between the orthodox formularies and the Arian and Socinian opinions of the pastors became obvious to the world. Men at their ordination subscribed standards and formulas which in their subsequent teaching they openly contradicted. The position was one of such manifest inconsistency that to remain in it was impossible. Either the standards must be modified, or the errors renounced. The previous course was adopted, and a new Catechism or Instruction of the Christian Religion was published for the use of the Swiss and French Protestant Churches, which, ignoring all the distinctive doctrines of the Gospel, reduced the prescribed standard to a cold Deism.
Such was the condition of Genevese Christianity at the beginning of the 19th century. Three centuries had elapsed since the days of Farel, Zuinglius, Luther, Calvin. Reformed Christianity had come forth to do battle with antichristian
systems and influences, but it seemed to have become enfeebled like David when he waxed faint in the fight. So intense is the conflict between truth and error, so varied its alternations. God sends forth His truth, and many gather around the standard. In their day and generation they render good service, but their life is but a day. They soon pass away, and their place knows them no more. They are succeeded by others, in whom the pulsation of divine life is not so strong. Their fathers fought the battle; they enjoy the fruit. They sleep, and while they sleep, the enemy sows tares among the wheat. The professing Church becomes more and more a mixed body; its gold is dimmed, its wine mixed with water. The enemy rejoices ; but He who revived the work before, can do so again, and He will do it.
It was so in Geneva. When most needed, there came in reviving influences. About the year 1807, the biography of Cæsar Malan introduces him to us as a theological student in the Collegiate Institution which Calvin established, but which had lamentably deteriorated from the life and truth of its early days.
"We learnt,” adds one of them, (Rev. A. Bost, sen.,) ‘nothing beyond the dogmas of natural religion. The New Testament was not considered necessary as a text-book of study for the ministry;' a statement which confirms what my father has said to me over and over again, that so far from having been engaged in the study of the New Testament, in the ordinary course of his theological training, he never even read it through till long after he had left the academy.
“Not that it is to be inferred from all this, that his tutors had failed utterly to set before him the sacredness of the Scriptures. As will appear by and by, the Church of Geneva herself had never yet given birth to an avowed and direct assailant of their authority. It was from a man who, until then, had occupied a leading position in the opposite camp, that such an attack eventually proceeded, in the lifetime of the present generation. But there is a worse treatment of the Bible than this, and of that she had been guilty. To attack it openly was only to throw it on the defensive, to challenge a scrutiny of the proofs on which its authority rested, to evoke all the ancient ardour with which that authority was upheld. Never thus did the Church of Geneva treat the Bible, to no such prominence did she expose it, she only ignored it, she only passed it over in silence. Investing it with an exaggerated awe, her very reverence, amounting to superstition, held it back from general use. Whilst admitting with the unhappy Rousseau, to the very fullest extent,
the majesty of Scripture,' she would have deemed it as nothing short of exaggeration to take its authority as the only rule of faith and aim of life.” (pp. 25, 26.)
Malan was ordained in October 1810, a year marked by the birth of a religious movement, and a disturbance of the stagnation into which the Church of that city had so unhappily lapsed. Embers remained amongst the ashes. There had been a Moravian community in Geneva, which had gradually dwindled down, until none were left except one aged Christian lady, who constituted
“.... the centre of a small circle of five or six persons. This little flock, hearing of the progress of a reviving work in other countries, joined in prayer for an extension of the blessed influence to their own. These prayers, so regularly, so perseveringly offered, kindled in the first instance that great spiritual awakening which burst out so gloriously not long afterwards. The first answer came in an inwrought impulse in the hearts of some of those who prayed to address themselves to the work about which they had been praying. Two of them, students in theology, whose names were Guers and Empeytaz, endeavoured (in the year 1813) to set up a small Sunday-school. The latter of them, after the visit of the famous Baroness de Kreudener to Geneva, acted so unhesitatingly on the subject of individual exertion in things spiritual as to provoke the authorities, in opposition, to append to the ordination oath the words by which the candidates were held to pledge themselves to abstain from every species of sectarianism, and to avoid whatever might tend in the direction of schism, or threaten the unity of the Church.' Eventually, at the period of which we are now speaking, this same student, who had just been refused orders in the National Church, published at Paris his work entitled 'Considerations on the Divinity of Jesus Christ, addressed to the Students of Theology in the Church of Geneva.'” (p. 36.)
At this time Malan was in darkness. He preached, but in opposition to the doctrines of grace. Absorbed in educational pursuits,-for, after a brilliant examination, he had been elected one of the masters in the Collegiate Institute,-he wholly neg. lected the Bible, which was to him a sealed book.
A Vaudois pastor, at whose village he once stopped, and in whose pulpit he had preached, was so pained by his discourse, that, as they were leaving the church, he said to him,—"It appears to me, sir, that you have not yet learnt that, in order to convert others, you must first be converted yourself. Your sermon was not a Christian discourse, and I sincerely hope my people didn't understand it.” This was in 1815. At the commencement of the next year,
".... he contracted an intimacy with two pious foreigners, M. de Sach from Berlin, as well as with M. Wendt, the worthy Lutheran pastor in Geneva. 'One evening,' he writes, we had a Bible reading in Ch. de Sach's apartment. The subject was the 5th of Romans. I was greatly impressed by the whole of it, particularly by the 10th verse, “For in that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God."' At the same period in his
life the incident occurred which is stated in his preface to his • Témoignage de Dieu. “One afternoon, while I was reading the New Testament at my desk, while my pupils were preparing their next lesson, I turned to the 2nd chapter of Ephesians. When I came to the words, “By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God," the passage seemed to shine out before my eyes. I was so deeply moved by it that I was compelled to leave the room and take a turn in the courtyard, where I walked up and down exclaiming with intensest feeling, 'I am saved ! I am saved !'” (pp. 44, 45.)
Intercourse with the venerable R. Haldane, during the autumn of the same year, deepened these convictions.
“In the spring of 1817, he was constantly with him. To that man of God he owed his first lucid and definite apprehension of salvation by grace alone. 'From that time,' he says himself in the paper to which reference has already been made, ‘I was in the faith, though I had not the assurance of salvation. That blessing I experienced while Mr. Haldane, whom I love as a father, instructed me in the way of the Lord more perfectly.' ” (p. 45.)
Thus he passed through that inward and experimental process, in the absence of which, a person may be formally, but is not in heart, a Christian. The word brought home with power by the Holy Ghost, convinced him of his ruined and helpless condition as a sinner before God, and revealed to him Jesus, as that mighty one on whom his help was laid, in coming to whom for mercy and deliverance, he should be helped and saved. He looked to him for pardon and peace, and in due time received the answer of peace; and the faith, which first showed itself in application—"if I touch but the hem of his garment, I shall be whole,”—ripened into assurance “she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.” Assurance is the maturity of faith; it is not of its essence, as though there could be no saving faith without it. This change of principles wrought itself out into his life, manifesting itself in the new direction given to his energies. This he sums up in the following words :
“It pleased the Lord, about this period, to enlighten and convert my soul, and to dispose me to listen to the pious instruction of an Apollos from your country, who taught me from the Scriptures the value of the pearl of great price, of the treasure hid in the field. I was made rich, and, from that blessed hour, I viewed the world and heaven, time and eternity, man and his God, under quite a different aspect. A total reformation seemed to have taken place in my moral and intellectual being. The Bible taught me that the duration of this world bears no proportion to eternity; and that that man only appeared to me to be, in truth, alive, whose life is hid, with Christ in God; out of Christ everything seemed to me to be dead; and therefore I relinquished several of the common branches Vol. 68.-No. 380.