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HAS THE CHURCH OF GOD TO-DAY LOST
THE SPIRIT OF THE EARLY CHURCH? There are many who are asking this ques tion. It is not a matter of apostolic succes sion, nor of church government so much. The one question is, Have we lost the spirit that moved and made the early Church a conquer ing Church? The first thirty-three years of the first cen tury covered the life of Jesus. The remain ing sixty-seven years of the century revealed the most unparalleled victories of the gospel. The beginnings were extremely feeble, a few hundred men and women, hardly out of the shackles of Judaism; few men of culture or collegiate education, or wealth among them ; only men and women of the deepest convic tions. What did they accomplish with no church buildings, no equipment, no colleges and a scanty organization? They broke down the walls of Phariseeism and proved for all time that Judaism is the dead chrysalis from which has come living Christianity. They penetrated the mysteries of Egypt and punc tured the occult sciences of the East. They swept the height of Grecian philosophy and supplanted it by the wisdom of God. They marched into Roman barracks and even into the golden house of the Caesars and saved men from the horrible licentiousness of the age. No country was too distant, no climate too severe, no cult too intricate. They went and preached everywhere the gospel, God honoring them with signs and wonders. It was not a barbarous age. There was a vast deal of learning and culture in the world, but these men had something learning and culture and material and political power could not supply. It was done by men, not by the sound of the wind, nor the voice of the angel. Let us note some things about these men. They were men of profound conviction of sin. They knew its nature, its power, its curse and its redemption. Sin to them was nothing to joke over. They had "a burden." There is the minor undertone sweeping through their sermons and writings. Peter never forgot the hour of his denial, and begged to be crucified head down, as unworthy even to be crucified as his Lord. Paul ever speaks of himself as 4 4 injurious to the Church o! God." Has not the Church lost this convic tion largely? Is not church membership a thing of common politeness and "the thing to do"? Do not ministers often preach as if it were a job to be gotten through with, and people listen as a cross to be borne as best they can? These men had no manner of doubt as to the reality of the divine and risen Lord. Jesus was the Son of God. He was the supreme Lord of their lives. They may have had poor conceptions of His deity before the resurrec tion, but when He held out those pierced hands they cried like Thomas, "My Lord and my God." Peter faced an angry Sanhedrin and de clared, "We can but speak the things that wo have seen and heard." No apologies, no hazy views, no denials, a simple and mighty faith. They had no manner of doubt as to the truth fulness and power of the gospel message. They knew it was the power of God unto salvation. There is something almost sublime in the abandon of their faith. They built no churches. They sowed the s?ed in faith that God would see to the harvest. They were men who lived in humble and immediate reliance on the Holy Spirit. Time and again they did things they never dreamed of. They went where they did not want to go. They faced obstacles that would have daunted other men. The Holy Spirit was wit nessing to them. Is it any wonder that Paul could say the gospel had been preached in the known world? Is it surprising that this new religion, this illegal sect, confounded the wis dom of the wise, and gave Christianity a stand ing the world overt Is there any way out of the way the Church of God is drifting to-day? The cry, "Back to Christ," is heard, and yet men do not tell us what it means. We had better be going for ward to Christ, but back to those sublime prin ciples that made the early Christians veritable thunderbolts of evangelistic power. A. A. L. Contributed AUNT MATTY 'S RELIGION. (The following article appeared in "The Central Presbyterian" of January 6, 1875. It is signed "Old Paths," and was from the pen of the late Rev. J. L. Kirkpatrick, D. D., at the time, we believe, of Washington and Lee University. The original is in the possession of Miss Virginia Richardson, of Charlotte Court House, Va., a daughter of the "Col. R." men tioned in the article, herself now an octogena rian much honored and beloved by all who remember "the old days in Charlotte." ? B. F. B.) Years ago Aunt Matty, a colored woman and a slave, lived at Charlotte Court House, Ya. Nominally she was the property of Col. R., but, in fact, at the time referred to, she was the honored and tenderly cared-for charge of Col. R., his wife and their children. She had nursed Mrs. R. and her mother in their infancy, and in her turn was receiving a bountiful re turn for all her laithlul kindness. Aunt Matty, as everybody called her, had been a member of the church for many years, but when I knew her she was very old, and very much bent with rheumatism; so that she could seldom attend public worship. For the same reason, when she did attend, instead of going into the gallery which was occupied by those of her "color and condition," she took a seat in the main row of pews immediately in fiont of the pulpit and very near to it. In those days, and it may be true at the present time, the Presbyterian congregation at Char lotte Court House was not surpassed by any in the State in intelligence and social refine ment: yet the most eligible seat in the house of worship, with the cordial approbation of all, was accorded to this humble slave. Her excellent character and her long approved piety secured for her this public tribute from wealth, style and pride of position. One oc casion of the kind I well remember. The cel ebrated Daniel Baker was conducting a series of meetings in the church. The interest throughout the community was very great, and on Sabbath the house was crowded in every part ? the aisles and other vacant places being filled with chairs. After the congregation had settled down into a solemn quietness waiting for the opening service, an unusual bustle and a thumping sound were heard along one of the aisles. It was Aunt Matty, with her long staff, long and by no means light, hobbling towards the front, and all in her pathway ris ing up to make room for her. As she ap proached the open space near the pulpit a gen tleman, well known throughout the State for his high social position, rose from a chair which he had procured for himself with some trouble, and gently forcing her into it, took a seat on the steps of the pulpit. (Miss Richardson says her mother told her that gentleman was John Randolph, "of Roanoke.") But this is only to introduce Aunt Matty to the reader. My chief business is to tell of her "religion" as she called it, or as some, perhaps not more aptly, would style it, her theology. Walking one summer afternoon through the grove which surrounded her neat and comfortable cabin, I saw her sitting in front of her door enjoying the cool shade and the fresh air. I stopped, as was my wont, for a talk with her; or, rather, to hear her talk. The one theme of her conversation was reli gion ? the love of Christ and the blessedness of heaven. I had occasion during the inter view to remark: "Aunt Matty, you hold, I suppose, to the doctrine of salvation by grace ? ' ' She raised her eyes, and with them both hands, toward heaven, and with a voice trembling, eloquently impassioned, replied in these exact words (I can never forget the words or the tone in which they were uttered) : ' 1 Salvation by grace, through faith in the atoning blood of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ ? that's my religion"! Forty years are passed since I heard these words, and often, often have I thought them over. Meanwhile, I have spent months and years in the study of theology, and have read many works from the pens of the ablest di vines, ancient and modern, treating of relv gion and its great truths. Vet have I no where lighted on a statement ? let me call it, a definition, of the fundamental idea of the gospel which has impressed me as so accurate and so complete as this of Aunt Matty. One of the most difficult and most valuable acqui sitions derived from the study and exercise of exegesis on which our students in the Theo logical Seminary spend so much of their pre cious time, is the knowledge of the import and force of those little words which express the relations of one term to another, and bind the different parts of a sentence together. Ob serve with what discriminating, scientific pro priety she employed them in h<y definition. Salvation by grace, through faith in the aton ing blood of her Lord and Saviour. Those who have never attempted to reduce their knowledge to a system, especially if the subject be one that involves a large number of facts and principles, will readily allow that the task demands the highest powers of the human intellect ? those of abstraction and gen eralization. They will allow also that the parts of the system most difficult to be satisfactorily adjusted are those which contain in a con densed form great regulative enunciations, in which everything that is genetic and essential is included, whilst all that is derivative and accidental is left out. Now analyze Aunt Matty's definition of her "religion." Here we have grace as the source of all ; or perhaps it would be more correct to say, as the grand essential characteristic of the entire scheme of salvation. We have faith as the instrument? the sole instrument. We have the object of faith, namely, the Atonement, as the ground or meritorious cause. We have the divinity of Christ implied in the title Lord (for Aunt Matty .meant nothing less by that word) and in this His office as King. We have His priest ly office asserted in the terms "atoning blood." When she added, "That's my religion," I doubt not she meant she had learned it from the lips of Jesus, and those He had inspired to teach the way of truth and righteousness. Thus we have Christ as a Prophet. Lastly, we have the appropriating act of faith in the posses sive "my" ? "my Lord and Saviour." Where did this illiterate slave get this defi nition? ? this precise use of language? ? this comprehensive view of the doctrines of the gospel T In her younger days, and during the season when her piety received its first dis tinct impress, she sat under the ministry of ?John H. Rice, Drury Lacy and Matthew Lyle.