« AnteriorContinuar »
LESSONS FROM THE CONVERSION, CHARACTER AND DEATH
OF THE REV. ROBERT BALSHAW:
DECEMBER 17TH, 1877 :
We come now to the description of Mr. Balshaw's Character, and there is one prominent feature which must have separate consideration. I call your attention to three passages : Psalm lxix. 1, 2: Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing : I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.' Isaiah lxvi. 2: "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word.' James iii. 17: “The wisdom that is from above is 'first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
Those of us who knew Mr. Balshaw best have marked how commonly his songs in the house of his pilgrimage were in a minor key.
• Upon his face there was the tint of grief,
As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.' There were times when he seemed to know 'a sigh that charmed, a pang that gave delight. He says:
'It comes natural to me: thore is a pleasure even in sadness after you have become familiar with it, eren as great as another's joy,' (And when pleading on behalf of the dreaminess which was associated with it, he says): 'It is very interesting and startling to see the water roaring down a cataract ;......but one Niagara is quite enough. Only fancy if every stream were to be as hurtling and energetic as Niagara. Give me the Thames as you have it in Berkshire, that flows ever, but will stop to let the cattle drink, will toy with the willow-boughs, will spread itself as a mirror to the flowery banks, will let schoolboys have a plunge and a swim in it, or the kingfisher wash his shining coat ; will do all sorts of good things, and never seem to upbraid by its hurry the lazy lounger who is asleep on the grass.'
His times of melancholy musing led commonly to a process of self-anatomy ICL. 11.-SIXTE SUGIES,
which made his religious life too subjective. All the sex outside a vessel is nothing to that which gets into the hold;' and often the waters came into his soul, and well-nigh overwhelmed him. This habit of sad musing was associated with a very high sense of duty, and when it had entailed arrears of work, furnished fresh materials for his soul's disquietude. At times he was conscious that his torture was the result of an overstrained sense of responsibility. He writes :
• Mr. Lomas said, “ Let us look at our responsibilities, look at them truthfully, and as they are, not exaggerating them, nor despairing about them." I think sometimes men are in danger of exaggerating the claim which the holy rocation of the Ministry has upon them, and this to such a degree that, instead of acting as a stimulas, the main result is despair of anything like an adequate performance. It is surely wise to look upon the life to which we are called as a possible life : its broadest engagements possible, its most pressing claims possible, and that because “our sufficiency is of God." Blessed word "sufficiency"! He Who made the mighty waters of the sea, made a bed deep enough to hold them, and He Who has conceived a great lore for our fallen world will find in His Church channels wide enough and deep enough to carry it whitber He wills it to flow.'
His habit of musing, with the negligences and self-reproach consequent upon it, was, in part, the result of his mental constitution, which rebelled continually against that method in life and work which he admired in others. He would say:
· Let me run on in my own way. System you know is not in my nature. System! terrifying word! the very sound of it is like the hissing of a serpent ; no wonder I fear it. You must allow me to ramble on in my own way, or I must stand stock-still ; for put myself in the power of that monster I cannot. Sometimes the world bas tried to get me into a system, but I did not like it, and got out again as soon as possible
. Perhaps I should have been safer in one, but if I had missed many dangers I had lost many joys.
Mr. Green says:
* His mind was not logical ; he had not full control over his mental acts ; he was far too greatly at the mercy of circumstances ; he abhorred restraint. This was, I should think, the effect of his want of early mental discipline. Bat, while he lacked the perseverance which gives continuity, there was a doggedness about him which often carried him over difficulties......He was as unmethodical a man as I have known. He had good powers of mind and could learn much; he was fond of knowing scientific facts, but was too little under control to be scientific in his processes.'
Despite my friend's feeling in this matter, I say emphatically to the young : Equanimity is very largely maintained by order in the work of life. If you leave many ends loose on the pathway, entanglement, if not stumbling, is a sure result. My friend would have had less to impede him in his walk, had he more resolutely contended with this constitutional besetment.
When he got into the 'mire' of despondency and doubt, he realized the truth of those passages in the Pilgrim's Progress whic'ı tell of Giant Despair and Doubting Castle, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and the terrible battle with Apollyon. He would say:
* I scarcely dare to hope. The future to me romises co iccrc.se of gladness ; and a
hope that it will be no worse than the past is all that lifts me up. Sometimes I think that if it were possible for me to go to sleep, and to sleep for ever, I would gladly do it. I know that my desponding feelings have a very baneful effect : they make me unamiable and unloving [Great mistake !). Indeed I am unworthy of the love of any man, woman or child ander God's heaven, and sometimes I think that I am so worthless and insignificant that God cares not whether I get to heaven; and even if I am in hell, the devil would scarcely think it worth while to torment me.'
Again : 'I cannot do anything ; I am useless, of no benefit either to God or man...... The despondency under which my soul has been labouring at some seasons since I saw you has been greater than at any previous period. If the ink with which I write were tears, my words groans, and every single letter a heated dagger piercing my heart, you would have some faint idea of the state of my mind during some seasons lately.'
And again : Religiously, I trust I am progressing, though I have a struggling, backsliding, fighting and fainting time of it. Some seasons have been the happiest and the holiest of my life, and others the most intensely, crowdedly miserable. I never so thoroughly believed in the existence of the devil as I do now, nor in his power over the soul.. However, as a match for him, I find nothing like confidence in the power and love of Christ
. I have learned more from temptation during the last month than from all other influences,'
And again : 'I could write a mental autobiography which would make the wise weep, and the foolish wise. I am like a man afflicted with the nightmare, seeing an impending calamity
, but powerless to escape. Are there not many things to make me sad : poverty, crime, suffering, with all the other inexplicable phenomena connected with the moral government of the Father of the human family ?'
And again, a year ago : 'Yesterday I had a fearful fight on my knees on a subject that I may tell you of when we see each other. One of the storms of soul that come a few times in one's life ; but I think Jesus gave me peace. I try to trust and rest in the Lord. He chastens my soal by many means : I think I am better than I used to be, purer and hambler ; sorrow and disappointment, pain and loss, have not been without their effect. Unless deceived I am nearer God, am more disposed to lie in His arms. How good He is to me!'
When under the influence of these feelings he threw the colour of his own mind over the Church, over the state of society, over his own personal fitness for his work, over the future of Christian enterprise ; yea, even over the most joyous relationships of life, when he set himself by congratulations to rejoice with them that do rejoice.' He writes : 'To me it appears the world is wrong, the Church is wrong, and I am the wrongest person in either the Church or the world. Once and again has he begun to ring marriage bells which soon became a muffled peal, that told rather of the bier than the bridal. If the first notes of the song, which at such a time he sung to his friend, were light and joyous, the later and longer portion of it had the moan. of the dirge. But on the other hand, his sadness gave him a quick and close sympathy with sorrow, and as he took the sorrowing by the hand, he rose with them gently but surely to hope and confidence. Then he could write : Milton utters a sweet thought when speaking of his blindness : “This dark