The Project Gutenberg EBook of Evangelists of Art, by James Patrick

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Title: Evangelists of Art
       Picture-Sermons for Children

Author: James Patrick

Release Date: December 2, 2009 [EBook #30220]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Al Haines

Cover art

"Here, when Art was still religion, with a simple, reverent heart,
Lived and laboured Albrecht DŁrer, the Evangelist of Art;

Hence in silence and in sorrow, toiling still with busy hand,
Like an emigrant he wandered, seeking for the Better Land."

LONGFELLOW, Nuremberg.






"Could I have traced one form that should express
The sacred mystery that underlies
All Beauty, and through man's enraptured eyes
Teach him how beautiful is Holiness..."


Printed by MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED, Edinburgh


II. LUTHER AT ERF‹RT Sir J. NoŽl Paton, R.S.A.



CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE.  By permission of Mr. Holman Hunt, and of Mrs. Holt, Liverpool

By permission of Mr. Holman Hunt, and of Mrs. Holt, Liverpool


How is it that ye sought Me? Wist ye not that I must be in My Father's house?—LUKE ii. 49 (Revised Version).

The Bible story from which the text is taken has been illustrated by a famous picture. The artist is Mr. Holman Hunt, who has painted many pictures on Bible subjects, and has spent many years in Palestine in connection with his work. His painting of "The Finding of Christ in the Temple" is well worth seeing for the rich beauty of its colouring and the delicate fineness of its workmanship, and every one who loves the Bible must feel that it is still more worth seeing for the sake of the scene which it represents.

As you look at the picture you have before you the interior of a spacious portico in the Temple at Jerusalem. The roof is supported on graceful pillars, and from it there hang many lamps of beautiful metal-work. The farther end is closed by an ornamental lattice-screen. At the right hand side a wide doorway opens on the steps which lead down to one of the Temple courts. A beggar sits on the steps just outside the opening, and beyond him there are workmen busy at the building of the Temple, which, as you know, was not finished for many years after the boyhood of Jesus. You remember that when He had grown to manhood, the Jews said to Him, Forty and six years was this Temple in building,[1] and even then we know that it was not completed. In our picture we see the scaffolding of the masons, and one of the cranes by which they raised the stones into position. The workmen themselves are engaged with a large marble block which is lying on the ground, and for which there is a vacant space in the wall above. Beyond the unfinished building there is a grove of trees, and in the further distance we get a glimpse of the roofs of the city and of the hills behind. Coming back to the interior of the portico we see an interesting group of figures at the farther end. A father and mother have come to present their child in the Temple, and they have bought a lamb to offer in sacrifice. The father, with the lamb on his shoulder, and the mother, with the little one in her arms, are following a priest and another attendant who are leading the way further into the Temple, while the man who has sold them the lamb is holding back the mother-sheep. Doves are flying in by the doorway or hovering about inside. They are among the

"Happy birds that sing and fly
Round Thine altars, O Most High."

A boy near one of the pillars is waving a long streamer in the air to frighten them away. But our attention is principally drawn to the foreground of the picture. This part of the portico is richly carpeted, and here a number of Jewish Rabbis—the doctors or teachers of the Law—are sitting in a half-circle, facing the doorway. They are grave men, with long beards and flowing robes. Many of them are old and grey. The Rabbi nearest us has a specially withered face, and eyes that have become sightless with age. The one next him holds in his hand a little metal box with leather thongs hanging down from it. This is a phylactery, containing texts of Scripture written on parchment, and the thongs are for fastening it on the forehead. Another of the group wears his phylactery in its proper position. The blind Rabbi clasps in his arms a great roll of the Law, richly mounted and carefully wrapped up. A little boy, with a brush to drive away the flies, kneels beside him, and another boy behind him is reverently kissing the covering of the roll, which he has raised to his lips. One of the younger Rabbis holds a smaller roll spread out before him. An attendant is pouring out wine from a jar under his arm, for one of the older men to drink. The Temple musicians, with youthful faces, and with various instruments in their hands, stand behind the Rabbis and watch the scene with much interest. But the central figure in the picture is the boy Jesus, who has risen from the place where He has been sitting, and is preparing to go away with Joseph and Mary. He stands just inside the doorway, tightening His girdle with one hand, while the other hand clasps His mother's arm. His bright, earnest face is turned a little away from her, and His eyes glance towards the Rabbis as if He were eager to hear the last of their words. Mary is smiling with gladness because she has found Him, and is drawing Him gently and lovingly away. Behind her, Joseph, a powerful and noble-looking man, holds with one hand the broad strap by which his wallet is slung over his shoulder, while his other hand rests beside Mary's on the shoulder of Jesus. Just above his head there is a large sun-shaped design on the side of the doorway, around which run the words, both in Latin and in Hebrew, The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His Temple.[2]

Now there are at least two lessons which the story and the picture teach us. There are two things in which the boy Jesus sets an example to the boys and girls of to-day.


First of all, there is Love of heavenly wisdom. You can well understand that there must have been many places and many things in the great and ancient city of Jerusalem which would be full of interest for a boy of twelve, who had just come for the first time from His distant village home. But there was no place so attractive to Jesus as the Temple of God. There was nothing that pleased Him so much as to hear what the wise men of the Temple had to say about God's truth and God's service. He had thought a great deal about these matters Himself though He was only a boy. He had a great many questions to ask. Three days had not been long enough for Him to find out all that He wanted to know. He thought that Joseph and Mary would have understood what He liked best, that they would have known exactly where to find Him, that they would never have thought of looking for Him in any other place than His Father's house.

You see that the love of heavenly wisdom is as natural and as beautiful in a young mind as in an older one. The picture that I have been describing shows Jesus with a real, bright, boyish face, which is earnest and thoughtful at the same time. And you boys and girls who read these pages will be able to make the best of the happy days of your youth if you love your Heavenly Father and His house, if you are eager to know and to obey His will.


Secondly, there is Obedience to earthly parents. It was not with any intention of disobeying Joseph and Mary that Jesus stayed behind in the Temple. He did not think of their losing Him, or of their being anxious about Him. He did not mean to grieve or vex them. He was so carried away by His interest in the teaching of the wise Rabbis that He thought about nothing else. This was just like a boy, and Jesus was a real boy. But as soon as Joseph and Mary found Him and called Him, He obeyed them. He rose from His seat among the doctors and went with His parents towards the doorway. He would have liked to stay longer, and He could not help looking back and listening to the last. But He never once dreamed of remaining against Mary's or Joseph's will. He never thought of making His love for God's wisdom and truth an excuse for disobeying them. He went down with them, and came to Nazareth: and He was subject unto them.[3]

And so the boys and girls who are the most earnest and thoughtful, those who love God's house and God's Word most deeply, ought to be the most obedient boys and girls at home. God does not want to take your mind and heart away from your parents and from what you owe to them. He wants you to serve Him by your loving obedience to them. When you honour your father and your mother you are honouring God's commandment, and so honouring God Himself in the very best way.

[1] John ii. 20.

[2] Mal. iii. 1.

[3] Luke ii. 51 (Revised Version).



LUTHER AT ERF‹RT.  By permission of the executors of Sir NoŽl Paton, and Mr. R. H. Brechin, Glasgow

By permission of the executors of Sir NoŽl Paton, and Mr. R. H. Brechin, Glasgow


I rejoice at Thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.—Ps. cxix. 162.

I wish to connect this text with a picture which is thought by many judges to be among the greatest of the late Sir NoŽl Paton's works. Its title is "Dawn," and its subject is a well-known incident in the life of the famous German Reformer, Martin Luther.

As we see Luther in this picture he is a young man between twenty and thirty years of age. He has had a brilliant career at the University of ErfŁrt, and has taken his degree with the highest honours, but he has disappointed all his friends by refusing to become a lawyer, and by choosing to become a monk instead. He has already entered the Augustinian monastery at ErfŁrt. Luther's reason for taking this unexpected step has been anxiety about his soul. He has begun to do his best to gain salvation by performing all the duties of a monk. He has fasted, and scourged himself, and done without sleep. He has once spent three whole days without eating or drinking. He has been found fainting on the floor of his cell. But with all this he does not feel that God has forgiven his sins. In this monastery, however, he has found something which he has never seen before, and that is a Bible. You would think it strange nowadays if a man were over twenty years old, and a Master of Arts, and yet had never seen a Bible; but that was quite common in Luther's time. Well, in this monastery there is a Bible, a great Latin book bound in red leather. The other monks have shown it to Luther, though they have not cared much about it themselves. He has begun to read it eagerly. The first thing he has read in it has been the story of Hannah and the little Samuel, and this has made him think of his own mother Margarethe and himself. Night and day he studies this precious book, but at first it only makes him more anxious. It seems to speak to him only of the righteous and jealous God, who hates and punishes sin. But he gets some advice from a wise friend, and begins to read the Epistle to the Romans over again. And at length the glad meaning of the gospel dawns upon him. His own account of it is, Straightway I felt as if I were born anew. It was as if I had found the door of Paradise thrown wide open. Now I saw the Scriptures altogether in a new light. That passage of Paul was to me the true door of Paradise.

Sir NoŽl Paton's picture represents Luther reading the Bible and finding his restlessness and anxiety giving place to gladness and peace of heart. He is sitting at a reading-table with the great leather-covered book open before him. He wears his monk's dark robe and cowl. His hands are thin and wasted. His cheeks are pale and hollow with fasting. His eyes are bloodshot and fevered with anxiety and sleeplessness. Near his left hand a richly carved crucifix stands on the table, and beside it are an hour-glass and a skull. An ink-pot with pens is at the other side. A lamp hangs from the roof above his head, but it is giving no light. Only a thin blue trail of smoke rises from the wick, showing that the oil has been burnt out. The fresh morning air is coming in at a half-opened window above the crucifix. The bright morning sun shines through the richly stained glass, and makes a strange blur of coloured light on the wooden shutter behind. The front of the reading-table is adorned by a picture of the Garden of Gethsemane, with Christ praying, and the disciples sleeping. On the wall behind Luther is a portrait of Pope Alexander VI., who died not long before this time, and was one of the worst of men. In a recess beyond a curtain we see on another stained-glass window, the figure of Augustine, one of the great teachers of the early Church, after whom the monastery at ErfŁrt was named. A number of old parchment-covered books are visible, and it is interesting to notice the titles of some of them, and the places where they lie. Away on a shelf are the works of Aristotle, a great philosopher of ancient heathen Greece. On the floor beside the reading-table is a book by a man called Thomas Aquinas, a famous Roman Catholic teacher of the thirteenth century. And on the table is a book by Augustine about the City of God. A rosary, that is, a string of black beads with a cross at the end, has been thrust between the leaves of this last book, as if to mark the page. We seem to see that Luther has come from the heathen philosopher to the Roman Catholic doctor, and then to the earlier Christian teacher, and last of all to the Bible itself. For the Bible is the only open book; and the pale, worn, young monk, who has been reading it all night, is still bending over it in the early morning, with a wonderful earnestness in his look. The sunrise outside is an emblem of the light that is beginning to dawn upon his soul.

Now what can this picture teach you? Two things, I think, at least.


The first is to prize the Bible and study it earnestly. You can understand what a surprising and precious discovery the Bible was to Luther, how glad he was to read it, how he rejoiced in God's Word as one that findeth great spoil. And one of the first things he did when he had an opportunity was to translate the Bible into the common speech of the German people, that every one might be able to have it, and that no one might grow to manhood or womanhood without having seen it or read it.

Bibles are common and cheap in these days, but I am afraid that there are still some people who are as old as Luther in our picture, and yet do not know very much about the truths which the Scriptures contain. Be sure that you do not despise the Bible because it is so familiar. It is still the best of all books. Try to take as much interest in it as if it were a book you had never seen before, and you will always find something new and fresh in it to reward you.


The second is to discover in the Bible God's message of love and peace to your own heart. Luther's case shows that you cannot win God's forgiveness by punishing yourself, by fasting, and scourging, and sleeplessness, and things like these, while you can get forgiveness for nothing just by taking it from God. Jesus Christ has won it for you. He has loved you and given Himself for you. You simply need to believe that God pardons you and saves you freely for Jesus Christ's sake. This was what Luther found in his Bible. It is the best thing you can find in yours. And when you do find it I am sure that you also will rejoice as one that findeth great spoil.



HERCULES WRESTLING WITH DEATH FOR THE BODY OF ALCESTIS. By permission of the Fine Art Society, 748 New Bond Street, London, the owners of the copyright

By permission of the Fine Art Society, 748 New Bond Street, London, the owners of the copyright


That through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death.—HEB. ii. 14 (Revised Version).

We come now to a picture which represents a scene in one of the most beautiful stories of ancient Greece. There was a king of Thessaly called Admetus, with whom the god Apollo served for a time as herdsman. Apollo had offended Zeus, the Father of the gods, by killing the forgers of the thunderbolts with which Zeus had slain Apollo's son Asclepius—

"And so, for punishment, must needs go slave,
God as he was, with a mere mortal lord."

He found Admetus to be a kind master, and when his term of service was over he showed his gratitude by obtaining from the Fates a promise that, whenever Admetus should be about to die, his life would be spared, if only some one of his friends should be found willing to die instead of him. The promise was very soon put to the test. Admetus was struck down with a deadly disease. His father Pheres and his mother were each asked if they would die for their son, but though they were old, and had not many years of life to hope for at the best, neither of them was willing to make the sacrifice. When they refused, Alcestis, the wife of Admetus, offered herself to Death in the flower of her youth and beauty. She was taken, and her husband was spared. Hercules was the greatest hero of the Greeks—their strong man, like Samson in the Bible. And when Alcestis died Hercules came to the rescue. He wrestled with Death, overcame him, and gave Alcestis back to her husband again. This beautiful tale was taken by the Greek poet Euripides as the subject of one of his plays, the Alcestis, which some of you may read when you are older. The story is also found in English in Browning's Balaustion's Adventure, which is just a translation and explanation of the poem of Euripides.

The fight of Hercules with Death for the body of Alcestis has been painted as well as sung. Lord Leighton's large and masterly picture brings the whole scene before us. In the centre you see the body of Alcestis, which has been brought out of doors, and laid on a bier under the shadow of some ancient trees. Beyond it, in the background, is the dark blue sea, flecked with white spots of foam. The dead body is covered with pure white drapery. The beautiful face is pale as marble, and the brow is crowned with a garland of myrtle leaves. Roses are strewn on the white coverlet, and on the ground. Beside the bier are the offerings of food and drink which the Greeks used to burn along with their dead on the funeral pyre. In the left hand corner lies a shovel for digging the grave that is to receive the ashes. Several men and women are gathered round the bier, mostly in a group near the head of Alcestis. They are her friends, and the servants attending her dead body. At the right hand side of the picture we see a terrible conflict going on. Death has come in bodily form to meet the funeral procession, and to take Alcestis away. His limbs are of a ghastly ashen colour. His wings are black as night. He is wrapped in a dark mantle, which hides almost the whole of his face, and shows only the fearful gleam of his eyes. But Hercules is also there, strong and ruddy, and wearing the skin of a lion which he has slain in one of his adventures. He has grasped Death by both wrists, and is forcing him downwards and backwards over his knee. He is plainly overcoming his adversary. One of the women present is swooning away in fear. Some of the others are hiding their faces from the dreadful struggle. The rest are gazing on it with awestruck looks, hardly daring to hope that Hercules will be victorious.

Browning's poem, which was published in the same year[1] in which Lord Leighton's painting appeared, contains at the end a description of the picture, which you will be glad to read here.

"There lies Alkestis dead, beneath the sun,
She longed to look her last upon, beside
The sea, which somehow tempts the life in us
To come trip over its white waste of waves,
And try escape from earth, and fleet as free.
Behind the body, I suppose there bends
Old Pheres in his hoary impotence;
And women-wailers in a corner crouch
Close, each to other, agonising all,
As fastened, in fear's rhythmic sympathy,
To two contending opposite. There strains
The might o' the hero 'gainst his more than match,
—Death, dreadful not in thew and bone, but like
The envenomed substance that exudes some dew
Whereby the merely honest flesh and blood
Will fester up and run to ruin straight,
Ere they can close with, clasp and overcome
The poisonous impalpability
That simulates a form beneath the flow
Of those grey garments."

Now, of course, the story of Admetus and Alcestis is a fable, but for all that it is not worthless as some fables are. Though the god Apollo never existed, and never lived among men as a servant, yet the old tale reminds us of Him who was truly the Son of God; who came to this world and lived a human life like our own—a life of lowly service; who did this not because of any crime He had committed, since He was perfectly holy; and not because any one forced Him to do it, but of His own free and loving choice. And further, the story shows us how sorrow and death came to these old Greeks, and awakened in their hearts great dreams and longings. These desires seemed vain enough then, because there was no one who could fulfil them. But they were the very desires which Jesus Christ came to fulfil in due time. The Greeks thought of a love which was strong enough to make one lay down one's life for a friend, and they put that idea into the sacrifice of Alcestis. They thought, too, of a power which was strong enough to conquer Death, and to bring lost ones back to life, and they put that idea into the victory of Hercules.

In Jesus Christ you actually find both such a love and such a power. He laid down His life for His friends—yes, and for His enemies. He loved us, and gave Himself for us. And, though He died, yet He conquered Death. He rose again in victory and glory. He gives eternal life to all His disciples. He has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light. Must not this picture, and this old-world story, make us think reverently and lovingly of Him, and of the verse which tells how He came that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death?

[1] 1871.



ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE By permission from a photograph by Mr. Frederick Hollyer

By permission from a photograph by Mr. Frederick Hollyer


He that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.—Job vii. 9.

Our last picture showed us a struggle in which Death was conquered. This one illustrates another old Greek story—the story of a fight with Death that failed. It is by Mr. G. F. Watts, one of the most famous of living painters, and it is called "Orpheus and Eurydice."

According to the old fable Orpheus was a great musician, so skilful that he could tame wild beasts, and even make the trees and rocks move by the sweet melodies which he played. Eurydice was his wife, and one day she trod on a snake, which bit her, so that she died, and went down into the world of ghosts. Orpheus loved her so much that he followed her into that gloomy place, taking his lyre with him. He played such entrancing music that all the ghosts were spellbound. Even Persephone, the stern Queen of the Dead, was so touched that she gave him leave to take Eurydice back with him to the land of the living. But she warned him that he must not look back till they were both safely out in the upper world. Orpheus was glad beyond measure, and meant to obey the warning. But he was so anxious about Eurydice, that just before they had passed the gate of the under world he looked round, to make sure that she was near him. In an instant she was whirled away back, to dwell for ever among the dead. Orpheus came forth alone, twice bereaved, and more than doubly sad.

Mr. Watts has painted several pictures of Orpheus and Eurydice. Some of them show the figures at full length, but the one in our illustration is less complete. Still it contains the principal points that are to be seen in the other companion paintings. The scene is the gloomy gateway of the world of the dead. It is all rough and rocky and dark. Through its opening you catch a glimpse of the bright upper world, and of the blue sky with its white clouds. Orpheus stands in the shadow. His body has the glow of life and health. He wears his minstrel's garland on his brow. But his face is full of anguish. For he has looked backwards, and he sees that Eurydice, who is close behind him, is a pale corpse again. Her arms, that have just been stretched out to clasp his neck, have lost their power and are falling down lifelessly. Her head is drooping upon her shoulder. Her eyes are closed, and her fair face is turned towards the under world. One of the pictures shows a lily which has dropped from her hand, and lies trailing and broken among the stones at her feet. Her long golden hair is blowing backwards into the dark. The right arm of Orpheus is stretched out in a vain attempt to grasp her, and to hold her back from being carried away by the resistless power that draws her. His left hand holds his lyre, and all its strings save one are broken. His eye is fixed on Eurydice's face in a gaze of hopeless pain. The picture is terrible rather than beautiful to look upon. It tells us how, in the sad, dark heathen world, before Christ came, men thought that though Love might sometimes seem stronger than Death, Death was really stronger than Love.

Now the story of Orpheus has an interest for us in more ways than one. The early Christians liked to think of the resemblance between Orpheus and Christ. They saw in the minstrel, who tamed the wild beasts with his music, a type of the gracious and gentle Saviour who came to subdue the evil passions of men's hearts, and to change confusion and strife into harmony and peace. In the pictures which they have left in the Roman Catacombs Christ is very frequently represented under the figure of the fabled musician. He appears as a young man sitting beneath a tree, wearing a country cloak and cap, and with a harp on His knee. The lion, the wolf, the leopard, the horse, the sheep, the serpent, and the tortoise are gathered round Him, and peacocks and other birds are perched upon the branches of the tree.

But our picture leads us rather to think of the difference between Orpheus and Christ. Christ's love, unlike the love of Orpheus, is stronger than death. It brought back to life the little daughter of Jairus, who had died just before He came to her father's house. It brought back the widow's son at Nain, when his body was being carried to the grave. It brought back Lazarus of Bethany, after he had been dead four days. The love of Christ took Him into the world of the dead Himself, that He might return as a Conqueror. It sets free all His disciples from the power of death. It brings them all back, not to this world of sin and sorrow, where they would have to die again, but into the better world of heaven, where they have everlasting life and gladness. What the old heathen Greeks dreamed of hopelessly has come to pass. What Orpheus could not do for Eurydice because of his weakness and forgetfulness, Jesus Christ in His strength and wisdom can do for you and me. He will do it if we trust Him. His disciples need never be troubled by the old despairing thought, He that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.



THE LAST SLEEP OF ARGYLL.  By permission of Messrs. Thomas Agnew & Sons.

By permission of Messrs. Thomas Agnew & Sons.


Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.—ISA. xxvi. 3.

This is a painting which takes us back, not to any legend of pagan times, nor to any Bible story, nor to any incident of the Reformation in other lands, but to a scene in the history of our own country, and it is well worthy of its place among the other historical pictures in the Commons' Corridor of the Houses of Parliament.

The nobleman who is the subject of the picture is not the great and famous Marquis of Argyll, but his son, the ninth Earl of Argyll. The Marquis was put to death in the year 1661, as one of the first victims of the cruel government of King Charles II. after the Restoration. He was the man who had placed the crown on the head of Charles at Scone, when the Scottish people were loyal to him, though the English would not own him as their king. When Charles came to the throne of both countries, after ten years of exile, he showed his gratitude to his faithful servant by sending him to the scaffold. The first words of the Marquis, after he received the sentence of death, were, I had the honour to set the crown upon the king's head, and now he hastens me to a better crown than his own. And when he was leaving the prison to go to the place of execution, he said to his friends, I could die like a Roman, but choose rather to die as a Christian.

The Earl, his son, who appears in our picture, was executed in 1685, the first year of Charles' successor, James II. It was the same year in which John Brown, the carrier of Priesthill, was shot by Claverhouse in front of his own house, and before his wife's eyes; the year also in which Margaret Maclachlan and Margaret Wilson—the latter a maiden of eighteen—were tied to stakes fixed in the sand, and drowned for Christ's sake in the Solway tide. The Earl of Argyll was a man who worthily followed the noble example of his father. He was condemned to death on a charge of treason, because he would not swear a certain oath called the Test. This oath was directed against the Scottish Covenanters, and all the king's officers and servants were required to take it. Argyll did not approve of all that was in the oath, and said that he could only swear it in so far as it agreed with the Bible and with itself. For this he was tried, and sentenced to die, a few years before the end of the reign of Charles II. But he escaped from prison, and fled to Holland, where he remained for a time in safety. When James II. came to the throne on the death of Charles, the Earl took part in a rebellion against him, and came back to Scotland at the head of an army. The rebellion failed, and Argyll was taken prisoner at Inchinnan, near Renfrew. He was brought to Edinburgh, and though he might have been tried for his rebellion, he was just treated as a man already sentenced to death. On the morning of his execution, he said, I have more joy and comfort this day than the day after I escaped out of the Castle. He then wrote some letters, and took his dinner as cheerfully as usual. After dinner, as his custom was, he lay down to rest for a little, and slept for a quarter of an hour as sweetly and pleasantly as he had ever done. While he was asleep, an officer of state, who had been one of his chief enemies, came to the Castle to see him, with a message from the Council. He was told that Argyll was asleep, and was not to be disturbed. When he refused to believe this the gaoler softly opened the door and allowed him to look into the cell. As soon as he saw the Earl sleeping he turned without a word, and ran out of the Castle into a friend's house near by. He was so agitated that the lady of the house thought he was ill and offered him wine. But he declined it, with these words, I have been in at Argyll, and saw him sleeping as pleasantly as ever a man did, within an hour of eternity: but as for me—and then he could say no more.

Argyll's place of imprisonment may still be seen in Edinburgh Castle. In Mr. Ward's picture his bed-chamber is before you. Its thick walls, its bare floor, and its heavy vaulted roof are all of stone. Through an open door you look into another room where you see the table at which he has just dined. It is covered with a white cloth, on which are the remains of the dinner, and you notice that the wine-glass that stands beside the flagon has not been emptied. In the nearer room the Earl is lying on the prison bed in his ordinary clothes. He wears a suit of black velvet, with a collar of lace at the neck, and full cuffs of white linen at the wrists. His boots have not been removed, and he is stretched out only as comfortably as his fetters will allow. His head rests on a great white pillow, and his brown hair falls smoothly from beneath his black velvet cap. A newly written letter has fallen from his hand to the floor. You can read the signature, Argyll, and the date, 1685. On a chair at the head of the bed there is a large Bible, and beside it lies an old-fashioned watch, with its hand moving slowly round to the hour of execution. The light from a little window falls on the sleeping prisoner's face, which is fresh coloured and full of peace, with no trace of paleness or fear. Near the foot of the bed the thick outer door, studded with iron, and with a heavy lock, and many bolts, stands open. In the background there is a rough gaoler, holding the door by the key in the lock, while the rest of the bunch of prison keys hangs from his hand. In front of him is the officer of state, fashionably dressed in a rich red cloak, with a tasselled waist-band. His cuffs are of fine lace, he wears a jewelled ring, and his long hair curls down upon his shoulders. He has let his hat fall to the floor in his astonishment, and is staring at the sleeping Earl with remorse and confusion in his face.

Such a picture suggests many thoughts. It reminds us of the cruel sufferings our forefathers had to endure for conscience' sake, and of the great debt we owe to those who were ready to lay down their lives in the cause of truth and freedom.

It shows also what a terrible thing it is to have a guilty conscience, as the officer who visited Argyll plainly had. It teaches that a bad man's life of remorse and shame is a thing far more miserable, and far more to be feared, than a good man's undeserved death.

Above all, it tells us that the secret of courage and calmness, both for living and for dying, is faith in God our Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. It proves how true are the words, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.



WISHART DISPENSING THE SACRAMENT BEFORE HIS MARTYRDOM. From a photograph by J. & R. Annan, Glasgow, by permission of Mr. J. C. Buist.

From a photograph by J. & R. Annan, Glasgow, by permission of Mr. J. C. Buist.


With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.—LUKE xxii. 15.

Here we have a picture which represents a Communion service, yet a service which is different in some ways from those which you have been accustomed to see. The company is a small one, for there are only about a dozen people present. They are met, not in a church, but in a rather bare and plainly furnished room. In the centre of the picture there is a table covered with a white cloth, on which is set a salver with some bread and three wine cups upon it. Behind the table a man is standing and speaking, with his hands stretched out over the bread and the wine before him. He is tall and bearded, and wears a simple dress of dark colour. His face is pale, and his whole look is full of an earnest gladness. Beside him sits a richly dressed lady, with a countenance of rare beauty and goodness. Her eyes are fixed on the speaker, and she is drinking in eagerly every word that he utters. Beyond her, at one end of the table, sits a gentleman with a refined and thoughtful face. He also is leaning forward and listening with the deepest interest. Opposite him, at the other end of the table, an old man is sitting very erect, with one hand resting on a staff, and the other grasping the arm of his chair. He too is gazing steadfastly at the man who speaks. Beside the old man is a woman, and on her knee is a little child who is playing with one of the pieces of bread on the table. At the side of the table next us there is a chair with a soldier's round shield set against it and a sword lying upon it. A sweet-faced little girl is leaning over the chair and clasping her arms round the hilt of the sword. She is another eager listener, and she seems to understand all that is being said. Behind her stands the man to whom the sword and the shield belong. Beyond them is another man whose head is bowed down upon the back of the gentleman's chair, and who appears to be hiding his face in sorrow. At the further side of the table are two or three men. Above them a curtain hangs from the roof. The only other bit of ornament in the room is a tall vase which stands on the floor in front of the table. Behind the speaker there is an open doorway, guarded by a soldier with a steel cap on his head.

You will ask when and where this Communion service took place, and who the people in the picture are.

Well, the time is the year 1546—nearly 360 years ago. The place is the Castle of Saint Andrews. The speaker is George Wishart, one of the early martyrs of the Scottish Reformation. The scene took place on the morning of the day—the 28th of March—when he was burned to death at the stake in front of the Castle. The gentleman at the end of the table is the Governor of the Castle. The beautiful lady is his wife. The little girl and the baby boy are their children. The others present are their guests, or their servants, or friends of the prisoner. And the soldier at the door is there to see that the condemned man does not escape.

Let me tell you a little more about George Wishart, and about what took place that March morning. Wishart was a learned Scottish gentleman, who had come to believe in the gospel as Luther and the other Reformers preached it. He had been banished from his native land by the bishops for teaching the Greek New Testament at Montrose. After spending some years at the University of Cambridge in England he had returned to Scotland in 1544, and had preached the Reformed doctrines with great earnestness and success in Montrose, Dundee, Ayrshire, and Haddington. In the last-named place he had among his followers John Knox, who was then a young man, and who afterwards became the great leader of the Scottish Reformation. Before going to Haddington he had paid a second visit to Dundee, where the plague was raging at the time, and had ministered with great fearlessness and tenderness to those who were suffering from this dreadful disease. There is still standing in Dundee one of the old city gates—the Cowgate Port, where Wishart preached to the healthy on one side, and to the plague-stricken on the other. When in Dundee at this time, he narrowly escaped being murdered by the enemies of the truth; and after he left Haddington he fell into the hands of Cardinal Beaton, who was the leader of the Roman Catholic party in Scotland. He was taken to Saint Andrews, tried for heresy, sentenced to death, and condemned to be executed the next day.

After spending the night in prayer, he was visited next morning by a good man called John Winram, who was then the Sub-Prior of the Abbey of Saint Andrews, and who afterwards joined the Reformed Church. Winram had a long talk with him in his prison cell, and asked him if he was willing to receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Wishart answered, Most willingly, so I may have it ministered according to Christ's institution, under both heads, of bread and wine. Winram then went to Cardinal Beaton and the other bishops, and asked that this might be granted to the prisoner. But they refused, answering that it was not reasonable to grant any spiritual benefit to an obstinate heretic, condemned by the Church.

After Wishart heard this he was invited to breakfast by the Governor of the Castle, and he accepted readily, saying, I perceive, you to be a good Christian, and a man fearing God. When they were at breakfast, Wishart said to his host, I beseech you in the name of God, and for the love you bear to our Saviour Jesus Christ, to be silent a little while, till I have made a short exhortation, and blessed this bread which we are to eat, so that I may bid you farewell. Then he spoke to the company for about half an hour on the institution of the Lord's Supper, and the death of Christ, and exhorted them to love one another and to live holy lives. Afterwards he blessed and broke the bread, and gave a portion to every one present. And in the same way, after tasting the wine, he passed the cup round them all, bidding them to remember with thankfulness the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. As to myself, he said, there is a more bitter portion prepared for me, only because I have preached the true doctrine of Christ, which bringeth salvation. But pray you the Lord with me that I may take it patiently, as out of His hand. Then he concluded with another thanksgiving, and went back to his own chamber to wait for the hour of his martyrdom, which came very soon.

The stake at which he was to be burned was fixed in the ground in front of the Castle, and the Cardinal and his friends sat on cushions at the windows, to enjoy the sight of his martyrdom. Wishart was led to the place with his hands bound behind his back, a rope round his neck, and an iron chain about his waist. He knelt down and prayed thrice, Oh, thou Saviour of the world, have mercy on me! Father of heaven, I commend my spirit into Thy holy hands. The executioner knelt down before him and asked his forgiveness for what he was about to do. Wishart said, Come hither; and then kissed his cheek, with the words, Lo, here is a token that I forgive thee. My heart, do thine office. When the flames leaped up around him, he cried to the Governor of the Castle, This fire torments my body, but no way abates my spirit. Last of all he warned the Cardinal that his own doom was near at hand, and then he was strangled by the rope being pulled tightly about his neck, and his body was burned to ashes.

Now, if we come back to the picture of Wishart's last Communion, we shall find in it many deep and beautiful lessons, which even boys and girls can understand and learn.

You see that in the days of the Reformation there were good men and women, like John Winram, and the Governor of the Castle, and his wife, who sympathised with the Reformers, even though at first they did not come out boldly on their side. And there are still people, in the most unlikely places, who really love truth and goodness, and show their secret feeling at times in unexpected and surprising ways.

You see that we do not need bishops and priests to give us the Lord's Supper, but that this Sacrament can be enjoyed in the simplest way wherever two or three followers of the Lord Jesus are gathered together in His name. George Wishart's last Communion was strangely like the first Communion of all, which Jesus observed at Jerusalem with His disciples. Wishart, like his Master, was about to die for the truth. He desired to hold this farewell feast with his friends. And in doing so he made use just of the food and drink of an ordinary meal.

And you see, lastly, that the Communion in the picture was like our own Communions in this, that children were present, looking on, and listening, and understanding something of what was said and done. I am sure the Governor's little girl would never forget that Communion, nor the good man who took such a touching farewell of his friends in the name of the Lord Jesus. I think that surely she would always remember not only George Wishart, but George Wishart's Master and Lord, of whom he spoke so earnestly, and for whom he was so willing to die. And I hope that you boys and girls who look on at the Communion services in your own church, and see the disciples of Jesus Christ eating the bread and drinking the wine in remembrance of Him, will understand something of what all this means, and will learn to love Him and serve Him and remember Him yourselves, and all your lives long.



THE RIDER ON THE WHITE HORSE.  By permission, from a photograph by Mr. Frederick Hollyer.

By permission, from a photograph by Mr. Frederick Hollyer.


And I saw, and behold, a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.—REV. vi. 2.

The Book of Revelation is full of word-pictures of the wonderful things which its writer saw in vision. And it is natural that great artists should try to turn some of these word-pictures into real pictures for the eye. Mr. Watts has done this for the first part of the sixth chapter, which tells us about the four different horses, white, red, black, and pale, and about their four riders. He has made these horses and riders the subjects of four different paintings, and it is the first of them—the Rider on the White Horse—which is before us now. As we look at the picture we are helped to imagine what the vision was like, and helped perhaps also to understand the truth it was meant to teach.

The Horse and the Rider are, of course, the principal figures. The Horse is a splendid milk-white charger. Its breast is broad and powerful. Its neck is arched proudly. It has a small but graceful head, beautiful eyes, widely opened nostrils, and a mouth that seems to be impatiently champing the bit. The front portion of its mane is parted on its brow and streams back round the ears on either side. The rest of the mane is erect on its neck. The Rider is a towering and terrible figure. He wears a loose flowing cloak which swells around and behind him in the wind. His left arm, strong and bare, is firmly stretched out, and his left hand holds a thick bow in its iron grasp. His right arm is out of sight, and only the right hand is seen, drawing back the bowstring to his breast. At his left side there hangs a quiver, full of arrows with feathered shafts. On his head he wears a stately winged helmet, and above it a crown. His face wears a look of commanding strength, and in the eyes beneath the shadow of the helmet there is an awful gleam of fixed and pitiless resolve.

These two principal figures are closely surrounded by others. Three of these on the left of the Horse first attract our attention. The foremost, a dusky form, with head bent forward, and breast and shoulders bare, leads the Horse with his right hand by the bridle rein. Behind him, the fair face of a woman appears, framed in the folds of the mantle that is gathered closely around her neck; and behind this still another face is seen in the background. These three are all marching alongside of the Horse and his Rider. Just in front of the figure who leads the Horse there is a figure lying backwards with closed eyes, as if in death; and on the further side of the Horse two other lifeless faces come into view. In the lower left hand corner of the picture, just in front of the Horse we see the bowed head and stooping shoulders of one more dark form. All these figures, the dead as well as the living, have bright stars on their foreheads, though the star on the brow of the one furthest back is partly hidden by the bow. The Rider and his companions move forward under a gloomy sky, with angry streaks of light showing here and there between the clouds. A wind seems to be blowing in their faces. And high up behind them great eagles, with spreading wings, are hovering in the air.

Now, what shall we say is the meaning of the Bible vision which this picture brings afresh before our eyes? The four Horses with their Riders represent four kinds of judgment which God sends at times upon the world. They are Conquest, Slaughter, Famine, and Death. The Rider on the White Horse stands for the first of these. The picture shows us the way in which strong nations and their rulers subdue the world, and build up great Empires by force. The Rider's stately figure, and resolute face, and stern, unpitying eyes remind us of famous conquerors like Alexander the Great and Napoleon. The bow and quiver make it clear that it is by the weapons of war that their successes have been won. The proud war-horse, forcing its way among the thronging forms around it, suggests the resistless power with which Conquest goes on its triumphant way. The crown on the Rider's head is an emblem of the glory and dominion which conquerors win. In the other figures with the starry brows we may see the different nations, or the kings and queens, who have been touched and influenced by the spirit of War for Empire's sake. The leader of the Horse, and the other two forms behind him, may represent nations that are marching along on the path of Conquest. The prostrate, lifeless figures may be nations that have perished in the strife. And the bowed head in front of the Horse's breast may stand for one of the nations that are subdued, and brought under the power of those that are stronger than themselves. The dark, angry sky makes us feel that the Conqueror's progress is full of dread; and the eagles give us a hint of the horrors that he leaves behind him, of the dead bodies that lie in the track of the White Horse and his terrible Rider, of the other three Riders, more terrible still, who follow in his train.

As we look at this picture we learn that War and Conquest have two sides. At first sight we are attracted by the power and majesty of the Horse and his Rider, and we cannot help admiring them. There is something grand and noble in the might of a great nation, in the strong will and fearless courage of a great conqueror. We are stirred and thrilled when we see the march of great armies, and hear the tidings of great victories. There is a feeling of pride in belonging to a great Empire which has proved itself able to subdue the world. It seems a glorious thing to lead, or even to take part, in such a conquest. But the more closely we look at the picture, the more we feel that it is not altogether a pleasant and satisfying sight. The kind of conquest which the Rider on the White Horse represents is, after all, not a blessing, but a judgment which God sends on the world. It is the victory of strength over weakness. If it brings glory to some nations, it brings destruction to others, and humiliation to others still. It means the loss of countless lives, and the wrecking of numberless homes. It is followed by unspeakable sufferings and bitter sorrows. It knows nothing of pity or mercy. Its garlands of triumph are stained with blood and tears.

And so we gladly turn away from this picture to think of another Conqueror of whom the Bible tells us, and who is described in these words: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass.... And the battle-bow shall be cut off: and He shall speak peace unto the nations: and His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.[1] This conquering King is the Lord Jesus Christ. He took these words of the prophet to Himself when He rode into Jerusalem to die. His conquest is of a far nobler kind than that of war and force. It is the victory of right over wrong. Its motive is not ambition, but love. He is not stern and pitiless, but tender and gracious. He rides in majesty because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness.[2] He is the Prince of Peace. His triumphs bring no sorrow or hurt or death in their train. He blesses those whom He overcomes. His Empire is the only one that we can be truly proud to belong to, the only one that will conquer the whole world and last for ever.

Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Blessings abound where'er He reigns:
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest;
And all the sons of want are blest.

[1] Zech. ix. 9, 10.

[2] Ps. xlv. 4.



THE MAN WITH THE MUCK-RAKE.  By permission of Mr. Haydon Hare.

By permission of Mr. Haydon Hare.


Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.—COL. iii. 2.

In the second part of the Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan tells us how Christiana and her children came to the Interpreter's House, and were taken by the master of it into one of his Significant Rooms. In one of these there was a man that could look no way but downwards, with a muck-rake in his hand; there stood also one over his head, with a celestial crown in his hand, and proffered him that crown for his muck-rake; but the man did neither look up nor regard, but raked to himself the straws, the small sticks, and dust of the floor.

The late Sir NoŽl Paton has taken this as the subject of one of his most famous pictures. The canvas is a large one, and the figures in it are of life-size. That of the man with the muck-rake himself first arrests your eye, and chiefly draws your attention. He is an old man with a grey beard. His face is a handsome one, and you see that he has gifts and powers which might have made him wise and venerable in his old age, if only he had made a good use of them. But instead of the noble gravity which you might expect to find on such a face, there is nothing but an eager gleam and a senseless smile of perfectly childish and foolish delight. He wears on his head an old broad-rimmed hat, adorned with a gold chain and a peacock's feather. At his belt he has several bags full of gold, and also a dagger with which he is ready to defend his possessions. One of the bags has burst, and the coins are dropping on the ground. On his back he carries a wallet, crammed with old law-papers and straw. He kneels on one knee, and his whole body is bent downward. With his left hand he grasps the handle of a rake which has three long prongs. He is using the rake to draw towards him a lot of varied stuff that is littered about in front of him—more straw and papers, a broken necklace of beads, and a heart-shaped brooch, besides coins and feathers, and other such things. A large black beetle creeps near his feet. A little further in front of him more rubbish lies in a heap—a book of fashions, a fan, still more straw, some artificial roses and withered leaves, an old lamp, a skull, and a king's crown, all battered and bent and blood-stained. There is a toad crouching under the fan. Among the other things a snake is crawling, and blowing out of its mouth beautifully coloured bubbles, airy and unsubstantial. You can see one of them breaking as it touches a stone. It is on these bubbles that the eager, delighted gaze of the old man is fixed, and to grasp them he is stretching out his thin and trembling right hand. His left ankle is bound by a strong fetter of gold. When you have looked at the picture for a little while, you see that he is in a prison cell. A faint light glimmers through a grated window at the back, where steps come down into the cell by the side of a pillar. Beside the old man a lantern stands on the ground. Its glass sides are shaped like church windows, but the flame of the candle inside is guttering and going out. The straw on the floor is bursting into red flames and wreaths of smoke, and the whole pile of rubbish is on the point of being burned up.

Behind the man with the muck-rake is another Figure, tall and straight, yet bending down in pity. It is the Figure of Christ. He stands motionless, with a look of sorrowful patience on His face. One of His hands is laid on the old man's shoulder, and with the other He holds up a bright crown. It is a crown of thorns, the same which He wore Himself, but on the thorns are seven bright stars. They turn it into a crown of glory, and shed a radiance over all the picture. You can see that the Saviour's hands have been pierced, and that the thorns have left bleeding marks upon His brow.

Away in the dim background, hovering on many-tinted pinions, and with hands clasped in prayer, is an angel—the guardian angel of the old man's soul. This angel has a face of unspeakable sadness, and eyes in which you can almost see the trembling of big tears, ready to fall.

These are some of the things that the genius and the exquisite skill of the painter have put into the picture for our eyes to see. What did he mean our minds and hearts to understand by them all? Perhaps I may begin to answer that question by reminding you of what John Banyan meant by the man in his story.

Then said Christiana (to the Interpreter), I persuade myself that I know somewhat the meaning of this; for this is a figure of a man of this world: is it not, good Sir?

Thou hast said the right, said he; and his muck-rake doth show his carnal mind. And whereas thou seest him rather give heed to rake up straws and sticks, and the dust of the floor, than to do what he says that calls to him from above, with the celestial crown in his hand, it is to show that Heaven is but as a fable to some, and that things here are counted the only things substantial. Now, whereas it was also shewed thee that the man could look no way but downwards, it is to let thee know, that earthly things, when they are with power upon men's minds, quite carry their hearts away from God.

Then said Christiana, O deliver me from this muck-rake!

I think I am not wrong in saying that the story and the picture set before us two kinds of life—a poor and worthless one which many people choose, and a high and glorious one from which many people turn away.


The man with the muck-rake represents The worldly life—the life of selfishness, of grasping and striving after the good things of this earth alone.

This is a childish kind of life for any one to spend. A look at the old man's face shows us that. God has given us natures that we can put to the noblest uses; but if we prize and pursue nothing save the pleasures and the riches of this world, we shall carry into our old age the foolishness and senselessness of the youngest children.

Such a life, besides, is a life of bondage and care. We make the world into a prison, and we fetter ourselves with chains, when we make its good things our chief aim and reward. The battered and blood-stained crown shows that the highest earthly ambitions have their pains and miseries even when they are most successful.

Then this kind of life does not satisfy, and does not last. The varied rubbish shows that this world's possessions are not worth much after all. The bursting bubbles show that their attraction is hollow and delusive. The coins escaping from the bags show that we cannot keep our riches for ever, no matter how hard we try. The rising flames remind us that nothing on the earth will endure.

Lastly, a worldly life is an unworthy life. The toad and beetle and snake show that there are often vile things hidden among the treasures of earth. The bent, crouching form of the old man shows how selfishness and greed degrade and bow down our nature. The expiring flame of the lantern warns us that worldly grasping puts out the light of love and goodness in the soul.


The shining crown which Christ holds out calls us to The unworldly life. This is a life of love, of giving, of sacrifice like His own.

Such a life is the only one that is truly happy, though it may not seem so pleasant as the other. It is far more blessed to give than to receive.

It is the only life that is truly noble. There never was such a grand life as the life of the Lord Jesus on earth, and the more our life is like His, the nearer will it come to its highest and best.

It is the life, too, that leads to the richest reward. The thorns are turned into stars. The emblem of pain and sacrifice is changed into a crown of light and glory.

But it is the life of likeness to Christ. It is a share of His own crown and of His own glory that He offers to us, and we cannot get these except by being like Him. We can only win them by following Him. He has suffered for us, and given Himself for us. We need to learn of Him, and to be filled with His Spirit of self-forgetting, self-denying, self-sacrificing love.

Some of you may be old enough to feel that your life has already been too much like that of the man with the muck-rake. It has been too selfish and too worldly: it has been a life beneath you; a life of chains and bondage; a life perhaps touched with vileness; a life spent in pursuit of worthless trifles; a life degrading and darkened and foolish and vain. Well, this patient Saviour stands beside you. He bends over you in pity. He touches you with His pierced hand. He asks you to yield to His love, and to be loving like Him. He offers you the crown of glory, instead of the rubbish that you have coveted so long. If you will look up to Him, and meet His look, and take His gift, and follow Him, you will find true light, true freedom, true riches, true nobility. His suffering will be rewarded. His patience will be satisfied. There will be joy in the presence of the angels of God.

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