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SABBATH AT ATHENS.
The university, also, which numbers 650 students, has a course of lectures in biblical theology. Indeed, a far more liberal and evangelical spirit now prevails in Greece, and it seems a most favourable moment to commence new operations for placing the Scriptures in their schools, and distributing them throughout the country. This is the only hope for the future of this ancient classic land. I was much encouraged by the kind and friendly manner in which I was received by all in behalf of the Bible
"Having thus fully accomplished the object of my visit, I determined at once to return again to Constantinople. -Most sincerely your friend and brother,
"C. N. RIGHTER.”
He gives, in his correspondence, the following account of a Sabbath at Athens :
"ATHENS, Oct. 14, 1855.
"In the morning early, I went, in company with a friend, to attend the services of the Greek Church. The first we entered was very small and humble in appearance, designed for the poorer classes, yet it was fully attended. They seemed very degraded and bigoted in the observance of form, devoutly kissing the pictures of the Virgin and saints, and pressing them with their foreheads, holding lighted candles, and crossing themselves incessantly. Their worship is very like that of the Romish Church, consisting of reading the liturgy, and nasal singing by priests and small boys, burning incense, swinging the censer, and various outward rites. They have the lower forms of the Roman Catholics without their soul-inspiring music and splendid cathedrals.
"We then sought out the large church of St Irene, in the central street of the city. This is principally attended by the higher classes. It is massive and finely built, though still unfinished. A high gallery above is assigned to the ladies. The paintings of the Trinity and saints were conspicuous above the high altar. The service was similar to the former, on a more elevated scale. The priests and bishops were engaged in consecrating three loaves of bread, by burning lighted candles, and swinging incense over them. This was afterwards passed around, and received as the body of Christ by the multitude. Such is the superstitious ceremony and observance of the Greek Church.
"I then went to attend the Protestant Greek service at Dr King's chapel, which is built upon his own grounds, and has recently been opened, after being closed for a period of seven years. The audience consisted of forty or fifty persons, assembled to enjoy the worship of God in spirit and in truth. Though it was a strange language in a land of strangers, yet it was delightful to feel that there was the same spirit of faith and love to Christ our common Saviour. The doctor took for his text these solemn words -To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.' His manner was earnest and eloquent, and the truth reached the hearts of his hearers. Never did I see a more attentive congregation. Every eye was directed upon the speaker throughout the discourse, as though all were listening for their lives.
"And much, indeed, did I enjoy this scene and influence of spiritual worship in contrast with what I had just witnessed of dead and soulless formality. Dr King is greatly encouraged in his labours at present, so that he
DR KING'S LABOURS.
cannot feel it his duty to return home while such a work is springing up around him, though he spoke with tears in his eyes of his desire to go out and gather his separated children in one family, that he might give them a father's counsel and blessing, and die in peace.
"He has a class of eight Greek students in theology, sent to his house, and supported by the Western Asia Missions' Aid Society. To them he delivers three lectures a-week on biblical interpretation and systematic theology. They are thus abundantly qualified for religious discussion, and to exert a favourable influence upon all with whom they come in contact. Indeed, it seems a remarkable providence that has brought them here just at this time. I have no doubt but it is the dawning of a better day for Greece.
He is not molested at all in his work, but, through faith and perseverence, has overcome every form of persecution. A Greek priest came to him a few days since, and said, 'I believe you preach the truth. We must return to the Bible.' The lawyer who was engaged on his trial has become his warm friend, and the government is no longer hostile. The truth of his life and preaching has thus triumphed over all opposition. Great, indeed, must be his joy in living to see these fruits of his labours, and reap the reward of his faithfulness and devotion in the service of his Divine Master. 'Be not weary in welldoing; for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not.'
In the afternoon I went out with my Bible in my hand, and ascending the steps cut in the solid rock, stood upon Mars Hill,' where Paul preached eighteen hundred years ago, and there read the sublime discourse of the apostle to the men of Athens,' wherein he set forth to
'them the Unknown God, whom they ignorantly worshipped, and declared to them that the Maker of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither is the Godhead like unto gold, or silver, or stone graven by art and man's device, for we are His offspring: in Him we live, and move, and have our being.
Standing here upon the very rock where he stood, and in sight of the ruined temples to which he then referred in all their magnificence and beauty, I realised as never before the boldness and impressive eloquence of the great apostle to the Gentiles. Around him was the high court of the Areopagus, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, and the idle crowd that had followed him from the Agora to hear what 'this babbler would say.' Before him were the altars of many gods, goddesses, and heroes of pagan mythology, and above him rose the Acropolis, crowned with marble temples, and devoted to heathen worship, and filled with statues and idols of gold, silver, and stone, exhibiting all the refined art of Greece in the days of her proudest glory. And in the midst of all Paul stood up and preached to them Jesus and the resurrection, repentance and judgment to come, while some mocked, and others said, we will hear thee again of this matter.' As I stood alone amid the memory of such scenes as this, and saw around me these splendid ruins of human greatness and power, I felt that God only was great, and man and his works were mortal and perishing. I felt, too, the truth of the same resurrection that Paul preached, and our need of the same Jesus that he declared, to deliver us from death and the grave, and clothe us with immortal life.
"I remained long in contemplating the scene, and hold
ing communion with the invisible God, and then returned at evening through the crowded streets of the city to my room, filled with impressions of the Sabbath that will never be forgotten.
"The following Sabbath we attended church at the English chapel connected with the British embassy. The Rev. Dr Hill performed the service, and delivered a very excellent discourse from the words of Paul, 'I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.'
"It was indeed most cheering and encouraging to the Christian heart far from home, thus to join with the people of God in His house of prayer, and sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In the evening I was invited to be present at the religious exercises of Dr Hill's school. The smaller girls were first assembled, and Scripture exposition, singing, and prayer conducted in Greek. Then the older pupils were gathered in the parlour, and their devotions held in English. I was much interested to see these Greek girls listening with earnestness to the reading of the Gospel and the words of exhortation the doctor addressed to them, then joining in singing an evening hymn of praise, and all bowing in prayer and thanksgiving to the Father of Mercies, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift.
"The school at present numbers between three and four hundred Greek girls and children, under the efficient and systematic direction of Mrs Hill. It has been in operation more than twenty years, and has exerted a wide and lasting influence upon the educational and spiritual interests of Greece.