« ElőzőTovább »
under his episcopal care ;-how boldly he had attacked that ethical style of preaching, which, under the fallacious pretence of promoting practical religion, divests the Christian system of all its glory, and increases the depravity it professes to counteract ;-and how successfully he had recommended the necessary combination of evangelical principles with the details of duty. With these remembrances, partly pleasant and partly the reverse, we entered on the posthumous sermons before us; and the satisfaction we felt in perusing them only increased the poignancy of our regret, that any deductions should be made from the high estimate they were calculated to inspire of the genius and character of their author. We could not help forming a wish, that it were possible for human sagacity to explore those causes of individual peculiarity, which external events and circumstances though they may modify cannot create, and which indeed could only be satisfactorily ascertained by a disclosure of the hidden mechanism of the inward man-of those movements which are always concealed from the obo. servation of the world. In no common degree would it be gratifying to have known this illustrious man “altogether," if it were merely to be able to account for, and extenuate that unhappy bitterness of temper, which too often threw its shade across his brighter qualities, and darkened the at. mosphere of his fame! But he is gone to his reward, and awaits the public decision of that tribunal, where “ mercy and righteousness meet together.”
These sermons are in number twenty nine. It is seldom we venture to obtrude on our readers, a minute analysis of a volume of sermons. In most cases we think a sufficient contribution is levied on their patience, if the prevailing qualities of these compositions are briefly stated, and suitable speci. mens adduced. But this mode of treatment will not suit the dicsourses of Bishop Horsley. A glance at an ordinary painting is all it requires; but it would betray a lamentable vacancy of thought or of taste, to be satisfied with just looking at the cartoons of Raphael. It is the high distinction of genius to be worthy of contemplation.
The first three discourses are intended to explain and illustrate what is meant by “the coming of the Lord” a phrase of frequent recurrence in the New Testament. The text to the first in the series is James v. 8; and the two latter are founded on the inquiry recorded in Matt. xxiv. 3. According to that system of modern interpretation which explains away the import of every text that cannot be fully comprehended, and of every fact that cannot be ac
to thiad on the
counted for-this phrase has been conceived to refer exclusively to the destruction of Jerusalem. The learned prelate attempts to prove that this
figurative use of the phrase is very rare, if not altogether unexampled in the scriptures of the New Testament; except perhaps in some passages of the book of Revelations : that on the other hand the use of it in the literal sense is frequent, warning the Christian world of an event, to be wished by the faithful, and dreaded by the impenitent,
a visible delscent of our Lord from heaven, as visible to all the world, as his ascension was to the apostles,-a coming of our Lord, in all the majesty of the godhead, to judge the quick and dead, to receive his servants into glory, and send the wicked into outer darkness.' Vol. I. p. 10.
The Bishop commences his argumentation on this subject by remarking, that the figurative interpretation cannot support the numerous motives and exboitations to duty, which are so frequently stated, in the sacred volume, as arising from the hope of our Lord's' coming. He then adverts to the parable of the fig-tree, on which we find the following ingenious reflections..
• After a minute prediction of the distresses of the Jewish war, and the destruction of Jerusalem, and a very general mention of his second coming, as a thing to follow in its appointed season, our Lord adds—« now learn a parable of the fig-tree : when its branch becomes tender, and puts forth its leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. So likewise, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near even at the doors.” That it is near ;-80 we read in our English bibles ; and expositors render the word it, by the ruin foretold, or the desolation spoken of. But what was the ruin foretold or desolation spoken of? The ruin of the Jewish nation—the desolation of Jerusalem. What were all these things, which, when they should see, they might know it to be near? All the particulars of our Saviour's detail; that is to say, the destruction of Jerusalem, with all the circumstances of confusion and distress with which it was to be accompanied. This exposition therefore makes, as 1 conceive, the desolation of Jerusalem the prognostic of itself-the sign and the thing signified the same. The true rendering of the original I take to be, « So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that He is near, at the doors. He, that is, the Son of Man, spoken of in the verses immediately preceding, as coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. The approach of summer, says our Lord, is not more surely indicated by the first appearances of spring, than the final destruction of the wicked, by the beginning of vengeance on this impenitent people. The opening of the vernal blossom is the first step, in a natural process, which necessarily terminates in the ripening of the summer fruits ; and the rejection of the Jews, and the adoption of the believing gentiles, is the first step, in the execution of a settled plan of providence, which inevitably terminates in the one case, is not more uninterrupted, or more certainly pro“ ductive of the ultimate effect than the chain of moral causes in the other.' pp. 17-19. · The remaining discourses on this topic, are occupied in refuting objections against the literal sense of the phrase in question, which might be founded on those discourses of our Lord where there seems an intermixture of predictions respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, and his coming at the end of the world. These objections are completely obviated : and the whole train of reasoning and illustration displays the acuteness and comprehension so eminently characteristic of the Bishop's investigations. Having closed the argument and criticisms of these discourses, he concludes by a brief statement of the practical effect which ought to result from our anticipations of that “great day for which all other days were made.” What he has stated is so impressive and awakening, that we could not help regretting that such a train of solemn reflections should terminate so soon. We insert the whole peroration. . .
I shall now venture to conclude, that the phrase of " our Lord's coming," wherever it occurs in his prediction of the Jewish war, as well as in most other passages of the New Testament, is to be taken in its literal meaning, as denoting his coming in person, in visible pomp and glory, to the general judgement. Nor is the belief of that coming, so explicitly foreto d, an article of little moment in the Christian's creed, however some who call themselves Christians may 'affect to slight it. It is true, that the expectation of a future retribution is what ought in the nature of the thing, to be a sufficient restraint upon a wise man's conduct, though we were uninfor.ned of the manner in which the thing will be brought about, and were at liberty to suppose that every individual's lot would be silently determined, without any public entry of the Almighty judge, and withou? the formality of a public triál. But our mercitul Gud; who knows how feebly the allurements of the present world, are resisted by our reason, unless imagination can be engaged on reason's sidi, to paint the prospect of future good, and display the terror of future suffering, hath been pleased to ordairt, that the rusiness shall be so conducted, and the method of the business so clearly foretold, as to strike the profane with awe, and animate the humble and the timid. He hath warned Usand let them who dare to extenuate the warning, ponder the dreadful curse with which the book of prophecy is sealed " If any
man shall take away, from the words of the book of this prophecy, « God shall take away his part out of the book of life.” God hath warned us, that the isquiry into every man's conduct will be public,
-Christ himself the Judge.--!whole race of man, and the whole angelic host, spectators of the awful scene. Before that assembly, every man's good deeds will be declared, and his most secret sins disclosed. As no elevation of rank will then give a title to respect, VOL. VII,
no obscurity of condition shall exclude the just from public honors or screen the guilty from public shame. Opulence will find itself no longer powerful, poverty will be no longer weak; birth will no longer be distinguished, meanness will no longer pass unnoticed. The rich and the poor will indeed strangely meet together : when all the inequalities of the present life shall disappear, and the conqueror and his captive-the monarch and his subject the lord and his vassalthe statesman and the peasant- the philosopher and the unlettered hind-shall find their distinctions to have been mere illusions. The characters and actions of the greatest and the meanest have in truth been equally important and equally public; while the eye of the omniscient God hath been equally upon them all, while all are at last equally brought to answer to their common judge, and the angels stand around spectators, equally interested in the dooms of all. The sentence of every man will be pronounced by him, who cannot be merciful to those who shall have willingly sold themselves to that abject bondage from which he died to purchase their redemption, who, nevertheless, having felt the power of temptation, knows to pity them that have been tempted; by him on whose mercy contrita frailty may rely—whose anger hardened impenitence must dread. To heighten the solemnity and terror of the business, the Judge will visibly descend from heayen,—the shout of the archangels and the trumpet of the Lord will thunder through the deep, the dead will awake,
the glorified saints will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air ; while the wicked will in vain call upon mountains and rocks to cover them. Of the day and hour when these things shall be, knoweth no man; but the day and hour for these things are fixed in the eternal Father's counsels. Our Lord will come, he will come unlooked for, and may come sooner than we think.
God grant, that the diligence we have used in these meditations may so fix the thought and expectation of that glorious advent in our hearts, that by constant watchfulness on our part, and by the powerful succour of God's Holy Spirit, we may be found, of our Lord, when he cometh, without spot and blameless !' pp. 56–60.
The four following sermons have for their text-Psalm xlv. 1, and are, in fact, an elaborate dissertation on the whole psalm. It is generally considered, on the authority of Calvin and some later writers, to refer, primarily, to Solomon, and his marriage with the daughter of Pbaraoh. Probably this opinion might arise from the resemblance between some parts of the psalm, and the “ Song of Solomon." Bishop Horsley attempts to prove, that this mystical poem is an allegorical and prophetic description of the re-union of the Saviour with the Jewish church ;' that in no subordinate sense whatever is it applicable to Solomon, any more than to any earthly king who might possess..comeli. ness and urbanity ;' that the allusion to warlike implements and conquest, contradicts the universally admitted idea of Solomon's peaceable reigu and character; and that the whole composition refers exclusively to spiritual topics, with out any double sense, any immediate reference to the splendour of an earthly court, except for the mere purposes of illustration. Before he enters on the minute investigation of each verse in succession, he lays down the following analysis of the psalm, which may be considered as the argument or basis of his very ingenious and interesting commentary.
• The scene presented to the prophet's eye, consists of three principal parts, relating to three grand divisions of the whole interval of time, from our Lord's first appearance in the flesh, to the final triumph of the church upon his second advent. And the psalm may be divided into as many sections, in which the events of these periods are described in their proper order. The first section, consisting only of the second verse, describes our Lord on earth in the days of his humiliation. The five following verses make the second section, and describe the successful propagation of the gospel, and our Lord's victory over his enemies. This comprehends the whole period from our Lord's ascension, to the time not yet arrived of the fulfilling of the gentiles. The sequel of the psalm, from the end of the seventh verse, exhibits the remarriage, that is, the restoration of the conyerted Jews to the religious prerogative of their nation.' p. 90.
In the illustration of this arrangement we meet with a variety of eloquent and animated passages : but we hesitate în admitting, that the restoration of the converted Jews is the prominent theme of this inspired canticle. Of that fact, as accordant with the clearest and most explicit predictions, we entertain not the slightest doubt; but the reference here to such an event is, in our view, extremely problematical. The psalm appears to us descriptive of the admission of the gentiles to the church of God, and not of the · readmission of the Jews after their conversion. The church,
in all ages, has been one continuous (if we may be allowed the expression) and unbroken society, existing under various dispensations, and adapted in its form and economy to those successive changes. Jerusalem was the scene peculiarly hallowed, as the residence of the church, as the place where God " delighted to dwell.” The boldness of eastern imagery attributed to it the most exalted prerogatives, typical, however, of its spiritual character and dignity. Hence Jerusalem is called, by the apostle Paul, the mother of us all.” But this was not ." Jerusalem in bondage”-the mere local Jerusalem-the city whose inhabitants had rejected the Messiah, and were now a tributary, an enslaved people; (for "all, are not Israel who are of Israel ;"!) but the spiritual Jerusalem--the "true circumcision"-or, in plainer words, the first Christian church formed in Jerusalem of those who received the “ consolation of Israel," and