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Sermons. By the REV. JOHN CAIRD, M.A., Minister of the Park Church, Glasgow,
author of " Religion in Common Life," a Sermon preached before the Queen. New-York: Robert Carter & Brothers. 1858. Sermons for the New Life. By HORACE BUSHNELL. New-York: Charles Scrib
ner. 1858. Practical Sermons. By NATHANIEL W. TAYLOR, D.D., late Dwight Professor of
Didactic Theology in Yale College. New York: Clark, Austin & Smith. 1858. Lije in a Risen Saviour. By ROBERT S. CANDLISH, D.D. Philadelphia : Lindsay
& Blakiston 1858. Discourses on Common Topics of Christian Faith and Practice. By JAMES W.
ALEXANDER, D.D. New-York: Charles Scribner. 1858. The City : Its Sins and Sorrows. Being a Series of Sermons from Luke 19 : 41: "He beheld the city and wept over it.” By Thomas GUTHRIE, D.D., author of
the “Gospel in Ezekiel," etc. New-York: Robert Carter & Brothers. 1857. Christ, and the Inheritance of the Saints, illustrated in a Series of Discourses from
the Colossians. By THOMAS GUTHRIE, D.D. New-York: Robert Carter & Brothers. 1859.
“DILIGENT inquiry of the trade,” says Dr. James W. Alexander, in the preface to the volume bearing his name, whose title we have just given, “has informed me that while the recent depression of business has lessened literary demand in general, the proportion of religious books sold has strikingly increased. . . . . The testimony of booksellers is, that some of the most widely-spread publications of the day are collections of sermons."
With this remarkable fact in view, we propose in this and in one or two successive numbers, to give a brief critical sketch of some of the more prominent of these sermon-collections. At present we shall take up those popularly classed under the title evangelical ; and we shall select as specimens the late volumes of Caird, of Bushnell, of Candlish, of Guthrie, of Alexander, and of Taylor.
The term “evangelical,” as will at once be seen, must be taken in its most general sense in order to include all the writers whose names we have just given. Thus Dr. Bushnell denies the specific personality of Satan, maintains the continued presence in the Church of objective supernatural powers, and in former publications was supposed to hold very indistinct views on the atonement; peculiarities, we are happy to say, of which we observe no trace in the volume now before us bearing his name. Mr. Caird, we are told, is Erastian in his notions of ecclesiastical polity, holds low views of inspiration, and sympathizes in some degree with the latitudinarianism of the Scotch moderates of the close of the last century. Dr. Taylor's idiosyncrasies in respect to the self-moving power (the “autonomy”) of the will, have been the subject of ecclesiastical inquiry, and betray themselves in one, at least, of the sermons before us. To Dr. Candlish, Dr. Guthrie, and Dr. Alexander, however, we may look as representing the evangelical school in its more technical and exact sense.
But while this is the case, there is not one of the writers whose works we have here collected, who does not present some, at least, of the leading doctrines of our religion in a manner sometimes original, sometimes forcible, and almost always eloquent. There is not one of them who may not be studied with great advantage by the parish minister. It is in this view mainly that we propose now to subject them to a brief analysis.
Of the writers before us, Dr. Bushnell, Mr. Caird, and Dr. Taylor, may be considered as more particularly addressing the intellect; Dr. Candlish, Dr. Guthrie, and Dr. Alexander, the heart. It is true that this line of distinction is a very faint one. Dr. Alexander exhibits sometimes the highest philosophical power; Dr. Bushnell develops occasionally great tenderness ; Dr. Guthrie draws in the aid of the imagination in almost unexampled opulence; Dr. Taylor not unfrequently sweeps over the emotional chords with an effect almost unrivalled. These qualifications, however, may be taken rather as outside than as corrective of the line of division we have just drawn. Retaining this general division, we may discriminate further by noticing the more particularly in Dr. Bushnell the thought. ful application of doctrine; in Mr. Caird its psychological defense; in Dr. Taylor its vehement vindication, as addressed to the understanding. Under the second class, we may notice in Dr. Candlish the practically and pungently expository; in Dr. Alexander the pathetic; in Dr. Guthrie the sense of the sublime and beautiful, as well as of the tender and affecting. Each of these writers we now proceed more particularly to consider.
Dr. BUSHNELL has for nearly thirty years been known in New-England as a bold and impressive thinker, and a pure and earnest Christian man. For a long time his impatience of systems, his rejection of theological nomenclature, if not of essential formulas, brought him into conflict with the “platforms” or ecclesiastical councils to which, with a singular inconsistency, the Congregationalists are accustomed to refer discipline. The main charge, we believe, was looseness in the statement of the orthodox doctrine of the atonement, and from this, we are told, he escaped, not by being tried himself, but by undertaking to try his prosecutors. Almost simultaneously with the volume now before us, he issued a very remarkable and singularly able treatise on “Nature and the Supernatural,” in which, while vindicating the doctrines of original sin, of the fall, of the necessity of a Mediator, and of miracles, with almost unrivalled felicity and impressiveness, he has given utterance to the idiosyncrasies, if not heresies, on the subject of Satan and of the continuance of the supernatural, which we have already noticed.
In the volume before us, however, no trace is to be found of these peculiarities. It is true that the sermons it contains are built on a very different model from that which John Newton and Simeon in England, and Dr. Bedell and Dr. Milnor in this country, have made familiar to Episcopal evangelical congregations. We should observe, however, that (1) the great length of our own service, which, as a general thing, excludes much beyond the expository and hortatory, and (2) the more miscellaneous character of our congregations, place
us under circumstances very different from those which exist where there is really no ritual at all, and where, as is sometimes the case, bodies of highly cultivated and thoughtful men meet together, on an eclectic rather than a parochial discrimination, for speculative as well as practical religious instruction.
Of the sermons preached by Dr. Bushnell to such a congregation as this, twenty-three are collected in the volume now before us. Of one of these, that on “Respectable Sin," we wish we could give the whole; for it rebukes, with an energy of thought and precision of language only equalled by its fidelity of spirit, one of the great spiritual temptations of a community such as that which he addressed. We pass this, however, a discourse which can not be broken up without destroying its context, to give an extract from a sermon on the “ Dignity of Human Nature Shown from its Ruins." The passage which we now insert, we can not but regard as a splendid vindication of the first point taken by St. Paul in his speech from Mars Hill:
“Consider once more the religious aspirations and capacities of religious attraction that are garnered up, and still live in the ruins of humanity. How plain it is, in all the most forward demonstrations of the race, that man is a creature for religion; a creature secretly allied to God Himself, as the needle is to the pole, attracted toward God, aspiring consciously or unconsciously, to the friendship and love of God. Neither is it true that, in his fallen state, he has no capacity left of religious affection, or attraction, till it is first new-created in him. All his capaci. ties of love and truth are in him still, only buried and stified by the smouldering ruin in which he lies. There is a capacity in him still to be moved and drawn, to be charmed and melted by the divine love and beauty. The old affinity lives, though smothered in selfishness and lust, and even proves itself in sorrowful evi. dence when he bows himself down to a reptile or an idol. He will do his most expensive works for religion. There is a deep panting still in his bosom, however suppressed, that cries inaudibly and sobs with secret longing after God. Hence the sublime unhappiness of the race. There is a vast, immortal want stirring on the world and forbidding it to rest. In the cursing and bitterness, in the deceit of tongues, in the poison of asps, in the swiftness to blood, in all the destruction and misery of the world's ruin, there is yet a vast insatiate hunger for the good, the true, the holy, the divine, and a great part of the misery of the ruin is that it is so great a ruin; a desolation of that which can not utterly perish, and still lives, asserting its defrauded rights and reclaiming its lost glories. And therefore it is that life becomes an experience to the race so tragic in its character, so dark and wild, so bitter, so incapable of peace. The way of peace we can not know, till we find our peace, where our immortal aspirations place it, in the full. ness and the friendly eternity of God."
We add one more extract from Dr. Bushnell, that from his sermon on " Unconscious Influence :">
"And here I must conduct you to a yet higher example, even that of the Son of God, the light of the world. Men dislike to be swayed by direct voluntary influ. ence. They are jealous of such control, and are therefore best approached by conduct and feeling, and the authority of simple worth, which seem to make no purposed onset. If goodness appears, they welcome its celestial smile; if heaven descends to encircle them, they yield to its sweetness; if truth appears in the life. they honor it with a secret homage; if personal majesty and glory appear, they bow with reverence, and acknowledge with shame their own vileness. Now it is on this side of human nature that Christ visits us, preparing just that kind of influ. ence which the Spirit of truth may wield with the most persuasive and most subduing effect. It is the grandeur of His character which constitutes the chief power of His ministry, not His miracles or teachings apart from His character, Miracles were useful at the time to arrest attention, and His doctrine is useful at all times as the highest revelation of truth possible in speech; but the greatest truth of the Gospel, notwithstanding, is Christ Himself, a human body become the organ of the divine nature, and revealing, under the conditions of an earthly life, the glory of God! The Scripture writers have much to say, in this connection, of the image of God; and an image, you know, is that which simply represents, not that which acts, or reasons, or persuades. Now it is this image of God which makes the centre, the sun itself, of the Gospel. The journeyings, teachings, miracles, and sufferings of Christ, all had their use in bringing out this image, or, what is the same, in making conspicuous the character and feelings of God, both toward sinners and toward sin. And here is the power of Christ-it is what of God's beauty, love, truth, and justice shines through Him. It is the influence which flows unconsciously and spontaneously out of Christ, as the friend of man, the light of the world, the glory of the Father, made visible. And some have gone so far as to conjecture that God made the human person, originally, with a view to its becoming the organ or vehicle by which He might reveal His communicable attributes to other worlds. Christ, they believe, came to inhabit this organ, that He might execute a purpose 80 sublime. The human person is constituted, they say, to be a mirror of God : and God, being imaged in that mirror, as in Christ, is held up to the view of this and other worlds. It certainly is to the view of this; and if the divine nature can use this organ so effectively to express itself unto us, if it can bring itself, through the looks, tones, motions, and conduct of a human person, more close to our sympa. thies than by any other means, how can we think that an organ so communicative. inhabited by us, is not always breathing our spirit and transferring our image insensibly to others?
"I have protracted the argument on this subject beyond what I could have wished, but I can not dismiss it without suggesting a few thoughts necessary to its complete practical effect.
"One very obvious and serious inference from it, and the first which I will name, is, that it is impossible to live in this world and escape responsibility. It is not they alone, as you have seen, who are trying purposely to convert or corrupt others, who exert an influence you can not live without exerting influence. The