Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ticulars already mentioned, especially in the two last, the evangelic episcopal pulpit has been represented as excelling the congregational. On the other hand, the congregational pulpit has been represented as excelling that of evangelical episcopacy in the accuracy of its theological positions. To every statement of this description many exceptions must be made on both sides; and yet that the statement is generally correct is evident from the fact that the victims of modern fanaticism have been nearly all on one side, a fact that does seem to indicate which portion of the church is accustomed to the most scripturally accurate instruction. In a very admirable volume before us, we are told that “a man has no more power in himself to throw open his heart to Christ than a dead man has to burst open his own grave. Or, if he has the power, he will not use it.” In a certain sense we believe that man has no power to open his heart to Christ; but, to say nothing of the impropriety of putting a case on which every minister of the gospel ought to have arrived at a fixed sentiment, first negatively, and then hypothetically, the moral impotence of man should always be expressed in terms which indicate its real nature, which show that this impotence is his crime, and not his misfortune. It is true that the Holy Scriptures represent men as “ dead in trespasses and sins;" but that death consists not in a deprivation of faculties, as in the case of a man in his grave, but in an indisposition to use them aright; facts which place both the guilt of the transgressor and the grace of redemption in the clearest and in the most impressive light. Statements similar to that on which we have remarked are seldom heard in congregational pulpits.

The theological education of dissenting ministers, and the want of such an education on the part of the episcopal clergy, account for the two points of difference last mentioned. "The qualifications for the first degree in arts, a degree which is regarded as something like a title to episcopal ordination, are such as would equally fit their possessor for the bar, or for medicine, as for the pulpit; and to send the young bachelor forthwith into the pulpit is just as absurd as it would be to send him forthwith as a barrister into the courts of law, or as a physician into the sick man's chamber; but, while the latter would be quite as absurd as the former, the former is inconceivably the more mischievous. Nor would the mischievous absurdity be tolerated were men as alive to their eternal as they are to their temporal interests. Far, however, from such a sensibility, they must have a well-qualified lawyer to take care of their estates, and a well-qualified physician to take care of their health, while they can rely on a poorly-qualified minister, a minister who most imperfectly understands the religion which he professes to teach, to take care of their own souls, and of the souls of their children.

Doubtless every pious candidate for the ministry of the Church of England, by reading and by the advices of his seniors, does his best to supply the deficiencies of his education ; but although there are exceptions to the remark, the want of a theological education, under men not only of competent attainment, but deeply penetrated by the spirit of the religion, will generally be felt as a disadvantage to the preacher throughout the whole of his course. For the most part

he will be deficient in the steadiness of principle, the accuracy of discrimination, and the comprehension of views which distinguish the well-educated divine ; as well as in the energy of language and the vigour of application to the conscience, to which that steadiness, accuracy, and comprehension most largely contribute.

Conscientiously have we exculpated our ministers, considered as a body, from the charge which has sometimes been brought against them of not using a due plainness of speech; conscientiously have we expressed our opinion, that in the particulars in which they differ from the evangelic episcopal pulpit, it is, for the most part, much to the advantage of their flocks; but we do think, that some of our younger ministers, though with the best intentions, have aimed at too lofty a strain of thought, or too recondite a mode of discussion. Deprecating the heartless treatment, which from some professed Christians a rising ministry receives, we affectionately warn our young brethren against the evil. It has been asserted, lately, that the published sermons of Mr. Hall have contributed to its production ; but if our much esteemed candidates for the ministry will examine the memoranda of his ordinary sermons, they will find that, in the usual course of his preaching, that distinguished man did not deviate materially from the general mode of public instruction; a mode, which has been stamped with the divine approbation, and which, on that account, is too dear to the hearts of the best of Christians, to be abandoned by him who would assiduously promote their welfare.

Were we to give an advice to the parties in view, and for whose success we cannot but feel the most lively solicitude, it would be to make the composition of their sermons a devotional exercise. An intellectual employment, it ought certainly to be, but still, quite as much devotional as intellectual. It is by the devotional spirit which pervades his discourses, that Watts fairly insinuates his doctrine into the hearts of his readers; it is by this means that he leaves on them a charm, which more aspiring sermon writers would, perhaps, labour in vain to produce.

It is, however, more than time to turn to the volumes, the titles of which stand at the head of this article.

Mr. Bradley's “ Series of Practical Sermons," forms a very delightful volume. We were scarcely satisfied with the apology of the preface, in which we are told, that “ he might have devoted more labour to the revision of them, had more been at his command;" because, though it is necessary for a minister to write and to preach sermons, it is not necessary for him to publish them; but on examining the volume, we found that Mr. Bradley had no great occasion for the apology, which his modesty dictated. We may indeed have met with a scriptural passage, considered as a type, which, in our apprehension, should have been used only as an accommodation, or we may have met with a sentiment, which might have been better expressed, or we may have met with a pronoun, which both precision and energy required to be supplanted by à noun, or we may have met with a sentence, which would have been more vigorous, had its arrangement been more elegant; but these blemishes are

trifling, when compared with the sterling excellencies of the volume. As, from the preface, we may conclude that these discourses are specimens of the author's usual mode of preparation for the pulpit, we congratulate the people who possess so competent and so laborious a minister. In stating that the evangelical clergy confine themselves more frequently than their dissenting brethren to a limited range of subjects, we knew full well, that there were many distinguished exceptions : a fact of which the reader will be reminded in perusing these well conceived and deeply interesting sermons.

" Twenty Sermons. By the late Rev. William Howels," are the production of a late esteemed minister of the established church. As the publication is posthumous, he ought not to be considered as responsible for its contents, especially as the sermons were obtained in a form eminently disadvantageous to their author. “They were taken down in short hand at the time they were preached, and with a view to private edification only:" “ The lamented preacher himself,” we are subsequently told, “ was one who had no time to polish the hilt of his sword; it was enough for him, that the blade was kept with a keen edge.” For the sake both of candidates for the ministry, and of a certain class of Christians, on whom the editor's representation may act injuriously, we shall offer a remark on this passage.

The editor seems to think, that correct preaching requires a greater sacrifice of time, than that which is of a different character. This must of course be the case, if a preacher does not prepare his sermons : but the accurate and well composed sermon will cost quite as little labour to the man, whose judgment is matured, and whose taste is refined, as the inaccurate, ill-digested production will cost him who has not subjected his mind to the same salutary discipline. We are inclined to think that the labour is far less in the former case, than in the latter. The greater cost of labour and time is not in the immediate preparation, but in the previous discipline. The hilt of the former is always polished ; and hence, he can allow more time for the sharpening of his edge.

Altogether unacquainted with Mr. Howell, we can easily conceive that he must have been an impressive preacher: to those who knew and loved him, the present publication will doubtless prove acceptable. But we really wonder that an editor, who dates his preface from Queen's College, Cambridge, should think that he was honouring his deceased friend by the publication of some things which are here attributed to him. That we may not be thought causelessly severe, we shall transcribe a few passages taken from Sermon IX., the first on which we chanced to open.

“ If you see two dogs living at peace with each other, it is in consequence of the interposition of Deity." The sentiment of this passage is just, and even beautiful; it is capable of being put into the chastest, and yet the simplest form of speech; but as it is here presented, the representation is far more likely to excite a smile, than to awaken gratitude and devotion.

“ Do you live at peace together as husband and wife, as brother

and sister, as parent and child ? Thank God for the blessing. You would murder each other before to-morrow morning, were it not for God.” A language which implies what it is presumed Mr. Howells would not have deliberately asserted—that human nature in its fallen state is such, that every man has a propensity to commit murder.

“ Our hell raged within the bosom of a divine person ;” words, which have absolutely no meaning, or else a very bad one.

" Enumerate all the enemies, which can possibly assail the Christian. Conscious of the peace of God, they cannot shake him for a single moment. When God smiles as a Father, who then can make the child of God tremble? Can the law? The law is satisfied. He is dead to the law. Can the purity of its commands make him afraid ? No. The horrors of its curse? No. He is not under it. He is completely free from it.“ The peace of God has ushered him into a new dispensation; he has nothing to do with the law as a covenant, because his head has fulfilled it for him.”

Although we scarcely know how to apologise for calling the law of God, the holy, just and good law, the enemy of his faithful ser, vants, we do know how to put a good and a scriptural meaning on the greater part of this passage. But then the question is, were the hearers able to do this : and especially the half dozen unwashed inhabitants of the streets at the back of the chapel, who had crept in under the front gallery? What would they think on being told, as they appear to have been (for the phraseology is so loose, that it will admit of more than one construction, that they were completely free from the law? What would they think on being told in this bare, unguarded form, that Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law for them?

We were about to cite other examples, but we forbear. We regret that we have found occasion to apply these strictures, less indeed to the deceased preacher, who, we doubt not, has passed far beyond the precincts of error and extravagance, than to the living editor; but we have a duty to perform to the public, a pleasant duty with regard to such a volume as Mr. Bradley's, but not a little painful, where eulogy is incompatible with truth.

Mr. Slye's “ Sermons on various subjects,” are sensible, discriminating, and well written. Without any parade of biblical science, he clears his way to his subject, by determining, when necessary, the meaning of his text. It is to the credit of the villagers of Potterspury and its vicinity, that they are capable of relishing such discourses, and of deriving religious benefit from their delivery. The perusal of this volume may serve to show the thorough-bred oppidan, that congregations capable of enjoying good language, and good sense, are not to be found only in crowded cities, or even in populous towns.

We are persuaded, that in the delivery of his sermons, Mr. Slye introduces a larger portion of direct and pungent appeal to the conscience, than some of these discourses contain. It would have been an improvement had he transferred his appeals into the volume before us. Indeed, so needful is it to employ the most vigorous lanVOL. I. N. S.

3 X

guage, and the most forcible representations in endeavouring to arouse the slumbering conscience, that it is not desirable to leave direct appeals so entirely to extemporaneous suggestion, as is often done.

* The Irish Preacher” answers only partially to the title of this paper; the authors being ministers of the Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist Denominations. The sermons, though exhibiting the diversity, which a numerous body of contributors must occasion, are, as a whole, correct in sentiment, and respectable in talent. There is a discourse, and a very good one, by a gentleman, whose political and no-popery vagaries have listed him into an unenviable notoriety-the Rev. John B. M.Crea. The religious, as well as the political creed of this gentleman is, we apprehend, rather restricted. He appears to consider the atonement of Jesus Christ as offered for the elect only. The author of the next Sermon says, " Jesus Christ our Saviour, by his precious blood, has quenched the flames of divine wrath.” That Jesus Christ, by his sufferings and death, removed every impediment which the justice of God, as the moral governor of the world, opposed to the administration of mercy to the sinner, is the doctrine of the New Testament, but to say that by his precious blood he has quenched the flames of divine wrath, we cannot but regard as unscriptural and unjustifiable. We should not have noticed these inaccuracies, especially as they are not brought out prominently, but occur in merely passing expressions, did we not recollect the peculiar situation of the Irish Presbyterians. It was while one part of the English Dissenters preached doctrines similar to those which we have noticed, that another part of them was running headlong into the depths of Socinianism ; and if Socinianism is to be checked among the Irish Presbyterians, it must be in connection with other means, at least by the exhibition of an accurately scriptural theology on the part of the orthodox members of the denomination.

Mr. Alexander's sermons are perspicuous in arrangement, chaste in language, devout in spirit, and correct in sentiment. They are evidently written under the government of feeling similar to that of Doddridge, as expressed in the passage which forms the motto of the work—“May I remember that I am not to compose an harangue to acquire to myself the reputation of an eloquent orator; but that I am preparing food for precious and immortal souls, and dispensing that sacred Gospel, which my Redeemer brought from heaven and sealed with his blood.”

We are glad to find Mr. Alexander expressing sentiments with regard to human redemption which are opposed to certain state'ments, on which we have felt it a duty to offer some remarks.

« Our text declares, that Christ hath loved us, and intimates that this love induced him to give hiinself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God.' And throughout the Scriptures, the redemption of sinners, including the eternal determination of God to effect it, and its actual accomplishment by the sufferings of Christ, is uniformly represented as originating in divine love; so that those persons entirely misunderstand the subject, who charge us with the maintaining that the death of Christ was necessary to dispose or to persuade God to show mercy to mankind, as if he were a malignant and revengeful lyrant, whose fury nothing could appease but agonies and blood. No, my brethren, such is not the

« ElőzőTovább »