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very great length, that give even a fair view of the substantial merits of many a volume of this description. The constant demand which there is for sermons of this plain and unpretending character, proves that they are found to answer their purpose; and that it would be a great error, to estimate the utility of such publications, by the same test that we should apply to other species of literature. With regard to sermons, as with regard to school-books,- and what are they but a 'sort of class-books for children of a larger growth ?-the chief points to be ascertained are, not the elegance of the style or The originality of the ideas, but, Are they correct? Are they simple? Does the author understand bis subject? If so, we all know what a sermon ought to treat of, and how it will be divided ; extracts are almost superfluous; and if it might be allowed us to imitate the laconic Imprimatur of the authorized guardians of the press, we should satisfy ourselves with affixing to the the title of the volume, a simple Legatur.
We have, however, occasionally expressed a desire to meet with-not Orations and Arguments exactly, but-sermons of a somewhat more elaborate nature. It would not be desirable, even were it possible, that every writer of sermons should be a South or a Barrow, a Howe or a Butler, an Edwards or a Horsley. But we cannot help thinking that English literature would admit of being enriched with a few more theological compositions of this higher stamp; and if we have not among us such giants' as were in olden time, we believe that we have intellect enough afloat to furnish volumes that should deserve to rank on the same shelf, were it adequately exerted as well as properly consecrated. We have been compelled to resign the hope of receiving a volume of sermons from the preacher capable above all others, in the present day, of emulating the reasoning of Barrow and the eloquence of South. A few single sermons (all perhaps, with one exception, inferior to many of his unwritten discourses) will convey to posterity no better idea of the mind from which they have proceeded, than the disrupted capitals and cornices of a ruined portico seen by the traveller, give of the perfect edifice. The present age is not, however, by any means barren of pulpit talent. Never, indeed, were there a greater number of efficient, and even eloquent preachers ; but it must also be admitted, that our most popular speakers are incapable of making the same impression by means of the pen, that they do by the voice. To many of them, who are most deservedly admired and eagerly listened to, the language of friendship would be, Beware of the Press. All men have not, in this respect, the same gift. given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge,
" To one is
to another prophecy.” And without attempting to adjust the respective rank of the reasoner and the scholar, the speaker and the writer, it is sufficient to observe, that the qualifications are so wholly different, that while our pulpits were never, perhaps, more competently supplied, our theological literature has received of late years few additions of any substantial value or permanent interest.
Dr. Chalmers deserves to rank among the exceptions. His sermons are not only original and eloquent, but they are sterling productions. Untrammeled by system, he exhibits the doctrines of Christianity in all the freshness which they wear wlien new drawn from the Scriptures, and with the uncompromising fearlessness of a man not hired and trained to defend, but eager to propagate them. He is original, not because his thoughts are often new,- they are not so new as his phraseology,-but because they are native, like his feelings, and related to them as flesh and blood are related. He succeeds in placing truths in a striking light, not because he is a profound theologian, but because he is a practical one, intent upon the moral busi·ness of his function, as having to do with the consciences of · men, rather than with their speculations. As critics, as English critics especially, we may be allowed to have strong objections against his diction and style. It is not as models of composition that we can recommend his sermons, but as vigorous effusions of a nobly consecrated intellect,--as living literature, not manufactured wares. Dr. Chalmers does not set himself to make sermons, but uses this form of discourse as the best : vehicle of the truths he wishes to convey.
Now this we conceive to be the great difference between the theological writers of former days and of the present; that, with regard, at least, to those whose works are still read, the sermon was with them a more serious intellectual effort. Whatever was the character of their usual Sunday teachings, when they wrote for the press, it was not merely to supply the market with a commodity, one that should perish in the using, but they applied to it as to any other species of authorship, and did not think of taking less pains with a sermon than with a poem. They wrote for the higher classes, not of rank, but of intellect. Mr. Cunningham, in the preface to his present work, seems to consider this as scarcely a legitimate object. Alluding to the wish expressed in a review of his former volume, that he would endeavour to produce one of a somewhat more elaborate nature, he
says : • But, even if the Author could presume to consider himself as capable of satisfying the wishes of those who think more profoundly than the mass of society, he should exceedingly hesitate as to the lawfulness, especially in this species of composition, of labouring to gratify the few. at the expense of the many. Those sermons are evidently the best, which approach the most closely to the scriptural model; and it may be confidently affirmed, that the New Testament is the simplest of all books, and the Saviour of the world the plainest of all teachers. The Author has, in this view of the subject, mainly to regret' his own too frequent deviations from that simplicity, the adherence to which is of such primary importance.'
We must be allowed to remark in reply, that neither the gratification of the few nor of the many, is, strictly speaking, a legitimate object in this species of composition; but, in our opinion, the edification of the many is perfectly compatible with consulting the taste and the moral wants of the few. We are not speaking, be it remembered, of the proper style of pulpit teaching. We agree with Mr. Cunningham, that this cannot be too plain, that elaboration here would be misplaced, that the many are chiefly to be consulted, and the many not among those who read, but the many who have not the time, if they have the inclination and the ability to read. A deficiency of simplicity in the style and manner of teaching is, in our opi- nion, a very prevailing fault, more especially in our younger ministers. There is no occasion to be coarse or vulgar, or to use any but the purest English, in order to be thoroughly understood by the plainest persons in a congregation. But the phraseology too often acquired by our academics, is at an immense remove (if we may be pardoned the Americanism) from “ plainness of speech. We have repeatedly heard sermons in which a very large proportion of the words employed, must have been scarcely less intelligible to the galleries, than so many Greek or Latin terms interspersed. There seems to prévail a constant morbid apprehension of falling into a low stylę, low in the sense of poverty, if not of coarseness; and therefore, the language must be hitched up every now and then with a select and well-sounding word; in the same manner as the second-rate writers of blank verse exhibit a perpetual effort to sustain the pomp of diction, in order to keep their lines from running into prose. Whereas, if the tone of thought were properly sustained, this solicitude about the diction might be laid aside. Clear ideas would provide their own expression. It is, in our judgement, a fault
, and not an excellence, to talk like a book.' Thus far, we imagine, we should have Mr. Cunningham's concurrence,
But the case is somewhat different when the pastor or teacher embarks in authorship. It may, indeed, be allowed him to say: These are the sermons I have preached : I publish them
only for my congregation and my friends, or for the use of • those who may read them to other congregations. We have before remarked, that there is a constant demand for publications of this description, and such sermons are likely to be the best adapted to meet this demand. But surely, it could not be unlawful to attempt a higher strain. We know of no reason why this alone of all species of authorship should be deemed an unhallowed exercise of the highest powers of the mind. When so many are writing for the many, it might at least be advisable that some who are competent should write for the few. It is, we believe, taken for granted, that sermons of a higher description would not be read, owing to their very form and name as sermons. The experiment is worth making. Sermons are read very extensively; and they would be read more, if their authorship
were more on a par with that of other branches of literature. When it is considered, that the fame of South, of Taylor, of Atterbury, of Howe, of Charnock, of Bates, of Tillotson, of Blair, and many others whose works are among our staple literature, rests entirely, or almost exclusively, on their sermons, it seems unreasonable to speak of the onlawfulness of similar efforts of mind, and idle to suppose that sermons would not now be read, that should have more of literary substance than can be expected or desired in the ordinary ministrations of the pulpit.
But we shall now, without further prelude, endeavour to give some account of the volumes before us.
Dr. Chalmers's present volume contains fifteen sermons on the following topics.
• I. The Constancy of God in his Works, an Argument for the Faithfulness of God in his Word. Psalm cxix. 89–91. II. The Expulsive Power of a new Affection. I John ii. 15. III. The sure Warrant of a Believer's Hope. Rom. v. 10. IV. The Restlessness of Ambition. Psal. xi. 1. and lv. 6. V. The transitory Nature of Visible Things. 2 Cor. iv. 18. VI. The Universality of Spiritual Blindness. Isa. xxix. 9-12. VII. The new Heavens and the new Earth. 2 Pet. iii. 13. VIII. The Nature of the Kingdom of God, 1 Cor. iv. 20. IX. The Reasonableness of Faith. Gal. iii. 23. X. The Christian Sabbath. Mark, ii. 27. XI. The Doctrine of Predestination. Acts xxvii. 22. 31. XII. The Nature of the Sin against the Holy Ghost. Matt. xii. 31, 2. XIII. The Advantages of Chris. tian Knowledge to the lower Orders. Eccl. iv. 13. XIV. The Duty and the Means of Christianizing our Home Population. Mark xvi. 15. XVI. The Distinction between Knowledge and Consideration. Isa. i. 3.'
With regard to two of these sermons, the eleventh and the twelfth, Dr. Chalmers remarks, that
• There are topics of a highly speculative character, in the system of Christian doctrine, which it is exceedingly difficult to manage,
without interesting the curiosity rather than the conscience of the reader. And yet, it is from their fitness of application to the conscience, that they derive their chief right to appear in a volume of Sermons, and I should not have ventured any publication upon either of these doctrines, did I not think them capable of being so treated as to subserve the great interests of practical godliness.'
For two others, the thirteenth and the fourteenth, he apologises as belonging to Christian Economics rather than to Christian Theology; yet, he contends for their religious importance. I have, however, it is added, more comfort in discussing this argument from the press, than from the pulpit, which ought to be kept apart for loftier themes, and which
seems to suffer a sort of desecration when employed as the • vehicle for any thing else than the overtures of pardon to the • sinner, and the hopes and duties of the believer. We transcribe this remark, not because we think there was any neces. sity for the Author's apology, but on account of the admirably correct perception which it indicates of the object and purport of the Christian ministry.
The Sermon on Predestination opens with the following introductory remarks. The text is the 22nd, compared with the 31st verse of the xxviith of Acts.
• The comparison of these two verses lands us in what may appear to many to be a very dark and unprofitable speculation. Now, our object in setting up this comparison, is not to foster in any of you a tendency to meddle with matters too high for us—but to protect you against the practical mischief of such a tendency. You have all heard of the doctrine of predestination. It has long been a settled article of our church. And there must be a sad deal of evasion and of unfair handling with particular passages, to get free of the evidence which we find for it in the Bible. And independently of Scripture altogether, the denial of this doctrine brings a number of monstrou: conceptions along with it. It supposes God to make a world, and not to reserve in his own hand the management of its concerns. Though it should concede to him an absolute sovereignty over all matter, it deposes him from his sovereignty over the region of created minds, that far more dignified and interesting portion of his works. The greatest events in the history of the universe, are those which are brought about by the agency of willing and intelligent beingsand the enemies of the doctrine invest every one of these beings with some sovereign and independent principle of freedom, in virtue of which it may be asserted of this whole class of events, that they happened, not because they were ordained of God, but because the creatures of God, by their own uncontrolled power, brought them into existence. At this rate, even he to whom we give the attribute of omniscience, is not able to say, at this moment, what shall be the fortune or the fate of any individual—and the whole train of future