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have been more ignorant of the preacher's meaning, if, instead of addressing his audience in English, he had spoken all the time in an unknown language.” No doubt there was many an obscure individual in the galleries of St. John's chapel, on that very occasion, who not only understood but enjoyed those words, drawing refreshment from them, as the thirsty plant drinks in the dews of the evening. Spiritual affections alone discern that which is spiritual.
The rill is tuneless to his ear
The gospel is addressed to the moral sense ; and if that be bleared or blunted, the gospel must remain an enigma. If the eye be dark, how great is the darkness! It was not till Thomas Scott began to pray, like a little child, as advised by his friend Newton, that the mystery of Christ was unfolded to him. Who has not experienced the effect of religious feeling in the alertness, and brightness, and distinctness of his mental perceptions ? Ere the break of day we look to the right hand and to the left, and nothing is there but cold and shapeless mist. But when the sun is up and the mist has rolled away, the cultivated field, the smiling village and the solemn wood are all before us. It is sanctified affection which throws sun-light over the objects of spiritual intellection. He alone who walks with God, in the daily converse of prayer, knoweth the mind of God; and he only who weeps with Jesus Christ in the garden, and at the cross, disciplining himself in all the processes of piety, is qualified, as by a new sense, to understand his words and his salvation.
The doctrine of Christ crucified is not a bare and isolated proposition. Infinite in nuinber and variety are the truths to which it is related. When the apostle avowed his purpose to know nothing but the cross of Christ, his meaning obviously was that all truth was, ever after, to be contemplated by him, in its proper connection with this vital fact. Here, then, we have one of those simple principles which are essential to the success of every preacher of the gospel. Truth warped and distorted out of its proper proportions is truth no longer. “ There is,” says Pascal,“ but one indivisible point from which a picture should be contemplated. Every other is too high or too low; too near or too distant. Perspective fixes this point in the art of painting.” There is such a thing as doctrinal perspective. Every thing depends, in the study of theology, upon obtaining the right point of observation. The several “ distributions and partitions of truth,” disjoined from that one stem and trunk which gives unity to the whole system, are as incoherent and unintelligible as the leaves which the Sybil scattered to the wind. Every thing in astronomy depends upon what is made to occupy the centre, the earth or the sun. That philosophy--a form of Fichteism-which has recently obtained no inconsiderable notoriety in our land, and from which, when fully espoused, consequences most disastrous are, with good reason, to be appre hended, places man in the centre of its system. Its total creed is resolvable into one idea, if that be intelligible, universal humanity. “To be a man is greater than to be a Christian,” is its first and frequent assertion. Jesus Christ, instead of being the sun and centre, is only a star of lesser magnitude, like many others, which shine away on the outer periphery. All the notions which it holds concerning divine rule, authority and inspiration are the legitimate products of this one grand mistake, man made to occupy the place of God; a mistake concerning which it is difficult to decide, whether it is more revolting to reason, or the meek piety which delights to lie humble before God. “Behold,” said one, aptly, years ago, “ the progeny of human pride,—the Creator the creature! the creature the Creator! Enter into the temple of his worship the walls of that house do but reflect back his own image; the spirit that fills it is pride; its shecinah is self.”
Now, so it is, that the spot which piety has chosen for its retired abode is the one, the only one which commands the right aspect of every revealed truth. The sacred mount where the Saviour bled is the point of observation, from which all objects are to be contemplated, and according to which they receive their coloring, their shading, their prominence and their distance. All the doctrines, facts and precepts of Scripture together form a series of concentric circles. He who stands at any point in the circumference of one sees only one radius, or a small segment of a subject; but he whose position is the very centre of the whole is in a condition to survey
- "the great eternal scheme
To preach Christ is to preach all truth in its relation to Christ. He who mistakes here, mistakes totally and fatally. The law of God is not to be preached as if it were opposed to the gospel, but as blended with it; according to the fine expression of Mr. Coleridge, as the “co-organized part of one organic whole.” He who should preach the doctrine of election, as a cold, abstract and philosophic idea, does not preach it as it is revealed to us in Scripture; where it is set forth in warm and living union with the cross of Christ, a truth most practical and animating, the brightest star which shines on the benighted soul of man. The decrees of God are not the unfeeling doctrine of the fatalist, crushing hopes and hearts; invariably are they presented by the inspired writers, in connection with the planning of the atonement. There is no canon of sacred rhetoric of greater importance to be observed by him who would be wise to win souls, than this; and we repeat again, that simple piety in the preacher's heart leads him most easily to conform to it. The mind, by the principles of its constitution, associates every thing with that which occupies the place of its master-passion. What else is piety than an absorption of the soul in the love of Christ? It lives, and lingers, and looks and loves, where love was martyred ; and hence, as by instinct, it sees and feels what is the “proportion of faith;” it graduates the importance of every doctrine by measuring its distance from the centre, and resolving all truth into one great fact, qualifies one, at once, to obtain that “intuition of unity, which is the end of all philosophy.” ,
If the success of the preacher depends, under God, on what he preaches, then is it important to observe in farther illustrating this part of our subject, that high spiritual attainments most effectually preserve him from those topics of discourse which vitiate the eloquence of the pulpit.
Conspicuous among these is controversial preaching. Far are we from implying that there are no occasions in which the preacher of the gospel is justified in direct attempts to controvert the opinions of others. We refer to that which is habitual, -the product of a controversial spirit. If it be a law of the mind, that the emotions correspond to those objects, with which the attentive faculties are most conversant, how little tendency can there be, in this style of discourse, to excite religious affections. It may make logicians acute and skilful, but never converts to Christ. It may make theologians, but Christians seldom. Yet is there no preparation for the pulpit which is so easy, and none to which in certain states of mind, a preacher is so much tempted as this. To individuals of certain qualities, the temptation is irresistible. Far easier is it to detect the sophistries, expose the absurdities of false reasoning, than to unfold and enforce a spiritual truth, in all its simplicity, clearness, and power. Except one possess a mind balanced with extremest accuracy, together with piety of an uncommon purity and power, it may be looked upon as a great misfortune to be brought into near vicinity to a conspicuous error. Without these qualifications he will unconsciously acquire the habit of contemplating truth only under one aspect. He preaches, not with a direct aim, to the consciences of all, but with a side-way reference to a certain few. His mind runs in a groove. His calculations are all made for one meridian. He is under a species of hallucination, losing sight of the stupendous revolutions of God's great plan, behind a very small object. The chameleon darkens in the shadow of him who bends over it; and the mind of such a one is discolored through and through by the towering form of error.
In several ways does a spirit of uncommon piety operate to restrain or regulate this practice. Indeed, all the restrictions and limitations which pertain to this whole subject are the offspring of a meek and intelligent piety. It is itself indifferent to all minor and unessential differences; mindful chiefly of one thing, a resemblance to the great object of its own love. It is not the spirit of exalted piety which is so keen-eyed to detect every trivial departure from our own mode of thinking; or which is ready to be alarma ed or offended at the provincialisms of a religious technology. Not more certainly does the secret well reveal its presence by the verdure which it nourishes, than does warm-hearted piety discover itself by a generous oblivion of all unimportant differences, and a superior love for all such, as amid indefinite varieties, exhibit the general resemblance of a family likeness. Official religion, forms, modes, rites, ceremonies, in short nothing extrinsic and casual can ever become the main topics of his discourse, whose heart glows with tender, ardent, spiritual affections.
This influence of piety in regulating a controversial style of preaching is farther apparent as it tends to rectify the notion that great zeal for the truth is of paramount importance. Some are accustomed to cite the words of the apostle, “ first pure, then peaceable," as if they really meant that religious affections were of less consequence than an agreement of opinions. Belief of the truth is indeed of vital consequence; but it is so because it is a means of something higher and better. Perfect conformity of opinion is not enough to satisfy heaven-born piety. The life is more than meat, and the body than raiment. Purity of doctrine may exist without sufficient vitality to keep it from putrefaction. Sticks and stones and grass, ali heterogeneous materials, says Leighton, may be frozen into one mass. Defection and error have ever been the legitimate and undeniable product of lifeless creeds and conformities; just as the fairest and manliest forms, when life forsakes them, nourish decay and breed corruption. Dr. Pusey, of Oxford, some of whose opinions have more recently given him great notoriety, twelve years ago, writing concerning the cause of the great defection in Germany, has given very important testimony on this point. .“ It is a problem,” says he,“ of immense interest and importance to solve, how Germany, from having been, in appearance at least, sound, became, by a rapid change, and to a fearful extent, an unbelieving church. I was startled, when Neander, on my asking him to what he ascribed the progress of unbelief in Germany, said: “ The dead orthodoxy.' I was much prejudiced at first against the opinion, but came at last to no other result.” It is a fatal mistake to make that as a chief end of the ministry, which is, after all, but a means to something higher ; the intellectual is subordinate to the moral; and neither reason nor Scripture permits us to seek an exact conformity of opinion, as an ultimate object of greater importance than the life and power of religion in the soul.
All this is verified by a reference to events in the history of the church. Seasons of truth are not always times of spiritual prosperity. Mr. Taylor, the author of the Natural History of Enthusiasm, calls attention to the striking fact, that the Reformation, though a season of renovation, was not one of enlargement ; and he accounts for this on the ground, that though it was a time of truth, it was not a time of love. We speak of the men of that day with unfeigned reverence and gratitude. Far easier is it to enter into their labors, than to have borne the heat and burden of the day, as did they. There was a necessity, we suppose, that the preachers of that day should be men of almost impetuous qualities. The misfortune was, that not only were they as lions towards their enemies,