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The year 1828 commenced amid those domestic shadows, and had not progressed far before the public assaults, in which Irving's life was henceforward to be passed, began. In the
early beginning of the year he had prepared for publication three volumes of his collected sermons; the first volume setting forth the
very heart and essence of his teaching, his lofty argument and exposition of the Trinity, and its combined action in the redemption of man; the second, his conception of the manner of applying Divine truth as symbolised in the Parable of the Sower; and the third, his views on national and public subjects. When this work, however, was all but ready for the press, one of the spies of orthodoxy hit upon a grand and unthought of heresy, in the splendid expositions which the congregation had received without a suspicion, and which Irving himself had preached with the fullest conviction that the sentiments he uttered were believed by all
SERMONS ON THE TRINITY.
orthodox Christians. Up to this period his works had been arraigned before less solemn tribunals ; failures in taste, :confusion of metaphors, and an incomprehensible and undiminishable popularity, which no attack could lessen, and which piqued the public oracles, had · been brought against him, one time or another, by almost every publication in the kingdom. But even when a man is fully convicted of being more eloquent and less cautious than his neighbours, when he is proved to fascinate the largest audiences, and utter the boldest denunciations, and give the most dauntless challenges to all opponents, with the additional aggravations of a remarkable person, and some peculiarities of appearance, these things are still not enough to make him a heretic.
The religious world had long been shy of a man so impracticable ; but yet had been forced, by way of availing itself of his genius and popularity, to afford him still its countenance, and still to ask anniversary sermons, though with fear and trembling, from the greatest orator of the time. niversary sermons, however, were so little to be depended upon — were so much occupied with the truth, and so little with the occasion, or the subscription lists -that he was not, and could not be popular among the religious managers and committee people, who make a business of the propagation of the gospel. He was a man of a different fashion from their favourite model, by no means to be brought into conformity with it ; and they regarded him afar off with jealous eyes. At last the inevitable collision occurred. Irving's sermons on the Trinity were uttered to an audience so unaware
UNCONSCIOUS OF ANY DOUBT UPON THE SUBJECT.
of any error in them that, by special desire of the officebearers of the congregation, they were placed first in the volumes which their author prepared as a complete manifestation of his varied labours. The sermons themselves had been preached some years before ; they are mentioned in Fraser's Magazine, in the éloge pronounced upon him after his death, as having been first delivered in Hatton Garden, where no man hinted heresy; and Irving himself describes the gradual composition of several of them in his journal-letters in 1825; they were not, however, ready for publication till the be ginning of the year 1828; and seem to have been selected in all simplicity, and, as the preface relates, with no controversial meaning, “as being designed for the instruction of the church committed to my ministerial and pastoral care, of whom I knew not that any one entertained a doubt upon that great head of Christian faith.” These sermons, though of a very different character from those bursts of bold and splendid oratory by which the preacher had made his great reputation, are perhaps more remarkable than any of his other productions. How any man could carry a large audience breathless through those close and lofty arguments, and lead them into the solemn courts of heaven to trace the eternal covenant there, preserving the mighty strain of intelligence and attention through hours of steadfast soaring into the ineffable mysteries, is a question which I find it hard to solve. But he seems to have done it; and all unaware of the fact that underneath, in the cloudy world below, certain sharp eyes, unable to follow him, could yet follow and discern where his brilliant way cut through divers floating clouds of doctrine,
THE FELLOWSHIP OF CHRIST.
he pursued his eagle's path straight into the sunshine. That loftiest, splendid theme unfolded before his intent gaze into a grand harmonious system of God-manifestation. It was not doctrine that he unfolded. It was the vivid reality of the sublimest historic facts, a Godhead in combined and harmonious action, working forth, not the salvation of individual man by any expedient, however sublime, but the grand overthrow and defeat of evil in a nature which had sinned. In this light the man who embraced his Lord with all the fervour of human affections, as well as with all the spiritual love and faith of which his soul was capable, perceived, with a depth of tender adoration not to be described, that wonderful reality of union which made his Lord not only his Saviour, but his brother and kinsman, the true everlasting Head of the nature He had assumed. Controversy was not in his mind, nor any desire after a novel view of the truth he uttered. He “knew not that any one entertained a doubt upon that great head of Christian faith.” And with all the simplicity of undoubting belief and confidence he set forth the Saviour in whom he trusted, -- a Lord noways abstracted from the life-blood of humanity, but rather its fullest spring and fountain-head, a man without guilt, but with everything else that belongs to man — an existence not of itself secure and unassailable, but held like a fortress in immaculate purity by the Godhead within. Such was the form in which the Redeemer of his life, and Master of his heart, appeared to Irving. He set forth the Lord so, before all
with outeries of joy and tears, finding in that utter brotherhood of the flesh a culmination
DISCOVERIES MADE BY THE REV. MR. COLE.
grace, and love, and unspeakable Divine tenderness such as heart of man had not conceived.
This was the preacher's view, standing above the crowd with his eyes and his thoughts in the heavens ; ; but other eyes and thoughts were in the cloudy regions underneath, watching that lofty perilous career into the Divine mysteries, without either light to lead, or faith to follow. An idle clergyman, called Cole,-of whom nobody seems to know anything but that he suddenly appeared out of darkness at this moment to do his ignoble office — heard by the wind of rumour, which at that time was constantly carrying something of the eloquent preacher's lavish riches about the world, of what appeared to him “a new doctrine.” The immediate cause was an address delivered by Irving in behalf of a society for the distribution of Gospel Tracts, in which some of his audience discovered that the preacher declared the human nature of our Saviour to be identical with all human nature, truly and in actual verity the “ seed of Abraham.” This, coming to the ears of Mr. Cole, apparently, at the moment, a man at leisure, and in a condition to set his laborious brethren right and find out their errors, filled the soul of that virtuous critic with alarm and horror, To him the world seems to be indebted for the disingenuous statement of this new view, if new view it was, which, by giving the name of the “ sinfulness of Christ's human nature” to that which in Irving's eyes was the actual redemption of human nature through Christ, inevitably prejudiced and prejudged the question with the mass of religious people. Few can follow those fine and delicate intricacies and distinctions which encompass