Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

Review of Sermons, by ARCHIBALD which Mr. Alison may produce, the ALISON, L. L. B. &c. Vol. II. 800. former may be unimpaired by neglect,

the latter remedied by diligence. Abridged from the British Critic. J

The two first sermons in the vous Upon the general merit of Mr. lume, upon religious education, and Alison, as a writer of sermons, we as a general exhortation to train up gave our opinion somewhat at length our children in the way which they in an article upon his former volume; should go, may be considered as usenor will our sentiments be materially ful compositions. The three next are changed by this his second publica- upon the Lord's Prayer. Upon the tion. We perceive in it the same opening words of this divine and percharms of imagination, the same ele- fect form, we extract with pleasure, gance of expression. With a strong the following just and excellent comtendency towards a superfluity of or- ment. nament, Mr. Alisou still wreathes his

" It is not, my brethren, for light reas flowers with so classical a taste, that sons that we are thus instructed to pray. what would be a fault in others be. There is a carelessness which habit is apt comes a beauty in him. In illustra- to produce even in the best of us, when we tion, his images are forcible and just; there are few who can make a sudden

address our supplications to Heaven ; and in exhortation, his language is always transition from the affairs of the world to animated, sometimes even eloquent; that solemn and exalted tone of mind in his addresses to the heart, there are which prayer so justly demands. It is on occasionally to be found touches of this account, probably, that the opening of genuine and unaffected pathos. We this prayer is made so solemn and majes

tic; and to reinind us whom we are adsincerely wish that here we could dressing, that all the mightiest evidences close our character of Mr. Alison's of his providence are brought forward to theology, and that our duty did not our imagination. It is to remind us, that, call

upon us to undertake the painfui when we kneel before God, we are engaged task of pointing out those deficiencies, nature ; that in his presence all lower de

in the highest and holiest service of our which his very beauties render still sires and emotions should cease ; and that more prominent. The severity of the only sentiments which then become criticism is a just tax upon high repu

us, are veneration for his unbounded great. tation : if his rise in the estimation of ness, and thankfulness that he permits the

children of the dust to draw near unto the public is deserved, he has no rea- him. son to fear the event of the trial; if

2. If such are the feelings which ber his merits have been overrated, it is come us when we address our prayers unfair that they should be reduced by to God, let me entreat you to observe, in this exhaustion to their proper level.

the second place, what is the light in The beauties of Mr. Alison are cer

which he deigns to invite us to approach

him-Is it as the Sovereigin of nature, by tainly prominent, his defects also, in

whom we are summoned to pay our ho. our estimation at least, are equally mage before his throne? Is it even as the conspicuous. In our examination of Master of his people, whom he calls, like the sermons contained in the volume the Jews of old, to listen to the commandbefore it will be our endeavour to

ments he enjoined while the mountain us,

burned with fire, and all the people fell place both of them fairly before the with their faces on the ground.' No, my public, that in any subsequent volume brethren! it is as the Father of existence , Vol. I.

33

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

that he here invites his children to come their tears and supplications before him, unto him. It is us the great Parent of let me, in the third place, remind you of being, that he calls the souls which he has the form in which these supplications are made, to come and unveil their hopes and to be addressed. While we are embold. their fears before him, and to put their ened to approach him as a father;' let it trust under the shadow of his wings.' be remembered that it is as 'our Father;

“ It is impossible not to see for what -not as the father only of the individual (end this beautiful opening of our daily petitioner, but as the Father of the race

prayer is intended. The distance between of man ;-not as the father of any particuman and his Creator is so immense, and lar sect or communion in religion, but as there is something so awful in approach- the great Parent of Life and happiness ing voluntarily into bis presence, that no- throughout the universe. thing but the most exalted views, or the “ It is the first law of our faith, that most sinless purity, can seem to embolden we should love the Lord our God, with natural man, to hold regular communion all our heart, and all our soul. It is the with Him that inhabiteth eternity.' second, that we should love our neighOpinions of this fearful kind, however, bours as ourselves. Let me entreat you would have a tendency to destroy or to to observe, my brethren, how beautifully corrupt all the principles of religion in both these precepts are illustrated in the the human mind." They would tend either form of the words we are considering, to excuse us, in our own opinion, from the and how powerfully they blend in the service of God, and thus gradually lead us same moment, benevolence to man, with ' to live altogether without him in the devotion towards God. Even in the act world;' or they would dispose us to ap- of secret and solitary prayer, they remind proach him with the indistinct terror of us of our relation to each other. While slaves-to mingle the gloom of supersti- we are presenting our private supplication with our religious service, and to tions, it is yet to the common Father of worship him, not in spirit and in truth, mankind they are presented; and while but with the dark and ceremonial rites of our hearts are full of our own interests, a constrained homage.

the very words we use, recall to us the “ The model which is here given us of interests of our brethren. They remind Christian prayer is very different. It ba- us, that the eyes of all wait upon him;' nishes at once from our imaginations, all that it is he,' and he alone, who the fears so natural to mortality. It is our openeth his hand, and filleth all things Father to whom it teaches us to speak- living with plenteousness. They remind it is that name, so dear and venerable, us, that wherever creation extends, there which it brings forward with all its asso

his Providence is exerted ; and while we ciations to our minds the name which all' thus see, as it were, the whole animated men have known, and in which all have universe prostrated with us before his been taught to trust and which cannot throne, we learn to look upon the race of be pronounced without awakening in every men around us, as children of the same heart the feelings of confidence, and hope, family with ourselves, and to mingle a and love. It is the Father, and not the prayer also for their happiness and salvaLord of Nature, who is here revealed to tion." our view that Father, who careth for

The sixth Sermon is us, who knoweth whereof we are made,'

upon and who remembereth that we are but ample of our Saviour's piety, and may dust'that Father who seeth in secret;'

be considered, as far as goes, an to whom all hearts are open, and all de. useful discourse. We'now come to sires known; and before whom all dis- four sermons upon the evidences. The tinctions are vain, but that of doing first is upon the evidence resulting justly, and loving mercy, and walising from the nature and character of the humbly with him. I pause not at present on the many reflections which this subject Gospel, as the only religion among is fitted to excite. I entreat you only to, mankind " adequate to all the instincconsider within yourselves, bów magnifi- tive desires and expectations of the cent is the privilege which this word, human mind.” Some points are not Father, has conferred upon our fallen nature; what exaltation of thonght and

stated aniss; but when we consider spirit it is fitted to raise, and what im

the total omission of every considermeasurable happiness it has given in every ation of that purdon and peace for age of the Gospel, to those who ' which our frail and guilty nature in weary and heavy laden,' with the doubts, every age has panted, even from the the sorrows, or the miseries of the world.

43. While it is thus that a new and very time of its fall, we cannot but living way' is opened to every individual pronounce this a very defective stateof mankind to approach the throne of the ment of the evidence resulting from lding God, in which they may pour fortla the peculiar applicability of the Gos

the ex

[ocr errors]

were

September, 1817.] Review of Alison's Sermons.

259 pel to the wants, infirmities, and ex- world;--you see this plan, embracing in pectations of the human mind. The its final object the whole of moral nature, Sermon on the evidence arising from advancing gradually to its perfection, the progress of the Gospel, is not less through all the darkness and clouds which objectionable.

seem to oppose it; and promised then

only to close, when it has brought all the Mr. Alison has indeed, in the former wandering varieties of the human race, part of this Sermon, once mentioned

• into one fold, and under one Shepherd.' the miraculous assistance by which If the God of Nature will indeed deign to

reveal his will to mankind, can we oonthe Gospel was propagated in the age ceive any system more analogous to all of the Apostles; but on the subject of that we conceive of infinite wisdom, or all the grace of God, in the ordinary in- that we can hope of infinite goodness? fluences of the Spirit, he is wholly si

“ 2. The manner in which the Almighty lent. If to him alone his audience has thus revealed himself, corresponds to

all we know or experience of human nalook for instruction, they will be like ture. If there be any feature beyond the converts of old, not having so others by which the nature of man is charm much as heard " whether there be any racterized, it is, ' That he is a progressive Holy Ghost.” In this whole Sermon, being :'-a being susceptible both of in

tellectual and moral improvement, as his upon the Progress of the Gospel, we

race advances in time. How beautiful, in do not find one single expression in this view, is the accommodation of revedicative even of the existence of the lation to this character of man! and how Holy Spirit. Respecting the “humble aptly does it correspond to the actual proopinion," which Mr. Alison appears to

gress of human nature ! Beginning at first

with those faint illuminations which suit recommend, we shall say no more,

an infant world; established then in a than briefly to remind him of the last system which, by its dark and ceremonious declaration of the Saviour of man- grandeur, was adapted to the minds of a kind, which speaks to him, and to rude and unenlightened people, it expands every other minister of the Gospel, in gradually into the high and lofty enthusiterms very different from those in

asm of prophecy, and breaks forth at last which he himself speaks, “ Behold, I into the mild and spiritual majesty of the

Gospel of our Lord. How striking is here am with you alway, even to the end the analogy to the conduct of a father, of the world."

who accommodates his instructions to the In his Sermon upon the Evidence age, and to the acquisitions of his chil. arising froin the Jewish Revelation, of that eternal Father, under the shadow

dren ;

and how sublime the consideration we confess our astonishment at his of whose wings the human race has been total silence respecting the typical fostered in all their progress from infancy and prefigurative nature of the sacri- to maturity; whose parental eye was nefices under the Mosaic law. We ver known 'to slumber or to sleep;' and cannot account for the omission of within whose everlasting arms, the last this powerful and incoộtrovertible penerations of men will be folded like the

infant generations of his own peculiar evidence. The conclusion, however, people. of this discourse is good.

“ In the last place, the sketch which I

have presented to you of the progress of “ 1. The history of revelation is agree- Revelation, exhibits to us, in the loftiest able to all we know and feel of the cha. manner, the majesty of that final Revela. racter of the Almighty. When you look tion in which we dwell, and its coinci. to religions of mortal origin, you see in dence with all that is originally good or them all the weakness and all the passions great in our nature. When we look at of men,-heroes deified,--divinities actu- the records of history, and see religions ated by human vices and national preju- arising and falling among mankind, we dices--and the God of universal nature are apt to suppose, that our own has no compressed into the partial god of a na- earlier or more permanent origin; to date tion or of a tribe. When you look to the it only from the hour when our Saviour records of Scripture, on the contrary, was born; and to imagine that it has no when you look even to the earliest dawn higher claims to belief than its own plain of human existence, you see One God, and intrinsic truth. firmly and uninterruptedly recognized ;---- “In the remembrance of the mighty you see one design begun in the hour revelations that preceded it, a more mawhen man was created, one plan of wis. jestic argument occurs to us. Instead of dom and of beneficence pursued, amid all being a separate and anomalous fact in the ille vices and corruptigos of a füllen history of nature, we see that it is only the

[ocr errors]

1

accomplishment of connected facts, and of Excellence, contains much useful of a kindred design; we see that from the matter, and may be read by every first hour of the human race, a system has been carrying on for its progressive hap. young man with much profit. In the piness, and its final salvation, that the following passage will be found an rise and the fall of nations have been approach to real eloquence. equally instrumental to the accomplishment of this paternal plan ;---that man, in

“ It is impossible not to observe, in the short, is nothing, and God is every thing; first place, that there is in human nature and that all that was great in the history

an ardent love and desire of excellence, & of antiquity, is great only as being instru. sense of something dignified and honourmental in introducing that final light, able, that is required of man by that rank which was destined to illuminate the and oondition of being to which he be. world, and to carry it on to that perfec- longs. It is an instinct of nature, as well tion, which, though none of us can now

as a truth of revelation, that in this world experience, all of us can at least conceive. man possesses the pre-eminence of existe It is thus, my brethren, that not only the

ence; that there are powers and capacities harmony of these two revelations is felt, which raise him above every other class of but their harmony with nature itself; that beings that are formed; and that, in conthe conduct of God is felt as the conduct sequence of this high distinction, there of a Father ;--that revelation, instead of

are mightier ends for which he is created, being considered as an exception to the and nobler designs which he ought to purlaws of moral nature, is seen as consistent

sue. Even amid all the ruins of our fallen and as ancient as these laws themselves; nature, there are remembrances of its ori. and that, while the human heart has every ginal glory; and there is a kind of want where felt that some one should come. (if I may bo express myself,) in every the history and plan of this

communica. noble and generous nature, to purify itself tion shows, that that One has come,'

from the frailties and corruptions which and that ' nature itself? looks for no it at present experiences, and to raise it. other."

self to those higher and incorruptible

classes of existence, for which, even here, The next Sermon is upon the Evi. it feels that it was ultimately destined. dence arising from the Accomplish- manity, how beautifully is the revelation

“ To this original want or wish of hu. ment of Prophecy, three fourths of of the Gospel adapted! It tells us, that which are expended in reflections upon these are no visionary desires ; that they the new year,

and might be preached are the throes of nature struggling for dewith much effect in any of our west liverance; and that, in mercy to the hu

man soul, One at last is ‘come,' who is end chapels on the first Sunday in

able to set us free.' It is in the high and January. Surely this is trifling in no generous mind of youth that these desires ordinary degree with the evidences of of excellence are chiefly to be found; and Christianity, and is productive of no how strikingly are the promises of revesmall danger to the holy cause. Let

lation adapted to encourage them! not

only by assuring them that he is faithful us suppose the volume before us in the

who promised, but by pointing out the hands of one of the Edinburgh infidels. way' by which this great ambition may be He has heard, perhaps, that the fulfil. accomplished, and by which the immortal ment of prophecy is one of the pillars mind may advance, by his merits and by upon which the fabric of Christianity his example, to higher measures of purity

and of perfection." rests. He is willing to see (perhaps for the first time) what strength there The twelfth Sermon is on the Dan. may be in the argument, and what gers of moral Sentiment, unaccompaChristianity has to say for itself. He nied with active Virtue. Here also discovers, among the Sermons of the we find some very useful matter. most popular Churchman in Edin- The next Sermon is upon the moral burgh, a discourse upon the very point. Dangers arising from the Society of He seizes upon it; and, instead of any great Cities. With respect to the evidence brought forward, any coinci- danger arising simply from the numdence established, any references sup-bers collected in a great city, as conplied, he finds a very pleasing and pa- trasted with the comparative solitude thetic discourse upon the new year. of the country, we do not agree with We leave Mr. Alison to determine Mr. Alison; as we are assured that in what will be bis conclusion.

the most retired villages, especially in The eleventh Sermon, on the Love England, there are often to be found

[ocr errors]

ac

men,

September, 1817.) Review of Alison's Sermons.

261 temptations as seductive, and vice as “ And when he came to himself, ho prurient, as among numbers consider. said, I will arise and go unto my father, ed only as such. Nay, more, the

and say unto him, Father, I have sinned tivity which numbers bustling around against heaven and before thee, and um

no more worthy to be called thy son.' will naturally inspire, may be consi- These words reveal the 'secret workings dered as a much better preservative of every human heart.

Whatever may against vicious thoughts, than the in have been the nature or the degree of our tellectual idleness which solitude too transgressions, it is in these words that

the Spirit from above,' the holy Spirit often encourages. At the same time that worketh unto salvation, speaks unto we admit, to the utmost extent which us all. It says, “ ARISE,'-arise at once Mr. Alison could desire, the dangers from sin and from wretchedness ;-—from a of Edinburgh in particular. The condition foreign to your nature, and denumber of young men, who flock to

structive of your hopes ;- from your slagether at the commencement of the very in a far country," where there is

only famine from heaven, and cruelty from Session, unbridled by any fear either Return to the home in which you of God or of man, must be productive were born,--to that household where even of the most awful danger to the young the hired servants of your father have and inexperienced, who may, perhaps under his protecting arms, you may still

bread enough and to spare;' and where, must, be thrown into their society. return to peace, to usefulness, and to hapEncouraged in the practice, nay even piness.taught the principles of infidelity, “ -What are the purposes of these every passion is let loose upon their moral punishments in the administration souls, without warning, and without of the Almighty, and what are the prorestraint. Crammed with the ele

mises which the Gospel gives to genuine

penitence, we shall afterwards have an ments of superficial knowledge, armed opportunity of considering. In the mean. with the jargon of metaphysical scep- time, my brethren, let us pause, with se ticism, they are sent into life cox- riousness, upon the history which we have combs and atheists. The danger at

now reviewed. It is the history (in some tending a young man at Edinburgh, wherever guilt begins, it begins like the

degree or other), of every human soul. arising from more sources than Mr. young man in the parable, with the abuse Alison has chosen to mention, is in- of the goods which the wisdom of the deed alarming; we therefore highly great Father of the universe bath divided commend the warning which the unto us; and whatever may be its course,

it uniformly ends like his, in the conpreacher has given against many of sciousness of moral want, and in the feel. the temptations which environ his ing of religious wretchedness. young congregation. This is a sub

“ Let the young pause upon it; and ject that might be considerably ex- while life is that far country into which tended. His congregation should be they are so willing to travel, let them can.

sider well the example which is here prewarned against those who prostitute sented in mercy to their inexperienced every talent with which God has in eye.--Let them learn what it is to cona his bounty endowed them, in the ser- ceive all the goods which Providence be. vice of atheism and infidelity; who by stows upon them to be their own; and the brilliancy of their attainments, where it is to which the vain, and the arthe charms of their conversation, and rogant, and the selfish mind must come,

when it forgets alike the paternal hand the plausibility of their sophistry, which gave, and the beneficent purposes would first deceive, and then destroy. for which they were given.

The Sermon upon the Education “ Let the gay, and the busy, and the of the Poor, is an animated composi- active, pause in the midst of their career; tion; the two next upon Instability selves whether their course resembles that

and, in these hours at least, ask them1 and Stability of Character, excepting which we have seen. If it does, if they the close of the latter, are good moral too are waiting for their own base or selessays, with little to recommend fish ends, the goods which were commit. them but their elegance. The Ser. ted to their care, let them not hope that

the laws of the Eternal will change for mons upon the Prodigal Son are of a

them.--Let them believe that there is one different cast. The first of them can

process alone which can purify the waters not be read without the most lively which are hastening to eternity ;--and let interest. We shall present our read them consider that it is only while the mind ers with its conclusion,

retains its strength, and the soul its ri.

« PoprzedniaDalej »