Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

planet to come down into our around the consciences of such streets, he would suppose, from auditors, which renders them imthe numerous placards that would pervious to the ordinary means of meet his eye, announcing sermons grace, and that nothing short of a on special occasions by eminent special miracle can carry a word divines, that we were truly a most of conviction to their souls. But religious people.—He would find we have said enough on a subject every bookseller's shop filled with the contemplation of which dis

just published" discourses. The poses us rather to weep than to very Sunday papers he would see write. catching the infection, and sancti We pass on to another great imfying their columns by biographical pediment to the preaching of the details of living ministers.' The Gospel, and one which is scarcely print shops he would observe to less fatal—the prevalence of misswarm with reverend heads of all taken views with regard to the nashapes and sizes, and as he watch- ture of divine influences. ed criticisms on preachers and tion has taken possession of many preaching, pass from newspapers minds, that because the influences to magazines, and from magazines of the Holy Spirit are necessary to social circles, until the whole to incline the heart to receive the religious world was in motion to testimony of God, there is little settle the respective claims of the reason to expect that, under ordiPaul and Apollos of the day, he nary circumstances, any considerwould say, surely this people have able number of persons will be rightly learned to estimate the persuaded to submit to Divine value of an immortal soul. How truth, through their feeble instru. would he be startled at the subse- mentality; and under such a perquent discovery, that all this parade suasion, it is frequently presented and publicity was but a cunning for the acceptance, and pressed device of the wicked one, to blunt upon the attention of the multithe edge of that weapon, which in tude, rather because God has comits simple foolishness is destined manded it, than with any expecto overthrow his empire.

tation of success.—The guilty disBut seriously,-we know of inclination of man to repent and nothing which has had a greater believe the Gospel, has been untendency to lower the ministerial happily termed moral inability, and office-to reduce ambassadors for confounded with natural incapaChrist, to candidates for popular city, and good and faithful men, favour-to sear the consciences of who would shrink from the very the unconverted, and to ruin the suspicion of Antinomianism, have simplicity of preaching, than the preached to their fellow-men with practice to which we have advert. as little hope of benefiting them ed. Under the influence of no as if they were preaching to the better principle than curiosity, winds. This was not the way in crowds of unthinking hearers are which the Apostles acted when gathered every Sabbath to listen to they began to declare the word of the man who is fortunate enough God in Jerusalem, and those who to be esteemed their favourite; and imagine that the Spirit of God is because he preaches evangelical. honoured by such faithlessness, ly, every body rejoices to see “ do err, not knowing the Scripthe crowd assembling, forgetful tures." .that there is a shield of brass The same wretched delusion

operates to an incalculable extent or four members of his church, in preventing the exercise, by solemnly resolve to call the attenchurches, of that available moral tion of every unconverted hearer influence which, when called forth in their place of worship to the for worldly purposes, is irresistible. concerns of eternity. Let them be Why should not the same myste- influenced only by this motive,rious power, which mind exercises “we believe, and therefore do we over mind, in the affairs of this speak,” and putting aside all idea world, be a legitimate agent in the of the fear or favour of man, let hands of the Holy Spirit for excit- them act and re-act npon each ing the inquiry, "What shall I other, and upon their fellow wordo to be saved ?” We will give shippers, with just the same dea familiar illustration. During a gree of earnestness which the men contested election, especially in a of this world use, when the incountry town, how commonly do terests of a favourite candidate are men of the most sober judgments, at stake; and who can tell but find themselves carried away, con that results would follow far trary to their previous determina- greater and more important than tions, and giving up their time and can be calculated ?

But why energies for the attainment of an should such an influence be conobject which, after all, so far as fined merely to those who assemble they are concerned, is of very tri- within the walls of perhaps a small fling importance. Inquire into church or chapel ? Why not go the source of this excitement, af- forward to their friends and neighfecting, as it does, in a greater or bours, and with the same kindling less degree, every inhabitant of a of eye, and intelligent speech, and towul, and it will probably be found persuasive accent, and deep earin the wishes and consequent nestness, which they would employ efforts of two or three individuals, were temporal interests at stake, for the whole contest was possibly urge upon them the importance of at first a matter of perfect indiffe an immediate consideration of the rence to every one else. When question, “ Am I a friend or an feeling has subsided, we lament enemy of God ?” The world that so much energy has been might count them mad, but God thrown away on a inatter of no would support them by his smile. moment; but the amount of the We verily believe that the only forces which have been employed, reason why the Gospel is not unimay be visible for years afterwards, versally diffused, is, because the in heart burnings which prove that churches do not act as if they bethe feelings and emotions of many lieved eternal things. a soul have been stirred up from happy and unscriptural notion to their inmost depths. Now all this which we have referred, has, in moral influence is perfectly natural many cases, been the opiate by and within human attainment which conscience has been soothed, When exerted in the cause of and the claims of Christian obligajustice and humanity it is invalua- tion laid quietly to rest. Much ble, and the liberties of a country more than has ever yet been seem at some seasons to depend effected, remains to be accomon the degree in which it can be plished, before the churches will called forth. Apply, then, the have done what they can for the same forces in the cause of reli. conversion of sinners. gion. Let the minister and three : The great mass of those who

The ull

and English Preaching. (June, attend divine worship, yet remain or prevent the introduction of cirunimpressed, are persons by whom cumstances calculated to impede the truths of the Gospel are impression, or to take it away commonly considered as so true, when made, is worthy of his most that they lose all the power of careful examination, and should truth, and lie bed-ridden in the assume, in his eyes, an importance dormitory of the soul, side by side inferior to no part of that valuable with the most despised and ex- preparatory study, by which he ploded errors.” The business of bas been fitted to appear as the the Christian minister is to inquire instructor of others. how these truths may be most Let it not be supposed that we effectually rescued from a neglect attach the slightest value to any of which is only aggravated by the these things, as in themselves efficircumstance of their universal ad. cacious to the conversion of souls; mission. And here a wide field but unless it is to be asserted, or opens upon

his view. No pro- implied, that because divine influblem could be propounded for so ences are necessary to give saving lution more important than one power to the preaching of the which should have for its object, cross, it matters little whether the to ascertain, by unwearied investi- hearer be brought to the house of gation, what is the form and man God from his closet or from a newsner in which sacred truth should room ;

whether truth be presented be presented and applied, so as to in the most attractive, or the most afford the highest possible proba. repulsive form ; whether a sermon bility of affecting the mind of the be drawled out or declaimed, or hearer? and we should think it whether it be delivered with all worth while to make the tour of the winning earnestness of deep Europe, or even to cross the wille Christian solicitude, the importAtlantic, could we hope by so do- ance of presenting and applying ing to gather more effective illus. truth in that form, and under those trations wherewith to set before circumstances which seem best men the things which belong to adapted to affect the heart of the their everlasting peace.

hearer, must be acknowledged. As it is understood, by a kind of Our argument would remain the legal fiction, that theological re same were the command to preach viewers are aged men, and bishops to grave-stones instead of men, in the church, we may be permitted for if God commanded gravestrongly to recommend the culti- stones to be preached to, it would vation of an inquiring spirit in this be fitting that we should do it with direction to our younger brethren an energy like that which impelled in the ministry. Every plan by the spirit of Ezekiel, when he prowhich a minister may prepare his phesied to the dead and dry bones hearers, during the week, for the in the valley of vision. No mismost profitable attendance on the take more fatal to usefulness can services of the sanctuary; every well be committed, than to supsuggestion which may aid him in pose, on the one hand, that a conimpressing their minds while there; scientious regard for the best inevery hint regarding the mode by terests of men is all that is required wbich he may best succeed in to form a preacher; or, ou the deepening an impression which other hand, that the road to emihas once been made; every con nence lies in following the track of trivance by which he way check some popular orator. It should

and English Preaching. 859 never be forgotten, that it is quite they will all be tried by an unfailpossible to speak from the deepest ing standard, and we will not seek conviction, and yet be unimpres- to anticipate that judgment. We sive, as it also is, to gather and to pray that their beloved and reenchain a crowded auditory with- spected authors, differing as they out affecting a single soul. We do in their mode of presenting think there is much to be learned truth, may alike be found faithfully in what has been hitherto an unex to have delivered their own souls, plored region—the philosophy of uninfluenced either by the fear of influencing mind; and we firmly blame or the love of praise. Withbelieve that the commencement of out specially noticing, therefore, that great moral change, which any one particular discourse, we there is every reason to suppose, shall endeavour to seize upon from the predictions of scripture, what we consider distinctive feais to be produced by the preach- tures in the respective volumes uning of that cross which is foolish- der review, and point out such peness to the unrenewed heart, will culiarities as may seem to us to be preceded by new discoveries in belong to the different sections of this department of sacred science; the Christian church from which the art of preaching will be better they emanate. understood ; new avenues to the No one can bestow even a curconscience will be discovered, sory glance upon the American those which are already known preacher, without observing that will be more widely opened up our transatlantic brethren direct and better improved; all the ap- their attention much more excluparently trifling circumstances sively than we do, to the conversion which deepen or carry off impres- of sinners, and this circumstance sion, whether connected with the alone stamps a peculiar character arrangements of divine worship, upon their discourses. The leadthe social habits of Christian fa- ing object with them seems almost milies, or the private deportment invariably to awaken. With us, it and conversation of ministers, will is more frequently to inform. Tenbe more justly estimated; and the derness commonly characterizes an sword of the Spirit, instead of be- English preacher. Severity an ing, as it now oftentimes is, an American one. The former linunwieldy weapon in the hands of gers in hope that he shall win men unskilful fencers, will be pointed by the sweetness of the gospel. with a more divine skill, and be The latter seeks to drive men to pressed home with unerring preci-Christ by hurling unsparingly the sion.

thunders of the law. English ser. The volumes, whose titles stand mons are mostly soothing. Ameat the head of this article, bring rican ones often partake of an before us examples both of English irritating character.

Where we and Ainerican preaching, and we

endeavour to affect the feelings, know of nothing which should lead they take a steady aim at the conus to doubt their being fair speci- science. Bold and direct appeal, mens of the ordinary character of accompanied by a close and conpulpit addresses in both countries. stant personal application to the It would be an ungrateful task to hearer, mark the one; calm, phienter into any comparison of the losophical discussion, and pious respective merits of these compo- reflections, distinguish the other. sitions. A day is coming when If they sometimes err in making

those sad whom God has not made upon their banks. And thus the sad, we are not unfrequently in stream moves on, with a force aldanger of bribing into a profes, together unexampled in the history sion of religion those whose hearts of nations, and with a speed which have never been thoroughly sub- the world has never before witmitted to the humbling require- nessed. ments of the Gospel. We

e are not The American Churches are not fond of antithesis, or we might unmindful of what is going forcarry out these observations much ward. The Christian sees that farther. They are, doubtless, open there is but one thing which can to the objections which may al- blight the vision of that glorious ways be raised against general de future which is ever floating belineations of this kind; but, allow- fore the eyes of his countrymen, ing reasonably for exceptions, we and that one thing is the absence, believe they will be found, on the or inefficient supply of the means whole, to be in accordance with of grace. There is but one famine truth.

that he dreads, and that is a famine It will not be difficult to trace of the word of God. Often does some of the causes, which have oc his eye anxiously glance over the casioned this apparent diversity map of that great western wilderboth of object and method, among ness, which he sees peopling at a those who are so closely united, rate that outstrips calculation, and not less by blood than by commu sometimes he trembles, lest it nity of feeling, as are the Ameri- should be overrun with superstican and English Churches. Ame- tion and infidelity, those sure prerica is a young and rising country. cursors of national ruin. He is The tide of population has of late conscious that the whole Christian years been rolling westward with world looks to America as the unparalleled rapidity. Each suc field on which is to be tried the ceeding wave bears upon its bosom most important of all experiments a fresh supply of restless spirits, in spiritual husbandry, whether a prepared to carry forward' with vast tract of land can be duly untiring energy the enterprizes cultivated, and all the interests of which others have commenced. religion be triumphantly sustained, One by one the tall trees of the in the face of an overwhelming inforest bow beneath the stroke of crease of population, and without the axe, and towns and viliages any legislative aid ?

In common rise in clusters, as if by magic, in with his countrymen he has long the woods. A few years more, maintained the affirmative. The and regions, but recently snatched hour of trial is now come. He from the sovereignty of the fowl must manifest to all men that his and the brute,

boasting has not been in vain in

the Lord. Moral influence has " Where nature sowed herself, and reaped her crops,”

been his watchword, and now he

must try the temper of a weapon are intersected by innumerable to which he has long been accus; roads; the soil is cultivated ; and tomed to attach a power little barges laden with the products of short of Omnipotence. industry and commerce float along It is under the pressure of canals, which at once serve to thoughts like these, that American unite distant cities, and to invite a Churches and American Ministers new race of emigrants to settle are moulded and fashioned. The

« PreviousContinue »