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be to good purpose, by Scriptural motives, but by such arguments as no where appear to so much advantage as in the writings of the heathen moralists, and are quite out of their place in a pulpit. The rules delivered may be observed to vary according to the temperament of the teacher. But the system chiefly in request, with those who seem the most in earnest in this strain of preaching, is the strict but impracticable, unsocial, sullen moral of the stoics. Thus, under the influence of these two pernicious maxims, it too often happens that we lose sight of that which is our proper office, to publish the word of reconciliation, to propound the terms of peace and pardon to the penitent, and we make no other use of the high commission that we bear, than to come abroad one day in the seven, dressed in solemn looks, and in the external garb of holiness, to be the apes of Epictetus.
“ The first of the two, which excludes the laity from all concern with the doctrinal part of religion, and directs the preacher to let the doctrine take its chance, and to turn the whole attention of his hearers to practice, must tacitly assume for its foundation (for it can stand upon no other foundation) this complex proposition : not only that the practice of religious duties is a far more excellent thing in the life of man, far more ornamental of the Christian profession, than any knowledge of the doctrine without the practice; but, moreover, that men may be brought to the practice of religion without previous instructions in its doctrines; or in other words, that faith and practice are, in their nature, separable things. Now the former branch of this double assumption, that virtue is a more excellent thing in human life than knowledge, is un. questionably true, and a truth of great importance, which cannot be too frequently or too earnestly inculcated. But the second branch of the assumption, that faith and practice are separable things, is a gross mistake, or rather a manifest contradiction. Practical holiness is the end ; faith is the means : and to suppose faith and practice separable, is to suppose the end attainable without the use of means. The direct contrary is the truth. The practice of religion will always thrive, in proportion as its doctrines are generally understood and firmly received; and the practice will degenerate and decay, in proportion as the doctrine is misunderstood or neglected. It is true, therefore, that it is the great duty of a preacher of the gospel to press the practice of its precepts upon the consciences of men; but then it is equally true, that it is his duty to enforce this practice in a particular way; namely, by inculcating its doctrines. The motives which the revealed doctrines furnish, are the only motives he he has to do with, and the only motives by which religious duty can be effectually enforced.
“I am aware, that it has been very much the fashion, to suppose a great want of capacity in the common people, to be carried any great length in religious knowledge, more than in the abstruse sciences. That the world and all things in it had a Maker; that the Maker of the world made man, and gave him the life which he now enjoys; that he who first gave life, can at any time restore it; that he can punish, in a future life, crimes which he suffers to be committed with impunity in this; some of these first principles of religion the vulgar, it is supposed, may be brought to comprehend. But the peculiar doctrines of revelation, the trinity of persons in the undivided Godhead; the incarnation of the second person ; the expiation of sin
by the Redeemer's sufferings and death; the efficacy of his intercession; the mysterious commerce of the believer's soul with the divine Spirit; these things are supposed to be far above their reach. If this were really the case, the condition of man would indeed be miserable, and the proffer of mercy, in the gospel, little better than a mockery of their woe; for the consequence would be, that the common people could never be carried beyond the first principles of what is called natural religion. Of the efficacy of natural religion, as a rule of action, the world has had the long experience of sixteen hundred years. For so much was the interval between the institution of the Mosaic church, and the publication of the gospel. During that interval, certainly, if not from an earlier period, natural religion was left to try its powers on the heathen world. The result of the experiment is, that its powers are of no avail. Among the vulgar, natural religion never produced any effect at all; among the learned much of it is to be found in their writings, little in their lives. But if this natural religion, a thing of no practical efficacy, as experiment has demonstrated, be the utmost of religion which the common people can receive, then is our preaching vain, Christ died in vain, and man must still perish. Blessed be God! the case is far otherwise. As we have, on the one side, experimental proof of the insignificance of what is called natural religion ; so, on the other, in the success of the first preachers of Christianity we have an experimental proof of the sufficiency of revealed religion to those very ends in which natural religion failed. In their success we have expe
rimental proof that there is nothing in the great mystery of godliness, which the vulgar, more than the learned, want capacity to apprehend, since, upon the first preaching of the gospel, the illiterate, the scorn of pharisaical pride, who knew not the law, and were therefore deemed accursed, were the first to understand and to embrace the Christian doctrine. * * * *
“ An over-abundant zeal to check the frenzy of the Methodists, first introduced that unscriptural language which confounds religion and morality. * * * * The great crime and folly of the Methodists consists not so much in heterodoxy, as in fanaticism : not in perverse doctrine, but rather in a disorderly zeal for the propagation of the truth. * * * * Reason, till she has been taught by the lively oracles of God, knows nothing of the spiritual life, and the food brought down from heaven for its sustenance.”
The bishop here intimates, that “our sermons are often divested of the genuine spirit and savour of Christianity.” If so, it is no wonder that our churches are forsaken and our religion despised. It is a fact, to which I have frequently been an eye-witness, that spacious churches in London, capable of containing thousands, are almost empty, notwithstanding the preachers everywhere inculcate excellent morality. Wherever indeed there appears, what the common people call, an evangelical preacher, the churches are so crowded, that it is difficult to gain admittance. The multitude hunger and thirst for the spiritual food; yet evangelical preaching is discouraged by many in high places, because it is said to sa
vour of enthusiasm and to delude the vulgar.' But it is this preaching alone which will preserve Christianity among us, and cause it to be considered as any thing better than a state-engine for the depression of the people.
The Church of England teaches the true Doctrine
In recommending to more general notice the doc- ' trine of grace, I make no pretensions to a new discovery. It is obviously the doctrine of the
'Erasmus was a consummate judge of preaching and preachers. Let us hear him.
Doctos puto quotquot crediderunt evangelio. Cur enim indocti debeant appellari, qui, (ut nihil aliud, e symbolo apostolorum didicerunt illam ultramundanam philosophiam, quam non Pythagoras aut Plato, sed ipse Dei Filius tradidit hominj. bus ; qui a Christo docti sunt, qua via ad quem felicitatis scopum tendere. Ubicunque est vera sanctitas, ibi est magna philosophia minimeque vulgaris eruditio. Sed tamen inter hos egregie doctos excellunt, quibus peculiari Spiritus munificentia datum est, ut ad justitiam erudiant multos; quibus Dominus dedit labia, non in quibus illa gentium telowc fexanima, sed in quibus ex unctione Spiritus diffusa est gratia cælestis. Erasm. Eccles.-“ Learned I deem all those who have believed the gospel. For why should they be called unlearned who (supposing they have learned nothing else) have learned from the Apostles' Creed that ultramundane philosophy, which neither a Pythagoras nor a Plato, but the Son of God himself, delivered to mankind; who have learned from Christ the end they should