Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

a

[ocr errors]

of man, and aims in a chastened and reverential spirit to unfold the mysteries of his higher life. Let it be a philosophy which comprehends the soul, - a soul susceptible of religion, of the sublime principle of faith, of a faith which "entereth into that within the veil.” Let it be a philosophy which continually reminds us of our intimate relationship to the spiritual world, which opens to us new sources of strength in temptation, new sources of consolation in trouble, and new sources of life in death, teaches us that what we call death is but the dying of all that is mortal, that nothing but life may remain. Let it be a philosophy which prepares us to expect extraordinary manifestations of our heavenly Father's love and care, and which harmonizes perfectly with the sublime moral purpose and meaning of the Gospel, “ casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.'

nay, which

ART. II. - Christian Morality. Sermons on the Principles

of Morality inculcated in the Holy Scriptures, in their Application to the present Condition of Society. By W. J. Fox. From the London Edition. Boston. Leonard C. Bowles. 1833. 12mo.

pp. viii. and 291.

had 66

THESE Sermons may be called eloquent, without any misapplication or abuse of that often and much abused word. They who were privileged to hear them, and who

ears to hear,” must have been almost roused from their seats by many of those fine passages, which, in the reading merely, warm our hearts and fill our eyes. How different are these outpourings of the full mind and fervid and benevolent affections of the advocate and preacher of a faith which is stigmatized as cold, from the dull and icy productions which are issued in such unreasonable quantities from the pulpits which claim for themselves a monopoly of the vital heat of religion. Not that we deny to these latter many productions of true sacred eloquence ; but we must refuse the praise of godly warmth to orthodoxy by

a

itself considered, and affirm that a discourse may be exceedingly cold, though it be filled to overflowing with all the doctrines of Calvinism. The fact is, that many preachers, who are really deficient in warmth of spirit, are happy to thunder forth a series of doctrinal propositions, which pass for warmth with the mass of their hearers. The deception will not stand the test of time. Nothing is colder than an irrational dogma. With all its pretension, it soon ceases to affect the heart ; and even they who think that they ought to be affected by it, feel that they are not so. The only warmth which is not factitious, and cannot be quenched, is the glowing and generous illustration and enforcement of practical truth.

And no preacher with whose works we are acquainted, is more faithful in the exhibition of practical truth, or illustrates and enforces it more glowingly and generously than Mr. Fox. We presume that it would be impossible for him to produce a dull sermon, even if he should attempt it. He always calls on his heart to speak, or rather his heart always insists on speaking, and therefore other hearts must hear; and when the heart hears, the understanding is in a fair way to be enlightened, and the conduct to be improved.

Who is there in Great Britain that preaches like Mr. Fox? We know not one. If there be one, his sermons are yet to come to us. We have no desire to disparage the correctness, good sense, and piety of several of the divines of the establishment; but correctness, good sense, and piety, do not of themselves make an eloquent preacher. Irving has genius or once had it, but he never had judgment, his style was always extravagantly affected, adulation made him vain, vanity made him crazy, or nearly so; and who reads his sermons now ? - We cannot doubt the power, any more than the popularity of Chalmers, as a speaker; but an apparently incurable want of taste spoils the best of his sermons, and the best are not remarkable for those qualities which constitute permanent eloquence, that eloquence which resounds beyond the walls of a kirk, or the limits of a contemporary generation. But we will mention no more names. Our intention is not to deprive any one of a justly earned reputation, or to deny the very great usefulness of very many of the English sermonizers, but

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

men.

merely to express our sense of the superior merits of Mr. Fox ; - and we would not do this for the bare purpose of exalting a favorite, but only that we may contribute our small share in bringing the public acquainted with a collection of sermons, which they will find pleasure as well as profit in reading, -sermons, which, so far from being a jask and a heaviness, as many sermons are, only excite the mind of the reader and compel him to read on, and which are full of solid nourishment, too, for the intellectual, spiritual, and practical life.

Let us open this volume any where, - at the sermon, for instance, un “Human Brotherhood," founded on that part of Paul's address to the Athenians, in which he declares that God hath made of one blood all nations of

In an introduction, appropriately beautiful, the preacher carries us back to the scene and the time. With language as rich and glowing as ever poet used, he draws Athens in its classic but idolatrous glory, and Paul in his strong simplicity, preparing and not fearing to speak to its wise men and its fastidious multitude. The whole of this we should be pleased to quote, but we must force ourselves to be sparing. After describing the feelings which were probably in the bosom of the Apostle, as he thought of his own peculiar situation, the preacher thus proceeds :

Animated by such feelings, we may now regard Paul, in what must have been one of the most interesting moments of even his eventful life, preparing himself on the hill of Mars to address an auditory of Athenians on behalf of Christianity. He would feel the imposing associations of the spot on which he stood, where justice had been administered in its most awful form, by characters the most venerable, in the darkness of night, under the canopy of heaven, with the solemnities of religion, and with an authority, which legal institution and public opinion had assimilated rather with the decrees of conscience and of the gods, than with the ordinary power of human tribunals. He would look around on many an immortal trophy of architect and sculptor, where genius had triumphed, but triumphed only in the cause of that idolatry to which they were dedicated, and for which they existed. And beyond the city, clinging round its temples, like its inhabitants to their enshrined idols, would open on his view that lovely country, and the sublime ocean, and the serene heavens bending over them, and bearing that testimony to the universal Creator, VOL. XVII. N. S. VOL. XII. NO. J.

3

[ocr errors]

- p. 90.

which man and man's works withheld. And with all would Grecian glory be connected, the brightness of a day that was closing, and of a sun that had already set, where recollections of grandeur faded into sensations of melancholy. And he would gaze on a thronging auditory, the representatives to his fancy of all that had been, and of all that was, and think of the intellects with which he had to grapple, and of the hearts in whose very core he aimed to plant the barbed arrows of conviction.”

Then a few rapid sketches place the audience of the Apostle in full view before us. There stands the priest, and there the Stoic, and there the Epicurean, and there the sophist, each in his distinctive character; and “there the slave, timidly crouching at a distance, to catch what stray sounds the winds might waft to him, after they had reached his master's ears, of that doctrine, so strange and blessed, of man's fraternity.” The contemplation of this doctrine increases the glow of the preacher, and he pours out his soul, as if he were incapable of stopping, in one long tide of enthusiastic sentences, which follow and fall over each other like waves.

“How magnificently does it level distinctions, whether of color, rank, nation, or religion! It rebukes the boastings of pride, the bitterness of hostility, the sternness of bigotry, the coldness of selfishness. It declares to each, that the object of disregard, hatred, or contempt, is a man, and man a brother. It knows nothing, it will hear nothing of the thousand pretensions set up for the gratification of vanity, and the indulgence of malignity. What prejudices have been already beaten down by it, and how many prejudices yet exist to which it is opposed, and which it shall yet beat down! That there are in the world different classes of men, heaven-born and earth-born; the blood of some a celestial ichor, to which that circulating in the veins of others is but as base puddle; that there are different races, with such disparity that it is for some to be luxurious lords of creation, and others their saleable, fettered, tasked, beaten, and branded beasts of burden ; that a man's clan or country has exclusive title to his affections, exertions, duties, concentrating every thing within that narrow circle except a pitiless hostility to all of humankind beyond its narrow boundary ; that there are natural antipathies, – hereditary national antipathies, which should make mighty and enlightened countries each other's foes from generation to generation,

6

and from age to age, desolating one another and all the world around them, each dreaming that the evil of its neighbour was its own good ; as if the poverty of millions in one country could make a neighbouring country rich ; as if the slavery of one country could make another country free; as if the misery of millions in one country could raise another to the summit of felicity: and that there are in the sight of God, man's Maker and Father, eternal differences and distinctions; some walking the earth in the pride and glory of his inalienable blessing, others born, living, dying under the influence of his wrath and curse; - differences sometimes evaporating in spiritual pride or busy zeal; at others, shaping themselves into the more noxious forms of alienation, persecution, denial of the courtesies of life, and infliction of the bitterest injuries. These were, and these are, under the various modifications produced by ancient and present modes of thinking, evils which the Gospel was given to mitigate and to annihilate ; with which its spirit maintains everlasting warfare ; against which it appeals to our piety, our benevolence, our justice, our consciousness ; confronting which, in their strength, it rears its banner with the inscription which, in the day of their destruction, it will place upon their tomb, that God hath made of one blood all nations of men.'»

The preacher next considers the doctrine of his text as involving four distinct assertions ; first, man's common origin ; second, his common nature; third, his common subjection to divine government ; and fourth, his common destiny. Hear a part of what he says under the second of these heads.

“ 2nd. Man's common nature. One blood is one essential mode of existence, one physical and moral constitution. Man is one, for men are of like 'parts and passions. The principles of thought and feeling obtain alike with the operations of the brain and the pulsations of the heart. Hence it is that we can reason universally on man ; and know that oppression will degrade, injuries exasperate, kindness conciliate, and unchecked power corrupt.

· His blood is like ours ! shouted a Marseillois peasant, as that of Louis XVI. spouted from his headless trunk upon the guillotine. It was, - and therefore it should not have been shed. It was, and therefore the expression should have been one, not of vengeance, but of mercy. It was, and therefore that should have been, not an exulting shoat, but a whispered caution, -- an admoni,

, tion of the peril of weak humanity in power.

Well were it

- pp. 93-95.

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »