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Hebrews, that it will shut men, in every age, whether Jew or Gentile, out of that rest that remaineth for the people of God. If men reply, that they would believe and cannot, we invite them to try the power of prayer; we read of one who cried, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." The same importunity will be attended with the same effects. Or is the case of the objector that of one whose speculative mind has led him to doubt and question, until evidence of only one kind seems to satisfy his reason; whose mind, in fact, is cramped, and not expanded-for this is no uncommon case-by intellectual exertions unwisely prosecuted, and of a character too exclusive? Let him learn to receive the kingdom of God as a little child. Let him remember the special province of the Spirit of God to illuminate the soul, and seek his help; 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. Or is it the case of the true Christian, who is tempted to doubt either the truth of any part of Scripture, or his own share in the promises of God? This is not properly unbelief. The treatment of it belongs to another subject, the dangers and trials of the Christian warfare. Still the remedy is in effect the same: to wait humbly at the foot of the cross, to pray much for a humble spirit, to repress an idly curious state of mind, and to ask, in short, for an increase of faith and a deepening work of the Spirit of God upon the soul.
1. Working for God, and other Sermons. By the Rev. Francis Morse, M.A., of St. John's College, Cambridge, Incumbent of St. John's, Ladywood, Birmingham. Macmillan and Co. 1859. 2. Four Sermons preached in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge. By the Rev. W. G. Clark, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, and Public Orator in the University of Cambridge. Macmillan and Co. 1860.
3. Three Plain Sermons, preached in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, in the course of the Year 1859. By the Rev. E. W. Blore, Fellow and Assistant Tutor. Deighton and Co. 1860. THE importance of adapting sermons to the particular circumstances and wants of those who are to hear them, is now recognised on all hands. In our public schools this principle has been more and more acted upon, since the time when Dr. Arnold set the example at Rugby. The published volumes of school sermons are now many in number, and constitute a respectable class by them
selves. They naturally vary much in their tone and character, in accordance with the minds of their authors; and are more or less defective or excellent in their aim, and in their method of attaining it. But it may be said of all of them, that their general intention has been admirable, namely, to give the school-boy religious instruction and counsel of the kind most suitable to his situation and period of life, and to do it in the way which appears most likely to secure his attention and sympathy. They are distinguished by their special treatment of boy-life, in its various phases. They are not theological disquisitions, or arguments on obscure and debateable subjects; but they take up the tone, habits, temptations, duties, principles, and wants of those to whom they are addressed-how the school-boy should behave towards his fellows, his masters, his work, his recreations, his home, and so forth,what should be his inner and what his outer life,-the most profitable way of reading the Holy Scriptures, and the explanation and application of their truths,-the relation in which each boy present stands towards the church of Christ, and the obligations consequent thereupon,-these, and the like, are avowedly the matters to which the preachers of such sermons apply themselves. It may be fairly questioned whether in some of these sermons sufficiently high ground be taken; whether the appeal be made distinctly enough to the most exalted Christian motives; and the readers of our recent Numbers may easily understand how much we tremble at the prospect of what may be preached from a school-chapel pulpit. But we regard the design of the schoolsermon system as wise and commendable, and such as only needs to be conducted by the faithful and the true-hearted, in order to its producing the best results; and we pray that grace may be given to all who preach in such places, to enable them to use their opportunity with a single eye to the advancement of God's truth and glory, and that their efforts may be crowned with success.
But follow the youth from the public school to the university. Or follow those youths who have been educated in a private school, or by a tutor, or under their father's roof. These all may be assumed to have attended their several parish churches, hearing in them, indeed, sermons not specially appropriate to themselves, but suitable to them in common with the rest of the congregation,— directed, we may hope, to the purpose of promoting the conversion of sinners, and the edification of Christ's true people, by aid derived from the fertile mine of God's holy word.
Follow these youths of 17, 18, or 19 years of age, from their several places of education, to the last scene of it, the university. They are placed in a situation of peculiar trial, surrounded by temptations and dangers, and with little external aid or guidance. They enjoy a liberty of action hitherto unknown to them, including a liberty to be idle, such as even the lowest order of schools would never have allowed them. They have at command the means
of self-indulgence; and, if they so choose, it is in their power to waste utterly these critical years of their lives. Under such circumstances, how important the university pulpit! These young men have duties to fulfil, which they are often too ready to forget, and of which it is most desirable that they should be reminded. They have a conscience, which may at times be specially susceptible, and of which it may, in many instances, be the case that it is now or never that it will be awakened. They stand in need of the cleansing virtue of a Saviour's atoning blood, and of the work of the Converter's and Sanctifier's grace in the heart; and there will be moments, in the course of their university career, when these blessed truths would exactly meet their necessities, and be most welcome to their minds. Surely we need not stop to show by examples that many a man's true care for his soul was first felt in the university, while he was yet an undergraduate.
But we must further remark, that these hundreds of young men, gathered into the university from all parts of the united kingdom, have not all enjoyed the religious advantages which those who honour God would most desire for them. Therefore they need the more to be wisely, piously, and prudently treated, in the new scene of their education. The ministry in their place of residence may not have proved useful to them. Far more important even than the ministry has been the home out of which they came forth to enter upon that new stage in the journey of life. Home influences may have been wholly on the side of the world. The love of Christ may have had no place assigned to it in the instruction they have received, or the examples they have witnessed. Dry, formal, heartless teaching in religion, a mere matter of learning by rote, may be all that they have had; and so, they may have entered the university with notions vague, cloudy, or false, concerning the very first and simplest principles of Christ's religion.
Now what does the young freshman find to meet his case in the university? It is melancholy to know, that to a great extent, at this critical period of his life, the pulpit is too likely to prove his enemy and misleader rather than his guide and his friend. Ere many months have passed over his head, a whole cage of unclean and hateful birds will have been opened under his eyes,-a very Pandora's box will have poured out its contents before him. Every existing error, with all its adjuncts and consequences, is discussed in his presence in sermons. Now truth is explained away; now it is respectfully but deliberately rejected; now it is feebly maintained. Infidel arguments are stated in their full force, only to work the more effectually by reason of the weakness of the attempts made to refute them. It is assumed that he feels certain difficulties which need to be lightened or removed from his mind, but the freshman at least feels no such burthen; it is to be forced upon his shoulders in this last scene of his education. Vol. 59,-No. 273.
Here his mind is rapidly familiarized with objections to Christianity, poured in upon him from all sides; and in these he probably finds a plea for leaving every doctrine in abeyance, perhaps for leaving the truth of Christianity itself in abeyance, until further light shall shine in upon him,-light, however, which he does not set himself to seek in good earnest. His morals are necessarily affected by all this unsettling of principle. The temptation to the ordinary non-reading undergraduate is not scepticism, but vice; the few only really feel speculative difficulties. But the tendency to vice is confirmed by the atmosphere of scepticism which permeates around him. All manner of opinions, from all manner of schools, are there promulgated and discussed. The champion of error and the champion of truth have their say, in no consistent order or proportion, but with all possible freedom. To-day the preacher may be one who is on the borders of the papal territory, and who may excite some surprise by his not having yet taken the only remaining step. Next Sunday you shall hear a very different preacher, one who has been drinking freely at the well of Strauss, though he still wears a Master's gown and hood, and stands up in a church of England pulpit. Both are earnest men, anxious to propagate the principles which they hold. If a word of caution, or dissent, be breathed by a thoughtful friend, how ready the unsatisfactory answers, which yet satisfy him who makes them: The preacher is a man of talent, and intellectual power is now idolized;-he is courageous, and it does not matter that he is courageous against the truth. He is "an earnest man," and that is honourable, independently of faith and gospel purity. Besides all this, there is, in the mind of a generous young man, a chivalrous. love of fair-play, which often leads imperceptibly to actual unfairness, in favour of what may either be regarded as the weaker side, or the side of progress and innovation. A third Sunday comes; it is now the turn of one whose endeavour it will be to defend the faith which is his life and joy. But the witness for Christ may be unknown in the university, or his treatment of his subject may be foreseen; if he be a resident member, the preacher's name has been, as usual, published in every college, and the consequence is, that the vindication of scriptural truth is delivered in an empty church.
We are writing, be it remembered, of what happens to many who, at the time when they begin their residence in college, are but ill-instructed in divine truth; and to whom such questions as are discussed, Sunday after Sunday, in the university pulpit, are absolutely strange, satisfying no existing want, and tending to create a void which may never be filled up through the whole life's course. Now and then they may have an opportunity of hearing a practical sermon, or a sermon conducive to faith and godliness; but it is always a question whether they will avail themselves of it; and there is no certain provision for their
enjoying that benefit; while, for the most part, what they hear is neither practical nor experimental; not constructive, but destructive; it unsettles everything, and establishes nothing.
We confess to having the Oxford pulpit at present in view more than that of Cambridge. But the system or plan in the two universities with regard to the sermons is, in all essential points, alike, and in both it needs revision. The Cambridge scheme is more objectionable than that of Oxford, as requiring a greater number of disquisitions on speculative subjects; but it is superior, as giving a more definite opportunity of usefulness to the select preacher. If the Cambridge sermons be less controversial, less unsettling, and less unsound than those of the Oxford pulpit, that is due to the preachers themselves, not to the system; and it does not follow that they are as profitable as they might be made, or that they are ordered with the care and forethought which the occasion demands.
But reverting to the kind of sermons of which we have already given a general idea, and considering the discussions which they provoke in private on all subjects connected with religion, (even with its very foundations,) a young man, who gives any serious consideration to religion, has a perilous ordeal before him on his arrival in the university. The ordeal is doubly perilous unless his principles be already well-established. Do you wish your son to spend three of the most important years of his life,-three years at the age in which his character is being formed for the whole of his life,-do you wish him to spend those three years in a place where everything is likely to be turned over and overeverything questioned and unsettled and where the proffered antidote to error may be poor and insufficient, or perhaps only error of another kind, and as injurious as the disease which it professes to remedy? Are you willing that at two or three and twenty, if not in earnest about his soul's salvation, his feeling should be that the truth cannot be made out, and that he must wait awhile to see his way, yet without making any faithful efforts to find it? or that, if thoughtful, his mind should be perplexed by difficulties and objections, which he is loth to entertain, yet cannot wholly shake off from his mind? Then send him to Oxford. During the time of his residence there everything precious will have been pulled to pieces bit by bit; every great truth will have been boldly and cleverly assailed, or covertly and ingeniously undermined. Every conceivable objection to every precious doctrine of the Christian faith will have been suggested to his mind, in elegant language, and with arguments of no light weight, and which may seem to him to be conclusive. As for any counteraction of this leaven of scepticism, there are doubtless able men and true, who may sometimes be heard,—but for the most part *The Hulsean lecturer is required to preach, for instance, a course of sermons on the Evidences of Christianity.