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are characterized by simplicity and good taste. Nothing can be more natural and easy than their style. It is at once modest and unambitious, neat and perspicuous, rational and manly; and, for the most part, critically correct. In short, if style aud manner formed the intrinsic merit of sermons, we should be disposed to rate those of Dr. Rees very highly. The preacher is never declamatory, seldom authoritative: - indeed, we doubt whether it is the custom of ministers of this class sufficiently to magnify their office. He addresses himself to the understanding of his hearers, whom he every where assumes to be of a reflecting class; and seems uniformly bent on securing their sober judgment on his side, before he proceeds to make his appeal ei ther to their conscience or their heart. His own premises sometimes entitle him to come to a stronger conclusion than that to which he advances, and to press a practical inference farther than he thinks fit to urge it. The common error, both of preachers and orators, is of a contrary kind. The principal fault in the style of these sermons, we think, is that of occasional tameness. It is, however, the tameness of a prudent, sensible man, who seems convinced himself of all that he asserts, and hoping to gain others by the modesty and reasonableness of his claims upon them: and though he does not attempt to soar with any adventurous wing, or
The misfortune is, that when the grateful sound is beginning to vibrate in our ears, it is checked by the too sudden intrusion of other notes the thread of the general argument must be resumed: the other branch of the subject must be discussed: the preacher seems himself not to be aware of the religious feeling which he has awakened: and we are compelled, on a review of the whole matter, to pronounce, that (if the epithet evangelical can with propriety be applied to him at all) he is evangelical chiefly in his admissions, and in some of his brief ipcidental observations; evangelical in his quotation of some texts which lie across his way; evangelical in his more loose and general phraseology: evangelical perhaps in consequence of a partial adherence to the doctrines of those honoured predecessors in his pulpit whom he mentions in an address printed at the close of the present work; but far from evangelical in his own taste and spirit, or in the fundamental principle of his discourses.
But it is time to make some quotations in illustration of these several remarks.
We were favourably impressed by the observation in the "Adver tisement," that the Author of these Sermons, who bad been encouraged in those departments of literature and science to which many years of his life had been devoted," had nevertheless" always consider ed his primary and most important duties" to be those of his profession.
The first Sermon, on "The Accomplishment of Prophecy in the Introduction and Progress of Christianity," is a very proper commencement of these volumes. From the text "A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time" - he introduces an excellent argument in favour of the truth of Christianity, deduced from its remarkable success in spite of the most unpro mising means, and from the pro
phet's intimation, seven or eight hundred years before, that this disproportion between the means and end should subsist.
A little one,' says the prophet, shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. Whilst he is professedly describing a very extraordinary revolution that was to take place in the state of the world at a future period, he speaks, in the most degrading and discouraging terms, of the number and abilities, of the rank and influence, of the persens by whom it was to be effected. He seems, therefore, to be uniting contradictions; signal success with the most feeble instruments; the most important end with the most ineffectual means; the conversion of the world with talents and powers unequal to its accomplishment. Nothing could be more improbable than that a cause which corneed so unfavourably should terminate so gloriously; and unless that Being,
by the counsels of whose wisdom, and the operations of whose power, the event was secured, had communicated the discovery, it never could have been suggested by the natural sagacity of the prophet. He never world have thought of connecting so astonishing a change in the religious sentiments and practice of mankind, as that which Christianity produced, with means that appeared to human view so inadequate to the effect. But the fact verified the prediction; and, therefore, the prediction itself proceed ed from the supernatural inspiration of God. The Almighty Sovereign of nature, who had planned the scheme, and who conducted it to its completion, revealed it to the prophet, and by him to the existing generation, many ages before the period of its accomplishment; and notwithstanding every seeming -improbability of the event, it was the object of hope through successive generations and in various nations of the earth, till the prophecy was actually fulfilled." pp. 4, 5.
To Rome rather than to Judea; to the
Conquerors of the world rather than to the oppressed and tributary inhabitants of a vanquished and despised province; to those who, like the Romans and the Athenians, were indulging and encouraging a spirit of inquiry and improvement, rather than to the Jews, who were averse from every innovation in their religious creed and forms of worship; it was most natural to look for
persens capable of contriving and executing
instructing and reforming the world originate, which by degrees extended its infinence to neighbouring nations, and gained converts and votaries amongst those who had been accustomed to treat the inhabitants of the territory from which it sprung with contempt and insult. In Bethlehem, and not in Jerusalem, the capital of Judea, was that divine Teacher and Saviour born; and in did He spend the earlier period of his life, Nazareth, proverbially mean and despicable, who was destined, by the wisdom of Providence, to establish a kingdom of truth and righteousness, which was to become universal and perpetual." pp. 6, 7.
any great design in favour of knowledge and religion. Nevertheless, in Judea, a country of very small extent, subjugated by the victorious arms of Rome, and degraded by its dependent, tributary state, did that plan of
We think that the author erects into a far too distinct and respectable class, those believers who, in the earliest ages, "had not resolution to make an open profession" of the Gospel of Christ, "though they were secretly devoted to him and to his cause." “This class,” he says, "comprehends Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Gamaliel, and several more, who were probably believers, but dreaded the consequence of testifying their faith by enlisting visibly under his banner." Some real believers undoubtedly there might be, who, in the commencement of their career, and especially before the ascension of Christ and the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pen tecost, were in bondage to the fear of man; but the general character of the true disciples was very diffe-rent; and the common doctrine of Scripture was, If thou wilt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved:" "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when he shall come in the glory of his Father and his holy angels."
We heartily wish that the following excellent conclusion of this first of Dr. Rees's "Practical Sermons" may lead to the practical end of encouraging missions among the headissemination of the Scriptures.then, as well as the more general
umph, notwithstanding the indifference of some and the active opposition of others. It should be our ambition to contribute to its subsistence and triumph, and to be fellow workers with God in maintaining and promoting it. Our consolation and hope are nearly connected with the truth and duration of our holy religion: and if we transmit to future generations what is the inestimable source of our own encouragement and joy amidst the weaknesses of nature and the vicissitudes of the world, we shall convey to them the richest inheritance which we can give or they receive.
"We see at present but a part of the triumph to which Christianity shall attain. Its progress towards perfection, though more slow and gradual than it once was, is no less certain. It is vain to expect any distinguished amelioration and improvement in the state of the world, till its principles are better understood, its genuine spirit more generally imbibed, and the practice inculcated by it more ostensibly prevalent. We have no reason to dread the ultimate issue, however we may be discouraged by present appearances. The language of prophecy and the evidence of past facts concur in assuring us, that our holy religion is the care of heaven; that an almighty Providence is its guardian in every changing scene; and that it will finally prevail and triumph. No weapon that is formed against it; no combination of efforts for undermining and abolishing it, can prosper. Its adversaries would do well to consider, that it is equally fruitless and culpable and ignominious to be found contending against God. His counsel shall stand. His purpose shall be accomplished. To resist and to counteract his declared will are as unavailable as they are criminal and disgraceful. But whatever inay be the number or the rank of those who believe and profess Christianity in any present
period or state of the world; of this we are assured, that those who will finally share its benefits will form a 'great multitude of all nations and kindred and people and tongues.' In this countless multitude of glorified and happy beings may we be distinguished and honoured! May we share and celebrate the triumphs of our divine Saviour, when he shall come arrayed in glorious majesty to
be admired of all who believe,' and to complete the purposes of his mission and undertaking by rendering their felicity perfect and eternal! Amen." pp. 21-23.
The second Sermon, entitled "The Observance of the Sabbath a perpetual Memorial of the Truth of
Christianity," is good as far as it goes; but is defective, inasmuch as it forbears to intimate, in the slightest degree, in what manner that portion of the day should be spent which is not occupied in public worship. is, doubtless, important to shew, that "we ought not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is:" but is it not of almost equal moment to discourage that complete secularisation of the remaining part of this holy day, to which some very regular church-goers are prone? We do not wish to recommend either a Jewish or a Puritanical Sabbath. We conceive that Protestantism, and especially the Protestantism of the Church of England, lies in this, as well as many other respects, between the two extremes of the Papists, and of the rigid followers of John Knox. The present danger, however, is on the side of laxity. "O Italy! thy Sabbaths will be soon Our Sabbaths!"
But the subject, it may be said, did not necessarily belong to the present text. We should have been satisfied with this answer, if we had found the deficiency supplied in any other part of thèse volumes. To say the truth, we suspect that the disciples of Dr. Rees, no less than many of the adherents to our own church, stand in much need of admonition upon the point in question; as well, indeed, as on the important matter of family devotion, once so characteristic of the dissenters, and now so commonly neglected. We have not remarked any passage in these discourses which adverts specifically to this topic.
In the third Sermon, on "The Object and Nature of Christian Worship," the author, as we might naturally expect, exposes some of his own peculiar principles. The istence, himself underived, must be First Cause," he says, " of all exone Being. Variety and multiplicity of co-equal and co-existent beings, each of them infinite and eternal, are altogether incomprehensible
and incredible." We need not
cise the affections of the heart."
he will cultivate that benevolence of dispo-
sonate to all about him.
Moreover, those sentiments of the understanding and those affections of the heart, which we have now suggested, will produce corresponding effects on the outward conduct. He that worships God in spirit, though he does not neglect the outward forms and expressions of devotion, does not content himself with these; his mind ascends to God, when he has no opportunity for bending the knee or clothing his thoughts i words. He mingles pious meditations and
cial intercourse as well as in private retirement; in the public scene, as well as in the sequestered and solitary retreat, he com munes with God, supplicates his favour, and commits himself to his care and blessing. der the restraint and influence of religious Nay, the course of his habitual conduct, unprinciples, is devoted to God. It is directed and regulated by the fear of offending him. It is guided and animated by the hope of his favour. Submission to his authority, obedience to his laws, imitation of his moral excellencies, resignation to his will, and a solicitude to promote his honour by the increasing influence of piety and virtue, are expressions of the homage which the spiritual worshipper renders unto God; and they are is accompanied with the outward forms, and no less acceptable than that worship, which which dictates itself in the explicit language, of devotion. Every act of piety, every exercise of virtue, every effort of benevolence, originating in just views of God, and animated by suitable affections, are, in reality, the fruits and evidences of those sentiments and dispositions, which constitute the essence, secure the benefits, and produce the effects of that spiritual worship which our Saviour recommends. By such fruits and evidences
will be known and distinguished amongst the of genuine devotion the spiritual worshipper multitude of those, who content themselves with the form of godliness without its power." p. 53–55.
The two next sermons are on the the former of them the subject is "Resurrection of Christ ;" and in them is on the "practical Influvery ably treated. The latter of ence" of the doctrine; and the text is, world seeth me "Yet a little while, and the no more; but ye see me because I live, ye shall live also." The preacher infers, first, that our Lord's resurrection af fords unquestionable evidence that his authority is divine and his doctrine true: and assuming that we regulate our temper and practice ac cordingly, he observes, that, "be We were pleased to find, that under cause he lives, we shall live also." his second head he remarks, though much more briefly than we could have wished, that
Our Lord's restoration to life assures his
faithful followers of all needful assistance
devat ejaculations with the occupations and support, in every duty and in every
and even with the pleasures of life. In soCHRIST. OBSERY. No. 97.
trial and in this important sense it is true,
that because he lives they shall live also that is," says he," they shall be directed
and enabled to cultivate those virtues and graces, in the exercise of which the true dignity and happiness of life consist.".
"To such a life," he adds, "though it be the proper life of man, most reasonable and honourable, most useful and happy, animal nature and the ordinary course of the world will raise a formidable opposition; an opposition, which none, in the most advanced stage of this life, can, altogether escape, and which none, in any stage of it, can easily overcome..
Thus exposed, however exemplary our own vigilance, resolution, and zeal, we shall need the protection and succour of a power, mightier than our own, It will be no inconsiderable encouragement to our own forti tude and activity to reflect, that the sove reign of nature is our friend and helper ; and
we shall engage in the warfare with vigour and success, while God preserves and aids us." "From the resurrection of Christ we de rive the most animating hopes of divine patronage and assistance. He has thus assured us of the truth of those promises on which our expectations are founded; and he has thus evinced his power of imparting the succour which we need and seek. As the whole history of his life and labours, uniformly devoted to our welfare, forbids our entertaining
a suspicion of his inclination, his resurrection and consequent dominion banish every doubt of his ability, to defend and support us in seasons of the greatest trial and danger. Our virtue and happiness are entrusted to his care; the preservation and advancement of them form part of the joy that was set before him, and of the recompence conferred upon Him for bis services and sufferings on our behalf; and we may hence infer that he will never leave us unprotected and unsuppórted. As it was the great end of his un
dertaking to conduct us by a course of holy obedience to immortality and glory, we may rely on his faithfulness and goodness: he will not withhold those supplies of wisdom and strength which our proneness to err and the power of temptation may require." p. 105-107.
While we were gratified by perceiving in this place so distinct an acknowledgement of the doctrine of divine succour," as Dr. Rees also elsewhere terms it, we thought that the occasion called for a much more specific s'atement of the nature of our Saviour's office in this respect. When he left the world, he assured his sorrowing disciples that the loss of his bodily pre
sence should be more than compen” sated by his sending to them that "Comforter, whom the world could not receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him;" and who should "lead them into all truth." Doubtless it was in this sense that be said to his followers, "Behold, I am with you always even to the end of the world." Doubtless, also, in the same sense it had before been declared by the prophet, " that when he ascended up on high, and led captivity captive, he received gifts for men, yea, even for the rebellious also; that the Lord God might dwell among them." "He is exalted," said the Apostle, "to give repentance unto Israel "—that is, to all his believing people-" and remission of sins. The out-pouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, is affirmed in the New Testament to have been in ful filment of the ancient promises; and the new dispensation is emphatically called "the dispensation of the Spirit," because under it the supply of the Spirit of Christ would be abundantly given. "For the promise" that is, the promise of the Holy Spirit" is unto you, and to your children, and unto all that are afar off, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call." "Except," says our Saviour to the inquiring Jew, "a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" he cannot be a member of my spiritual kingdom. Passages like these, when brought together, appear to us to give a shape and consistency to the doctrine in question, and to exalt it into far higher rank among the truths of our religion than it is allowed by even the least heterodox of the unitarians to possess.
It is observed, thirdly, that our Lord's victory over death affords a pledge of the ultimate triumph of virtue and piety; and, fourthly, that by his restoration to life the fears inseparable from a frail, imperfect virtue and piety, are removed, and sincerity is encouraged to expect acceptance.