« AnteriorContinuar »
his searching glance. He strips vice and folly of their frippery, scatters the delusions of pride and passion, and lays down the rules of Christian faith and practice with a precision, which satisfies the intellect, while it leaves the transgressor without an excuse. "Not diffuse, not learned," says Mr Hallam, "not formal in argument like Barrow, with a more natural structure of sentences, a more pointed, though by no means a more fair and satisfactory turn of reasoning, with a style clear and English, and free from all pedantry, but abounding with those colloquial novelties of idiom, which, though now vulgar and offensive, the age of Charles II. affected, sparing no personal or temporary sarcasm, but, if he seems for a moment to tread on the verge of buffoonery, recovering himself by some stroke of vigorous sense and language; such was the worthy Dr South, whom the courtiers delighted to hear. His sermons want all that is called unction; but there is a masculine spirit about them, which, combined with their peculiar characteristics, would naturally fill the churches where he might be heard." It is this masculine spirit which gives to the pages of South an interest which never flags, and we never turn from them without feeling, that some weakness has been overthrown, some principle placed in a clearer light, and a healthy tone of thought communicated to the mind. His place among divines may not be with the highest, but it is not far beneath them. As a clear and original thinker, and as a master of a manly and forcible style, he is surpassed by none.
"As a judge of men and manners," says the writer in the Retrospective Review, "and a careful observer of human life, South deserves the highest praise. He seldom attempts the subtleties of metaphysical disquisition, in which he did not excel; his business was with the broad realities of life. To shew that the low and contemptible things of the earth often govern the great and exalted, to teach man reasonable diffidence and modesty, to discourage unbounded hopes and expectations, to cherish noble and honourable aspirations, and to make his fellow-creatures wiser and better; to do this was the useful and honourable object of this excellent teacher. He thought, no doubt, he had said a witty thing, who called South's discourses not Sunday, but week-day sermons ;' his meaning was, we presume, if he had any, that they were written too much for worldly every-day affairs; a charge, which a very numerous class of sermon-makers have no cause to fear, who write for no day at all. South's sermons are adapted to all readers and all days; they contain innumerable thoughts and reflections which are true and striking, though not always the most obvious to a common thinker; and this is an unequivocal mark of a good writer. From him we might form a collection of useful maxims, in which sentiments the most profound and just are delivered in language the most expressive and
"His faults, like his virtues, were many and great. His intolerant and persecuting spirit we have before had occasion to notice: words were the only weapons his profession allowed him to use, but he wielded them with a terrible vigour and effect. Doubtless he would have fought with the same spirit that he wrote; for during Monmouth's rebellion, he declared he was ready, if there should be occasion, to change his black gown for a buffcoat. To his detested enemies, the Papists and Puritans, he could shew no mercy, and allow no virtue. Milton, with him, is the blind adder, who spit venom on the king's person; Cromwell is Baal,' a 'bankrupt beggary fellow, who entered the parliamentmouse with a thread-bare, torn cloak, and greasy hat, and perhaps neither of them paid for;' and Sir Henry Vane, that worthy knight, who was executed on Tower Hill.' His crying sin was the contrivance of the covenant; and for this South could triumph over his unjust condemnation.
*Lit. of Europe, iv. 177.
"Satire, ridicule, and invective, he poured forth in a copious and continuous stream; but he was often carried away by the violence of the torrent, which he could neither direct nor restrain. He would always step aside to have a blow at the schismatics, to slyly insi nuate some article of his political creed, something about prerogative, or occasionally relieve himself by a discharge from his inexhaustible fund of wit and humour. This humour often bordered on grossness and indelicacy, and his wit certainly betrayed him into expressions certainly improper, if not profane. What he could not confute by argument, he would overcome by ridicule. He well knew the value of Horace's maxim
"It may perhaps be objected to some of his sermons that they contain too many divisions and subdivisions, and that order leads to confusion: but all the heads of his discourse are fully examined and discussed; and the infinite variety and fulness of the man's understanding and imagination led him often to crowd into one short sermon what a modern book-maker would diffuse over a folio.
"His sermons, to be properly appreciated, ought to be carefully studied; and we may venture to say that the labour will not be unprofitable: they bear the unequivocal stamp, which a peculiar turn of mind and a great genius cannot fail to impress. The copious and energetic language of South might serve to invigorate the well-turned and rounded sentences of many a modern scribbler, which fall softly on the ear, but have not strength to penetrate farther. The man of business and active life, who has occasion to state to others what he knows himself, might be supplied from this storehouse with all the necessary stock of words and all the clearness of expression; and, if inclination prompted, or circumstances required, he might from the same magazine arm himself with the weapons of ridicule, sarcasm, invective, and abuse. It is no pedantry to say that we observe considerable resemblance between the style of South and the manner of a great Athenian orator; and it is not surprising that there should be a similarity between two men of ardent temperament, who on all subjects thought clearly and expressed themselves forcibly; both were men of strong common sense, who were deeply interested in the business in which they were engaged; both waged a long and continued warfare with enemies whom they hated, and both had, to support them, the command of a mighty and powerful language."
CHIEF HEADS OF THE SERMONS.
SERMON I.- Page 1.
THE WAYS OF WISDOM ARE WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS.
"Her ways are ways of pleasantness."-PROV. iii. 17.
SOME objections against this truth removed, and the duty of repentance represented under a mixture of sweetness. The excellencies of the pleasure of wisdom enumerated :
I. As it is the pleasure of the mind in reference, 1. To speculation, on the account of the greatness and newness of the objects; 2. To practice.
II. As it never satiates and wearies. The comparison of other pleasures with it; such as that of an epicure, that of ambition, that of friendship and
III. As it is in nobody's power, but only in his that has it, which property and perpetuity is not to be found in worldly enjoyments.
SERMON II.- Page 9.
A consequence drawn against the absurd austerities of the Romish profession. A short description of the religious pleasure.
The several false opinions of the heathen philosophers concerning the original of the world. The image of God in man considered :—
I. Wherein it does not consist, adequately and formally; not in power and dominion, as the Socinians erroneously assert.
II. Wherein it does consist: 1. In the universal rectitude of all the faculties of the soul, namely, of his understanding, both speculative and practical. Of his will, concerning the freedom of it. Of his passions, love, hatred, anger, joy, sorrow, hope, fear. 2. In those characters of majesty that God imprinted upon his body.
The consideration of the irreparable loss sustained in the fall of our first parents, and of the excellency of Christian religion, designed by God to repair the breaches of our humanity.
SERMON III. - Page 16.
INTEREST DEPOSED, AND TRUTH RESTORED. "But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." — MATTHEW, x. 33.
The occasion of those words inquired into, and their explication, by being compared with other parallel scriptures, and some observations deduced from them. The explication of them by shewing,
I. How many ways Christ and his truths may be denied: 1. By a heretical judgment; 2. By oral expressions; 3. By our actions. What denial is intended by these words.
II. The causes inducing men to deny Christ in his truths: 1. The seeming absurdity of many truths; 2. Their unprofitableness; 3. Their apparent danger.
III. How far a man may consult his safety in time of persecution, without denying Christ; 1. By withdrawing his person; 2. By concealing his judgment. When those ways of securing ourselves are not lawful.
IV. What is meant by Christ's denial of us, with reference, 1. To the action itself; 2. To its circum
V. How many uses may be drawn from the words: 1. An exhortation chiefly to persons in authority, to defend Christ in his truth, and in his members; 2. An information, to shew us the danger as well as baseness of denying Christ.
SERMON IV.- Page 25.
RELIGION THE BEST REASON OF STATE.
"After this thing king Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.” 1 KINGS, Xiii. 33, 34.
Jeroboam's history and practice. Some observations from it. An explication of the words high places, and consecration. The sense of the words drawn into two propositions :
An account of the Jewish aud Christian economy.
I. What Christ's doctrine is, with relation to
II. That men's unbelief of that doctrine was
All comparisons import, in the superior part of
I. That God bears a different respect to conse-
II. That God prefers the worship paid to him in
From all which we are taught to have these three
God's providence has its influence upon all things,
I. In reference to men, out of the reach of their
II. In reference to God, comprehended by a cer-
Therefore we ought to rely on divine Providence ;
SERMON IX. — P. 68.
THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD.
"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with
Worldly wisdom, in Scripture, is taken sometimes
sense of honour. Which rules and principles are,
II. Foolish and absurd in reference to God,
Therefore we ought to be sincere, and commit our
SERMON X.-P. 76.
GOOD INTENTIONS NO EXCUSE FOR BAD ACTIONS.
Men are apt to abuse the world and themselves in
Thence we may understand how far it holds good,
science, than to know how far God accepts the will,
SERMON XI.-P. 85.
OF THE ODIOUS SIN OF INGRATITUDE.
"And the children of Israel remembered not the
The history of Gideon, and the Israelites' beha-
III. That ingratitude proceeds from a proneness
IV. That it is always attended with many other
V. Consequences drawn from the premises,-
SERMON XII. - Page 93.
OF THE BASE SINS OF FALSEHOOD AND LYING.
farther prosecuted, by shewing,—
I. The nature of it, wherein it consists, and the
II. The effects of it, all sins that came into the
III. The punishments of it, the loss of all
consequences from right ones; but to walk uprightly,