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The characteristics of these sermons (if one may venture so to speak) seem to me their intense reality, their awe of God, their sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, of the malice and wiles of our unseen enemy, of the deep repentance with which God ought to be sought again, yet of the certainty of His being found, by all who really seek Him; and with regard to his own people, the anxiety for each soul of the Pastor's little flock, which was burned into him. Bright and cheerful outwardly, he himself, in that beautiful sermon, “Suffering the measure of love," describes the sufferings of one who loves our Lord, at the apparent waste of souls, or the jarring against God's holy Will. “b How can it” (his inmost soul bursts out) “have one moment's perfect quiet, in such a world as this ?” Yet the writer's truthfulness shews itself in the addition,“ perfect quiet:” quiet, relative to our state, the soul might have; only not "perfect quiet.”
Being Lenten Sermons, these Sermons are consequently strict. One object was apparently to unveil his hearers' hearts to themselves, to impress on them the misery and sinfulness of sin, and to draw off for them that covering of self-deceit, which self-love gathers around it. He appears to have avoided, purposely, all oratory; nay (which, until he had entirely trained himself to it, must have involved considerable self-denial to his poetic mind) even illustration from God's works in nature which he so loved. It is only in some two or three places, that imagery, as it were, involuntarily escapes him. Almost all his illustrations are from the types of the Old Testament; and these too are full of awe, how he tells his people that tempers to
which we now too are by nature, one or other, inclined, are the beginnings of the sins of Achan, or Cain, or Balaam, or the men of Sodom; or nearest to our Lord, of Judas, or that Esau's profaneness was “but a shadow of a Christian's wilful sine. It is the pastor, not preaching but speaking to, almost talking to, expostulating with his flock; in the Prophet's words, “d Why will ye die, O house of Israel ? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; wherefore also turn and live ye.”
It belongs to his simple earnest style that he mostly closes his Sermons, not with an empassioned appeal to his people, but with a brief sentence (of which there are many in the course of the sermons) calculated to abide with them, and such as the poor often carry off, and live upon. And any one who would profit by these Sermons, would do well to weigh single words, as, e. g. where, speaking of other graces, he subjoins, not “truth” but “exact truth.” For like the hermit, who thought that he had attained some measure of love or humility or thankfulness, and so, to burn out any sluggish satisfaction at what he had attained to, wrote on the side of his cell “fervent love" “deep humility" "overflowing thankfulness" or the like; saying, that of these he knew nothing; so, many a man who would be shocked at being thought untruthful, might hesitate before he claimed to himself “exact truth.” Or when he says that by Christian principles he means, “ea deep sense of the continual Presence of Almighty God and of the care which He takes for the welfare of our souls ; ” or where “f the necessary parts signs and tokens of real C p. 120.
d Ezek. xviii. 32. e p. 129. fp. 165.
Christian repentance,” have to be weighed one by one and the like.
The sermons eminently serve that end, which S. Francis de Sales insisted upon, as the characteristic of a good sermon, that they sent the hearers home, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” or, “wherein can I better please God ?”
Secondary and personal as this is, these sermons have, to many of us, a special interest, as giving glimpses into John Keble's inner life. For in a mind of such intense truthfulness as his, one should be quite sure, that what he wrote, he did not write from mere general knowledge, but had himself known and felt. Thus when he lays down that the duty of one who has the care of others is to “E contrive beforehand, how he might order all intercourse with them,” so as “most to encourage them in duty or check them most effectually in sin;" or says incidentally that“h to think, is to be alone with God;” and assigns it as a test of the soul's state whether, “i when left to yourself, you naturally begin thinking of heavenly things; whether we find our thoughts returning of their own accord towards Heaven, whenever they have been interrupted by any worldly call or anxiety ;” or says, “k no words can express the sinking of the heart in the reproof of that in others, of which, in some way, he feels himself perhaps guiltier then they ;” or the readiness to forgive “l because it could not forgive itself its own more inexcusable transgressions towards God;" or that it is hypocrisy even to admit a thought other than people believe of any one; or that ready caustic which he had always at hand
& p. 21. bp. 18. i Ib.: p. 37. p. 38.
against the praise of man, “m to remember some one thing
* p. 402. see also p. 166.
- p. 72.
very truth of ourselves, that is humility; and humility will save our souls; for it will bring us to the feet of Christ and He will raise us up."
E. B. P. Christ CHURCH,
[The readers of these Sermons are indebted for this selection not to the writer of this advertisement but first, to the Author's nephew, the Rev. T. Keble, Jun., who entrusted them to him, and then to the Editor of some portion of the correspondence of John Keble, so long associated with him, the Rev. R. F. Wilson, under whose careful superintendence they were selected. Other series for Advent and the period from Christmas to Septuagesima will follow, it is hoped, towards the close of the ensuing year, and subsequently, if God permit, volumes for the Easter and Trinity season and for Saints' Days.]