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any particular doctrine has occupied his attention on one occasion, it will always be beneficial to follow it up with a practical exhortation on another. In general, however, a doctrine may be fairly stated and proved, and its practical import enforced, within the compass of a single discourse ; and where this can be done, while the attention of the hearers is rivetted by the energetic declaration of Scripture truths, a practical appeal to the heart can scarcely fail of making a lively impression.
Such has ever been our idea of the legitimate construction of a sermon; and we have found it, in a great measure, realized in the excellent collection before us. But before we proceed to the main contents of the volume, we must turn our attention to the Dedication. It is addressed to a young clergyman, and contains some admirable observations on the most useful style of preaching. After a few remarks on the general points of distinction between the two great parties into which the Church of England has long been unhappily divided, it proceeds to develope the errors and excellencies peculiar to each respectively, with a view of concerting such a middle system, as might be advantageously adopted by every minister of Christ. The faults of the evangelical preachers are so generally known, and have been so frequently animadverted upon in our columns, that it is unnecessary to revert to them, even in the lucid exposition of Mr. Townsend. We shall therefore confine ourselves to his enumeration of the alleged errors of the anti-evangelical party, which he makes to consist in the very reverse of those of their opponents. The description is by far too general ; but there are many to whom it will unquestionably apply, though certainly not among the orthodox clergy.
If the anti-evangelical party, for instance, have occasion to speak of the corruption of human nature, they sometimes use phrases respecting the dignity of man, and the excellence of that moral virtue to which he may certainly attain, even without the aid of revelation, which would seem to imply that the assistance of the Holy Spirit is not so absolutely essential to perfection, as it is represented to be, both in the Articles of the Church, and in the pages of Scripture. They sometimes confound those moral virtues, which are the result of instinct, society, necessity, and experience (and which are, therefore, practised alike by the heathen and by the infidel, as well as by the Christian), with those higher virtues, which can only be the result of more than human principle.“ Pp. x. xi.
[They] have frequently deserved the censure of their brethren, by the incautious manner in which they have spoken of the efficacy of the sacraments. Baptism, more especially, has been represented to be so absolutely necessary to salvation, and to be attended with blessings so valuable to a Christian, that it would almost appear to be equally essential to future happiness with faith and good works. They apply those passages in St. Paul's Epistles, which describe the influences of the Holy Spirit, too exclusively to the apostolic age. When they speak of those subjects, which are too frequently discussed in the affected phraseology to which I have alluded, they adopt the very opposite extreme, and use language so cold, and tame, that it would almost seem as if they deemed energy a crime, and the eloquence of enraptured devotion, fanaticism or folly. They only then use (pardon the ungrateful terms), a language which may be called cant, when they declaim against canting language. Scripture is too unfrequently quoted. The necessity of spiritual assistance, the one great doctrinal truth of the dispensation under which we live, is insisted upon with too much timidity, as if the divine aids which are afforded to the faithful believer in the atonement, were incompatible with that degree of human liberty which is essential to the responsibility of a Christian. They study, as they ought to do, severe and strict reasoning, and correct and elegant composition, in their discourses, but they do not sufficiently remember, that all the reasoning of a Christian teacher, is only then useful, when it kindles the affections, as well as instructs the mind. They are contented with appealing to the intellect
, rather than to the heart ; and their hearers sometimes leave their churches, convinced of a truth, but unmoved as to any practical conviction of its importance, and the necessity of its personal application. The bold appeal, the affecting interrogation, the energetic address, the irresistible persuasion which is founded upon the undeniable solemnities of the truths of Christianity, do not sufficiently characterise the teaching of those, who only seem to be enthusiastic, when they denounce enthusiasm, and who are more anxious to avoid censure, than to attain to excellence.—Pp. xii.-xiv.
In medio tutissimus ibis is a verily old and a very useful maxim, and may be adopted with advantage in keeping clear of the errors into which these conflicting parties have fallen. As each, however, have faults to be avoided, so each have also excellencies to be imitated ; and these again, as might be expected, are exactly opposite in their nature.
The evangelical preachers are worthy of our imitation, where they frequently insist upon the two principal truths of Christianity—the atonement of our Lord, and the consequent bestowment of the divine assistances of the Holy Spirit. The anti-evangelical preachers are worthy of our imitation, in maintaining the necessity of outward religion—the authority of the church over its membersand the peculiar advantages of Episcopacy, as the best bond of union to an inquiring people and a divided clergy.
The conclusion to which I think you will have arrived, is probably that which I have so frequently urged upon you, that a Christian clergyman will be anxious to avoid the faults and imitate the excellences of the two great parties which divide the attention of the public. He will neither enrol himself among the ranks of the one or of the other, but he will be contented to be called a “ Catholic Christian of the Church of England.”—P. xiv.
It is needless to repeat the obvious benefits which must result from this mode of preaching. Partial views of truth have ever been the origin of error in the Christian church; and it is only by a full and perfect declaration of the entire gospel scheme, that we can expect to preserve our flocks in the pure and holy profession of the Catholic faith. Our author's observations upon this subject are too long for insertion, but we cannot resist the gratification of presenting our readers with his concluding advice to his young friend.
Make these great truths,—(viz. the union of the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, and the atonement; the necessity of divine assistance to restore the soul to its Creator; the certainty of the resurrection from the dead; and the undoubted usefulness of the two appointed sacraments, the outward means of grace, and that system of church government which is founded upon Scripture and antiquity, upon usefulness and reason,)—make these great truths the foundation of your preaching, and you will then attain to the character of a true Catholic. Live but according to these, and you will be the real Christian. Never suppose that by shrinking from the bold declaration of these truths, you will conciliate one enemy of Christianity, or establish one wavering Christian in his faith. Never imagine that because the doctrine of the Trinity is mysterious, or the doctrines of the atonement and divine assistance have been perverted, you will do well by avoiding to affirm their truth. Never condescend to degrade your hallowed cause, by interpreting the miracles which are related in Scripture, as if they were natural events, exaggerated perhaps by the sacred historian, or magnified by popular tradition. Remember, that if there is a Deity, that Deity must be omnipotent. .... If there be a Deity, there is no greater difficulty to a wise man in believing in miracles, upon the evidence of an inspired book, than in believing in the evidence of his senses. Preach your religion, with all its mysteries, and all its difficulties, provided you are satisfied that you preach the fair inferences deducible from Scripture. The union of the concurrent testimony of the best interpreters, and sound, impartial criticism, will be sufficient, by God's blessing, to preserve you from material error. I have said nothing to you upon the inferior subjects of the best manner of preaching, nor of the proper style of composition. Useful directions will be found in many books upon these points, to which I can add but little. I can only say, with respect to the manner of preaching, avoid with the utmost abhorrence all affectation, and address yourself to your congregation as if you were a friend or a brother, anxious to persuade them to believe some truth which to you appears to be of the utmost importance, or to act in some manner which you are convinced is alone right, and wise, and good. Be in earnest, and that earnestness will be the best eloquence. With respect to your style of composition, I would give you advice of a similar nature. So study your subject, that it shall fill your soul, and occupy all your thoughts. Write out, before you commence your homily itself, a clear and ample sketch of the proposition you would enforce, the arguments by which you would support it, and the inferences you would desire to deduce from it; and your plain and simple address, when delivered in the manner I have described, will be abundantly blessed by Him, who is ever present with the ministers and the people of His Church.—Pp. xix.—xxii.
The principles thus laid down in his Dedication, it is Mr. Townsend's object to exemplify in the composition of the Sermons annexed to it. Our remaining space will not admit of very extensive or numerous extracts : and, indeed, nothing short of the perusal of an entire discourse would do justice to the merits of the preacher. We must therefore content ourselves with one or two detached paragraphs, which we fear will lose much of their intrinsic value, by separation from the connexion in which they stand. The concluding application of Sermon II. (“On the knowledge of each other in a future state,") independently of its immediate relation to the doctrine inculcated throughout, is deserving of serious consideration. It arises out of an objection to the opinion enforced, that grief must be excited in the bosoms of Christian parents, kindred, and friends, by the consciousness that those, whom they loved upon earth, are excluded from everlasting happiness.
In reply to this objection, I can only say, that I have no doubt that the glorified spirits of the redeemed will be enabled to adore the justice which condemns, as well as the mercy of God which saves; and thus they will be reconciled, by some mysterious power upon their spirits, to the decrees of the Almighty. More than this I dare not say; for I may not so far speak only of
the consolations of religion, as to deny its solemnities and its sanctions; and I cannot but be aware that our Lord himself has mentioned this truth as one of the very proofs that we shall be known to each other in the future world.
Then,” says our Lord," shall be weeping, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, and ye yourselves thrust out.” I dare not weaken the force of this appeal ; I would rather urge it upon you as the most impressive warning to parents, and children, and kindred, and friends, to live together in this world as Christians, partaking of the same hope of immortality; as Christians, who shall appear before the same Judge of the world, and partake of the same happiness, by means of the same mercy. Yes! my Christian brethren, the dead shall meet again. Parents! the subject appeals to you, that you so bring up your children in the faith and fear of God, that you may adopt the joyful language of Scripture in the great day of account—" Behold, I and the children which God hath given me. The dead shall meet again. Children! the subject appeals to you, that
honour your parents, that you obey and love them; that you overlook their infirmities, and venerate their counsel. It is probable that, by the course of nature, you may be called upon to follow your parents to the grave. So honour and love them now, that you may have no reason to look back with regret upon the past, and never forget that the affections of kindred may revive hereafter. And so I might proceed to appeal to all ;-to all who have lost kindred and friends, whom they have dearly loved and highly valued, and whose immortal spirits they believe to be partakers of the happiness of the world to come; and I do implore them to live now the life they shall desire to have lived when they are about to die. Honour the memory of the righteous by following their example, that you may meet them again with joy, and not with grief. I beseech'those who remember the dead, and those who shall soon die, to follow the example of those, who, through faith and patience, have gone to inherit the promises; and I conclude with entreating you to join with me in this prayer--that all who are now present may be united as one sacred family in the last great day; and that neither parent, nor child, nor brother, nor friend, of all who are here, be finally lost from among the number of those who shall be admitted, through the mercy of our Lord, to the happiness of heaven. Pp. 33–35.
The following illustration of the much contested doctrine of predestination is exceedingly apt and judicious :
The Almighty has granted to every Christian the knowledge of his will, the influence of his Spirit, and other means of grace, to enable him to attain present and future happiness, whatever be the unavoidable circumstances of life, the resources, the station, the adversity, or the prosperity, in which God has placed him. To illustrate my position, let me submit to you that instance in which the foreknowledge of God is most forcibly displayed—the death of the body. Man has no control over this event; it is certain, and it is unavoidable: it is the undoubted decree of God; nothing can alter it; nothing can suspend it; nothing can avert it. The merciful God, who has ordained this event, has instructed man to meet it, and to bear with it, though it is not given him to escape from it; and it depends, therefore, upon man to render his inevitable lot peaceful or miserable. We are invited and we are intreated to become possessed of that living faith in God, which can give peace at the last; and if we will obtain this living faith and humble hope, neither the infirmities of sickness, nor the pains of the body, nor the agonies of disease, nor the separation from all that has been dear to us in life, nor all the melancholy attendants of dissolution, can render the Christian miserable, or shake his confidence, or sink him into despair. Thus does God predestinate man to death, as an event over which man has no control ; thus does the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit
, assist the free-will of man with its persuasive energies; and thus the foreknowledge of God and the liberty of man are harmoniously blended together..Pp. 58, 59.
We have room but for one more extract, and that a short one. It is from Sermon XXIX.- 16 On indecision of character."
If a Christian knows and believes, as you all know and believe, that Christ has died to save sinners, even the very chief, and that he has died, therefore, to save you, and that he has sent his Holy Spirit to enable you to follow him through the wilderness of this world, to the happiness of heaven; and if you permit these excuses to cause you to neglect that great salvation which has been purchased for us by the Son of God; if these excuses lead you to quench the Spirit, and harden the heart; then the misery which you feel now, when your conscience reproves you, may be regarded as the earnest of that undying remorse which the despisers of the covenant will experience hereafter. God, the Almighty, the merciful God-God, the giver of Christianity, the Saviour of the soul, desires your happiness, and he has imparted the revelation of his will to assure us of this truth. “ How long” then "halt ye between two opinions?” The Lord, and not Baal, is your God. Follow him in the way he has appointed. Follow him, not merely by outward profession and outward observances, by useless resolutions and by broken vows; follow him by firmer faith—by secret prayer for strength to conquer evil, and to obtain peace of mind, and repose of conscience. Follow him by repentance, which shall not be repented of, till you possess the only two real blessings of existence-Christian holiness, and Christian happiness. Follow him by the dedication of the heart, by inward and decided religion, by instant obedience, without excuses, and without delay.Pp. 456, 457.
Before we take leave of these Sermons, we would particularly direct the attention of our readers to the series on the events immediately preceding the crucifixion of our Lord, preached at Northallerton, during Passion week, in the year 1828. They contain a luminous survey of all that took place on that important occasion, together with a view of the consequences resulting from them, and the method by which they were intended, under Providence, to further the scheme of man's redemption. The theologian will find in them much that is worthy of minute attention, and the Christian will derive from them solid consolation, devout hope, and instruction in righteousness, Upon these Sermons we look with especial admiration ; but the whole volume should be diligently read, and carefully digested, by every clergyman, as the best practical model which he is likely to find, of what sermons ought to be. They are, generally speaking, precisely what might have been expected from the learned and excellent author of the “Chronological Arrangement of the Old and New Testament.”
We feel it necessary to state, however, that we are by no means prepared to go the length which our author has gone in some of his positions. In his endeavour to advocate a middle course between two extremes, he has sometimes, inadvertently, we think, scarcely avoided a compromise of certain tenets, which the Scriptures sanction, and which the orthodox clergy will never consent to relinquish. In steering clear of one rock, he has frequently been in danger of striking upon another; and, from an excess of charity to the low party in the Church, has barely done justice to those who adopt a more sober and temperate view of the Gospel. We would instance the Sermon