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That they have furnished as much amusement to their friends in general, I cannot undertake to say; but, for myself, I really do not think I should be more diverted at the one than at the other, But I mean no offence. We were all young once, and if they will know well the things they went to college to learn, we will forgive their knowing nothing of the world, and make great allowance for the feeling with which a man sees his name, or his character, for the first time, in print.
I venture, also, to recommend all parties to consider, whether the thing really wanting be not rather the practical and detailed application of the laws and principles of the Gospel, than the preaching of the Gospel itself.
All our ministers, young and old, preach the Gospel ; they all publish the glad tidings of the proffered mercy of Heaven. They all preach evangelical doctrine—the modified Calvinism of modern orthodoxy, But, the fact is, it is found that the simple declaration of the good news, and even the most ingenious reiterations of the invitation to benefit by it, will not fill up the time. The simple doctrines of the Gospel, so plain that he who runs may read, and so well known that no one forgets them, do not really require a tenth part of the time allotted to our weekly discourses. This may be startling to some, but they will find it to be the fact; and, consequently, all seek to amplify in one way or the other: the one class of preachers by perpetually repeating the same things; the other, by going into fine-spun and most unprofitable dissections, either of the deep mysteries of the Bible, or its simple narratives, or its very words and phrases.
Now what I wish to suggest is, that all should endeavour to amend their ways in this matter, and employ the precious moments in dissecting the ways of man ; in pointing out his errors, and follies, and sins, in comparing his practice with the law of God, in the details of daily life ; in telling him how to avoid temptation, and where to seek for strength ; in short, in doing as the New Testament does, dwelling much on the duties and sins of men, and shortly and plainly stating the merciful ways of God.
That modern preachers should have stumbled on the notion, that the doctrines, and not the morality, of the Gospel, are what men object to, is a thing which has always filled me with wonder. All the wicked men I know, are most ready to accept of the mercy of Heaven, on any terms, save only their own obedience. I always hear from the pulpit, that the pride of men's hearts revolts against the scheme of human redemption by Christ; but I always see in the world, that they much too pleasantly rest on this; and the corruption of their hearts and lives,--their bad morality, not their bad divinity,-prevents their practically agreeing to its terms.
The preachers and writers of the New Testament shaped their dis
courses accordingly. They preached most “legally,"
legally," as some folks would say now. They gave no rest to the corruptions and vices of their generation, and spent so little time in setting forth the doctrines of the Gospel, that their successors, wise much above what is written, have been forced, in order to keep up doctrinal controversies at all, to shape what they said into systems of divinity,-elaborate mystifications of plain things.
Can you make room for an extract, which I enclose, from the writings of a most gifted person, whose eccentricities obscured his splendid powers, and whose name must wait for justice from future generations, - I mean the late Mr. Irving ? The passage presents a view of the matter, which it may be well for both parties in this dispute to consider, although they will probably both, at first, dissent from it. I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
" I am convinced, from the constant demand of the religious world for the preaching of faith and forgiveness, and their constant kicking against the preaching of Christian morals, the constant appetite for mercy, and disrelish of righteousness and judgment; or if righteousness, it be the constant demand that it should be the imputed righteousness of Christ, not our own personal righteousness ; from these features of the evangelical part of men I do greatly fear, nay, I am convinced, that many of them are pillowing their hopes upon something else than the sanctification and changed life which the Gospel hath wrought. Let no one mistake me, (for though I care little about the mistake on my own account, I am too much concerned for the sake of others in the success of this argument to wish to be mistaken,) as if I advocated salvation from the wrath to come upon the ground of self-righteousne
sness. But this I argue, and will argue, that unless the helps and doctrines of grace, deservedly in such repute, unless the free forgiveness purchased by the death of Christ, the sancti. fication by the work of the Spirit, and every thing else encouraging and consolatory in the word of God, have operated their natural and due effect in delivering our members from the power of sin, and joining our affections to Christ and his poorest brethren, and of working deep and searching purification within all the fountains of our heart ; then it will only aggravate our condemnation, ten times, that we have known, that we have believed, that we have prized these great revelations of the power and goodness of God, and insisted with a most tyrannical and overbearing sway, that our pastots should hold on pronouncing them unceasingly, unsparingly, Sabbath after Sabbath. I greatly fear, I say again, that this modern contraction of the Gospel into the span of one or two ideas, this promulgation of it as if it were a drawling monotone of sweetness, a lullaby for a baby spirit, with no music of mighty feeling, nor swells of grandeur, nor declensions of deepest pathos, nor thrilling themes of terror ; as if it were a thing for a shepherd's love-sick bute, or a senti. mentalist's Æolian harp, instead of being for the great organ of human thought and feeling, through all the stops and pipes of this various world; I say, I fear greatly, lest this strain of preaching Christ, the most feeble and ineffectual which the Christian world hath ever heard, should have lulled many into a quietus of the soul, under which they are resting sweetly from searching inquiry into their personal estate, and will pass composedly through death unto the awful judgment.
“Now what difference is it, whether the active spirit of a man is laid asleep by the comfort of the holy wafer and extreme unction, to be his viaticum and passport into heaven, or by the constant charm of a few words sounded and sounded, and eternally sounded, about Christ's sufficiency to save? In the holy name of Christ, and the three times holy name of God, have they declared aught to men, or are they capable of declaring aught to men, which should not work upon men the desire and power of holiness ? Why, then, do I hear the constant babbling about simple reliance and simple dependence upon Christ, instead of most scriptural and sound-minded calls to activity and perseverance after every perfection? And oh! they will die mantled in their vain delusion, as the Catholic dies; and when the soothing voice of their consolatory teacher is passed into inaudible distance, Conscience will arise, with pensive Reflection and pale Fear, her two daughters, to take an account of the progress and exact advancement of their mind. And should she not be able to disabuse them of their rooted errors, they will come up to judgment ; and upou beholding the Judge, march forward with the confidence of old acquaintance, and salute him, “Lord, Lord;' and when he sitteth silent, eyeing them with severe aspect, they will begin to wonder at his want of recognisance, and to aid his memory, make mention of their great advancement in the faith; "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works?' But how shall their assurance stagger back and sink them spiritless into uttermost dismay, when the Judge, opening those awful lips, upon which hang the destinies of worlds, shall profess unto them, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity!'”
ON THE DEATH OF AN
And oft I sit, and seem again to trace
Upon thy bland and deeply furrow'd face,
With word of God outspread before thine eyes ;
Where the rich springs of living waters rise,
Immortal, holy, fill'd with light and love;
Yet looking from thy bless'd abode abov
No fear of death the joy of life devours,
No unchaste sleep their precious time deflow'rs,
GILES FLETCHER, died 1623.
1. The Gospel before the Age ; or, Christ with Nicodemus. Being an
Exposition for the Times. By the Rev. Robert Montgomery, M..., Oxon., Minister of Percy Chapel, London : Author of “ Luther ; or, the Spirit of the Reformation ;" “The Messiah,” &c. 8vo. London:
F. Baisler. 1844. 2. Eight Sermons ; being Reflective Discourses on some important
Texts. By the Rev. Robert Montgomery, M.A., Oxon. 8vo. London : Francis Baisler; flamilton. 1843.
Robert Montgomery is better known as a poet than as a prose writer ; but the two ample volumes before us prove, that he has something to say as well as to sing. If the name of the poet at first bespoke public attention, it almost unavoidably brought him into comparison with the most simple and beautiful of all living evangelical bards, and did him injury. A man may be endowed with much of the vis poetica without being the equal of James Montgomery. The author addresses himself seriously to his work as a minister of the Gospel, and has carried many of the excellences, and some of the faults, of his poetic compositions into his pulpit and prosaic discussions. It is, indeed, refreshing, in this day of strife, to find that, while Mr. M. is alive to the signs of the age and the portents of ecclesiastical society, he generally maintains a fair and a candid spirit, and aims at an object infinitely above the adjustment of the secular privileges and even speculative symbols of his profession.
What the author means by "the Gospel before the age,” as applied to the Redeemer's language to Nicodemus, he tells us is this; "that both theoretically and practically, the age in which we live, to a vast extent, trEATS The Gospel Of Christ AS IT WERE BEHIND ITSELF ; and hence, no longer capacitated to grapple with the great problems of the day, and satisfy the rising wants of the world.” Perhaps a less astounding writer would have contented himself by asserting, that the present age does not rise to the standard of the Gospel : or, that God's thoughts are higher than human thoughts.
The leading argument however is good, viz. that as man is entirely corrupted by sin, he must be recovered by grace, before he can be qualified to perform, to their greatest extent, his relative duties. The necessity of a new birth unto righteousness is shown in a light which it will be a blessing, public as well as private, if the hearers and the readers of Mr. Montgomery see and feel to be indispensable. It would be a happy state of things, indeed, if all, from the peasant to the prince, sought, by regenerating grace, to sanctify their social influence, and to fit themselves for the kingdom of God. Then the promise will have been realised: “I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness—thy people also shall be all righteous :" then the petitions dictated by the Lord to his disciples will have been answered,—“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.”
Our first impressions on looking into the book were, that it contains much truthful and valuable thought, expressed in bold and somewhat grandiloquous language, warmed as well as veiled with mystic piety, and advocating what are called church principles in the court of the national conscience. William Law is the writer who supplies all his mottoes, and the work is dedicated to the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P. The mottoes, however, are good, and we do not refer to Law without feelings of respect; and early associations, as well as a desire to cultivate the friendship of a high public functionary, may have determined the dedication, without any wish to invest the President of the Board of Trade with the honour of theological dictatorship. We confess we should prefer, if the name of that right hon. gentleman be mentioned at all, in a work on Regeneration, it should be with great qualification and connexion ; and we trust that should he attempt to Romanise the Anglican conscience, all who have imbibed the spirit of the Reformation, or rather of the Gospel of Christ, will utter a veto which he must obey : “ Ne sutor ultra crepidam :" you have enough to do, and more than you can well manage, in your own politico-commercial province. Our author, having introduced and explained our Saviour's address to Nicodemus, devotes the greatest part of the volume to its application to the present state of society. We feel great pleasure in saying, that however we might be disposed to simplify and correct some forms of expression, yet the doctrine is sound both as it respects the depravity of human nature, the character of its regeneration, and the Sacred Agent by whom this change is effected ; and our readers will be glad to find on such subjects the writings of Charnock, Baxter, and Doddridge, quoted with unqualified approbation. There is, indeed, a boldness and force in the manner in which these evangelical truths are put, which remind us of the sermons of Whitefield. “ Whether men will confess it or not, Christ's declaration, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,' underlies all the moral unquiet, the spiritual discontent, and the political unrest of our nature." “Before man can perceive truth, or beauty, or goodness, so as to be experimentally influenced by them in life and conduct,—he must be exalted to 'SEE THE KINGDOM OF god.' Now saith Christ, nothing within the compass of mental attainment can give man a sight of this kingdom. That which is born of the flesh is flesh,' and nothing more. 'Except, therefore, he be boru again, he