Imágenes de páginas

sufficiently systematic and minute. He had seen so much the evil of spending the preacher's time in doctrinal statements, that possibly there was some deficiency in this respect in his own practice. When, indeed, he had to introduce religion to his congregation at St. John's or Chobham, on his first entering on those charges, be dealt with them as a people needing information on first principles: but my remark applies to the habit and course of bis ministry. For, however true it is, that, when a man becomes a serious reader of God's word he must grow in the knowledge of the truth; yet many will still read the Bible with an indiscriminating mind, unless their Minister's statements give them, not only a lucid general view of doctrines, but somewhat of a systematic and connected view; and not a few-buried in the cares of the world will derive all their notions of the system of divine truth from what they hear in public.

Mr. Cecil wrote and spoke to mankind. He dealt with the business and bosoms of men. An energy of truth prevailed in his ministry, which roused the conscience; and a benevolence reigned in his spirit, which seized the heart: yet I much question whether the prevailing effect of his preaching was not determination grounded on CONVICTION and ADMIRATION, rather than on EMOTION. When in perfect health and spirits, and master of his subject, bis eloquence was finished and striking: but though there was often a tenderness which awakened corresponding feelings in the hearer, yet his eloquence wanted ibat vehement passion which overpowers and carries away the minds of others.

-si vis me flere, dolenduin est Primùm ipsi tibi

This is the great secret for getting hold of the heart. But as not much of the impassioned entered into the composition of his nature, and he was at the same time pre-eminent in genius and judgment, it could not but follow that ADMIRATION should affect the hearer more frequently than stRONG FEELING. A friend bas told me that he has often lost the benefit of the truth which Mr. Cecil has uttered, in admiration of the exquisite man


per in which it was conveyed. And I have again and again detected this in myself; and found I have been watching eagerly for what would fall next from him, not in the spirit of a newborn babe that desires the sincere milk of the word that I might grow thereby, but for the gratification of a mental voluptuousI desire no one will suppose that I impute to him any

of the studied artifices of eloquence. No man sought more than he did, that his hearers' faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. No man more sincerely aimed to have his speech and his preaching not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power: yet, moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge ; yea, he GAVE GOOD HEED, and sought out, and SET IN ORDER the messages of divine mercy. The preacher SOUGHT TO FIND OUT acceptable words, yet that which was written was upright, even words of truth. He could not but treat his subjects in this exquisite nianner while his taste, his genius, and his nature remained ; but this could not but be sanctified to his master's honour, while he retained the perfect integrity, the deep conviction, and the singleness of eye wiich his Master bad given him. That it was the farthest possible from trick and artifice might be seen in his most familiar conversation; where his manner, when he was fully called out, was exactly what it was in the pulpit. His mind grasped every subject firmly; his imagination clothed it with images-embodied it---gave it life ---called up numberless associations and illustrations: it was realized: it was present to him: his taste and judgment enabled him to seize it in the most striking points of view,

“ His apprehensions of religion,” Mr. Wilson most justly observes, were GRAND and ELEVATED.

His fine powers, governed by divine grace, were exactly calculated to sieze all the grandeur of the Gospel. The stupendous magnitude of the objects which the Bible proposes to man, the incomparable sublimity of eterual pursuits, the astonishing scheme of redemption by an Incarnate Mediator, the native grandeur of a rational and immortal being stamped with the impress of God, the fall of this

being into sin and poverty and meanness and guilt, his recovery by grace to more than his original dignity in the love and service of his Creator, filled all his soul. He seemed often to labour with an imagination occupied with his noble theme. He felt, and he taught, that no other subject was worthy the consideration of man. In comparison with it, he led his auditors to condemn and trample on all the petty objects of this lower world. Its meanness, its uncertainty, its deceit, its vanity, its vexation, its nothingness, lie set fully in their view. He even made them look down with a generous concern on those who were buried in its interests, and who forgot, amidst the toys of children, the real business of life."

Some of his printed sermons are perfect models of simplicity, vivacity, and effect. That, for instance, on the “ Power of Faith."

His COUNTENANCE, though not modelled altogether after the artificial rules of beauty, beamed, in animated conversation and in the pulpit, with the beauty of a great and noble mind. Dignity and benevolence were strongly pourtrayed there. The variety of its expression was admirable: nor could any one feel the full force of the soul which he threw into his discourses, if this expression was concealed from him by distance or situation. His ACTION was graceful and forcible: latterly, owing perhaps to his increasing infirmities and almost uninterrupted pain, it discovered, I think, some constraint and want of ease.

There was a FAMILIARITY and an AUTHORITY in his manner, which to strangers sometimes appeared dogmatism. His manner was, in truth, like that of no other man. It was altogether original: and because it was original, it sometimes offended those who had no other idea of manner than of that to which they had been accustomed. Yet even the prejudiced could not hear him with indifference. There was a dignity and command, a decision and energy, a knowledge of the heart and the world, an uprightness of mind and a desire to do good, and all this united with a tenderness and affection, which few could witness without some favourable impressions.

His most striking sermons were generally those, which he preached from very short texts, such aş--- My soul hangeth on the --AU my fresh springs are in the --- Lord! teach me thy way; As thy day is, 80 shall thy strength be. In these sermons, the whole subject had probably struck him at opce: and what comes in this way is generally found to be more natural and forcible, than what the mind is obliged to excogitate by its own laborious efforts. As the subject grows out of the state of the inind at the time, there is that degree of affinity between them which occasions the mind to seize it forcibly, and to clothe it with vivid colours, A train of the most natural associations presents itself, as one link draws with it its kindred links. The attention is engaged---the mind is concentrated---scripture and life present themselves without effort, in the most natural relations which they bear to the subject, that has full possession of the man, and composition be. comes easy, and even interesting.

It was a frequent, and a very useful method with him, to open • and explain his subject in a very brief manner, and then to draw įpferences from it; which infereoçes forned the great body of thę sermon, and were rather matters of ADDRES$ 10 the consciences and hearts of his hearers, than of DISCUSSION; so that the whole subject was a kind of application. This seems to me to have been his most effective manner of preaching. Take an instance : Matt. xviii, 20. I. EXPLAIN the words. II. Raise from them two or three REMARKS: Contemplate 1. The Glory and Godhead of our Master: 2. The honour which He puts on his house and the assembly of His Sạints : 3. The privilege of being one of Christ's servants whom He will meet: 4. The obligations lying on such servants-What manner of persons ought such to be!

He was remarkably observant of character. When I have asked his opinion of a person, he has frequently surprised me with such a full and accurate delineation of his character, as he could only have obtained by very patient and penetrating observation. The reason of this appeared, when I learnt that it was his custom in his sermon notes, when he wished to describe a particular cbaracter, not to put down its chief features as they occurred to his

[ocr errors]

mind from the general observations which he had made on men ; but he would put down the initial of some person's name, with whom he was well acquainted, and who stood in his mind as the representative of that class of characters. He had nothing to do then, when he came to enlarge on that part of his subject, but strongly to realize to himself the character of the person in question, and be would draw a much more vivid picture of a real character than he could otherwise do."

Mr. Cecil was yot himself led to the knowledge of God through great terrors of conscience: his ministry did not, therefore, so much abound in delineations of the working and maligvity of sin, as in those topics which grew out of his course of experience; nor did he enter frequently or largely into the details of the spiritual conflict. He was himself drawn to God, and subdued by a sense of divine mercy and friendship: he was led, therefore, to detail largely the transactions of the believing mind with God, in the exercise of dependence and submission,

He was more aware than most men of the DIFFICULTY OF


A young Minister may leave College with the best theory in the world, and be make take with him into a country parish a determination to talk in the language of simplicity itself, but the actual capacity to make himself understood and felt is so far removed from his former habits, that it is only to be acquired by experience. Hear how wisely Mr. Cecil wrote to a young friend about to take orders ;--"I advised him, since he was so near his entrance into the ministry, to lay aside all other studies for the present, but the one I should now recommend to him. I would have him select some very poor and uninformed persons, and pay them a visit. His object should be to explain to them and

• Lavater somewhere mentions an admirable practice of his own, which carried our friend's principle into constant use in his ministry. He fixed on certain persons in his congregation, whom be considered as representatives of the respective classes into which his bearers might be properly divided--amounting, as I recollect, to seven. In composing his discourses, be kept each of these persons steadily in his eye; and laboured so to mould his subjects as to meet the case of every one.-by which incomparable rule he ren. dered hira self intelligible and interesting to all classes of his flock.

« AnteriorContinuar »