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tians were more conversant with the evidences of their holy religion; always ready to give an answer to every man, that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear; then, every scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, would be like unto a man that is a householder, which bringeth forth, out of his treasures, things new and old, wherewith to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, To the national ecclesiastical esta
blishment much benefit would, undoubtedly, accrue, were her members more awake to the advantages arising from her form of government, and, better acquainted with the arguments on which their duty to maintain communion with her rests; if her children would go round about that Zion, tell the towers thereof, mark well her palaces, and consider how the place of her tent might be enlarged, her cords lengthened, and her stakes made strong. SPECTATOR.
REFLECTIONS AT THE CLOSE OF THE YEAR.
ARRIV'D at the close of the year,
In mercy I'm spared thus far;
And as yet it doth not appear,
What blessings are for me in store.
And mercy attends where I go.
And left in the desart to stray;
Of mercy, how deep is the well !
What blessings are in it contained!
To rivers and oceans it swells,
Its fountain can never be drain'd.
May mercy me ever attend,
Through years that may yet be to come;
And peacefully guide, me quite home.
REVIEW OF BOOKS.
For the Oracles of God, Four Orations. For Judgment to Come, an Argument, in nine Parts. By the Rev. Edward Irving, M. A. Minister of the Caledonian Church, Hatton Garden. Hamilton. Pp. xii. and 548. Sermons, by the late Rev. William Richardson. Vol. II.-viii. and
Sermons, chiefly designed for the Use of Families. By John Fawcett, A. M. Third Edition. 2 Vols.
WE have seldom felt more strongly the difficulties of our situation, than while contemplating a review of the volume of Mr. Irving. Not that it is at all difficult to form a tolerably fair estimate of the intrinsic merits of the work; which may, at once, be pronounced to contain great excellencies and great defects; not that it requires any great penetration to determine the character of its author, who, manifestly, appears to possess great ardour of mind, considerable vigour of intellect, a lofty and unbending spirit, with a fair proportion of political, philosophical, and theological attainment; but who, at the same time, is exceedingly deficient in judgment, in knowledge of the actual state of religion among ourselves, and in deep acquaintance with the human heart; too much attached to speculative theories, and prone to indulge in rash and unguarded assertions. But the real difficulty is, how to draw the line between censure and commendation, so as, on the one hand, not rashly to countenance that vehement outcry which has been excited against the author, nor, on the other hand, to induce any to copy an example against which, in various respects, we must protest.
Difficult, however, as the duty may be, it is one we are obviously called upon to perform. The tone
which our author has assumed will not allow us to pass over his work in silence, lest we should for one moment be supposed to countenance that alteration in the style of public preaching, which he is avowedly endeavouring to effect.
Many of our readers may not be aware, that Mr. Irving first appeared in public in this metropolis about two years since; and, after labouring in comparative silence and obscurity, publishing a farewell address to his former people, which his friends concealed as much as possible, and speaking at the anniversaries of one or two religious charities, in a way not very highly to advance his credit, he all at once, at the commencement of the present year, burst forth with unusual splendour; and attracted a degree of attention and popularity, which, when the rank and character of his hearers are taken into the account, has not, perhaps, been equalled for the last half century. This naturally produced a rapid circulation of the volume before us; and as naturally excited the attention of the public press, which for some time teemed with remarks and criticisms; with 'commendations and abuse; until the public mind has been fairly jaded with the hacknied theme. Still the inquiry is made by many of our readers, What is the character of the work? How far is it deserving of our notice? Are its sentiments those on which we may rely? May we justly adopt it as a model?
Our answer to such inquiries may easily be inferred from the preceding remarks; and we now proceed to enter into somewhat more particular detail.
Passing over the title, the style of which is altogether novel to the English ear, and is such as is only pardonable in a foreigner, or a schoolboy translating Latin, and which at the same time gives a very
ambiguous idea of the work to which it is prefixed, we naturally turn to the Preface; and as the author has here clearly developed the light in which he regards the labours of others, and the end proposed by his own publication, we shall insert the whole.
It hath appeared to the author of this book, from more than ten years meditation upon the subject, that the chief obstacle to the progress of divine truth over the minds of men, is the want of its being properly presented to them. In this Christian country there are, perhaps, nine-tenths of every class who know nothing at all about the applications and advantages of the single truths of revelation, or of revelation taken as a whole: and what they do not know, they cannot be expected to reverence or obey. This ignorance, in both the higher and the lower orders, of religion, as a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart, is not so much due to the want of inquisitiveness on their part, as to the want of a sedulous and skilful ministry on the part of those to whom it is entrusted.
This sentiment may seem to convey a reflection upon the clerical order; but it is not meant to reflect upon them so much, as to turn their attention to the subject. They must be conscious, that reading is the food of thought, and thought the cause of action; and, therefore, in what proportion the reading of the people is impregnated with religious truth, in that proportion will the conduct of a people be guided into religious ways. We must, therefore, lay our band upon the press as well as the pulpit, and season its effusions with an admixture of devout feeling and pious thought. But, whereas men read for entertainment and direction in their several studies and pursuits, it becomes needful that we make ourselves adept in these, and into the body of them all infuse the balm of salvation, that when the people consult for the present life, they may be admonished, stealthily and skilfully invaded with admonition of the life to come. that, until the servants and ministers of the living God do pass the limits of pulpit theology and pulpit exhortation, and take weapons in their hand, gathered out of every region in which the life of man, or his faculties, are interested, they shall never have religion triumph and domineer in a country, as beseemeth her high original, her native majesty, and her eternity of freely-bestowed well-being.
To this the ministers of religion should bear their attention to be called; for until they thus acquire the pass-word, which is to convey them into every man's encamp
ment, they speak to that man from a distance, and at disadvantage. It is but a parley; it is no conference, nor treaty, nor harmonious communication. To this end, they must discover new vehicles for conveying the truth, as it is in Jesus, into the minds of the people; poetical, historical, scientific, political, and sentimental rehicles. In all these regions some of the population are domesticated with all their affections; who are as dear in God's sight as are others; and why they should not be come at, why means should not be taken to come at them, can any good reason be assigned? They prepare men for teaching gipsies, for teaching bargemen, for teaching miners; men who understand their ways of conceiving and estimating truth; why not train ourselves for teaching imaginative men, and political men, and legal men, and medical men? and, having got the key to their several chambers of delusion and resistance, why not enter into and debate the matter with their souls? Then they shall be left without excuse; meanwhile, I think, we ministers are without
Moved by these feelings, I have set the example of two new methods of handling religious truth the Oration, and the Argument; the one intended to be after the manner of the ancient oration; the best vehicle for addressing the minds of men which the world hath seen; far beyond the Sermon, of which the very name hath learned to inspire drowsiness and tedium: the other, after the manner of the ancient Apologies, with this difference, that it is pleaded not before any judicial bar, but before the tribunal of human thought and feeling. The former are but specimens ; the latter, though most imperfect, is intended to be complete. The Orations are placed first in the volume, because the Oracles of God, which they exalt, are the foundation of the Argument, which brings to reason and common feeling one of the revelations which they contain.
For criticism I bave given most plentiful occasion; and I deprecate it not; for it is the free agitation of questions that brings the truth to light. It has, also, been my lot to have a good deal of it where I could not meet it; and if I get a good deal more, I shall not grumble; for a book is the property of the public, to do with it what they like. The author's care of it is finished when he hath given it birth. The people are responsible for the rest. I have besought the guidance of the Almighty and his blessing very often; and have nothing to beseech of men, but that they would look to themselves, and have mercy upon their own souls,
This preface has called forth
severe censures from almost every quarter; nor are those censures by any means unfounded. To us it appears, that the chief obstacle to the progress of divine truth, is not the want of its being properly presented; but the depravity of the human heart. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil; for every one that doeth evil hateth the light. Accordingly, when he, who spake as never man spake, and who taught his hearers with authority, and not as the scribes, exhibited his divine lessons in the most attractive form, he was at once seen and hated of those whom he addressed. So far from the ignorance of religion being not due to the want of inquisitiveness on the part of any in this country, we hesitate not to affirm, that the ignorance of every man, who has a Bible in his possession, and ability to read that Bible, is entirely owing to his want of inquisitiveness. It is not that religion is abstruse, not that the attainment of an adequate knowledge of it is difficult; but it is because men have no heart to it; because they like not to retain God in their knowledge; because they desire to continue at peace in sin, that they remain in ignorance. "This sentiment," says our author, may seem to convey a reflection upon the clerical order; but it is not meant to reflect upon them." Whatever Mr. I.'s intentions might be, it is quite obvious that the passage does convey such a reflection; and the whole reasoning of the subsequent paragraph, and of various passages in the body of the work, abundantly confirm this idea. Nor do we see why the author should bring forwards his two new methods of handling religious truth, had not the plan generally pursued by the clergy been, to say the least, defective.
But is this really the case? Is
it true, that the ministers of religion are, as our author intimates, without excuse? and must they materially alter their conduct, in order that religion may triumph and domineer in a country as becometh her high original? The point is so important, that it, unquestionably, deserves our most serious consideration.
The inquiry, indeed, would be very materially facilitated, had our author clearly defined the persons of whom he speaks, under the general term-the servants and ministers of the living God: but yet, as he numbers himself amongst such persons, we cannot suppose he adverts to those whose doctrinal or practical sentiments materially differ from his own; and we must, therefore, consider him as speaking of the more serious part of the clergy.
The inquiry would be still further facilitated, did we exactly know what the author means, by passing the limits of pulpit theology and pulpit exhortation; by training ourselves for teaching imaginative men, and political men, and legal men, and medical men, &c. If the author only means, that the ministers of religion should endeavour to adapt their discourses to the particular classes of persons whom they address; that they should labour to understand and remove the peculiar obstacles and temptations which are met with by persons of different professions, and should endeavour to adopt arguments and illustrations from the various store-houses of science and philosophy, by which to explain, illustrate, and enforce scriptural truth, we perfectly coincide with his views; but this is nothing new; this has been enforced again and again; this has been the practice of eminent theologians and preachers in every age; and this can, therefore, by no means be justly characterized as passing the limits of pulpit theology and pulpit ex
hortation. The writer, however, evidently means more than this; and we must, therefore, remind him, and all who may be disposed to adopt his statements, that the Scriptures expressly point out, as the grand means of promoting the advancement of true religion, the preaching of the cross. This was the peculiar characteristic of the Apostle's preaching; to this, under the divine blessing, he especially looked for usefulness; and this very doctrine, which was, be it remembered, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, is declared to have been to them, which were called both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Nothing, indeed, can be conceived more contradictory in terms than the account given by St. Paul of his own preaching at Corinth, and the plan recommended by Mr. Irving. "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God, for I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling; and my speech, and my preaching, was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." Now, if St. Paul was, as the pious and admirable Cecil conjectures, raised up peculiarly to be an example to others, in la'bouring to discover the wisest way of exhibiting the Gospel,' we are no longer justified in following our own reasonings, but are bound to observe his declarations, and copy his example, with only such variations as the differing circumstances of the times, &c. may require; nor can we ever be justified in adopting a style of speech unintelligible to the lower classes of
society. It is the excellence of Cecil, of Paley, and of Milner, that they speak on the most abstruse subjects in language intelligible to all; in language so intelligible, that you never think of the terms which are used, but are solely occupied with the ideas they convey. The attempt, indeed, to discover new vehicles for conveying the truth, as it is in Jesus, into the minds of the people; poetical, historical, scientific, political, and sentimental vehicles, has been repeatedly made. Some of the Fathers tried the experiment; they, in consequence, introduced a philosophical and platonized Christianity; a a religion, called Christian, devoid of every thing peculiar to Christianity: a barren, speculative, inefficient system. The experiment was tried again amongst ourselves, as Bishop Burnet mentions. The effect was, a mere system of ethics; a cold, chilling, heartless, religion, from which, through divine mercy, we are now in some measure recovering. We cannot, therefore, but seriously deprecate the system which our author here recommends; and are not backward to confess, that new views and new modes of propagating religious truth, are ever contemplated by us with considerable suspicion and apprehension.
We must here also protest against those sweeping censures with which even the serious parts of the clergy are not unfrequently assailed in the present day, and which Mr. Irving's pages clearly countenance; censures which are at once impolitic and unjust. No doubt, instances may be adduced where indolence, erroneous views as to the promises of divine assistance, and multiplied and pressing engagements, either singly or unitedly, divert the attention of a minister from that course of diligent study and preparation which are necessary to render him efficient. The indispensable necessity, also, of provid