Page images
PDF
EPUB

Church, is the charity which thinketh no evil, but covereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, and endureth all things. Such a charity must long, with a deep and intense longing, to obey the dying command of Christ, by ardent love of the brethren; and to see the triumph of the prayer, which He offered once on earth, and still offers in heaven, for the full union of his people. How different will be their feelings in that day, when all their mutual reproaches and recriminations on earth shall be hushed in penitent silence, or be lost in songs of thanksgiving around the throne of God!

POSTHUMOUS SERMONS. By the Rev. H. Blunt, M.A,

late Rector of Streatham, Surrey. Vols. I. and II. London : Hatchards. 1845.

The late Mr. Blunt was no ordinary man : discharging with fidelity, diligence, and eminent success, the laborious duties of a parish priest, he was yet the most attractive preacher in London ; his sermons, easy of comprehension to the meanest individual of his flock, were yet commended to the conscience, whilst they excited the admiration, of the noble and the great. Exhibiting with perspicuity and faithfulness every doctrine of the gospel, he left unnoticed no duty; his mind trained by early discipline to close and severe reasoning, was yet capable of an eloquence at once chastened and fervid. His name was associated with high mathematical honours at Cambridge, whilst he has left behind him a reputation in the annals of pastoral ministrations which will not easily be forgotten. • We propose, then, to consider the peculiarities of a writer among the most admired of his day-of a preacher on whose lips thousands hung with delight ; because we have not yet met with any review of his works which seems to give a just delineation of his excellences, nor to represent the man as he really was, and as we knew him in familiar intercourse.

It has often been remarked that real evangelical religion has not found that favour, or left that impression on the minds of men of education, which might have been expected from its intrinsic fidelity, It has been allied, in the minds of many, with a coarse fanaticism, coupled with the idea of intellectual poverty; supposed to be contrary to experience, to be something cold, hard, dry, repulsive,

gloomy, narrow-minded, childish-in a word, untrue. But though too much of this has arisen from the distaste of the natural man to the things of the Spirit of God, much may be attributed to injudicious advocacy. How often are men's minds estranged from eternal truth, because the details of the gospel are clumsily exhibited, doctrine overstated, duties unexplained. When rebuke is administered, it seems as though the preacher was scolding an obstinate offender, rather than declaring the judgments of that God who even in wrath remembers mercy. The nervous simplicity and the strong reasoning which mark our Saviour's discourses, find too little place in the addresses of many who no doubt love him in sincerity, whilst they seem blind to this portion of his example. All that is grand and noble, all that appeals to the reason—the beauties of narrative, the pathos of entreaty, the affectionate earnestness of warning-have been too much neglected in modern preaching. The mind has been directed to that which is the foundation of all—faithfulness and sincerity; whilst the vehicle in which it has been commended to the hearers has often been ill adapted to win and convince.

Very different was the preaching of Mr. Blunt. How just, for instance, the following description of the gospel.

There is nothing low, nothing mean, nothing pitiful, nothing clandestine, to be met with, throughout the whole of the revelation of Christ. All is grand, and open, and noble; the motives of the gospel are all as honest as they are pure and uncontaminated. The precepts of the gospel are all as distinct and unambiguous, as they are lovely and of good report. The policy of the gospel is all as straightforward, bold, and transparent, as it is holy, good, and wise. Perhaps there is nothing which so completely characterizes, and at the same time identifies the religion of Jesus Christ as this; nothing which draws so decisive a line between it and every false religion-and, more than this, between it and every adulterated religion-every human modification of the true."-(Vol. i. p. 232.)

We might quote pages to this effect from the same sermon : but whilst nicely appreciating the peculiar beauties, the minute and delicate touches by which our Lord's narratives are marked, Mr. Blunt never lingered on literary excellence, to the exclusion of the pith and marrow; he never forgot, amidst the sublime eloquence and the lofty expansive principles of the gospel, its more practical details. Fear of offending the tastes, never made him neglect the eternal interests of his people. He stated the naked truth, broadly, firmly, without compromise or circumlocution. This very sermon, from which we have just quoted, is a noble instance of his fidelity.

To display the consolations of the Lord was peculiarly the province of this distinguished preacher; his natural tenderness of heart, his exquisite taste and appreciation of moral beauty, made bim here more than ever at home. But here too he was mindful to state the whole truth ; no attribute of God was robbed of its loftiness, or pared down to suit the rationalizing tendency of the age. But yet privilege was placed side by side with practice faith with obedience. He knew that in the apostle Paul's writings were many things hard to be understood; but did he then attempt to deny them ? He knew that there were expressions of rapture, which to cold and ordinary minds seemed strained, but which a warm imagination was likely to abuse. He stated the truth in all its fulness, but only that he might contrast with the blessings the obligations of God's servants. In the congregations of many of our popular preachers, especially, too, on occasions when the discourse is addressed to confirmed Christians, are to be seen many whose air and demeanour seem to require warning, rather than exhibition of the comforts of the gospel. Pomp of equipage, extravagance in dress, an appearance even of studied luxury, are the characteristics of many of the assembly. How admirably did Mr. Blunt adapt his sermons to such persons ! He did not think it necessary, as some do, merely to expatiate upon consolatory topics: he seems to have had before him the words of Jeremy Taylor, and to have caught his spirit. “ It is fit,” says that writer, ®“ that I should infuse a bunch of myrrh into the festival goblet; and, after the Egyptian manner, serve up a dead man's bones at a feast; but I will only show it, and take it away again; it will make the wine bitter but wholesome.” Neither does he make the gospel answerable for that which it is not designed to give. He states the solace which it has for the mourner, but at the same time reminds us of the wholesome chastening. There is no unmeaning rhapsody in the words which follow. He does not speak as though, when brought under the teaching of God's spirit, men were carried above the natural feelings of the heart; he draws our attention to that rational and sober consolation of which the case admits. He never disguises the extent of human affliction, by denying its existence among the people of God.

“Our Lord," says he, “ does not desire to destroy the natural tenderness of the human heart, although he does desire to direct, and to controul, and to limit it. He was himself a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He had wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and he could not be surprised that his disciples should weep by anticipation at his own. The departure of those we love must and ought to be a source of grief to us : if the afflictions of God were no afflictions, one great end of his visitations would be lost. The apostolical injunction-“My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord,”at once places that state of mind, which renders us indifferent to God's visitations, upon a level with that which leads us into the actual sin of sorrowing as men without hope, and fainting when we are rebuked of him. Both extremes are equally contrary to the will and to the intention of our God. Every sorrow is intended to subdue and soften, but not to dissolve or break the heart. There must be a holy consistency even in our griefs, and the sorrows of the people of God must be as far removed from the wild, unmeaning paroxysms of the people of the world, as the calın and steady joy of the Christian is from the worldling's revelry or the drunkard's song.”—(Vol. ii. p. 14.)

The acknowledged difficulty of giving interest to common incidents—of speaking on every-day topics--seems to vanish before him, as though he had learned to surmount the trial—the difficile est proprie communia dicere. He was very fond of books of travel, of historical records, of biographical anecdotes ; and those who have read either his lectures or his sermons, will find how ready on these points was his memory, and how aptly he applied them; so that whilst the mind was engaged by the novelty of the anecdote—when the facts of history were recalled—when the peculiarity of foreign climes was made the subject of allusion—there should be conveyed, through this bond of sympathy between the preacher and some of his hearers, a wholesome instruction.

Among the highest excellences of composition is reckoned that smoothness and natural clothing of our ideas, which seems to have proceeded from spontaneous impulse, whilst it has really cost the writer much care and pains. To be natural, then—to speak so that your hearer is convinced of the truth of what you say-almost intuitively, is indeed a power which few possess. They cannot express, except in words too dignified or common-place, a familiar impression; or if it is done, it is so at variance with the rest, that it startles rather than edifies. Yet Mr. Blunt possessed this great gift; his style seemed so easy, that all fancied they could imitate -has any one yet succeeded ? It seerned so transparently simple, that, to peruse it, you often wonder at the effect produced. But take a sermon of this kind, and read it aloud to your family, and you will cease to wonder at the impression which his discourses produced. You fancy yourself conversing with one who seems to have found the key to your heart; who tells you that your despondency perhaps is owing to the indulgence of some modification of sin, of which you thought all the world was ignorant but yourself; who, when you are too much elated with a recently-acquired knowledge of divine truth, brings you down to the sober realities of life-speaks of temptations, and the enemy of souls-rebukes your pride, abates your presumption ; yet, by his faithfulness, so far from estranging your heart, binds you to him but the more firmly. One whose hints linger in your mind—who at once decisively yet calmly recals you to the struggle in which you are engaged, and then passes on to othor topics necessary for your edification.

“We would say then to each and to all among you-for none have advanced so far as to be beyond the reach of this counsel-rest not in present attainments; be they what they may, there is still much to be learnt-much to be practised which you have not practised ; much in your spiritual life to be experienced which you have not experienced; therefore let your great aim and object be to advance. We say, Go forward, faithfully and prayerfully, circumspectly and boldly."-(Vol. i. p. 270.)

He was one who, amidst much bodily affliction, inherited the earth to the fulness of the promise. An ardent admirer of nature, drawing sources of amusement and instruction from all around -this feeling is conspicuous in his writings. He writes as an acute and sensible observer of what was passing in the world. Whilst he keeps back none of the counsel of God, he exhibits no studied apathy, no real ignorance, which so often deprives sermons of their effect upon the heart.

But for full expression of the vital doctrines of the gospel, with the closest application to the heart and life, he had few equals. Take the following passage, from one of many with which his writings abound.

"First, then, the almost Christian is one who has advanced very far in the enlightening of the understanding and the conscience. With regard to the understanding, it is difficult to say how far we may not advance upon this great characteristic of the children of God, and yet have no portion with them of his Spirit. From frequently hearing the truths of the gospel plainly stated, you may learn to understand them, to talk of them, to enter into all the shades of doctrine, to know, to the most minute article of a creed, all that is orthodox and all that is heterodox. You may be enabled to unfold the mysteries of redemption to others, and to dwell upon the beauties of its wondrous scheme, and the excellences of its salvation, till those who hear you are astopished at the clearness of your views and the depth of your Christian experience. You may go further than this. You may be perfectly convinced of the truth of all that you advance-of the certainty that none can be saved but those who cordially and entirely embrace the doctrines of eternal life which you so well understand; and yet, with all this illumination of the understanding, you may never actually embrace these truths yourselves. As with the understanding so with the conscience : your conscience may enjoy perfeet peace—the last, best gift of God's good Spirit, when built upon a right foundation (even the simple reliance upon the blood of Christ); but you may enjoy a counterfeit of this peace, which may only be the gift of the spirit of carnal security, or the spirit of deadly slumber. And as you may easily attain to peace of conscience in an unrenewed state of heart, so may you, in the same state, attain to trouble and distress of conscience, which are perhaps even less ambiguous evidences of the work of the Spirit than peace itself. You may suffer under the strongest convictions of sin, without these convictions being ever followed by conversion. After the commission of some sins, more disgraceful or more subversive of your worldly happiness, your character, your reputation, your health, than many others-you may be visited with the strongest compunctions and the deepest sorrow; you may lament your iniquity and your folly, and possess many of the true signs of genuine repentance; and yet never attain to genuine repentance.”—(Vol. i. p. 72.)

In the present day we too often listen to sermons, and that too from men who have acquired a name and repute, which have evi

« PreviousContinue »