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to " set forth the paramount importance of religion as a national, no less than an individual concern,” it should therefore be assumed that "little of doctrinal matter” is to stand out in clear and distinct relief upon its pages. Wherever a plea of this kind is preferred, our fears are at once awakened: we become suspicious of
the author, and are greatly apprehensive that his teaching will not · be “ in entire accordance with the simple teaching” of the gospel,
or “ of our pure and reformed Church.” We have generally found it otherwise, and we cannot say that we think Mr. H. an exception. His sermons appear to us not only defective, but to betray a false foundation. We shall instance but two particulars—the Christian character, and the Redeemer's atonement.
We take it to be a radical transgression in all pulpit teaching, to assume that there has been an actual transformation of character--and that men are to be addressed as being, or having been, Christians, not in name only, but in deed and in truth. Such, however, appears to be the ground taken by Mr. H., and hence his most practical appeals are comparatively pointless. His arrow is blunted—his aim feeble and wide of the mark. We shall quote but a passage or two to indicate our meaning.
The following is not a true, but an imaginary picture“'Let a man,' says Mr. H., 'who can yet recal the time when he once loved God alone, with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength,' but has since found himself, he scarcely knows how, but by little and little, entangled in the love of the world : let him compare, I say, his former feelings with his present, and he will see, that whereas formerly, his first waking thought in the morning was a thought of prayer and of God: and his last thought in the evening a thought of praise and thanksgiving : he now finds his morning care, and his evening care, are with his worldly affairs : yea, and his very dreams, too, haunted with the same evil imaginations: or perhaps (not allowing him to sleep,) they keep his restless body and mind awake through the tedious night to the thought of nothing but his losses or his gains."-(p. 28.)
There is, we grant, a case of religious declension for which this might be taken perhaps as the true picture : but if we mistake not, Mr. H. here and elsewhere confounds mere sentiment and conviction with religious principle and heart-conversion, assuming that every baptized person is one who in the first instance loves God with all his heart, and that the conflict of which every educated Christian must more or less be the subject, is the conflict of a regenerate soul as described by St. Paul (Rom. vii. 15—25.) How else can we understand the passage which follows in the same discourse— Worldliness incompatible with religion ?
“ Thus, for example, if riches be not the master we own, the idol we worship, may not the Mammon assume some other shape ? may not ambition, lust, pleasure, ease, pride, intemperance--may not some of these be the master we serve? and do we not find the service equally incompatible with
the service of God? Do we not find the war going on in our members, as of two striving for the mastery, and which will not have peace till one or the other give place? Do we not realize, with St. Paul, that while with the mind' we would serve the law of God, yet (so long as this rivalry remains,)
with the flesh' we find ourselves serving the law of sin !' Is it not undeniable that 'the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;' showing but too clearly that 'these are contrary the one to the other,' and will on no account be reconciled; but that the extermination of the one must make room for the complete dominion of the other? For it is not the love of riches alone which has this power of expelling the love of God from the heart! nor yet need it be any of the other influences we have mentioned.”—(pp. 32, 33.)
Take another extract as indicating the same indecisive view which our author seems to have of personal religion
“ Say, that, by an effort, we can subdue this mastery over our hearts during the time of divine service, or even possibly for the whole Sabbath-day; say, that we can expel these worldly thoughts, and drive them out of God's temple with a scourge, as our Saviour did the money-changers; say, that, for this one day, and in the house of God, thoughts of heaven, of our souls, and eternity, can gain entire possession of our hearts, how quickly does the Monday coming, with its business, cares, and worldly concerns, tell, but too plainly, whom we serve; and too soon oblige us to dismiss the solemn impression of the day before,- the lessons of piety, holiness, and unworldliness, which we had gathered from the book of God, and the ordinance of His Church. We do not mean that this state of things absolutely proves us not to be serving God; it is not as though we had 'not God in all our thoughts;' but it shows certainly the truth of our text, that we cannot serve him and another master together; and if he does not occupy the first place in our hearts, it is equally certain that we are not far from robbing Him of a place there altogether."'(pp. 34, 35.)
Similarly in the next sermon, Them that honour Him, God will honour :'
“ We saw, on Sunday last, who are meant in Scripture by those who are there said to be 'haters of God,' that it was those who do not 'love' Him as they are bound to do, (and as His commandment enjoins upon them as their duty,) with all their heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. We saw, that, on this supposition, the followers of 'Mammon’ were necessarily to be counted as 'haters of God; for serving the one,' it was shown that they * could not serve the other also;' 'holding to the one,' they were told by no less an authority than our Saviour himself, that they must, perforce, despise the other.'
“That remark, indeed, was general; and our argument did not then require a more minute inquiry into who these 'haters' or 'despisers' of God' were ; but it is a question we shall have no difficulty in resolving to-day, though far be it from us to suppose that all who are not found in the number of those that 'honour' God, are therefore to be considered, from the text, as amongst those that ' despise him."'-(pp. 40, 41.)
And again :
“ Others there are who, observing the moral law as it affects their intercourse with their fellow-men, are regardless of its requirements as it applies to their conduct towards God; who despise His ordinances; who neglect His warnings: who observe not His Sabbaths; who forsake His Church; who breathe no prayer; who offer no thanksgiving ; who forget God, their Maker, their Preserver, their Redeemer; who live without Him in the world; who value not the privilege of being born in a Christian land, of Christian parents : who regard not their being baptized in the name of Christ; being made members of His Church; subjects of His kingdom ; heirs to the hope of everlasting life! And do not all these, then, despise God? Do they not, in a greater or less degree, deny His authority, set at nought His decrees, hold cheap His supremacy? And is it surprising if such are lightly esteemed' of Him in return, whether in this world, or whether the retribution awaits them in the world to come?
“ We say not; the text says not; that such are to be severely punished of God;—punished, we mean, as those that defy Him, disown Him, insult Him : they are not to be classed with Eli's shameless household, who openly brought religion into scorn, and mocked at the counsels of the Most High.' But, unquestionably, they come under the title of 'despisers of God,' and have therefore to make their account of being despised of Him, while He shall honour those of whom He has received honour."-(pp. 46, 47.)
We certainly do not think the following, the happiest speci. men of discriminating faithful application in a court-preacher. The sermon concludes
"Such honour have those that honour God. Let us, in conclusion, thankfully acknowledge, that not as individuals only, but as a nation, it has hitherto been ours to honour God: need we give proof, that not as individuals only, but as a nation, we have been honoured in return?
"Long may this continue the single aim of our nation's counsels : and so long are we assured that the glory shall not be diminished, or its brightness fade away. But so soon as it shall be, that this ceases to be the one principle of all our doings; the days of our national greatness are numbered: the "sceptre shall depart from us,' and 'a lawgiver from between our feet,' 'our honour shall be given unto others,' and 'strangers shall be filled with our wealth,' and 'our labours shall be in the house of a stranger:' and we shall mourn at the last,' when we too late remember, how God had said, “Them that honour me, I will honour: but they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed. Amen." (p. 53.)
A single extract more will, we think, satisfy our readers that we are not wrong in our idea of the baptismal-date and character of Mr. H.'s supposed Christian. He has described very strongly " the unwise man, and the fool of this world.” He thus proceeds
““ Fools' there are again who, like Gallio, care for none of these things; who either cannot, or will not, ‘understand;' before whom the word of God is cast, as ' pearls before swine;' who are so besotted and drunken with this world's pleasures, and luxuries, and excesses, that they are blind, and deaf, and dead to all knowledge and recollection of better things: who say with the heathen, 'Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,' but understand not how it is written for their learning, “The belly for meats, and meats for the belly; but God shall judge both it and them.' And yet, from the first, it was not so with them. There was a time,-and possibly not so distant but that they can yet recal it; there was a time when even they could 'understand 'that God had made them for higher ends than these : that a Saviour had redeemed them for something different to this: that the Holy Spirit, given to them at their baptism, had sanctified and regenerated them, to some nobler purpose, than that which they have in common with the beasts that perish.
“ That was the time, when their perceptions were not yet blunted by sensuality and sin, when their sense of the beauty of holiness' was still keen and lively : when they could yet pray with fervour: could feel cheered by the Spirit's inward ray: could lift up their hearts to God, filled with heavenly aspirations, having an insight into the hidden mysteries of his kingdom, the secret of the Lord,' the part of the temple behind the veil.
“But that time is gone. They were then as babes in the knowledge of the world; they have now learned its love and its wisdom by experience, and have proportionably unlearned Christ. The Spirit of God has ceased to dwell with them; they have 'grieved’ it by their impure thoughts, their brutish appetites, their carnal affections; they have' quenched' its warm flame by the cold calculations of worldliness, or drowned it in the cares' of office, or 'the deceitfulness of riches.'
“ Like 'Ephraim’ they have turned to their idols,' and the provoked Spirit has let them alone;' God, after long striving with them, has at last “ given them up unto their own hearts' lust, and let them follow their own imaginations:' and so they are become as very 'fools,' seeing to see not, and hearing to hear not, and to say in their hearts, and to live in their lives as though they believed there were no God.'”-(pp. 92, 93.)
Sermon xv. (by the way) affords another characteristic specimen of courtly application, and illustrates still further the particular view which it has been our object to develope—the preacher's strong unqualified assumptions in regard to baptism and external profession. The Sermon in question was preached upon Sunday, August 11, 1844, on the occasion of a public “ Thanksgiving to Almighty God, for the safe delivery of the Queen, and the happy birth of a Prince."
“ Who,” the preacher asks, " can estimate the untold and ever-increasing sources of joy, to the parents, from a band of children dwelling together in unity?
“ The Holy Spirit has compared them to the ointment on the head,' overflowing, till it 'ran down even to the beard, and to the skirts of the clothing,' to the dew of heaven falling on a hill, on which the Lord had promised his blessing and life for evermore.'
“Even the Roman lady could produce her two sons, and exhibit them to a stranger as her choicest jewels,' holding herself sufficiently rich in them to despise the pearls and treasures of the other.
"What, then, must be the Christian parent's estimate of an heritage and gift,' which not only came originally of the Lord, but which has been again consecrated to him in baptism, and made His by adoption, while hers in possession ?-who has secured for them a perpetual interest in him who has called himself the Father of the fatherless, and who has said, that he will never leave them nor forsake them!'
“But if this be true of the offspring of any Christian parent, how far more precious must such an heritage be in the eyes of a Christian sovereign, in whom are centered the interests and the welfare of a nation ;-and not of a nation only, but of no small portion of the inhabitants of the globe.
" What human being can calculate the importance of an unbroken line of succession in this kingdom? Who that witnesses the misery and distraction to which neighbour nations have been subjected, from a disputed succession to the throne, can be sufficiently thankful to God, that, humanly speaking, we have nothing to apprehend under this head? Well may it be said, that * as arrows in the hand of a giant,' so are the royal princes in the hands of a nation serving and fearing God! They are so many hostages for peace ; so many pledges for a nation's security. 'Happy is' that nation 'which has its
quiver full of them; it shall not be ashamed when it speaks with its enemies in the gate!'
“ By the blessing of God, it is ours to live in an age of all but universal peace and long may it be so! Long may the nations of the earth continue to see it as their truest and wisest policy to be in love and mutual charity with one another:--but should the evil days return, when there shall be war in the gates,' and the calm of the earth be broken by the storms and tempest of empires striving for the mastery; let it be our comfort to reflect that we are armed, not more with our national wealth and national spirit, than with a God-fearing and a God-honouring sovereign. A sovereign strong in the affections of her subjects ; strong in the hearts of a loyal and united people ; but above all these, strong in a house ' built up in faith,' and firmly' established'in the Lord."-(pp. 224–226.)
The following may sum up these choice specimens of charitable assumption.
“Let the Christian, then, not make his offering to God of that which costs him nothing. Naaman, the Syrian, could' wash seven times in Jordan, and be clean 'from his inveterate disease, though he could not see what connexion there was between the waters of Israel and the removal of his complaint; and so let the proud unbeliever have faith in the waters of baptism, and believe that he can be cleansed from all sin by an unseen Saviour. But happily for our age and nation, we have not many among ourselves to whom those remarks will apply. By God's grace we live in days, where, from the sovereign on the throne, to her remotest subject, we have around us a people ever ready for the most part to receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save their souls." '-(p. 332.)
We know not that it is always seasonable to wield the hammer of the word: but we would certainly recommend Mr H. to take a lesson or two of good old Latimer, or of Hall, and others his predecessors at the Chapel Royal, in this most important art. His pleasant-reading sermons do not strike us as very likely to break the rock in pieces : but we fear there is as much need of this at Whitehall as elsewhere.1
1 The following anecdote from the Life of Dean Milner may strike our readers as a little apropos. Writing to his friend Mr. Stillingfleet (17th March, 1802), he says:“I was appointed to preach, on Ash Wednesday, at Whitehall; and I was very anxious to discharge that duty, particularly as I had been disappointed by ill-health at the time of my former turn at the same place, soon after I was made Dean. I went to London, but I was so poorly that I was obliged to have a substitute ready. It pleased God, however, that about seven o'clock in the morning of Ash Wednesday I found myself wonderfully better. I instantly sent my boy three miles to tell my deputy not to come. I preached on the one thing needful,' for an hour and twenty minutes, to a crowded audience, and to the Bishop of Oxford, who would think it queer work, I dare say. Many more would have been present, but the report had got round that I should not be there. You would have been entertained to see Rowland Hill at the chapel, expressing his approbation in too marked a manner." His biographer afterwards observes: "The approbation expressed in too marked a manner,' at the chapel of Whiteball, by the venerable Rowland Hill, naturally recals the recollection of another incident, related, I think, in the life of that excellent man. Dean Milner having, during one of his many visits to London, heard Rowland Hill preach at his own crowded chapel, went to him in the vestry after the service was concluded, and, cordially shaking him by the hand, said, in
e hearing of several persons, “Mr. Hill, Mr. Hill, it is this slap-dash style of preaching after all that does all the good.'” (Life by his Niece, pp. 252-255.) We submit these ana to the grave consideration of our Whitehall and other preachers. Applied cum grano salis, we think they may suggest a good practical hint in not a few cases. 1846.