Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

may assist us to conceive, how to him one day must necessarily be “as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”'

Vol. v. pp. 373–378. The notes of the second part of the discourse are very brief. In illustration of the use to which the doctrine of the text may be applied, it is observed, that, 1. 'it removes the ground of objection against the fulfilment of the Divine declarations, arising from the accomplishment being long delayed '; (this position is supported by a few considerations ;) and, 2dly, it accounts for the peculiar cast of Scripture language, when employed in announcing the coming of Christ and the end of all things. The concluding reflection is quite characteristic, in its turn of thought, of Mr. Hall's original, yet simple manner of enforcing practical truths.

* 3. Though we cannot immediately change our senses, let us endeavour to conform our ideas and convictions to the dictates of Infullible Wisdom on this subject. Let us consider the whole duration of things here as very short.' We

e were not fortunate enough to hear this discourse; but we could not have mistaken the authorship. How, in the Preacher's hands, the compact series of sublime argument would have expanded itself in the illustration, so as to accumulate strength, while it acquired greater distinctness, and more vividly presented itself to the understanding in its full import, those who have had the privilege of hearing Mr. Hall, can well imagine. And they may conceive also of the forceful eloquence with which, having made good his argumentative position, he would, as it were, open a battery upon the consciences of his hearers, in the practical remarks that came warm from his own excited feelings. To those who were unacquainted with his preaching, many of the sketches of sermons in the fifth volume, will lose much of their interest and value. They are like etchings, which an artist who has seen the original paintings, may even prefer to more finished engravings, because they more distinctly present the idea, and his imagination can best supply the expression. Upon the whole, however, we have been delighted to find, that of so many discourses, (no fewer than forty-one,) such ample notes have been preserved. Several of them have evidently been prepared by the Author with great care: some were, indeed, written much more fully than his usual pulpit notes, with an express view, the Editor informs us, to serve as the basis of a projected volume. Even the fullest of them, however, are drawn out only to half the extent of the preached sermons; and in but few is the application more than hinted.

• It will not be expected, then,' adds Dr. Gregory, 'that these notes

should evince the exquisite finish, in point of style, which they would have received from their Author, had he prepared them at full length with a view to immediate publication; or that they should abound in those copious and accumulative amplifications of the subjects, or those touching and powerful appeals to the affections and conscience, by which his preaching was so eminently distinguished. Yet, they will be found to exhibit the same simple dignity and grace, often the same beauty and pathos, the same richness and variety

of illustration, as his other works; while, if I mistake not, they manifest a more fixed and constant determination to elucidate and apply scriptural truth, a more vivid and awful conviction of the infinite importance of salvation to men who have lost the image and favour of God, and a more deep and pervading current of devotional feeling, than even the most admired of his former publications; eloquent, impressive, instructive, and often truly sublime, as they unquestionably are.' Vol. V. Advert. p. iii.

In this point of view more especially, the contents of this volume are peculiarly valuable, and can disappoint no competent judge. They are valuable as illustrations of Mr. Hall's most matured religious sentiments, indicating his advance in spirituality of temper and fervour of devotion, and the increasing strength of his attachment to the distinguishing doctrines of the Christian economy. And they are intrinsically valuable also, as clear and masterly illustrations of the points of theology to which they relate. Although Mr. Hall cannot of course be judged of as a writer, nor as an orator, by these Notes, they are fair specimens of the materials of his preaching,—the organic remains of a giant. Before, then, we proceed to review Mr. Hall's finished writings, we shall gratify both ourselves and our readers by giving more specimens of these interesting remains. The xxxth in the series is very strikingly characteristic of Mr. Hall's original and powerful manner of treating those common, hackneyed topics of practical duty or Christian virtue, which are too often substituted by mere ethical declaimers for evangelical teaching, and too often slighted altogether by evangelical preachers. The subject is 'Humility before God'; and the text, James iv. 10. The exordium commences, as usual, with an illustration of the context; and then proceeds as follows.

Humility may be considered in two views; either as it respects the Divine Being, or as it respects our fellow-creatures ;-humility before God, or as it affects our sentiments and conduct towards men, But, while this distinction is admitted, it must be carefully remembered, that it is no longer a Christian virtue, than when it originates in just conceptions of the great Parent of the universe; that the basis of all social excellence, of a moral nature, is in a right state of the heart towards God. The virtues which are severed from that stock, will soon languish and decay; and as they are destitute of proper principle, so are they neither stable nor permanent.

*. In this discourse, we shall confine ourselves to the consideration of humility, in its aspect towards the Supreme Being; or, in other words, humility before God. It may be defined as consisting in that profound, habitual conviction of our nothingness, guilt, and pollution be fore God, which a just knowledge of ourselves will necessarily inspire. It is the rectitude of this conviction, it is its perfect conformity to the real nature of things, which renders it the object of Divine approbation. It is the agreement betwixt the lowliness of our minds and the debasement of our character, and the depression of our state, which invests it with all its beauty, and all its value. The gracious notice which this disposition attracts, is not owing to any intrinsic excellence in the object, any more than in lofty sentiments connected with a reflection on ourselves ; but solely because a deep humiliation coincides with our true state and characters, as surveyed by the eye of Omniscience. In a word, it is the justness and the correctness of the feelings and convictions which enter into the composition of a humble mind, which give it all its worth.

• Pride is the growth of blindness and darkness; humility, the product of light and knowledge: and while the former has its origin in a mistaken and delusive estimate of things, the latter is as much the offspring of truth, as it is the parent of virtue.

• Let it be observed, that the disposition under consideration is not an occasional feeling arising from some sudden and momentary impulse ; it is not a transitory depression, produced by some unexpected disclosure: in the good man, it is an habitual state of feeling; it is the quality in which his mind is uniformly attired; he is “clothed with humility.” Wide and diffusive as its operation is, some conception of it may be formed by attending to the following observations:

). Humility in the sight of God will have a powerful influence on all our thoughts and reflections ; on ourselves, on our character, condition, and prospects: a sense of inherent meanness and unworthiness in the sight of God will adhere closely to us, and will insensibly, and without effort, mingle with every recollection of the Supreme Being. A sort of self-annihilation before him will be natural and habitual; and by a recollection of his majesty, and a consciousness of our utter unworthiness to appear in his presence, we shall be no strangers to that ingenuous shame which will scarcely permit us to lift up our eyes to heaven.

Under the influence of this principle, we shall be more apt to think of our faults than our virtues ; of the criminal defects with which we are chargeable, than of any pretensions to excellence we may suppose ourselves to possess.

• Our faults are our own; they originate entirely in ourselves; to us belong all their demerit and their shame: while, for whatever inherent good we may possess, we are indebted to divine grace, which has alone made us to differ. While there is none to share with us the baseness and turpitude of our sinful actions, our virtues are to be ultimately traced to a source out of ourselves. Hence, whatever is wrong in our dispositions and conduct, lays a foundation for unmingled humiliation : what is of an opposite nature supplies no pretext for unmingled self-complacency. “Besides, it requires but little attention to perceive that our sins admit of no apology, while our highest at

[ocr errors]

tainments in holiness are accompanied by much imperfection : so that, while every pretension to merit' is defeated, our demerits are real and substantial. True humbleness of mind will dispose us to form that correct estimate of ourselves, which can only result from an attention to the heart; the secret movements of which we may often perceive to be irregular and depraved, where the external conduct is correct; and innumerable pollutions and disorders may be detected there, by Him “who seeth in secret,” when all that is visible to man is innocent and laudable.

Here a prospect is opened to the contemplation of humble piety, which suggests occasion of abasement and humility before God, where [our friends] see nothing but matter of commendation and applause. It is this habit of inspecting the interior of the character, and of currying the animadversions of conscience to the inmost thoughts and imaginations of the heart, that accounts for that unfailing lowliness and humility before God which is the constant appendage of exalted piety; and which reconciles the highest elevations of religion with the depths of self-abasement. This is sufficient to preserve alive a constant sense of deficiency in the most advanced Christian; of scattering every idea of “ having already attained,” and of " being already perfect ;” and to urge him to press forward towards the prize with unabating ardour. This was the spirit of the great apostle of the Gentiles, and of the most illustrious heroes in the cause of Christ.

• The self-reflective faculty is, by the constitution of our minds, so incessantly active, and the idea of self of such frequent occurrence, that its effect on the character must be extremely different, according as it turns to the view its fairest or its darkest side. The habit on which we now speak, of directing the attention to criminal defects, rather than to the excellencies of the character, is not only

the dictate of humility; it is the absolute suggestion of prudence. Excellencies are not inspired by being often contemplated. He who delights to survey them, contributes nothing by that exercise to their prosperity or growth : on the contrary, he will be tempted to rest in the selfcomplacency they inspire, and to relax his efforts for improvement. Their purity and lustre are best preserved in a state of seclusion from the gaze even of the possessor. But, with respect to the faults' and imperfections with which we are encompassed, it is just the reverse ;the more they are reflected on, the more fully they are detected and exposed, the greater is the probability that their growth will be impeded, and a virtuous resolution evinced to extirpate and subdue them. To think much upon our sins and imperfections, is to turn ourselves to that quarter in which our business lies. Meditating much on our virtues and good deeds, is a useless occupation, since they will thrive best when abandoned to a partial oblivion.

Some consciousness, indeed, [in the Christian,] of his possessing the features of a renovated mind, and even of a progress in the practice of piety, is almost unavoidable, and is not without its use, inasmuch as it supplies a motive to gratitude, and a source of consolation; but the moment he finds himself drawing a self-complacency from such a retrospect, the enlightened Christian is alarmed, nor will he suffer himself to dwell long upon an object, the survey of which is so replete with danger. He hastens to check himself in that delusive train of reflection, and to recall to his [mind the persuasion] that he has “not yet attained, nor is already perfect.” The recollection that he is a fallen creature, exposed to righteous indignation; that his sins, though remitted, can never cease to be his, nor to retain all their turpitude and demerit; and that he is, whatever his attainments, still a child of disobedience, and a pensioner on mercy ;--the constant remembrance of these solemn and momentous truths, is sufficient to preserve a perpetual humiliation in the sight of God.' Vol. V. pp. 287–292.

The second consideration, and that which it was probably the Preacher's main design to insist upon, is, that humility before God will have a beneficial influence on the mind, in disposing it to receive in a proper temper, the discoveries of Divine truth. After some intermediate remarks, the Author thus begins to close with the conscience of the pharisaic formalist.

• With a mind truly humble, the great principle which pervades the Gospel will be found peculiarly congenial; and what is this, but the principle of grace? The whole system of the gospel is emphatically the gospel of the grace of God. It is an exhibition of unmerited favour to a guilty and perishing world; and all the blessings which it proposes to bestow, all the hopes it inspires, are ascribed to this as its origin. Every idea of human desert is anxiously excluded. : : . . It is the triumph and pre-eminence of grace that forms the distinguishing character of the Christian system, and which produces that insuperable disgust with which it is contemplated by those who, “ going about to establish their own righteousness, refuse to submit themselves unto the righteousness of God." Hence, the attempts are, in many instances, too successful, which are daily witnessed, to disguise this its obnoxious feature, and, by certain extenuations and refinements, to accommodate it to the pride of the sinful and unsanctified heart. Hence, the deplorable infatuation of multitudes, who choose rather to perish in their sin, than to be so entirely and deeply indebted to unmerited favour as the system of the Gospel implies. But, to a mind truly humbled, nothing is more welcome, nothing is more delightful, than the contemplation of revealed truth under this aspect. To feel himself under an unutterable obligation, is no oppressive load from which the contrite in heart is anxious to be released. Vol. V. pp. 295—7.

This is the last finished sentence of the fragment, which will serve to shew for what purpose Mr. Hall often chose a text of this practical aspect, that he might take the conscience as it were by surprise, when he proceeded to argue, upon the common ground of admitted truths, the higher points to which they were shewn to lead. By inferring doctrinal truths from practical ones, instead of deducing practical inferences from doctrinal statements, he inverted, with equal ingenuity and felicity, the ordinary tactics of the pulpit ; and while he seemed to deal less in theological statements, than many of his brethren, he adopted the most effec

« EdellinenJatka »