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From strength to strength he travels on';
He leaves the lingering brute behind; And when a few short years are gone,
He soars a disembodied mind: Beyond the grave, with hope sublime,
Destined a nobler course to run, In his career the end of Time
Is but Eternity begun!
What guides him in his high pursuit,
Opens, illumines, cheers his way, Discerns the immortal from the brute,
God's image from the mould of clay?
The joys of knowledge shall increase.
New spirit breathed into the clod,
“Man, know thyself, and fear thy God?"
Poor laymen took salvation on content,
Yet whate'er false conveyances they made,
That by long use they grew infallible.
That what they thought the priests' was their estate;
Taught by the will produced, the written
REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
On the Discouragements and Supports of the Christian Minister. A Discourse, delivered to the Rev. James Robertson, at his Ordination over the Independent Church at Stretton, Warwickshire. By ROBERT HALL. Nottingham, Dowson: London, Button. 1812. pp. 58.
We are always glad to enlighten our pages with the luminous sentiments of this author, who, we conclude, is known to most of our readers, Hitherto, indeed, he has been known to them chiefly as a defender of the outworks of Christianity, endued with an extraordinary share of strength and skill, as well as courage; although, even in this capacity, we discern a wide difference between our author, and many who have preceded him in the same path. His reasoning does not rest in mere speculation; and his eloquence is that of a heart deeply imbued with the principles of truth. Now, however, he appears in a somewhat different character: from defending the evidences of natural religion, and hence confirming the truth of Christianity in general, he proceeds to a more explicit statement of its leading doctrines; and after vindicating their importance, his object is to shew in what way these doctrines may be most skilfully employed in persuading men to accept the salvation revealed in the Gospel.
In this address, Mr. Hall has stated, for the instruction of the ministers of Christ in general, the "discouragements and supports" peculiar to their profession; a subject which he has treated with his usual felicity and if he has descended nearer to the level of common minds in this than in his former publications, yet even in his lowest descent we recognise the
hand of a mighty master. do not see so much profound remark, yet we observe, what much better suits our own taste, more of that Christian wisdom which cannot fail to instruct, of that zeal which re-produces itself, of those peculiar doctrines on which man's eternal interests depend. And here we are glad to fortify our own views by the following pertinent observation of our author: "On praćtical subjects, the most common thoughts are usually the most important; and originality is the last quality we seek for in advice: " an observation which, as far as the properties of his own mind would allow him, he illustrates by his practice in this very sermon, where we observe much of what Johnson terms, and applauds, “as a voluntary descent from the dignity of science."
Our author has treated separately, the discouragements and the supports of the Christian minister. Under the head of the former, be has distinguished between those discouragements which arise from the nature of the office itself, and those which are produced by the varieties of temper, character, and situation in a congregation. Among those which arise from the nature of the office, he states: First, that the minds of men are naturally indisposed to the reception of Divine truth; secondly, that the very attempt to convince them of their guilt will frequently excite disgust; thirdly, that even when men are once properly affected with religious truth, it requires much pains to preserve them from self-delusion and error.
Under the second class of discouragements, he refers generally to the different topics and modes of address necessary for the opposite characters which compose a
congregation; and the difficulty of preserving a due medium between personality on the one hand, and indiscrimination on the other, and of uniting in religious instruction the requisite degree of seriousness and affection.
The supports by which these discouragements are to be surmounted, our author thus classes. 1st, The Christian ministry is of Divine institution. 2dly, The materials of a minister's work are ready furnished to his hand, and are of a nature admirably suited to his purpose. 3dly, It is the dispensation of the Spirit. And he closes his observations on this point, by adverting to the farther encouragement which the faithful minister derives from the dignity of his profession, and the rich reward that awaits him.
Such is a hasty outline of this excellent sermon, of which it is not one of the smallest recommendations, that it embraces no point on which orthodox Christians of all denominations do not agree!
The first extract we shall give from it, will serve both to illustrate the author's view of that fundamental article of religion, original sin, and to afford a good specimen of the manner in which religious sentiments may be conveyed, in plain, and at the same time polished, language.
"The Gospel presupposes a charge of guilt; it assumes as an indubitable fact, the universal apostacy of our race, and its con. sequent liability to perish under the stroke of the Divine anger; nor can you acquit yourself of the imputation of handling the word of God deceitfully, if, from false delicacy, or mistaken tenderness, you neglect the frequent inculcation of this momentous truth. You will find it, however, no easy matter to fasten the charge on the conscience; which, when it seems to be admitted, will often amount to nothing more than a vague and general acknowledgment, which leaves the heart quite unaffected. To convince effectually is, indeed, the work of a superior agent." pp, 8, 9.
The next passage we shall notice is that in which the author, after
stating the difficulty of preserving even those who have made some progress in religion from the opposite extremes either of presumption or despair, wisely remarks, that the very consciousness of sin is often made an excuse for continuance in it. Strange as it may seem, it is only one of the many paradoxes which man in his present state exhibits, that the very tenderness of conscience, in minds of a peculiar stamp, is made subservient, not to its proper purpose, that of detecting and subduing whatever is wrong, but to that of cherishing a false sensibility, in which conviction is substituted for conversion, and the mere sense of our sins for victory over them. We are afraid that cases of this kind are not uncommon. There are, we believe, many persons of strong feelings and acute perceptions, whose notions of religion are tolerably correct, and who could not be satisfied without occasional and even frequent examination of their state before God, who yet live without any sensible progress in religious attainments, nay, almost without any visible abatement even of those evils of which they are conscious, and which they sometimes conscientiously deplore. The stated and special periods of prayer and selfexamination recur; the mind is affected to sorrow, and even laments under strong emotions its own deficiences and aberrations; but this very sorrow, perhaps, only serves to forsaken of God, and almost to reinduce the belief that they are not concile them to the recurrence of the same errors; under the false presumption, either that by the lustration of their tears those errors are divested of half their guilt, and may be numbered among the pardonable weaknesses of a heart in the main right with God; or that a time may come when their sorrow for those lamented evils will at length issue in that" repentance unto life which is not to be repented of," but with which these habitual deviations can now scarcely be reconciled even by
themselves. But it is time that our author should speak for himself on this point.
"The conscience, roused to a just sense of the danger to which the sinner is exposed by his violation of the laws of God, is apt to derive consolation from this very uneasiness; by which means it is possible that the alarm, which is chiefly valuable on account of its tendency to produce a consent to the overtures of the Gospel, may ultimately lull the mind into a deceitfnl repose. The number we fear, is not small, of those, who, though they have never experienced a saving change, are yet under no apprehensions respecting their state, merely because they can remember the time when they felt poignant convictions. Mistaking what are usually the preliminary steps to conversion, for conversion itself, they deduce from their former hensions an antidote against present fears; and from past prognostics of danger, an omen of their future safety. With persons of this description the flashes of a superficial joy, arising from a presumption of being already pardoned, accompanied with some slight and transient relishes of the word of God, are substituted for that new birth, and that lively trust in the Redeemer, to which the promise of salvation inseparably belongs." pp. 11, 12.
In a subsequent passage, the author, while he justly reprobates all that may be deemed personal in addresses from the pulpit, thus strongly and pointedly enforces the necessity of introducing such delineations of character as shall serve to display each man to himself.
"A loose and indiscriminate manner of applying the promises and threatenings of the Gospel, is ill-judged and pernicious; it is not possible to conceive a more effectual ethod of depriving the sword of the Spirit of its edge, than adopting that lax generality of representation, which leaves its hearer nothing to apply, presents no incentive to selfexamination, and, besides its utter inefficien. cy, disgusts by the ignorance of human nature, or the disregard to its best interests, it infallibly betrays. Without descending to such a minute specification of circumstances, as shall make our addresses personal, they ought unquestionably to be characteristic, that the conscience of the audience may feel the hand of the preacher, searching it, and every individual know where to class himself. The preacher who aims at doing good will endeavour, above all things, to insulate Lis hearers, to place each of them apart, and
render it impossible for him to escape by losing himself in the crowd. At the day of judgment, the attention excited by the surrounding scene, the strange aspect of nature, the dissolution of the elements, and the last trump, will have no other effect than to cause the reflections of the sinner to return with a more overwhelming tide on his own character, his sentence, his unchanging destiny; and, amid the innumerable millions who surround him, he will mourn apart. It is thus the Christian minister should endeavour to prepare the tribunal of conscience, and turn the eyes of every one of his hearers on himself." pp. 16-18.
The following just and ingenious observations on composition we recommend to the attention of all preachers of the Gospel.
"May I be permitted to remark, though it seem a digression, that in the mode of conducting our public ministrations, we are, perhaps, too formal and mechanical; that, in the distribution of the matter of our sermons, we indulge too little variety, and exposing our plan in all its parts, abate the edge of curiosity, by enabling the hearer to anticipate what we intend to advance. Why should that force which surprise gives to every emotion, derived from just and affecting sentiments, be banished from the pulpit, when it is found of such moment in every other kind of public address. I cannot but imagine the first preachers of the Gospel appeared before their audience with a more
free and unfettered air, than is consistent with the narrow trammels to which, in these latter ages, discourses from the pulpit are
confined. The sublime emotions with which they were fraught, would have rendered them impatient of such restrictions; nor could they suffer the impetuous stream of argument, expostulation, and pathos, to be weakened, by diverting it into the artificial reservoirs, prepared in the heads and particulars of a modern sermon. Method, we are aware, is an essential ingredient in every discourse designed for the instruction of mankind, but it ought never to force itself on the attention as an object apart; never appear to be an end, instead of an instrument; or beget a suspicion of the sentiments being introduced for the sake of the method, not the method for the sentiments. Let the experiment be tried on some of the best specimens of ancient eloquence; let an oration of Cicero or Demosthenes be stretched upon a Procrustes' bed of this sort, and, if I am not greatly mistaken, the flame and enthu siasm which have excited admiration in all
ages, will instantly evaporate: yet no one perceives a want of method in these immortal compositions, por can any thing be conceived more remote from incoherent rhapsody." pp. 19, 20.
On this passage, however, we would remark, that, after all, it be longs, perhaps, only to a few minds of a superior description to treat a 'subject with perspicuity and consistency unless they are confined within the limits of prescribed divisions; and that the majority of our congregations, whose minds have scarcely escaped, if ever to escape, from the nursery of instruction, require all the aid of such leading-strings to prevent their ideas from running in to confusion, and to enable them to comprehend the scope of a serinon. On the subject of seriousness, as a grand requisite in preaching, the author has not only considered "jesting and undisguised levity" of any kind, as a breach of that sobriety which becomes the Christian minister, but has included under the same censure, "whatever in composition or manner is inconsistent with the supposition of the speaker being in earnest; such as sparkling ornaments, far-fetched images, and that exuberance of flowers which seems evidently designed to gratify the fancy rather than touch the heart." -We need scarcely say how much we coincide with the author, in the judgment he has expressed on this point. There can be no doubt, that levity of any kind, on an occasion so solemn as that which has for its object the salvation of the soul, cannot fail to bring into question the sincerity of the preacher. Who, for example, can believe that the ingenious South, notwithstand ing the general correctness of his doctrine, the force of his arguments, and the nicety of his discriminations, could have felt a deep interest in the truths he preached, when, after attempting to prove, that devotional exercises in which the heart is not interested, are the "sacrifice of fools," he adds," and God is never mote weary of sacrifice than when
a fool is the priest, and folly the oblation." The mind which in preaching could fall into a strain like this, must view the awful realities of another world through a medium to which our sight cannot adjust itself,
Another offence, scarcely less to be condemned in ministers of the Gospel, is the useless and pedantic display of learning, which justly excites a suspicion that Christianity is viewed more as a mere exercise of the understanding, than as a system of which the main object is to save the soul from impending ruin, And it is curious to remark, with what exultation infidels have exposed defects of this kind in the injudicious advocates of the Gospel, who display not their tenets, but themselves; and have thence taken occasion to involve in one sweeping condemnation, the sincerity of the advocate, and the truth of his creed. Even Rousseau complains to this effect of the Christians of his day :"Our libraries are full of books of divinity, and we are every where over-run with casuists. Formerly, we had saints, but no casuists. Science extends itself, and religion decays. All the world are for teaching how to act well, but nobody is willing to learn. We are, in fact, all become scholars, and have ceased to be Christians*."
And in another place he thus writes: "No, it was not by means of so much artifice and study, that the Gospel spread itself over the universe, and that its captivating beauty penetrated the hearts of men. This divine book, the only one necessary for Christians, and the most useful even to those who are not, need only to be read and reflected on, to inspire the soul with a love of its Author, and a desire to obey its precepts. Never did virtue speak in so pleasing a style; never was profound wisdom expressed with so much energy and simplicity. It is impossible to give over