Page images

service of God his youthful prime

of man.

Not only must the subwas devoted ; in the service of God jects of discourse be such as the he grew old; and at length, ho Gospel furnishes ; but the Gospel noured in hoary-headed righteous, itself, that which is truly, essenness, having by the will of God tially, visibly, the Gospel, must be served his generation faithfully, he preached. “We preach Christ crufell asleep in Christ; leaving, to cified,” said one of the most prothe church and the world, writings found and expansive thinkers that which will perpetuate alike his me ever lived; and it is in the cross of mory and his usefulness.

Christ, as revealing the righteousBelieving it to be his duty to ness of God, that the saving, and engage in the Christian ministry, in therefore that the attracting, power this persuasion he was encouraged of the Gospel consists. Mr. Fosby his excellent Pastor, who there ter's was eminently a philosophic fore kindly received him under his mind; and while, out of the pulpit, roof, to assist in supplying the defi it is evident that he condescended to ciencies of his early education. He orders of mind far different from continued thus at Dr. Fawcett's for his own, it is not less evident that four years, and then entered the in the pulpit he did not thus condeBaptist College at Bristol, where he scend. He not unnaturally wished remained one year. He then went that the beauty of the Gospel should to Newcastle-on-Tyne; where, as be seen, and its influence felt, by well as at some places in the neigh- those whose mental endowments bourhood, he preached for a short were similar to his own; and almost time. He spent, likewise, a few unconsciously, by such a wish, would years at Dublin ; and then became his preaching be influenced. But, stationed, as Pastor, at Downend, if he pursued the plan which, in one near Bristol, where he formed an of his Essays, he has suggested, acquaintance with the lady whom even though he bad had hearers he afterwards married, and for whom thus intellectually gifted, we still his Essays, as all who have read think that he would have failed. them will remember, were written. The Essay in question proposes to In 1804 he removed to Sheppard's make the Gospel less offensive to Barton, near Frome, in Somerset men of taste, by ceasing to employ shire. His ministry, however, was certain expressions which displease not generally popular. To the mem them. Mr. Foster, usually most bers of his church, indeed, and es- happy and accurate in analysis, has pecially, to the poorest amongst here confounded what are them, he was a kind and valued tially different.

It is unquestionfriend. But though his piety was ably true, that there is what may be decided, his preaching was not that termed properly a sectarian phrasewhich generally attracts large con ology, sometimes composed of the gregations. On the one hand, he vulgarisms, sometimes of the procould never divest himself of that vincialisms, of Christianity; and it profound thought by which his is equally true that great adranEssays, written at this time, are tages would arise from the avoidcharacterized; and there are few ance of such a phraseology as this. whose minds are disciplined to an The entire omission of wbat are extent to enable them to accompany merely the words of a sect, the techsuch discourses with advantage : nicalities of party, -if so we may and on the other, if we may judge call them,-would not only render from the volume of “ Lectures deli- such discourses less offensive to vered at Broadmead,” while his “men of taste," speaking generally, pulpit addresses would be founded and in reference to worldly refineentirely on evangelical truth, they ment; but to men of genuine and did not contain that abounding re evangelical taste,-men “who, by ference to evangelical doctrine which reason of use, have their senses is, after all, essential both to the exercised to discern both good and conversion and spiritual edification evil.” Not that differential doctrines


are to be avoided. Far from it. New Testament; and whose meanThat which the Preacher believes to ing is to be fixed, not by their ori. be the truth, he is faithfully to de- ginal use among heathen speakers clare. Every collection of '“ faith- and writers, but by the usage of the ful men” that may challenge to sanctuary. Death, guilt, corrupthemselves the honourable title of a tion, repentance, faith, justification, section of Christ's church, while adoption, regeneration, sanctificabuilding, in regard to essential truth, tion, holiness, growth in grace, and on the only foundation, the one that many other terms of the kind, are is laid already, and that must be terms necessary for the proper ex. admitted just as it is laid, take a par- pression of evangelical truth; and ticular view of some subordinate he who shall lay them by, and emdoctrines; and, according to that ploy others in their place, will find view, form their entire theological that by so doing he puts it out of system. Thus it is, for instance, his power to give a clear and effithat the theological systems of Cal. cient announcement of saving truth. vinism and Wesleyanism agree in His preaching may thus be made regard to the foundation, and differ somewhat less offensive to men of in regard to the superstructure. As taste than otherwise it would be; honest men, the Ministers, in their but just to the extent to which he discourses, will, from time to time, has carried his system of change, exhibit the various portions of what has he made his preaching less they believe to be an entire and con- evangelical. The true offence is, sistent system. But, through hu not at the terms, as such, but at the man infirmity, in addition to modes doctrines which the terms express. of expression necessary for the state. Let him, if he can do so, by a ment of such doctrinal differences roundabout paraphrase, clearly exas these, it will be found that each press the very same truths, and he section of the church possesses what will find that just as much offence we will again call its vulgarisms and is taken as ever. Besides, men of provincialisms, and which are not in taste are not the only persons who the slightest degree requisite for the dislike evangelical religion. The due enunciation of doctrinal distinc. foundation of the dislike is the options. Let all these be resolutely position of man to the will of God cut off. They only serve to perpe. as he is by nature. “The carnal tuate formality and bigotry. And mind is enmity against God;" and bad Mr. Foster shown that his re whatever may be the subordinate marks were exclusively designed to peculiarities of personal character, apply to these, we should have while they are only the modified agreed with him most cordially developements of that state of reBut the instances brought forwards bellious opposition, they will proby himself prove that this was not duce a settled dislike of the Gospel, the case. There are certain expres. however expressed, provided its sions which refer directly to the grand truths are so presented as essential doctrines of the Gospel in that they shall be distinctly perrelation to personal religion. The ceived. Every scheme for renderGospel states the fallen condition of ing the Gospel less offensive, which man, reveals a divinely arranged seeks to accomplish its object while and appointed scheme of redemp- the natural self-complacency of the tion, and calls on man to seek and hearers is unaffected, gains its obobtain its blessings for himself. ject at the expense of its character Christianity, subjectively consider- and power. Man must be offended, ed, is not a philosophical system of that he may be saved. Before he intellectual and moral reformation can receive the end of his faith, and improvement; but of such a even the salvation of his soul, he preternatural deliverance as requires, must have awakened in him that for its clear and full expression, the sight and sense of sin, by reason of use of those peculiar terms which which his mouth shall be stopped are employed for that purpose in the by the deep and mastering convic


tion of his guilt before God, and his mistaken ; and we cannot but think self-complacency give place to self. that his mistake greatly interfered condemnation and abhorrence. Be with his ministerial usefulness. Rohe man of taste, or man of coarse. bert Hall's congregations did not ness,--the man of elegant imagin- diminish under his preaching; and ings, or the man of gross sensuality, many a pious Baptist Minister, in--the faithful, unequivocal preach- ferior in talent, it may be, to Mr. ing of the Gospel, when its search. Foster, but seeing the necessity of ing power is brought to bear on his preaching the Gospel in Gospel lanconscience, is sure to offend him, guage, in order to bring sinners to unless he 80 yields to the truth repentance, and Christ, and salvawhich now shines upon him, as to tion, has made his place of worship be offended with himself. To this too strait for his enlarging congrealternative, clear, pointed, earnest gation. preaching is sure to bring a man. It was in 1805 that the Essays on If he chooses to retain his own self. “Decision of Character,” &c., were complacency, he will be offended published ; and in 1842, less than with the Gospel. But what then? thirty-five years, the sixteenth edition Has not this been foretold ? From was called for. Who can estimate the beginning it has been declared, the amount of invaluable instruction that to those who would not avail which Mr. Foster has been the themselves of the foundation which means of communicating directly to God had laid in Sion, it should be a his readers ? And if the effect of stone of stumbling and a rock of these instructions through them offence. Let the Gospel be heard upon others be considered, computawith those feelings which the sin- tion becomes impracticable, and the ner ought to cherish, if the scrip- mind is led to the Author of all tural account of sin be true, and no good, and glorifies him in the rich offence will be taken even at what variety of his gifts, perceiving that we have termed sectarian technical- “there are diversities of gifts, but ilies, provided there be a faithful the same Spirit;” and that “the mastatement of the true method of sal- nifestation of the Spirit,” in all vation by Christ.

these “ differences of administraThe junior Christian Minister tions,” and “diversities of operamust be exceedingly careful on this tions," " is given to every man to point. At all hazards, the entire profit withal.” And, returning for Gospel must be preserved and a moment to the subjects occupying preached. Sooner than endanger the former portion of the present this, let sectional provincialisms re- paper, in what section of the visible main untouched. There is a phrase. church, duly honouring the authoology which cannot be changed rity of the one Master and Lord, do without so far changing the Gospel we not see the evidence of these itself, as at least to obscure its gifts, and administrations, and opebrightness, and diminish its power. rations? What visible congregation And it is a remarkable fact, that of professing believers can say, that this always affects the number of the instances and proofs of the hearers. "No man ever kept a con working of the Spirit, in providing, gregation together but by such by various gifts and manifestations, preaching as is visibly, unquestion. for the profit of the church and of ably, in form, as well as in sub the world, are limited to their own stance, Gospel preaching. In the enclosure ? And can the Spirit be Essay to which we have all along where the church is not, just as been referring, there is, indeed, richly, just as powerfully, just as much that is excellent,-much from evidently, as where the church is ? which both Christian Ministers and In 1806 Mr. Foster began to suf“men of taste” may learn very use

fer from an affection of the throat, ful lessons ; but, after repeated pe.

in consequence of which he was rusals, we still believe that on one compelled to resign the pastoral subject Mr. Foster was seriously office at Shepherd's-Barton. In

1808 he married, and removed to sion, or by a series of transpositions Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucester- of the same set of statements,xhire, where he resided for the next ringing changes on the same bells, seven years. In 1815 he removed and altering nothing but the order; once more to Downend, having so but by reducing every general truth far recovered his voice as to be able to its constituent elements, and to preach regularly.

For seven

spreading out before the reader not years he was enabled to do this, and words only, but significant words, to attend to the various and labo- words expressive of distinct and parrious duties of a Minister of Christ; ticular thoughts. but his voice again failed, so that In 1825 he wrote a Preface, or he was able to preach only occa rather an Introductory Essay, to a sionally; and soon after he fixed new edition of Doddridge's “ Rise his residence at Stapleton, (in the and Progress of Religion in the immediate neighbourhood of Bris Soul.” As a piece of composition, tol,) and continued there till the the Essay deserves the praises which close of his life. His time was oc it has received ; but we thought cupied by what we may call his when it first appeared, and we think Christian literary pursuits, in the so still, that neither was Doddridge course of which he wrote largely the author whom Mr. Foster should for the press. In 1805 the “ Eclec- have been chosen to introduce, nor tic Review” was established; and this particular work of Doddridge Mr. Foster was one of the stated the one for exhibiting the principles contributors almost from the begin- of which Mr. Foster's mighty talents ning,-his last communication being were best adapted. However excelin October, 1839. On the whole, lent in itself,--and most readily do his contributions amounted to one we admit its excellence,-yet, as an hundred and eighty-five articles; introduction to a work like the many of them extending to two, “Rise and Progress," describing and some even to three, Numbers. the regular sequences of evangelical About a third of these, fifty-nine, piety, we cannot but regard it as a have now been selected, and pub- failure. The principles which led lished in the two volumes whose to what we must always regard as title is placed at the head of this the mistaken observations on which article. In 1818 he preached the we have already remarked, would annual sermon for the Baptist Mis- unavoidably occasion this. About sionary Society, which was after- the same time he was requested to wards published, considerably en. write a similar kind of preface for a larged. His “Essay on the Evils new edition of Pascal's Thoughts. of popular Ignorance” was first We remember well the expectations preached as a sermon before the which this announcement awakened, British and Foreign School Society, as well as the regret which was felt at Bristol, in 1820, and subsequently when it became known that the published in its present form. Of Essay would not be written. He some master-minds the character- several times, it seems, attempted to istic talent is condensation; of write it; but at length, yielding to others, enlargement. Mr. Wesley the feelings which the perpetually, may be referred to as an instance of recurriog marks of weakness in the former : he was enabled to be Pascal, as shown in his frequently brief without being obscure and expressed deference to the Church ineager. Of the latter, Mr. Foster of which he was a member, occais a remarkable example: he pul. sioned, he gave up the task. It verized every piece of truth that was, however, a task worthy the came to his bands, and was not con. pen even of John Foster. Pascal's tent without spreading forth its very was a mighty intellect; and even atoms for consideration. In his bis weaknesses might have been hands the sermon became a treatise; turned to good account, as exhibitnot by the reiteration of common. ing the strength, as well as genuine. place truths in new forms of expres. ness, of his piety. We should view

He was


those weaknesses very differently mental disquietude. On Saturday, had Pascal been an English Roman- October 14th, (1843,) he complained ist, dwelling in the immediate vici. of confusion in the head, and opnity of the light of the Reformation. pression in the chest. But he dwelt in an atmosphere of obliged, therefore, to decline his Popery. He had received its prin- usual practice of hearing some one ciples so early, that they had be. read to him, and requested to be come intimately blended with all left alone the whole of the afterthat he was accustomed to consider noon and evening. On retiring to as primary truth, and which he rest, he would not permit any one never subjected to examination. to sit up with him, but desired that Errors they were; and had his piety all would go to bed. An attendant been less deep and fervent, they went in once or twice in the course would have produced in him, as of the night, and about day-break, they have produced in multitudes, and found him quietly sleeping. An the most lamentable results. We hour afterwards, she went into his should have liked to see, from Mr. room, and found that all was over. Foster's pen, a description of the His hands were stretched out, his piety which was not borne down by countenance perfectly tranquil, as these mistakes, but shot up and de- though the peaceful slumbers of veloped itself notwithstanding their worn-out nature had finally issued existence,-those up-shootings, how. in the deep repose of death. About ever, being often directed, those a month before, he had completed developements being modified, by his seventy-third year. them. But such regrets are now in We have said already that the

“ Reviews " selected for republicaDuring the years 1822, 1823, tion in this permanent, and (though 1824, and 1825, he delivered a we may not say acknowledged, yet) series of miscellaneous Lectures, a no longer anonymous, form, constiselection from which--comprising tute only a small proportion, rather what cannot be more than about a under one-third, of the entire num. fourth part of the whole-is now ber contributed by Mr. Foster to published. The two volumes, con the pages of the “Eclectic.” Two taining a selection from his Eclectic large densely-filled volumes are, inReviews, complete, suppose, deed, no trivial addition to the exwhat may be now taken as theisting stock of religious criticism. Works of John Foster,"—Works No one can complain that the Editor which will always maintain a high has overdone his task. We have position in the religious literature of seen a list of Mr. Foster's contributhe English language.

tions to the “Eclectic;" and though Mr. Foster's last days were those we do not say that any article is of the devoted Christian. In a con omitted, which we should be glad to versation with an esteemed friend a see in the place of some which are few weeks before he died, he spoke actually inserted, yet we could not with deep feeling on the value of have complained had the selection “the blood” which “cleanseth from been even somewhat larger than it all sin.” At another time, when he is. We are glad, however, to see found himself unable to perform the present volumes. Reviews are some intended arrangement, he said, now becoming a most important But I can pray; and that is a glo- branch of literature. We once heard rious thing." At another time he the late Robert Hall say, in answer was overheard repeating the whole to the inquiry, whether he had read of the solemnly delightful passage, the last Nuinber of the “Quarterly?” “O death, where is thy sting? O “ Reviews, Sir! I never read regrave, where is thy victory?" His views. I neither like reviews nor strength had been visibly' declining picture exhibitions. They throw my for some time, and his departure at mind into perfect confusion. You length was as free from all physical have scarcely got into one subject, discomposure, as it was froin all when you get out of it into another.


« PreviousContinue »