Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

mands their interference; when infidelity or fanaticism starť tipo in some new and destructive form ; when licentiousness or crime are armed with some novel fascination and power, then it is that they descend into the field of battle, tot as raw recruits, but as veterans in the contest, and present a formidable and unbroken-phalans against the foe. We trust therefore that the line will pever come, when the clergy of the Chureh of England shall cease to exereise their talents in the frequent publication of those compositions, which the judgment either of themselves or of their congregations may consider worthy of being presented to the world. There are few,, very few volumes which have not been of much advantage either to their authors or to their readers; for if they lave failed in instructing and reforming tlie latter, they have at least awakened the activity, and animated the exertions of the former.

In another point of view also, peculiar to the present day, we are happy to bear our testimony to the labour and assiduity of the clergy in this department of their profession. When a party exists, who sometimes by sly insinuation, sometimes by language more unreserved, prefer an unceasing charge against the great body of the clergy, of neglecting the doctrines, and invalidating the powers of that Gospel, of which they are the ministers and stewards, they are called upon most solemnly to meet. and to answer the acèusation. It has been met with spirit answered with success. That answer stands recorded not in words alone but in deeds; in the publicatious of the clergy os the present day, in their sermons, in their tracts, in their lectạres, in their controversies, forming altogether such a body of Christian theology, as would have done honour to the best ages of the Church. We speak not of the ability which may be conspicuous in their writings, as tliis, however great, is not the point under consideration, but we speak of the Christian prin. ciples declared, the Christian motives inculcated, and the Christian faith sustained. Every volume of theology that appears, is a new and triumphant refutation of so gross and so unfounded a charge. Froin their cold and systematie neglect of such frequent and such overpowering testimonies, and from their determined and practical perseverance in the eharge, we are almost inclined to believe that the party wish that such a charge were

The only excuse that we can frame in their favour is the supposition that their wishes in this case bias their better judgment. They have established, by a self-erected charter, a monopoly of Christian faith within their own Masonic circle ; any proclamation of the same high doctrines by the uninitiated is an infringement of their patent, and an act of rebellion against their

power.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

true.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

power. They are slow to suspect even the existence of such a calamity, fearing least the very acknowledyment should accelerate its progress.

Tarde

guce

creditu lædunt Crédimus." To the long and venerable list of those who have come for ward, by their writings, to bear witness to the sound and evani gelical doctrines of the clergy of the Established Church, we shall with pleasure add the name of Dr. Wordsworth. A clearer refutation of the calumnies of the puritanical party could not be produced than the volumes before us. There is not a page which breathes not the pure and vital spirit of Christianity, untainted by the intoxicating vapours of low and canting fanati. cism. The high ground of the Gospel is wisely taken, and resolutely maintained. It is this alone which can add power to precept, and success to exhortation,

The great characteristic of these sermons is perfect simplicity; they are primarily intended by their author for the use of families, hence they are peculiarly adapted both to common and to inixed congregations. The subjecis which Dr. Wordsworth bas selected are such as in themselves cannot fail to attract the attention of every rank and condition of his Christian brethren. The following is the catalogue of the contents of the first volume.

I. The Leprosy of Naaman. II. The Leprosy of Gelazi. III. Jesus raises from the Dead the Widow's Son of Nain. IV. The Christian delivered from Condemnation. V. The Fleshi and the Spirit. VI. The Woman of Canaan. VII. Demas and Paul. VIII. Jesus is the Christ. IX. The Ten Lepers.

X. A Christian Comment on the Sixth Commandment. XI. The Gergesenes. XII. Christ purges the Temple. XIII. The Parable of the Lost Sheep. XIV. The Parable of the Tares. XV. The Unforgiving Servant. XVI. Herod, Herodias and her Daughter.

From this catalogue the reader will observe, that but four of the sermons in this volume are professedly upon abstract texts, the remaining twelve are founded either tipon parables or particular histories. We highly approve of this plan, as peculiarly calculated to fix the attention of every class and description of hearers. The inferences, both doctrinal as well as practical, which are deduced from histories and parables, are listened to with more general eagerness, and are retained with much greater fidelity than those which spring from abstract or general texts. The instructions which are thus interwoven, and appear to arike from the events of the story, not only by their familiarity create

I have

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

an immediate interest, but supply also a sort of technical memory in their application. In addition to this, the case of another is much more easily represented to a man's understanding, and brought home to his heart than his own. Example is the school of mankiud, and they will be effectually taught in no other. This was the plan pursued by Him, who knew all the intricacies of our moral composition much better than ourselves, and was much more skilled in applying the remedies. It is for the Christian minister in this, as in every other point, to follow the steps of his Lord, to enlarge upon the parables which he de livered, and closely to adopt the method which he pursued.

Dr. Wordsworth appears eminently successful in the application of the circumstances of the history or parable to the several conditions of his hearers. Thus, for instance, after having enlarged upon the history of Naaman, he thus continues :

“ What was it, I would ask, which brought about the conversion, and with that, as we trust, the everlasting salvation of Naaman? It was his leprosy. That bodily malady led to the healing of his soul.

“ Is there then any amongst you who suffers under any wasting sickness, loathsome disease, or grievous distemper of body, as Naaman didtake courage. Be not utterly cast down. Do but, as, in the end, he did, and you will find all the blessings contained in his history fully accomplished in yourselves.

“ There is a Prophet of the Lord of Hosts, there is an unerring Physician to whom ye may repair ; and he has promised expressly to all that come unto him, and comply with his instructions, that they shall find health and everlasting salvation. Indeed, the health of the body may not be restored to you for a time; I mean, not even during this life, as we call it; but it shall be so hereafter. Everlasting health shall be granted you, both to body and soul. Take courage then, and have liope. Bear up patiently under your burden. The time here is but as the twinkling of an eye.

Wher that is once over, no pain, no memory, or regret on that account shall molest you, for ever. Nay, what cause shall ye not have for rejoicing, if your affliction here, which is, as it were, but for a moment, shall work out for you a far more'exceeding and eternal weight of glory? What will it then signify, that ye have had on earth irksome nights and wearisome days; and that your condition has been painful to yourselves and others? Therefore, be not too much discouraged ; but take in good part the chastisement of the Lord. Fix your hope in him, and ye shall never be forsaken. Let it be your main care to obey his will, whether it be in doing or suffering. So, in due time, your health, youth, and strength, shall all be renewed as the eagle's. Christ shall change your vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body: and then

ye
shall be beautifin as he dove, in the sight of men and

angels:

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

• The

angels; and crowns of everlasting joy shall be set upon your heads. Then, at least, shall ye rest from all your labours. The worm of pain shall gnaw you no more. There will be no more sorrow nor shame : but all will be forgotten for ever: or will be looked back upon with complacency and joy, as the means, and discipline, through which God, in his mercy and wisdom, was pleased to make trial of your fidelity, and to bring you to himself.” Vol. I. P. 9.

Dr. Wordsworth enforces with great earnestness all the high and leading doctrines of the Gospel, the corruption of our nature, the justification by faith, and the sanctification by the Spirit. Upon the first of these he enlarges in his Sermon on, Flesh and the Spirit," with much justice and animation. Were we to select a specimen of his eloquence, we should take it from the following passage.

« The body of man was made, at the first, out of the dust of the ground: and then the Almighty breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul; and when he was thus created, God blessed him, and saw that he was very good. But soon alas! he fell from that happy estate. Through the enticements of Satan, and the abuse of those powers of free-will with which he was created, he brake the commandment of God, and, incurring the punishment threatened, he became a miserable prey to sin and death.

His body henceforth becomes the seat of pain and corruption : and in his soul, which had been created after the divine likeness, the image of God is sorely marred and defaced; his understanding darkened; his will corrupted; and his passions made unruly, rebellious and uncontrolable. In a word, both in body and soul, in a feeblc, short-lived, afflicted body, and in a disturbed, disordered spirit, he bears about him, in his natural state, deeply impressed, the marks of the desertion, displeasure, and judgment of God. The dread sentence, . Thou shalt surely die,' is written upon him in vice and misery bere, in decay while he lives, in corruption after the spirit is departed from him ; and in fearful forebodings and anticipations of what of further woe and destruction may befal him, in another state, hereafter." Vol. I. P. 92,

In his answer to those suggestions which too often agitate, even to distraction, the wretched victims of religious melancholy, who are daily sacrificed before the altar of fanaticism, Dr. Wordsworth displays much ability.

“ Should any man's heart, I say, suggest to him these dangerous imaginations, then let him know, that the answer here also is not far to seeks but that the words of my text do, in the second place, imply, that we shall have strength given us from above, Whereby we may be enabled to persevere in the path to life

and

[ocr errors]

and glory: and that if we wander astray from it, the fault is all our own; God our Father would not have it so; and our perdition is from ourselves.

The primary will of God is that not any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This will is every where made known to us in Scripture, and is laid down as the basis and foundation of all our religion. To this end, God points out to mankind the way to life and eternal salvation : he enables them also, as we have seen, to judge and know, each man for himself, whether he is in the road that leadeth thither; or whether his steps are tending to everlasting destruction and misery. And (which is the third remaining, and great requisite to our safety: and everlasting glory) the Spirit that giveth life and strength is always ready to help our infirmities. This is his office and unders taking. God has promised to give the Holy Ghost to them that ask him; to them who feel their necessities, who are weary and heavy laden, who desire more strength, and sigh for a closer. communion with God. We Christians especially possess these spiritual promises. The dispensation under which we live is called peculiarly the administration of the Spirit; and we are unceasingly invited and exhorted to come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need., If therefore God calls and exhorts us to live, it is with a sincere mind and purpose, that, by his Holy Spirit, we should be enabled so to do." Vol. I. P. 102.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The following observations upon the education of daughters appear applicable to every condition of life.

We earnestly wish that some such monitor could be heard amidst the extending circles of fashionable life, where too often the hand that administers the poisoned cup of dissipation and profligacy to the youth and innocence of a daughter, is that of the mother, The cant of puritanism but confirms the infatuation ; the words of sobriety and truth can alone dissolve the fatal charm, by placing both characters and things in that just and reasonable point of view, which disarms soplistry of its delusion and contradiction of its power. The passage to which we allude, occurs in the sermon upon Herod, Herodias, and her daughter.

Here you have an example of the nature of the influence of ungodly parents over their children ; of the education, I may say, which a sinful mother gives to her daughters. I do not affirm that I am one of those who think, that in all classes of life indis criminately, the acquisition of pleasurable and elegant accoma, plishments, is to be condemned." When duly directed and regu. lated, in use and degree, I believe these attainments to be so far from being in contradiction to the will of heaven, that to me tlrey. seem in entire conformity with his Providence, who clothes the lilies of the field, endues "the birds of the aw with plumage and

songa

« PreviousContinue »