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poetic imagination, the loveliness of domestic virtue, saintly piety and apostolic zeal, combining together to form a character almost perfect.'”—Pref. v. vi.
All this is true, and we pity the man, if such a man there be, who can rise up from a perusal of this volume, without feeling it to be true--without acknowledging “virtue in her shape how lovely," and doing homage to as winning and beautiful a combination of christian graces and charities, as was ever exhibited in any single publication. Without taking into the account the eminent talents and learning of Bishop Heber, degenerate, indeed, must be the age upon which such an example of moral excellence could be lost. These sermons breathe the whole spirit of their author-the zeal of the apostle, exalted on the one hand into the heroic self-devotion of the martyr, and, on the other, chastened and sweetened by the purest good will to men, and a simplicity of heart worthy of a primitive age. It is delightful to contemplate such a union of excellencies. It is impossible not to wish that to be true which one sees to be so good and so useful—it is difficult to resist precepts illustrated and enforced by so fair, so lovely an example. It is by the ministrations of such men, that religion is to diffuse peace on earth. It is by the preaching of such a postles, that the gospel shall be made the great instrument of civilization, and Europe repay with a “twice-blessed" gratitude, the accumulated debt of ages shadowed out in the fine lines of the poet
“ It would exceed the purport of my song
And calls forth arts and virtues with his ray." Throughout these sermons topics of controversy are frequently discussed, but always in the spirit of peace and of that charity which believes and hopes every thing. Yet has the churchman compromised none of his principles. He maintains his own tenets with that manly firmness and enlightened zeal, which, in cultivated minds, and in them alone, we fear, are so happily blended with a perfect toleration of honest dissent and opposition. If he adheres to the doctrine and discipline of his own church, it is because he sincerely believes them the best. If he censures those of other communions, it is with a brotherly sorrow, and because he sincerely believes them erroneous. It is in this spirit that he regards all, without exception, who differ from him-Jew and Gentile, Catholic and Dissenter, Calvin
and Socinus--he has spoken freely, but kindly and courteously of each. He is, at the same time, the most candid of controvertists. He descends to no deceptive artifice, no captious subtleties. He states the case of his adversary fairly, and puts his argument strongly. He examines the evidence with the acumen of a critic, weighs it with the impartiality of a judge, and decides upon it with the cautious wisdom and the humble confidence of one who believes himself right, but feels how prone man is to be wrong. He opposes the blind zeal of some of his own communion with the same gentle firmness. He will not consent to withhold the Bible because the Common Prayer is not to go with it-to deny christianity to the heathen because its preachers may not be quite orthodox. Let sectarian bigotry, with her narrowness of mind and her hardness and coldness of heart, read these pages and blush at her own folly and deformity, or rather, if it be possible, let her “wish she might deny her nature and be never more, still to be so displaced.” Of this delightful and surpassing excellence of this exquisite humanity, in the old classic and Roman sense of the word-we claim for letters a good share of the credit. With all the native goodness of the man, and all the sincere piety of the christian, who can doubt but that the enlarged views of the philosopher, and the refined tastes and sensibilities of the scholar, had done much to subdue and soften his nature, to correct his opinions, to elevate his aspirations, in a word, to give greater scope, and grandeur and perfection to his whole being ?
So much for the ethical character of the work. We will now proceed to make a few observations upon its literary or intellectual merits.
These sermons were, almost all of them, composed for extraordinary occasions, and delivered before learned bodies-at Oxford, at Lincoln's Ion, to Bible and Missionary Societies, &c. This remark is necessary to prepare the mind of the reader for a fair estimate of their peculiarities. What Phidias said to those who hastily found fault with one of his statues, is even more applicable to public speaking-suspend your opinions until you see it in the place for which it was intended. It must never be forgotten, that when and to whom are quite as important considerations to him who has to deliver, or to him who would rightly appreciate a discourse, as what it contains, or how it is put together. We have deemed it proper to make this precautionary observation, lest in this anti-classical age and country, certain critics should find fault with a Minister of the Gospel for imitating St. Paul and Jeremy Taylor so far, as to lay under contribution the stores of profane learning, and even, occasion
ally to illustrate sacred subjects by felicitous quotations from the works of heathen genius. We disclaim, however, for ourselves the necessity of such an apology. Our tastes, we admit, have been a little spoiled in these matters. Our studies have made us somewhat familiar with forms of expression, and with modes of thinking which the wisdom of this philosophic age has exploded as unsuitable to its own genius. All that we have to say, in the way of apology, upon this subject, is lubenter erramus. We have been misled by those whose ways are, to us, ways of pleasantness, and whom we find it delightful to follow even when they go astray. It is in the best of schools that we have been taught this error-that of Hooker and Cudworth, and the incomparable prelate mentioned just now-the glorious old school of England, in her age of teeming fruitfulness, and healthy and robust vigor, when she had such men in her church to associate with her Bacons and Seldens, and Miltons in the State, and when the native genius of her offspring, mighty in itself as Achilles, was trained, like him, to every manly exercise of the palæstra and the gymnasium, and went forth to battle, armed from head to foot in a panoply worthy of its own surpassing powers. In that age, when knowledge was the aliment of so much original thought, and the vastest erudition was but the proper instrument of the gigantic strength by which it was wielded, these sermons, however acceptable on many other accounts, would not have been complained of on the score of ostentatious learning or dazzling richness and splendour of diction. It by no means follows that they who accuse Jeremy Taylor of pedantry, should be dissatisfied with Bishop Heber.
The ends of preaching are various, and so, therefore, must its forms and characteristics likewise be. These, we think, may be conveniently arranged under at least four different heads or categories. The first embraces the fundamental inquiry into the evidences of Christianity. The second is that of exegetical theology ; what, according to the soundest canons of interpretation, is the meaning of the sacred text--what are the doctrines it teaches, and the faith or the opinions it requires of intelligent beings. The third is moral theology, considering the scriptures as the rule of life, as a law dictated to moral agents by the Creator who formed them to obey it. The fourth is auxiliary to all the rest, and properly included in them, but we assign to it here a separate place on account of its singular importance in a scheme of discipline and the peculiar order of talents and accomplishments which it calls for in a preacher. It is the sanction by which this rule of faith and morals is enforced. It is the law in its terrors, and the gospel in its mercy and love. It is religion, considered as a system of retributive justice-a grand scheme of rewards and punishments, addressed, if we may so express it, equally to the understanding which has to pass upon the doctrines of the faith and to the heart which is the seat of its purifying moral influences. From the bare stating of the objects which he is expected to accomplish, it is manifest that a consummate divine ought to exhibit in his intellectual character a union of such gifts and graces as are very rarely seen together. He should, indeed, be the first of men in the most improved condition of society-that image of a perfect orator which Cicero, or rather Crassus pictures in the Dialogue de Oratore, with every talent fully developed and disciplined, and an understanding full of light, drawn from all the departments of knowledge. The first and second branches of his studies render a perfect acquaintance with the learned, and with the Hebrew at least, and we think, in the present state of things, the other Oriental languages, indispensable. We have said, on another occasion--we repeat here—that we cannot conceive how any divine, whose circumstances afford him the smallest leisure or opportunity for such pursuits, should be content to grope in comparative darkness when it is in his power to ascend himself the Mount of Vision, and to see, with his own eyes, the things which it is so interesting to him, as a man, to know, and which he has assumed the awful responsibility of explaining to inultitudes committed to his care. But important as these higher departments of theological sciences undoubtedly are, a minister of the gospel has, in by far the majority of cases, a greater opportunity of doing good by cultivating, successfully, the more practical walks of his profession. Here, too, the highest talents are called for, and presented with the best field. In expounding the pure and sublime morality of the gospel-in diffusing its peaceful and charitable spirit-in exalting the aim and aspirations of men to objects worthy of their immortal nature-in setting forth and dwelling upon the examples of just men in other times, “the victorious agonies of saints and martyrs”-in revealing that glorious and dreadful destiny which connects the happiness and misery of a future life with the moral responsibilities of the present-perhaps in ascending with Milton to still higher flights of inspiration and prophetic vision, to the fountain of all light and life and perfection :
“The living throne, the sapphire blaze,
Where angels tremble while they gaze"there is nothing within the compass of human genius, no eloquence, no poetry, no divine philosophy which may not be displayed in all its grandeur and power in the ordinary ministrations of the sanctuary, by a clergyman whose lips have been touched with a live coal from off the altar. How exalted is the station which he fills—how unspeakably sublime the privileges which he enjoys, if it be only with a view to intellectual greatness and cultivation ? What do the worldly affairs of mankind, whether in public or in private, whether at the bar or in the popular assembly, or in the Legislative hall, even when extraordinary occasions call for extraordinary efforts, afford, that does not sink into insignificance, nay, almost into vulgarity, in the comparison? Yet it is strange how little there is to be admired in English pulpit eloquence, especially since the period alluded to just now. In a mere didactic exposition of Christian ethics, many, indeed, have attained to a high degree of excellencebut they are all, at best, what Doddridge calls Atterbury, "elegant courtly preachers.” There is no force-no fervor-no glowing conception of their mighty theme—no apostolic zeal in their awful calling. They do not sufficiently consider themselves as evangelists and missionaries. They are not enough impressed with that pointed remark of Jeremy Taylor, “that the conversion from Christian to Christian-from Christian in title to Christian in sincerity, would be a greater miracle than it was when they were converted from Heathen and Jew to Christian." Let it not be said that we are countenancing the grimace and extravagancies of vulgar fanaticism. By no means. There is not the smallest ground for apprehending such uncouth absurdities in men of cultivated understandings—especially in men educated as we think every divine ought to be. We do not ask for more fervor than Massillon, for more earnestness than Bourdaloue possessed. We would not require any one to surpass the brilliant fancy and gorgeous imagery of Jeremy Taylor, nor would we even have him to indulge in such dreams of bliss and beauty, such mystical raptures as dazzled and misled “the Elysian imagination” of Fenelon. But certainly there is a mighty chasm in pulpit oratory to be filled up. There is no Lactantius-no Christian Cicero, in the modern English or American church. This prize of the high-calling is still to be
With all the woful defects of clerical education in this country-we speak in reference both to knowledge and to oratory-we think we can descry, even now, some auspicious appearances : the English establishment seems to be past hope in this particular. *
* This frigid style of the English pulpit is remarked on somewhere by Erasmus, who speaks especially of the habit of reading sermons-de chartâ concionari, id quod multi frigide faciunt in Anglia.