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Christianity thus coldly and tamely preached, is miserably shorn of her beams. She loses as much in power, as in glory and beauty. It seems to us a vulgar conception of religion, to suppose its precepts and exhortations as exclusively addressed to the understanding, as a proposition in geometry. This is not true even of morality, as it was taught in the schools of antiquity, or as it is practised in the ordinary conduct of life. The heart, as every body knows, has far more to do with virtue than the head. The voice of untutored, but unsophisticated and guileless nature, is worth, in morals, all the diatribes of philosophers, from the beginning of the world to the present time. It is happy for us that it is so--that in most important questions of obligation and duty, “our passions enlighten our understanding”—that instead of being perplexed with a doubtful casuistry, we have a safe guide in our instincts, and if we feel as we ought, are almost sure to do right. It is for this reason, that in all languages, virtue and beauty are synonimous terms--that vice is considered, not merely as a deviation from rectitude, but as a foul and unnatural deformity. It is for this reason also, that the best teachers of morality are not subtle metaphysicians nor exact system-mongers. It is they who take for granted almost all that these precisians prove, but burn their precepts into the very heart, if we may venture so to express ourselves, by their enthusiastic and ravishing eloquence—but inflame the whole soul of the aspirant with the love of moral beauty, and for a mere speculative principle, a cold assent, a vague abstraction, give him a living impulse, a ruling passion, a permanent and practical habit. The Nichomachean Ethics is undoubtedly an excellent work of its kind, but compare it with the ineffable raptures of Plato, or the sweet and persuasive eloquence of Tully! It is such writers as these, that in the better ages of antiquity, supplied the place of our modern sermons—that to use an expression of one of them, unveiled the image of virtue, and gave it to mankind to gaze, as it were, upon her embodied beauty, and to drink in with their eyes the deep.and fervid love which it could not fail to inspire. But if this is true of ethics, it is still more applicable to religion. Revelation, to be sure, as revelation, addresses itself in the first instance, to the understanding only. The first question it presents, is one of evidence. But how small a share in the vital influences of christianity is implied in a mere speculative conviction of its truth? The heart must be softened by its charities, the mind must be filled with its grandeur; it must address itself to the passions, it must lift up and transport the imagination. Religion is a part of our nature. No man who has a spark of fancy or feeling, is entirely without it. It may take strange shapes-it may worship unworthy objects—its ritual and its priesthood may vary with times and with events. But there are Deities to whom po temples rise, no altars smoke. The world has never been without God. The feebleness, the belplessness of man, the mysterious powers of nature, the darkness that rests upon the future, the decay of the body, the desolation of the hereaved heart and the blighied hope, the grandeur, the beauty, the immensity, that are around and above us, the intellectual being within us, and the thoughts that wander through eternity'-every thing in our feelings, our constitution, and our situation, disposes us to believe in a creative power, and to refer to it, in some shape or other, the origin of our being, the complexion of our destiny, a sympathy with us, and moral tastes and characteristics like our own. This feeling, we say, is instinctive and universal, and it is no less deep and decided. It adopts the strongest forms of expression, the most striking symbols, the most awful and imposing rites and ceremonies. Above all, it has ever inspired the muse. A Jove principium--the hymn and the anthem, the voice of praise and thanksgiving, the choral ode, the strophe and antistrophe of triumph or supplication-the origin of poetry is thus traced to the same cause which makes the victim bleed, and the censer breathe forth its incense. A like influence may be justly ascribed to our own religion. Its prophets, its psalmists, its historians, its evangelists, speak in strains of eloquence and poetry which make those of heathen antiquity appear cold and prosaical. How, indeed, should it be otherwise ? The peculiar advantage—the great distinguishing privilege of christianity is, that when properly taught, it combines things which were entirely separated among Pagans, religion and morality. It inculcates the purest ethics in the language of inspiration-confirms the sense of duty by the authority of revealed truth, while it inflames and exalts the imagination with visions more bright and ecstatic than those of Plato—and thus by its sublime discipline and its solemn sanctions, converts the very passions and infirmities of man into means of his highest perfection.
But to return to our subject from which we have wandered too far.. The discourses under review, certainly do not come up to the standard of pulpit eloquence, which we have ventured to set up in the preceding remarks. Bishop Heber, with all his eminent endowments, was not a great orator.
We may apply to him the old and significant distinction—disertus, but not cloquens. He is far from“ pouring out that storm of eloquence" which Addison ascribes to St. Paul. Plutarch's description of Demosthenes is very nearly that of the Sybil in Virgil :
" At Phæbi nondum patiens immanis in antro
Bacchatur vates, magnum si pectore possit
Os rabidum.” But there is no God to struggle with here—no mighty inspiration to subdue. The style of pulpit oratory, it is true, even where it exists in its greatest fervour and power, must always be more grave and sober than that of the popular assembly. Certainly, any thing like the fiery vehemence, the os rabidum, which is often not only tolerable, but in proper places highly impressive in debate, would be indecorous in a sermon-at least, hazardous in the extreme. But after making all due allowance on this score, it must be admitted that power of the highest order is wanting in these sermons; nor do we think the author possessed it at all. His enthusiasm, or rather his zeal (for the other is too strong an expression) although it abounds in his preaching as it did in his life, is temperate and equable. There is always enough to interest, but never to transport his reader or hearer. Great, too, as his talents undoubtedly were, we do not think he had an intellect of the largest calibre. There is nothing as yet published, that entitles him for instance, to a place, in this respect, by the side of Dr. Chalmers or Robert Hall. Still these sermons have very great merits of all sorts. They show that the Church has been deprived of one who united in an extraordinary degree, the talents of a popular preacher with the extensive research and the various learning of an accomplished theological writer. They are particularly distinguished by those qualities which made Paley so pre-eminently useful as a defender of the faith, and an expounder both of its practical and speculative doctrines--sound judgment, patient inquiry, fullness of knowledge, various illustration, great perspicuity of statement, and precision in argument, and withal, a delightful simplicity in his style and diction. To these qualities, however, Bishop Heber added others, which at a time when controversy has shifted its ground and taken post almost exclusively upon the field of biblical criticism and exegesis, made such a scholar a most precious acquisition to the ranks of his own communion. We have already mentioned his exemplary candour in argument. This adds greatly to the weight of his authority and to the effect of all his opinions and reasonings. His manner was especially well adapted to defence, and to the defence of an VOL. IV.NO. 7.
establishment above all. Even on points where he evidently feels the whole force of the argument on the other side, and seems even to hesitate assent to his own positions, the spirit of discontent and innovation is calmed by the example of acquiescence set by one who is so far from every thing like bigotry. And although in the fervour of his exhortations, he falls short of the highest eloquence, yet even in this respect, he is very advantageously distinguished above the great majority of those who have, in later times, attained to celebrity in the English Church.
We will proceed to submit some extracts from the volume before us.
It contains nineteen sermons. Of the second and third, the subject is the Presence and Ministry of Good Angels; and of the fourth, the Existence and Influence of Evil Spirits, The last is a most able discourse, and we shall make very free use of it, for the benefit of our readers. The following is the exordium :
“ It was an usual practice with St. Paul to describe the profession of a Christian, under the likeness of a soldier on duty, and, by allusions to the oath, dress, and discipline of the Roman military, to shadow out the several obligations, and graces, and privileges which distinguish and support the follower of Jesus Christ in his warfare with the enemies of his salvation. The whole of the passage from which these words are taken, is pervaded by this kind of allegory. In it he expects the Ephesian disciples to prepare themselves for this holy quarrel, as soldiers for the battle, or gladiators for the arena, and to case their souls in the panoply of Heaven against the force or fraud of their opponents. The nature of this armour he explains in the following verses, in which he compares, with great liveliness of fancy and description, the entire equipment of an ancient warrior, with the graces and virtues of a wortthy follower of the Messiah. To the helmet of the first he likens that exalted hope of salvation which is, to the latter, a defence and a crown. The impenetrable breast-plate of the soldier corresponds with the righteousness and good conscience of the saint; the iron-studded sandal of the one with that Gospel of peace which prevents the foot of the other from sliding; and the shield, which it was death to forsake, and the sword which was, in closer fight, the Roman's only weapon, with that faith from which even fiery darts fall blunted and powerless, and with that knowledge of God's word, the edge of which no sophistry can withstand.
“ To point out, as it deserves, the beauty of this parallel, is not my present purpose. It is enough to observe, first, that those powers and graces are called God's armour, inasmuch as we derive them from God's free bounty; and, secondly, that the danger must needs be great against which so great precautions are enjoined on us.
“While describing that danger, the utterance of the Apostle almost seems to labour for words sufficiently strong to express the strength of his conceptions, and the most awful figures of might, and malice, and
mystery, are collected to alarm us into watchfulness. Principalities and powers are leagued against the soldier of the cross, and the believer has to contend against the united violence of the rulers of this world's darkness, and the spiritual wickedness which is in high places. Highsounding words these doubtless, are, and tremendous attributes of guilt and power; and it must deeply concern every one of us to understand their meaning rightly. To arrive at that meaning it may, in the first place be observed, that all these terms are evidently employed by the Apostle in explanation of a phrase which he had used in the foregoing sentence, and which he bad more briefly assigned as the reason why we should betake ourselves without delay to our celestial weapons. on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle,” he continues, "not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” It is plain, therefore, that the enemy with whose wiles we have to contend, is the same with those who are spoken of under the several names of "principalities,” powers," and "rulers," and that these several antagonists are included under the same term of “the devil;" either because "devil" is a generic name which applies to their whole multitude, or because these principalities and powers are the subjects and soldiers of one powerful and malicious being, to whom the name of “ devil” is peculiarly, and by way of eminence assigned ; who lays wait, by their agency, for the souls of men, and who directs and stimulates their craft and violence in the manner most likely to destroy or injure us.
“ By which of these suppositions we explain the words of St. Paul, is a matter of indifference; the consequences deducible from either are, in all their bearings, the same, and either is consistent with the application of this particular passage, and with the general terms of the Gospel. It is certain that the term "devil,” or “wicked one,” is often applied iuclusively and generally to very many beings, who are represented as in perpetual bostility with God and good men; and it is also certain that these beings are described as under the government of one particular prince, whose angels they are, and with whom they are, hereafter, to be punished everlastingly.” pp. 64-67.
The argument, from the apparent acquiescence of our Saviour in the general belief, is very strongly put; and we beg leave to remind certain philanthropists that it applies, in all its force, to an institution of our own, which was never discovered to be inconsistent with Christianity until about twelve centuries after its Divine Author had preached amidst the ergastula of the Roman world, without even a hint at this abomination.*
“I will readily admit that an inspired teacher is not necessarily called on to undeceive bis hearers in such harmless points of speculative opinion, as do not fall within the limits of that doctrine which he has
* See the remarks of Huber, Prælect. Inst. I. i. Tit. 3, note 6.