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SHORT SERMONS. : "Take heed, therefore, how ye hear.”—Luke viii. 18.
In securing a harvest, abundant and of good quality, three things are obviously necessary ; suitable seed; suitable ground; suitable culture. If either fail, the harvest fails. Under this figure of husbandry our Lord illustrates the preaching and the effects of the Gospel. So he couples sowing and preaching, the state of the ground, and the state of heart in the hearer, the harvest of the field and Christian fruits. The text calls attention to the state of heart in the hearer.
1. There should be some previous Preparation for Hearing.
1. Some season of quiet and meditation at home. Many religious services are lost while one is getting into a mood to profit by them.
2. All secular, unreligious business and cares should be left at home. Worldly plans concerning farms and merchandize, contracts and visits, as well as errands and matters of news, hinder the proper hearing of the word. If these are allowed to follow the hearer to the place of worship, then his mind will be as a “way side," and the good seed sowed there will be strodden down."
3. The entire service of worship must be regarded as a service to God. It must not be prepared, enjoyed or criticised as a literary, ora-orical or musical entertainment. It is religious and spiritual. The church is not a lyceum, or the pulpit a platform, or the orchestra an opera.
4. There should be much prayer for and in the hearing of the word. This prayer should be, (a) for one's self, (b) for others, and special hearers, (c) and for the preacher; and this through the service.
5. The hearer should carry to the service a warm, Christian heart. Preaching to cold hearts is like sowing seed in a cold, sleety, December day. A cold audience is likely to insure a cold preacher, and then the seed will rattle on frozen ground.
II. The Way to Hear.
1. With Reverence. (a) For the day; "Remember the Sabbath day,” etc. (6) For the Place; “Keep thy foot when thou goest into the house of God," etc. (c) For the Service; “Praise waiteth for thee, O God," etc. (d) For the Word ; “How love I thy law,” etc.
Some study the dress and manner of the audience ; some are restVOL. VI.-NO. XXXI.
less and uneasy; some listless and dreamy, and soine sleep like Eutychus.
2. Regard should be had to the Truth, rather than to its dress or delivery. As some worldly people go to church to study the fashions, so some to study the dress, and style and manner of the truth preached. Leighton in commenting on this text quaintly and forci. bly says, while speaking of the different results from the same sermon: “Whence the difference? Not from the seed. That is the same to all. Not from the sower neither. For though there be divers and of different abilities, yet it hangs little or nothing on that. ... The seed he sows being this word of life, depends not on his qualification in any kind, either of common gifts or special grace. People mistake this much. And it is a carnal conceit to hang on the advantages of the minister, or to eye that much. The sure way is to look up to God, and into thine own heart. ... If received into a clean and honest heart, it will fructify much.”
3. If not always personally gratified with the service, remember. that other hearers have other tastes and necessities, and like different topics. There were early hearers who preferred Apollos and Cephas to Paul.
4. Hear with self-application. , The profited hearer is willing to be reproved, instructed, advised and led. Too many hear for others, and they give away more sermons than dollars.
5. While hearing, a deep sense of accountability for the Gospel should be felt. “The earth, which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God; but that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is, to be burned.”
And so we see why the Gospel is a savor of death unto so many who hear it. They do not take heed how they hear.
“For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”—Mark viii. 36, 37.
The asking of a question is often the strongest possible affirmation; as in the proverb, “What can the man do that cometh after the king ?”
These questions of our Saviour teach, 1. That a man may lose his soul.
2. That he may lose it in such a sense that the possession of the whole world would be of no value to him.
3. That having lost his soul there is nothing to all eternity that he can give or do to save it.
4. That to secure the immediate salvation of the soul justifies turning away from all business and pleasure, and the sacrifice of all earthly things.
1.-History of Rationalism; Embracing a Survey of the Present State of Protestant Theology. By the Rev. Joun F. HURST, A, M. With Appendix of Literature. 8vo. New York: Charles Scribner & Co. 1865. [Boston: Lee & Shepard.]
Tule central idea of Rationalism is this that the Inspiration ab infra is the judge, without appeal, of the Inspiration ab extra aut supra ; or in shorter and homelier phrase~that every man is his own Bible. This is claimed to be the capacity and prerogative of the cultivated reason, and defines the rationalistic spirit and movement of the modern age. “The heart should not feel bound to lean upon what Reason can not fathom.” For this bad tendency, the author aims to provide an antidote by giving a critical bistory of its development. “ A history of a mischievous tendency is the very best method for its refutation and extirpation,”
Begiuning with the times inmediately following Luther's day, he Occupies the six hundred pages of his book with a critical account of the opinions which soon began to diverge from the orthodox standards of Christian doctrine. This inquiry he pursues from Germany, through the other countries of Protestant Europe, and to our own land. He does not go into lengthy arguments to confute error, which is not his purpose ; but he shows much skill in tracing the progress and spread of false views from often small commencements. His survey of authors is very extensive, and his power to grasp their distinctive shades of belief is abundantly exhibited. We have pot before met with his name as a writer ; but his spirit is thoroughly evangelical, and his qualifications for his task are amply certified in these pages. His perceptions of the points at issue in this great conflict are clear, and his position with respect to it is distinctly pronouuced. It is a sad story and a long one of the warfare thus inaugurated in the nominally Christian world. One very instructive fact
in relation to the progress of the apostasy from the primitive faith, is the gradual disuse, in the churches of the Reformation, of faithful and intelligible catechetical teaching, and the decay of pastoral and pulpit efficiency. The development of these causes of Rationalism is full of admonition. The representation of the depth of degeneracy and triviality to which the pulpit sunk in the reformed countries of the Continent is most painful.
“ Christopher Sunday descanted on the · Perpetual Heart-Calendar," treating of genera and species, and dividing his themes into · Remarkable, Historical, and Annual events, Particular numbers, and the amounts of Roman currency, the Four Seasons, the Seven Planets, the Twelve Heavenly signs, and many aspects and useful directions. All these, this divine claimed, are to be found in the Gospel as in a perpetual calendar of the heart. Another preacher adopted as his theme for a funeral sermon, « The Secret of Roses and Flowers.' Daniel Keck preached a digcourse in 1642 from Romans viii. 18, calling his subject. The Apostolic Syllogism,' dividing it into subject, predicate, and conclusion. The subject, suffering, was again divided into wicked, voluntary, stolid and righteous; and these further classed into natural, civil and spiritual suffering.
“A sermon on Zaccheus from the words, . He was little of stature,' claims for its theme, · The stature and size of Zaccheus.' The first division is, he; the second, was ; third, small stature. Application first, The text teaches us the variety of God's works; second, it consoles the poor; third, it teaches us to make amends for our personal defects by virtue. Tholuck well asks, who would imagine that the author of this sermon was the minstrel of • When the early sun arises,' 'Oh Jesus, all thy bleeding wounds,' and so many other deeply earnest Christian songs which have touched the hearts of many generations -- the immortal Herman von Köben? A pastor of Wernigerode preached from Matthew x. 30. His divisions were, 1: Our hair-its origin, style, form and natural circumstances. 2: On the right use of the human hair. 3: The memories, admonition, warning and consolation that have come from the human hair. 4: How hair can be used in a Christian way! A Brunswick pastor commenced his Sabbath discourse on one occasion with the words, .A preacher must have three things; a good conscience, a good bite, and a good kiss'; wherefore his transition was made to the theme under consideration: "an increase of my salary.' But it is needless to continue illustrations of the almost universal dearth of preaching. One hardly knows whether to laugh at its absurdity or weep over its prostitution." pp. 70, 71.
Thus scepticism entrenched itself within the churches as its stronghold, from which it is not yet expelled. Children were trained to accept its paganism as the Christianity of the new dispensation.
The schools, the universities, the press, joined in the league against the word and truth of Christ, till, about the time of Napoleon's
supremacy in Europe, the lowest point of infidelity was touched, in the almost universal rejection, on the Continent at least, of the faith for which the reformers had perilled life. All this was sacrilegiously palmed off on the public as the legitimate fruit of that glorious Reformation, just as now we are told that Mr. Waldo Emerson is the truest exponent extant of the essential spirit or essence of the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock! The only way in which we can conceive this to be true, is, as a house burning to ashes, may, in some sense, be called a further extension or development of a comfortable family fire.
In the same direction was the altering of the old hymns of the Reformation by the degenerate offspring of its bold confessors. This was carried on upon a scale of strange magnitude. It is like reading contemporary history to turn over these details of literary to say nothing of moral dishonesty.
With Schleiermarcher, we reach the date of a reactionary movement which has gathered strength and consistency, until even Germany is largely delivered from the hands of this worse than secular Philistinism. The author traces this movement up from its inception, with an eye steadily directed to the unfolding of the real religious condition of each successive stage of the conflict. Here, too, as before, the relation of the struggle within the church to the philosophy and general literature of the day, is touched upon briefly but intelligently. Considerable attention is given to the controversy occasioned by the publication of Strauss' Life of Jesus; and the honored names of Neander, Tholuck, llengstenberg and others of their associates, are made yet dearer to us by this record of their heroic labors in turning back the tide of anti-christian error from the churches of their fatherland.
Passing to other countries, the Genevan declension is sketched in faithfully dark colors: the English school of Liberalism inside the established church, is treated with much minuteness, and an interest. ing analysis of parties in that communion is furnished. The influence of Coleridge and Arnold upon theological speculations is shown to have been unhappy in important particulars. The Unitarian defection in the United States is given with sufficient fulness for American readers, and with commendable fairness. Indeed, we notice throughout this melancholy history the absence of a denunciatory temper, the steady prevalence of a desire to maintain a just standard of criticism, which will greatly increase its usefulness as a guide to true conclusions, particularly with readers who may lean in the opposite direction.
The author allows himself in a few verbal inaccuracies. The