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before remarked, that there is a constant demand for publications of this description, and such sermons are likely to be the best adapted to meet this demand. But surely, it could not be unlawful to attempt a higher strain. We know of no reason why this alone of all species of authorship should be deemed an unhallowed exercise of the highest powers of the mind. When so many are writing for the many, it might at least be advisable that some who are competent should write for the few. It is, we believe, taken for granted, that sermons of a higher description would not be read, owing to their very form and name as sermons. The experiment is worth making. Sermons are read very extensively; and they would be read more, if their authorship were more on a par with that of other branches of literature. When it is considered, that the fame of South, of Taylor, of Atterbury, of Howe, of Charnock, of Bates, of Tillotson, of Blair, and many others whose works are among our staple literature, rests entirely, or almost exclusively, on their sermons, it seems unreasonable to speak of the unlawfulness of similar efforts of mind, and idle to suppose that sermons would not now be read, that should have more of literary substance than can be expected or desired in the ordinary ministrations of the pulpit.
But we shall now, without further prelude, endeavour to give some account of the volumes before us.
Dr. Chalmers's present volume contains fifteen sermons on the following topics.
• I. The Constancy of God in his Works, an Argument for the Faithfulness of God in his Word. Psalm cxix. 89-91. II. The Expulsive Power of a new Affection. I John ii. 15. III. The sure Warrant of a Believer's Hope. Rom. v. 10. IV. The Restlessness of Ambition. Psal. xi. 1. and lv. 6. V. The transitory Nature of Visible Things. 2 Cor. iv. 18. VI. The Universality of Spiritual Blindness. Isa. xxix. 9–12. VII. The new Heavens and the new Earth. 2 Pet. iii. VIII. The Nature of the Kingdom of God. 1 Cor. iv. 20. IX. The Reasonableness of Faith. Gal. iii. 23. X. The Christian Sabbath. Mark, ii. 27. XI. The Doctrine of Predestination. Acts xxvii. 22. 31. XII. The Nature of the Sin against the Holy Ghost. Matt. xii. 31, 2. XIII. The Advantages of Chris. tian Knowledge to the lower Orders. Eccl. iv. 13. XIV. The Duty and the Means of Christianizing our Home Population. Mark xvi. 15. XVI. The Distinction between Knowledge and Consideration. Isa. i. 3.'
With regard to two of these sermons, the eleventh and the twelfth, Dr. Chalmers remarks, that
• There are topics of a highly speculative character, in the system of Christian doctrine, which it is exceedingly difficult to manage,
without interesting the curiosity rather than the conscience of the reader. And yet, it is from their fitness of application to the conscience, that they derive their chief right to appear in a volume of Sermons, and I should not have ventured any publication upon either of these doctrines, did I not think them capable of being so treated as to subserve the great interests of practical godliness.'
For two others, the thirteenth and the fourteenth, he apologises as belonging to Christian Economics rather than to Christian Theology; yet, he contends for their religious importance. • I have, however, it is added, more comfort in discussing this argument from the press, than from the pulpit, which ought to be kept apart for loftier themes, and 'which seems to suffer a sort of desecration when employed as the vehicle for any thing else than the overtures of pardon to the sinner, and the hopes and duties of the believer. We transcribe this remark, not because we think there was any neces: sity for the Author's apology, but on account of the admirably correct perception which it indicates of the object and purport of the Christian ministry.
The Sermon on Predestination opens with the following introductory remarks. The text is the 22nd, compared with the 31st verse of the xxviith of Acts.
• The comparison of these two verses lands us in what may appear to many to be a very dark and unprofitable speculation. Now, our object in setting up this comparison, is not to foster in any of you a tendency to meddle with matters too high for us—but to protect you against the practical mischief of such a tendency. You have all heard of the doctrine of predestination. It has long been a settled article of our church. And there must be a sad deal of evasion and of unfair handling with particular passages, to get free of the evidence which we find for it in the Bible. And independently of Scripture altogether, the denial of this doctrine brings a number of monstrque conceptions along with it. It supposes God to make a world, and not to reserve in his own hand the management of its concerns. Though it should concede to him an absolute sovereignty over all matter, it deposes him from his sovereignty over the region of created minds, that far more dignified and interesting portion of his works. The greatest events in the history of the universe, are those which are brought about by the agency of willing and intelligent beingsand the enemies of the doctrine invest every one of these beings with some sovereign and independent principle of freedom, in virtue of which it may
be asserted of this whole class of events, that they happened, not because they were ordained of God, but because the creatures of God, by their own uncontrolled power, brought them into existence. At this rate, even he to whom we give the attribute of omniscience, is not able to say, at this moment, what shall be the fortune or the fate of any individual—and the whole train of future
history is left to the wildness of accident. All this carries along with it so complete a dethronement of God-it is bringing his creation under the dominion of so many nameless and undeterminable con. tingencies—it is taking the world and the current of its history so en. tirely out of the hands of him who formed it--it is, withal, so opposite to what obtains in every other field of observation, where, instead of the lawlessness of chance, we shall find that the more we attend, the more we perceive of a certain necessary and established order, that from these and other considerations which might be stated, the doc. trine in question, in addition to the testimonies which we find for it in the Bible, is at this moment receiving a very general support from the speculations of infidel as well as Christian philosophers.
• Assenting, as we do, to this doctrine, we state it as our conviction, that God could point the finger of his omniscience to every one individual amongst us, and tell what shall be the fate of each, and the state of suffering or enjoyment of each at any one period of futurity, however distant. Well does he know those of us who are vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, and those of us whom he has predestinated to be conformed to the image of his dear Son, and to be rendered meet for the inheritance. We are not saying, that we, or that
you could so cluster and arrange the two sets of individuals. This is one of the secret things which belong to God. It is not our duty to be altogether silent about the doctrine of predestination for the Bible is not silent about it, and it is our duty to promulgate and to hold up our testimony for all we find there. But certain it is, that the doctrine has been so injudiciously meddled with -it has tempted so many ingenious and speculative men to transgress the limits of Scripture-it has engendered so much presumption among some, and so much despondency among others-it has been so much abused to the niischief of practical Christianity, that it were well for us all, could we carefully draw the line between the secret things which belong to God, and the things which are revealed, and belong to us and to our children.'
Dr. Chalmers proceeds to shew from the history, that the intimation given to St. Paul that not a man in the ship should be lost, neither restrained his practical urgency that they should follow his directions, nor discharged the men from the necessity of observing them. He then shews that, à fortiori, the knowledge that some are elected to eternal life, who they are, and who they are not, being entirely unknown, does not in the slightest degree interfere with the duties and responsibility of the preacher, nor can it alter the indissoluble connexion between the means and the end. The train of remark is obvious, but it is a topic which the wonderful perversity of mens' minds on this point, renders it necessary to urge and illustrate to a degree of triteness and reiteration. At the same time, useful as it is to vindicate the doctrine of Predestination from misapprehension, and to guard against an unhallowed abuse of it, we conceive that this is but half the preacher's business; Bince, if it be a Scripture doctrine, it must, like every other truth, have its positive use; it must be a part of that truth which “ sanctifies" the heart. We never find articles of faith introduced into the Scripiures but for a practical purpose, and it is by observing the use which the sacred writers make of a doctrine, that we can best learn to interpret it. For those purposes, and under such aspects, we shall do well, sanctioned by their example, to preach the doctrine of Predestination positively as well as negatively. Otherwise, the impression left on the mind will be, that the tenet, even though incontrovertible, is useless and unprofitable, and the references made to it in the Scriptures will appear as blots upon the sacred page, faults, if such the objector might dare call them,--their introduction appearing quite inexplicable. Now it is certain that the Apostles were not speculators; it is certain, too, that they advert to the great fact of Divine fore-appointment, with all the familiarity and unreservedness with which they refer to any other known fact, never attempting to prove it, but arguing from it as a thing which required no proof; deducing from it an answer to the Jewish objections against the Gospel itself and the calling of the Gentiles, employing it to alarm the impenitent, and triumphing in it as the security of the believer amid the fiery trials which threatened to overwhelm his faith and a separate him from the love of God.” Now we cannot but think that were the providence and purpose of God in relation to his Church-for what mean the terms predestination and election but this ?-referred to simply and unequivocally, yet incidentally, rather than formally, in a similar application and bearing, it would be the shortest way to correct honest misapprehension; the abuse of the doctrine would be more effectually guarded against, and its genuine tendency would be seen to be “ according to godliness.
The next sermon, in like manner, though not satisfactory as an exposition of the text, is in the highest degree striking and impressive. In the general tenor of the following sentiments we fully concur.
" You see then,' says the Preacher, (after citing at length Prov. i 22—8.) how a man may shut against himself all the avenues of reconciliation. There is nothing mysterious in the kind of sin by which the Holy Spirit is tempted to abandon him to that state in which there can be no forgiveness, and no return unto God. It is by a movement of conscience within him, that the man is made sensible of sin—that he is visited with the desire of reformation that he is given to feel his necd both of mercy to pardon, and of grace to help him-in a word, that he is drawn unto the Saviour, and YOL XXII. N. S.
brought into that intimate alliance with him by faith, which brings down upon him both acceptance with the Father, and all the power of a new and a constraining impulse to the way of obedience. But this movement is a suggestion of the Spirit of God, and if it is resisted by any man, the Spirit is resisted." The God who offers to draw him unto Christ, is resisted. The man refuses to believe, because his deeds are evil; and by every day of perseverance in these deeds, the voice which tells him of their guilt, and urges him to abandon them, is resisted—and thus, the Spirit ceases to suggest, and the Father, from whom the Spirit proceedeth, ceases to draw, and the inward voice ceases to remonstrate and all this because their authority has been so often put forth, and so often turned from. This is the deadly offence which has reared an impassable wall against the return of the obstinately impenitent. This is the blasphemy to which no forgiveness can be granted, because in its very nature, the man who has come this length, feels no movement of conscience towards that ground on which alone forgiveness can be awarded to himand where it is never refused even to the very worst and most malignant of human iniquities. This is the sin against the Holy Ghost. It is not peculiar to any one age. It does not lie in any one' una fathomable mystery. It may be seen at this day in thousands and thousands more, who, by that most familiar and most frequently exemplified of all habits, a habit of resistance to a sense of duty, have at length stifled it altogether, and driven their inward monitor away from them, and have sunk into a profound moral lethargy, and so will never obtain forgiveness—not because forgiveness is ever refused to any who repent and believe the Gospel, but because they have made their faith and their repentance impracticable. They choose not to repent--and this choice has been made so often and so perseveringly, that the Spirit has let them alone. They have obstinately clung to their love of darkness rather than of light, and the Spirit has at length turned away from them since they will have it so. They wish not to believe, because their deeds are evil, and that Spirit has ceased to strive with them, who has so often spoken to them in vain mand whose many remonstrances have never prevailed upon them to abandon the evil of their doings.' pp. 330-332.
But in thus reducing the sin against the Holy Ghost to simple impenitence, the scope of the passage, and our Lord's merciful design in following up his reasonings with this alarming caution, are, it seems to us, wholly lost sight of. It is, we think, indubitable, that a specific sin is alluded to; that sin which led the Pharisees to ascribe the works of the Holy Ghost to Satanic agency*. This was not calumniating our
* Qui impænitentiam esse definiunt,' says Calvin; núllo negotio refelli possunt. Frustra enim et inepté negaret Christus in hoc seculo remitti. Deinde nomen blasphemiæ ad quævis peccata promiscue extendi nequit. Sed ex comparatione quam Christus adducit, facile