Page images

to speak in language of general commendation of all the works before us. They exhibit indeed considerable variety; they are the productions of persons moving in very different situations, and ministering to Christians of different denominations; and, as may reasonably be concluded, some sentiments are advanced of which we cannot entirely approve; but the grand and distinguishing features, the general scheme and outline of religious sentiment, will be found to agree in a remarkable manner, and to great extent. The principles of the several writers are evangelical-they all maintain the doctrines of human depravity, of justification by faith, of the Holy Spirit's influences, of purity of heart and life, as the evidence of converting grace; and as such they are all worthy of regard and attention from those who are cordially attached to the faith once delivered to the saints.

From these general remarks we proceed to notice the works in the order in which they are arranged.

I. We are chiefly indebted for the volume of Sermons by Mr.

Hoare to the circumstance of his being presented to the living of Godstone, and in consequence resigning that of Blandford Forum, where he had laboured with fidelity and affection for fourteen years. Anxious, therefore, to express his regard for his former people, and to leave behind him a pledge of the lively interest felt on their behalf, and a permanent statement of those truths which he had inculcated amongst them, he has published these discourses, and we cannot but hope their publication will be highly beneficial, not merely to the inhabitants of Blandford but to the public at large.

The discourses are fourteen in number: eight on the Christian character, and six on particular occasions. The subjects are, The Christian Name: The Christian in his Closet;-in his Family;-in his Church;-in the World;-and in

Death. The titles are somewhat quaint, and remind us, as we find they have others, of Herbert's Country Parson; but the Sermons are not on this account less excellent or less important.

The following extracts will afford some specimens of the valuable contents of the present volume. After speaking, in the second Sermon, on the Christian in his Closet, from Psalm iv. 4, and considering the Christian's desire of retirement, the employments of his retirement, its proper seasons, and its important benefits, he proceeds:

3. These are moments, my brethren, of highest profit to ourselves. Arming us with zeal, activity, and prudence in the

cause of God and of our fellow-creatures,

they also prepare us with many high quali

ties of mind for the contingencies of our own lot; and fortify us against the manifold vicissitudes of this mortal state. Those

events, which too often find us unarmed for the conflict either with trial or temptation, and therefore overwhelm us with sor

row, shame, and confusion, wear a very different aspect to the reflecting Christian. He has, in fruitful meditation, long anticipated the instability of all human things, the un

certainty of his dearest comforts, fondest hopes, and most blooming joys. He has

fully answered to himself the question, "What is our life?" has found it at the

best made up of perturbations;' and has been long preparing to leave it himself, or to part with those who leave it before him.

Above all things, he, and he alone, is master of the first and best of all seiences, the secret of true self-knowledge. Let not, my brethren, a heathen inform us of the 'heavenly descent' of this great art, and Christians show themselves backward in the effort to acquire it. Let us not be told at once by Scripture, and our own experience, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" and still be seldom or never there, detected and defeated. Let us not think, at where alone its desperate deceits may be least, that we can carry about with us, and cherish in our bosom, our worst enemy with final impunity. To know the deformity of sin within the breast, were a call sufficient to cast it from us: but in order to know it, has any method occurred to ourselves, or

been discovered by others most acquainted with human nature, more successful than privacy, self-examination, and prayer? Where, but in private, should you listen to the whispers of the still small voice of

#Jer. xvii. 9.

conscience? Whither else should you betake yourself, like Peter, to weep bitterly for folly and for sin; or how otherwise awaken penitential sorrows, than like returning Israel, as described by the Prophet? "The land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart. All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart * .”

Occupations, my brethren, like these, point at once to the proper place for conducting them; and it is, perhaps, not because you mistake, but because you know too well the effect of retirement, in calling you to reflection, that you fly the hallowed shade and the secret chamber. You respect the duty, but you dread its highest benefit, How, my brethren, let me ask with much solicitude for your eternal welfare, would you meet in private such questions as these: What have I done this day for the glory of God, the good of my own soul, or the souls of others? On what is my heart most set? For which world am I chiefly living? What is my hope, or even my desire, for a state better and holier than the present, beyond the grave? What is my preparation for death? What is my value for the Saviour of sinners; the evidence of my interest in his merits; or of my obedience and conformity unto him? These inquiries will befit the privacy of the Christian; and will, I am sure, if fairly answered, repay the trouble of making them. They are perhaps questions which conscience, often denied a hearing, may now have ceased to suggest; but which, it can be no vain prediction to say, it will reiterate to be heard, if never before, amid the thunders of the last judgment, and the terrors of expiring nature.-Pp. 40-43.



the Christian in the World: These appropriate labours, as in the service of God, will, we must observe, include every thing strictly conscientious and just in their discharge. "Abhor," continues

the Apostle, "that which is evil, and

cleave to that which is good." If God be indeed a God of truth, and without iniquity,

no course which involves unlawful practices, or leads to dishonest gains, can be the part which he assigns us; nor, howevér industriously, or even reputably pursued, can conduct us to any true comfort in life, or any well-grounded peace in death. I would speak strongly on this subject: because I know that there are employments and pursuits, by no means uncommon, which are, nevertheless, to the Christian and reflecting mind, wholly incompatible with the first principles of honesty or purity in the Gospel of Christ. Of such engage ments it must be declared, that no excuse whatever from accidental connexions, from * Zech. xii. 12-14.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Fly, my brethren, that occupation itself, which shall expose you to dangerous and irresistible temptations; which shall defraud God, your king, or your neighbour of their just rights; or shall deprive your own soul of that improvement which it requires as a candidate for immortality. Conduct even lawful occupations in a lawful manner. Be ashamed of those dishonest artifices and false concealments which creep into trades of all kinds. Shun, above all things, the seductive but deadly charm of Sabbath gains. REMEMBER-six days have been given you for labour: "but the SEVENTH day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." And what security does that man give against dishonesty to his fellow through the week, who begins it by robbing God on the Sabbath; robbing him of his own most sacred hours, to devote them to the idolatry of this evil world; robbing him of the services of domestics and neighbours, whom you cause to share in your unhallowed avocations; robbing him, I might say, as far as in you lieth, of those immortal souls for whom Christ died? The Christian will a thousand times prefer

[ocr errors]

a little that a righteous man bath," to the richest wages of unrighteousness. He will choose at any price that blessing which is beyond all price; and avoid that curse, which can be compensated by no gain. "The curse of God is in the dwelling of the wicked; but he blesseth the habitation of the just."-Pp. 137–139.

The occasional Sermons are on the seasons of Advent, of Lent, Good Friday, Easter, Whit Sunday, and the new year. The following extract from the Sermon on Good Friday exhibits a striking view of the Saviour's sufferings.

1. IN THEMSELVES. The passages of Scripture offered to our view this day in the

services of the Church set forth to us the most innocent of all persons, as the greatest of all sufferers. Much indeed to enlarge upon events, on which even the Evangelists have, with a remarkable reserve, abstained from making any comment, and which speak for themselves to every feeling heart, were at least superfluous. To address the imagination is by no means always to reach the heart; and after every attempt to describe so mysterious a scene we shall wisely pray, in the spirit of an ancient Greek

[ocr errors]

Liturgy, By thine UNKNOWN agonies, good Lord, deliver us.'-View them as bodily pains. We see the body of our

them as mental pains. This divine Sufferer

of conversion, or regeneration. The nature of true repentance, of justi

blessed Saviour, as some have supposed in-fying faith, of the Holy Spirit's conceivably tender, worn already with hard- influences, is not explained with ships and wasted with hunger and fatigue, that clearness and fulness which now bedewed with drops as of blood, drag- we could wish to have seen in a ged and bound, buffeted and scourged, torn volume which will be left as a vawith thorns, and nailed to a cross. Regard luable legacy by many a pious parent to his rising offspring. The absence of topics of this nature may indeed introduce the work into circles where otherwise it would not obtain admission, and has undoubtedly called forth testimonies of approbation, which otherwise it would not have received; but we conceive its real usefulness will notwithstanding be on the whole diminished.

endured the shame as well as pain of the cross; the trial of mockings, as well as the cruelty of scourgings. Imagine friends unable to watch with him for even one hour, all about to forsake him, one to betray, and another to deny him; a world made by

him, and yet disowning him; and foes insulting him for the very love he bore them. What but the language of inspiration can complete its own most affecting picture? "Reproach," says the Psalmist in the person of the Messiah, "hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink *." Or regard his agonies as spiritual. Doubtless it was not mere natural suffering, felt or apprehended, under which, in the garden of Gethsemane, his "soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death;" or against which he prayed when he said, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me;" or under which on the cross itself he exclaimed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This was a weight of sorrow which, as no human strength had been adequate to sustain, so no human imagination can rightly conceive. It was an impression on the spirit from a Divine hand. It was a clouding of the light of the Divine countenance. It was a momentary abandonment by Him in whose presence is the fulness of joy :-it was unutterable woe. 6 By thine UNKNOWN agonies, good Lord, deliver us.'-Pp. 268270.

In perusing, however, these Sermons, and referring to the especial object of their publication, we are compelled to notice one defect, and that is, the absence of any statements or definitions upon some very important points on which men are especially prone to err. The discourses are both practical trines and precepts of the Gospel and evangelical; the leading docare stated and enforced; but we

meet with nothing on the subject

* Psalm lxix. 20, 21.

II. The second volume mentioned at the head of this article is, Sermons by the Rev. J. Cunningham. The circumstances which led to this publication are detailed in the following extract from the Preface:

The Author of the following Discourses has been led to this undertaking partly by perceiving the general thirst for this species of publication-partly by an ardent desire, before he is called to his great account, to bequeath to his family, his parish, and his friends, some slight memorial of his interest in their temporal and spiritual welfare; and some less fugitive record, than a mere address from the pulpit, of the principles in which he has found, through the great mercy of God, his own consolation and joy.

Perhaps, however, the wish he had for some time entertained, of endeavouring to prepare a volume of Sermons for the press, might not have been realized, if he had not felt the importance, during a season of comparative retirement, of labouring to withdraw the mind from mournful contemplations by occupying it with useful pursuits. Pp. iii, iv.

Deeply as we sympathize in the severe domestic trial here alluded to*, we cannot but feel that in the present, as well as in unnumbered other instances, it has worked toWe are fully will have cause of thankfulness to gether for good. persuaded that many, very many, almighty God for the circumstances which occasioned the publication

The death of Mrs. Cunningham.

of this volume, and we trust that their prayers and praises will be returned in showers of blessings on the writer's head. We cannot but feel that Mr. C. has here produced a work worthy of himself. His former publications, at least those which have acquired any considerable notice, have been chiefly of a trifling nature; sufficiently amusing indeed, perhaps more profitable, in a pecuniary point of view, than the present volume will prove, but not such as to confer on their author the character which we are well assured he would prefer to all others, that of a pious and judicious divine. This character, we conceive, he is justly entitled to, and we would refer all those who have been led, from any former publications, to entertain a doubt upon the subject, to the contents of this volume, or even to those extracts which we here insert. The volume contains twenty-three Sermons, several of them being parts of courses preached upon particular portions of the Word of God; a mode of preaching to which the author remarks he is strongly disposed, on various grounds, and which, we conceive, will be found the most useful way of preaching. Amidst the vast variety of important passages, which these Sermons contain, we are compelled to confine ourselves to a very few, and shall most cordially rejoice if these specimens induce our readers to peruse the volume for themselves.

The fifth Sermon, entitled, Life a Race, is on Heb. xii. 1, 2, and contains the following striking passage:

1. In the first place, then, the comparison of life to "a race," plainly teaches us to consider it as a state of exertion and struggle. No image, indeed, can be more distinctly opposed to a state of indolence and drowsiness. But does the ordinary conception men appear to entertain of the life which God requires of his servants, correspond with this imagery? On the contrary, is it not too often supposed that little is demanded of us but a frame of mind and manners easily reached and as easily main

tained? Is it not the popular conception, that, if not actually born "the children of God," baptism and an education, however defective as to the attainment of all spiritual

objects, are sufficient in every case to bring us to that state, and a few formal and

heartless acts of devotion to confirm us in it? In the mean time, little of the cor

ruption of the heart is felt, little self-denial practised, little zeal, or humility, or patience, little love to God, faith in Christ, or benevolence to those for whom he shed his blood, is cherished or displayed. A freedom from gross vice, a general quietness and courtesy of manners, a few unmeaning religious expressions, occasional acts of tardy and reluctant benevolence, are received as sufficient evidence of a heart right with God, and prepared for heaven. But how different is the conception of religion presented to us in the text! In a 66 'race," and particularly such as that which was in the mind of the Apostle, the most distinguished individuals were competitors, and all was ardour and exertion. And, throughout the Scriptures, the duties of life are continually represented under figures of the like character. They are compared to the anxious watching of the centinel, to the arming for battle, to the agonies of the wrestler. We are commanded to "work out our own salvation with fear and

trembling"-to "give diligence to make towards the mark for the prize of our high our calling and election sure"-to" press calling of God in Christ Jesus." Life, in fact, is to be regarded as a perpetual struggle, to reach, under God, the heavenly goal. If you are real servants of God, your eyes prevent the night watches, that you may wait upon him." You labour to fill every hour with its appropriate duties. While others are halting, or doubting, or reposing on the lap of indulgence, or loitering in the paths of trifling or vicious amuse

[ocr errors]

ment, you are planning or executing sonie new enterprise of duty, or holiness, or usefulness. When the thoughtless people of Israel were engaged in follies and revellings at the foot of the mount, the Prophet on its summit was employed in deep converse with his God, in solemn labours and

struggles for his own salvation, and that of the guilty multitude below. And in like manner, you must "gird up your loins " for the race. You must remember that the loss of time, in a state so brief and uncertain, may involve in it the loss of pardon, of grace, of the favour of God, of the love of Christ, of present peace and of future glory. You must answer those who ask from you more hours for worldly objects, and less for religion, as Nehemiah answered the messengers entreating him to come down and rejoice on the plain: "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come

down: why should the work cease while I leave it and come down to you?" Pp. 78


The eighth Sermon is, The inward Testimony of the Servant of God, on 1 John, v. 10, and contains the following admirable description of believing on the Son of God:

To "believe in the Son of God" is to "trust" in the Son of God; for the original word is the same, and they are, for the most part, convertible terms. In order, therefore, to come to a precise determination as to the nature of faith in Christ, we ought to inquire as to what points we are commanded in Scripture to trust him. But, as the passages which refer to this point are scattered in profusion over every part of Scripture, such an inquiry would involve an examination of the whole of the Sacred Volume. Some means, therefore, must be devised of abridging our labours.

It may be sufficient, then, for our purpose, to observe, that the principal blessings, for which we are commanded in Scripture to rely on the Son of God, may he collected under two great heads: first, the pardon of sin; and, secondly, the change and sanctification of the heart and life by that Spirit whom he will send.

[ocr errors]

The following texts are a mere specimen of the passages which bear upon these points:-"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world:" "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost:" "God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities:" "" I give unto my sheep "eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands." Faith, therefore, in the Son of God, is not, what it has sometimes been supposed, some sensible impression from on high. It is not the mere whisper of a diseased imanation. It is not the day-dream of fanaticism. It is not a mere unaccountable persuasion of our eternal safety, without any of the fruits of the Spirit in our life, to warrant this persuasion. Still less is it a mere dry, cold, speculative, and fruitless assent to the truth of Scripture. But it is the cordial reception of Christ as a Saviour -first, from the guilt; and, secondly, from the power of sin. It is a clear, full, affectionate, influential, abiding trust and reliance upon the merits and righteousness of the Redeemer for peace and holiness, wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, and producing the fruits of a holy, useful, and amiable life. Such a faith, modified indeed in some measure by the character of the dispensation under which it was exercised, appears to have been the governing

principle of the true servants of God in every age. Such, for instance, was the faith of Abraham, when "he saw the day of the Son of man, and rejoiced to see it." Such, probably, the faith of Job, when he exclaimed, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth." Such, that of the prophets, when they "looked through the darkness of intervening ages, and pointed to the Saviour who was to come." Such was the faith of Peter, when he said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Such, that of the convinced Thomas, when he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" Such, finally, that of Paul, when he said, "I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him

against that day." It was the want of this

faith which Christ himself rebuked in the Jews; "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." It was to the privileges entailed upon the possessors of this faith he invited his lowly followers, "Come unto me, and ye shall find rest to your souls." he suspends our eternal destinies: "He It is on the presence or absence of this faith that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; he that believeth not, shall be damned." Faith, in short, is to be considered as the grand instrument by which our present peace is secured, our personal holiness promoted; by which we are snatched from the jaws of perdition, invested with a new title to heaven, and with new capacities for its enjoyments and occupations. "To as many as receive Christ, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe in his name."Pp. 140-143.

The seventeenth Sermon, on the Source of the Christian's Joy, from Psalm cxix. 116, contains the following passage; which, consider-ing the circumstances of the author before alluded to, impressed us very forcibly:

3. But, again; the Psalmist says in the text, "Thy testimonies have I claimed as mine heritage for ever." The heritage of God is an eternal inheritance: and it is in their reference to eternity that the servant of God chiefly regards the promises of his heavenly Father. In this world, he is, at best, but the stranger of a moment. But he has a home, "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." And if, for a time, when all the prospects of life were bright and cheering, he has been tempted here to pitch his tent, and here to expect, the enjoyments of a father's house; the storms of life have soon swept over the plain, carried away his flimsy dwelling, and driven him out as a wanderer and a fugitive.

« PreviousContinue »