Page images
PDF
EPUB

the domestic animal which, of all others, is the most subject to the wanton cruelty of man, should thus poffess the most formidable of all means of revenge, and become suddenly endued with the fatal weapon, at the very moment when the injury has been inflicted. Those who are fond of seeing final causes in every arrangement of the universe, and whose imprudent zeal has, more than all the fcepticism of all the philosophers, brought into disrepute the most fublime of human speculations, will eagerly seize upon this fact as an illustration of the design, constantly observeable in the works of nature. But nothing can be more thoughtless than such an argument ; for, if design is here exhibited, it is unaccompanied by benevolence. The weapon with which those animals are endued, is useless for defence, and serves only for revenge; it is used indiscriminately against the assailant, and the indifferent spectator; and finally, it is as certainly fatal to the possessor, as to those against whom it is employed. The whole fact must, therefore, be claffed amongst those inscrutable dispensations of Providence, from which we are not permitted to draw any inference, except that of our own profound ignorance.

It is of more importance to remark (and for this purpose we have introduced the present notice), that the dreadful letfon taught by the cases here stated, should be carefully kept in mind by all who are, from their tempers or their habits of life, much exposed to the temptation or the necessity of using harsh methods with the most common of our domestic animals.

ART. IX. Sermons. By Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood, Bart,

D. D. & F. R. S. Edinburgh, one of the Ministers of St Cuthberts, Edinburgh, and senior Chaplain in Ordinary in Scotland to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Edinburgh,

1805, pp. 480. IT I would be improper, perhaps, to pass an unqualified censure

on any particular style of pulpit eloquence. ( Whate'er is best administered is beit,' is a maxim at least as applicable to preaching as to government. Good sense and good morality are indispensable requisites; and if the preacher give us these, he may be allowed, in other respects, to follow the dictates of his peculiar genius or fancy. The animated oration--the calm exposition of moral duties--the critical illustration of scripture doctrine--and the serious exhortation to a holy life-are all adapted to the pulpit, and are all good in their kind. Attempts at wit and vivacity, indeed, might probably be proscribed without any great disadvantage. A preacher is comtemptible, who does not seem to believe what he says; and we can scarcely think him much in earnest, who seeks occasion to be facetious, when he reasons of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.' There are preachers, however, of this peculiar vein; and there are likewife hearers on whom an epigrammatic point may have more effect, than' proofs of holy writ.' Whether, therefore, under an enlarged view of St Paul's maxim,' to become all things to all men,' even the witty style of preaching may not be occasionally tolerated, we will not undertake to de termine. It is, however, clearly the worst style; and since we have discovered the worst, perhaps we may likewise be able to point out the best.

does

The admirers of eloquence and fine writing will be apt in general to declare for the highly oratorical sermon, a species of composition of which we have few examples in this country; and accordingly, the great French preachers are commonly referred to, as those who have come nearest perfection in their art. We are however induced to fufpect, that oratory, confidered as an art, can have no very powerful effect in the pulpit, Artis eft celare artem, is an indispensable rule of rhetoric ; and no eloquence can ever be impressive which appears laboured and artificial. Now, an orator of genius, when he undertakes to delineate those pathetic circumstances in the fortunes or conduct of men, with which every human heart is ready to sympathise, will easily be able to rouse the feelings of his audience; and all the exaggerations and amplifications which he employs for this purpose will commonly escape the notice of those who have become interested and warm in the description. But the case is materially different with those representations of the future deftinies of men, which afford the chief scope for pulpit eloquence. As these things are not the objects of our experience, or of our ordinary consideration, there seems to be a species of incredulity and indifference with respect to them in the human mind, which is only to be overcome by powerful reasoning and serious exhora tation, and is more likely to be increased than abated by the trick and the glitter of rhetoric. Instead of being ready to overlook the art of the orator, we are in this instance rather on the watch to discover it; and if once he appears to be employing artifice, his influence with us is at an end. He may continue to delight us as a poet with his imagination and spirit; but we shall

pay little regard to him as a teacher of important truth. Compare the fermons of Maflillon with the orations of Demofthenes or Cicero. The Greek and Roman orators, no doubt, had often bad causes to support, and excited the sympathy of their audience, by counterfeiting emotions which they did not ferioully feel. The French preacher, on the other hand, we

mult

must presume, was always in earnest, and firmly believed the truths which he delivered. But, by adopting the style of a rhetorician, he seems at all times to be acting a part; while those illustrious ancients appear quite simple, even when they are employing their utmost artifice and skill

. The plain ftatement of the preacher's sentiments on the subjects which he is treating, expressing honestly what he thinks and feels, without any foftening or exaggerating, appears to us to be the best style of preaching. This is compatible with many very fine strokes of occasional eloquence; but, in general, the style will rather be firm and steady, or, at the most, warm and earnest, than highly coloured and impassioned ; and, after all that may be said of his tediousness and slovenly composition, perhaps Tillotson is still perhaps the justest model for the eloquence of the pulpit.

The volume before us is a very respectable example of this manner. The fermons of Sir Henry Moncreiff are evidently the prociuctions of a sensible and serious man, who trusts more to the weight and importance of his matter, than to the manner in which it my be set off and adorned. He never aims at aftonishing his reader, nor does he poflefs any peculiar felicity or polish of expreftion; but he is always instructive, commonly forcible, and his language has at least the merit of perspicuity. Without entering into the merits of each sermon in particular, it will be sufficient merely to mention the subjects, and to quote a specimen. The contents of this volume are as follows : 1. On the unequal allotments of Providence-2. On the minute improvement of the blellings of Providence-3. On self-denial-4. On the form of godliness-5. On Christian faith and morality-6. On the result of good and of bad affections—7. On the inheritance of a good man's children-8. On the doctrine of grace-9. On the conduct of Providence to good men--10. On the general spirit and effects of Christianity-11. On the universal promulgation of Christianity-12. The same subject continued---13. Prospects of futurity-14. On the cultivation of personal religion. From the fixth serinon, “On the result of good and bad affections,' we select the following striking reflections on the influence of parental ove.

• If we have been the children of worthy and affectionate parents, who are now no more, the remembrance of their love can never cease to be interesting. We have pleasure in believing that we have derived from hem our best qualities, or that we can refer to them our success in life. We look back with a melancholy satisfaction on their anxieties for us

hen we had no care of ourselves ; on their folicitude to protect or to warn us; on the affection with which they supplied our want of expejence; on the looks of kindness with which they gratified us ; on the instruction and the discipline by which they endeavoured to form us for the path of life ; on the fervent prayers by which they purified them; on the earnestness with which they pake to us of duties and of godliness, when they admonished us of the evils to come, and strove to fortify or instruct us by “ the labour of love;" on the sanguine hopes which they delighted to indulge, from the progress of our talents, or from our good conduct or success in the world, or from our duty and affection to them, or from our ardour in good works, or from our fidelity to the God of our fathers.

infruction

• These are the most useful recollections of the human mind. It is the law of our nature, that the parents go down to the grave, and leave their children behind them. But if we can remember our parents with those happy impreslions of their affection and fidelity, we have that from them which will interest and admonish us as long as we live. If we have been faithful to the influence of parental love, it will never lose its hold of us.

Why should not each of us examine himself fairly on the subject ? • Has my conduct been at all worthy of the faithful discipline of my parents ; or of their eariieft admonitions to guide and to bless my youth ; or of the last impressive prayer which came from “ the love which perifhed” in the grave?

• Do I feel the influence still of parental solicitude, to restrain me in the hour of temptation ; or to revive on my conscience my early im. preilions of godlinefs and of good works? Or, am I conscious that there is a motive to whatever is pure or estimable, ever returning to my thoughts, from the tense of my obligation to justify the hopes, and to be worilıy of the examples, which are now no more?

• It is consolatory, indeed, to be able to answer these questions to the fatisfaction of our own minds. If we give thanks to Heaven that those « whose love has perished' » died in faith and patience, and “ manded their children to keep the way of the Lord,” we must feel that the impressions, to which these questions relate, are rivetted on hearts; and that for the influence which they preserve on our conduct, we shall one day answer to God.

• Ah! what shall those men do, who know that they deliberately trample on theʼmemorials of parei as who loved them in the fear of God? The love which lost its influence before it could avail them, and of which they must feel themfelves to have been unworthy, though it perished in the grave, shall rise

up

“ the judgement of the great day, to bear witness against them, “ except they repent.The thought is deep and awful. If they have any tenderness of mind, and God hath not forfaken them, it will reach the bottom of their hearts.

. But it is impoflible not to feel how much the recollection of parental love, which recals us to prayer or to penitence, ought to suggest to other men with regard to the love which has not yet perished. Their parents admonish them ftill, and pray for them. Surely this is the time to contider how precious the impreflions ought to be of God and of dus

com

Our

at

ties, which are produced by their earnest and affectionate endeavours to be faithful to God and to them. “ My son, said Solomon, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother. Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goeft, it shall lead thee; when thou fleepeit, it fhall keep thee and when thou awakeft, it shall talk with thee.”

P. 170-174. From the contents' our readers will perceive, that several of these sermons are on subjects entirely fcriptural; and, indeed, the motives to virtue which the reverend author lays down, are most commonly drawn from the peculiar and distinguishing doctrines of Chriflianity. In the sermon on · Chriftian faith and morality,' he, indeed, plainly states it as his opinion, that there is no way of enforcing Christian morals with effect, without deriving them from the sources of Chriftian faith. This is a point which seems to be viewed in very different lights; and although we are not perhaps very competent judges of the question, we shall venture to make a very few obfervations on it.

We think it then very plain, that a preacher who ftudiously keeps Christianity in the back ground as something which incumbers him, and of which he would be as well pleased to get rid, is by no means doing his duty. Whether that religion is true or false, is another question; but, surely, no one who thinks it true ought to be ashamed of it, and no one who thinks it false ought to preach under its authority. The attempt then to preach morals as something separate from Christianity, is highly indecent, and has always a paltry and pitiful effect. Upon this fub. ject, nothing can be more strongly, or, indeed, happily expressed, than the following very admirable passage from the sermon just referred to. • I beseech you to consider,

(2.) What the morality is, which is industriously separated from the doctrines of Christianity, or is inculcated independent of its relation to them.

• When I say that morality is separated from Christianity, I do not mean to affirm, that this is always directly done. It happens more frequently, that the doctrines of the gospel are passed over in silence, or are treated as subjects which a very wife or enlightened man does not think it necessary minutely to consider ; while moral duties are stated, with few exceptions, as if they had no reference to them.

• Is the morality which is thus inculcated, the pure, the universal, the watchful, or the uniform morality represented in the gospel? On the contrary, it is a morality which has feldom any relation to God, or to the duties which we owe to him; a morality which applies chiefly, or entirely, to our present interests; the morality which the fashion, or the general manners of the world require ; the morality. which decives its chicf motives from present fituations, and froin prefent events;

the

« PreviousContinue »