« PreviousContinue »
of heart, that my Serinon was not written in the spirit of controversy ; that it was not intended to give offence ; and that there was no personal allusion intended by me to any individual whom I expected, or could expect to hear me. The merit or the demerit of my composition I will contest with no man. I am quite aware that I have not done justice to my subject, nor even to my own original plan and purpose in attempting it. But I cannot be mistaken in my own meaning; and, therefore, I must lament the rashness and the injustice of that judgment which imagined personalities which I never intended. Nothing is more deceitful than the inferences which party zeal thus frequently draws, to the great injury of Christian charity and of true religion. I have myself been subjected repeatedly to similar accusations, when the Sermon, which led some rash zealot to such personal applications, was, in fact, written many years before I knew the name or the existence of the person or persons at whom I was supposed to aim; when it was preached as it was written, without addition or alteration; and when the allusions were to principles, and not to persons, to facts of general notoriety, not to the spurious delations of private gossip. No man abhors personality in the pulpit more than I do; nor has any man avoided this odious perversion of a most sacred privilege more carefully than I have done through my whole clerical life, now verging towards three and thirty years.
I was prevented, by various circumstances, from publishing my Sermon immediately, when its publication thus became, in my judgment, a matter not of choice
but of necessity. I have just perused it again, after the lapse of several months : and when it has thus somewhat the air of novelty to me, I find none of the personality of which I have been so rashly accused. I pretend not to be free from prejudice. All men are more or less under the dominion of that prejudice with which habit and party associations guard their settled notions. Aware of this, and perfectly sincere and serious in my own opinions, I would not willingly, in any circumstances, even in maintaining those opinions which I think most important, give personal offence to any man who differs from me, and who may differ, undoubtedly, so far as I am entitled to judge, with equal sincerity and seriousness. I feel convinced, that no man, from St Augustine's days to the present, ever adopted his language with more sincerity than I do; Errare possum, hæreticus esse nolo. The gospel, the whole gospel, and nothing but the gospel, is, and has ever been, in perfect sincerity, the object of my ministry. That I am liable to error I feel habitually, and acknowledge readily. But I cannot consent to have my opinions suppressed under false surmises, and condemned under erroneous inferences. They are, if I am not most miserably deceived, the legitimate and authorised opinions of thc Church to which we belong; and they have been maintained by men who have never had any superiors, and I believe few equals, in professional learning, in Christian zeal, and in practical piety.
It is very important to remark farther, that, if I had preached the following Sermon at any former visitation which our Bishop ever held, it would, I am quite certain, have given offence to no clerical person, and to very few, if even to any lay persons in the whole extent of our small communion. That offence has now been taken, is to me a matter of great regret. A very few years ago we were altogether unanimous on the points which I have discussed in this Sermon; and I have so discussed them, or at least I so intended to discuss them, by a reference to first principles, both as they stand in Scripture, and as they are carried forward into practice in our formularies, as to promote that unanimity which seems incumbent
upon us as ministers of the same communion. In the references which I have made to some principles and practices which I deem erroneous, and to some current accusations which I know to be unjust, I had no personal feelings of which I need to be ashamed, nor any local allusions for which I can be justly censured. I have never, in this country, been brought into such contact or connection with any clerical person to whom, or by whom, my observations have been, or may be applied, as to enable or entitle me to make such application myself. My references are all to facts which speak for themselves, and to persons whose works I have read, or of whose principles and procedure I have had some experience, or some certain information. I have had many opportunities of such observation, both abroad and at home ; and I feel myself fully entitled to bear my testimony against that extravagant and unchristian zeal which would deprive me and the large majority of my brethren of the character of Gospel ministers, because we cannot adopt the peculiar phraseology, and the exclusive spirit, which distinguish certain zealots of Evangelism. I never, at any period, dissembled a principle, nor withheld a truth which I felt to be important; but I must resist, at every hazard, the deep degradation of adopting a style which I do not approve, and a phraseology which I do not understand, whatever popular attractions they may possess. Religious zeal and fervent piety are most valuable acquisitions, incumbent upon all true Christians, which no man prizes more highly, wheresoever and in whomsoever they are found, than I do, provided they are according to knowledge, and combined with true charity and meekness. But if I find the practice of zeal, and the profession of piety, mixed up with passion, with an intolerant, busy, and exclusive spirit, with harsh judgments and uncharitable insinuations, I determine at once that such zeal is false, and such piety factitious, in the same way, and with the same certainty that I distinguish the thorn from the fig-tree, and the bramblebush from the vine. St Luke vi. 44.
N. B.-The words within [ ] in p: 28 and in p. 29, stand as they were originally written ; but I think it right to say, that they were omitted in preaching, though I see no reason for suppressing them in printing my Sermon.
22, Stafford Street, Edinburgh,
12th December 1825.
ST MATTHEW, XXVIII. 18, 19, 20.
“ And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto
me in heaven and in earth; Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, " baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of “ the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever “ I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto “the end of the world. Amen."
passage of Scripture which I have now read merits the most serious consideration, whether we regard the character and the condition of Him who spake, or the occasion, the object, and the import, of the words spoken. They are the last words recorded by St Matthew, as if to leave, on the minds of his readers, a sense of their importance, which the order established, and the ordinances celebrated in consequence, by the Apostles, would not easily allow their converts to forget. The words of my text form, in substance, the fundamental char