Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE

CHRISTIAN

REMEMBRANCE R.

JUNE, 1830.

REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS. Art. I.--Sermons on Practical Subjects, preached in the Parish Churches

of St. Michael's and St. Mary's, in Christ Church Cathedral, and in the Chapel of Trinity College, Dublin. By the late Rev. RICHARD Graves, D.D. King's Professor of Divinity in the University of Dublin. Edited by his Son, RICHARD HASTINGS Graves, D.D. London: Rivingtons. 1830. 1 vol. Price 10s. 6d.

This posthumous publication contains twenty-six sermons upon the following topics, which we beg leave to submit to our readers in the order in which the table of contents presents them to our notice; and we perform this task the more readily, when we consider that the inatter of an author's discourses should precede the consideration of their manner, to which, however, as to a point of no mean importance in addresses from the pulpit, we shall, in the sequel, crave the privilege of inviting regard.

Sermon I. On the value of the Soul, Mark viii. 36, 37.-Sermon II. On Repentance, Matt. iv. 17.—Sermon III. On the Danger of deferring Repentance, Act xxiv. 25.--Sermon IV. On Faith, Heb. xi. 6.-Sermon V. The principles of Christian Obedience, Coloss. iii. 17.-Sermon VI. Sincerity and Consistency of Christian Obedience, James ii. 10.-Sermon VII. Motives of Love and Gratitude to God, Psalm ciii. 1, 2, 3, 4.-Sermon VIII. The Christian's Peace of Mind, Phil. iv. 7.—Sermon IX. Sermon on the Mount, its general character and object. --Sermons X. XI. XII. Sermon on the Mount; first, second, third, and fourth Beatitudes.-Sermon XIII. On the Character of the Apostle Peter, Matt. xxvi. 33, 34, 35.–Sermon XIV. The Last Judgment, Heb. ix. 27.Sermon XV. On Spiritual-mindedness, Rom. viii. 6.-Sermon XVI. The Prodigal Son, Luke xv. 18, 19.-Sermon XVII. Prayer a Duty and a Privilege, Philip. iv. 6.-Sermon XVIII. Necessity and Advantage of studying the Scriptures, John v. 39.—Sermon XIX.—The Unjust Steward, Luke xvi. 8.–Sermon XX. The Sabbath, Exod. xx. 8. - Sermon XXI. Christian Charity, 1 Cor. xiii. 1.-Sermon XXII. The Unprofitable Servant, Matt. xxv. 30.-Sermon XXIII. The Lord's Supper, 1 Cor. xi. 25.-Sermon XXIV. Temptation no Excuse for Transgression, 1 Cor. x. 13.-Sermon XXV. Sincerity and Veracity obvious Characteristics of the Apostolical Records, (delivered in the University Chapel, Dublin, and addressed to the Students,) 2 Pet. i. 16.--Sermon XXVI. same subject continued.

[blocks in formation]

Of the author, whose volume is before us, we presume none of our readers to be ignorant; we pronounce, therefore, we are persuaded, an intelligible encomium upon his posthumous discourses, when we state that they are equally deserving of regard as any of the Doctor's former productions, being imbued with the same orthodox principles, the same burning zeal for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, and the same affectionate tenderness of address, which are every where conspicuous in his impressive Lectures on the Pentateuch.

Being dead," he still speaks in the same accents of Christian love; and we are bound to add, that the publication of these practical Sermons by his son, is equally a proof of his good taste as a scholar, and of his sound faith as a Christian ; and he may rest assured, that " by thus committing them to the press, he does not take aught from the high character of his father, who was, indeed, an ornament to the University of Dublin, and a distinguished support of the Established Church.”

Our limits forbid us to attempt an elaborate analysis of these discourses, or even to indulge in very copious extracts. But we should ill discharge our duty as reviewers, were we to ask our readers to rely upon our " avròs čon," unsupported by testimonies from the pages before us; and, therefore, we proceed to give them an opportunity of forming their own judgments, by adorning our Miscellany with quotations from the volume on our table. We commence our observations on Sermon I., which is an impressive illustration of the infinite value of the soul; and we beg our readers to remember the maxim, “ Difficile est proprie communia dicere,” that they may form a just estimate of the tact displayed by our late Professor of Divinity, in his treatment of a hacknied topic, which, in ordinary hands, would infallibly have proved a sleeping draught, rather than an awakening call to repentance and faith. The preacher is describing the folly of the votary of ambition, for which purpose he quotes an anecdote, which history records of Saladin, the celebrated monarch of the East.

After he had subdued Egypt, passed the Euphrates, and conquered cities without number; after he had retaken Jerusalem, and performed exploits almost more than human in those wars which superstition had excited for the recovery of the Holy Land, he closed his life in the performance of an action, which weil deserves to be noticed. A moment before he uttered his last sigh, he called the herald, who had carried his banner before him in all his battles;-he commanded him to fasten to the top of a lance the shroud in which he was soon to be buried. Go,said the dying prince, “ carry this lance, unfurl this banner, and while you lift up this shroud as my standard, proclaim, This is all that remains to Saladin the Great, the Conqueror, and the King, of all his glory!”

Christians, (continues our Preacher) I this day would perform to you the office of this herald. I would unfurl and display in all their pomp, sensual and transitory pleasures, worldly riches, and human honours: all these I reduce to the shroud, in which you will shortly be entombed; this standard of death I lift up in your sight, and I tell you this is all that will remain to you of the

possessions, for which the tempter seduces you to exchange your souls. Are such possessions too great to be given up in exchange for such a soul ? . Can their perishing value outweigh the soul's immortality? Do you not feel, in your consciences and hearts, the deep import, the awful truth of our Lord's question, What shall a man, a rational man, capable of comparing eternity with time, what shall such a one consent to take in exchange for his soul ?—Pp. 8, 9.

From the worthlessness of the sovereignty of the whole world, when put into competition with our souls, our author passes to the consideration of those inferior objects, infinitely more mean and despicable, for which the votaries of pleasure and wealth are content to forfeit their eternal happiness; and thus concludes, with an affectionate appeal to the hearts of his auditors. He is speaking of that internal peace, "which illumes the Christian's path,” glowing brighter and brighter as this world throws a darker shade around our closing years, and “ bursting forth with refulgent glory amidst the gloom of death."

Compared with this, how worthless is the flash of transient gaiety, or the false glare of worldly pride! Oh! my friends, where is our faith ; nay, I will add, where is our reason? Why are not our eyes, our desires, and our hopes, more constantly directed upwards to that crown of glory, reserved for the followers of God ? Surely, one ray from that resplendent diadem might be sufficient to overpower and extinguish the glittering charms of those transitory vanities, which owe all their lustre to the darkness in which they are placed! Surely, when our spirits are overwhelmed within us, one glance of this celestial glory might be sufficient to animate and brighten them; and might enable us to exclaim with the Apostle, though in the midst of sorrows, of dangers, and of death,-" In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us !!'-P. 17.

The second Sermon, upon Repentance, abounds with passages of great force and beauty, and must have come home to the bosoms of the Pastor's flock with the most salutary effect. Having insisted upon the necessity of repentance, our author wisely lays down certain criteria whereby to ascertain the sincerity of that godly sorrow, and adduces “ the steadiness of its practical effects” as decisive of its character; the first of which is stated to be "reparation and atonement for the mischiefs" of which our sins have been the cause. To this is subjoined the following emphatic and eloquent appeal :

If, then, the profligate, who has wantonly encouraged the foulness of prostitution; if the adulterer, who has tempted to the sundering of the most sacred ties; if the seducer, who has corrupted the purity of virgin innocence; if the boon companion, as the world sometimes miscalls the man, who encourages and glories in riot and intoxication ; if the scoffer at religion, who, to gratify a petulant vanity, has instilled the poison of his impiety into some credulous unsuspecting soul; if these, and such as these, ever return to a sense of their crimes, what horror must they feel at the reflection, that the victims whom their hands have bound and led up for sacrifice to the altar of vice, can probably never be by them rescued from the terrors of their fate,-never be restored to religion, and purity, and happiness !- -On you, my young friends, who have not yet ventured upon such atrocities,—who have not yet by your example diffused the contagion of vice through the circle of your companions and friends-who

have not yet been hurried away by the impulse of the evil one to seduce some child of innocence into guilt and misery ;-I warn you by the sacredness of religion, as you value your present peace, and your eternal happiness, pause before you commit any deed so fatal to your fellow-creature, so odious to God ! If, in order to prove the sincerity of your repentance, you must anxiously labour to repair the injuries you have inflicted; pause, I conjure you,

before

you

inflict injuries, which you never can repair ! &c.&c. &c.-Pp. 32, 33.

Doubtless there are who will ask for the doctrinal parts of the volume under review, and be anxious to learn from what motives our author invites his hearers to the work of their salvation, so that they may be convinced that he is something better than the ape

of Aristotle, or the echo of Seneca, than which substitutes for the faithful expounder of the mystery of the gospel there is nothing more mischievous or more detestable. Such inquiries deserve our promptest regard; for we are convinced, with Horsley (whose words we gladly adopt to convey more forcibly our sentiments), that it is the duty of a preacher to enforce the practice of religion by inculcating its doctrines; and that “the motives which the revealed doctrines furnish, are the only motives by which religious duty can be effectually enforced;"* and our venerable author has thus recorded his judgment upon this vital point, in his adınirable Discourses upon Faith, and the Principle of Christian Obedience. Taking the Apostle's definition of faith (Heb. xi. 1), and thence explaining it as “such a confident expectation of things hoped for, on the security of the Divine promise, as gives them, as it were, a substance and present existence; such a powerful conviction of the reality of things which are not yet seen, as enables them to act upon the mind as if they were present ;" and thence showing how it comprehends "a perfect reliance on the truth of God," and a " deep and heart-felt submission to his dispensations as moral Governor of the world, and a perfect resignation of ourselves, and all our concerns, into the hands of Him who is all-merciful to choose, all-wise to know, and all-powerful to secure our well-being;”. and demonstrating, lastly, that " it leads the repentant sinner to seek acceptance with God only on those terms and conditions which God proposes," through " the interposition and sacrifice of his Redeemer, as the only source of hope and salvation, he

says

that Faith is the principle which forms the foundation of the Christian character, the support of every virtue, the source and spring of every religious affection. Man, weak and helpless when unsupported by superior power, by this principle is exalted through grace to a close connexion with the only Being who can sustain his helplessness, even “ God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort,” whose goodness is unwearied as his power is resistless ;-man, unable either to cominand or to foresee the issue of events, exposed each moment of his existence to dangers he can never

• Horsley's Charges, p. 10.

guard against, and miseries which he can neither prevent nor remove,-man finds in the principle of faith the only rational ground of tranquillity and peace.P. 64.

We know that “faith worketh by love," and we are prepared to contend with our author, that the sincerity of faith must be manifested, not by "presumptuous confidence," or "extravagant fervour," or “ dogmatical opinions,” but by its purifying effect upon the conversation of a Christian. We know that “ faith without works is dead;” and yet (if we rightly understand our pious Professor) we doubt whether he be correct in stating that “ sincere and heart-felt faith will, by the Judge of all the earth, be accepted as fitted to partake the blessings of his kingdom,” &c. &c. (p. 67); or rather, we should doubt whether this phraseology be not exceptionable, as likely to lead men to imagine that there is something in their faith which fits them for salvation, or makes them to deserve grace of congruity;" whereas, “ in this respect, our faith is no less defective than our works;" for “ it is not by the merit of our faith, more than by the merit of our works, that we are justified, but because faith is the first principle of that communion between the believer's soul and the Divine Spirit, on which the whole of our spiritual life depends."* We must always remember the distinction so well drawn in the Homilies of our Church"Neither doth faith shut out the justice of our good works, necessarily to be done afterwards of duty towards God; but it excludeth them, so that we may not do them to this intent, to be made just by doing them; even so, as great and as godly a virtue as the lively faith is, yet it putteth us from itself, and remitteth or appointeth us unto Christ, for to have only by him remission of our șins, or justification.”

We would not, for a moment, insinuate that the late excellent Professor of Divinity was heterodox on this article; yet we feel it our province to point out the infelicity of phrase, which might possibly mislead an incautious reader.

The sermon on the consistency of Christian Obedience is very beautiful and striking ; and the absurdity of the projectors, who would blend religion and vice, is exemplified by the appropriate adduction of many fatal examples, when the preacher breaks forth in the following impressive strain :

Such is the impious subterfuge by which the sinner hopes to provide an escape from the indignation of the Almighty; and thus does the evil one hold his devoted victim by a single but a sure tie, which is never broken, because it appears so slight that it is never struggled with. And in this he is truly politic. No. man is blind enough not to perceive, and shudder at the hideousness of a character universally depraved. And no man is audacious enough to offend in all

• Horsley's Charges, pp. 35, 36.

« PreviousContinue »