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January, as 'a day of prayer for the conversion of the world. He proposed it to the Presbytery of Watertown, N. Y., and as chairman of their committee, he drafted the memorial to the General Assembly, requesting that body to take order in favor of that concert. They did so, and recommended the observance of it to the churches.
In his professional career, Mr. Clark was hearty and laborious. He loved to preach ; and he gratified this affection by preaching a great deal, both in season and out of season. Sometimes, when on a journey, as he stopped for a night in a village, he would make his arrangements, issue a notice, cause the bell to be rung, and preach to those who might assemble and in the morning go on his way. He performed a great amount of neighborhood preaching. It was not uncommon for him to preach nine times a week. His constitution was a strong one, as it must have been, to sustain the earnest labors of twentyone years, with the loss of but a single Sabbath from ill health.
The intellectual features of Mr. Clark will be brought out in connection with our examination of his Sermons. It will appear that he had strong powers, which, at almost any time, he could put under the highest pressure of feeling. We shall see that he was not remarkable for the acute, the refined, the wiredrawn; that in him the reasoning faculty was of the practical, common sense sort; the imagination, within certain limits, was vigorous and good; the power of language, original and striking.
We will proceed at once, then, to view Mr. Clark as a sermonizer. We have before us fifty-eight of his Sermons ; without doubt, judiciously selected, and constituting a fair representation of his powers in this chief department of ministerial duty.
It is proposed, in our remarks on Mr. Clark's sermons, to look at them rather homiletically than theologically. We shall consider not so much the sentiments contained in them, as their style, structure and spirit as sermons.
In opening the volumes of Mr. Clark at the beginning, we find the distinctive features of the man, even in the table of contents. Many of them are graphic and striking. They excite attention for their strangeness or oddness; and a few for their unintelligibleness. An instance of the latter is the following: “A Likeness taken in the Field.” This title is objectionable for this reason, that no one could gather from it the subject of the sermon. For explanation, they must
resort to the sermon itself; and on going there we find that the object of the sermon is to “show how the Christian is to act out the spirit of his Master, in efforts to promote the conversion and salvation of the world.” The title, being far-fetched and obscure, is not a good one. Some of the others are objectionable on account of an affected peculiarity; for example: “ The Bridgeless Gulf,” “ The Two Champions Contrasted,” “The Index Sure,” “ Perdition a Dark Spot on the Moral Landscape.” The practice of embodying the sentiment of a sermon in a brief and graphic title is a very commendable one. The attempt to do it brings, at once, to a sure test the unity and definiteness of the discourse. The title should be both concise and clear ; it should be a key to the sermon, and not an enigma which the sermon alone can decipher.
The subjects of these sermons are of a general and permanent interest ; and there is a very good degree of variety. They are not, on the whole, strictly, interiorly experimental. Mr. Clark seems not so much at home on topics which lead to a nice analysis of the spiritual man, as upon those which are connected with the security, and the certain triumph of the Christian on the one hand, with the depravity, the madness, the impotence, the sure defeat and the utter shame and ruin of the enemy of God on the other. The two contrasted subjects, “ The Church Safe," and,“ Nothing Safe but the Church,” furnish the field, over which he ranged the most adroitly and powerfully. Mr. Clark takes pleasure in accompanying the church through her conflicts, and in developing the stability of her basis, and the invincible might of her Protector. He loves to group together and accumulate on his pages the perfect evidence of her safety.
Whilst all the subjects are important, it is obvious that they were not, as a general thing, chosen with a view to immediate and visible results. Most readers would infer, that the author, when preparing these sermons, had not so directly in mind the purpose of immediately accomplishing, with God's help, the conversion of sinners, as had Payson, when preparing the valuable sermons of his which have been given to the public. We do not intend to imply, however, that all sermons, in order to be useful, should be constructed with this pointed design and adaptation. The great principles, the fundamental doctrines of Christianity are to be defended and established, as well as illustrated and applied, to the conscience and the heart; and
those sermons, in which this permanent service is ably done, are amongst the most honored and useful, both as proclaimed from the desk, and published from the press.
We find all the great doctrines of the Christian system brought out in the sermons of Mr. Clark, with the utmost distinctness. The trumpet, in no place, gives an uncertain sound. We do not read far to learn, that the author is a firm believer in the doctrines of the Trinity, of the atonement, total depravity, regeneration, election, the saints' perseverance, and eternal reward and punishment.
Whilst the sermons are not formally, dryly doctrinal, in them all we have discussions of great truths and principles, which give them a solid and instructive character. On one page, the attributes and glory of God meet and awe us; on another, the love and offices of Christ attract and give us peace; from another, the Comforter offers to come into our hearts; in this discourse, a picture of human vileness pains and humbles us ; in that, the law draws upon us its two-edged sword; in the other, mercy points to the place of refuge from the avenging stroke. The whole gospel is here strongly and discriminately presented. Mr. Clark contended earnestly for the faith and the order of the gospel. His arguments and efforts were rather with the semiChristian, who professedly received the gospel, but rejected its great doctrines, than with those, who rejected the Bible and all that was in it; or with brethren, who differed from him in some minor shades of sentiment.
In the general arrangement and structure of his sermons, Mr. Clark exhibits a good degree of simplicity. They never appear so elaborately studied, or curiously drawn out, as to cause perplexity to the mind; or as to lead us to the bones for the most striking part of the structure. He frequently adopts the textual mode; and where it is not a breaking up of the words of the text into the heads of the sermon, which he sometimes does, there is a very free statement of topics, one after the other, as they are naturally suggested by the passage chosen as the basis of the discourse. Take for instance the 36th sermon,—“ The honest and faithful ministry,”-on 2. Cor. 4: 1, 2: “ Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy we faint not,” etc. 1.“ The mercy of God qualifies men to be his ministers.” 2. “ The ministry of reconciliation is an office big with trials.” 3. “ This same ministry furnishes an antidote to the wo it generates.” 4. “ The text prescribes that open and ingenuous conduct, which it is the duty of Christ's ministers on all occasions to exhibit.” 5. “ The text instructs Christ's ministers how they may best commend themselves to the consciences of men,-by manifestation of the truth.” 6. “The apostle and his brethren felt themselves urged to faithfulness, by the consideration that God was present.” Whoever reads this performance will be satisfied, that a sermon on the textual plan may be replete with interest and power.
The textual division has this advantage; the preacher has an opportunity to bring out the full and rich meaning of the passage in hand. The sermon grows out of the text; separate from the text, it can have no existence; it is biblical and authoritative. We ought not to despise the textual style of proceeding, though some seem to do it, as not being so scholarlike, so conformable to rule, so favorable to unity, and to a logical and symmetrical discourse as some other. It is the style which the heart often inclines to, in its earnest desire to bring forth and make effective the simple gospel upon the souls of men. We have thought, sometimes, that when we have the least disposition to preach ourselves, we have the strongest inclination to, arrange our matter in the humble, unpretending textual way.
This more biblical mode, in the hands of Mr. Clark, is admirably vindicated. Few men have the power he exhibits of building striking and interesting paragraphs upon very common-place heads. The plan may be almost stupidly textual ; but in the filling up, there will be original and vigorous thoughts, in very cogent language. Perhaps there is no better test of real power than this. The preacher, who will take the common subjects and the common topics of discourse, and imbue them with a more energetic spirit, and invest them with a deeper and more commanding interest, has the very best power and qualification for his work, and will secure the best kind of popularity.
Mr. Clark is not at all a hortatory preacher; he furnishes a good proportion of clear and weighty discussion. He does not assail us with fierce, unbased appeals; never attempts to carry the heart by hurling against it volleys of rattling words. He first packs together a solid body of truth, and then brings that body in contact, either as fire to melt, or as a hammer to break the rock in pieces.
Our author invariably employs the popular and rhetorical
' style of reasoning. His arguments are remarkable for a reliance upon Scripture facts to give them force and conclusiveness. In some of his best efforts, there is no other reasoning than a logical adducing and linking together of scriptural facts. The sermon, entitled “ The Church with all her Interests Safe,” is a fine example of this. Assurance of the proposition is made out, 1, “ from the firmness and stability of the divine operations.” Under this head, expectation is excited. It is strengthened, 2, by a view of " what God has done for his Church." Under this head, the prominent divine interpositions in favor of Zion's interests are graphically and rapidly sketched. 3.“ God is doing now just such things as he has done.” 4.“ The expectation is consummated by a glance at the promises and the prophecies.” As a specimen of the graphic and condensed style with which Mr. Clark proceeds in this kind of writing, we adduce a paragraph or two. In his sketch of what God has done for the church, he says:
“Let us retrace, for a moment, a few pages of her history, and we shall see that when the church was low, he raised her; when she was in danger, he saved her. Amid all the moral desolations of the old world, the church never became extinct. And he at length held the winds in his fist, and barred the fountains of the deep, till Noah could build the ark, and the church could be housed from the storm. How wonderful were his interpositions when the church was embodied in the family of Abraham! In redeeming her from Egyptian bondage, how did he open upon that guilty land all the embrasures of heaven, till they thrust out his people! And he conducted them to Canaan by the same masterly hand. The sea divided, and Jordan rolled back its waters; the rock became a pool, and the heavens rained them bread, till they drank at the fountains and ate of the fruits of the land of promise. .... When the church diminished, and her prospects clouded over, he raised up reformers. Such were Samuel, and David, and Hezekiah, and Josiah, and Daniel, and Ezra, and Nehemiah : such were all the prophets. Each in his turn became a master builder, and the temple arose, opposition notwithstanding. .... Again, under the apostles, how did her prospects brighten! In three thousand hearts, under a single sermon, commenced the process of sanctification. The very cross proved an engine to erect her pillars; the flames lighted her apartments, and the blood of the martyrs cemented the walls of her temple, and contributed to its strength and beauty.