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has been said, however, may serve to intimate how little mankind are qualified to predetermine the judicial procedure of Almighty God, and how inconsistent it would be that any prepossessions of our unassisted reason concerning it, should take precedency of a divine revelation, or—which is very much the saine thing-should determine our construction of its language. We proceed to our second proposition.—Pp. 1-9.
We have been induced to give this long extract, both on account of its intrinsic value, and also as a fair sample of the subsequent portions of the volume.
Mr. Smith evidently attaches prime importance to the tenth, eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth Sermons. They very fully discuss the doctrine of Justification by Faith, and contain a somewhat novel mode for reconciling the apparent discrepancy between the statements of St. Paul and St. James. We confess our utter astonishment at the disputes --so many and so prolonged—which have been maintained upon this subject. Were it possible, even in thought, to dissociate the existence of THE HEART's faith from good works on the one hand, or good works from the heart's faith on the other, our astonishment would cease. Is not faith “ the inward and absolute ground of our actions ?.... As if an action could be either good or bad disjoined from its principle ! as it could be, in the christian and only proper sense of the word, an action at all, and not rather a mechanic series of lucky or unlucky motions." Surely, if the existence of the one NECESSARILY supposes the existence of the other, either may be taken as indicating one and the same relation of the human mind towards God. Upon this, we take it, Mr. Smith and ourselves are essentially agreed : on the connexion between faith and good works, however, we must amicably separate.
This is his argument: that by the phrase " faith in Christ," is intended, not so much faith in the atonement as one great truth, standing out and alone, but faith in it and others also.
To proceed then as proposed—the position which we are mainly concerned to establish, and to apply to the illustration of our subject, is, that belief in Jesus Christ—which we shall now regard as an act of the understanding only— involves a persuasion of the obligation, necessity, and recompense of personal holiness, or the discharge of religious and moral duties, as enjoined in his own discourses, and the teaching of his apostles.
It will scarcely be questioned, we presume, that belief in Jesus Christ imports, in general, an assent of the understanding to his own declarations, and those of his inspired apostles. But then it follows that faith has respect to no single declaration, or partial view of the Christian revelation; and must be estimated, not by the firmness or tenacity with which we hold any part of that revelation, but by a just and comprehensive grasp of the whole. It must be speculatively erroneous, as well as dangerous in practical point of view, to restrict the exercise of faith to any one article of the Christian religion, of whatever necessity or value. Faith, indeed, has an especial relation to the merits of our Redeemer, and in the apostolical writings is very frequently treated of in this connexion : for these momentous reasons because the merciful scheme of divine government revealed to us in the Scriptures, which admits the penitent to forgiveness, and rewards the imperfect holiness attainable by human beings, exists in virtue of his mediation; and because his vicarious interposition in our behalf has mightily reinforced our motives to the love
Coleridge's Friend, vol. ii. p. 223.
of God, and consequently to the obedience of his commandments. But it would appear from the explanation which some have given of the faith which justifieth, that the efficacy of our Lord's atonement for sin is its exclusive object; or that a simple dependence on the expiatory virtue of his sacrifice is the amount and substance of the faith imputed to us for righteousness. It is true, and should in all justice be acknowledged, that those who thus speak and write concerning the faith which saves us, commonly hold it to be productive of a holy life, but while they allow that limitation in their notion of it to which we advert, they fail, as we conceive, and necessarily must fail, to make out the connexion between faith and holiness in a definite and satisfactory manner.Pp. 237-239.
Also, Mr. Smith demands
Why is not a conviction of the reality and permanency of our moral obligations as properly and essentially a constituent of the faith which justifieth, as a persuasion of the reality and sufficiency of the atonement of Christ?
Now to this theory, so ably, but we think untenably argued by our author, we have many objections ; but our limits will only allow us barely to mention one of them, and that not the strongest. We conceive that it refers our conviction of the obligation and necessity of holiness or virtue, under the christian economy, to the prescriptive authority of our Lord. It supposes that this conviction is the result of faith,—that same faith which accredits the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice. Verily, this is supposing too much. Are not the pristine virtues exacted from humanity by conscience, “ that law written on the heart," the same as those enjoined by the Great Founder of our religion? It is true that his divine wisdom has corrected sundry obliquities in our moral vision, but save and except the characteristic hues which love and gratitude to Himself throw over them, the virtues he inculcates are those which had been inculcated by the several anterior dispensations likewise. He came not " to destroy the law,” but to fulfil it. All his expansive illustrations of its extent and meaning give to it no enlarged jurisdiction, but only assert its right indefeasible; and we affirm that the conviction of this our moral obligation rests not on our faith in his divine mission, but on the acquiescence of an enlightened conscience in those illustrations. Surely, “ faith in Christ” must mean faith in that which is characteristic of christianity; and we think Mr. Smith would find it difficult to prove that the law of holiness bears to it that relation.
It is not our province, on this occasion, to make out the connexion between faith in the efficacy of our Lord's atonement for sin, on the one hand, and holiness on the other; otherwise we should, at large, show, that the former so presupposes moral obligation and the odiousness of moral delinquency, as that the latter must follow.
We cannot refrain from extracting a passage from the Sermon “On the Design of our Saviour in the use of Parables." We perfectly agree with its sentiments; and the figure with which it closes is one of the most exquisite beauty. The language is as chaste as the conception.
Some, it is possible, may infer that, in thus arguing we depreciate the phraseology of the sacred writers
. But with regard to the phraseology of a divine revelation, there is, in our view, but one question of importance-Is its import easily intelligible in consistency with current modes of thinking, and prevailing usages of speech? Any objections to its abstract or philosophical propriety we regard as idle and frivolous; no less so than exceptions which might be taken to the grammar and rhetoric of the inspired apostles. These are matters which, in relation to men of their high calling, are scarcely more important than were the texture and fashion of their raiment the manner in which the men were clothed who announced the glad tidings of a Saviour to a guilty and fearful world. The sense of the Scriptures, we repeat, is our main and only concern: the cavils at the diction in which that sense is conveyed, and no less the ardent and lavish praise which is sometimes brought to it as though it were almost essential to our belief of the Bible to rank it with the sublimest models of eloquence, and even to exalt it above them-we cannot but hold to be of the lowest significance. What reasonable man, in a reasonable mood, can attach importance to the mere wording of a communication from God describing the path of his wondrous dispensations, and illustrating the darkness of futurity ? Or what matters the shape of “the cup of salvation"-its appearance to the eye the devices, albeit they are noble, that are figured on its surface ? Can we heed such things, when we are taking to our lips the element of life, and allaying the deep thirst of immortality ?-Pp. 360, 361.
As we conclude our remarks upon this volume, we may congratulate our readers on the approaching publication of Mr. Smith's Hulsean Lectures before the University of Cambridge, last year. It was not our good fortune to listen to them ; but from the general estimate formed of them by some superior men, we feel assured they will sustain, if not increase, Mr. Smith's character for sound argument and true eloquence.
Art. II.-Sermons preached at Cambridge during the month of Novem
ber, 1839. By Henry Melvill, B.D. Minister of Camden Chapel, Camberwell, and formerly Fellow and Tutor of St. Peter's College, Cambridge. Published by request. London : Rivingtons. Cam
bridge: Stevenson, and Deighton. 8vo. Pp. 141. Mr. Melvill is said to draw more overflowing congregations than any other preacher of the day. We by no means wonder at this extreme popularity ;-a popularity, we believe, not confined to any particular place, or any particular class of hearers ; but proved by the vast assemblies which are brought together, not only in Mr. Melvill's own chapel at Camberwell; but in any church in the metropolis, or its suburbs, where he is about to preach ; and at the university of Cambridge, where his sermons attract to St. Mary's hundreds of graduates and undergraduates, and are printed at their request. This popularity, we repeat, is to us no matter of surprise : for we cannot but consider Mr, Melvill to possess an immeasurable superiority over some other gentlemen who are also reported to be wonderfully popular. The matter of his sermons is calculated to be very effective; so, too, is the style ; and so, too, is the delivery. There breathes in them a spirit and an energy which we can easily conceive to be most exciting. They are almost always framed after the same model, and the mould in which they are cast appears to be this. They do not attempt to comprehend the whole of Christian theology in the compass of one harangue; but they lay hold of some single point, for the most part striking in itself, and well chosen for the purpose of arresting attention. After a careful exordium, the discussion of this point is divided into two or three heads. The first division is treated with a strict semblance at least of logical argument, gradually warming into rhetorical declamation, and rounded off, at the close, by an emphatic enunciation of the text. The second division is then taken up, and the same process is repeated. For the preacher, after a pause, recommences with comparative calmness ; is again logical and didactic for a few moments; then again rushes, more and more, into figurative and impassioned language; becomes again heated, like a wheel revolving with the utmost velocity; and again concludes with another and still more emphatic enunciation of the text. If there be a third division, the same plan is pursued for the third time, with an increased proportion of earnestness and vehemence. Then comes a laboured peroration, which sends the audience away much stirred and impressed by the eloquence to which they have been listening. The entire discourse is sometimes like two or three brief but startling sermons, strung together by the one connecting text with which the sacred building perpetually resounds. The parts, however, it should be stated, generally hang together with a well-sustained dependence, and each assists and augments the excitement raised by the preceding. Our readers will easily imagine the impression produced by some pregnant sentence of holy writ, handled in this manner, where the theme preserves its unity, yet is studiously brought out in its several developments, and is worked up, from first to last, with great skill and knowledge of effect.
One characteristic, then, of Mr. Melvill's ministrations from the pulpit is that they are, in a peculiar degree, what are called “textual" discourses. They are sermons, where the text is, throughout, the burden of the strain, being, if we may so speak, almost like the line in a song, which is repeated at the end of every stanza, and is to be sung in chorus: they are not mere essays or disquisitions, whether doctrinal or practical, where the hearer is left for some time in doubt about the exact subject; since the text seems to have been prefixed simply as a motto. Another characteristic, which increases the success of Mr. Melvill as a pulpitorator, is the circumstance already mentioned, that the ideas thrown into any one sermon are not many in number, but elaborately brought out, and exhibited in a diversity of picturesque lights. In general, we conceive, Mr. Melvill's style no longer bears the same strong resemblance, which it bore of old, to that of Dr. Chalmers ; but, in this respect, he still follows the example of that celebrated preacher. A third reason, why curiosity at least is awakened and kept alive, is, that Mr, Melvill frequently launches into topics and trains of thought more daring and adventurous, and therefore less trite and common, than ordinary minis. ters would choose. His flights of speculation, as of diction, are usually aspiring and occasionally hazardous ; and even where the attempt fails, for failure, we think, does now and then occur,- -an expectant and half-wondering attention is kept on the full stretch. He is fond, too, of bold personifications, quick transitions, and those sudden and abrupt apostrophes, to which French preachers have had recourse much more than English. Something, too, ought, perhaps, to be attributed to the animation and rapidity of the anapæstic rhythm, which has often a striking effect on the ear, and in which Mr. Melvill delights. Our
space will not allow us to go far into these minute secrets of literary criticism ; but the curious reader may discern that, as Cicero preferred the ditrochæus for the close of his sentences, so Mr. Melvill likes to conclude with a string of anapæsts, more or less regular. After all, however, the real basis of Mr. Melvill's reputation is his " vivida vis animi,” his great and undeniable ability ; and it ought to be added, that he is powerful, because he is manly and natural ;—that he abjures the mere tricks of studied elocution and graceful gesture ; that he disdains all puling, whining sentimentality, and is entirely removed from the lachrymose pocket handkerchief school of mawkish declaimers.
The Sermons now before us, six in number, sustain the high reputation which Mr. Melvill had previously acquired. And this is no slight praise. When Mr. Melvill has already put forth several volumes himself
, and a still larger quantity of his writings has been surreptitiously published by unauthorized parties, it is really a considerable achievement, that he can deliver discourses, such as his, week after week, and year after year, without flagging in his efforts, or betraying any symptoms of exhaustion. It is true that there is not much matter in these Sermons,—that they do not display any particular depth of thought or extent of learning,—that they do not throw any additional light on the divinity, or the history, of the Church. But they are appeals, earnest, impassioned, and, in the best sense of the term, popular; nor can we conceive that the young men at Cambridge could have heard them without spiritual improvement as well as intellectual gratification. Nor are they less valuable, because the preacher has laid aside, or restrained, that extravagance of imagination, that excess of florid ornament in language, that startling array and redundancy of metaphors and fine words in which he used to indulge. On the contrary, the decorations and the embroidery now come out in better relief, because the ground-work is more simple. The style, however, still retains quite enough of elevation and embellishment. Oftentimes it possesses a rich and profound pathos. In many places, too, it is singularly graphic or pictorial. Mr. Melvill speaks at once, if we may venture on the expression, to the ear and to the eye. The following extracts, for instance, have almost the effect of a beautiful painting, or rather series of paintings; for they possess this advantage over any one painting, however fine, that they are not confined to a single moment of time, but present to us a succession of images, one after another. Let us take the opening of the sixth Sermon.
It seems probable that the Psalm, of which these words are the commencement, was composed for the use of the Israelites, when journeying up to worship at Jerusalem on the great annual solemnities. Many of them had to travel at least a hundred miles in order to obey the commandment given through Moses. And undoubtedly it must have often been a great trial of obedience and faith, to forsake their homes, leave their lands open to the incursions of an enemy, and undertake a long journey to do homage to a God who was every where present. They would need encouragement to the performance of so burdensome a duty; and David may have been directed to compose a sacred song, which, being chaunted by the travellers, might help to animate their spirits amid the toils of the way.
It gives great beauty to the Psalm, to regard it as intended and employed for this end. We transport ourselves in thought to Judea. We stand in one