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it only be granted that the eating of the bread from heaven denotes, figuratively, a spiritual believing in Christ under his character of a sacrificed victim, selfgiven for the life of the world, and, from these premises, as we have seen, the conclusion unavoidably follows, that the doctrine of Transubstantiation must be
Art. II.- Sermons, chiefly Practical. By the Rev. EDWARD BATher,
M. A., Archdeacon of Salop, in the Diocese of Lichfield; and Vicar of Meole Brace, Salop. Vol. III. London, Hatchard : Shrewsbury,
Eddowes : 1810. Pp. 554. It is by no means an easy thing to write a good sermon. It may be thankfully admitted, indeed, that the Holy Spirit of God, who is in reality the Converter, the Teacher, and the Edifier, is bound by no rules, and can work by the weakest instruments; and that sermons, therefore, may be often useful, which have no claim, in a literary point of view, to be called good. Still, without derogating from the power of the Divine Agent, there may be a fitness for accomplishing their end in the means He ordinarily employs; and at least, the minister of the gospel will always wish to make the vehicle of the message he bears as perfect as possible ; and to offer as spotless an offering as he can, upon the altar of the God he serves. It is this which renders the requisites for a good sermon a matter of much interest to the Christian preacher, and which must be our excuse for venturing upon a few short remarks.
Assuming then, that the doctrine of a discourse be sound, and the tone healthy and unaffected, we would lay it down as the chief requisite for a sermon, that it be plain. By plainness, however, we mean neither vulgarity nor homeliness; but the quality of stamping a strong and definite impression on the hearer's mind--a character which is compatible, not only with the most polished elegance, but also with the most ornamental rhetoric. Indistinctness and confusion either of matter or expression weary the attention, and take no hold on the memory: it is only a sharp, clear outline which the mental eye apprehends readily and retains accurately. Hence it follows, that one of the first excellencies of a sermon is unity of purpose, without which there can be no plainness. Perhaps the rock on which many preachers split, is the attempt to introduce too much into one discourse, as if every sermon must needs be an epitome of the whole Bible, a complete summary of Christian belief and practice. Half an hour is a very short time for such a task; and he who passes a multitude of images in rapid succession before the eye, produces no distinct impression of hues and forms, but a confused and colourless blending of them all. In expository sermons, indeed, a greater variety of subjects may be introduced, because the sacred text carries along the mind and the memory, and binds the parts together. Yet even here unity of design should be preserved, if the impression of the whole is to remain; the passage chosen, of whatever length, shonld be complete in itself, and a oneness of tone should run through the exposition. In textual sermons the preacher's tactics should, we think, be like those of Buonaparte. He should concentrate his attack upon one point. On this he should bring up his arguments and illustrations in successive masses, till the impression is made, and the position won. The shock will be felt through the whole line. General exhor
VOL, XXII. NO, XII.
tations and reproofs seldom reach the conscience; and vague, discursive teaching is rarely grasped by the understanding. But convince a man on christian principles of one sin, or persuade him to one duty; and by the grace of God he will often be led to entire repentance and efforts for universal obedience; and instruct him thoroughly in one truth, and it will be at the same time to prepare him to receive and value others.
Unity of design is mainly secured by what appears to us another requisite of a good sermon, viz. that it should follow easily and naturally from the text. A religious essay with a scriptural motto prefixed is one thing; a sermon on a text is another; and the latter has these advantages, that it has a principle of unity in itself, formed as it is on the nucleus of a proposition of holy writ; and that it carries with it its own proof in the portion of God's word, which it is to illustrate and enforce. These advantages, however, it possesses only on the condition, that it flows readily from the text, and requires not to be connected by artificial links or tortuous inferences.
One exception to these remarks may perhaps be made. There are some points which, though they seem to require to be explained or enforced, are not of sufficient importance to be the subject of a whole discourse. These may be conveniently treated in the introduction of a sermon before the text is opened, and the necessity for strict unity commenced, provided the connexion with the subject itself, the rò évèúoupov, be easy and appropriate.
Another requisite, as it appears to us, of a good sermon is simplicity of division. That oral teaching should be divided in order to being remembered, seems clear; and it is as clear, that numerous or arbitrary divisions load the memory and distract the attention. Those texts therefore are the best, which divide themselves, or which suggest a classification of the subject to the hearer almost before the preacher points it out.
But after all, the most important requisite of a sermon is, that it be scriptural; by which we mean, not merely that its doctrines be agreeable to Scripture, but that they be supported by Scripture. The majority of hearers are incapable or impatient of following a long train of argument; and if they were not, none could be found in general so convincing as the simple reason, Thus saith the Lord. It may be fairly assumed in most congregations, that all the hearers acknowledge the authority of the Bible ; and this becomes therefore to the preacher the great armoury of reasons and principles, of major premisses and middle terms. It is not that abstract and moral reasoning, arguments from analogy, and even argumenta ad homines may not be sometimes profitably employed; but they should appear as auxiliaries and corroboratives, while the main body of Christian proofs should always be drawn from Scripture.
The volume before us appears to fulfil most of these conditions. Archdeacon Bather is well known as discharging his duties with a union of zeal and sobriety, of piety and sterling good sense. These sermons bear the impress of such a character. They are plain in the best sense of the term, and eminently practical; simple in construction, and—with the exception, perhaps, of the last—deduced easily from their texts; and so thoroughly scriptural as to bespeak a singular knowledge of the sacred volume. The diction is for the most part plain and without ornament, rarely homely, never uncouth. The object seems to have been to express ideas as intelligibly as possible, and it is generally accomplished. There are, however, passages of considerable power, arising both from vigour of thought and nerve of expression.
Where the chief merit of sermons consists in their unity as wholes, it is impossible for extracts to be adequate specimens of their quality. We must, however, add two or three passages to enable the reader to form an opinion for himself.
The subject of the fifth sermon is, “ The love of our neighbour is necessary in order to prayer;" and the following is part of the Archdeacon's argument:
Prayer is like the ladder in Jacob's vision, by which the soul ascends to God, and his ministering spirits and his grace come down to man. It is that act of wrestling for the blessing, without which it cannot be obtained. Whatsoever spoils prayer therefore spoils all, and whatsoever helps prayer helps all-helps us on the whole road to glory. We are expressly commanded also, when we would draw nigh to God in devotional exercises, to pray for one another, and as we have opportunity, with one another, and a peculiar blessing is promised to our obedience.
But how are we to pray together if we cannot live together, or mutually to intercede for one another if we are not truly concerned for one another's welfare? How are we to glorify God in harmonious praises, with one mind (as the text hath it) and one mouth, if there be no harmony of desire and purpose, as there cannot be, if there be bitter envyings and strife in our hearts, and mutual distrust and jealousies?
If we forgive not men their trespasses, we pray (if we adopt the words assigned us by our Master) against ourselves, asking for our own damnation, and after no form imaginable can we use the words of intercession with any meaning. How can he that liveth for himself alone, at any time lift up his heart to God for all sorts and conditions of men? How can he that is studying his revenge ask a blessing on his enemy? And how is the soul agitated with turbulent passions, full of debate, contention, covetousness; panting for gain or promotion to its brother's detriment-how is the soul, thus occupied and thus distracted, calmly to prostrate itself before the God of peace-to ask and seek in the name of the Prince of peace, to fix its view and its desires stedfastly on the haven of peace above, or to desire the sincere milk of the word, in the hearing of the gospel of peace ?
But suppose a company of people, from whom all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil speaking is put away, with all malice-suppose them loving one another with a pure heart fervently, confiding in one another, and each conscious and sensible of his brother's good will-suppose them met together for prayer ;-met together in the church. What a different thing is this! Take our own most beautiful church service as that which they are all come to join in. How excellently does the work, and the whole method laid down for proceeding in it, fit and suit them! How naturally will they make the words in which the minister leads them, their own! How well accommodated to the state of their minds is the whole business! With what freedom and fervency of spirit will they engage in it, and how effectually will they strengthen one another's hands in God!
Those parts of the service especially which to the selfish and uncharitable are the dullest and the most unmeaning, to them will be most interesting and most delightful. Look, for instance, at the intercessions of our Litany; for the king, for magistrates, for the universal church, for peace to all nations, for increase of grace to all true believers, for restoration to all such as have erred and are deceived, for strength to such as do stand, for comfort and help to the weak-hearted, for succour, as their several necessities require, to the afflicted,
the sick, the captive, the fatherless and the widow; and finally, for all men, and among them for our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers especially, that it may please God to pardon them and to turn their hearts. All this indeed is nothing to the uncharitable and the selfish. He has no part or lot in it-in the aspiration, the consolation, or the holy flow of the affections, or in the exceeding great reward. His heart is not right with God. But for the company whom I have supposed, they have considered long ago, with deep and serious interest, the difficulties and trials of those stations which their brethren occupy for the general good. They have feared and trembled heretofore for one another's spiritual perils. They have felt for one another's griefs, for those of their own worst foes not excepted. Such worshippers will indeed lift up their hearts with their hands to God in the heavens. They have everything to urge them on. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. They rejoice in the privilege of committing all men to God, in belping to fetch down a blessing upon them, and in being helped in the like way themselves.
And they are accepted. Their worship is an act and exercise of charity; and through exercise the principle itself is strengthened. They learn to love one another better-yea, and to love God better-in proportion to the faith and hope with which they look to God to fulfil all their mind on their fellow worshippers' behalf.—Pp. 96—100.
Our next extract is from a very able sermon on “ men's appetite for false doctrine," and well merits serious consideration :
I began by saying, that erroneous principles must always tend to evil practice; and then surely it is equally undeniable that evil practice persisted in must lead to ruin. In the pride and wickedness of their hearts, people wish (as has been said) that they could be saved without self-renunciation, and in the keeping of some sin. The Scriptures will not uphold them in such views, nor the faithful shepherd who watches for their souls, as hereafter to give account. But the lying spirit which is in the world will do it; and when they believe this lying spirit, course they act upon it; for that is it which they did desire. If God is not so strict in his demands, as preachers say, or as the letter of Scripture, before it is explained away, seeins to indicate, they who have wrought ihemselves into this persuasion will, of course, take more liberty than their tender consciences and youthful timidity would at one time permit. And in proportion as the terrors of the commandment become less formidable, the mercies of the gospel seem less alluring. Whilst God is more provoked and tempted, Christ, as mediator, is less valued and less sought. Prayer in Christ's name soon ceases to be considered as a privilege, and instant continuance in it will not long be regarded as a duty. One exception to the necessity of obedience is admitted after another. People learn to plead for sin, and deride honesty of mind as needless scrupulosity, and they overcome more scruples every day; and get better satisfied with themselves and their own methods of excusing themselves, till, at last, they come just to the point at which they aimed unconsciously, and just to the point which, whosoever is come to, is ripe for destruction and for vengeance : that is, they are fixed and settled in deadness to divine things, and in indevotion and formality in any attendance which they may yet give to religious ordinances; and whilst they are fallen into a very loose, if not into a grossly profligate, way of living, they yet have no more fears of what is to come upon them hereafter; they are easily repelled and got over by a vague resolution that, at some indefinite period, they shall repent of the little that is amiss. Surely the comparison of the prophet holds good here—" Their soul is as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall."— Pp. 376, 377.
We have said that the Archdeacon's sermons are eminently practical ; they not only inculcate duty in general, but teach what is to be done, and how it is to be done. Let the following passage serve for a speci
It is addressed to parents on the training of their children.
St. Paul then has said, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Be assured, therefore, that it is right. To do what his parent bids him
and without unswering again, is the first thing a child bas to learn; and he
may learn it before he can tell his letters. There may easily be, and there often is, as much difference between two children before either of them is five years old, as between a loyal subject of the state, and a rebel in arms against authority. Exact nothing unreasonable; do not multiply restraints without cause; do not erect your own humours and fancies into laws. But with these cautions, you must be inflexible. Do not yield to a child's perverseness, or to his importunity. By perseverance, you will soon convince him that it is in vain to struggle ; and then he will cease to do it. And these advantages will follow,- he will learn quickly, because, having no hope that his task will be excused him, he will apply himself to it without delay. He will be a much happier child, because comfort comes much more from having got the mastery over our desires, than from having got possession of the objects of them. And, above all, the practice of all religious duties will be made much easier. When the constraining motives of the gospel are laid before him, having been used to bend, he will surrender himself with Jess opposition to the will of God. Ye should deal, however, with „your children as your heavenly Father deals by you: "I have drawn you," he says, “with cords of a man, with bands of love.”+ And, “ Fathers," says St. Paul, “provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”I We must have the affections as well as the confidence of those whom we desire to guide. Parents should not so behave as to cause their children to be frightened at them; for this can hardly fail to operate as a perpetual temptation to lying and artifice. And He that knows what is in all of us, by calling love " the cords of a man,” has taught us, in a very affecting manner, what those inducements are by which the human nature may best be drawn and wrought upon. Let this also be taken into consideration. There is a third error as common and as fatal as either undue indulgence or undue severity,—I mean an inconsistency of behaviour towards children; or the being at one time very easy, and at another very harsh, under the self-same circumstances. Where this is wont to be the case, your child will never give you credit for having a reason for your conduct towards him. He will look upon you as being swayed only by humour and caprice; and consequently, though he may obey you where he is forced, he will never be sensible that it is right to do so; nor regard you as having more wisdom than himself. Again ; let reproof and censure be in just and evident proportion to the offence given ; and let it be clear that offence is taken by you on true and just grounds. We may sometimes hear a parent expressing more anger because a child has broken a pane of glass, than he does when the same child has taken God's name in vain. This is to instruct him that it is a worse matter to put you to inconvenience than to sin against the Lord; and, at the same time, it proves to him your own selfishness, and consequent unworthiness of his respect, and it confounds right and wrong.
Further, distinguish between levity and obstinacy, between carelessness and malice in the wrong doer, and deal out your rebukes accordingly. Of some have compassion, (as St. Jude expresses it,) making a difference, and others save with fear, “pulling them out of the fire."$ lle that would reprove or correct another with effect, must be his own master at the time; where there is much passion there will be little justice, and no appearance of deliberate judgment.-Pp. 495-498.
We add one very important observation from the same sermon :
It happens oftener than inconsiderate people dream of, that the man is made in the nursery. Yes—the intellectual, moral, spiritual, christian man. The wise one in his generation, as the bud expands the heir of glory, as the
* Eph. vi. 1.
† See Hosea xi. 4.
| Coloss. iii. 21.
§ Jude 22, 23.