« PreviousContinue »
those who could not, but still of all, who were within the sphere of his activity. Never did he keep back any truth, nor ever obscure a form of expressing it, from the fear of offending any man: and we therefore mention, as an encouragement to others to persevere in the same uncompromising line of conduct, the public testimony which was borne to him by the Corporation of Leicester. On the first meeting of thatmunicipal body after the death of Mr. Vaughan had taken place, the following resolutions were passed unanimously:
“ That this Hall cannot separate without endeavouring to record, however inadequately, the deep sorrow which they feel at the lamented death of the Rev. E. T. Vaughan, late Vicar of St. Martin's, and Chaplain to this Corporation.
“ That this Corporation cannot pretend, by any expression of theirs, to do justice to the feeling which they entertain of reverence and attachment towards the character and memory of the deceased; whose distinguished talents, great learning, and eminent piety, render his loss as a minister, a man, and a Christian, wholly irreparable, and such as this Corporation and the public can never cease to deplore.
“ That, in humble testimony of these feelings and sentiments, the individual members of the Corporation will attend the funeral of the said E. T. Vaughan, whenever it may take place; and they would have done so in their corporate capacity, if that could add any thing to the expression of their respect towards the Reverend deceased, or better testify the solemnity of the feelings with which they are animated on this truly sorrowful and melancholy occasion.”
Those, who surrounded his bed at the last, bear testimony to its being the most quiet death-scene that they had ever witnessed. All was peace-Peace within, amidst the most violent bodily sufferings. He said but very little during his illness, consistently with what he had often expressed in health ; disapproving a relation of dying speeches, or that believers should be urged to give testimonies of their faith at such a season. • Father! my Father! “ Rest, oh rest with thee!” were the words that most frequently broke from his lips. His children were with him to the last; and, having called them around his bed, he said, “ Children, live in love and peace among yourselves; and love and cherish your mother.” To a very kind relation, who is much opposed to the free grace of God, he said, “I would freely confess all my sins, but I cannot number them! yet I know they are forgiven :” he paused, and then added, “ Yes, they are all forgiven! and this I am assured of, through faith in Christ, my Lord and my Redeemer.”—A friend, who was hastening to his house to see him, was informed of the result as he passed through Leicester, by seeing St. Martin's church shut up the whole of Sunday, and by hearing the bells of all the churches toll throughout the day. A friend, who lived in great habits of intimacy with Mr. Vaughan, observes, “ The removal of this great prophet from amongst us is not terrific to his dear, dear family; not to his loving, and loved friends; not to his valuing, and valued people ; not to those far and near in the land, who, as prejudice was removed, were and are daily blessing God in Christ for what He has taught and is teaching them through him: to these the dispensation is not joyous, but grievous ; they are weeping and mourning, but not as those without hope. But when we call to mind what God has spoken by him to his parishes, and to his neighbourhood, and to the kingdom, and to the world at large, his removal is awful: to the atheistical infidel, lukewarm worldly ones, whether in the Church or out of it, who are living as if there were no God, no Christ, no Holy Ghost, no second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to them in judgment, no resurrection from the dead, both of the just and the unjust, no glory to which some shall be raised, as others to everlasting shame and contempt: to such, a terrific voice is sent forth in this death. Oh that many may be made willing to receive the warning and live!”
We would willingly indulge in expressions of regret at the loss which has been sustained, as well in our own private friendships, as in the public necessities of the church
Multis ille bonis flebilis occidit,
Nullis flebilior quam nobis. And when we think upon the heresies which are setting in like a flood upon Zion, and the few valiant and true-hearted soldiers that there be to withstand them, we sadden at the gloomy forebodings of “which coming events cast their shadows before." But when we remember how utterly incompetent we are to judge of who is fit to be taken, and who to be left; when we call to mind that some are placed in obscurity whom we would have fixed on the very sumimit of the highest watch-tower, and how some are toiling in the inferior offices of the church whom we would have placed at its head; when we reflect that even the sentiment of regret is to a certain extent a want of resignation, we say, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever! Amen."2"
Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of them that depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity; we give thee hearty thanks, for that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world; beseeching thee, that it may please thee, of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom; that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of thy holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in the eternal and everlasting glory: through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
REVIEW OF DR.
A. THOMSON's serMONS.
(Concluded from our last Number.) In our last Number we stated it to be our intention at some future period, if it pleased the Lord that we should continue in strength to labour in his vineyard, to call the attention of our readers to the merits of Dr. Thomson's Sermons, and at the same time to point out in what that merit consisted. We have no hesitation in pronouncing the sermons good: but, that we may not be misunderstood, it is incumbent upon us to explain what we mean by the word good. We mean, then, good of their kind; nay, more, some of the very best of their kind : but, then, we contend that their kind is miserably low, and defective. We mean by good, that they are superior to the average of the serions of the present day : but, then, we are prepared to shew that there never could be a day, since that dispensation began of which one great characteristic was to be " preaching,” that preaching was more unlike what preaching ought to be,-even that “ foolishness of preaching” which the Apostle commends.
In order to make ourselves clear upon this point, we must remind our readers that the science of Theology consists of three divisions : Firstly, speculative, or intellectual; which explains and establishes the doctrines of religion as objects of faith: in this class are to be ranged such writers as St. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Hooker, Charnock, Vaughan, Irving, Wardlaw, Pye Smith, &c. Secondly, positive; which consists in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and of the signification of them : in this class are to be ranged the annotators, such as Poole, Scott, Gill, Henry, Mant, Griesbach, Michaelis, &c.; that is, where the labours of these writers are confined to the text, and not those parts of their works wherein they deduce doctrines from the text. Thirdly, moral; which teaches us the Divine laws relating to our manners and actions: and in this lowest walk of theology are to be numbered “the whole deluge of trash, under the name of practical sermons, which annually issues from the press ;
the best of our religious periodicals, such as the Christian Observer, and the Edinburgh Christian Instructor; and, at the head indeed, but still in this rank, the powerful volumes of Drs. Gordon, Chalmers, and Thomson: we can scarcely venture to place the recent Sermons of Dr. Dwight in any other.
It is obvious that publications of any length must occasionally step beyond the limits of either of these divisions, and commit a trespass upon its neighbours; and indeed we would defy the most obtuse composer of practical sermons, provided only he will run out the length of a lusty octavo—to which ordi
ered the thee our la
narily they are nothing loth-not to write some sentences at least on points of speculative theology, as well as occasionally to hazard a conjecture upon the meaning of some passage in the sacred record : but that these are secondary objects in their writings they do abundantly declare by the choice of the word practical, as the most characteristic epithet whereby to describe their productions ;—the propriety, however, of the term we shall examine presently. But, that we may not be charged unjustly with forming a low estimate of the standard of theology in the present day, we shall transcribe the opinions of others, who are very laudatory of the actual state of the sermon trade, and prognosticate the introduction of the Millennium by its operations. The first extract will be found in the Christian Observer of March 1829, in a review of eleven volumes of sermons which it places in one lump at the head of the article. The reviewer says, that a few years ago "every volume of sermons written with a fair portion of ability could claim a distinct eulogium ; whereas now, by the wonderful blessing of God upon our national Zion, such volumes are issuing from the press so rapidly that the columns of a magazine can scarcely keep pace with them ;” and therefore he is obliged to review them by the dozen, as in the present instance. Before proceeding with our extract, we observe, that, so far from looking at the parturient labours of the press with such sermons as a blessing, we think that the press producing nothing else is a curse; that under this curse we are suffering; and that what is called our vital religion is little better than a half-popish, half-sentimental infidelity. The merit of the sermons, which issue with this marvellous rapidity, arises, as the reviewer proceeds to inform us, “ from their being plain, scriptural, and practical; free from novelties and doubtful speculations; and therefore not calling for those discussions which dangerous or doubtful speculations require.” That is to say, full of common-place truisms, which call for no labour of thought in the reader, and over which he can nod in unruffled and well-satisfied security. “ Sermons of the very highest order of thought, or of extraordinary originality or power of eloquence, are not often to be expected, especially when we consider the numerous demands upon the time of our clergy, and the vast quantity of material which is requisite for the returning pulpit wants of each successive week.” This apology, of want of time in the parochial clergy, is really miserable: it might be a good reason for not writing at all, but is no reason for not writing better. Mr. Brougham, or Sir Samuel Romilly, or any lawyer in full practice, might plead the extent of his professional avocations as an excuse for not making speeches in Parliament, or writing essays upon law or politics; but no one in his senses would plead such' an excuse for writing and speaking bádly, or only upon common.place topics. The second head of apology is directly the reverse of the fact; and instead of the clergy requiring or laying up a vast quantity of material for their sermons, the very thing
we are now complaining of is that they lay up no materials at all: and the proof that they lay up none is, that, if they did, it would be impossible for them not to produce something of more importance than they do; impossible that some portion of this vast quantity of materials, weekly laid up, should not appearBut let us hear their encomiast : “ We should not object to take the pile of sermons now on our table as a fair average specimen of the ordinary preaching of that large and respectable portion of the pastors of our Church who are currently known by the name of the Evangelical Clergy. In so doing we should not so much put forth their claim to the highest prize of eloquence, or the widest range of literature, or the most exalted developments of intellect (though in each and all of these departments we could find powerful claimants), as to the brighter meed of sound, useful, scriptural preaching, united with a respectable degree of learning and talent, &c.... The volumes now before us are but specimens of thousands of discourses composed every week, &c.-It cannot fail to be observed here, that the reviewer himself considers that the highest merit a volume of sermons can possess, are eloquence, and a wide range of literature. If this be so, it follows that the addresses of the Apostles,whether preached or written,were some of the worst that ever were published. But, in the opinion of the reviewer, it was neither the end sought nor obtained by the authors before him, who are samples of the whole body of Evangelical clergy, to rise even to the positive, far less to the 3Peculative theology; that the lowest order--namely, the MORAL-is all that is attempted ; and that even in this the Divine laws relating to our manners and actions are considered of less importance than eloquence and a wider range of literature, since he places this as the acme of perfection.
We have, however, if possible, better evidence still than this. In January last a new • weekly publication” was set up, for the express purpose of “ devoting its pages” to reporting ser
The object of the conductors in doing this was to wipe away the reproach which has been cast upon our ministry by one of the most influential and widely circulated literary journals of the day, 'that they do not display either the talent or the learning or the eloquence that the themes upon which they are accustomed to dilate are so eminently calculated to call forth, and the opportunities for study and improvement which they enjoy give the public a right to expect ;' and also 'to present to their readers a body of theological learning, to which they may always