Imatges de pÓgina
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the pulpit requires : pot pretending to dwell fully on the whole of the Christian revelation, but to bring into prominent view that which especially pertains to us, as called by the Gospel, and dedicated to Christ in Baptism, viz. the incarnation of our Lord, the necessity of his atonement, and of our personal acceptance of the means of salvation which he offers. It is therefore intended, that the first ten Sermons should be read in the order in which they occur. In the last half of the volume I have endeavoured to illus. trate the peculiar and essential graces of the Christian character, as set forth by their divine Author. My leading object has been to lay before the scholars educated at Eton, to whom most of the Sermons were originally addressed, a succinct view of the religion which they profess, both as a rule of faith and practice. Led as I am, by every feeling, both personal and social, to desire that they may be permanently impressed with the infinite importance of cordially embracing that holy religion, which affords them the best chance of earthly. happiness, and which alone gives them a right to look forward to an eternal world with cheerful hope, instead of gloomy apprehension. That the volume may be found, in some degree, to answer its intended purpose, is the object of my earnest prayer on quitting a place with which I have been long and happily connected, and in the prosperity of which I must always feel an affectionate and grateful interest." Preface, p. xiv.

Mr. Sumner may rest assured, that neither as a preacher of the Gospel, nor in the humbler, but scarcely less useful occupation, in which he has passed so large a portion of his life, did he labour in vain. There are many who have not yet forgotten his precepts or bis example, and who often recall him to their thoughts with feelings of almost filial esteem and gratitude; and although we ourselves had not the good fortune to benefit by his more immediate tuition, yet in common, we believe, with most of our contemporaries of that noble school, we bear testimony to the extensive usefulness of his learning and abilities, and we rejoice at the munificent, no less than judicious patronage, which has given bim an honourable retreat for the remainder of his life. Our best wishes for his happiness follow him, and we doubt not they will be amply realized.

The volume contains twenty Sermons; the first nine of which lead the reader progressively from the incarnation to that invitation given by our blessed Redeemer to all the world: “Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy.. laden, and I will give you rest;" explaining the necessity that existed for an atonement, and the nature of the invitation. The tenth Sermon is a summary of the Cbristian character; the eight following are respectively expositions of the

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eight beatitudes; the nineteenth, on the connexion which must always exist between true Christian faith and practice ; and the last inculcates the duty of an habitual reliance upon our blessed Saviour, and of verifying, as far as possible, the scriptural phrase of “ abiding in Christ.”

After showing, in general, the absolute necessity, and the value of the redemption effected for us by Jesus Christ, Mr. Sumner proceeds, in his second Sermon, more fully to demonstrate the alienation of man from God, which created that necessity. The following passage is forcibly written ; and, though we think some of the expressions not duly weighed, yet it is altogether a very fair specimen of his style and argument.

My brethren, that all these characters of a state of enmity against God, that all these proofs of a lost state are to be seen in you, I would neither be so rash as to assert, nor so uncandid as to suppose. There are many to whom the observance of the Sabbath is not matter of form or of wearisome burden, but of delightful service, in which the heart is gladly engaged; many who treat the name and contemplate the attributes of God with awful reverence ; many who diligently seek to discover his will in the Book where it is revealed, and dread nothing so much as wilfully to offend him." But these are not the persons who will contradict the Scripture, when it declares, that the natural state of man a state lost in darkness and in error; or who will be surprised at the preacher, when he speaks of the natural heart as being at enmity with God. No; if it were necessary to prove these points, I should appeal with the surest confidence to those very persons, whose lives and characters shéw the fewest signs of their truth ; whose sincere piety, whose purity of conduct bears witness, that whatever the state of others may be, they at least have sought reconciliation through the great atonement, and broken down, through grace, the partition wall of sin, which separated them from their God. Ask them, whoever doubts; ask them, and they will tell you, that though their conduct may seem to disprove the state of spiritual blindness, the alienation from God of which we speak, their heart bears too faithful witness to it, and even supplies them still with daily evidence of its reality. They will tell you, that the love of God's holy day, that a taste for holy things, is not a natural, but an acquired taste ; that the reason why the profanation of God's majesty is shocking to them, is because by frequent meditation they have attained a profound sense of his infinite greatness, and an, habitual dread of offending him; that to search the Scripture has become pleasing to them, because they are convinced, that they ought to live by it, and must be judged out of it; and that, so far from sin being naturally hateful, or virtue lovely in their eyes, they feel every day the absolute necessity of mortifying the one and en

couraging the other, by all the aids which God's mercy has put into their hands ; by constantly applying to the means of grace,' and constantly setting before their minds the hope of glory.' P. 29.

Now we are willing to understand the words in Italics, and indeed some others immediately preceding them, in a senge as favourable to what we believe Mr. Sumner's real meaning as possible ; but still we are bound to say, that in their direct and literal import they convey a position, wbich is inconsistent with every man's experience, with the most confirmed tenets of enlightened pbilosophy, and with the express terms and the implied doctrine of the Scriptures. To make good the two first of these assertions, though it might be very profitable, would lead us in the investigation somewhat out of our present subject; and as they are both mutually included in and confirmed by the language of Inspiration, it will be enough for our purpose to prove the truth of the last.

When Mr. Sumner states, that “ willing obedience and prompt devotion to the commands of God, is not the work of nature but of grace,” he states what no believer in either Testament will deny; when he tells us, that “ the love of God's holy day, that a taste for holy things, is not a natural, but an acquired taste,” we only complain of an ill-chosen and most ungracious phrase ; but when he proceeds to declare, that “ so far from sin being naturally hateful, or virtue lovely in our eyes," the most religious persons “ feel every day the absolute necessity of mortifying the one, and encouraging the other, we acknowledge indeed the conclusion, but we reject the premises humbly, we hope, but still firmly and absolutely.

We say, that the Scriptures do not any where teach us, that the heart of man is literally a lump of unmixed wickedness; that the disobedience of Adam was punished with the thorough, entire, absolute depravation of his own will, or of those of his descendants ; that the infirm and gross tabernacle of the flesh contains within it a still grosser, a still more corrupt and corrupting spirit, a mere principle of evil, a living plague. Nothing short of this, how strong soever the language may appear, will justify such an assertion as this, that “ sin is not naturally hateful, and virtue not naturally lovely in our eyes;" for if that assertion be true, then the converse must also be true, that “ sin is naturally lovely, and virtue naturally hateful to man;" and if that be true, then we defy the most expert casuist on earth to elude the

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consequence, that men are in fact, devils in heart, devils in intention, devils in every thing but in power and understanding.

We have less scruple in making these remarks when commenting upon any expressions of Mr. Sumner, for no man bas laid down the doctrine of the Gospel and the Church on the extent of the corruption of human nature, with greater moderation or more soundly than he himself in his excellent work on Apostolical Preacbing, where he has a chapter upon the subject, to which we would refer all our readers. We must now return to the work before us, and the length of our preceding remarks must be our apology for being more brief in our notice of what remains.

In the third sermon the same subject is again treated, and the mysterious necessity with regard to the salvation of man that Christ should suffer, is pressed upon us and illustrated with much eloquence and ingenuity.

“ The cup might not pass away from him, except he drank it : therefore this was not possible : not possible, consistently with the justice and holiness of God; whose ways are far above out of our sight, and leave us in all humility to wonder and adore.

“ It was not possible that the hour should pass from him: it was possible certainly that he should relinquish his great design, and save himself from that hour: those into whose hands he was betrayed could have had no power at all over him, except it were given them from above :-but for this cause came he to that hour; for this cause, namely, to save what was lost, to recover what was perishing; that by the one sacrifice for sins thus offered, all penitent believers should inherit eternal life.

" And this cup was drank (drunk,) this hour submitted to, for you, my brethren! O take this truth to leart with faith, and humi. liation, and repentance, and gratitude! You were of the number that he came to seek : you were among those whom he died to save. Let not the sense of it vanish from your minds, as soon as you quit the church : let it not be forgotten like a sound when the instrument has eeased; but dwell upon it, both you who have, and you who have not, made your peace with God through the Lamb that was slain.” P. 47.

Mr. Sumner concludes bis ninth discourse by repelling the charge founded in ignorance and enthusiasm on one side and the other, that Christianity is a religion of gloom and despondency and misery. He shows that the real fact is far otherwise; that so far from melancholy being a characteristic of a Christian, it is that religion alone wbich can give any rational grounds for continual cheerfulness, for confident hopes, for exalted and exalting aspirations. And certainly

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he who is deeply impressed with the general wickedness or even the more general thoughtlessness of the myriads of accountable creatures around him; who sces them bailding and destroying, amassing and dissipating, marrying, and giving in marriage; who is firmly persuaded that nothing shall save the immortal part of man but a living faith in the atoping blood of Christ, and who knows at the same time that many, many of his fellow.creatures are blinded by prejudice, alienated by pride, corrupted by lust, so that seeing they see, but do not perceive; and hearing they hear, but do not understand that these things are indeed so ; that man may feel, we cannot doubt, a gentle sorrow, an affectionate melancholy, a tender compassion for his brethren, such as St. Paul felt for the unbelieving Jews; but those few natural tears must soon be dried ; he must remember the unutterable blessings of his Redemption of which he humbly hopes he has availed himself; he must possess his spirit in the depth of that peace which passes all understanding; he must hold cheap the fragile forms of honour and power and riches, and despise the little vexations or patiently endure the more real sufferings of this life; he must never forget that he is standing on the rugged rock of time, in the midst of the ocean of eternity, and that in that ocean is the baven provided for him where he would be, and the city built not with hands, whose maker is God, in which a mansion and a garment, a palm and a crown are reserved for him for evermore.

The sermons on the first eight texts of our blessed Saviour's address to his disciples on the Mount, commonly called the Beatitudes, are very excellent and profitable discourses; and though we do not think them so original or so striking as the corresponding sermons in Norris, yet we dare say Mr. Sumber's more polished style and complete freedom from conceit will render his more generally useful and more extensively Tead. At the same time we are doing only common justice to an excellent but neglected writer, when we say, that even in his most attractive and eloquent parts, Mr. Sumner is not a little indebted to him. It is evident that he has read and sturlied him with great attention, and perhaps more often transfused into his own pages the felicitous expressions and ingenious reasonings of his predecessor, than he has himself been aware of. In the warınth of composition, especially for the pulpit, it is not always easy to distinguish between vivid recollections, and original combinations, and even where we are conscious of some general obligation to the writings of

N VOL. XVII, FEBRUARY, 1822.

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