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might we in one respect say circumstances highly favourable, since trial, poverty, and captivity, have been often preeminently blessed for spiritual purposes. In our own prisons of war, natives of various countries first became acquainted with the things which belonged to their eternal peace, and carried back with them to their towns and villages, their valleys and mountains, the Scriptures of truth in their own tongues, which they had received, and in many cases first learned to read, in the land of their captivity. Little, however, was done in these respects compared with what might, by the blessing of God, have been effected, had British Christians been fully sensible of their privileges and responsibilities. How many opportunities were lost which can never return; how many foreign soldiers and sailors left our shores after their temporary sojourn, carrying away with them nothing better than the vices they brought, and the new ones they had learned during their detention. Should the scourge of war ever again be permitted to visit us, we trust that the religious part of the community will consider their solemn duty in this respect; and who can say that it may not please God to crown their labours with the same success as attended those of Mr. Wolfe and his friends at Givet. It were something if such exertions should only soften the horrors of war, and make the captive feel that in the land of his bondage there are hearts that sympathize in his affliction ; but far more were it, if, from a state of ignorance and spiritual thraldom, he were brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God, and found a Bethel to his soul within the sullen walls that incarcerated his body. We wish not, however, to see the exigence for the sake of the possible blessing; more especially as at all times the sorrowful sighing of the prisoner is heard among us, and our own gaols and hulks afford an ample sphere for Christian activity and self-denying devotion. Mrs. Fry and her friends have done much; individual clergymen and magistrates have done much; and the Prison Discipline Society has done much : but much yet remains to be effected; and where is there among our prisons one in which the doors might be safely thrown open, and ample bail be found, as in Givet, in the word of the occupants ? The philanthropist, if his benevolence can stretch beyond our own shores, may also visit, if not in person, yet by proxy through our missionary institutions, those vast prisons, our West-India islands, where there is ample space for the labours of hundreds of Christian missionaries. It was the office of him who is both our sacrifice for sin and our example of godly life, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound; and when his sway is every where extended throughout our fallen world, war and crime shall cease, and the prison-house become a peaceful dwelling or a temple to his glory. But in the mean time, while war and crime continue, and the largest heart dares not expect to witness the speedy extinction of their attendant evils, it will be no light boon to carry to these abodes of sorrow the glad tidings of spiritual deliverance, and to cause the heart of the mourner to leap for joy, with the life-giving words of Him who hath led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, yea, even for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
1. Sermons preached in St. James's Church, Clapham. By the Rev.
CHARLES BRADLEY. 1 Vol. 8vo. 1831. 2. Sermons on Isaiah liii. and the Beatitudes. By the Rev. J. HAMBLETON,
Minister of the Chapel of Ease, Islington. 1 Vol. 8vo. 1831.
3. Sermons by the Rev. R. C. DILLON, M.A. Minister of Charlotte Chapel,
Pimlico. I Vol. 8vo. 1831. 4. Lectures upon the History of St. Paul, delivered during Lent 1831, at
Trinity Church, Chelsea, by the Rev. H. BLUNT, A.M. 1 Vol. 12mo. 1832.
Our shelves are again adorned with a goodly array of volumes of sermons which we have no hope of keeping up with in our critical department; more especially as some of our readers courteously advertize us that“ they never cut open reviews of sermons." We have, however, taken up the above four volumes as connected together by a link, somewhat aerial, but quite sufficient for the purposes of a reviewer, that they are all metropolitan suburban discourses. When we look at thenumerous churches and chapels which are so rapidly arising around our large towns, it is a question of the most serious moment, what is the character of the spiritual instruction which pervades them; for we are quite sure that if the tone of preaching in the new structures is not materially different to that which for more than a century, till the modern revival of religion amongst us, characterised a large majority of the old ones, they will not answer the just demands and expectations of the friends of religion and the Established Church. Our new suburban churches are built in neighbourhoods to which population has migrated from the heart of our towns and cities, and where, till of late, the ordinances of religion were so slow in overtaking it, that hundreds of thousands of persons were growing up in practical heatheniem, from which many more owed their rescue, not to the Church of England, but to the vigilance of Dissent. During the last century, London suburban chapels arose very slowly and reluctantly, and in general more from the popularity of some favourite preacher, than in consequence of the increase of population. Thus St. John's Chapel, Bedford Row, which at the time of its erection was a suburban, we had almost said a rural, chapel, was built for Sacheverell; and Charlotte Chapel, Pimlico, was erected, by subscription, for Dr. Dodd, under the “ patronage" of the royal foundress from whom it is denomi. nated. The Chapel of Ease at Islington was erected under the incumbency of the late Dr. Strahan, when the claims of scores of thousands of souls in a large and wealthy district, by dint of much effort and vast expense, here and there procured a local act of parliament for building a chapel, just sufficient to shew, by contrast, the darkness around, but scarcely able to penetrate it: indeed, in most cases of the churches built round London a few years ago, the want was greater when the new church was finished than before it was commenced, the population having increased far more rapidly than church-building could overtake it. Recently, however, the supply seems more nearly to approach the demand (we are speaking chiefly of the neighbourhood of London), of which the parish last named is a conspicuous instance, three new district churches having been added to it during the first three or four years of the incumbency of its lateindefatigable vicar, the present bishop of Calcutta. Similar structures are multiplying in every direction around the metropolis, of which two are named in the list of discourses prefixed to this paper. We can only say, that if in all our new churches and chapels the doctrine is as sound, and the preaching as affectionate and faithful, as that contained in either of these volumes, the public will have no slight cause for rejoicing at their erection.
If we take up four such volumes as these, and compare them with the average of discourses delivered in our churches, even a quarter of a century ago, we observe at once a striking difference. We do not indeed mean to place either our authors, or the topic itself which we are handling, in so invidious a light as to intimate, that these addresses are different in principle from those of thousands which are weekly delivered ; quite the contrary; we have rather taken them up, strung together by the accidental tie of their being recent suburban discourses, as illustrative of a style of pulpit address which we rejoice to know is becoming increasingly common; and which is not merely popular, in the worthless sense of that term, but has been largely accompanied by the power of God unto salvation. It has been common, of late years, to divide our clergy into what are called the orthodox and evangelical: we have always deprecated such designations, which are too apt to assume a party aspect; but still classification is sometimes necessary for the sake of intelligibility. Let, then, any clergyman who has recoiled with vague alarm from the style of preaching called--and we believe in the main, scripturally so called-evangelical, take up the first half dozen volumes he meets with of discourses similar to any of those now before us, and which, we repeat, are but a specimen of the general character, as to all essential features, of hundreds and thousands delivered every week in the pulpits of our Establishment. Will he not find a striking difference between these discourses, and those of the school which characterised our national preaching during the last century? And what is that difference? Does he expect to find ranting and wildfire ? he will be disappointed. Does he look for a tissue of rash speculations on the Divine decrees? he will not discover them. Does he apprehend that he shall find Antinomian licentiousness; that he shall see good works disparaged (it is no disparagement to put them in their right place); and that he shall hear of nothing but the virtues of a dead faith ? He will soon perceive that he has been taught utterly to distort and caricature a style of preaching, which he reprobates without understanding. Or, has he been told that the class of preachers whom he condemns have taken up strange notions respecting prophecy, the millennium, and we know not what? He might, these discourses being witness, traverse our vast metropolis and its suburbs, from Islington to Chelsea, and from Pimlico to Clapham, and not chance to meet with any such crudities. It is clear, therefore, that if he has taken his estimate of the preaching which he reprobates, from
any such unfounded rumours, he has committed, however involuntarily, a flagrant act of injustice against his brethren.
And yet, he would probably himself feel ill at ease in preaching nine out of ten of these discourses. What, then, do they assume that he denies, or deny that he assumes ? He does not deny,—for we are not supposing him heterodox in his creed,—the doctrine of the sacred Trinity, the atonement, original and actual sin, the need of the Holy Spirit's influences, with other tenets usually called fundamental; yet still, the whole cast and colour of the preaching is strikingly different. We might state in our own words what appear to us to be the characteristic features of that difference ; but it may be more satisfactory, as well as more in the line of our review, to gather it incidentally. We will take up, at a venture, the first sermon of each of the volumes before us. Such a partial induction will not, of course, take us into the whole length and breadth of Christianity; but it may afford, at least, a few points of useful comparison. It will also introduce each of our authors to the reader, though we lament that the interview between them will be so transient, as each of them is well worthy, if time and space allowed, of a less hurried notice; but we can only imitate our betters in parliament, who, when petitions are numerous, read the name and the preamble, or the prayer, and leave the rest to the private researches of their auditors. It is a great comfort to have so many good sermons to slur over; though very painful so to treat them.
We take up Mr. Dillon's volume, and the first sermon we find entitled, “ The Brazen Serpent and its Antitype,” from John iii. 11-15: “ As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up'; that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have eternal life.” The object of the writer in this discourse is to shew the resemblance between the case of the Israelite literally, and all mankind spiritually, which he traces most justly and scripturally in four particulars:
" First, Between the state of the wounded Israelites, and the condition of man by nature : between their disease and ours.
“ Secondly,—Between their remedy and ours.
“ Thirdly,-Between the feelings of the Israelite, when looking to the serpent of brass ; and the feelings of the Christian penitent, when looking to the cross of his Redeemer. And,
“ Fourthly,—The efficacy, in both cases, of the appointed remedy.
“1. Let us, in the first place, examine the resemblance between the state of the wounded Israelites, and the condition of man by nature-between their disease and ours." Dillon, p. 6. : Sermons of analogy are very apt to degenerate into overstrained resemblances; and Mr. Dillon has evidently powers of imagination which, if not kept under the guard of a sober judgment, and an earnest desire for the practical and spiritual welfare of his flock, would have led him far into the regions of imagery; but in this analogy, Scripture so clearly leads the way, that it is only necessary to follow it, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in order to arrive at much solid and infinitely important instruction. We will copy a few passages of Mr. Dillon's explication, as bearing upon the inquiry which we have in view.
“ Sin bas given to every one of us a wound of such desperate malignity, as no art, no wisdom, no research of ours, can cure. And he who inflicted the wound is in both instances the same. The calamity of the Israelites was brought upon them by a serpent, and the whole of our misery may be traced up to that malignant spirit. * It was the serpent that beguiled Eve."" p. 7.
“ Now men in general are willing to allow,–because facts compel them to confess,—a propensity to crimes. But they make desperate mistakes as to the seat and cause of these disorders. They consider them simply as the results of weakness, inadvertence, surprise ;-the force of habit, the influence of example, and the defects of education. And we are told, that though there may occasionally be indiscretion in the life, there is yet goodness in the heart; that though the streams may be polluted, the fountain is yet pure.
“ Now, brethren, I cannot but unhesitatingly state it as my firm belief, that corruption is not seated more in the manners than in the principles : that it is not an accident, but a property; not a branch, but a root; not a stream, but a fountain. The crimes and blemishes which spot and disfigure man's moral constitution, are only the cutaneous manifestations of a disorder that lies deep within. The principle of evil in man is not an adventitious thing, caught merely from example, or contracted by carelessness; it is long antecedent to his education,-it is as early as leis being. We can trace its source, from a fallen parent; its extent, through the whole man; its seat, in the inborn corruption of the human heart.
“ But what saith the Scripture ? For to this our appeal should always lie, in matters of faith and practice. • Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually. Now, can any expressions be selected, of greater force and fulness? The imaginations of the thoughts of man's heart are evil,' evil without exception, for every imagination is evil: evil without any intermixture of good, for it is only evil ; and evil without any interruption, for it is evil continually. The virulence of sin has spread itself through the whole man, and poisoned every faculty.” pp. 9, 10.
We need not point out the doctrines maintained in the above passages, or go on to shew the manner in which the author develops his subject, exhibiting the helplessness of man, the atonement of Christ, the penitent repairing to him for mercy, being healed of his spiritual malady, and devoting his life to the glory of his Almighty Deliverer. A passage or two will shew the drift, and we regret we have not space for more.
“ The lifting up of the serpent seems an evident prefiguration of the death that Christ should die for He was really lifted up in like manner. In the scene, then, which passed in the wilderness, we see Him evidently set forth crucified before us, according to His own words ;
-I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me-which He said, signifying what death He should die.””
“ Expunge this doctrine, from the sacred pages, and where can the trembling peni. tent look for life and salvation? The daughter of Zion must for ever hang her harp upon the willows, and abandon herself to eternal despair. But this doctrine can never be expunged. It is interwoven with every promise of the Gospel. Every part of the goodly fabric of redemption is erected on this basis, and if you remove the foundation, the building must fall.
“O! how far was the prophet Isaiah from setting at nought this life-giving truth! and how distinctly does he say of the Messiah, that He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace. was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.'. Yes, brethren, the mercy is as astonishing as the mystery: the Physician dies that the patient may live. And now that He is exalted to His throne in heaven, it is only that He may scatter blessings to His people on earth. Not a single hour has passed since He made on Calvary the rigid satisfaction, death for death,' in which He has not been engaged in the work of salvation ; not a single hour, in which His grace has not been going forth, with prevailing efficacy, 'conquering and to conquer.'” pp. 16, 17.
« The believing Israelite, even in his dying moments, if he looked to the brazen serpent was perfectly cured. The ravages of the poison were arrested; and the venom itself perhaps entirely and directly eradicated from the body. And so, in a measure, it is with the Christian penitent, the moment he looks to the Saviour. The anguish of his heart is abated; the horrors of conscience are tranquillized; and the power of sin is, in some degree subdued.” p. 19.
“ Here, perhaps, it will be inquired—for it is often inquired—if this rich and valuable gift of eternal life is imparted to every one who looks simply by faith to the crucified Redeemer,-is not the exhibition of such a doctrine an encouragement to sin ? inasmuch, as a man being told only to look and be saved, may consider salvation a blessing of easy attainment, even after a life of iniquity and transgression. Now, brethren, I put the question home to the decision of your own plain sense ;-whether you think the poor disordered Israelite, who had suffered from the venom of the fiery serpent, was likely, after he was cured, to expose himself again and at random, to the deadly assaults of such a desperate invader? Whether you think he would be inclined to renew an experiment on the virtue of the serpent of brass, because he had once so easily found a cure ?
“ No, brethren: and I scruple not to say, that it is not possible for the human species more thoroughly to abhor the approach and touch of serpents and perhaps, there are few animals from which we more instinctively recoil, -than it is for the renewed and honest Christian to abhor the approach and touch of sin. He cannot love that which God hates; and which required the blood of the Son of God to expiate and wash away. The amazing mercy of remedy so stupendous warms his heart all through his life on earth, with continual admiration, and thankfulness, and love, and joy: and it will call forth afresh in heaven, the ardent effusions of his unexhausted gratitude.” pp. 22, 23.
Such is Mr. Dillon's first sermon ; a discourse on one of those subjects which is always seasonable, interesting, and affecting. And his other discourses are consentaneous with it; as, The necessity of a Divine and entire change of nature ; the secret nature and gradual influence of Divine operations; the subjection of the Jews an admonition to the world ; Jesus wearied with his journey; the doctrine of assurance ; deliverance from the present evil world; the sufferings of our Lord in the garden ; heaven a home; the choice of Moses ; the Christian's fear and encouragement; Jehovah planting in the wilderness ; on the Holy Spirit; the doom of Belshazzar; the Christian casting all his care upon God; the great question ; Christ raised by the power of God; St. Paul's thorn in the flesh; the constancy of the Divine Providence; and the Christian's conversation.
We leave the inquirer whom we have supposed, to survey at leisure this range of topics, with their various illustrations and applications, all bearing upon Christian doctrine and the Christian life in its various details, including the external duties of morality as well as the hidden man of the heart. Having done so, and he will be rewarded by going through them at large with Mr. Dillon, let him take up the next volume that presents itself-Mr. Bradley's.
Our readers are so well acquainted with Mr. Bradley's former discourses, and they are so justly valued and widely circulated, that we may cut short all intermission of introduction and recommendation, or only refer to what