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As regards the “ Discourses” contained in the volume before us, we have room to say little more than that they are such, in the main, as we should have expected from Mr. Wells. The most striking characteristic of their style — to borrow a sentence from the Memoir — is “a hortatory reasoning, at once moving and convincing.” That they are “practical,” the title page announces; and the reader will find them to be so in what we consider the best acceptation of the term ; not that they exclude · doctrines” and teach only the ethics of common life, for such is far from being the case; but because, while they are not deficient in the latter respect, they appeal to, elucidate, and enforce the great truths of the Gospel in a way to make them not only interesting as matters of speculative belief, but efficacious, also, as motives to practical piety and virtue. They are not remarkable for novelty of thought, elegance of phraseology, or richness of illustration; but in regard to truth of doctrine, purity and elevation of devotional sentiment, healthiness of moral tone, strong good sense expressed in plain language and an earnest spirit, clear and forcible argument at once for the understanding and the heart, and that sort of direct and searching, yet tender and affectionate appeal to the conscience, which makes the hearer consider himself the one addressed, without being offended, the sermons of but few preachers amongst us can justly claim, we are inclined to think, any great superiority over these. It gratifies us to know that through them the author, “though dead, yet speaketh ;” and we hope that many more than ever heard his living voice will be benefitted by his recorded instructions.
The following extracts, taken almost at random, will give our readers some idea of the style of Mr. Wells's preaching. The first is from a discourse on " Amusements.”
“ We should avoid amusements which may give us false views of life, excite romantic expectations, and thereby render us dissatisfied with our condition or common employments. I have partly considered this point before ; but I refer to it now, in order to offer some remarks upon books. A very common amusement and recreation is the reading of novels and other works of fiction. To such a degree is this amusement sometimes carried, as to make us forget and neglect all our important duties, and live, as it were, in the dreamy world of our own
imagination. Now, I am not going to condemn all works of fiction ; for I do not think them all worthy of condemnation. I am not going to say that it is wrong for every one to read a novel. But I do say that most of such works present distorted views of life, excite unfounded expectations, give false ideas of what is desirable and praiseworthy, gloss over vices with the names of virtues, and make us return from the world of imagination, which they have opened before us, to the realities of life, to find them dull and gloomy. I have known many young persons, by the formation of this habit, so affected, that study would be neglected, common duties appear irksome, the most extravagant and ill-founded notions and opinions be formed in the mind, and great unhappiness produced. And yet, so fascinated does the mind become with such writings, that it will return to them with something of the same kind of feeling with which the intemperate man returns to his drink. There is an inebriation of mind created by novel-reading. The strong love of excitement craves constant gratification, and gratification of it only increases the evil. If I now address any young persons who are forming this habit, I would entreat them to pause, and ask themselves whether it is right or wrong. I would ask them, With what feeling do you go about your daily employments or studies ? Do those fictions which you read make you dissatisfied with more useful reading and with the real duties of life? If so, I entreat you to break off entirely from the books to which you have addicted your minds, and to satisfy yourselves with works of an instructive character. You will find this very hard, at first. They will seem very tame and uninteresting to your taste, depraved as it has been by fiction. But this should only make you more careful. It should open your eyes to the danger you are incurring, of injuring your mind and heart. But you will soon be rewarded for your self-denial. You will begin to find, that the more other books are read, the more will they impart strength and vigor to the mind. You will find, that there will be a satisfaction, a healthful consciousness in the mind, strikingly contrasted with the sickly and sentimental feeling which you now experience. I trust that you will make these inquiries into the character and tendency of the books which you read, and that you
will have the firmness to renounce all such as can do you any injury. There are books enough within your reach, which unite useful instruction with pleasure; which give a healthful excitement to the mind, and pure feelings and desires to the heart. God has opened before you the great book of nature. Wander forth among its beauties. They will impart a calm and pure joy, such as the lover of fiction never has experienced.”
- pp. 215–218.
As another extract, on a different and more serious subject, we give an introductory passage from what we are informed was the author's last discourse." It is on the Lord's Supper, from the words, “I have called you friends.”
“We have not looked upon Jesus with that personal affection and interest which his relation to us and his labors for us ought to have inspired. Many of his professed disciples have associated his name with their own wrangling contentions about his metaphysical nature, and have thought of him chiefly in order to determine what precise rank he holds in the scale of being; and many, who
that error, yet think of him chiefly as the revealer of certain great truths, and, in the infinite worth of the message, are in danger of forgetting the messenger, or, at least, of thinking of him only as a messenger of God. They do not fee! toward him as if he were their personal friend and benefactor; they do not cherish toward him that grateful affection, and that mingled reverence and love, which they feel toward mere earthly benefactors. And to this danger those called Unitarian Christians are peculiarly exposed. They have felt that many Christians have given to Jesus a place in their affections which belonged only to the Father, and have been led by their peculiar doctrines to regard him as interposing between God and his guilty creatures to avert from them his wrath ; so that their language and their feelings have indicated a higher degree of gratitude to Jesus than to the Being who sent him. To avoid such an error, and to give to the Father the supremacy which belongs to him, they have, perhaps, fallen into the other extreme, and been in danger of forgetting the claims of Jesus personally to a place in their hearts. But Jesus, though ever earnestly pointing upward to his Father, and seeking to lead the hearts of men to repose undoubtingly on him, yet himself wished for a place in their affections, desired to be remembered, and to have his memory associated with their holiest feelings and aspirations. To this end, he instituted the Lord's Supper." – pp. 279, 280.
For examples of the manner in which Mr. Wells was accustomed to touch upon disputed points in theology, we refer readers to the sermons “Regeneration” and “ Atonement,” and especially to a letter of twenty-three pages near the beginning of the volume, addressed to one who had become interested in the doctrines of another sect. They seem to us excellent specimens of the true mode of controversial teaching.
Art. IX.-MR. PARKER AND HIS VIEWS,*
By crec. ozra Stirls Garnett. The appearance of the pamphlets enumerated below is a suficient indication of an uneasiness of feeling and a diversity of opinion in our denomination, which it seems to us our journal, if faithful to its title, can no longer pass in silence. The publication of Mr. Parker's “ Discourse of Religion,” nearly three years ago, called forth an article in our former series, to which we are glad to refer those of our readers by whom it was not seen at the time. The agitation of the public mind to which this work gave rise subsided during Mr. Parker's absence from home on a visit to Europe, but upon his return, when it appeared that he still presented himself as the advocate of views which were considered, by far the greater number of those with whom he had usually been classed in the theological divisions of the community, as subversive of faith in the Divine mission of Christ and the authority of the Scriptures, the feelings of curiosity, sympathy, or admiration with which he had been regarded on the one side, and of distrust, disapprobation, or indignation on the other, were naturally revived.
* 1. The Fourth Quarterly Report of the Executive Committee of ther. Benevolent Fraternity of Churches. Boston. 1845. 12mo. pp. 24.
2. Obstacles to the Truth. A Sermon preached in Hollis Street Church, on Sunday morning, Dec. 8, 1844. By John T. SARGENT. Published by request of the Society. Boston. 1845. 8vo. pp. 20.
3. The Ministry at Suffolk St. Chapel ; its Origin, Progress and Experience. By John T. SARGENT, late Pastor of that Chapel. Boston. 1845. 8vo. pp. 40.
4. The Relation of Jesus to his Age and the Ages. A Sermon preached at the Thursday Lecture, in Boston, December 26, 1844. By THEODORE PARKER, Minister of the Second Church in Roxbury. Boston. 1845. 8vo. pp. 18.
5. The Excellence of Goodness. A Sermon preached in the Church of the Disciples, in Boston, on Sunday, January 26, 1845. By THEODORE PARKER, Minister of the Second Church in Roxbury. Published by request. Boston. 1845. 8vo. pp. 16.
6. The True Position of Rev. Theodore Parker; being a Review of Rev. R. C. Waterston's Letter, in the Fourth Quarterly Report of the Benevolent Fraternity of Churches. “Audi alteram partem.” Boston. 1845. 8vo.
7. Questions addressed to Rev. T. Parker and his Friends. Boston. 1845. 12mo. pp. 16.
8. A Plea for the Christian Spirit. A Sermon preached February 2, 1845, in the Church of the Cambridg port Parish. By A. B. MUZZEY, Minister of the Farish. Printed by request. Boston. 1845. 8vo.
Probably however these feelings would not have arisen above their former point, if Mr. Sargent's exchange of pulpits, and the ground which he took in his subsequent correspondence with the Committee of the Fraternity of Churches, had not turned the attention of the community not only upon the character of Mr. Parker's speculations, but upon the course which ought to be taken towards him by his brethren in the ministry. The excitement was increased by Mr. Parker's preaching, and afterwards printing, the discourse at the Thursday Lecture, which stands the fourth on our list. A serious difference of opinion in “the Church of the Disciples” in this city, occasioned by an exchange of professional labors between the pastor and Mr. Parker, and causing a temporary separation of the members, the details of which were, with an unusual frankness, laid before the public in one of our journals, added interest to the discussion, which had already become sufficiently warm and personal. And one consequence is seen in the last three pamphlets whose titles we have quoted, representing, it may be said, the two parties originally at issue, with the third party which always arises, under such circumstances, as a mediating influence. It is not unlikely that other publications will follow. We need not wait for them, however, before we endeavor to fix attention, which is in danger of being diverted to incidental subjects, upon the great question that is brought into debate. possibly prevent or remove misunderstanding.
That many in the community do not apprehend the merits of the controversy, nor the principles by which the parties respectively profess to be governed in their relations to one another, is plain. Injustice is therefore sometimes done to both the parties. To Mr. Parker and his friends a greater amount of unbelief and a more careless course of conduct are imputed than can be proved; while the silence of other ministers is construed into a sympathy with him in his peculiar opinions, or their open dissent from him pronounced a sacrifice of liberality. Even those whose published opinions are before the world have been charged with an agreement which their works contradict. He who cannot see an essential difference between the writings of Mr. Norton, Dr. Palfrey, or Mr Furness, where the facts of the Divine mission of Jesus Christ and its miraculous