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standing some unchristian acts among them, it will not be too much to say, that, for a long time, religion prevailed in the hearts and lives of men more generally here, than in any other part of Christendom.
In Germany, towards the close of the seventeenth century, Spener and Francke, and many others, deeply affected by perceiving the general decay of godliness, insisted much on the religion of the heart. They preached those doctrines which are peculiarly Christian ; and a signal revival of piety succeeded.
In France the pulpit was adorned, indeed, with the splendid eloquence of a Saurin, a Bourdaloue, and a Massillon. But generally the spirit of primitive preaching was not cultivated. Nor in this respect could the amiable Fenelon, with all his devotion and genius, effect a reformation among the clergy. In the choice and management of their subjects, they seemed to have aimed more at exciting admiration for their ingenuity and eloquence, than at commending the gospel to the consciences of their hearers. What the religious state of France has been for ages, and what it now is, no one needs to be informed.
In Scotland the fundamental doctrines of Christianity found many advocates. That favored country had her Binnings and her Erskines, who did not shun to declare faithfully the humbling and elevating truths of the gospel. The effect was seen in the prevalence of piety and correct morals.
If we look at England again, we perceive but few in the beginning of the eighteenth century, who, with Watts and Doddridge, " held out the lamp of evangelic instruction at that darkened period.” But soon the prospect brightens. The time of Whitefield forms a memorable era in the history of preaching. The subjects which animated his soul and called forth all his zeal, were the subjects on which the apostles had addressed their audiences. Faithful ministers acquired new courage ; and men who had long slumbered over their awful charge, were roused to preach the gospel. England, Scotland, and America, all experienced a revival of religion never to be forgotten.
Since that period, the number of those who have adopted a similar strain of preaching has greatly increased ; and the consequences have been such as the experience of past ages would lead us to expect. If we survey the recent triumphs of the cross, and inquire by what weapons its enemies have been subdued, we find that it is by those which have been drawn from the armory of the gospel, the doctrine of the Cross. These the Holy Spirit has been pleased to make effectual. The subjects chiefly discoursed upon have been such as are adapted to awaken the conscience, to show sinners their guilt and their ruin in themselves, and, at the same time, a blessed way of deliverance through the riches of divine grace; to make all feel the duty and necessity of repenting, of believing on Him who suffered and died that we might live, and of obeying Him in all things ; to exhibit the love and the claims of God as they shine forth pre-eminently in Christ crucified ; in a word, to urge home to the hearts of all, as their respective circumstances require, the peculiar truths of Christianity.
Are we, then, it may be asked, are we to exclude from the pulpit all moral reasoning, and all incidental matters of temporal interest ? Certainly not. The prophets and apostles reasoned with men, in order to convince them of their errors and their sins. They employed pertinent and well attested facts, and common sense, and conscience. If a fact needed to be proved, they proved it; if it needed to be illustrated, they illustrated it. And in doing this, they introduced what was best adapted to enlighten and influence the minds of their hearers, from whatever source it might be derived ; whether from the internal man or from the external; from the common employments and the touching scenes of domestic life, or from the cherished records of history and literature; from the heavens declaring the glory of God, or from the earth presenting, on every side, innumerable manifestations of his knowledge, his goodness and his power.
The Saviour himself took occasion from passing worldly events to teach important religious truths. He pointed to the birds of the air and to the lilies of the field, and from them he enforced a duty. It was the duty of trusting in the providence of God. But he kept himself aloof from any view which would have secularized his discourses. He made it very manifest that he was, not a lecturer on politics, nor on any of the arts and sciences, however important these may be in their places, but a teacher of religion; and whatever he adverted to, his teaching was signally adapted to bring his hearers, as it were, into the presence of their Creator.
In like manner, we ought to have a wise regard to passing events,-as, for instance, to the revolving seasons of the year, -and make the opening blossom and the falling leaf impart instructive and impressive lessons leading to holiness and to heaven.
The apostle Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come.
He varied his discourses, according to the wants of his audiences, on different occasions ; and no man ever inculcated the precepts of morality more strenuously or more efficiently than he did. At the same time, he could say, “ I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucificd.” He inculcated every moral duty in view of the cross of Christ. It is in this, that, like him, every preacher of the gospel has an immense advantage over the mere secular moralist.
Besides, the religion which the gospel proclaims, confers benefits innumerable in the present state, as well as in the future. It has the “ promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.” It cheers all the desponding and broken-hearted who obey it. But it weeps over the disobedient, as the Saviour himself wept over Jerusalem; and it constrains its faithful and affectionate ministers to say with an apostle, “ Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.
Every thought, and feeling, and word, and act, in the whole circle of moral actions, is to be tried by the standard which God has established; and whenever a person is found in fault; whenever, through the influence of the Holy Spirit accompanying the proper exhibition of the truth, conviction of sin is carried home to the heart, the remedy which Divine love and wisdom have provided, is to be skilfully applied.
Thus the gospel, plain and simple as it is, shines out, like the sun, on ten thousand times ten thousand objects, giving a peculiar hue and aspect to each, and furnishing an endless variety of appropriate subjects.
Art. IV.–REFORMS AND REFORMERS.
Sketches of Reforms and Reformers of Great Britain and
Ireland. By HENRY B. STANTON. New-York: John Wiley. 1849. Pp. 393.
This book possesses an interest and value which are by no means fully indicated by its title. It is in reality a comprehensive survey–in the main accurate and just-of nearly all the great social movements which have been commenced and carried forward in Great Britain since the beginning of the present century, or more properly since the period of the French Revolution. It embraces the reforms which have been accomplished alike in the Church, the State, and the condition of the people ; the abrogation of iniquitous laws and the breaking up of giant monopolies ; the triumphs which have been won for religious freedom, and the blows which have been struck for the rights of man.
Around each of these reforms, as a radiant centre of interest, the author has gathered the portraits of the leading men-statesmen, clergymen, and philanthropists—who were engaged in originating or promoting them,-men who in their day were often denounced as enthusiasts and radicals, who were cast out of society as the foes of good breeding and social order, and who in many instances were even prosecuted and imprisoned as enemies of the State and its sovereign, because they unveiled the abuses of the government and demanded their correction, but who are now enshrined in the love and respect of the people, as the authors of great blessings to their country and their race.
In attempting a work embracing so wide a range of events, and so great diversity of characters, the author must have looked carefully through the history of the social and political struggles with which Great Britian and Ireland have been agitated during the last half century, for in no other way could he prepare himself to present an impartial estimate of the services which have been rendered to mankind by the long list of famous men whom he causes to pass in review before us. In doing this, he has been, we think. in the main, highly successful, and has furnished to us in a briel and attractive form the results of a wide examination of the reforms and reformers whose history he has sketched. The book, however, as a piece of composition, is by no means free from faults both of style and of sentiment. Its diction is often ambitious and sometimes coarse and rude, and the sentiments which it embodies occasionally come in conflict with our notions of literary courtesy and refinement.
In writing a book like this, an author is always exposed to two opposite though kindred faults, to avoid either of which is a sure proof of a liberal spirit and a well balanced judgment. He is especially liable to be carried too far in his eulogiums of leading reformers, and, in the admiration he conceives for their public services, to ascribe to them private virtues which they did not possess. And in the opposite direction he is almost equally liable to identify the opponents of a reform with the existing institutions which they vindicate, and thus to hold hem up to the reprobation of mankind as foes to human progress, and destitute of every kindly sympathy for their race. Not only is he likely to fall into these errors from the impulses of his own feelings, but also from the partisan hues with which every source of information that he examines is sure to be colored. How opposite are the estimates which are formed by their own contemporaries, alike of the champions and the opponents of every great movement that is undertaken in society. All patriotism and wisdom and virtue are usually claimed for each of these classes by their friends and admirers, while all selfishness, folly, and weakness are charged upon them by their opponents and foes. There is scarcely a name mentioned in the volume before us, from Mr. Burke to Daniel O'Connell—from William Wilberforce to George Thompson that has not been made the subject of extravagant eulogiums on one side, and of equally extravagant denunciations on the other. Hence nothing oftentimes is more difficult than to ascertain the real merits of a reformer so as to present anything like a just and impartial estimate of his character. In doing this Mr. Stanton confesses that he has sometimes been obliged “to reach conclusions much in the same manner as juries agree upon their verdicts--consult a dozen authorities, each one differing from all the others, get the sum total of the whole, divide it by twelve, and adopt the result.”
The sympathies of our author, however, are so plainly with the movement party in every question of English reform, as to leave us little room for doubt as to the direction in which this arithmetical process is most likely to prove erroneous. Every advocate of reform, whether in Church or State, we are quite ready to believe, has here received his full share of praise; and it is only when the leading characters of the opposite party are spoken of, that we discover any disposition to withhold the merits to which they are fairly entitled, or to ascribe to them odious qualities which they are not sure to have possessed. This tendency, which runs through many of Mr. Stanton's chapters, gives to his book a partisan character, from which we wish it were free. The fault, we confess, is a natural one, and in some degree, we suppose, almost unavoidable; yet it is one against which a man so well informed should have been constantly on his guard. The fact that it is so frequently and obviously displayed, leads us to apprehend that Mr. Stanton is himself wholly unaware of the tendency of his own sympathies. We most readily agree, for example, in his admiration of the talents and eloquence of Mr. Fox. We accord to him every praise for the services he rendered