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sentative of the human heart in its divine relations,” which is to repudiate “the preceptive and monitory function,” and but sparingly " address itself to the understanding and the will,” would be as an idle wind to multitudes for whose salvation the preaching of the gospel has been appointed. Mr. Martineau's sermons, beautiful and forcible as they are, are suited only to a certain class of persons, and that a peculiar class. Others need quite a different treatment to that which they employ, and efforts to meet this difference ought not only to be hailed with the utmost liberality, but should be regarded as matters of ministerial duty, as far as God has given the ability to make them. How impressive does the sense of that duty become when it is contemplated in this light! The work which a preacher has to perform is one with which such a matter as the composition of a poem is not worthy to be compared. To him is entrusted the spiritual welfare of those on whom he has to act; and for their future destiny, affected as it may be for good or for evil by what he may say, he is responsible. This responsibility does not, indeed, cover the whole case; but it covers it so far as should produce in him to whom it applies a pervading sentiment of godly fear. It is but a small part of his work to exhibit religion to those whose religious sympathies already enable them to appreciate its worth. He has to bring it to bear also upon those who are alienated from it, and who need to be converted from the error of their ways. We are persuaded that the necessities presented by the degraded and miserable condition of the sinful part of mankind do not receive that attention which they justly demand, and that an extensive change in the mode of administering religious truth is required, in order to win those to its service who are almost total strangers to it. In the spread of this influence of the pulpit we should more rejoice than in any other it may exert; and we are grieved when we meet with theories which have the slightest tendency to divert it from that earnest contention with evil in which it ought to be engaged, into a mere instrument of intellectual amusement or pictorial show.
In fulfilling this varied responsibility, the extemporaneous preacher has some advantages which do not belong to the reader of sermons. Great effort is required in the solitude of the study to adapt the discourse which is being prepared to the wants of living men as they appear in the congregation. The student is carried forward rather by the demands of the subject with which he has to deal, than by the demands of the persons to whom his subject is afterward to be applied. But when a man actually stands up before an assembly who are waiting upon his words, and in their presence chooses the words he speaks, the business of personal application can scarcely be forgotten or neglected. There, plainly within his view, lie those whose dearest and noblest-whose everlasting interests he is set to promote. He cannot but ask himself how, at this present time, he can most effectually recommend the great truths he has to proclaim, so that they may be brought most fully home to all who meet his gaze. Surely the reflections that thus suggest themselves cannot but kindle in the breast of him to whom they occur, feelings which will not only powerfully assist him to do his allotted work, but will give to that work a special suitability it could not otherwise have.
It must be evident from the view we have just given of the function of preaching, that a sermon ought to be eminently marked by simplicity. Simplicity is, indeed, the brightest ornament which can be possessed by any literary production or spoken address. To afford ground for the suspicion that there is another purpose entertained besides that which is professed, to adopt any artificial means for the accomplishment of our purpose, or to simulate a feeling which we do not in reality possess,-either of these things will be sure to detract from the beauty and force of any efforts we make for the instruction and persuasion of our fellow-men. If this be the case with all such efforts, it is emphatically the case with efforts which have in view the teaching of religious truth or the excitement of religious feeling. The conviction of solemn duty as toward God in matters which immediately relate to his character and will, loudly requires that nothing but the utmost purity of thought and intention should exist here. Insincerity, either as to the sentiments themselves we deliver, or as to the mode of their delivery, will destroy the whole value of our exertions. Sincerity must be displayed in the cast of the language we employ, not less clearly than in the nature of the doctrines we proclaim; and every thing like tinsel and affectation in this department of mental endeavour will be estimated not merely as bad taste, but as unholy feeling.
Our observations would be essentially imperfect as to the purpose for which they are made, if we were to omit saying, that the most necessary qualification of a sermon is that it should be expository of Christian truth. The form of religion with which, in our circumstances, sermons have to do, is Christianity. The first object of a preacher among us is to explain and enforce the teaching of the gospel. All he delivers should not only be consistent with that teaching, but prominently marked by its distinctive character. The “true testimony of God" which he has to make known does not specially consist in its being “a personal effusion of conscience and affection,” but in its being the testimony supplied to mankind by the religion of Jesus. All other matters should be held subservient to his proclamation of that testimony. Whatever Christian purpose is to be effected, must be effected by means of faith in the Christian system; and the plain method of accomplishing such purpose is that of endeavouring to inspire men with this faith. We are not about to dispute the position that Christian faith is plainly expressed by the idea of trust; but allowing all that may be said on that point, we think it quite evident that the trust cannot be exercised unless in connection with a belief in the religious truth to be trusted.
Our widest difference from Mr. Martineau relates to the bearing which some parts of his sermons have upon this subject. We have already intimated that it is Philosophy, rather than Christianity, which forms the substance of these sermons. They are, indeed, deeply imbued with the Christian spirit, and indicate the truest feeling for the moral beauty and goodness and power of the gospel; but the gospel itself, in its didactic applications at least, does not occupy that supreme place with regard to them which its nature, in our opinion, imperatively demands. As far as Christianity is concerned, Mr. Martineau adheres pretty tenaciously to his own rule of “not addressing himself to the understanding and the will," though he frequently departs from that rule in favour of his Philosophy.
There are two points relating to Christianity, to his treatment of which we particularly object. The one is the supernatural element of the Gospel, the other is the authority of Christ. Neither of these things is denied by him, but the importance of both of them is lessened. This mode of treatment appears to us to be as illogical as it is dangerous. If the miracles of the gospel be true, they cannot be of small value—their value must be equal to their extraordinariness; and if Christ possess the authority he claimed, that authority must be of the greatest conceivable weight.
We will quote, in illustration of our meaning, a passage referring to each of the points we have mentioned. The following touches upon the relation in which we stand to miraculous attestations of the Divine presence :
“We see what all our fathers saw. And if we cannot find God in your house and mine, upon the road-side or the margin of the sea; in the bursting seed or opening flower; in the day duty and the night musing; in the genial laugh and the secret grief; in the procession of life, ever entering afresh, and solemnly passing by and dropping off; I do not think we should discern him any more on the grass of Eden, or beneath the moonlight of Gethsemane. Depend upon it, it is not the want of greater miracles, but of the soul to perceive such as are allowed us still, that makes us push all the sanctities into the far spaces we cannot reach. The devout feel that wherever God's hand is, there is miracle; and it is simply an indevoutness which imagines that only where miracle is, can there be the real hand of God."
We disapprove of some of the direct expressions of this passage. It is not, in our opinion, true that “we see what all our fathers saw,'
," and that " wherever God's hand is, there is miracle.” There are other sentiments immediately connected with those we have quoted, to which we seriously object. We wish, however, to confine our remarks to the tone and tendency of the quotation. Allowing that it may be reconciled with a belief in the miracles of Christianity, it appears to us not at all honourable to that belief. We hold, as firmly as Mr. Martineau can do, that the true effect of religious feeling is to lead men to see God always and in every thing. But it will not contribute to this effect to teach them that what are represented by prophets and apostles as supernatural manifestations of the Deity, were no higher or other in their kind than the natural manifestations with which we have to do. This is not to account for their piety, but it is to compromise their truthfulness. The inference to be drawn from it is, not that our fathers were more religious than we are, but that they countenanced a deception from which we are free.
Our other quotation relates to the authority of Christ : “A rule which cannot authorize itself is no rule of duty, no source of obligation; but, at best, only a maxim of policy and instruction to self-interest. Till it touches us with its internal sanctity and excellence, and we can no longer neglect it without shame and remorse as well as fear, our adoption of it is not moral, but mimetic: we imitate the things which may be duty to persons who have a conscience, but which are no duty to us. If Christ alone had personal and first-hand discernment of the truth and authority of Christianity, and all other men have to take it solely on his word, then Christianity wholly ceases to be a Religion, and the compliance with it becomes a mere simial observance of the movements of a great posture-master of the soul.”+
* P. 139.
+ P. 292.
Our view of the main sentiment contained in this passage is much the same as that which we have just given with regard to the former passage. It is not at all necessary to set the authority of Christ against our conviction of moral obligation, in order to prove that Christianity is sanctioned by that obligation. Though it be true that the gospel should possess an entire conformity to our own sense of duty, it may also possess the direct divine sanction which is asserted in its favour. Because it claims this sanction, it is the more and not the less necessary that it should have that conformity. The one is absolutely required as a confirmation of the other, and no separation between them can be safely effected. We no more believe that Christian truth could exist in the form in which it is placed before us without direct divine operation, than we believe it could exist in this form without the self-authorization for which Mr. Martineau contends. What is really done when the separation between these things is effected is this—that the claim of Christ as positively stated by himself is put on one side. He may remain, in our estimation, a being both great and good; but he no longer possesses the kind of greatness and goodness which he described himself to have. We cast a slur upon his character, as that character is exhibited to us in the Gospels, and thus injuriously interfere with the sense of moral excellence in whose interest this separation is professedly attempted.
In bringing our remarks to a close, we cannot refrain from again expressing the high admiration which, in spite of all differences of opinion, we entertain for Mr. Martineau. Our conviction of the influential character justly belonging to his writings, causes us to investigate their tendency with the greater strictness. An error committed by him derives importance both from his merit and his position. We trust we have said nothing inconsistent with the deep personal regard we feel toward him. It is indeed the confidence inspired by that regard which has emboldened us to say much that we might otherwise have suppressed. We send forth what we have written, believing that he will thank us for making this notice the vehicle of conveying what we consider to be important truth, rather than the occasion of offering a tribute of indiscriminate praise. He can afford, as few men can, to stand the award of criticism; and he will, we have no doubt, appreciate the honest and friendly opposition of the critic with kindness as well as with justice.
ENGLISH PEOPLE NEED AMUSEMENT. If ever a people required to be amused, it is we sad-hearted Anglo-Saxons. Heavy eaters, hard thinkers, often given up to a peculiar melancholy of our own, with a climate that for months together would frown away mirth if it could—many of us with very gloomy thoughts about our hereafter—if ever there were a people who should avoid increasing their dulness by all work and no play, we are that people. “They took their pleasure sadly," says Froissart, “after their fashion.”* We need not ask of what nation Froissart was speaking. Friends in Council.
COQUEREL'S CHRISTIANISME EXPÉRIMENTAL. The name of Athanase Coquerel is well known in liberal English churches, as that of one of the most eloquent among the French Protestant preachers. As a writer, he is widely known in England by his fervid reply to Strauss, a translation of which is among Dr. Beard's Voices of the Church; and to some extent also by his Orthodoxie Moderne, a tract on Scripture Doctrine, published in 1842, which we can only say ought to have been translated long ago, and circulated widely among those in England who have modernized their orthodoxy.
The Christianisme Expérimental is a book of higher pretensions and greater labour. With ingenuous pride the author introduces it, in his well-written and but slightly foreign-toned English Preface, as “the first complete system of Protestant dogmatics published in France by a French Protestant minister, by a pastor of the French Established Church, since the revocation of the Edict of Nantz.” And he thus further describes its scope:
“ The work assumes to be a complete view of Christianity, under the twofold aspect of reason and faith, of human knowledge and divine revelation; the volume unfolds, if the labour answers the aim, a complete system of philosophy and of religion,-the religion of the gospel, such as I consider and believe it to be. It is the labour of my whole life, the summary of the long studies of thirty years spent in ministerial duties." --Preface, pp. vii, xiii.
The meaning of the title is hence apparent, Le Christianisme Expérimental ; which the English translator has, we think unwisely, abandoned as untranslatable, paraphrasing it instead. It means the Christianity of Human Life, or the Christianity of the Soul, the religion in which a man may live and move and have his being. It is not experimental Christianity, in the English sense of the word, but experiential, if we might use that word, the French expérience including both our "experience" and our "experiment,” expérimental being the French adjective for both. (So, in some parts of England, the common people use “experience” in the sense of experiment, and will say, a doctor has been trying experiences upon his patient.) Le Christianisme Expérimental ought by all means to have been translated into the nearest practicable English phrase, as it occurs not merely in the title-page, but continually throughout the book. Even as the title of the book, it does not denote a thesis to be demonstrated, but an object to be described. The author does not undertake to prove that his Christianisme is Expérimental, that Christianity is perfectly adapted “ to the mental, moral and spiritual nature of man;" but to describe in what the Christianisme Expérimental consists, to shew what constitutes that Christianity which man's nature accepts as accordant with its experienced wants and faculties. For want of a suitable English phrase, the translator usually writes “our system,” or our system of faith,"
Le Christianisme Expérimental. Par Athanase Coquerel, l'un des Pasteurs de l'Eglise Reformée de Paris. Paris. 1847.
Christianity: its perfect Adaptation to the Mental, Moral and Spiritual Nature of Man. By Athanasius Coquerel, one of the Pastors of the Protestant Church of France, and Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. Translated by the Rev. D. Davison, M.A. With a Preface, written expressly for the English Edition, by the Author. Longman. 1847.