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REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
ART. I.-Sermons on some of the leading Principles of Christianity. By P. N. SHUTTLEWORTH, D. D. Warden of New College, Oxford, and Rector of Foxley, Wilts. Parker and Rivingtons. 1827.
THERE was a time when a strong infusion of the parade of learning was considered a necessary ingredient in a university sermon-that time is now no more. Many a discourse delivered from the pulpit of St. Mary's, at either university, does indeed give evidence of laborious research, and profound acquaintance with the writings of ages past: nor can we conceive any congregations better adapted as an audience for such disquisitions, if it ever be desirable to deliver orally that which cannot be duly estimated without repeated consideration, and reference to the resources of a library. But it is no secret, that those who have attained any great store of learning are few; that the ability to digest the result of such researches, and bring it to bear on any topic of profitable speculation, is of still more rare occurrence. The good sense of our university preachers of the present day has thus led them to prefer what is useful in practice to what was specious in sound alone; and whilst on proper occasions, and by competent persons, discourses are sometimes there delivered which indicate great extent of learning, by far the greater part of university sermons are such as may be attended with profit, and are listened to with interest by the great mass of the students themselves.
The volume before us consists chiefly of a series of discourses "delivered" (we quote from the advertisement prefixed to the volume) " on various occasions before the university of Oxford. The leading object of the author, in the selection of his subjects, was that of counteracting those popular arguments and prejudices against the credibility of revelation, which, however superficial, he conceives to stand not unfrequently in the way of the religious belief of those young persons, the eagerness of whose judgments has not yet been corrected by persevering habits of impartial reflexion." Thus they were expressly addressed to the undergraduates, and as we happen to
know, were by them highly esteemed, and attended with crowded congregations. Indeed, we have heard it reported, that it was in consequence of their desire, very generally and very strongly expressed, that the author (who is the head of one of the most noble foundations in Oxford) was induced to publish them. The compositions themselves bear internal evidence of having been written for delivery, rather than for the press. Some few inaccuracies of expression appear; the sentences are often extremely long; and the general structure of the style is deficient, if tried by that excellent test of being intelligible without the aid of punctuation, though such as, we doubt not, to have been highly efficient, when enforced, as it was by the preacher in this instance, with the emphasis of a fine voice and feeling manner.
We would not, therefore, dwell for a moment on blemishes of secondary importance in a work like this. We rejoice to see the Head of an eminent college, a man of high repute for talents and learning, stand up in the pulpit of the university as the spiritual guide and instructor of the students. We rejoice to know that it is a case which has had many precedents of late years, and which as an example is likely to be very frequently followed. The Church of England supposes no one of her members, in whatever situation they may be placed, to be destitute of an appropriate minister responsible for their spiritual improvement, and bound to promote their edification by private exhortation and public preaching of the word. To whom are the students of universities to look up for this Christian guidance? We reply, to the tutors and heads of their respective colleges for private conference, and for the edification of God's word to the preachers in the university pulpit. On those who occupy these responsible situations, being, as they for the most part are, ministers of the Church of Christ, devolves the duty of watching over this most interesting charge during the time of residence under their care. And when they consider how commonly their official employments prevent them from undertaking any other spiritual cure, and how great is their risk of acquiring a distaste for the most appropriate duties of their profession, they will rejoice to take this method of fulfilling the solemn vows of ordination, and thus consecrating the duties of tuition by the ministrations of the priesthood, will "give faithful diligence to minister the doctrine and sacraments and discipline of Christ," and "to use both public and private monitions and exhortations, as well to the sick as to the whole." Amply will such diligence be repaid to every one who shall so labour in his Master's vineyard. Not, indeed, that we set the motive of the minister's exertions any lower than the love and favour of his Lord; or hold out the expectation that in any field of labour he will not meet with frequent and mortifying disappointment. Only we maintain, that if a man of refined mind, and high
intellectual endowments, were to choose out a portion of the flock of Christ to be most unlikely to disgust him by perverse obstinacy, and best suited to meet with corresponding warmth the tenour of his enlightened ministrations, it would be difficult to say where he could have more prospect of rejoicing in his labours, than with a body of well-educated intelligent young men, such as constitute the chief part of our colleges. We, therefore, the more strongly urge this view of their duties on the attention of the governors and tutors, as being no less desirable for themselves than important for the welfare of the community; and that especially at a time when the experiment is about to be tried of establishing an institution for liberal education, on the professed exclusion of all religious teaching whatsoever.
But it is time to give our readers a specimen of the work which has led to these remarks. We will turn then to the seventh Sermon on Prov. xxviii. 26, where we shall find an interesting discussion of a familiar but most important topic,-the prevalence of unchristian conduct amongst professed believers in Christianity.
With regard then to the question before us, why does the Christian continue in sin, when, according to the principles of his belief, such conduct is diametrically contrary to his most important interests? Our first answer will be, that, although the highest achievement of a course of moral and religious discipline be, to subject our every thought and action to the control of conscience and religion only; yet in every stage short of this highest exaltation of character (and under this description we must include nearly the whole of man's career upon earth) it is to far inferior impulses that even our most plausible actions owe their birth. Of man, in his natural and unconverted state, passion, not principle, forms the main-spring of action. In proportion, however, as his moral education advances, higher and nobler views gradually present themselves. Impulses ripen into knowledge. Where he once only felt, he now reasons. His aspirations become purer, and his aims sublimer. But he is not, therefore, transferred at once from guilt to innocence, from reprobation to grace. The understanding may be, indeed, enlightened, but the original habits of the heart will still continue to operate. It will be long, very long; after many sins against his better knowledge, after many humiliating failures; after innumerable contests with his eternal enemy, and innumerable defeats; after experiencing again and again the weakness of the flesh, notwithstanding the fervour of the spirit;-ere his original constitution will change its bias, and the engrafted and celestial principle begin gradually to supersede that which is natural and earthly. In this intermediate state of moral improvement, our conviction may indeed be sincere, but our conduct will still be defective; and knowledge and practice, so far from standing, as they ought to do, in the close relation of cause and effect, will in reality be found to be but rarely and accidentally connected. The former, proceeding upon the slow deductions of abstract calculation, will be cold and systematic, deserting us in the hour of temptation, and only recurring when too late, in the solitude of the closet; whilst the latter, resulting from the immediate impulse of physical appetite, will be hasty and impetuous, hurrying us into guilt ere our reason can rally all her faculties, or our conscience shake off her slumbers.
Hence the preacher argues to the necessity of diligently habituating ourselves to impede the activity of our passions, and excite the energy
of our reflective powers; and concludes that one cause of the inconsistency between profession and practice is,
The want of any necessary connexion between the mere knowledge and the practice of morals. It is indeed the object of all education to produce this connexion, but the completion of that object is in fact the completion of the Christian's triumph on earth. It is not the commencement, but the termination, of his labours: that victory over the world, and over himself, the result of long prayer and watching, of faith, patience, humility, and perseverance.
A second source of this common evil is thus detailed:
Yet I cannot help believing, that if we look closely into what passes in our own minds, when we feel any inclination to deviate from our duty, we shall detect there a slovenly kind of reasoning, by which even this most manifest truth is at such moments robbed of half its power of conviction. That the gratifications of vice are immediate, and those resulting from religion only in expectation, is in itself a fact quite sufficient to bewilder judgments so feeble and capricious as our own. To the mind's eye, as well as to that of the body, there appears to be a law of perspective, which diminishes the apparent size of an object in proportion to its distance. Hence it is that a single particle of dust is sufficient to conceal from our view the surface of one of the heavenly bodies, the real bulk of which we know to exceed any thing which the human imagination is competent to grasp; and that by an analogous process, the most trifling earthly temptations, if brought sufficiently near, are sometimes found sufficient to expel for an instant from our thoughts the remote but tremendous speculations of eternity with all its accompaniments. In both these cases the provision of nature is wise in the highest degree, if considered with respect to our immediate and practical wants, Had the human eye been so formed as to see things in their real proportion, unmodified by distance, the immensity of the heavenly bodies would necessarily have occupied the whole of our attention, whilst we should have been practically blind with regard to the objects of earth. And, on the same principle, had our minds been so constructed as to perceive instinctively the exact relative value of the things of time and eternity, their faculties would have been irresistibly attracted by the vast preponderance of the latter; whilst the affairs of this life, failing to excite any interest, would have been totally abandoned. Admitting however the necessity of this arrangement, by which, so long as we are inmates of the earth, its concerns are calculated to act upon our feelings with more than their due and proportionate value, still we are to recollect, that the real nature of things is totally different. To sound philosophy objects are not such as they appear, but as they are; and whilst the wants of our physical nature are continually cheating us with illusions, and suggesting to us false estimates of the value of all which surrounds us, it is her office, in our more intellectual and contemplative moments, to interpose continually between our appetites and our judgments, and to exhibit the turmoil and vanity of our ⚫ worldly speculations in all their intrinsic nothingness.
Before we conclude this article, we would add one word on college servants. Our 23d Canon commends these, no less than the students, to the spiritual guidance of the Masters and Fellows of Colleges. We wish this provision for their instruction were more generally effectual. We know that in many instances it has been much neglected; and that the same individuals who would make a point of superintending the instruction of servants at their own homes, are accustomed, in their corporate capacity, to witness gross excesses without a reprimand, and seldom take pains so much as to ascertain that the domestics of the college regularly attend divine service.
ART. II.-A Sermon preached in the Chapel of Farnham Castle, at an Ordination held by the Lord Bishop of Winchester. By the Rev. JOHN BIRD SUMNER, M. A. Prebendary of Durham and Vicar of Mapledurham, Oxon. Hatchard. 1828.
"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." Rev. xi. 15.
THIS is a text which no one who bears the heart of a Christian can peruse without a mixture of melancholy and exultation of melancholy at the present condition of the world,—of exultation at the brightness of the prospect which is partially unveiled to us by the hand of prophecy. Our faith and our hope are scarcely equal to the trial of a long and steady gaze upon the kingdoms of the earth, and all their perishable glory; because the contemplation is one which oppresses us with sights apparently at variance with all the gracious purposes which the revelation of God has announced. Of all the millions which inhabit our globe, but a small portion acknowledge the name of Christ; of that part, again, a large majority adhere to a corrupt and superstitious faith; and, lastly, of those who hold the truth in righteousness and purity, the number, it is to be feared, is comparatively so small, that it is impossible to think of it without grief and consternation of spirit. These, however, are perilous and ensnaring computations; and we may always find a retreat from them in the zealous discharge of Christian duty, and in grateful meditation on the brighter days which are yet in store for the children of men. It has been said somewhat quaintly, though justly and forcibly, by Lightfoot, that, "a traveller to heaven walks upon two legs-hope, and a sense of duty. Now, many a time, his hope, like Jacob's thigh, is sinew-shrunk and lame, and hath no strength at all in it: yet he makes shift to bear on his other leg-his sense of duty; and, Jacob-like, he limps on to his journey's end." And what is here said of hope, as it relates to the personal condition of the Christian, may, with equal justice, be said of it as it relates to the prospects and destinies of the human race. Whenever the overflowings of anarchy and ungodliness tempt us to despair of mankind, it is our wisdom to bear upon that support which is less liable to failure and disorder,-the plain sense of personal duty. Times and seasons are in the hand of God; the obligation to walk in the way of his commandments is our own immediate and constant business; it demands, under the divine blessing, the exercise of those capacities which the fall has left us; and it is an obligation which may well absorb all our energies, without leaving any superfluity to spare for dubious and unfruitful speculations.
To this practical view of the high matters suggested by the text, the