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The acquisition of the desired possession is beyond the reach of multitudes from the limited capacities which Providence has given them, or from their want of opportunities to exercise the powers which they have. Granting to the advocates of human improvement all they reasonably demand, concerning the extent to which a perfect education would carry its subject, I am not prepared to assent to the extravagant proposition, that all capacities were made originally equal. While some have the strength to climb high, others, froin native imi becility, must remain in a humbler altitude, or creep on the surface. Opportunities to display the full energy of the powers they possess, are granted to very few.
Another source of disappointment is the 'unsatisfactory nature of human attainments. The complaint, that the enjoyment of imaginary good never equals the picture drawn by anticipation, is too often made to need a repetition here. The child that chases his own shadow, will as soon overtake it, as the soul, which pines for substantial enjoyment, will find it in a world, whose permanent character is vanity, and whose fairest promises are delusive.
of the effects of disappointment, one, I believe, is common to most men. The failure of an expected pleasure in one course stimulates, for a while, the eager pursuit in a different, and the unhappy man flies from one field where he has sustained a defeat, to another in which he proinises himself a better reception. If the early expectations were sanguine, and the objects of them of considerable importance to the individual, the disastrous event which bas laid bis hopes in the dust lag probably, also, diminished the energy of his mind, and somewhat relaxed that firmness of purpose, which he may have formerly possessed.
The consequences, however, of the ineflicacy of our trials to obtain rest on earth, are widely different in the mere man of the world, the slave to his pleasures, from those which flow out of similar external occurrences to the man who is crucified to the world, and counts its glory but dross. To the former, an unsuccessful project is a terrible disaster. In the ruin of his schemes he sees the pillars of his happiness successively torn away, and amid the surrounding devastation. his labors and hopes find a common grave. Unable however to obtain satisfaction in idleness, he is hurried along in the current of labor's,' each leaving the desired object as far out of sight as when he commenced bis course. His temper is soured, and he becomes a fretful complainer of the allotment of things, or in sullen silence broods over his misery, and if possible, would sometimes escape the society and the reach of beings whom he has felt to be false and faithless. On the other hand, the soul whose treasure is in heaven must likewise meet afflictions, but for him they have lost their sting. A bitter cup cannot indeed be made delightful to the taste; for by such a transformation it would lose both its essence and its name; but more than half its bitterness is extracted by the soothing cordials mingled with it by the hand of divine morcy. Knowing that his disease is dreadful, the sufferer will rejoice, even in his pain, that the Great Restorer has a remedy of sovereign power, and that bis wisdom and faithfulness will administer it to his dear children, though their ignorance, and reluctance to en
dure a momentary anguish, may induce them to shrink from the appli
To the heart of the humble believer, this single promise, that "all things shall work together for good to them who love God,” imparts a more substantial support, a surer consolation, than all the maxims of pagan morality.
CXXI. A scrmon, preached' at the ordination of the Rev. John Gorham Pal-. frey, to the pastoral care of the church in Brazile Square, Boston, June 17, 1818. By ELIPHALET PORTER, D. D. Pastor of the first church in. Roxbury. Boston: John Eliot. pp. 30.
What constitutes a good sermon, is a question, which every man claims the right of deciding for himself, without asking aid from critics and reviewers. While we would by no means invade the province of private opinion on this subject, we cannot forget, that it is our privilege and duty to offer our own views, occasionally, respecting those discourses, which are deemed by their authors sufficiently inportant to be given to the public, through the press.' The fathers of the American pulpit, and their most distinguished successors, have accounted that preaching the best, which is most adapted to make men “wise unto salvation.' Their sermons have not been decked with pert and puerile ornaments, nor with any of the trappings of affected oratory. Often, indeed, their style has been defective, not merely in elegance, but in the more important qualities of perspicuity and strength. But there is no ostentation in saying, that our churches have been favored with preachers not a few, who, in regard to souodness of doctrine, richness of thought, and fervor of evangelical feeling, have scarcely been surpassed by the divines of any other country, since the days of the apostles. “By their fruits shall ye know them." If the value of a preacher's labors are to be estimated by the Christian intelligence and piety of his hearers, our Mathers, and Tennents, and Edwardses, would not suffer by comparison with the distinguished preachers of any age.
A perversion of the public taste, in respect to the ministrations of the pulpit, is necessarily prejudicial to the interests of religion. When Baxter and his associates, in the reign of Charles the second, were succeeded by a set of cold, political moralists, the light of the Englislı church became darkness; darkness, indeed, that was felt by many who. "wept in secret places;" but which was relieved only by the feeble light reflected from other countries, tili the sun burst from this disinal eclipse" in the ministry of Whitefield. We have no reason to lear, that the lax theology of our own country, unaided, as it must be, by civil proscriptions and penalties, ean ever succeed to silence the voice of truth in our pulpits. But we ought not to regard with indifference the struggles for ascendency, which this system has maintained in the heart of New England; and the efforts, which it still makes, to deery the great and peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. Among these efforts, ve are sorry to say, we cannot but rank tlic sermon which is the sube Vol. XV.
ject of our present auimadversion. Its reverend author, as our readers will recollect, was introduced to their notice, on a former occasion, in the pages of the Panoplist. *
It is but justice to acknowledge, that, in speaking of themselves, the gentlemen of the liberal party have adopted a language, of late, less assuming than they have formerly been accustomed to employ. But while we have great pleasure in commending this increase of modesty, or rather this diininution of arrogance, without claiming any credit to ourselves for the change, we suspect that these gentlemen still cherish an unabated hostility to what we consider as the essential truths of the Gospel. • Whether the sermon before us furnishes any ground for this opinion, our readers will judge, as we proceed. The text is Matt. vii, 28, 29. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes.
The preacher, after some general remarks on the character of our Savior, as a religious instructor, proposes the following method of discourse:
"First, to take a view of the contents or matter of the sermon referred to in our text, and some other of the principal evangelical discourses recorded in the New Testament. And then
Offer to your consideration some inferences and reflections arising from the subject, or invited by the occasion.” pp. 5, 6.
The preaching of Christ, as a pattern to his uninspired ministers, is, to say the least, subject enough for one sermon; and it is a subject which we could wish to see, much oftener than we have seen, made the topic of instruction in ordination sermons. We will only suggest, in passing, that if the object of Dr. P. in the present case, required him to combine the preaching of the Apostles, in the same view, a happier selection of a text might have been made.
Before we proceed in our remarks, it is necessary to cast our eye forward a little, that we may ascertain what is the real object of this discourse. In declaring this object, the preacher's language is suffi. ciently guarded and indefinite. The following is a specimen.
“Thus various, practical and important are the contents of the sermon on the mount; and it cannot have escaped our notice, that on inany subjects, much insisted on by some, there is a profound and continued silence, which is scarcely less instructive, than what is actually expressed.” pp. 11, 12.
And again, speaking of the same sermon on the mount, he says, it abounds in
*Doctrines than which none more interesting and important can be named; and which, I cannot but believe, would be far more instructive and useful topics of a sermon, than those which are so much insisted on by some in their public discourses.
Most of our readers we presume will admit, without scruple, that Christ was a better preacher than some others; and even that be main
* See Pan, for July and Aag. 1810.
tained «a profound and continued silence" respecting subjects, "much insisted on by somne." When we have proceeded a few pages farther, however, the preacher condescends to shed a little light on our path, by which we may discern that the five points, as they have been called," are the things he means; and, of course, we must infer that they who «insist" on these, are the some,” who are not altogether what they should be.
But to be serious: the whole argument of this sermon, turns on the single point, that uninspired preachers ought to imitate the model of Christ and the Apostles. Here we cheerfully agree with Dr. Porter. But in determining who are conformed to this model, the first step is to determine what the model is. So essential is it to fix this point, that, throughout the conclusion of the discourse, Dr. P. assuines, as be must, to preserve the appearance of argument, that he has given a
fair and impartial account of this sacred standard of preaching. He does not indeed pretend that this account is “complete and perfect”and certainly there was no occasion to repeat cvery word which these inspired teachers uttered. But it was important to exhibit the general tenor of their preaching; and this the sermon before us professes to have done.
"The account which I have thus given of the preaching of our Savior and his Apostles on some of the most important occasions, that occurred in the course of their public ministry, though not complete and perfect, is, I trust, fair and impartial; at least I am conscious that nothing has been knowingly misreprestored, or kept out of view, through design. My object has been, not to impart to my hearers any information of which I could suppose them not already possessed, but to bring to their distinct recollection, and place before them in one collected view, the principal examples of Gospel preaching recorded in the sacred Scriptures." p. 18.
Now our serious charge against the writer of this sermon is, that he has misrepresented," we do not say “knowingly or through designbut that he bas egregiously misrepresented the preaching of Christ and the Apostles.
In making good this charge we will follow his own method, and begin with the preaching of Christ.
The sermon on the mount, as a system of Christian ethics, exhibits a purity and elevation of sentiinent, as much superior to the best systerns of Pagan morality as the heavens are higher than the earth. Even a beathen emperor* so much admired the golden precept; “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even the same unto them," that he inscribed it on the walls of his palace, and quoted it in his judicial decisions.
But we have supposed, that readers of the New Testament, learned and unlearned, do not consider this sermon as designed to exbibit all the doctrines and duties of the Gospel. It was delivered at the beginning of our Lord's ministry. The hearers were chiefly Jews, whose minds were so wrapped up in the darkness of vague traditions, that they were not prepared to receive the Gospel. Accordingly the great
object of this sermon was to restore the spiritual claims of the divine law on the heart, both as to the extent of its obligations, and the motives to obedience. This could not be done without sweeping away the expectations of Messiali's temporal kingdom, and that endless train of superstitions, which made all religion to consist in external obsery
With this simple key, it is easy to understand, not only the diversified precepts and doctrines of this admirable discourse, but the reason why our Lord did not then introduce many truths, which he taught on subsequent occasions.
But what is Dr. P.'s opinion of this sermon on the mount? After a commentary on it, which concludes by telling us that it observes “a profound and continued silence, on many subjects, much insisted on by some," he adds,
"But, perhaps, it will be said, that the Gospel dispensation was not yet fully introduced, nor the time come when the Christian religion in its inost peculiar, and essential doctrines, was to be preached and published to the world. That the time might not have arrived for the declaration and proof of certain important facts, which had not yet transpired, will be readily acknowledged; but that he who was divinely anointed to preach the Gospel to the poor, should not clearly and frequently inculcate the truths that constitute the peculiar excellence and glory of his religion, is more difficult to be conceived.” p. 12.
We would thank this reverend author to tell us whether the Messin ahship of Christ, is a doctrine, or a fact; and whether or not, it is "essential to Christianity? When these queries are answered, another arises; why were the disciples more than once charged to otell no man” that he was the Christ? Perhaps the reply may suggest a reason why this doctrine, for such doubtless it must be called, was not declared in the sermon on the mourit. But that we may justly estimate the paragraph above cited, let us compare it with another, in which the writer, pursuing the principle that doctrines are to be gonerally tried by the inspired standards of preaching, says,
“For this purpose we will take a list of articles mentioned by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, as some of the principles of the doctrine of Christ. This list, though short, is, I believe, the longest we have from the pen of any sacred writer. It contains the doctrine of repentance from dead works, of faith toward God, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judginent; besides two external rites, baptism and laying on of hands.* Now it will be at once perceived, that nearly all these particulars are either expressly caught, or evidently recognised, in the inspired examples of preaching, which have been under consideration." p. 24.
From the manner, in which this passage is introduced, it seems, that the doctrines of repentance, faith, the final resurrection and the judgment, are to be "admitted and received by all”-as being "some of the principles of the doctrine of Christ;" and doubtless Dr. P. wilt admit that these are among the truths that constitute the peculiar excellence and glory of his religion.” But he must be aware that, excepting one allusion to the judgment, thesc doctrines are not men
We take the author's interpretation of this passage as it is, without being responsible for its accuracy.