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These Discourses are deeply serious. It is impossible to read them without perceiving that the preacher was in earnest; that he fully believed the great truths he announced; that they had made a very powerful and abiding impression on his own heart. Here is no balancing of periods; here are no mere embellishments; figures, most beautiful and felicitous, there are indeed many; but they always appear introduced for the sake of the subject, never for their own sake, much less for his. What was once said of Baxter, might as truly be affirmed of him. He spake and wrote as we should suppose a man would speak and write who had gone into the unseen world, and had beheld and heard its sights and sounds of wo and of bliss, and then had returned to this life to declare those awful and glorious realities.
These Discourses are very far from being unintelligible. They are uncommonly perspicuous. It was a rare excellence of the preacher, that his pulpit addresses were alike (perhaps equally) interesting to the unlearned and the learned, to men of ordinary capacity and those of the highest intellectual endowments. This excellence exists, though perhaps not so manifestly, in the volume before us.
These Discourses may be denominated powerful. They are adapted to produce a deep and abiding impression. The truths they contain, it is evident, strongly affected the heart of the preacher. Possessing as he did, ardent love to the Gospel, and a full conviction of its truth, knowing the danger to which men, while in unbelief, are exposed, and the blessedness of those who receive the word of salvation, and mindful as he appeared continually to be of death and judgment and things eternal—with a soul capable of strong feelings and of expressing its feelings in most appropriate language, no wonder his Sermons are what they appear to be in this volume, and that they were what they were felt to be when uttered in his own impressive accents from the pulpit.
One who often heard him can affirm that although he has listened to very interesting preachers, and especially an eloquent man now living, whose piercing words have thrilled through his heart, no man's addresses ever produced such deep and abiding impressions on him as Dr Payson's. Ile was indeed an eloquent speaker. The secret of his eloquence consisted in his ardent piety; his deep conviction of the truth and excellence of the Gospel. It was the eloquence of strong emotion, not of art. It was characterized by great simplicity. There were no studied attitudes, no sudden starts, no affected tremulousness of voice. His only gesture was a slight elevation of the arm, and this was but seldom employed.
The ruling passion of this extraordinary man was to be useful; to glorify God; to promote the salvation of men. His intense desire for the salvation of the people committed to his ch-ırge is very perceptible in these Discourses. This desire appeared to be unremitting. It prompted him to efforts wearisome and exhausting; efforts pursued during long protracted indisposition, until at length the weary wheels of life forebore to move. But his labors were not in vain in the Lord. His desire was (in how many in
stances !) fulfilled. He “preached the Lord Jesus; and the hand of the Lord was with him, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” He is gone to his rest. But he still speaks in the holy example he has left; and in the Discourses of this volume. We cheerfully and earnestly recommend them. Not that we consider them faultless. Th are some thoughts the truth of which we are not prepared to admit. But perfection is not to be expected in any uninspired compositions.
As illustrating some of the valuable qualities of which mention has been made, we present the following extracts. In the Sermon entitled, The Punishment of the Wicked Dreadful and Interminable, after adducing direct proof from Scripture that the sufferings of the finally impenitent will be endless, the Author proceeds;
• Will any one, on hearing these passages, reply, My feelings revolt at such sentiments. I will not, cannot believe them? Then you must reject the Bible; for it is full of such statements, and every fact, every doctrine confirms them. The incarnation of the Son of God, the tears which he shed for sinners, the blood which he poured out for sinners, the joy which angels feel when one sinner repents, and the unutterable anxiety which inspired men felt for the conversion of sinners,--all conspire to prove that the fate of those who die without repentance, without conversion, must be inconceivably dreadful. Will you then say such a punishment cannot be just ? It is impossible that I should deserve it? But remember, that you know nothing of your sins, or of what sin deserves. Were you properly acquainted with your own sinfulness, you would feel convinced that it is just. All true penitents feel and acknowledge, that it would have been perfectly just to inflict this punishment upon them. Were not you impenitent, you would feel the same. Besides, this punishment, dreadful as it is, is nothing more than the natural, necessary consequence of persisting in sin. The corroding passions, the remorse of conscience, and the displeasure of God, which will constitute the misery of sinners, are all the result of sin. Every sinner has the seeds of hell already sown in his breast. The sparks which are to kindle the flames of hell, are already glowing within him. Christ now offers to extinguish these sparks. He shed his blood to quench them. He offers to pour out his Spirit as water to quench them. But sinners will not accept his offer. They rather fan the sparks and add fuel to the fire. How then can they justly complain, when the fire shall break out into an unquenchable conflagration and burn forever! As well might a man who should put vipers into his bosom complain of God because they stung him. As well might a man who has kindled a fire and thrown himself into it, complain of God, because the flames scorched him. But I can spend no more time in answering objections, or in defending the justice of God against the complaints of his creatures. I cannot stand here coolly arguing and reasoning, while I see the pit of destruction, as it were, open before me, and more than half my hearers apparently rushing into it. I feel impelled rather to fly, and throw myself before you in the fatal path, to grasp your hands, to cling to your feet, to make even convulsive efforts to arrest your progress, and pluck you as brands from the burning. My careless hearers, my people, my flock! death, perdition, the never dying worm, the unquenchable fire, are before you! Your path leads directly into them. Will you not then hear your friend, your shepherd? Will you not stop, and listen at least for a moment?
Will you, 0, will you refuse to believe that there is a hell, till you find yourselves in the midst of it? O, be convinced, I conjure you, be convinced by some less fatal proof than this. Yet how can I convince you? How can I stop you? My arm is powerless; yet I cannot let you go. I could shed tears of blood over you, would it avail. Gladly, most gladly would I die here on the spot, without leaving this sacred desk, could my death be the means of turning you from this fatal course. But what folly is this, to talk of laying down my worthless life to save you! Why, my friends, the Son of God died to save you,-died in agonies,-died on the cross; and surely, that doom cannot but be terrible, to open a way of escape from which he did all this. And it is dreadful. The abyss into which you are falling, is as deep as the heaven from which he descended is high. And will you then rush into it, while he stands ready to save you? Shall he, as it respects you, die in vain? Will you receive the grace of God in vain ? Shall those eyes which now see the light of the Sabbath, glare and wither in eternal burning ? Shall those souls, which might be filled with the happiness of heaven, writhe ani agonize forever, under the gnawings of the immortal worm? Shall I, must I, hereafter see some who are dear to me, for whom I have labored and prayed and wept, weltering in the billows of despair, and learning, by experience, how far the description comes short of the terrible reality! But I cannot proceed. The thought unmans me. I can only point to the cross of Christ, and say, There is salvation, there is blood, which, if applied, will quench the fires that are already kindling in your breasts. There is deliverance from the wrath which is to come.
pp. 498–501. The Sermon on The promised Fruit of Christ's Sufferings, preached at a meeting of a Foreign Missionary Society, is con cluded in the following animated manner :
Not very far distant, probably, is the period when our Redeemer shall see the promise before us, (He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied,] fulfilled in its utmost extent. Already do we witness no equivocal indications, that its complete fulfilment is approaching. Already has the day of millennial glory begun to dawn. Already has the day star been seen from the mountains of the East. Already are “blest voices” heard exclaiming from heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ. And we have no small reason for hoping, that, before the conclusion of the present century, the same blest voices will be heard to cry, Alleluia, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever! My hearers, when this period shall arrive, will it not be in the highest degree painful and mortifying to be constrained to say, the long predicted, long expected hour is at length come, but I have done nothing to hasten its arrival. My Saviour has gathered in his promised harvest, but none of the seed which produced it, was sown by my hand, or watered by my tears! If you would not be the subjects of reflections so mortifying, seize the precious opportunity which is afforded you, of committing your seed to the earth, so that hereafter, when he who soweth and he who reapeth shall rejoice together, you may participate in the joy of your Lord.
Let no one attempt to excuse himself by saying, My services are not wanted. Let no one say, Since God has promised, that his Son shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied, we may safely sit still, and leave him to fulfil this promise. He will indeed fulfil it, but he will JULY, 1829.
fulfil it by human agency. And before it can be fulfilled, before every enemy can be put under our Saviour's feet, many exertions must be made, much treasure expended, and many battles fought. Satan, the prince and god of this world, will not resign his usurped dominion without a struggle. The more clearly he perceives that his time is short, the greater will be his wrath, and the more violent his efforts. During that portion of time which yet remains, the war which he has long waged with the Captain of our salvation, will be carried on with unexampled fury. If you would survey the progress and result of this war, cast your eyes over the world, which is to be at once the field of battle, and the prize of victory. See the earth filled with strong holds and high places, in which the prince of darkness has fortified and made himself strong against the Almighty. See all the hosts of hell, and a large proportion of the inhabitants, the power, the wealth, the talents, and influence of the world ranged under his infernal standard. See his whole artillery of falsehoods, sophistries, objections, temptations, and persecution, brought into the field, to be employed against the cause of truth. See ten thousand pens, and ten thousand times ten thousand tongues, hurling his poisoned darts among its friends. On the other hand, see the comparatively small band of our Saviour's faithful soldiers drawn up in opposing ranks, and advancing to the assault, clothed in panoply divine, the banner waving over their heads, while in their hands they wield unsheathed, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, the only weapon which they are allowed, or wish to employ. The charge is sounded, the assault is made, the battle is joined-far and wide its fury rages; over mountains and plains, over islands and continents, extends the long line of conflict; for a time, alternate victory and defeat wait on either side. Now, exulting acclamations from the Christian army proclaim the fall of some strong hold of Satan. Anon, infuriated shouts from the opposing ranks announce to the world, that the cause of Christ is losing ground, or that some Christian standard bearer is fallen. Meanwhile, far above the noise and tumult of the battle, the Captain of our salvation sits serene, issuing his commands, directing the motions of his followers, sending seasonable aid to such as are ready to faint, and occasionally causing to be seen the lighting down of his own glorious arm, before which whole squadrons fall, or fly, or yield themselves willing captives. Feeble, and yet more feeble still, gradually becomes the opposition of his foes. Loud, and yet louder still, rise the triumphant acclamations of his friends, till, at length, the cry of Victory! Victory !-resounds from earth to heaven; and Victory! Victory !-is echoed back from heaven to earth. The warfare ceases, --the prize is won,-all enemies are put under the conquering Saviour's feet; the whole earth, with joy, receives her king; and his kingdom, which consists in righteousness, peace, and holy joy, becomes co-extensive with the world. Such, my hearers, is the nature, and such will be the termination and result of the contest, which is now carrying on in the world. In this contest we are all now engaged on the one part or the other; for in this warfare there are no neutrals, he that is not with Christ is against him. Let us all, then, if we have not already done it, enlist under his banner, and make a common cause with him, against a rebellious world; and when he shall appear to judge the universe, he will say to us, Come, and sit down with me on my throne, even as I overcame and am seated with my Father on his throne.' pp. 240—244.
Christian Fellowship, or The Church Member's Guide. By J. A.
James, A. M. Birmingham, England. Edited by J. O. CHOules, A. M. Pastor of the Second Baptist Church, Newport, R. I. Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1828. pp. 204.
We are pleased with this work, and heartily recommend it to the churches. It contains the results of much observation and experience. Every one who reads it will wish others to read it. Let the spirit and the maxims of this book be prevalent, and the churches would indeed be happy communities. Ministers, especially recently settled pastors, and candidates for the ministry, will here find many valuable hints. Deacons and private members, persons who have influence either on account of property, or information, or rank, all in short who profess to be disciples of Christ, will find suggestions, compliance with which will increase their usefulness and their comfort. Advice is given appropriate to the various circumstances of prosperity and adversity in which churches may be placed; and cautions are furnished which would infallibly prevent those (to use the very softest term) unlovely divisions which sometimes tear asunder the churches of our Redeemer.
We deem it unnecessary to enter upon a detailed account of the topics discussed in this book. They are here treated with sufficient minuteness and accompanied with sufficient illustration. The very just remarks of Mr James, however, on a subject intimately connected with the prosperity of the churches, but, we lament to say, quite undervalued by some churches and candidates for the ministry, we cannot but transfer to our pages and recommend to the very serious consideration of our brethren.
"A defective education not unfrequently prepares a minister to be the cause of much uneasiness in a Christian church.
Deprived, by the circumstances of his birth, of the advantages of education and cultivated society, he enters upon his academic pursuits with little knowledge both of books and of the world. When he has been a student but two or three years, some injudicious congregation, captivated by a few sermons, solicits him to become their pastor. He aceepts their invitation, and with little information, still less acquaintance with the habits of society, he enters upon the duties of his office. He soon betrays his ignorance, incompetence, and want of all those qualifications which fit a person for government in the church and prepare him for esteem in the world. At length, by the meagreness of his preaching, and the want of prudence and respectability in his conduct, he disgusts his flock, and a conflict ensues. Both parties are to blame; they, in tempting him so soon to leave his preparatory studies, and he, in acceding to their wishes. They, however, are mostly to be censured; and so far as their own comfort is concerned, are rightly punished for plucking that fruit which, had it been permitted to hang till it was ripe, would have done them much service. A longer term of education would not only have given him more information, but more knowledge of men and things, and more capacity to conduct himself with propriety. Knowledge is power, by increasing a man's weight of character and degree of influence.