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The wise and benevolent sentiments of these noble fools were imbibed by che whole congregation, and fifty thousand troubled hearts were calmed in an instant. Hone they returned to eat, to drink, ta Jend portions, and to make mirth, because they had understood the words, that were declared unto bim. Plato was alive at this time, teaching dull philosophy to cold academics : but what was he, and what was Xenophon, or Demosthenes, or any of the Pagan orators, in comparison with these men !!
In characterising the great Preacher of righteousness Jesus Christ, he makes use of the following animated language:
' In order to mortify human vanity, to convince the world that religion was a plain fimple thing, and that a little common sense ac. companied with an honest good heart was sufficient to propagate it, without any aid derived from the cabinets of princes, or the schools of human science, he took twelve poor illiterate men into his company, admitted them to an incimacy with himself, and, after he had kept them a while in tuition, sent them to preach the good tidings of salvation to their countrymen. A while after he sent seventy more, and the discourses, .which he delivered to each class at their ordi. nation, are made up of the most wise and benevolent fentiments, that ever fell from the mouth of man. All the topics are pure theo. logy, and all unpolluted with puerile conceits, human politics, literary dreams, ecclefiaftical traditions, party disputes, and all the other disgraces of preaching, which those fanctimonious hypocrites, scribes, and pharisees, and pretended doctors and rabbies bad introduced into it.
• Jesus Christ had never paid any regard to the place, where he delivered his sermons; he had taught in the temple, the synagogues, public walks, and private houses; he had preached on mountains, and in barges and ships. His missionaries imitated him, and convenience for the time was consecration of the place. He had been equally indifferent to the posture, he food, or sat, as his own ease and the popular edification required. The time also had been ac. commodated to the same end. He had preached early in the morne ing, late in the evening, on Sabbath-days and festivals, and whenever else the people had leisure and inclination to hear. It had been foretold, the Melah should not lift up, nor cry, nor cause his voice to be beard in the streets, that is, should not use the artifices of those who fought for popularity: It should seem, Jesus Christ used very little action : but that little was just, natural, grave, and exprelive. He fonetimes wept, and always felt: but he never expressed his emotions in a theatrical manner, fiuch less did he preach as a drowsy pedant declaims, who has no emotions to express.
· The success, that accompanied the miniitry of our Emanuel, was truly astonithiag. My soul overflows with joy, my eyes with tears of pleasure, while I transcribe it. When this Sun of righteousness arose with healing under his wings, the disinterested populace, who lay all neglected and forlorn, benighted with ignorance, and be. numbed with vice, saw the light, and hailed the brightness of its rising. Up they (prang, and after him in multitudes men, women, and children went. Was he to pass a road, they climbed the trees to see him, yea the blind fac by the way-side to hear him go by.
Was Was he in a house, they unroofed the building to come at him. As if they could never get near enough to hear the soft accents of bis voice, they presied, they crouded, they trod upon one another co furround bim. When he retired into the wilderness, they thought him another Moses, and would have made him a king. It was the finest thing they could think of. He, greater than the greatest inoparch, despised worldly grandeur : but to fulfil prophecy, fitting upon a borrowed ass's colt, rode into Jerusalem the Son of the Highest, and allowed the transported multitude to strew the way
garments and branches, and to arouse the insensible metropolis by acclamations, the very children shouting, Hofannab! Hofannab in the bigheft! Hosannab to the son of David! Blefed be be, that cometh in the name of the Lord !
• The rabbies pretended, the populace knew not the law, and were cursed, and it is certain they knew not those glofjes of the law, which traditionifts affected to teach :- but this ignorance was their happiness. It would have been well for the teachers, had they never known them. The populace did know the law, and often quoted it in its true sense. What mystery is there in the Ten Com. mandments! or what erudition is requihte to determine, whether he, who opened the eyes of the blind, were a worhipper of God, or a finner! It is a high privilege of poverty, that it is a stare degagé, dil.. engaged, detached, unbialied, and nearest of all others to free inquiry. The populace are not worth poisoning by ecclefiaftical quacks, for they cannot pay for the drugs. Their lenses of seeing and hearing, their faculties of observing, refle&ting, and reasoning, are all as equal to religious topics as those of their superiors, and more Co, because unfophisticated. If they apply themselves to examine, their attestation is a high degree of probability, if not a demontiration. It was gloriously faid by a blind beggar to a beach of curmudgeons, Why! herein is a marvellous thing, that ye, with all your great books and broad phylacteries, long titles and hard names, wife looks and academical babits, know not whence Jefus is, and yet be bath opened imy eyes. Now we, we blind beggars, we cursed people, who know not the law, we who are altogether born in fin, we know that God beareth not finners. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
• This popularity, obtained by public preaching, supported by a course of beneficent actions, many of which were miraculous, excited the envy of the leading church men, and they determined to destroy Jesus. They dare not appeal to the people, bis constant auditors and companions : but they pretended loyalty to Cafar, and love to their coontry, and taxed the Prince of Peace with stirring up fedition. We know the issue. Let us draw a veil over this hor. rid part of the history of mankind, and let os pass on to the principal object of our attention.'
Tracing the progress of preaching through fuccceding ages, he says,
. For some time preaching was common to bishops, elders, deacons, and private brethren in the primitive church : in process, it was restrained to the bishop, and to such as he fould appoint. They called the appointment ordination, and at lalt attached I know
not what ideas of mystery and influence to the word, and of domi. nion to the bishop, who pronounced it. The word ordain was ori. ginally equal to appoint; and if (wenty Christians dominated a man io infíruci them once, the man was appointed or ordained a preacher for the time. If they requested him to continue to instruct them, he was reputed to be ordained or appointed their minister in future, as long as they pleased. These nominations were accompanied with prayer, and sometimes with the blessing and good wishes of the feniors, expressed by the old custom of laying the hand upon the head. From these simple transactions came in process of time a longer train of ab.urdities ihan I have soon to relate.
• When a bishop or preacher travelled, he claimed no authority to exercise the dveies of his function, unless he were invited by the chorches, where he attended public worthip. The primitive churches had no idea of a bishop at Rome presuming to dictate to a congregation in Africa. Norhing, however, was more common than such friendly visits and sermons as were then in practice. The churches thought them ed. fying. In case the bishop were fick, or absent, one of the deacons, or sometimes a short hand wri:er, used to read a homily, that had been preached, and perhaps publithed by fome good minister, and sometimes a honily, that had been preached by the bishop of the church.
• We have great obligations to primitive notaries, for they very early addressed themselves to take down the homilies of public preachers. Sometimes the hearers employed them, sometimes the preachers, and fometimes themselves. For this purpose they carried writing tablets waxed, and styles, that is, pointed irons, or gravers, into the assembly, and flood round the preacher to record what he faid. It was a character to a public speaker to be attended by these scribes ; for primitive Christians, never complaisant in matters of conscience, would not give themselves the trouble of taking down the fermons of a parriarch, if they did not like his preaching. They say to body would write after Atticus, patriarch of Conttantinople; for, though he had a great name, he was accounted but an indif., ferent preacher. The people thought once hearing enough of all conscience for a bad fermon. From the labours of these men, we derive many a huge folio.
• What a multitude of not impertinent questions might be asked bere! Can we ascertain the motives of all these writers :- Can we tell which are corrected copies !--Is it quite fair to determine the whole character of a preacher by one extempore effufion :- Were none of the writers in a hurry to get his own copy first to market, and are the most quick always the molt correct :- Are we sure the preacher spoke clearly, and had no hoarseness, no cold, no impediment?-Can we answer for the writer's quick hearing, or the people's filence? Fathers have been quoted as scripture : but fcripiure was not taken thus. They have been alleged in proof of every thing, and well they might! If the populace then resembled the populace now, the most nonsensical sermons were the moit saleable.
The deacons placed themselves round the pulpit, and before fermon one of them cried with a loud voice, Silence-hearken-or fonething amilar. This was repeated often, if neceffary; I lup:
pose at proper pauses, when the preacher stopped. Their manners were different from ours : but really our manners want some of their coftoms. It might do some drowsy folks good to be alarmed every five or ten minutes with Nind what you are about - Let us liftenAstend to the word of God.
· Some affirm, that all the primitive bishops preached in a gown, or a surplice, or a something, which Eusebius cails Tecni, and which he fays, St. John being a priest wore. Had S. John thought miladov necessary to a good fermon, he would have left in his writings some direction how God, who enjoined it, chose to have it made. The directions of Moses for the habits of Aaron are so plain, that any habit-maker could work by them to this day : but as for the apofle's miladcy, we know nothing about it. Eufebius picked up a scrap of a letter of one Polycrates, there he found milador, and there we leave it. It is not improbable, that fome good preachers might not have clothes fit to appear in, especially the itinerant brethren, such as the apostles, and others after them, who travelled and preached. Would it be wonderful, if a congregation had kept a decent clean habit, that would cover all, for the use of such poor men as came among them! The surplice was copied from the Jewish worship, and was, ordered to be worn by all who officiated in sacred things : bục this was in the latter part of this period, when preachers were become prielis in name, and princes in fact.'
• In this period many noble places of worship were built. The old Jewish temple was the original, the rest were all caken from it. We have felt the misery of abridging all along : but here it will be less obscure to omic than to abr dge. Let it, then, fuffice to observe, that a cathedral was an imitation of the temple, and a village place of worship of a synagogue. Hence the idea of a holy end for an altar and a circle of prieits, and an unhallowed end for the common people. Hence the divisions of porches, choirs, chancels, and so on, answering to the courts of the temple. The ambo, or pulpit, was in the choir. Some were portable, and very plain; others fixtores, stretching out lengthwise, so that the preacher might walk up and down in them; some had seats and curtains, others were adorned with gold and silver, and resembled the thrones of princes more than scaffolds for the convenience of Christian ministers So says Eurebius, censuring the vanicy of Paul of Samoseta. Hence came our modern cathedrals and parish churches, our choirs, and altars, and italls, and thrones in places of worship. Many of our churches and chapels are very inconvenient to preach in. They were not erected for Ichools of instruction : but for saying mass and facrificing, and where the pulpit should be, theče stands an old table covered with finery, and called an altar. In many places, the priest preaches from the middle of a side wall, or a pillar, to the backs and shoulders of his audience, for the pews were placed with a view to the altar, where formerly brother Mumpfimus used to play tricks, and not to the pulpit, where now a wise ana good minifter itands and preaches to a people, in search, it thould seem by their looking to the old spot, for their former guides. How long hall we sacrifice manly advan. : tages to puerile.popish baubles !
• Degenerate as these days were, compared with those of the apostles, they were golden ages in comparison with the times that followed. Some taught what they called positive theology, that is to say, compilations of theological opinions, collected from scripture, and fathers, and councils. Others went into scholaftical divinity, that is, confused and metaphysical reasonings, by which they pretended to explain the do&rines of religion. A third fort were all taken up with contemplations and inward feelings, and their divinity was myfticism. Even these were preferable to others, who read the categories of Aristotle, or the life of a saint, in the church, inItead of a fermon, and who turned the church, I will not say into a theatre, but into a booth at a country fair. The pulpit became a stage, where lodicrous priests obtained the vulgar laugh by the lowestkind of dirty wit, especially at the festivals of Chrismas and Easter. One of our old historians says, The devil was so pleased with the preachers of the eleventh century, that he sent them a letter of thanks from bell for the advantages wbich bis kingdom derived from their Pulpits.'
In describing the state of preaching in reformed countries, after paffing high encomiums on the first reformers, and on many Puritan and Nonconformist preachers (overlooking however many great names which have adorned the English church, and greatly contributed to the improvement of preaching], our Author thus laments the influence of civil authority on the clo. quence of the pulpit :
• In all reformed countries the pulpit was taken into the service of the state, and became a kind of attorney or solicitor-general retained to plead for the crown. The proof of this lies in the articles, canons, and injunctions, which were girded on the clergy of those times; and bow thoroughly the fate clergy bave underilood this to be the true condition of the pulpit, their sermons will abundantly prove. The best ftate instructions to preachers were given in the DIRECTORY by the assembly of divines : but even these include the great, the fatal error, the subjection of God's word to human law. If, when all other institutes were taken into the service of the state, the pulpit had escaped, it would have been wonderful indeed : but, if the pulpit be a place, and the preacher a perfioner, in the name of common sense, what are we to expect from boch!
• From this sad constitution we derive the lifelessness of later preaching. The ill-fated youth before he is aware finds himself bound co teach the opinions of a set of ministers, who lived two bundred years before he was born. His masters believed their own articles, and therefore preached them with zeal: but it would be unreasonable to expect a like zeal in him for the same doctrines, for he does not know what they are, or, having examined them, he does not think them true, and thus subscriprion to other men's creeds becomes the death of good preaching.'
After perusing these specimens of our Author's style and spirit, many of our Readers will, we apprehend, agree with us in regretting that, while in so good a cause he discovers such a laudable portion of the fortiter in re, he has not been able to