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The vault of heaven, on ei:her fide,
A solemn pause.
For CHRIST, a precious CHRIST! is all in all! Of the whole doctrine and spirit of this puritanical produca tion [N. B. to prevent mistakes, we give no:ice that we make use of the word puritanical, not as à term of obloquy, but merely as a distinguishing appellation), and of others of the same kind, the Author has furnished us with a good refutation in the following conference between Mr. Clement and John the footman :
“ Well, but, John, do you not think real religion as necessary for you, and for the meaneit servant in the family, as it is for me, and even for Euphrastus himself? You are greatly mistaken if you think any of us can be truly happy without it."
“ To be sure," replied John, " we should all of us be good : and I think we may be all good without so much reading and praying. Beldes I have a very bad memory, and cannot get so many prayers by heart as I believe many of the fervants have in this family. I have overheard Hortensius, and two or three more of you several times ; but you have always a different form, “ You sometimes, indeed, make use of the Lord's Prayer ; but even this is said different ways; and I wonder, for my part, where you could get so many prayers, and how you can remember them all. But it may be, oa this account you think yourselves better than other folk.---Perhaps, however, you may be mistaken. Others' may be as good who do not pray half so much, no: half so often as you do !”
“ Yes, John, that is very true ; we might do with less of the form, had we more of the power. Bat, you may depend upon it; he that lives without prayer, lives without God in the world!”
“ And do you think,” says John, " that I am one of them ! Pray don't be so uncharitabl: !"
Well said, John! Good advice, and well timed ! Whatever your master, or his parson, may say to the contrary, maintain it as long as you live, that others may be as good, who do hot pray half so much nor half lo ofien as they do.:" for you may read it in your Bible, that “ Pure religion and undefiled bea fore God, is-not hearing long sermons or saving long prayers but, visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world; or in other words, keeping ourselves sober and honest, and doing all the good we can."
Art. IV. An Essay on the Composition of a Sermon. Translated from
the original French of the Rev. John Claude, Minister of the French Reformed Church at Charenton. With Notes. By Robert Robinfon. 2 Vols.
8vo. 12 s. Boards. Fletcher, Cambridge. Buckland, London. 1779.
HE Art of Preaching, from the nature of the objects on
which it is employed, and the importance of the ends which it is intended to answer, so well deserves, and, after all the varieties of forms in which it has been practised in different ages, is so capable of farther improvements, that every judicious attempt to place it on its true foundation, to deduce its laws from rational principles, to point out the defects which have attended, and ftill attend, the practice of it, and to render it of more general utility, merits the attention of the Public. In the work here translated, though the rational divine will not meet with such a complete and philofophical difcuffion of the subject as he might wish ; though he will probably think many of the rules here laid down, rather adapted to support a particular system of faith, and encourage mysticism in religion, than to direct the labours of the moral and practical preacher, he will nevertheless meet with much good advice, which a judicious understanding and improved taste may apply to great advantage in the composition and delivery of sermons.
This publication, however, derives its principal value from the original notes which the Translator has fubjoined, in which, somewhat after the manner, though not in the spirit of Bayle, he has introduced a great variety of remarks and quotations, which' answer a better purpose than that of elucidating the text, affording the reader much valuable information and agreeable entertainment. These notes are exceedingly miscellaneous, consisting of pertinent examples of the beauties or faults of preaching, from various writers, and these many of them little known, curious and often humorous anecdotes, fenfible reflections, and bold and free strokes of satire. From this miscellany we could, with pleasure, select many amusing articles; but we chuse rather to fill up the space which we can allot to this work, with a few extracts from the Translator's introductory essays, from which it will appear that he writes with great boldness of language, and with all the zeal of a reformer.
To the first volume Mr. Robinson has prefixed the life of Mr. Claude, where he introduces many reflections on ecclesialtical power, in which, if there be much keenness, and sometimes a small portion of acrimony, it muft be acknowledged that there is likewise some truth. On the subject of religious Liberty he makes the following spirited remarks:
« The union of all Chriftian congregations in one grand corporate body is a godlike design. The author of Christianity profelied to aim at making all his followers one fold' under one rhepherd; and, had officious human folly let divine wisdom alone, union had been effected long ago. The idea has Aruck all mankind. Princes and prelates, civilians and divines have all attempted to produce union. Not a foul of them has succeeded; and, we will venture to affirm, the man will never be born, who can succeed on their principles. They have retained the end: but loft fight of the original means of effecting it. All other means soft or sanguinary, papal, epifcopal and fynodical, controverfial or pecuniary, all have divided Christians more and more, and widened those breaches, which they pretended to heal. This rage of union was the foul of the feventeenth century, and it convulsed and distorted the body, as fouls agitated by violent confliding passions transform the features of an incarnate angel into the face of a fiend.
• The true original remedy for all these ills is the restoration of that PRIMITIVE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY, which the Saviour of the world bestowed on his first followers. It was equal and universal. Church power was velted in the people, and the exercise of it limited to each congregation. So many congregations, so many little ftates, each governed by its own laws, and all independent on one another. Like confederate ftates, they assembled by deputies in one large ecclefiaftical body, and deliberated about the common interests of the whole. The whole was unconnected with secular affairs; and all their opinions amounted to no more than advice devoid of coercion. Here was an union. Liberty was the object, and love was the bond. It was an evil day, when princes hired the church for a ftanding army, and everlasting lame must cover the faces of those ecclesialtics, who, like Judas, made their master a marketable commodity. Princes affected to be as wife as Solomon, and set lions to guard the steps of their thrones: but they had not penetration equal to the Jewih monarch ; his lions could not bite: but theirs have devoured the creators of their being, elevation and form.' Again, he says,
Whether the fourth community, of which we now speak, came from the valleys of Piedmont, or whether it originated among those reformers, who, confiftent with their own principles, made pore scripture the rale of reformation, it is certain, some fociecies appeared, very early, advocates for congregational church-government, The churches included both Baptifts and Independents. Some, as the Brownists, ran liberty into licentiousness; and others, as Robiason in Holland, and Jacob in England, sometimes explained, and arranged, and at other times rather cramped matters : but all held the grand principle of self-government, and the absolute independ. ence of each congregation on any exterior jurisdiction. Here, as in all safe civil societies, the bases and principles of good government are held. Individuals are born free, each with liberty to dispose of himself. Several individuals congregated, carry together separats power, and deposit it in any degree, more or less, as the whole think fit, in one aggregate fum, in one or more hands for the public goud. Oficers, chosen by all to hold and dispense this delegated power,
are in trust only, consequently responsible to their conftituents, and all their power is conitiincionally revertible to the source, whence it came, on abuse of the trutt, or at the demise of the trullee. As all this butiness is spiritual, power extends over only fpiritualities. Life, liber:y, property, credit, and so on, are all injured in another office, entrusted in other hands, under the cale of civil governors. Here then is religious liberty. Various churches enjoy it in various degrees: but in those churches, where infants are excluded, and where all are volunteers, where each fociety pleaserh itself and injures nobody, where in position is not known, and where blind submillion cannot be borne ; where each sociery is a separate family, and all together a regular confederacy, unpaid for believing, and far from the fear of futtering; there does religious liberty reign. We enjoy this liberty in Britain. It seems good to our civil governors ta oblige us to purchase it by a resignation of some of our civil birthrights. We think this hard. However, we pay the price, and enjoy the purchase.
• This fort is more than tenable, it is invincible. Grant us vox populi vox Dei; only allow the le Ple to be the source of power, and we have a with equal to that of Archimedes, and as much more glorious as the dignity of directing the world of spirit is superior to chat of guiding the motion of matter. Farewell popery, prelacy, presbytery, I have understanding as well as you. My Creator gave me ability to judge for myself. My Redeemer brought a charter from Heaven to confirm my right of doing so, and gave me a rule to guide the exercise of my right in the exercise of this right I may be holy and happy. The universe can do no more for me.'
These thort extracts may be sufficient to give our Readers an idea of Mr. Robinson as a zealous champion for religious Liberty
We now proceed to take notice of the differtation on Preaching prefixed to the second volume, which the Author informs his readers is only a sketch of a larger work, “ An Essay towards the History of Public Preaching ;” a plan which, it seems, he has laid aside, but which he appears so well qualified to execute, that we cannot, but with be may find sufficient inducements to resume the undertaking.
In this sketch, Mr. Robinson traces the progress of preaching, in its several forms, through every age of the world.Speaking of the scribes which were employed in the later ages of the Jewish church to copy the law, he says,
• Wiring, reading, giving a sense of what is written, studying to find out a true sense to give, and proving and supporting the sense given, go together, and scribes naturally became Audious, difpulacious, and learned inen. Ezra, the reformer of the church at the return from captivity, was the most eminent of his profession, a riady kiribe in the law of his God.
: This man laid the foundation of reformation in Peligious principle, and he relted religious principle on that infallible rock, the word of God. In order to lay a firm and good ground of this, he collected and collated manuscripts of the sacred writings, added a few explanatory lines, and a few anecdotes (himself was inspired), and arranged and published the holy canon in its present form. To this he adaed a second work, as necessary as the former; he revived, and new modelled public preaching, and exemplified his plan in his own person. The Jews had almost lost in the seventy years captivity their original language, that was now become a dead language, and they spoke a jargon made up of their own language, and that of the Chaldeans, and other nations, with whom they had been con,, founded. Formerly preachers had only explained subjects : now they were obliged to explain words, words which in the sacred code were become obsolete, equivocal, or dead.
Now also it became more necessary than ever to open houses for popular instruction in towns all over the country, after the pattern of the schools of the old prophets. Accordingly, houses were erected, not for ceremonial worship, as sacrificing, for this was confined to the temple: but for moral obedience, as praying, preach. ing, reading the law, divine worlhip, and tocial duties. These houses were called fynagogues, the people repaired bither morning and evening for prayer; and on Sabbaths and festivals the law was read and expounded to them. It is with a great deal of justice that learned men ascribe the following Jewish avertion to ido'atry, and their attachment to the law, to cuaitant public preaching in their synagogues. :: We have a short, but beautiful description of the manner of Ez. ra's firtt preaching. Upwards of fifty thousand people affembled in a street, or large square, near the Wate gate. It was early in the morning of a Sabbath day. A pulpit of wond, in the fashion of a small cower, was placed there on parpose for the preacher, and this turret was supported by a scaffold, or temporary gallery, where, in a wing on the right hand of the pulpit, sat fix of the principal preachers, and in another on the left feven. Thirteen other principal reachers, and many Levites, were present also, on Icaffolds erected for the purpose, alternately to oticiare. When Ezra ascended the pulpit, he produced and opened the book of the law, and the whole congregation initantly rose up from their seats, and stood. Then he offered up prayer and praise to God, the people bowing their heads, and worshipping the Lord with their faces to the ground; and at the close of the praver with uplif.ed hands they folemnly pronounced Amen, Amen. Then, all ttanding, Ezra afi'ted at times by the Levites, read the law dislinetly, gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. The sermons delivered so affecied the hearers, that they wepo excessively, and about noon the sorrow be. came so exuberant and immeasurable, that i: was thought necessary by the governor, the preacher, and the Levites to restrain it. They, therefore, reminded the congregation--that a just grief might run into excess—that there was an incongruity between a feitival and lamentation--and that on this festival, there were fingular causes of extraordinary joy, they were delivered from captivity, the law was reitored, and they, the very poorelt of them, had been made by the pains of the preachers to understand it. Go your way, said ihey, iqt the fat-drink the sweet--fend portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared.-Be not discouraged-religious joy is a people's strength.