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exalt and ennobling shape the che emotion, som
ties which are to awaken intense emotion, as heavenly precepts which are to shape the character and guide the conduct, as ennobling and purifying influences which are to exalt and purify the soul and fit it for its eternal home. His discourses are on this account most likely to exert their fullest influence upon minds already possessing a high degree of spiritual culture, and prepared by their own experience to appreciate the aspirations and struggles and hopes which they so glowingly depict, and which they so forcibly urge upon the attention of every reader. They are, in general, trains of earnest and eloquent reasoning clothed in the most delicate hues of devout and spiritual sentiment, and are designed not so much to furnish rules for the conduct of life, as to lead the soul into a sterner discipline of its faculties and upward to a serener meditation of its immortal destiny.
We shall, however, do injustice to our author's habits both of thinking and of preaching, if we convey the impression that he is neglectful of practical truths, or disposed to turn away from themes which relate to daily life. Though most of the discourses in this volume are designed for particular occasions, yet they contain ample evidence that he is ready to make use of passing events, both public and private, in illustrating or enforcing the lessons of the Gospel. Of this character especially are those entitled : “ The Strong Staff and the Beautiful Rod," “ The Lessons of Calamity," and " The Prayer of the Church against those delighting in War.” The first of these was suggested by the death of a beloved and distinguished member of his parish, who was also his own early and long-tried friend, and contains not only a beautiful tribute to his memory as a man and a Christian, but also a touching exhibition of the lessons which bereavement may always teach to the sorrowing heart. The second was preached on the Sunday following the memorable explosion of one of the guns in the U. S. steamer Princeton in February, 1844, by which two members of the Cabinet and other distinguished citizens of the country lost their lives, and is an impressive recital of the admonitions which that extraordinary occurrence was fitted to suggest. And the third was prepared for the first Sabbath in the year 1847, while the country was engaged in war with a neighboring republic. In this discourse, without deciding upon the contest then waging, he allows that all war is not necessarily sinful, but with a just discrimination denounces the guilt of those who delight in war, and thus beautifully characterizes the prayer which the
church should unceasingly offer, for the scattering of these common enemies of human happiness and human improvement :
It is the prayer of the groaning conscience, sick of the horrors of a needless and unrighteous contest-the prayer of the outraged affections stung into keenest sympathy in the view of mourning families, and weeping and fatherless children, and bleeding afresh with each new incident of massacre and desolation brought in the journals of the contest-the prayer of Industry, driven from its wonted tasks, and taxed for aid it is loth to give—and the prayer of Humanity, acknowledging in the foe, plundered and defeated and dying, a man and brother. But it is above all the prayer of Christianity, anxious that as war was hushed at the Saviour's birth, to give to the new message of peace with Heaven a free course over the quiet nations, so now the cause of Missions may be no longer hindered by the outbreak of war, and the tumult of battle, but universal peace make ready the way of the Lord ; and that instead of a strife as to strength and a rivalry in the infliction and endurance of injury, the only contest may be the emulation of brothers, in the manifestation of mutual kindness, and in the service of a common Father--a common Brother and Redeemer. Mute Nature, speechless as she is before man, is not so before her Maker in this quarrel. The earth, from which cried the blood of the first-slain Abel, has it ceased to cry, as fresh victims watered it with their opened veins ? No; Earth, “ the creation made subject unto vanity not willingly," cries, “Lord, how long ?" And the church cries, Scatter, O Lord, the nations and the hosts, the parties and the cabinets that delight in war. (Pp. 379, 380.)
But we turn from this class of our author's discourses to those which relate to the character and offices of the Christian church, and the responsibilities and duties of its ministers and members. It is here, if we mistake not, that we find many of his favorite themes. To him the term church presents two different significations, the one “ comprising all the saints of all dispensations, before and since the incarnation, and embracing the whole sacramental host of God's elect, on either side the stream of death the dead, the living, and those yet unborn;" the other comprehending “a collection of individual disciples who come together in one place for the word and ordinances of Christ.” He also sometimes speaks of it as meaning the whole congregation of the living Faithful, of whatever name and in whatever country, who acknowledge Christ as their Head, and have submitted themselves to his holy ordinances. In one or another of these well authorized significations he directs our attention to the various attitudes and aspects of the Christian church, and sets it forth as the “Home and the Hope of the Free,” as the “School for Heaven,” as required by Divine injunctions to pray for its ministers and for the success of its missions in every land. Themes like these embrace many of the fun
the orders total of its worshundations, its high privi
damental elements of Christian duty, and while they draw us away from the fruitless and wearisome discussions with which the world is filled, concerning the organization of the church, the orders of its priesthood, the efficacy of its ordinances, and the ritual of its worship, they lead us to the contemplation of its enduring foundations, its unceasing offices, its everlasting mission to man, and the high privileges and solemn duties which rest upon every individual Christian, in consequence of his connection with it. In the meditations to which he thus invites us, we forget the narrow distinctions which now separate Christians, and are taught to catch new zeal, to quicken every energy and strengthen every hope from the anticipation of the future triumphs of a common faith and the ultimate union of the far scattered faithful in the world above.
Of the same general character is the discourse on “ Ministerial Responsibility.” He here presents to us an exalted and ennobling view of the office of the minister of righteousness, and associates with it a degree of responsibility, for the maintenance of the truth, for the spiritual welfare and progress of his flock, and for their final salvation, such as may well make a thoughtful man pause ere he assumes it, and tremble while he attempts to discharge it. There is however, pervading the discourse, an elevated and well sustained faith in the promises of Divine aid and strength, which may serve to bear up the Christian pastor even amid the dread responsibilities which rest upon him. “How vivid,” he exclaims, “ when viewed after such contemplations, how vivid in beauty and how vast the wealth of the promises which assure us the aid of the Spirit, and the workings of that Power by which the weak are made strong, and the foolish wise. Upon our Master we will cast ourselves. Often have we provoked him, but never has he spurned us. For the sake of his goodness, and his free and repeated forgiveness of our constant transgressions, will we endeavor to preserve our garments henceforth unspotted. Shall we loiter, or trifle, or engage in petty bickerings, or turn aside at the beck of sense or of pleasure ? God helping us, brethren, we will not; for behind us are heard the steps of the avenger of blood, before us gleam the crown of righteousness and the palm of victory, and the pealing anthems of the blessed are heard in the distance. No, we will quit the plain of worldly strife, of sensual and secular pursuits, and climb the rugged mount of communion and transfiguration. We will relax our grasp of the polluting and perplexing vanities of
ed to be de formal in b. Most of thage, and weleton
this life, that we may set our affection on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. We will move onward through the people of our charge, as those who shall lead or follow them to the grave, and meet them again in the judgment. We will pass along, intent on this one thing, the glory of God in the salvation of souls. We will be the men of one book, aiming to throw over the literature and the arts of life, over the scenes of business and retirement, over man in all stations and under every aspect, its hallowed light.”
In several of the discourses in this volume, which were designed to be delivered, we are not sure but Dr. Williams is somewhat too formal in his methods, for the best effect upon a promiscuous assembly. Most of them are framed in this respect after the models of an earlier age, and we think, might have been greatly improved, had the skeleton of the thought been less prominent, and especially had the numerals which indicate its several divisions been wholly omitted. We are aware that this principle is by no means an unquestioned one, and that high authorities may be cited against it. We are also very free to confess that its application in the present instance is less needful than in most sermons with which we are acquainted. The thought here flows on in its own strong though placid current in spite of the interruptions which these numerical divisions interpose, and we are often so fascinated with the charming rhythm of the sentences and the rapt fervor of spirit which they express, as to be quite unmindful of the numbers which are assigned to the new branches of the subject on which we are invited to enter. But we are apprehensive that of those who may adopt these sermons as models, few will be as successful as our author in escaping the bad consequences of thus allowing the skeleton of their thought to be so frequently exposed to view; and it is for them rather than for him that we venture to suggest a caution against the practice, now perhaps less common than it has hitherto been, of exposing the whole method of a pulpit discourse, and presenting in full array all the various divisions and subdivisions of the thought which it embodies.
We have thus, far more hurriedly than we could wish, adverted to the leading features, both of thought and style, which characterize these Miscellanies, and to here and there a subject which is discussed in their pages. We feel assured that they will be favorably received by the public, and be read very widely in all circles where the themes of spiritual truth are able to interest the minds of men. As we turn away from their consideration, we cannot refrain from expressing the hope that we may ere long again meet their excellent author in some work of higher and more enduring interest than Miscellanies can ever possess. Should he, as we have already intimated, listen to the solicitation of his brethren, and attempt the history of our own denomination whose faith has been so often traduced and persecuted, he will render a service of the highest value to the cause of truth and learning. He will be correcting errors which are fast growing inveterate by the lapse of time, and will rescue from obscurity and obloquy many a name which ought to be associated only with honor. He will thus rear in the broad field of American literature, a worthy monument to the character of a denomination whose principles and toils and sufferings, through the successive ages of their progress, have contributed some of the noblest elements to the freedom of the American people.
In the prospectus of the present volume of the Christian Review it has been announced that no essential change as to character and aims is to be inferred from the circumstance of its removal from Boston to New-York. The sphere to which a Quarterly Review belongs is too high and comprehensive to be disturbed by influences arising from local peculiarities and interests. It matters little where such a journal is published, if only it be at a point favorable to its general circulation. It had become the purpose of its late proprietor and editor, who with praiseworthy devotion had sustained it during the last year through many difficulties, to part with his interest in it, and give his labors to other pursuits. Under these circumstances, it was proposed to the present proprietors to take its responsibilities upon their hands,—a charge which they have assumed with the distinct purpose of sustaining the Review at a high grade, and making it worthy the support which it asks from its friends in every section of the country.
It is with this view that the editor and those associated with him have consented to link their names and labors with its destiny. It is needless for them to say that their interest
any did other he presa