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most distinguished and successful servant, are justified by any new facts or altered circumstances of modern times. If so, it would be a service of no ordinary value to the Church, if some experienced member of the Christian ministry would explain, and make it evident, when, and how, and to what extent, these commands of Christ have been modified by the changes of later centuries. The question, I am sure, ought not to be left in its present position; for even the elder children of our schools can perceive the difference between the lessons of the Gospels and Epistles, and the lessons of the pulpit of the present day. We find in Theodore Parker's Autobiography, that this discrepancy was among the most potent causes of his early scepticism. He remarks,—“It did not appear to me that the New England clergy were leaders in the moral or religious progress of the people; if they tried to seem so, it was only in appearance.
Do you think our minister would dare to tell his people of their actual faults ?' said a blacksmith to me one day. Certainly I do,' was my boyish answer. 'Humph!' rejoined the man, 'I should like to have him begin then!'"*
But I have now spoken of only three classes of hearers, who are in a great measure forgotten in most modern sermons. There is a fourth, of a totally different kind, and it is the current neglect of this class by most preachers of the Gospel which has chiefly induced me to write this paper. The persons of whom I wish to speak were thus described, sixty years ago, by Mr. Cecil. “I have met with one
my ministry, very frequent and very distressing. A man says to me, 'I approve all you say. I see things to be just as you state them. I see a necessity, a propriety, a beauty in the religion of Christ. I see it to be interesting and important. But I do not feel it. I cannot feel it. I have no spirit of prayer. My heart belies my head : its affections refuse to follow my convictions.'”+
If Mr. Cecil described this case as one of “very frequent occurrence in his day, what must it be now? In his time, the Evangelical clergy of London might be a score : now they are seven or ten times as numerous. To be “a Methodist” in 1804 was a reproach: now, on what Exchange, in what railway. train, are there not many who in 1804 would have been called by that name? The laity, in the Church, professing Evangelical religion, are tens of thousands, where, in Mr. Cecil's day, there were scarcely tens of hundreds.
The class of hearers, then, whom I am endeavouring to indicate, are indeed very numerous. Yet how seldom, how very seldom, do we find them addressed from the pulpit! Mr. Harington Evans described them, on one occasion, as "not
* Autobiography, vol ii., p. 450.
† Remains, p. 355.
within the Ark, but always hanging about the door.” Yet who ever attempts to persuade them to come in?
Very commonly their existence is ignored. The fact is strongly urged, that a man must either be “ in Christ” or "out of Christ.” The judgment-day is referred to, when there will be only “the sheep on the right hand, and the goats on the left.” Then the preacher will go on to say, " Every unconverted man in his heart says to God, Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways.'” To which some hearts are always ready to answer,
"That is not true.' Those preachers who are fond of dividing their congregations into two classes, should bear in mind the parable of the Sower. Two at least of the four classes of hearers are described as
receiving the word with joy.” It would be inaccurate, then, to describe even the stony-ground hearer as a rejecter of the word; or as saying to God, “ Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways."
More commonly, however, these hearers are treated with lectures on moral ability or inability, which I always hear with great regret. Thus Mr. Henry Ward Beecher, in one of his published sermons, asks such hearers as I have described,
Why do you not stand upon your own power,—or rather upon God's power which works within yours,—and become a Christian by your own volition, just as you become a lawyer, a physician, or a scholar?” Thus, too, I once heard an eminent Baptist minister near the Regent's Park assure his unconverted hearers, that whenever they chose to turn to God,--that night, or the next, or the next week, it was perfectly open to them to do so; they had only to resolve upon it, and the thing was done. Thus, too, in one of the Religious Tract Society's books, I met with a portrait of “ The undecided man,” who was pourtrayed as not a Christian, merely because he would not decide upon being one. But then, on the other side, I have listened to long and earnest addresses from the pulpit, directed to prove to the hearers, the utter impossibility of their doing anything whatever in the matter of their salvation: and Ï have felt assured that the chief effect of such a sermon would be, to send some persons home in a state of helpless despair, tending to expose them to all the world's temptations. In all these sermons, just described, there was much truth; but when I fixed my eye on one of the persons described by Mr. Cecil, I could not help feeling, “Here is nothing suited to your case.
I have been struck, also, with the great and manifest disproportion that exists, between the interest shown in behalf of "the Anxious," and that shown (or rather not shown) in behalf of those who are not anxious. Mr. James's “ Anxious In.
* Vide Article XVII.
quirer" has been sold and given away by hundreds of thousands. Now we have Dr. Bonar's book, to surpass or supersede Mr. James's. More then ten such books have been given away, for every “anxious inquirer” that could be found. But while all this was going on, a far more numerous class has been wholly neglected. Thousands of times has “ James's Anxious Inquirer” been turned over by men, who have said to themselves with a sigh, “Ah! there is nothing here for me; I am not anxious,-I only wish I were !”
An obvious inconsistency, too, is apparent here. Although most of those who write and distribute such books are Calvinists, they show more solicitude about persons in whose hearts the Holy Spirit is believed to be working, than about those of whom this cannot be hoped. Much more in conformity with his own principles was the conduct of a Calvinistic minister thirty years ago, when requested to visit a dying person. He asked, if the sick man were a child of God? and when assured that he was, answered, " Then I need not go,-Christ will take care of him.” I am not bound to defend this conduct; but I may remark, that in a shipwreck we should naturally feel less solicitude about a man who had grasped a rope from shore, than for another who was still struggling with the waves. Now the really anxious inquirer is apparently under the Spirit's teaching; and “He who hath begun a good work” will finish it in His own time. But those who are only “hanging about the door” are neither hopeful, nor yet without hope ; and it might have been supposed that to their case especially all eyes would have been directed.
And this is what I chiefly aim at in this paper. I repeat, that the class of hearers to whom I am endeavoring to draw attention is an exceedingly numerous one :—far more nume rous, I am sure, than all the “anxious” of all shades and degrees. I repeat also, that they are nearly overlooked, or neglected, by most preachers with whom I have come in contact. I cannot help thinking that it is at least a reasonable surmise, that ore would be found here, beneath the surface, which would well repay the searcher's labour.
Another point on which I desire to add a few words is this :- Whenever I have happened to hear, in a sermon, some hesitating approach to this class of hearers, it has always taken a form concerning which I have felt a doubt. Admitting that there may be those present who neither contemn, nor yet receive, the Gospel, they, this third class, have generally been exhorted to effort, to action. And I know that the response of their hearts will have been, “We have no power : you are urging us to rise from the earth, to fly; but we tell you that we have no wings. Show the tortoise the pigeon rapidly circling through the air, and exhort him to emulate that
example; and when you succeed in getting him to spring up from the earth, then will we, too, strive to rise as on eagles' wings to God.” Now, one constant reference, when treating on these subjects, is to Ezekiel xxxvii. And we must not overlook the fact, that the prophet, addressing the dry bones, never exhorts them to action, but says,"Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.” " Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
Our reference, surely, for the decision of all such questions as this, must be to Scripture; and chiefly, perhaps, to the Acts of the Apostles. How did Peter and Paul, and the rest of those men who were "filled with the Holy Ghost,”—how did they address the people? If it be objected, that they spoke to heathens, and the clergy of our day to professing Christians, I answer, that this distinction is in a great measure illusory. In how few congregations of a thousand people can the pastor now aver that he is personally acquainted with so many as an hundred decided Christians? Yet what does he do to touch the consciences of the nine hundred? Too frequently he preaches to the one hundred, either solely, or for the most part. Yet surely a chief part of his time and thoughts should be directed to “save some out of the bulk of those practical heathens who assemble, Sunday by Sunday, to listen to him.
How did the apostles address their hearers? Did they not almost always charge their sins upon them, in the first and principal place ? It may be replied, that, in his first sermon, Peter exhorted his hearers to repent; and therefore implied that they had the power to repent. But this is an erroneous statement. First of all, he charged his hearers with being guilty of a cruel murder. “Him ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”
n." The Holy Ghost made his words effectual ; the hearers “were pricked in their heart, and cried out ;" and then Peter added, “Repent ye, and be baptised.” So, in his next sermon, he begins in the same strain,—“Ye have killed the Prince of Life!” As to Cor
“ nelius, he was already under Divine teaching before Peter came to him. So was the Philippian jailor, who cried out, “What must I do ?” before Paul replied, “Believe !” the Athenians, and Felix, Paul's preaching to them was of "righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.'
To resume,—the class of whom I am speaking know the Gospel already, and their minds and judgments approve it. What they really need—what they must have, if they are ever to be saved-is conviction of sin. The apostles, it is quite clear, aimed to produce this conviction of sin, in the first place. In fact, till a man knows and feels himself to be sick, and like to die, he will do nothing with the medicine, but trifle and talk about it.
I am quite aware that I am dealing with a question involved in difficulty,--a question which even Richard Cecil saw not how to clear up. - Still, I feel that it requires and deserves study. Errors concerning it are rife at the present day. While I am penning these lines, an attempted solution is put into my hands, in a religious periodical, edited by a minister of the Gospel. Describing his own difficulties when beginning his Christian course, he says of an elder minister, whom he consulted :-" He talked to us of the cross, of Jesus, of his finished work, of simple child-like faith in the great Redeemer; to all which we replied that we had no doubt that all he had said was God's truth, but after all we did not feel right. He explained, reasoned and expostulated, and at length concluded with the remark, that we did not want the Lord Jesus Christ to be our Saviour-we wished to make a Saviour of our feelings. We were rather startled at this assertion, and inclined to be indignant; but he put us to the test and said, 'You say you believe in Jesus, that He loved you, and died for you, and made full and complete propitiation for your sins. Well, if this be so,could you trust your soul for eternity upon that finished work alone, if God were now to call you away? After solemn thought we answered, ‘No. He then added, “If you
' felt better, if you were satisfied that your feelings were all good and right, could you then trust your soul to His finished work?' Without any hesitation we quickly answered in the affirmative, and said, 'Yes!' Then said he,"Is it not evident
‘ that your peace, comfort, satisfaction, and safety in that case would spring, not from
not from your faith in what the Lord has done for your soul, but from your own feelings, and that thus Christ would profit you nothing? He would be of no real advantage to you. Your own heart would be your Saviour?' The light began to break in upon the thick darkness, and we saw that we had been looking into our own feelings for peace and safety, instead of looking out to the Cross.”
Here the main difficulty is glossed over and evaded. A man's mind, as in the case described by Mr. Cecil, may be thoroughly satisfied of the truth and reality of the Gospel scheme; while his heart remains as cold and hard as ever. I could point out several families in which there are earnest, warm-hearted followers of Christ; and also others, brothers or sisters, who hate and despise the Gospel, and are ready to take up Rationalism or Tractarianism, or any other antagonistic system. But between these two there stand others, who side with the first class in argument, but show no signs of a changed heart. Will a minister of the Gospel say to these latter, -"You ought to believe that Christ died distinctly to