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ARTICLE XI. Sermons on Various Subjects. By Henry Colman. Boston, pub

lished by J. W. Burditt. T. B. Wait, printer.' 1820. PP. 367. A volume of Sermons from a living author is a rare gift to the Christian public, which ought not to pass unnoticed. A very large proportion of the original works, published in our country, are upon theological subjects, and single sermons and short treatises are abundant. But few have been found bold enough or industrious enough to send from the press a volume of discourses, which having been written hastily, for the ordinary instruction of their people, could only with the greatest labor be prepared for the eye of the reader. Most of those volumes, therefore, which are to show the theological and literary character of our ministers, have come forth under all the disadvantages of posthumous publication ; and although we have no reason to be mortified on their account, especially since amongst them are the sermons of Buckminster, undoubtedly some of the best which the world has produced ; yet we are compelled to make constant allowances, as we read them, and are left to conjecture what they might have been if they could have been completed by their authors. We

are glad to meet with an exception in the volume before us, which will be found in no respect discreditable to the religious or literary character of our community, and which we hope will meet a circulation equal to its merits.

The sermons are twenty three in numbet, all upon important subjects, and for the most part of a practical character. In this respect they are a fair representation of the general preaching of that class of ministers to which the author belongs ; who do not so much make themselves busy with the speculative opinions of their hearers, as with those subjects of personal character and principles of holy living, which may tead to solid, vigorous, permanent habits of piety and virtue. So far as error or truth in points of doctrinal theology affects this grand and primary object, so far they are insisted on, explained, and recommended or refuted in the pulpit; but further than is necessary to this end, they are thought improper to be treated before a mixed congregation, many of whom are incapable of fairly entering into the argument, and most of whom probably need more to be impressed with the infinite importance of religion and of duty, and excited to personal interest in the affairs of the soul, than to be instructed in those speculations about which theologians are contending. These may be learned from books, in calm and sober retirement; and may be discussed in confidential conversation, where there is room to explain, illustrate, and guard against misapprehension. They are proper subjects of private study, where they may be investigated fairly, the arguments on every side examined, and the open Bible be at hand, by which all may be tested. Serious inquirers may thus be instructed and improved. But there would be little edification to the majority of the flock from the introduction of such discussion into the pulpit ; and to refrain from it altogether, would not be keeping back any thing that is profitable.

There are only four discourses in this volume, which can in any proper sense be termed doctrinal, and these, in conformity to the remark we made above, may with more strict propriety be spoken of as containing practical views of doctrinal truths. The first of these is that on the miraculous character of Jesus ; a few extracts from which may serve to show the manner in which Unitarian preachers are accustomed to speak of their master, and in what terms of exalted honor they assert his authority.

Every christian must be deeply solicitous to form just appreben. sions of the character of Jesus ; neither to ascribe to him attributes which he would himself have disclaimed ; nor to derogate from that transcendant dignity, which belongs to him. We acknowledge with the great apostle, that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God; we earnestly desire to receive him in the elevated character, in which he claims to be received. It is pot an inquiry of small moment, whetner Jesus Christ is merely an extraordinary teacher and popular reformer, dissinguished above bis contemporaries, only by a superior sigacity and greater purity of life and mappers ; or a direct messenger from the Deity ; whether liis instructions are the sug. gestions of human reason, or the oracles of the living God; whether bis ductrines and precepts are recommended only by common sense, expediency, sell interest, or experience ; or whether they have descended from heaven, arrayed in all the majes y of their sublime original."

“ Let us, my friends, often and seriously examine our religious sentiments. It is not a matter of gmall moment what we believe. Our views in respect to the proper character of christianity and its divine author, musi materially affect our conduct and happiness. The influence and extension of the religion in the world are essentially concerned in them. To receive the gospel only as a 'useful system of moral duty, and as an agreeable and wise theory of religious icistruction ; or, on the other hand, to regard it as a miraculous reve. lation from God, as a system of religious doctrine dictated by his inspiration, a rule of inoral duiy sanctioned by his express authority, and a disclosure of the final destiny of mankind made by his immediate illumination, are very different sentiments. To cousider Jesus Christ as a wise and good man, however pre-eminent, or to honor bim as an inspired teacher and miraculous messenger from God, are sentiments altogether dissimilar in their practical results, in the temper which they inspire, and the conduct to which they lead.

• God forbid. Christians, that our faith should be in any respect onworthy of the religion which we profess; or that our sentiments concerning Jesus bis son should not correspond with the peculiar ostices and the unrivalled dignity, with which God has invested him: For God has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name ; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow ; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."*

Of the other doctrinal discourses, two are connected in subject, being from the text, Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling ; for it is God who worketh in you both lo will and to do of his good pleasure. Phil. i. 12, 13. In the first of these is considered the power of man in regard to his salvation. Having noticed the plea of inability, by which many seek to excuse their irreligion, who “ pretend they do not, because they cannot, do as they would ;" our author remarks, that there certainly is a degree of weakuess in human nature, which renders man insufficient to attain the summit of moral perfection, without aid from God, and that this aid will be atforded only to those who are faith

pp. 84, 85.

* Phil. ii. 9-11.

fully laboring to do what they have the power to do. “We are not," he

says, 66 of the number of those, who assert that man is in no degree in these things dependant on God; nor of those, who represent him as a mere machine, incapable of voluntary motion, to be acted upon by an external and miraculous influence. In the formation of his moral character, we believe that man can do something, though we pretend not that he can do every thing; and that God will do much, I would speak with rereverence, though he will not do all." These are the general sentiments which the two discourses are designed to explain. The first of them treats separately of man's power, and of his duty in this respect; which are evidently relative terms, and never would have been imagined to be separable, except for the strange perversions of reason to which the pride of buman system has given rise. He first shows, that man's power to avoid sin is great, by an appeal to the representations of scripture, and to the conscience and experience of men; though he acknowledges that it is a power which may be weakened and even destroyed, by indulgences of sinful passions and desires. He then, by an appeal to the conscience and experience of his hearers, convinces them, that they have the further power of practising virtue and improving in holiness. We cannot forbear quoting this passage, which seems to us most powerful, and must have made strong impression on those to whom it was personally addressed.

“We next inquire, what is the power of man in regard to the prac. tice of virtue, and his improvement in holiness? We appeal again to your personal experience. Will any then confidently aver, ihat he cappot acquire the virtues, which his religion inculcates ; nor discharge his personal and relative duties? Will any one justly pretend that he cannot extend his knowledge of his duties, his interests, and his relations to another world and to God? Cannot every man en. lighten and invigorate his christian faith and bope ; and render the principles of religion more familiar to his mind; and give them a commanding influence over his conduct? Cannot every man learn the art of self-government, and acquire the regulation of his thoughts, desires, and passions, so that ibey may fow in the chaonel of innocence and usefulness? Is there any one, who cannot cultivate a spirit of kindness, forgiveness and gratitude? Will any man pretend that he cannot love God; nor become resigned to his will; nor cherish a filial confidence in his perfect wisdom aod infinite goodness? Has not every man reason and conscience, the discerner, and judge, and guide of duty ? Have not all of us peculiar and numerous advantages and means of knowledge, motives, and opportunites for improvement in wisdom and holiness ? and when did any one seriously attempt to acquire a knowledge of bis duty, apply himself to the various sourNew Series-vol. II.

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ces of information, and use the numerous helps which are afforded for this purpose, without attaining the object of his pursuit ? When did any man resolutely undertake the improvement of bis character, give himself to refirction, to sell examination, to prayer, to the study of the scriptures, and to the society of good men, to the regular observance of the institutions of religion, to the practice of self-denial and self-government, to the strict discipline of his understanding, alfections, words, and conduct, and not advance with a swift progress in goodness ? These inquiries need no reply ; you cannot doubt, that in these respects your power is adequate to your duties." pp. 162–164.

The other part of the subject, man's duty, is treated with equal force and solemnity. The object of the discourse, our readers perceive, is entirely practical ; not an examination and discussion and overthrow of theoretical and metaphysical difficulties, by which theologians have contrived to embarrass the subject; but a simple appeal to the obvious language of revelation, and to the conscience and common sense of man, which show him at once that God has given him the ability to do good, and will consequently require it of him ;-which is better than a thousand arguments to confute the pernicious notion that man is unable to do any thing, and must therefore wait till it pleases God to endow him supernaturally with the power. This we conceive to be the right way of combatting erroneous doctrine from the pulpit; the only profitable mode, because the only one that can in most cases be understood, and certainly the only one which will at the same time convince the understanding and affect the life.

In the next sermon a similar method is pursued. The opinion which the writer maintains respecting the doctrine of spiritual assistance, and the connexion of this with the preceding discourse, may be best shown from the words of the Introduction.

“ The scriptures hold out the promise of aid, illumination and guidance from heaven. They often speak of the spirit of God, and of a divine influence on the human mind and character. We confide in this doctrine, and rejoice in it, as affording the bighest encouragement to sincere and hunble virtue. Alihough man, through the goodness of God, possesses within bimself a power sufficient for the discharge of the requisitions, which are made on him; yet, at his best estate and in his highest advances, he is ignorant and imperfect. To him nothing can be more essential and desirable than the succour and direction of ihat Being, who is almighty and infallible. It is one of the cardinal excellences of Christianity, that it teaches this doctrine ; and assures us of this aid; and explains the mode of its communication, is far as is useful, and perhaps as far as is possible, for us to apprehend it.” pp. 171, 172.

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