صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني






In commencing the republication of SERMONS, by the most popular English Divines, calculated to promote the exercise of FAMILY DEVOTIon, we feel assured that the name and auspices of Your Ladyship are alike fitted to advance the success of the design. Exhibiting in Yourself an example of the Christian virtues these volumes are intended to inculcate, and which the good of all ranks delight to honour, we trust Your Ladyship will accept this Dedication, as an offering of profound respect.

Whilst placing this work before Your Ladyship, we cannot but express our most earnest desire, that it may have the effect of multiplying in others, those exhibitions of Christian benevolence which are so happily displayed in Your person, and that it may lead many, whose station, like Your Ladyship’s, confers on them the power of doing eminent service by

[ocr errors]

their example, to labour with similar zeal in the cause of practical piety and religious truth. When the great and noble add to their claims on our esteem those which result from the graces of personal character, it becomes a duty to express, on every occasion, our highest admiration. It is a tribute which individuals, and the world, owe to those who so greatly influence the most important sources of social happiness, and who, when they are seen employing their wealth and power in kindly diffusing comfort and pecuniary support to the afflicted and distressed, merit the veneration, as well of those who behold, as of those who enjoy their bounty. In accordance with these principles, we venture, with feelings of the sincerest gratitude, to lay before Your Ladyship this first Volume of our series of Family DIVINITY.


MARCH, 1829.



THE biography

of men eminent for their piety, and for their exertions in the cause of truth, furnishes the members of the Christian Church with a fruitful source of counsel and consolation. If the experience of ordinary life give to the old the valuable ability of admonishing the young, much more does the knowledge of truth, acting long and powerfully upon the heart, enable its possessor to direct or comfort us with his recollections. The man of letters, the artist, and the soldier, are each in the commencement of their career encouraged by the history of those who have preceded them. A general bond of sympathy unites all who are engaged in similar pursuits; and hopes are increased, and difficulties more resolutely surmounted, when the common experience is resorted to in seasons of discouragement. That which is true in these cases applies equally to Christians, who make the perfection of their faith and hope the object of existence. The example of Christ and his Apostles speaks with a divine and commanding eloquence: it is a part of the great and perfect Gospel which exhorts and commands and comforts, whether it speak of mysteries or of graceswhether it be the fountain or the ministrations of truth to which it calls us. But of this divine pattern it cannot but be that there are many copies, for it was the promise, as well as the purpose of God, that his Son should be the founder of a family, of which no one member should want the likeness of his person. From one century and generation to another, men have come forth into the world bearing his image, and speaking after the manner of his words. No time or season has failed of this constant proof that a living temple has been begun, of which the Son of God is the foundation; and of all the species of tradition, the only safe one may be found in this succession of Christ's imitators—who, by their conversation and spirit, of which the world can give no copy, afford a living commentary on the written word, and the original preaching of its mysteries.

Were we only to contemplate the lives and actions of the men who have been distinguished in the Church as thus illustrating the promises and nature of the Gospel, we should have ample reason for the study of Christian biography. But the subject supplies us with so many rules of holy living, so many consolatory reflections, and with such a constantly applicable argument in favour of hope and charity, and all other Christian graces, that we may pursue it with profit when the mind is least ready to attend to any other species of admonition. In whatever path we labour, if we open the records of the Church, we shall find ourselves not alone; whatever we suffer, we shall see that others have suffered in the same manner and been delivered. If we require an assurance from man as well as God that holiness justifies itself in the peace which it confers, we shall discover it in the memoirs of Christians of every age and country; and should we find that we are deficient in the earnestness and warmth which become the servants of God, we may shame ourselves out of our slothfulness by fixing our thoughts on the great examples of devotedness with which we are thus furnished.

The duties which belong to the ministers of religion are more numerous than is ordinarily believed. Whatever method can be employed to defend or illustrate divine truth, opens to them a new object for exertion. There may be times and circumstances in which the mere sabbatical preaching of the Gospel would be insufficient to secure the safety of its doctrines; and there is certainly no period, even the most favourable to the diffusion of Christian piety, in which an established ministry can perform its whole duty without exercising its offices in many and various ways. The progress of truth is the object to be secured by every natural power as well as spiritual gift with which the defenders of the Gospel may be endowed. The Church, as it existed in the times of the Apostles, was a type of the Church as it still exists. Human accomplishments were then superseded by the presence of an Almighty Power, but the varieties of human character remained, and were employed according to their direction by the All-wise Overseer of the vineyard. Nor was the energy of the Spirit confined to one or two methods of operation. It was one in its strength and irresistible power, but the gifts with which it endowed the subjects of its influence were as various as those of nature. The Church, all spiritual as it was, all awful and supernatural as were the faculties with which men found themselves endowed, presented no appearance of sameness or of unvaried graces. It was not what human imagination would have, perhaps, supposed it to be, a temple too filled with light to let us discover the variety and exquisite proportion of its parts. The power of God became powers to men. The

presence of one Spirit was seen in several graces. The unity of the Church was the harmony of many members, and the one baptism conferred a multitude of gifts.

The variety of powers which thus existed in the apostolical ministry of the primitive Church, is to be sought for in their measure and degree at the present and in every period of the Christian world. It is, therefore, cause for rejoicing when we meet with men of deep and devoted piety exercising, under the influence of the Spirit, the natural gifts with which they have been endowed. Religion requires to be defended by more than

. one method. The world, and its subtle ruler, employs instruments of all fashions in his warfare, and it is a failure in zeal or prudence when we search not for all the arms, the shield, and the helmet, and the spear, with which we may best meet his attacks. The subject of the present memoir affords an eloquent example of the union of Christian piety with extensive learning, and of the successful employment of the powerful means thus furnished him for the defence and promulgation of the truth. In sketching the short biography of this excellent man, we earnestly wish it may conduce to the inculcation of an active and diligent spirit, well knowing that in no period has the Christian Church more required the energy and devotion of its members.

« السابقةمتابعة »