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1.--THE SCRIPTURE PREACHER. " And beginning at Moses and the Prophets, he expounded unto them in all the
Scriptures.”—Luke. Our friend B-may be termed a scripture preacher. But this descriptive term is not employed to insinuate that there can be a successful preacher who does not draw his materials from the Word of God. That would be no matter of question. We simply use it to indicate the kind and aptness of talent he had to do his proper part in his Master's work.
When our friend selects a text for consideration with the view of constructing a sermon upon it, he does not take the liberty of gathering up its meaning, re-casting it in his own mould, and presenting it to the people in his own diction. He has too high a regard for the peculiar arrangement and idiom of the scriptures, for that. He has great reverence for the phraseology of the Bible; and he looks upon it as imbued with a sort of sanctity, suited to the holy matter it contains. Of course the new translation project fills him with alarm. All the arguments of its advocates are lost on him. His great familiarity with its construction and intonation, forms a complete barrier against even the introduction of the subject for his investigation and discussion. For, though the new translation might upon the whole be more correct, and conformable to modern lingual usages and proprieties, than the old one, yet he feels assured the process of correction would so mangle and mar the venerable medium of divine truth, as to excite suspicions of its original fitness and integrity, and render it less unique and characteristic to the public eye.
In the headings of his divisions he is very careful in the words be employs, and scrupulous in choosing the most expressive scripture language. In this department of his work he unites the textual with the scripture preacher; and every word, and often every letter in the passage he lays under tribute, to supply its quota of the water of life to the sermon. He gives a decided preference to a roomy text, as affording him greater scope for remark. In that view, he looks upon its expansion with great delight, and even if its contents be brief, by viewing it under different aspects and from different positions, at which he is apt, he will not fail to discover in it an abundance both of fragrance and beauty, and produce both flowers and fruit from the garden of the Lord for the spiritual delight and sustenance of God's people.
In the divisions of his discourses, our friend does not forget the number as well as the suitability of his proofs. He would no more think of asserting any doctrine or duty, or bringing forward any debatable matter, without scripture proof, than he would think of erecting a gallery without columns, or of attacking an enemy without proper weapons. When hearing sermons in this respect differing from his own, our friend is not a little dissatisfted. He looks upon the preacher as in the pitiable condition of an ambassador without his credentials; or as erecting a spiritual structure without the pillars of truth.
Preachers of this class often evidence great acquaintance with the Word of God. They not only have their minds richly stored with scripture matter, but they have its details at their “tongue's end." And such a preacher is very unlike the gardener, who takes his fruit to market, and represents it as the specimen of the produce of his large tract of ground, when, in reality, it is but the yield of a small part of it, in high and forced cultivation. Nor should it be forgotten that he is very correct in making scripture quotations, as to their literality and disposition. This excellence is not always attained by preachers whose memories serve them well in scripture citations. It is more than hinted by his biographer, that the late Richard Watson, who, for grasp of intellect, refinement of taste, and correctness and freshness of illustration, as he followed not a superior, so he left not an equal in Methodism,that in scripture citation he was not always correct, occasioned, it is presumed, by the piece-meal introduction of passages of the Bible into his devotional and other exercises. It was not so with Mr. Pawson, a name notable in Methodistic history, but who was very inferior to Mr. Watson in mental power. Dr. A. Clarke informs us that in order to avoid making wrong impressions, he was careful in every recital of an anecdote to give it in the same words; and the same admirable rule was observed in dealing out scripture.
Certainly a preacher in this section of pulpit effort, is a matter-offact man. His weapons are palpable and astounding, from which there
is neither appeal nor escape. He fortifies his position with chapter and verse, and hushes all objections in the continuous sound of “ Thus saith the Lord.”
We should not, however, venture to assert that the retreat of oppo. sition before this mode of preaching, leaves no chance for reaction. Afterthought will sometimes discern a want of discrimination in the use of scripture phraseology; and the hearer is often less convinced than silenced, arising more from the quantity than the quality and proper appropriation of the materials ; and to the thoughtful and well disposed hearers, this course is not the most acceptable. A large amount of proof supposes corresponding doubt; but where doubt is manifestly small, mountainous proof is superfluous, and therefore unwelcome; and the more especially when the plain as well as the intricate points in the discourse are indiscriminately surrounded by scripture fortifications.
A person once observed, in reference to a preacher whom he occasionally heard, that he always knew of what materials the prayer would be composed; and that he could almost as easily lead as follow the petitioner ; and
much so of the sermon. This practice arose, probably, out of a memory largely stored with scripture, and the yielding to a prosaic formality of arrangement, till the aspirations and personality of the supplicant, as well as the expository capacity, were lost in the generalisation of composition ; the authority and directions were substituted for the work authorised; the petitioner was lost in the petition, and character was left without application.
But let it not be supposed, notwithstanding, that our friend, the thorough scripture preacher, labours without approbation and success. His hearers, when returning from chapel, are prolific in the exchange of admiring exclamations respecting the power of his memory, and his diligence in perusing the book of life. And though the fastidious and critical may find matter for cavilling, yet the large amount of scripture, of all sorts, and from all its various parts, that is thus distributed, cannot be otherwise than as “ bread cast upon the waters, to be seen after many days."
Although our friend has a good and ready memory, yet you will see him very busy in the pulpit a few minutes before service time, marking the different passages in the Bible for reference; and if there be no bands in the book, the bended leaves will give sure proof of the affectionate pressure of The Scripture Preacher.
THE CELESTIAL MECHANISM. ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE POWER, WISDOM, AND GOODNESS OF GOD. The universe is indeed a divine and inimitable mechanism ; but it is still a pure machinery, if we exclude light, heat, electricity, and magnetism, together with chemical action, as supererogations to the fundamental structure. It is a great machine, or a collection of many machines, dependent, probably, in some manner on each other, so as to be still thọ
constituents of onc great piece of mechanism. Our own machines consist of bodies and of motion : and the laws of mechanism by which they are regulated are those of abstract matter and motion. It is the same in the great universe. Though chemistry were at rest, though light and heat did not exist, the machine of the universe would still be what it is; and hence is it the object of mathematical demonstration, as it is that department of creation to which this is peculiarly, if not exclusively, applicable.
It is convenient, not less than logically proper, to consider the universe in this light, and to separate from it whatever belongs to other sciences or other laws than those of mechanics. Without this our inquiries become confused; as we also mix up matters of rigid demonstration with far other kinds of evidence or illustration. Such has been the error of writers on theology: hence also, among other things, have arisen the passages of irrelevant declamation in which they abound, and their misplaced attempts to excite our separate admiration of things which are but portions of the general design ; appointed consequences involved in that which is the real object of admiration.
Through what oversight a certain writer excepted this subject as ill fitted to prove design, and as almost solely applicable to the proof of power, it would not be easy to say; for there is nothing in the whole range of creation which evinces design more perfectly, nor more perfectly excludes the possibility of chance. And the design is a design of wisdom. It was a difficult problem to associate so many bodies, of such various magnitudes, under such various motions, throughout so large a space, and under such approximation and intermixture, with the further power of affecting each other's motions, and still to preserve order and permanence; so to contrive the total machine, and all the involved machines, that nothing should become deranged, nothing want the repairing hand of Him who appointed them. It demanded additional wisdom to do all this easily and simply, since facility and simplicity constitute perfection in mechanics : it is simply, as it is perfectly effected ; and this is the depth of wisdom.
The celestial mechanism is therefore calculated to display power in all that relates to its magnitude and to the extent and velocity of its motions : as it evinces wisdom in its arrangement and rules. The first we discern by our senses, aided by comparisons, almost without assistance from mathematical demonstration : and hence these proofs of the power of the Creator can be comprehended by anyone, by the vulgar as by the philosophic; since each can see, and each add number to number; which is all that is here required. But science is necessary to understand the wisdom ; though it cannot be made plain to every one, by means of popular language : hence, as most of our beliefs consist in trusting the belief of others, or the validity of evidence, so do we especially believe in mathematical demonstration, without comprehending it, when we are
told that it is valid. But for this, indeed, there would be few believers in mathematical truths; since not one in tens of thousands knows even the most common of those to be true. To show the wisdom and contrivance of the Deity in the great universe, is not therefore more improper than to display His power; since the conviction of mathematicians forms the sufficient evidence for those who cannot themselves understand these.
The usual term for power in the Diety is Omnipotence. This however is vague in meaning, conveying no ideas, though it signifies the power of doing everything. His power may be boundless, or infinite: we believe, à priori, that it is so: but we cannot prove an infinite, and must therefore prove a definite. The process is, to add definite to definite; it is a sum in constant addition; as, with respect to Him, it must be a sum of infinite additions, or an endless series.
The power of God is always a sum greater than any assignable quantity. It is true we cannot conduct this proof to the same distance that we do a mathematical series. The physical series escapes our senses first; it proceeds to escape our powers of addition, or of comprehending the additions; and at last it passes beyond even the bounds of the imagination. But this is ever the method of proceeding, for the purpose
of comprehending the power of God: it is to appeal first to the senses, then to numbers, and finally to the imagination.
The great celestial machine, the universe of orbs, comprises bodies, or bulks, distances, and motions, or velocities.
The bodies are measurable and ponderable: that is, to a sufficient extent they have been measured and weighed. The distances have also been measured; and equally are the velocities known. Putting aside the question of the creation of matter, we may assume that the Deity made the worlds out of prepared matter; for whether created or merely collected into masses, the effort was very great. As we cannot by any means contrive to comprehend at one view what the quantity of matter in creation is, the case of a single globe must be stated first ; attempting afterwards to rise from this by degrees.
It is the business of the reader to think for himself. numbers and spaces and magnitudes, but if he is content with that, I might as well have rested at the term Omnipotence. He must pause and meditate, and call up before his imagination space after space, and number after number, even till he is checked by the confusion of his own mind.
We cannot conceive even the bulk of the earth when we hear that it is 8,000 miles in diameter, and 25,000 in circumference. We must begin at a lower point; and it is best perhaps to commence by trying to approximate to a conception of its area first. A
mile is a visible area; the earth contains 200,000,000 of thése. This is an enormous space, when we consider how many common objects, trees, houses, or men, a square mile alone will contain. It is more difficult to find a sufficiently familiar and large cubical standard, whence to rise to some equivalent