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that the labors of these great men were employed almost entirely in illustrating and enforcing the obligation of particular duties, while the doctrine of the cross engaged little of their attention, except as far as it was impugned by the objections of infidels, or mutilated by the sophistry of papists. From the perusal of their writings, the impression naturally results, that a belief of the evidences of revealed religion, joined to a correct deportment in social life, is adequate to all the demands of Christianity. For these reasons, much as we admire, we cannot recommend them in an unqualified manner, nor consider them as safe guides in religion.
By these remarks, we intend no offence to any class of Christians. That the celebrated authors we have mentioned, with others of a similar stamp, have refined the style, and improved the taste, of the English pulpit, while they have poured a copious stream of knowledge on the public mind, we are as ready to acknowledge as their warmest admirers; but we will not disguise our conviction, that, for the just delineation of the truth as it is in Jesus,' we must look to the Baxters, the Howes, and the Ushers, of an earlier period. He who wishes to catch the flame of devotion, by listening to the words which are spirit and are life,' will have recourse to the writings of the latter, notwithstanding their intricacy of method, and prolixity of style.
It is with peculiar satisfaction we call the attention of our readers to a work, which unites, in a considerable degree, the excellencies of each class of divines alluded to, without their defects. The discourses are on the following subjects. Our Lord Jesus Christ the Foundation of Morality; on the Evils resulting from False Principles of Morality; on the Changes produced by the coming of Christ in the Situation of Men as to the Divine Law; Justification not attainable by Acts of Morality; on Living after the Flesh or after the Spirit; the Love of God an Inducement to strict Morality; on Brotherly Love; on the Love of Money; on the Sacrifice of Worldly Interest to Duty; on Christian Bounty; on Discontent; on Worldly Anxiety; on Christian Obedience to Civil Rulers; Christian Patriotism illustrated by the Character of Nehemiah; on quiet Diligence in our Proper Concerns; on Partiality; on Suspicion; on doing Evil to produce good; on the Superiority of Moral Conduct required of Christians. The reader will perceive it was not the author's design to make a systematic arrangement of Christian duties, and that there are many vices and virtues not comprehended within the plan of his present work. In the discussion of the subjects which he has selected, he has evinced much observation of human life, a deep insight into the true principles of morals, and intimate acquaintance with the genius of the Christian religion. He has erected his edifice
upon a solid basis; in the choice of his materials he has carefully excluded the wood, hay, and stubble; and admitted no ornaments but such as are fitted to grace the temple of God.
The intelligent reader will discover, in these discourses, the advantage resulting from studying morality as a science. It will yield him great satisfaction to find the writer ascending on all occasions to first principles, forming his decisions on comprehensive views, separating what is specious from what is solid, and enforcing morality by no motives which are suspicious or equivocal. He will not see vanity or ambition pressed into the service of virtue, or any approach to the adoption of that dangerous policy which proposes to expel one vice by encouraging another. He will meet with no flattering encomiums on the purity and dignity of our nature, none of those appeals to the innate goodness of the human heart, which are either utterly ineffectual, or, if they restrain from open profligacy, diffuse, at the same time, the more subtile poison of pride and self-righteousness. Mr. Gisborne never confounds the functions of morality with the offices of the Saviour, nor ascribes to human virtue, polluted and imperfect at best, any part of those transcendent effects, which the New Testament teaches us to impute to the mediation of Christ. He considers the whole compass of moral duties as branches of religion, as prescribed by the will of God, and no farther acceptable to him than as they proceed from religious motives.
The disposition in mankind to seek justification by the works of the law, has been so much flattered and encouraged by the light in which moral duties have been usually placed, that Mr. Gisborne has shown his judgement by counteracting this error at the We recommend to the serious attention of our readers, with this view, the fourth sermon, on Justification not attainable by Acts of Morality. We have never seen a publication, in which that important argument is set in a more clear and convincing light.
Though Mr. Gisborne for a series of years has distinguished himself as the able opponent of the doctrine of expediency, yet on no occasion has he exerted more ability in this cause than in his present work. We recommend it to the thinking part of the public to forget for a moment that they are reading a sermon, and conceive themselves attending to the arguments of a sober and enlightened philosopher. To purify the sources of morals, and to detect the principles of a theory, which enables us to err by system and be depraved by rule, is to do good of the highest sort; as he who diminishes the mass of human calamity by striking one from the list of diseases, is a greater benefactor to mankind than the physician who performs the greatest number of cures. It is
in this light we look upon the labors of the present author; to whom we are more indebted than to any other individual for discrediting a doctrine, which threatens to annihilate religion, to loosen the foundation of morals, and to debase the character of the nation. We recommend to universal perusal the admirable discourse, on the Evils resulting from False Principles of Morality.
The two discourses which propose to illustrate the Character of Nehemiah, contain the most valuable instruction, adapted in particular to the use of those who occupy the higher ranks, or who possess stations of commanding influence and authority. It evinces just and enlarged views of the duties attached to elevated situations, and breathes the purest spirit of Christian benevolence. The sermon on the Love of Money displays, perhaps, the most of the powers of the orator, and demonstrates in how masterly a manner the author is capable, when he pleases, of enforcing the terrors of the Lord.' It contains some awful passages, in which, by a kind of repeated asseveration of the same truth, and the happy reiteration of the same words, an effect is produced resembling that of repeated claps of thunder. We shall present our readers with the following specimen.
Fourthly. Meditate on the final condition to which the lover of money is hastening. The covetous, the man who is under the dominion of the love of money, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. In the present life he has a foretaste of the fruits of his sin. He is restless, anxious, dissatisfied; at one time harassed by uncertainty as to the probable result of his projects; at another, soured by the failure of them; at another, disappointed in the midst of success by discerning, too late, that the same exertions employed in some other line of advantage would have been more productive. But suppose him to have been, through life, as free from the effects of these sources of vexation as the most favorable picture could represent him. He shall not inherit the kingdom of God. He may not have been a miser; but he was a lover of money. He may not have been an extortioner; but he was a lover of money. He may not have been fraudulent; but he was a lover of money. He shall not inherit the kingdom of God. He has had his day and his object. He has sought, and he may have accumulated, earthly possessions. By their instrumentality he may have gratified many other appetites and desires. But he did not seek first the kingdom of God: therefore he shall not obtain it. He loved the world; therefore he shall perish with the world. He has wilfully bartered his soul for money. In vain is he now aghast at his former madness. In vain does he now detest the idol which he worshipped. The gate of salvation is closed against him. He inherits the bitterness of unavailing remorse, the horrors of eternal death. pp. 145, 146.
If we were called to specify the discourse in the present volume, that appeared to us the most ingenious and original, we should be inclined to point to the eighteenth, on Suspicion.
Having expressed our warm approbation of this performance, justice compels us to notice what appear to us its principal blemishes; which, however, are so overbalanced by the merit of the whole, that we should scarcely deem them worthy of remark, were it not requisite to vindicate our claim to impartiality. Against the sentiments or the arrangement of these discourses, we have nothing to object: the former are almost invariably just and important, often striking and original; the latter is natural and easy, preserving the spirit of method even where it may seem to neglect the forms; equally remote from the looseness of an harangue, and the ostentation of logical exactness. With the style of this work, we cannot say that we are quite so much satisfied. spicuous, dignified, and correct, it yet wants something more of amenity, variety, and ease. Instead of flexibility which bends to accommodate itself to the different conceptions which occur, it preserves a sort of uniform stateliness. The art of transposition, carried, in our opinion, to excess, together with the preference of learned to plain Saxon words, give it an air of Latinity, which must necessarily render it less intelligible and acceptable to unlettered minds. It is indeed but fair to remark, that the discourses appear to have been chiefly designed for the use of the higher classes. But while we allow this apology its just weight, we are still of opinion, that the composition might have assumed a more easy and natural air, without losing any thing of its force or beauty. Addresses from the pulpit should, in our apprehension, always make some approach to the character of plain and popular.
Another blemish which strikes us in this work, is the frequent use of interrogations, introduced, not only in the warm and impassioned parts, where they are graceful, but in the midst of argumentative discussion. We have been struck with the prevalence of this practice in the more recent works of clergymen, beyond those of any other order of men. With Demosthenes, we know interrogation was a very favorite figure; but we recollect, at the same time, it was chiefly confined to the more vehement parts of his speeches; in which, like the eruptions of a furnace, he broke out upon, and consumed his opponents. In him it was the natural expression of triumphant indignation: after he had subdued and laid them prostrate by the force of his arguments, by his abrupt and terrible interrogations he trampled them in the mire. In calm and dispassionate discussion, the frequent use of questions appears to us unnatural; it discomposes the attention by a
sort of starting and irregular motion; and is a violation of dignity by affecting to be lively, where it is sufficient praise to be cogent and convincing. In a word, when, instead of being used to give additional vehemence to a discourse, they are interspersed in a series of arguments as an expedient for enlivening the attention, and varying the style, they have an air of undignified flippancy. We should scarcely have noticed these little circumstances in an inferior work, but we could not satisfy ourselves to let them pass without observation in an author, who, to merits of a more substantial nature, joins so many and such just pretensions to the character of a fine writer.