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is the burning ardour enkindled by the good news of Christ, giving life to the special doctrines into which His loving message is formed, that touches men's hearts, and rouses them from the bondage and doom of their corrupt nature, to share the freedom and blessing of Divine Redemption. It is a theology, therefore, which shall be more moral and less formal, which shall be more instinct with life, and less elaborate in structure,—moro expressive of Christ than repressive of Antichrist,—more profound and comprehensive in compass than curious in details,—genial and synthetic, rather than polemic and analytic,—liberal, but not latitudinarian—which will give renewed life to the pulpit, and breathe a higher intent and a nobler usefulness into its time-honoured function.
The Sermons which we have placed at the head of this article arc sufficient evidence that the modern pulpit has in several instances at least shown the capacity of rising to the full height of its dignity and usefulness. With very striking differences these Sermons are respectively marked by great power, and animated by that true life of thought or feeling, of reflective sentiment, or of passionate pictorial description, which makes a Sermon, in contrast with an Essay or mere didactic composition, an earnest and impressive speech.
The two Scotch divines, who, for our purpose, may be grouped together, present almost every variety of contrast, both as preachers and writers. Mr. Caird's mind is obviously highly thoughtful and cultivated. We can trace in almost every sermon in his volume the evidence of that ripe spirit of reflectiveness which comes from a familiar communion with the great thoughts of past speculation, and which has gathered breadth and sympathy and charity from this communion. In treating of the most peculiar doctrines of Christianity, and setting them forth in all their fulness, it is obvious that he appreciates their interesting relations to other truths, that the points of contact which are thus brought before him are points full of meaning and of rich illustration, which ho handles with great skill and often with a highly brilliant effect. Tho amount of thought carefully elaborated which his sermons contain is very remarkable in connection with his great popularity as a preacher; and we feel instinctively in reading one of them, that it must require a rare degree of energy, of vehement and glowing feeling, to make it all alive, and lodge it as a glowing conception in the minds of his hearers. There is the appearance, in fact, of too much elaboration; the constructive hand and the labor lima are too noticeable in the goodly and well ordered structure of each sermon. The thought, weighty as it is, and almost always interesting, is rather accumulated—gathered from a varied and cultivated stock of reading, and by a fine force of sympathy, than struck out heated and in flame from the natural ■working of his own mind. The impression left upon the reader is rather that of a deeply appreciative than of a strongly original, of a highly constructive than a richly productive mind. With great intensity, and a certain exaltation of feeling, rising now and then into the region of moral sublimity, there is a want of warmth and passion; there is no kindling rush of emotion taking the reader captive, and hurrying him along with the sweep of its mighty power. There is so much calmness and polish as to make the interest occasionally languid and almost cold. Yet we never heard any one say that Mr. Caird was in the least degree a cold preacher; the fire of his manner no doubt fusing the polished masses of his thought, and throwing into impetuous movement the stately order of his language. His style is certainly deficient in simplicity; it has no careless grace, no irregular ease, but is wrought up, just like his thought, into elaborate expression and rotund forms, which are apt to weary from their monotony.
Dr. Guthrie is the very reverse of all this. His Sermons, as mere vehicles of thought, are singularly deficient. There is no reflective vein in them; not only no philosophy, but no evidence of philosophic sympathy. His doctrinal views are set forth forcibly in vivid illustrations, but their meaning is seized not only without affinity to other views and the general results of moral speculation, but often in very crude shapes and distinctions. The impression produced in this manner upon the thoughtful reader is sometimes painful, especially when such harsh distinctions are followed out by his illustrative genius into pictorial contrasts, as in the case of the contrast between the wrestler and God who carries out the plan of redemption in opposition to Satan (Gospel on Ezekiel, p. 179), and in some other cases. With this deficiency, however, the sermons of Dr. Guthrie possess great and peculiar merits. TJnelaborate, with none of the serene thoughtfulness and light of intellectual feeling which characterize Mr. Caird, they bear here and thero more evident traces of fresh and original genius. There is an ease of touch, especially where ho is practical and descriptive, a richness of fancy, a genuine pathos, a capacity of humorous kindliness, and a passionate earnestness, which stamp Dr. Guthrie as a natural orator. In his case, as in many others, we see how little the reflective clement is concerned in the production of the happiest oratorical effects. It is needed to carry eloquence to its highest pitch, and make it a power to move the educated intellect of a country; yet it is only in rare instances that it does not work rather as a disturbing than an assisting influence in speech, while the absence of it is missed by comparatively few. With the charm of eloquent utterance in our ears, and the excited pulses of our feeling beating in unison with the rapid glancing flights of the speaker, or excited by the vivid picturesque imagery in which he clothes his fluent thoughts, we seldom measure the intrinsic worth of the sentiments; we even overlook their frequent poverty or crudeness. Popular oratory in the pulpit or elsewhere is not the less oratory that it does not greatly instruct, or enlighten and expand our views. If it touches our feelings and awakens our sympathies, and leads us into excited affinity with the speaker's own emotion, then it serves its purpose—and this no ordinary purpose. When such an effect is produced, there must be in operation high natural qualities. And it is exactly the presence of such qualities as constitute felicity and impressiveness in speech which we discover in Dr. Guthrie. All that makes natural eloquence—the genial temper, the humorous and picturesque and passionate power which, in dealing with common thoughts, can exhibit them in their most telling light, he possesses in a high degree. And these qualities, as may be supposed, are more successful when he occupies himself with facts and features of our individual and social life than when he aims at doctrinal exposition. His four sermons, on " The City, its Sins and its Sorrows," are to us, accordingly, far the best he has published. The subject is one exactly suited to him, and there are few, we should think, who could read them without owning the power, at once vigorous and tender, which they display. Some of the pictures which they contain are more exquisite than anything else he has sketched,—touching every chord of sensibility by their pathetic reality, and enriched by a fresh and overflowing spring of poetry.
Of the two other preachers before us we have scarcely left ourselves any room to speak. It is somewhat absurd, indeed, especially at the close of an article, to class two men together of such entirely opposite qualities as Mr. Spurgeon and the late Mr. Roberteon of Brighton. Their names, however, are merely grouped in connection with one general subject, as both of these men, in a very different manner, but in an equal degree, have vindicated the power of the modern pulpit.
No one who has read Mr. Spurgeon's sermons, and no one who has ever heard him preach, can doubt his very remarkable and living eloquence. There are elements of coarseness that appear here and there ; but there is a robust and manly vigour of thought —a pungent, racy, and forcible compass and ease of expression in his sermons that leave no question of his great capacity. There are scarcely any of his scrmons.even those in which he has yielded to extravagance, that arc not thoroughly eloquent. Nor is his the mere eloquence of fluency—it is the eloquence rather of one who has consciously mastered his subject—who has looked at it, and knows well about it, and who can tell what he knows in expressive and nervous language. Where he is not carried away into spasmodic or grotesque declamation by his love of effect or vehemence of feeling, nothing can be better than his language,—strong and terse, and idiomatic, easily conveying his thought without affectation or weakness. With all his dogmatism, and the strong polemical predestinarianism in which he sometimes indulges, and his total want of philosophical or literary appreciation, there is a life of reality in all his preaching, which we have shown to be the higbest gift, and a conscious energy which enables and entitles him to sway thousands of a certain class of hearers.
The sermons of the late Mr. Robertson of Brighton possess as high qualities of thought as any in our list. There is in them not merely the presence of a high reflective sympathy, as in those of Mr. Caird, but tbe abundant evidence of a reflective genius, illuminating every topic with its own vivid and genial power of insight. He not merely takes a strong and clear view of the truths of Scripture, and the moral realities around him, and brings to their discussion a philosophical and catholic spirit, but his subtle and bright perception and comprehensiveness of thought carry him everywhere back to principles, and enable hun thence to shed a clear and full light upon all the lower and more complicated aspects of a question. Like other men of an ardent nature, he declaims bitterly against doctrines which he does not comprehend, or has misconceived; and, in the haste of pulpit utterance, makes declarations that sound criticism would repudiate. For example, he joins Mr. Maurice in denouncing the orthodox doctrine of the Atonement, which, from terms ho applies to it, he proves himself not to understand; while, in other sermons, he as nearly as possible affirms that orthodox doctrine is the only ground of reconciliation between the conscience and God. We are now, however, speaking of him as a preacher, not as a theologian; and we would remember, in criticizing the apparent contradictions and the faults of his sermons, that they were published after his death. Some of them, as his Lectures on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, just published, are compiled from short-hand reports, taken by occasional hearers, and may, therefore, be embued with the reporter's or compiler's theology as well as the preacher's. Mr. Robertson's sermons, of course, as being all of them posthumous, are much less finished than Mr. Caird's, but they are more living. The light of thought in them is more broken and deflected, but it is far more direct and original. It is allied, moreover, to a finer and more poetic imaginativeness, greater depth and tenderness of feeling, and a more exquisite and oasy grace of expression. Fi-eshness is, perhaps, their most pervading characteristic. People complain of sermons, that they are wearisome, repeating the same commonplaces over and over again. This charge we do not think can be made against any of the volumes before us,—no slight evidence of itself of their right to stand among the representatives of the power of the modern pulpit; but against Mr. Robertson's volumes we are certain it cannot be urged. Even in treating the most familiar topics, every aspect of which has been worn smooth by the constant rubbing of controversy or the monotonous iteration of commonplace, there is some newness of thought and feeling imparted to them. There is a warmth of fresh sympathy with the difficulties of present Christian Churches, or the exigences of our social state, shed over them, so that the reader everywhere feels himself in contact with the world of thought and life around him. The reader, indeed, who feels this must in some degree be cultivated and thoughtful; and this, perhaps, points to the chief defects of the sermons. Their range of reflection is too uniformly above the mere popular level; they have little or none of that direct scriptural simplicity, of that declaratory enforcement of scriptural truth, which, as in the case of Mr. Spurgeon, is shown to be a true and vital element of preaching. There is, in truth, as in much that is otherwise best in our modern religious literature, an element of scepticism running through these sermons—scepticism, of course, not in any unbelieving sense, but in the sense of a profound feeling of the limits of man's thought, and the feebleness of his judgment as to all the mysteries of the world in which ho lives. This feeling sometimes imparts to Mr. Robertson's reflections a pathos of peculiar tenderness. It is the natural expression of a very sensitive and rich heart in the face of the dark problems of human destiny, and the strange conflicts of Christianity. So far from being unbelieving, it may' be, as in the case of Pascal, profoundly religious. And no one can doubt the deeply religious spirit from which this feeling springs in Mr. Robertson.