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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. Robertson 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 sermons,even those in which he has yielded to extravagance, that are not thoroughly eloquent. Nor is his the mere eloquence of fluency--it is the eloquence rather of one who
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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 highest 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 the 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 him 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 he 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 easy grace of expression. Freshness 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 he 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.
THE DAWN OF OCEANIC DISCOVERY.
In the 15th century there was a strong outward pressure on the bounds of Europe, not unlike that which in the age of the first Cæsar pressed on the bounds of the old classical homes of men, round the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Rome was no longer continent of the mass and energy of its Romans, and Cæsar, or some other, must lead the search to a new and wider world. The great Julius understood his time-rather, he was the exponent of its deepest needs and tendencies. The common soul of Pompeius loved the eastern, Cæsar the western outlook of the Roman empire. The West was the region which to him was fullest of attraction. There, among the hardy western races, he would recruit the exhausted commonwealth of Rome. A greater than he, within a century, followed in his foot-tracks, and aspired to plant the standard of the Gospel in the lands which Cæsar had added to the civilized world.
The 15th century presents, in many features, a striking parallel to the 1st. In the 15th century the European peoples had fairly possessed their limits; civilized, developed, industrious, and enterprising nations were settled along the western sea-boards of the continent; and as man knows not finality (not being a bankrupt politician), whenever he possesses his limits, he begins to strain and search for new and more capacious spheres. In this century European civilization was breaking out in every direction; chiefly stimulated by the growing industrial productiveness of the western maritime peoples, and their need of a wider market for their wares.
Commerce was truly at the root of the maritime enterprises of those times, and it is about the most manifestly Divine work which it has ever accomplished in our world. Nor do I hesitate to utter strongly the conviction, that the commerce has something Divine in the heart of it which moves men forth to hardy and gallant enterprises, that they may enlarge the commodity of society, and expand the intercourse, which is equivalent to the progress, of the human race. We live in an age in which this commerce has well nigh devoured her children, and has become too sadly a synonym for rapacity, selfishness, and narrowness of intellect and soul. Hood's “Song of the Shirt” gives voice to the myriads of hearts which our commerce is breaking, the myriads of homes which it is desolating, the myriads of little ones whom it is kicking out into
for rapa Song of the Shiroking, the myriacit is kickin
the gutters, to become the Arabs of our great cities, and avenge the wrong. When we take our course through any of the back slums in the great cities of our Eden of competitive commerce, and see with our own eyes the filth and squalor, the sottish vice and brutality, the foul houses, the wasted women, the pallid, puling, crippled children which it nurses, we are tempted to ask, is not this tyrant power, now that competition holds the reins and wields the whip, the true Antichrist of the modern world ? But you must look at the obverse as well as the reverse of the medal. In this world there is no power, however benignant, which the devil does not somewhere wield as the instrument of the torture and degradation of mankind. The Church herself has been the mother of the most awful cruelties which have ever tormented, as well as of the largest benedictions which have ever enriched, the world. Not otherwise is it with commerce. In itself, essentially, commerce is the flesh which clothes that great Christian idea, the brotherhood of mankind. The type, the skeleton, the joints and bands, are of yet Diviner texture; but the flesh which clothes them is the commerce of men. It rests fundamentally on the truth that men need each other's ministries; and it fulfils those ministries, despite treeless deserts and foaming seas. Commerce has led the march of the grandest revolutions, and has opened the tracks of the most fruitful discoveries. She has exercised, and still does exercise, the manliest energies, the most pure and selfdenying efforts of mankind. She has secured for the truth and the freedom of our political constitution and our social habits, the preponderating influence among the nations of the earth. This is, perhaps, her loftiest and benignest function. She confers the practical power, the weight of influence, decisively on the people most distinguished by soberness, industry, hardihood, and truth. In the long run, she puts the sceptre into the hand of freedom, mantles industry with the imperial purple, and invests tried manliness with the crown. The victory of British commerce is the victory of all the qualities which make our greatness-pluck, patience, industry, inventive and administrative skill. Most emphatically were these grand qualities called forth by the Elizabethan commerce. The history of its rise and growth is the history of the advance of our people to the leadership we enjoy. For instance : not very long after Sir F. Drake's notable voyage round the world, the English began to claim their part in the commerce of the Eastern Indies. In the year 1600 there was an English factory at Bantam in Java, which ten Englishmen held as a fort in an enemy's land, and by their gallant carriage maintained a mastery over the rabble myriads around. Old Samuel Purchas