Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

is no friend to systematizers in theology.' 'He has endea • voured to derive from the Scriptures alone his views of religion

and to them it is his wisb to adhere, with scrupulous fidelity 'never wresting any portion of the word of God to favour a par 'ticular opinion, but giving to every part of it that sense which it seems to bim to have been designed by its Great Author to convey.' -' He feels it impossible to repeat too often, or avow to distinctly, that it is an invariable rule with him to endeavour to 'give to every portion of the word of God iis full and propei

force, without considering one moment what scheme it favours, or whose system it is likely to advance.' To endeavour carefully to ascertain, and boldly and honestly to avow, unfettered by system, that wbich appears to be the true meaning of the word of God, is unquestionably the duty of every minister of Christ : at the same time, if that wbich appears to be the true meaning of a passage of Scripture, seems to be at variance with the system of doctrine which we firmly believe, after due investigation, to be the system of the inspired writers, it is bighly important and requisite to explain the principles on which, while there seems to be a discordance, there is really a consistency and a barmony. We admit that the writers of Scripture have not taken pains to exbibit that consistency which really exists in all the parts of the system of Divine truth; and Mr. Simeon seems to infer from the absence of such attempts on the part of the inspired writers, that the preacher of the gospel may be excused from undertaking the task of reconciling apparently opposite statements. In many of bis discourses, therefore, be discovers less solicitude on this bead tban we could have wished he should discover. The conciseness of expression requisite for the Book of Inspiration, will itself account for the absence of those explanatory and cautionary statements which, in a discourse whose express object is to elucidate Scripture, should not be altogether omitted.

The theological sentiments conveyed throughout the wbole of these volumes, we need scarcely say, are decidedly Evangelical. The doctrines of the gospel are exhibited in their practical bearing, and the duties of Christianity are enforced from Evangelical principles. It has been the object of the Author to guard against what he designates, not upaptly, 'an Ultra-Evangelical taste, 'which overlooks in many passages the practical lessons they

were intended to convey, and detects in the only the leading • doctrines of the gospel;' which perverts the Scripture ' so as to make it refer to Christ and bis salvation, when no such object appears to have been in the contemplation of the inspired I writer.'

For a distinct view of the Author's sentiments on the leading points of Evangelical religion, we are referred, in the Preface, to four discourses, entitled, “ Án Appeal to men of Wisdom and

Candour,” delivered before the University of Cambridge. That discourses so replete with Scriptural trutli, and pervaded by so much of the spirit of Christianity, should be preached before such an auditory, cannot but be a cause of rejoicing to those who love the Gospel, and whose hearts' desire it is, that in our seats of learning, the genuine religion of the Bible should ever receive the homage of literature and science. The text adopted as a kind of motto for these Sermons, is, I Cor. x, 15. “I speak as 10 “ wise men; judge ye what I say.” In the first discourse, Mr. Simeon maintains,

. I. That the Gospel approves itself to all who are truly wise:

• Both as a Revelation, standing on a basis that is immoveable, and as a Remedy, exactly suited to the necessities of fallen man.

• II. That it is the duty of every man to exercise his judgment in relation to it;

• To form a judgment with care• To exercise it with candour-and, • To implore of God the enlightening and sanctifying influences of his Spirit.'

In the second discourse, Mr. Simeon ably exhibits the corruption, of human nature, and appeals in confirmation of his statement, to the Holy Scriptures, to the Articles and Homilies of the Church of England, and to the convictions and experience of his bearers.

The third discourse treats on the doctrine of the New Birth. The Preacher commences the discussion by disclaiıning the sentiments imputed, by many, to those who maintain the essential difference between Baptism and Regeneration. He states with clearness and energy the doctrine of Scripture; and then proceeds to point out what it is in the views of his opponents, which he disapproves. In one passage, he has the following expression :

• If by the term regeneration they meant an introduction into a new state, in which the baptized persons have a right and title to all the blessings of salvation, we should have no controversy with them.'

Seldom are any expressions of Mr. Simeon's wanting in perspicuity. In this instance, however, we find it difficult to understand precisely his meaning. If his words were to be taken in their full extent of meaning, it appears to us that the controversy to which he refers, would indeed be at an end, but it would be terminated by his yielding the main point in dispuie to bis орроnents. For, if it be granted that baptized persons are, by the act of baptism, introduced into a state in which they have a right and title, not merely to the external privileges of Christianity, but to all the blessings of salvation, then they may claim those blessings as their right;-then they are, in reality, the heirs of salvation ;--then the Catechism is correct in representing chil

VOL. XIV. N. S.

dren, as, by the ordinance of baptism, made' members of Christ,

children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.' Anxious to ascertain in what sense Mr. Simeon understands this language of the Catechism, we turned to his discourses on the • Excellency of the Liturgy,' and, in the second of them, found the following passage.

• There are two things to be noticed, in reference to this subject; the term, Regeneration, and the thing. The term occurs but twice in the Scriptures: in one place, it refers to baptism, and is distinguished from the renewing of the Holy Ghost; which, however, is represented as attendant on it: and, in the other place, it has a totally distinct meaning unconnected with the subject. Now, the term they (the Reformers) use as the Scripture uses it; and the thing they require as strongly as any person can require it. They do not give us any reason to imagine that an adult person can be saved, without experiencing all that modern Divines have included in the term Regeneration ; on the contrary, they do, both there, and throughout the whole Liturgy, insist upon the necessity of a radical change both of heart and life. Here, then, the only question is, not whether a baptized person can be saved by that ordinance, without sanctification, but whether God does always accompany the sign with the thing signified? Here is certainly room for difference of opinion : but it cannot be positively decided in the negative; because we cannot know, or even judge, respecting it, in any instance whatever, except by the fruits that follow : and, therefore, in all fairness, it may be considered only as a doubtful point.'

That it is a doubtful point at the time of the baptism of a child, whether the child is, or ever will be, a subject of regenerating grace, we readily acknowledge; but this acknowledgment proceeds on the fact, that many who have been baptized, have never, in their subsequent lives, given evidence of regeneration, but, on the other hand, have given continued evidence of unregeneracy. This acknowledgment, then, with this admission of the fact on which it is founded, amounts to a decision in the negative on the question proposed : for, if some bave been baptized whose lives prove that they are not regenerated, then it is certain that God does not always accompany the sign with the thing signified.

While, however, an attempt to explain and vindicate the language of the Catechism and the Liturgy, may have occasioned, in some of the statements of Mr. Simeon, a degree of ambiguity, not to say of inaccuracy, we are happy to state that in the discourse before us, as well as in the general strain of his whole performance, the nature and the necessity of regeneration are exbibited with equal clearness and force. In the conclusion of the discourse, the Preacher introduces a very striking comparison of the tendencies of the two opposite doctrines, in point of sobriety, in point of practical efficacy, and in reference to their final issue.

The fourth discourse in the series, is devoted to the doctrine of Justification by Faitlr.

After an introduction, in which the nature of Justification is explained, Mr. Simeon inquires,

• I. What is the true way of salvation ? and examines the testimony of the moral law, of the ceremonial law, of the Prophets, of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and of his Apostles; he inquires also, what was the way in which the most eminent saints of old were justified, and what is the way marked out in the authentic records of the Church of England.

• II. What evidence we have that this is the only true way? · The evidence is deduced from two considerations :* 1. This alone accords with the character given of the true gospel.

Since this alone magnifies the grace of God, cuts off all occasion for boasting, and secures the performance of good works.

. 2. This alone is suited to our condition as fallen sinners.'

Under this head, the Preacher judiciously exposes the subterfuges of sinners, and then concludes with an animated, faithful, and affectionate appeal to his bearers.

In the interpretation of the types and ceremonies of the levitical priesthood, to wbich Mr. Simeon devotes a considerable number of discourses, there is displayed inuehi judicious discrimination, blended with great spiriinality of mind, and a happy facility in suggesting considerations with a view to the purposes of practical improvement. We by no means regard Mr. Siineon as a writer addicted to fanciful interpretations of Scripture; and yet, we must acknowledge that, in some instances, the exercise of ingenuity in conjecturing the spiritual import of Mosaic rites, oversteps, in our judgement, the limits imposed on the expositor of Scripture, by just canons of interpretation. An instance of this occurs in the discourse on the purification of the leper, founded on Lev. xiv. 449. We quote the following remarks.

• Two birds were to be taken ; one of which was to be killed over a vessel of spring water; and the other, dipped in the bloody water, was to be let loose. Some interpret this as signifying, that Christ should die for us, and that the sinner, dipped, as it were, in his blood, should be liberated from sin and death, and be enabled to svar above this lower world, both in heart and life. But we apprehend that both the birds equally designate Christ. And, inasmuch as the living bird was dipped in the blood of that which was killed, this intimated, that all that Christ should do for us, after his resurrection, was founded upon

the atonement which he had offered; by which he obtained a right to justify us, and to send us his Holy Spirit, and to save us with an everlasting salvation. As for the cedar-wood, the scarlet wool, and the hyssop, which were also dipped in the bloody water, and used in sprinkling the leper, we forbear to specify the spiritual import of each, be. cause it must rest on mere conjecture, and will not prove satisfactory after all.'

We perfectly concur in the last of these remarks, and feel inclined to extend its reference to the interpretation by which it is preceded. Another expositor, if equally ingenious, and equally spiritual, might propose another interpretation not destitute of probability. Who, then, sliall decide on their respective claims?

We think Mr. Simeon greatly excels in many of his discourses on historical passages in the Old Testament. We have noticed many of them which are in a high degree interesting, instructive, and edifying. Our readers may regard the following as a speciinen of the judicious manner in which many important and diflicult

passages are illustrated and improved. The discourse is the 50th in the series. The text is Exod. vii. 3. “ I will harden “ Pharoah's heart.” We present to our readers the introduction, which is appropriate, and the plan, which is judicious.

• As there are in the works of creation many things which exceed. the narrow limits of human understanding, so are there many things incomprehensible to us, both in the works of providence and of grace. It is not, however, necessary, that, because we cannot fully comprehend these mysteries, we should never fix our attention at all upon them : as far as they are revealed, the consideration of them is highly proper; only, where we are so liable to err, our steps must be proportionably cautious, and our inquiries be conducted with the greater humility. In particular, the deepest reverence becomes us while we contemplate the subject before us. We ought not, on the one hand, to indulge a proud and captious spirit that shall banish the subject altogether, nor, on the other hand, to make our assertions upon it with a bold, unhallowed confidence. Desirous of avoiding either extreme, we shall endeavour to explain and vindicate the conduct of God, as it is stated in the text:

• I. To explain it-

• We are not to imagine that God infused any evil principle into the heart of Pharoah : this God never did, nor ever will do, to any of his creatures. What he did, may be comprehended in three particulars.

"1. He left Pharoah to the influence of his own corruptions.

• 2. He suffered such events to concur as should give scope for the exercise of those corruptions.

3. He gave Satan permission to exert his influence over him. • When once we have learned what was the true nature of God's agency, and how far it was concerned in the hardening of Pharoah's heart, we shall be at no loss,

• II. To vindicate it.

• We must never forget that God's ways and thoughts are infinitely atove ours; and that whether we approve of them or not, “ he will never give account of them to us :" yet, constituted as we are, we feel a satisfaction in being able to discern their suitableness to the divine character. Of the dispensation, then, which we are considering, we may say,

. 1. It was righteous, as it respected the individual himself, "2. It was merciful, as it respected the universe at large.

« НазадПродовжити »