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is fixed on the train of argument and expression to be recollected, rather than occupied in delivering the message of salvation from a heart which, absorbed in its subject, neglects entirely the words which it may employ.
The character of Mr. Hall's pulpit addresses, so far as a few discourses, delivered when he was about sixty-four years of age, and after a habit of preaching for nearly half a century, may allow a stranger to pronounce, is a mild SUBLIMITY. Every sermon touches, in some part or other, on the highest and noblest elevations of the human mind. His thoughts expand as he proceeds. He connects the various parts of his argument together with surprising skill; and then pushes them up to the contemplation of God, the employments of heaven, the end and true happiness of man, and the vanity of every thing compared with eternity. A mild and holy grandeur lifts the preacher and hearer; the mind is absorbed; and it requires some time afterwards to come down to the ordinary feelings and duties of human life and action.
The FORCE OF REASONING, is a second characteristic of this extraordinary preacher. The argument in the second of these discourses, on the Pre-existence and Divinity of our Lord, seems to me a masterpiece of sound and acute ratiocination. The refutation, in the fifth and sixth, of that foolish and most dangerous heresy, that there is no such thing as growth in grace, is quite conclusive; and not less so is the refutation of the idea that there is no such grace as patience, in our sense of the term.
But, in truth, all these discourses abound, unless I am entirely deceived, in the most beautiful chains of thought, the nicest division and classification of the subordinate ideas, and the most forcible and conclusive arguments in support of all his state
The skill and propriety with which he QUOTES AND ILLUSTRATES THE
HOLY SCRIPTURES, will be allowed by every reader of these sermons. He does not overload, but he supports, all his arguments by the most appropriate passages from the Holy Word. It occurred to me several times, that I doubted the truth and safety of some of his assertions, especially in the third sermon, till the text concluded the position in each case, and convinced me of the rashness of my judgment.
There seem to be upon Mr. Hall's mind all the effects of a deep and reverential study of the sacred Scriptures. He is full of them: he has matured and digested and compared all their parts; and his Scriptural quotations are amongst the chief excellencies of his sermons. His abstinence as to the number of these quotations, his caution, his confining himself to the simple authority of Inspiration, and the bright illustration he sheds over them sometimes by a single word, render his sermons powerful upon the conscience. I need scarcely add, that Mr. Hall's
DOCTRINE IS ENTIRELY EVANGE
LICAL. The fall and ruin of man; the person and glory of the Saviour; the atonement and satisfaction of his death; the Deity and operations of the Holy Ghost; the necessity of penitence, of faith, of love, of a holy life, of obedience; are the main principles which he inculcates. Perhaps the cast of his mind, as a preacher, may be said to incline to the exhibition, more peculiarly, of the happiness and rest to be found in God as the portion of his people; the great end and only blessedness of man; and of the beauty and excellency of holiness, as the reflection of the Divine image and the preparation for heaven.
On these two topics-God as the end and rest of man, and holiness the path to peace-I never heard any minister approach Mr. Hall.
The ORIGINALITY with which he views every subject, and the masterhand with which he grasps it, are quite remarkable. He follows in no track of other men. Neither his thoughts nor his language are bor
rowed. And prodigious power of memory in the use of Holy Scripture, and exquisite judgment in the disposition of his materials, are united with a boldness of conception and a creative power of imagination which stamp an impress of originality and independence upon all his reasonings. His trains of thought are his own. I should think he does not read much for his sermons. In discussing the second text, on the Divinity of our Lord, I could not discern that he had availed himself of the incomparable criticisms of Bishop Pearson (Creed, Art. ii.), or Bishop Sherlock, in his sermons. retirement, close and long meditation, the pursuit of a subject through the Holy Scriptures, a comparison of its parts with the philosophy of the human mind, the adaptation of metaphysical research to the illustration of the simple facts and truths of the Inspired Word; these I suspect to be the sources of his preparation for the pulpit. Indeed, Mr. Hall informed me, during a conversation of four hours, with which he indulged me, that his power of abstracting himself from external things was such, that if his mind was once fixed on a topic of meditation he became unconscious of the things which passed around, and was quite undisturbed by the noise or pressure of domestic affairs.
His SOUND AND ACUTE METAPHYSICAL ATTAINMENTS appear in every one of the following sermons. Without giving any prominence to them in the pulpit, they pervade and illuminate softly all his reasonings. The nature of the human mind, its operations, the force of habits, the tendency of the Gospel to purify the heart, the connection of holiness with peace, the attributes and moral character of God, the preparation for heaven, and similar topics, are touched upon with the hand of a master; and are connected with the Holy Word on the one hand, and with the highest metaphysical science on the other, in a way just to supply the intermediate
ideas, and to force the conscience of the most intellectual and evasive hearer to admit the authority of truth.
The following sermons of Mr.Hall, as COMPARED WITH HIS PRINTED DISCOURSES, will lose little or nothing of their value, in the mind of the reader. They are not so elaborate, nor so long, nor so brilliant as to style, nor so sublime in occasional flights of thought, nor so much mixed up with incidental occurrences, as the published sermons. Perhaps there is no one of them (indeed, they could not be so, considering that the exact polish and impress of the style is lost, except perhaps in the last of the series) so finished as the discourse the death of the Princess Charlotte, or that entitled Reflections on War, or the sermon on the Christian Ministry. But the writer of these pages is mistaken, if competent judges do not consider the imperfect sketches here given as quite worthy of the fame of the preacher. Allowing for the defects in the shorthand representation of them, and for the difference between discourses prepared for the public eye and those delivered in the ordinary discharge of the Christian ministry, these six sermons are master-pieces. The spirituality of feeling, the bold declaration of Evangelical truth, the powerful pursuit of an important practical argument, the acute refu tation of error, the tender consolation administered to the afflicted, the elevating views presented of God and Christ and heaven and holiness, the sacred impression which the whole discourse is calculated to produce, raise them, in these respects, far above the printed sermons of the same great author. For occasional bursts of the true sublime, I conceive nothing in the published writings can much exceed the whole third sermon, on Fellowship with God; and a passage in the sixth, on God the Father of our spirits.
TO COMPARE MR. HALL WITH
ANOTHER SPLENDID GENIUS OF OUR AGE, DR. CHALMERS, is a difficult, and perhaps an invidious task. They are both highly gifted and most powerful men, raised up and qualified for great service to the church of Christ; but they are very different in their style and character of mind. As to the use of the English language and purity of composition, Mr. Hall, the most elegant writer of his day, stands confessedly vastly superior to Dr. Chalmers, whose corruptions, neglects, inventions, and bad taste, make his finest discourses at times unintelligible. But this is an introductory and very inferior point. As to power of mind, I should think Dr. Chalmers the more daring and vigorous, and Mr. Hall the more delicate and acute reasoner. Chalmers is bold; Mr. Hall beautiful. Dr. Chalmers seizes one idea, which he expands by amplification and reiteration through a discourse: Mr. Hall combines and works up a variety of arguments in support of his topic; never loses sight of his point; touches every subject briefly, and with exquisite taste; and leaves an impression upon the mind more soft, more pleasing, but perhaps not much less powerful, than his great contemporary. Dr. Chalmers gives only one or two projecting truths, and leaves his subject confessedly incomplete: his sermons are com> posed of many separate thoughts slightly linked to one another; and, like the reaches in the majestic course of the Rhine, which succeed each other by breaks, and expand upon the eye with extraordinary beauty when you enter them, but are succeeded by a narrow flow of the stream at each interval, his sermons are a succession of bold and magnificent truths wrought out with strength, and then left by the preacher, that he may press on to the next mighty idea. Mr. Hall's sermons are a beautiful whole; less daring in the general parts, but more closely connected; coming on the mind with
greater conviction, and expanding his one important subject at once before the view; as the wide and fair lakes of Switzerland spread their varied, and complete, and connected beauties before the eye of the spectator. Dr. Chalmers, in short, is more impassioned, Mr. Hall more sublime; the one declaims, the other argues; the first storms the mind, the second charms it and unfolds all its sympathies. Dr. Chalmers is adapted for the popular ear: his bold and reiterated statements, his overwhelming tide of words, his projecting and striking imagery, his small number of distinct thoughts enforced in various different forms; all make him the preacher for the crowded popular auditory. Mr. Hall is the preacher for the scholar, the student, the metaphysician, the man of elegant education, the fastidious proud despiser of spiritual religion, the pretender to a philosophy not thoroughly fathomed. His mastermind, his acute insight into the very inmost soul, his candour towards his opponents, his infinite reverence for Holy Scripture, his cautious. conclusive argumentation, his delicate and sublime bursts of imagery, his superiority to party feelings and interests, ensure the attention, and fix the conviction, of every competent and unprejudiced hearer.
As to USEFULNESS, the palm must be conceded, FOR THE PRESENT AGE, to Dr. Chalmers: he is more bold, more decisive, more capable of frequent effort, more ready to commit his unfinished compositions to the press, more negligent of the minuter graces, which fetter Mr. Hall, and limit his efforts, and have left him, after fifty years of public life, the author of far fewer works, and those works of less extent and less general importance, than Dr. Chalmers has produced in one fourth portion of that time.
IN THE NEXT AGE, it is possible Mr. Hall's publications may fetch up the way he appears to have lost in the present. All his practical
writings will live, and exercise a powerful sway over the public mind, when many of Dr. Chalmers's may have done their work and been forgotten. Had Mr. Hall more of the bold and intrepid character of Dr. Chalmers; would he write with less anxiety and refinement; would he devote himself to the prosecution of some great national topic, touching the interests of morals and religion; would he disregard more his own feelings, in order to do good in a transitory world; there is nothing which he might not be capable of effecting, under God's blessing for no man of the present age has gained the ear, and fixed the love and admiration of his countrymen, more than Robert Hall.
There are fewer traces in the following sermons of the peculiarities of Mr. Hall's sentiments as a Bap tist minister, than could have been imagined: scarcely a sentence occurs throughout the course, except in the fourth sermon, where he ascribes to the confession of the Christian faith at baptism what those who, with the Church of England, hold Infant Baptism, would rather have asssigned to the time when the vows made for us at baptism are ratified and confirmed. There are a few words, also, in the first sermon, on the use of the word confirmation, and the nature of the office of Evangelists, which have drawn from me a passing observation in the notes. These, however, form no exception to that high praise for candour and largeness of charity to which Mr. Hall's religious publications fully entitle him.
The writer of these sketches cannot conclude this notice without expressing an ardent feeling of gratitude to Almighty God, for having enjoyed the advantage, during a winter of much domestic suffering, of becoming acquainted with a preacher and minister from whom, both in public and private, he has learned more than he ever did, during similar brief opportunities, from any other
The discourse of which the following is a sketch, was delivered at Bristol, Friday, November 10, 1826.
Acts xiv. 22: Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith; and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. AFTER preaching the Gospel in different parts, the Apostles always appear anxious to see the fruits of their labours. They were not like the fabled ostrich, which leaves its eggs on the sand, to be trodden under foot; but they had the tender feelings of a parent; they were fathers in Christ. They were more; they had the parental tenderness of the softer sex: 'My little children," says St. Paul, "of whom I travail in birth again till Christ be formed in you :" "I was gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children; so, being affectionately desirous of you, I was willing to have imparted unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us."
This tenderness of affection appears in the history connected with the text. At Lystra and Derbe the Apostles had endured the most violent treatment. Paul had been taken up as dead; but immedialely, by a miracle, had been restored to life. We read of no effects of the stoning remaining on his body afterwards, nor of any thing in him different from his usual health and vigour; we conclude, therefore, that a complete. cure was instantaneously produced.
What fortitude, what patience, what magnanimity, appear in the Apostles on this occasion! How fit to be chosen the witnesses of Christ's resurrection! So far from being deterred by the violence they suffered, they venture, not only into other churches and places; but return again to the very Lystra whence they had just escaped by a miracle. Their purpose in visiting these cities is given in the text.
The office of the Apostles was twofold. To sow the seed of instruction in the mind, to regenerate men by the Divine word to a heavenly life; this was their first object. When this was done, they secondly endeavoured to confirm their new converts; to lead them on; to corroborate and strengthen them; to teach them to bear the trials and bring forth the fruits which it was the end and design of Christianity to produce.
The Church of England, indeed, confines the idea of confirmation to one particular rite. This I think is a mistake. I understand confirma tion as a constant, oft-repeated duty, performed by the word of warning, of comfort, and of exhortation.
The writer of these notes, being a member of the Church of England, would here observe, that that church is very far from confining the idea of confirmation to one particular rite. She embraces every one of the subordinate duties mentioned above. But she holds, in addition, that, after the example of the Apostles, she may by her bishops confirm the young members of her body by solemn prayer and imposition of hands. Some such rite is, in fact, retained by all confessions and denominations of the Christian church.
With regard to the Evangelists, it may be noted, that the plan of parochial divisions of the population is precisely calculated to supply the church with ministers, who, residing on their cures, may perform the offices of Evangelists, as well as of pastors and teachers, to the different classes of their people. Would that the influences of Divine Grace were so vouchsafed to our bishops and our clergy, that the high and sacred designs of CONFIRMATION might be better answered, and that the duties of EVANGELISTS might be more zealously performed!
more fully in the way of God, to guard them against temptation, and fortify them against the impression of fear. They confirmed them,
I. By holding out the evidences of the religion they had taught. They established their minds, by bringing them back to their first principles. The Apostles doubtless reiterated to them the great facts upon which Christianity was founded, and appealed to the miracles they had wrought among them in support of its Divine authority.
It is very important for the young to be confirmed in the principles and evidences of their faith. Many are seduced into infidelity because they never had a rational conviction of the truth of Christianity, never investigated its evidences, never understood the main course of that argument. Such persons may have had impressions, emotions, favourable prejudices, and thus have taken up the profession of the Christian religion; and where all this has been accompanied with humble penitence, and faith in the truths of the Scriptures, this may be enough. But in a religion that rests merely upon sentiment, upon circumstances, upon negative grounds, there is nothing to resist temptation. When the feelings subside, that religion is gone: there is nothing of principle and conviction to sustain their faith under a state of decayed sensibility. It would be happy for young people, in this vain age, to confirm themselves in the evidences of Christianity before they go out into the world. This might soon be done. A small treatise, such as that of Doddridge (in the three sermons on the evidences of Christianity,) furnishes a summary of the powerful argument such as no sophistry of infidels has ever been able to subvert.
But the Apostles not only thus confirmed the souls of the disciples;
II. Exhorted them to continue in the faith.-They persuaded them, by all possible arguments, to adhere to the doctrine of Christianity, to