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upon the heart.
We must be inured to a constant intercourse with God, to have our minds engaged and interested, and to be rooted and grounded in the love of Him. But, if we invigorate our petitions, which are otherwise a lifeless carcase, with a serious and attentive spirit, composed, but not dull; affectionate, but not passionate in our addresses to Godpraying in this sense will at last make us leave off sinning; and victory, decisive victory, declare itself in favour of virtue.
THOMAS SHERLOCK, son of the dean of St Paul's, was born in London in 1678. From Eton he was transferred to Catharine Hall, Cambridge, and in the twenty-sixth year of his age, was elevated to the mastership of the Temple. In 1716 he obtained the deanery of Chichester. In 1728 he was created bishop of Bangor, from which, in 1734, he was translated to Salisbury, and in 1748 he succeeded Dr Gibson as bishop of London. He died at Fulham, July 18, 1761.
With their clear arrangement, their calm reasoning, their air of scholarship, and their graceful style, Sherlock's discourses were well adapted to an audience at once learned and logical. At the same time, it must be allowed, that such spirit as they once possessed has now well-nigh evaporated. There is still infidelity, and, it may be feared, not a little latent unbelief amongst respectable church-goers; but it would be labour lost were a modern preacher to expatiate, Sunday after Sunday, on such points as the sincerity of the apostles, and the superiority of Christianity to Mahommedanism and Paganism. “It is said that when Dr Nicholls waited upon
Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, with the first volume of Sherlock's Sermons, in November 1753, his Lordship asked him whether there was not a sermon on John xx. 30, 31 ? and on his replying in the affirmative, desired him to turn to the conclusion,
and repeated verbatim the animated contrast between the Mahommedan and Christian religion, begining, Go to your natural religion,' &c. Yet it was thirty years since that sermon had been published singly. Such was the impression it made on Lord Hardwicke. This interesting anecdote, however, would want some of its effect, if we did not add that at a later period, Dr Blair, in his ‘Lectures on - Rhetoric,' pointed out this identical passage as an instance of personification, carried as far as prose, even in its highest elevation, will admit. After transcribing it, Blair adds, "This is more than elegant; it is truly sublime.'"*
Christianity and its Competitors.
The law of Moses was published and declared with great solemnity, and by persons every way qualified : it contains a rule or system of religion, and is still maintained by its disciples in opposition to the gospel. Here then, perhaps, may seem to be some difficulty, when two revelations, that have equal pleas to truth, are set in competition one against the other. This question must be argued upon different principles with Jews, and with other men; for the law was given and declared to the Jews, and they were under the obligations of it : they therefore are concerned to inquire, not only of the truth of a subsequent revelation, but also whether it does sufficiently abrogate their law, or whether it is to subsist with it ; as likewise whether their law has anywhere precluded them from admitting any further revelations. But to us the question is, how we are concerned with the law, and whether there
any competition with respect to us between the law and the gospel. From the principles already mentioned, we may soon determine this question : for it is plain that no revelation can oblige those to whom it is not given ; that promulgation is so far of the essence of the law, that no man in reason or equity owes any obligation to a law till it is made known to him ; that the obligations, therefore, of a law are limited by the terms of the promulgation. Apply this to the law of Moses; you will find that law, in the very promulgation of it, confined to the people of Israel : Hear, O Israel ! is the introduction to the promulgation; which it could not have been had the law been designed for the whole world. And this was known to be the case under the law. Moses, who best understood the extent of his own commission, says thus to the people of Israel : “What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous, as all this law which I set before you this day?" (Deut. iv. 8). The holy Psalmist expresses the same sense in these words : “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation : and as for his judgments, they have not known them” (Ps. cxlvii. 19, 20). From all which it is evident, that the law of Moses has no claim to our obedience. The moral part of the law, when understood, will oblige every rational creature; but this is not the obligation we are now speaking of. The law of Moses, then, cannot add to the number of revelations which create us any difficulty in determining ourselves : for, let the case happen as it will, we are free from the law. But the law affords even to us abundant evidence for the truth of the gospel. The proofs from prophecy are as convincing to us as to the Jews : for it matters not whether we are under the law, or not under the law, since conviction, in this
* “ Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary,” Art. Sherlock.
case, arises from another and different principle. But I hasten to a conclusion.
Let us then consider briefly, what alteration has happened since the coming of Christ to disturb and unsettle our judgments in this great affair. A man, perhaps, who is a great reader, may be able to produce many instances of impostors since that time, and imagine that they are all so many dead
weights upon the cause of revelation : but what is become of them, and their doctrine? they are vanished, and their place is not to be found. What pretence is there then to set up these revelations? Is God grown so weak and impotent, that we may suppose these to be His revelations, and intended for the use of the world, had He not been baffled at first setting out? If God intends a law for the use of the world, He is obliged, if I may use the expression, to publish the law to the world: and, therefore, want of such publication evidently shews that God was not concerned in them, or at least did not intend that we should be concerned in them : and therefore it is absurd to instance in such pretences as difficulties in our way, which in truth are not in our way at all.
And thus the case of revelation stood, and the gospel had no competitor, till the great and successful impostor Mahomet arose. He, indeed, pretended a commission to all the world, and found means sufficient to publish his pretences. He asserts his authority upon the strength of revelation, and endeavours to transfer the advantages of the gospel evidence to himself, having that pattern before him to copy after. And, should we say that the alcoran was never promulged to us by persons duly commissioned, it may be answered perhaps, that the alcoran is as well published to us as the gospel is to them, which has some appearance of an answer, though the fact is indeed otherwise; for even the alcoran owns Jesus for a true prophet.
But with respect to this instance I persuade myself it can be no very distracting study to find reasons to determine our choice. Go to your natural religion : lay before her Mahomet and his disciples arrayed in armour and in blood, riding in triumph over the spoils of thousands and tens of thousands, who fell by his victorious sword: shew her the cities which he set in flames, the countries which he ravished and destroyed, and the miserable distress of all the inhabitants of the earth.
When she has viewed him in this scene, carry her into his retirements: shew her the prophet's chamber, his concubines and wives; let her see his adultery, and hear him allege revelation and his divine commission to justify his lust and his oppression. When she is tired with this prospect, then shew her the blessed Jesus, humble and meek, doing good to all the sons of men, patiently instructing both the ignorant and per
Let her see Him in His most retired privacies : let her follow Him to the mount, and hear His devotions and supplications to God. Carry her to His table to view His poor fare, and hear His heavenly discourse. Let her see Him injured but not provoked: let her attend Him to the tribunal, and consider the patience with which He endured the scoffs and reproaches of His enemies. Lead her to His cross; and let her view Him in the agony of death, and hear His last prayer for His persecutors: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
When natural religion has viewed both, ask, Which is the prophet of God? But her answer we have already had; when she saw part of this scene through the eyes of the centurion who attended at the cross; by him she spoke and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
Not so rhetorical as Sherlock, but much more evangelical, the sermons of Secker possess an element of more enduring interest in the eminently practical topics to which most of them are dedicated. As chaplain to the king, and rector of St James's, he had for his auditors the foremost in the ranks of wealth and fashion, and feeling the great importance of his opportunity, he sought to meet it with all the resources placed at his disposal. “Though he neither possessed nor affected the artificial eloquence of an orator, yet he had that of an