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From this brief mention of the “Fathers of the English Church,” we are naturally led to the considerations of the doctrines in that work, to which Mr. Richmond attached so much importance, and which furnished the leading topics of his own ministry.
He has often been heard to declare," that two great subjects pervaded the Bible-sin, and salvation from sin; and that these ought to form the basis of the Christian ministry.”
In his addresses from the pulpit, he never failed to point out, distinctly and forcibly, man's ruin by the fall-his condemnation under the law, and his moral inability to deliver himself, by any power or strength of his own. - The divinity and incarnation of the Son of God.- Free and full justification, through faith in the atoning blood and righteousness of the Redeemer—the nature of justifying faith, its fruits and evidences,—the agency of the Holy Spirit, in the regeneration and sanctification of believers ; -and the necessity of a renewed heart, and of holiness in the life, not as the title to heaven, but as a meetness for its enjoyment. These are fundamental doctrines, in which all true Christians, without distinction of sect or party, cordially unite. They have been the food of the church of God' in all ages--the manna which has sustained her children in the many and diversified scenes of human trial and infirmity ;-they have been the song of their pilgrimage—their joy in tribulation-their light in darkness, and their guide to life and immortality.
In addition to the above-mentioned doctrines, Mr. Richmond adopted the views which are commonly called Calvinistic ; but not in that offensive sense in which they are frequently, though most erroneously, imputed. It is not the intention of the editor to enter here on the Calvinistic controversy : this is neither the time nor the place for such a discussion. He may offer a still better reason for his silence--the conviction which he has long entertained, that the real question at issue, and the one in which the interests of true religion are most concerned, is not, whether the Articles of our Church and the sentiments of the Reformers, be more or less Calvinistic; but whether we spiritually understand, and cordially embrace those fundamental principles, the belief of which is indispensable to salvation, and to the wellbeing of every Christian community.
These principles are stated, with admirable precision, and strict adherence both to the letter and spirit of the Scriptures, in the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th Articles of the Church of England, and must ever entitle her to rank among the reformed churches. Satisfied with the principles there laid
down, we may safely allow a latitude of interpretation on points which though deemed important by some, are not maintained by any to be essential to salvation.
The following analysis of Mr. Richmond's mode of preaching is submitted to the candid consideration of those persons who have fostered prejudices founded on error and misrepresentation ;-prejudices not wholly unaccompanied by a very culpable ignorance, and which charity and truth must alike lament and condemn.
As a preacher he was scriptural—experimental-practicalcomprehensive--powerful in his appeals to the conscience and addresses to the heart-full of pathos and interest.
1. He was scriptural. A rich vein of divine truth was diffused through his sermons. The Law and the Gospel were clearly and distinctly exhibited in all their characteristic features, and enforced to their respective ends. No doctrine was asserted which was not proved and established by a constant appeal to the authority of Scripture, with the contents of which he was familiarly acquainted. No man can become a sound and enlightened divine, who does not give his days and nights to the study of the Oracles of God, accompanied by prayer and meditation. The connexion of solid piety with an intimate knowledge of the Scriptures is indissoluble. This forms, indeed, the manual of every Christian, but belongs in a more especial degree to the minister of the sanctuary. It is the armoury whence he must draw all his weapons ;-it is the treasury whence he is to be supplied with every motive and every argument which, through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, can fix conviction on the mind, ronise the torpid conscience, excite the affections of the heart, and elevate the soul to God. It is the sceptre of righteousness, by which he rules and guides the flock ;the depository of every promise that can cheer their passage through the valley of the shadow of death ; and by it they are taught the new song, which will animate their praises in the land of their inheritance—“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing, for ever and ever. Amen."
Such was the model on which Mr. Richmond formed his ministry. He did not, like the polished but flimsy essayist in divinity, select a motto to head a discourse, vague and inappropriate ;—nor did he encumber his expositions with an unnecessary parade of human learning; nor seek to attract admiration by ingenious subtleties, or wrest the Scripture to subserve a system. He regarded his office as being that of an interpreter; and his aim was, with simplicity and plainness, to unfold the mind of God in His word ; "rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving to each their portion of meat in due season."
2. He was experimental. Divine truth, from his lips, was not a cold, speculative statement; but was so interwoven with all the inward experiences of the human heart, as peculiarly to promote the edification of his hearers. He could appropriate the language of the Apostle, and say, 6 that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life, declare we unto you.” From the heart he preached to the heart, and seemed to enter into all its secret recesses. He detected the illusions by which it is beguiled-he traced human action to its hidden springs—he accompanied the soul in the alternations of doubt and hope, of fear and joy, in its conflicts with despair and unbelief; till, led to the foot of the cross, it was able to repose in the promises of God, and realize the sweet enjoyment of par.
don and peace.
3. He was practical. He did not preach doctrine without practice, nor practice without doctrine, but both in due proportion, in their mutual dependence, connexion, and use. He connected precept with promise, and privilege with duty. As a
spiritual workman, he considered doctrine to be the foundation, and practice the superstructure to be erected upon it; adopting the sentiment of one of his favourite Reformers—"truly it is said, ' without holiness no man shall see the Lord ;' but this I know, without the Lord, no man shall see holiness.”
4. He was comprehensive. Christianity, in his mode of exhibiting it, was a grand and comprehensive whole ; while the symmetry of the several parts was faithfully preserved. He did not give to one part of divine truth any undue preponderance over another. Each truth seemed to be in its right place, and in its just measure and proportion. All the doctrines and all the prccepts—all the promises, and all the characters to whom they are made—all the privileges and all the duties, were, in turn, the theme of his discourses. It is this beautiful order, and harmonious combination of all its various relations, that constitutes one of the characteristic features of a Revelation from above. And to present it under this form is that rare talent which all should endeavour to attain ; and, when attained, it forms, so far as human instrumentality is concerned, the grand desideratum of ministerial preaching.
The well-informed reader will easily discern the old divine in in this mode of proceeding. The highest Calvinist, in former days, took in the whole range of Christian faith and practice. Usher, and others of the supralapsarian school, were as minute and particular in explaining and enforcing the law, in all its ramifications, as they were full and glowing in setting forth the grace of the Gospel; and insisted as strenuously on the necessity and importance of good works, as the lowest Arminian.
5. He was impressive in his appeals to the heart and conscience. No man better understood that part of a discourse which consists of the application. Some preachers are very deficient in this respect; either wholly omitting to apply their subject, or for the most part failing in discrimination. A discourse, to be profitable, must come home to our own case.
Mr. Richmond, in appealing to his hearers, was faithful, searching, forcible, and impressive. “ He reproved, rebuked, exhorted, with all long suffering and doctrine ;" but his exhortations were accompanied by the most affecting displays of the mercy, power, and grace of God in the gospel ; and while his own experience of the truths he uttered, gave an authority and efficacy to his words, God put his seal to the testimony, and crowned his labours with success.
In presenting this delineation of Mr. Richmond's mode of preaching, the editor feels there would yet be something wanting, to give its complete character, if it were not stated more specifically, that the Saviour, in his various offices of Prophet, Priest, and King, was the grand theme of Mr. Richmond's ministrations. His excellence, like that of a skilful painter, consisted in so arranging all the subordinate parts of his picture, as to give due prominence and effect to the principal figure. Christ Jesus was the soul of all his discourses ; and every precept, every promise, derived its force and value from its bearing and relation to Him.
A style of preaching like this must be allowed to be singularly useful, combining all that is important and requisite in a Christian preacher. His ministry possessed two peculiar excellencies,-it was too practical to make an Antinomian, and too doctrinal to make the mere moralist. Antinomianism inay indeed exist, notwithstanding the utmost precaution of the preacher; and a dependence on our own works is interwoven with the very frame of our corrupt nature ; but a minister is only then culpable, when his mode of preaching has a direct tendency to produce either the one or the other. No man was ever more free from both these defects, as a preacher, nor any congregation more exempt than his own from these pernicious errors. In that important branch of Christian theology relating to faith and works, where some preachers are most confused, he was most clear and scriptural. He laid the foundation in Christ. alone, and in faith in his name ;-a faith which was represented to be the gift of God, and the work of his Spirit; living, energetic, fruitful, and holy ;—not the cause, but the instrument of salvation; and he taught, that good works were themselves the subjects of promise (Micah vii. 19;) the necessary fruits and evidences of faith, but not the meritorious conditions, in whole or in part, of the divine favour. It may be thought, that where the necessity of faith and good works is equally admitted, distinctions of this kind need not be pressed with so much earnestness; but it will be found, that the right understanding of these distinctions involves the most important consequences.
It is not a matter of small moment, whether we put cause for effect, or attribute to our own imperfect services that salvation, which is the result of God's free grace in Christ Jesus.
So far as our own doings enter into the meritorious grounds of our acceptance, they destroy the character of the gospel as a dispensation of gratuitous mercy. “ If by grace, then is it no more of works ; otherwise grace is no more grace.
But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work."-Rom. xi. 6. It has been said, that the poor,
who stitute the larger part of a congregation, are unable to comprehend these theological subtleties, which ought not, therefore, to form a part of ministerial instruction. We cannot better meet this objection, than by a reference to the sentiments of Bishop Horsley :-“Pray earnestly to God to assist the ministration of the word, by the secret influence of his Holy Spirit, on the minds of your hearers; and, nothing doubting that your prayers are heard, however mean and illiterate the congregation may be, in which you exercise your sacred functions, fear not to set before them the whole counsel of God. Open the whole of your message without reservation; that every one of you may have confidence to say, when he shall be called upon to give an account of his stewardship, Lord, I have not hid thy righteousness within
ту I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and truth from the great congregation.'"* We will merely add to this testimony, that the doctrines of grace are often better understood by the poor and illiteratę, than by the rich and the wise. " I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”—Matt. xi. 25. The cross
* See Charges of Bishop Horsley, p. 16.