Review of Volume 4 of Beddome's Sermons 1816
Twenty Short Discourses, adapted to Village Worship, or the Devotions of the Family. Vol. IV. Published from the Manuscripts of the late Rev. B. Beddome, A. M. Button and Son, and Hamilton. 8vo. pp. 175. Price 3s.
We are persuaded, that many of our readers, perhaps the greater number of them, know that three volumes of admirable sermons have already been printed, from the manuscript copies of the late venerable Beddome; and we entertain the hope, that not a few have them in their possession, and that they have read them with pleasure and advantage. The bare intimation, that this volume is in no respect inferior to either of the three preceding ones, will, we presume, be quite sufficient to induce those who have seen the former, to procure this; in doing which, they will furnish themselves with a fresh store of excellent family reading, for twenty succeeding sabbath evenings. They will probably conclude, and they may do it with perfect safety, that these discourses are too good to need any eulogium, and that the errors are too few, and too trivial, to require correction. But, as all our readers have not seen the former volumes, there must be some who cannot anticipate the merit of the present. It is principally for their information, that we proceed, in the following remarks, to give some account of this additional volume. Though we cannot honestly allow it to be supposed, that we consider these sermons free from mistakes, or that they could not have been better than they are, much less that they are the best we have ever seen; yet, in reviewing a posthumous work, particularly one which was not designed by the author for public inspection, we think, there can be no apology for criticising its faults, unless, either from their number, or magnitude, they possess a dangerous tendency, against which our readers should be put on their guard; and as, in the present instance, we conceive, this is not the case, we shall content ourselves with a brief notice of the general properties and excellencies of the discourses under consideration. Suffice it, then, to say, they are neither complex in their form, nor tedious in their extent; on the contrary, they are simple and natural in their plan, and short and pointed in their execution. In both these respects, they are select; so much so, as to render it very evident that the author's mind was more occupied in choosing, than merely in collecting, his materials. They abound with scripture quotation, interesting thought, sound divinity, deep experience, and pious feeling. They are plain, but not common-place; intellectual, but not abstruse; clear, but not cold; devotional, but not enthusiastic.
The general cast of sentiment, and the prevailing turn of thought, are at a considerable distance from what is termed moderate Calvinism, though they do not, by any means, compass the length and breadth of the hyper-calvinistic system. The practical addresses, of course, arc very far from being legal. There is no attempt to employ the hand of the formalist, whose heart is unaffected; the dread of a master's frown is not urged to produce the submission of a slave; nor is the idea of doing "God service," or the absurd notion of human merit, exhibited to engage the exertions of the proud Pharisee; neither is the discharge of spiritual duties enforced upon Christians themselves, by inadequate motives. The doctrinal parts are free from any tendency to antinomian licentiousness. There is nothing to countenance the inconsistency of those, who, while in words they acknowledge Christ, in works deny him; nothing to foster the fancied security of those "who are at ease in Zion;" nothing to apologize for the indolence of those who slumber and sleep, regardless of the bridegroom's approach; nothing to feed the pride of those who consider themselves as the favourites of heaven; nothing to encourage , the presumption of the man who says, "I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst." The prominent features of the sermons, then, are neither legal nor lawless. The practical addresses are evangelical, and the statements of evangelical truth are practical. The design of both is to remind believers that they are " not without law to God, but under the law to Christ," and to excite and strengthen the cheerful obedience of a dutiful son, by the smile of an affectionate father. The conduct which they require, and which they are intended to produce, would form a beautiful exemplification of the genuine effects of that "faith which worketh by love."
The style of the sermons is nowhere elegant, but always perspicuous, uniformly sententious, generally correct, frequently antithetical, and it sometimes assumes a kind of proverbial structure, which last property is peculiarly calculated to impress ideas upon the mind, and to print them upon the memory. In almost every page, there is a thought or two, printed, we were going to say, on the old-English adage type,— which mode of printing upon the memory was, probably, much more in use before the modern art of printing upon paper was invented, than it has been since.
We could give many very pleasing extracts, which would also confirm the various remarks which we have made; but we wish rather to refer our readers to the volume itself. We can assure them, that they will not regret the purchase of it; for, beside its intrinsic excellence, it has what, in these times, may be called the unusual recommendation of being cheap.
The sermons being originally designed for the author's use only, needed no titles; and, as they were written, so they are printed, without any. The texts are: Who is the beginning—Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left—If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness, is born of him—I will give them one heart—Rejoice evermore—Pray without ceasing—In every thing give thanks—Quench not the spirit—Despise not prophesyings—Prove all things—Hold fast that which is good—Abstain from all appearance of evil—etc, etc.