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public speaking, can bring all their faculties forward for the immediate occasion, and who do justice to themselves and the world by doing justice to each matter as it successively comes to their hand.
A well-informed and earnest speaker will always be popular if he be tolerably fluent, and if he "shew himself friendly; but no reputation and no talent will secure an audience to the automaton who is unconscious of his hearers, or to the misanthrope who despises op dislikes them. And if, as Anthony à Wood informs us," the persuasion of his oratory could move and wind the affections of his admiring auditory almost as he pleased," we can well believe that he possessed the proper and comely personage, the graceful behaviour in the pulpit, the eloquent elocution, and the winning and insinuating deportment,” which this reluctant witness ascribes to him. With such advantages, we can understand how, dissolved into a stream of continuous discourse, the doctrines which we only know in their crystallised form of heads and particulars became a gladsome river; and how the man who spoke them with sparkling eye and shining face was not shunned as a buckram pedant, but run after as a popular preacher.
And yet, to his written style Owen is less indebted for his fame than almost any of the Puritans. Not to mention that his works have never been condensed for modern use by any congenial Fawcett,* they never did exhibit the pathetic importunity and Demosthenic fervour of Baxter. In his Platonic loftiness Howe always dwelt apart; and there have been no glorious dreams since Bunyan passed away to the beatific vision. Like a soft valley, where every turn reveals a cascade or a castle, or at least a picturesque cottage, Flavel lures us
* The “Exposition of the Hebrews” was reduced from four folios to four octavos by Dr Edward Williams, himself a master-spirit in the field of theological literature ; but there is much of the life of the original which the admirers of Owen miss in the abridgement.
along by the vivid succession of his curious analogies and interesting stories; whilst all the way the path is green with kind humanity, and bright with gospel blessedness. And, like some sheltered cove, where the shells are all so brilliant, and the sea-plants all so curious, that the young naturalist can never leave off collecting, so profuse are the quaint sayings and the nice little anecdotes which Thomas Brooks showers from his “Golden Treasury,” from his “Box," and his “ Cabinet,” that the reader needs must follow where all the road is so radiant, and every step is rewarded by its several gem. But Owen has no adventitious attractions. His books lack the extempore felicities and the reflected fellow-feeling which lent a charm to his spoken sermons; and on the table-land of his controversial treatises sentence follows sentence like a file of Ironsides, in buff and rusty steel—a sturdy procession, but a dingy uniform ; and it is only here and there, where a son of Anak outpeers his comrades, that you are arrested by a thought of uncommon vigour or grandeur. Like candidates for the modern ministry, in his youth Owen had learned to write Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; but then, as now, English had no place in the academic curriculum. And had he been urged in maturer life to study the art of composition, most likely he would have frowned on his adviser. He would have urged the “ haste” which “ the King's business” requires, and might have reminded us that viands are as wholesome on a wooden trencher as on a plate of gold. He would have told us that truth needs no tinsel, and that the road over a bare heath may be more correct than the pretty windings of the valley. Or, rather, he would have said, as he has written, “Know that you have to do with a person who, provided his words but clearly express the sentiments of his mind, entertains a fixed and absolute disregard of all elegance and ornaments of speech."
True; gold is welcome even in a purse of the coarsest canvas; and although it is not in such caskets that people
usually keep their gems, no man would despise a diamond because he found it in an earthen porringer. In the treatises of Owen there is many a sentence which, set in a sermon, would shine like a brilliant; and there are ingots enough to make the fortune of a theological faculty. For instance, we open the first treatise in the last collective edition of his works, and we read—“It carrieth in it a great condecency unto Divine wisdom, that man should be restored unto the image of God, by Him who was the essential image of the Father; and that He was made like unto us, that we might be made like unto Him, and unto God through Him;" and we are immediately reminded of a recent treatise on the Incarnation, and all its interesting speculation regarding the “ Pattern-Man.” We read again till we come to the following remark :—“It is the nature of sincere goodness to give a delight and a complacency unto the mind in the exercise of itself, and communication of its effects. A good man doth both delight in doing good, and hath an abundant reward for the doing it, in the doing of it;" and how can we help recalling a memorable sermon “On the Immediate Reward of Obedience," and a no less memorable chapter in a Bridgewater Treatise, “On the Inherent Pleasure of the Virtuous Affections" ? And we read the chapter on “ The Person of Christ the great Representative of God,” and are startled by its foreshadowings of the sermons and the spiritual history of a remarkably honest and vigorous thinker, who, from doubting the doctrine of the Trinity, was led to recognise in the person of Jesus Christ the Alpha and Omega of his theology. It is possible that Archdeacon Wilberforce, and Chalmers, and Arnold, may never have perused the treatise in question ; and it is equally possible that under the soporific influence of a heavy style they may never have noticed passages for which their own minds possessed such a powerful affinity. But by the legitimate expedient of appropriate language-perhaps by means of some ornament or elegance”
Jeremy Taylor or Barrow would have arrested attention to such important thoughts; and the cause of truth would have gained had the better divine been at least an equal orator.
However, there “masters in Israel” whose style has been remarkably meagre; and perhaps " Edwards on the Will” and “Butler's Analogy,” would not have numbered many more readers although they had been composed in the language of Addison. We must, therefore, notice another obstacle which has hindered our author's popularity, and it is a fault of which the world is daily becoming more and more intolerant. That fault is prolixity. Dr Owen was too busy to be brief; and in his polemical writings, he was so anxious to leave no cavil unanswered, that he spent, in closing loop-holes, the strength which would have crushed the foe in open battle. No misgiving as to the champion's powers will ever cross the mind of the spectators; but movements more rapid would render the conflict more interesting, and the victory not less conclusive. * In the same way as the effectiveness of his controversial works is injured by this excursive tendency, so the practical impression of his other works is too often suspended by inopportune digressions; whilst every treatise would have commanded a wider circulation if divested of its irrelevant incumbrances.
* In his delightful reminiscences of Dr Chalmers, Mr J. J. Gurney says, "I often think that particular men bear about with them an analogy to particular animals : Chalmers is like a good-tempered lion ; Wilberforce is like a bee.” Dr Owen often reminds us of an elephant: the same ponderous movements—the same gentle sagacity—the same vast but unobtrusive powers. With a logical proboscis able to handle the heavy guns of Hugo Grotius, and yet fine enough for untwisting the tangled threads of Richard Baxter, in his encounters with John Goodwin he resembles his prototype in a leopard-hunt, where sheer strength is on the one side, and brisk agility on the other. And to push our conceit no further, they say that this wary animal will never venture over a bridge till he has tried its strength, and is assured that it can bear him; and, if we except the solitary break-down in the Waltonian controversy, our disputant was as cautious in choosing his ground as he was formidable when once he took up his position.
PROLIX, PROFUSE, PROFOUND.
Within the entire range of British authorship there exist no grander contributions towards a systematic Christology than the “ Exposition of the Hebrews," with its dissertations on the Saviour's priesthood; but whilst there are few theologians who have not occasionally consulted it, those are still fewer who have mastered its ponderous contents; and we have frequently known enterprising students who made entrance on such a book as the “ Perseverance of the Saints,” or the “ Justification,” but like settlers put ashore in a cane-brake, after struggling for hours through the preface or the general considerations, in despair of reaching the promised land, they were glad to retrace their steps and seek some other region which offered an easier landing-place amidst its less luxuriant vegetation,
It was their own loss, however, that they did not reach the interior; for there they would have found themselves in the presence of one of the greatest of theological intellects. Black and Cavendish were born to be chemists, and Linnæus and Cuvier were naturalists in spite of themselves; and so, there is a mental conformation which almost necessitated that Augustine and Athanasius, Calvin and Arminius, should become dogmatists and systematic divines. With the opposite aptitudes for large generalisation and subtile distinction, as soon as some master-principle had gained possession of their devout understandings, they had no greater joy than to develop its all-embracing applications, and they sought to subjugate Christendom to its imperial ascendency. By itself, the habit of lofty contemplation would have made them pietists or Christian psalmists, and a mere turn for definition would have made them quibblers or schoolmen; but the two united, and together animated by a strenuous faith, made them theologians. In such intellects the seventeenth century abounded; but we question if in dialectic skill, guided by sober judgment, and in extensive acquirements, mellowed by a deep spirituality, it yielded an equivalent to Dr Owen.