Page images

hearing him only on some special occasion where a great effort was made, and where, of course, there was less of that simplicity and freedom which might have been found in his ordinary ministrations; and we have regretted this the more when we have heard the description of those who have told us of the way in which they were carried away, when listening to his sermons at Torquay, even more by the spiritual earnestness and force than by the intellectual power and originality of the preacher. Still, it would generally be conceded that he was happier on the platform than in the pulpit. Whether it was that he needed the kind of stimulus which a speaker may receive from an enthusiastic audience it is not for us to determine, but certain it is that some of his most remarkable efforts-those which dwell in the grateful recollection of all who heard them-were made under such circumstances. The Bicentenary celebration of 1862 owed much of the impulse which carried it to a successful issue, to the noble speech which he delivered at the previous Autumnal Meeting of the Congregational Union at Birmingham. Even more memorable as the latest of these oratorical triumphs- for such in truth they were— was the speech in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, at the autumnal meeting of 1867. It was his first appearance on a Manchester Platform since his retirement from the College, and the men of Manchester were prepared to give a hearty welcome to an old and honoured leader. The subject, the immense audience, the enthusiastic applause with which he was greeted, moved his soul to its very depths. He spoke with a rare eloquence, and the echo of his wise and earnest words still lingers in many a heart. The clear and ringing notes of his voice, his venerable form, the contrast between the silvery hair, then but thinly sprinkled on his massive head, and the manly vigour which marked his utterances, all contributed to the impression produced by a speech of marvellous power, the recollection of which will not soon pass away. He had expressed before coming to the assembly a feeling that it might probably be the last meeting of the Congregational Union which he should attend, but no one who heard him that night could share in such an impression. It was one of the great occasions of his life, an opportunity such as does not fall to the lot of many men, and he was fully equal to it. There was, indeed, something of the fervour and inspiration of one of the old prophets in these the last words of counsel and encouragement he was to address to such an assembly.

Once before in the same place, though on a very different occasion, had he produced an effect of a similar character. He had taken a deep interest in the struggles of Hungary for her freedom, looking perhaps too hopefully to the religious rather

than to the political results of such movements; and he was chosen to speak words of welcome to Kossuth on his visit to Manchester. Of his speech on that occasion it is unnecessary to give any impressions of our own, since its character has been so well described by a more impartial and thoroughly competent critic. Walter Savage Landor, in one of his imaginary conversations between Nicholas and Nesselrode, introduces the Czar, whom he supposes to be very much alarmed lest Dr. Vaughan's speech should induce Lord Palmerston to interfere, saying: "Sometimes a red-hot word, falling upon soft tinder and smouldering there awhile, is blown beyond, and sets town and palaces on fire. Unaccustomed as I am to be moved or concerned by the dull thumps of honourable gentlemen in the English Parliament, and very accustomed to be amused by the sophisms and trickeries, evolutions and revolutions, pliant antics and plianter oaths of the French tribune, I perused with astonishment the vigorous oration of this Dr. Vaughan. I did not imagine that any Englishman now living could exert such a force of eloquence. Who could have believed that English clergymen are so (what is called) liberal!"

Mr. Landor wrote, we presume, of the speech as reported in the newspapers; but to understand its full power he must have formed one of that vast audience, seen the orator glowing with the strength of the passion which stirred his soul, shared the excitement of the multitude, who in truth, were stirred with something of the spirit which moved the Athenians when, under the spell of some grand oration of Demosthenes, they were ready to rise and march against Philip. The warlike tone of the oration was of course distasteful to many, and exposed the speaker to no little obloquy at the time; but there can be no question that Dr. Vaughan acted under a conscientious sense of duty, and as little doubt that that speech marked him as one of the first orators of the day.





"Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham which he had, being yet uncircumcised." Rom. iv. 6-12.


T an earlier point of his discourse Paul selected an illustrious patriarch for an argument of justification by faith. To extend and strengthen his argument, he now adds the testimony and experience of a king, the noblest of all the kings that ever reigned over the sacred nation. Besides being a king, David was a prophet and a bard, with a soul full of poetry and music. He was a man of large religious experience, and was chosen of God to write the chief part of the inspired psalter. The book of Psalms goes under his name because he wrote the most of it—a bible in itself, lacking nothing essential that can be found in the wider field of revealed truth. It is a bible within the bible, furnishing doctrine, precept, prophecy, prayer, and holy song in abundance. For a certainty it has much of Christ in it, and is fraught with the peculiar doctrines of grace; as, for example, the doctrine now on hand. It looks as if Paul meant to take the Jews by force when he cites such honourable names. And yet he passes by the name of a very important person, namely, Moses, who was of great repute in Israel, and flourished between the time of Abraham and the days of David. There may be good reason for ignoring him. He had no direct lineal connection with Christ. The law was his province: "The law was given VOL. VII.-NEW SERIES.


by Moses." A Gospel order of things took the lead of the law, and was not invalidated by its interposition. It was before the law and it was after. Centuries before the decalogue was given, faith was the declared principle of justification, Abraham being witness and example; and, centuries after, the same economy stands fast, David being its vindicator and exponent. In the mouth of these two eligible witnesses the matter is established. The vote of Moses is not taken on the subject. As the representative of law, he is ineligible. It is a striking fact (we do not say significant) that he could neither lead the people into Canaan, nor get in himself, because he came short, and was not square with his own law: “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified."

The paragraph before us keeps hold of Abraham still, and introduces the royal character to confirm and enrich the argument. The earlier verses give us David's testimony.

Verses 6-8 may be taken together. It is said that David describes the blessedness of a certain man, the man, any man, that is to say, who is treated on the score of grace. This means not that he delineates or defines such happiness by philosophical description, but that he speaks (LEGEI), or pronounces such a man blessed. He congratulates that man, and declares him to be in a happy state. There was no particular person meant by the man, no one that he came face to face with, and shook hands with, and greeted with words of cheer. It was just a soliloquy he uttered with reference to any that were divinely accepted in his day, or who might afterwards enjoy such favour. He congratulated all such throughout the world, and to the end of time. If you examine the thirty-second psalm, from which the quotation is made, you will find that he made this utterance on the strength of his own experience, and with special reference to himself having received mercy. But for his personal participation in this enjoyment, he could have said nothing about it. It would never have occurred to him; and, if it had, he would have spoken in the dark, and been like a blind man giving an opinion on the merits of a picture, or a deaf man judging of music which he could not hear. It is disagreeable work for one person to describe what another enjoys, if his own breast be a stranger to the actual bliss. Being in the same case gives you clear insight and ready appreciation. The man who has been condemned to die, and has received a royal pardon, knows how to sympathise with one that receives a pardon in similar circumstances. Two such meeting together can reciprocate sentiments well. David had been pardoned. When he exclaimed about the happiness of one forgiven, it was the memory of his own share in such bliss that prompted him.

The Apostle makes a statement to the effect that David describes the blessedness of one to whom God imputes righteousness without

works. There are two points in which the quotation drops short of the writer's purpose in making it. But he quotes it boldly, as implying or involving all he wants. Paul says, Paul says, "without works." David is not so express as this. Examine the psalm, and you will see that he says nothing about works. He, very probably, would have excluded them in a formal manner if he had been writing a doctrinal epistle. As it was a psalm he was dictating in the spirit of devotion, with no respect to controversy, he takes no notice of works. He neither says they were wanted or could be dispensed with, or that they were allowed or disallowed. ignoring them may be what the Apostle means. God graciously forgives a man's sins, hides them, covers them, and no works are cited or named in the case as a pre-requisite, it is quite valid to conclude that none are necessary, none are appointed, and none can be admitted in the affair. Silence concerning works as a condition of pardon is a satisfactory argument.

His If it be said that

The other formal difference is that the fundamental passage is negative, and yet it is quoted as if it were positive. The later writer affirms of his author that he describes one to whom God imputeth righteousness. The earlier writer has nothing so positive as that. He speaks not of what is imputed, but of something that is not imputed: "Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." The matter is easily adjusted by assuming that the non-imputation of iniquity is equal to the actual imputation of righteousness. And this assumption is agreeable to a well-known rule-that with moral beings there is no neutral ground. There is no vacuum in character and moral relations. If we are not wrong, we are right; if we are not condemned, we are acquitted. The withdrawment of all charges and accusations leaves us as free from legal penalty as if we were guiltless, irrespective of the fact whether we be guilty or not. Non-imputation is equivalent to reconciliation: "To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation." 2 Cor. v. 19. Suppose you had committed a capital offence, and your head was forfeited according to law, nothing standing between you and death but the necessary formalities of a trial. The day of trial would be looked forward to with much solicitude. On the arrival of that day should it come to pass that neither accuser nor witness shewed face in court to confront you, and that all proof of your guilt was kept out of the way, what would be the result? You could not be condemned without prosecutor and in the absence of evidence. You would quit the court like an innocent man. Being actually guilty you would not have the bearing of innocence, as your own breast will testify against you. You would feel that you had escaped by the forbearance and kindness of the parties concerned,

« PreviousContinue »