The Works of the Rt. Rev. George Horne, D. D., late Lord Bishop of Norwich; to which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life, Studies and Writings. By WILLIAM JONES, M. A., F. R. S., one of His Lordship's Chaplains, and long his most intimate and confidential friend. New York: Stanford & Swords, 2 vols. 8vo. 1848,
AMONG the remarkable periods of the Christian Era, the eighteenth century is by no means the least notable. To biographers and annalists of every class, and to the student of history, ecclesiastical or secular, it opens a wide field of observation. It was an age fruitful in grand schemes and momentous movements, as well as great names and mighty minds. It was distinguished alike by the discovery or evolution of efficacious social principles, and by the application of those principles, developing the resources and advancing the interests of mankind.
Many of the changes of that eventful period have been attended already by marked results, easily traced to certain causes. But the full tendency and ultimate issues of many of those changes are, as yet, in the dark womb of the future. The most candid and skillful collator of facts can not yet bring out the various objects of those sketches in a perfect picture, as the true image of a portion of the entire past; a portraiture fully conformed to the rigid standard established by the test of ages; and fit for a permanent place in the archives of the world. All that any can now do towards accomplishing this great end of historic care, is comparatively little. It is to consider in a cautious manner all the bearings and relations of prominent events; to suggest frankly any modifications required in the glaring colors and deep shadows, here and there given by the rapid, bold strokes of partial delineators: and to bring into some due prominence characters and influences hitherto overlooked. Thus far, may all who have opportunity safely do whatever is within their capacity, to supply the first sketches of biographers and annalists with the various shades and tints of a more complete representation.
These remarks are applicable to every class of subjects and characters with which the history of the human race is concerned; to politics, philosophy, military achievements, the useful and the fine arts, and above all, to the greatest object of intellectual effort, theological truth. Their application is more important, if not more obvious, with respect to this, than either of the other objects of historic care. It may be fitly illustrated by a brief view of some striking features in the ecclesiastical history of the eighteenth century, and the consequent state of religion in the nineteenth; such a view as is naturally suggested by the name and works of Bishop Horne.
We assume then, here, the truth of the common observation, that the farther we are removed from the antipathies or prepossessions of the period in which a man of literary eminence lived, the move exact is our judgment of his moral character and intellectual achievements. This observation we might illustrate by a comparison of good Bishop Horne with some of the more celebrated of his cotemporaries; for example, with those earnest propagators of diverse refinements on the simple theology of the New Testament, Wesley and Whitfield on the one hand, or with their extreme opposer, Warburton, on the other. We might show how those sticklers for new views, under the much abused phrase, "doctrines of grace," unlike our truly evangelical interpreter of holy David's Gospel, actually, in the real influence of their views upon their disciples generally, met their most violent opposer with perfect, though not cordial agreement, in the extremes of theoretical depreciation and practical disregard of the Old Testament; considered as an essential part of the Divine manifestation of the everlasting gospel, which was "preached before to Abraham." Nor would a thorough comparison of the spiritually wise expounder of the Psalms with the mentally gigantic author of the Divine Legation of Moses, be altogether out of place in this review. But we shall only attempt here to illustrate briefly, by the other comparison suggested, the superior influence of those views of divine truth, to the elucidation of which the great commentator on the Psalms lent the best part of his laborious and devotional life.
The permanent power of such views of Scriptural truth, then, deserves to be clearly distinguished from the comparatively ephemeral efficacy of efforts like those of Whitfield and Wesley. Not only were those remarkable men too ready to lay the foundation of their usefulness in an almost unprecedented amount of preaching in divers places and countries, but still more were they too ready to rely largely upon the frequent repetition of exciting discourses, based chiefly upon their earnest controversies with each other, concerning the speculative questions, presented by the Calvinistic and Arminian systems of metaphysics; systems, which had been better left by them, as ministers of the Church of England, where, in the language of Archbishop Whately, "the Bible hath left the abstract metaphysical questions of fate and free-will, exactly as it found them, undecided and untouched." Zealous and laborious preachers, men of no mean mental abilities, confessedly unsurpassed by any of their followers in the religious communities which they originated, Wesley and Whitfield had been, like many who still occupy the first rank among all the great men of Puritanism, nurtured in the Church of England, fed at its board, and invigorated from its fountains, until their religious character had reached its maturity, and been folly formed and settled, as to its practical type and tone. But in their hazardous career of ecclesiastical agitation, they were strangely misled by their partialities towards the two extremes of the diverse systems of opinion, tolerated in that Church, with respect to metaphysical questions, not essentially involved in any doctrines of Scriptural Christianity. Magnifying, therefore, the opinions which they thus respectively espoused, they unwittingly alienated their disciples, on the one hand and on the other, from the venerable Church, to which, on their own part, they professed a cordial attachment to the end of their lives. And still more they alienated the stedfast members of that Church from themselves, and from their successors in the schemes of religious instruction which they set on foot. But it is not in the whirlwind of great awakenings, produced by distorted or partial views of revealed truth, though it be "a great and strong wind, rending the mountains and breaking io pieces the rocks before the LORD," that the presence and power of GOD are most truly manifested to promote "the perpetual fear and love of his holy name." Much less is it in such religious commotions as demolish some of the essentials of Apostolic order in ecclesiastical organization, that the elements of spiritual progress are to be found by any class of Christians. Nor yet is it in fierce polemical discussion, which raged with much violence in the last century, especially among the advocates of those new views to which we have alluded, that the pure substance of sound doctrine is to be sought most successfully. It is rather in the "still small voice" of devotional theology, founded upon the simple, obvious doctrines of every portion of immutable revealed truth; in plain, expository theology, derived from careful comparison of spiritual things, as set forth in all parts of the Word of GOD, that "the Church of the Living GOD, the pillar and ground of the Truth," possesses the most effectual means of securing the permanent prosperity of pure and undefiled religion. Of the value and power of such theology, above that with which we have compared it, we find conclusive proof, in the undeniable fact, that the members of the Church of England in general have been, for a century past, gradually improving in practical religion and the cultivation of personal holiness; while, under the same circumstances, the seceding disciples of Wesley and Whitfield have, to say the least, declined from the seriousness and strictness of those remarkable men and their associates of the last century.
In view of such considerations, we are ready to conclude that, in the promotion of the more permanent, the general interests of religion, the actual influence, even of those celebrated preachers, shooting like meteors across the horizon of England and America, with a strange, startling glare, was small compared with that of the brilliant constellations of devoted and exemplary ministers, who, in more stable, and apparently more limited spheres, as faithful vicars, patient curates and persevering missionaries, labored with no less diligence, amid the lukewarmness and worldliness of many beneficiaries of the English establishment, in that season of apathy. Much more, must the popular estimates of those wonderful agitators be modified by full, true views of the more substantial, abiding influence of the great divines, who were far above them, as master-minds of the Church, and of Christianity in our father-land; the real luminaries of English theology in the eighteenth century; men, whose names and characters will shine with increasing lustre, as their worthy lives shall be scanned, and their lasting works studied, more and more, from generation to generation. Such a "burning and shining light" was the evangelical interpreter of the Book of Psalms; whose valuable writings, on various subjects of Christian instruction, have had hitherto an influence more widely experienced than acknowledged, both in England and this country.
But we are not yet ready to examine particularly the life and writings of this excellent divine. We wish first to present a clear view of the position which he occupied, as a minister of the Church of England in the eighteenth century.
The extreme views of speculative doctrine, held by Wesley on the one hand and Whitfield on the other, were not the only manifestations of antagonistic opinions which tended constantly to produce disturbance and divisions at that period. Then, as now, it was quite common to class Churchmen by the terms High and Low. But then, as now, it was utterly impracticable to make a division or distinction of all Churchmen into two opposite parties. Then, as now, the great body of Protestant Episcopalians, ministers and people, could not be classed as High Churchmen or Low Churchmen, according to any prevailing definition of these terms, however varied or modified from time to time. And then, as now, we venture to assert, the most important influence of Churchmen upon the state of religion, was exerted by men, who could not, in view of their whole course as Churchmen, be justly placed in either of the antagonistic classes, strictly designated by the terms to which we have adverted.
Among such men we find Bishop Horne. A man of the most unquestionable purity of purpose and devoutness of spirit; exercising a high degree of liberality toward those who differed with him in religious opinions, and disposed to allow them a large measure of liberty; refraining, as Bishop, from any interference with the questionable proceedings of Mr. Wesley, and often wishing that many of the Clergy of that period had cherished more of the zeal of that remarkable man and some of his associates; and at the same time an earnest advocate of the claims of the Scotch Bishops, and the Non-Jurors generally; George Horne was a divine, whom, with all his characteristic decision and discrimination, it is impossible to identify, by the testimony of his life or his writings, with any class or party in the Church of England, during the period of his ministry; a Christian, whose blameless life and brilliant course heavenward might well suggest to his excellent biographer, Jones of Nayland, the beautiful sentiment with which he concludes his memorial of the good Bishop. "All good men are walking by the same way to the same end. If there are any individuals, who by the shining of their light render the path more plain and pleasant, let us agree to make the most we can of them, and be followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises." It is in the spirit of this sentiment that we would now turn to some of the particulars most worthy of notice in the life and writings of our excellent author.
This truly admirable Prelate, who is justly described by his affectionate chaplain's eloquent pen, as one of the fairest models of Christian character presented by the annals of the eighteenth century, was the second son of the Rev. Samuel Horne, Rector of Otham, a small village in Kent. The family of this "very learned and respectable Clergyman, who had been for some years a tutor at Oxford," was somewhat remarkable, in that all of his sons, who lived to years of discretion, the eldest having died very young, became worthy and able ministers of the Church of England. Of these, the youngest, being the fourth son, succeeded his father in the Rectory of Otham and was also Rector of Brede in the County of Sussex. The third son, Samuel, seems to have died suddenly, while yet a young man; but not without giving, as a fellow of University College, Oxford, many proofs of ability and fitness for the work of the ministry, and especially of "a talent for preaching."
George, the Bishop, was evidently from childhood the most prominent member of the family, which comprised also three daughters. His admiring biographer traces an interesting incident even in his infancy; in a singular practice of his father, who being a man of very mild and quiet temper, used to waken him by playing on a flute, that he need not be wakened suddenly, and startled to crying. The tender and watchful care of his considerate father, thus manifested in his infancy, was continued with great success through his childhood, until the time of his leaving the parental roof, to pursue the studies of a liberal education in public institutions. The proficiency he had made under the instruction of his father, caused his new teacher, upon his preliminary examination, to ask why he came to school, when he was rather fit to go from school. Afterwards, in his collegiate course at the University at Oxford, his great proficiency caused his election to a fellowship in a College, of which he was not a member by graduation. To this event his biographer alludes with much satisfaction and gratitude; acknowledging the providence of GOD in it, as the apparent means of Mr. Horne's promotion, not only to the Presidency of the College to which he was thus transferred, and the Vice-Chancellorship of the University, but also to the Deanery of Canterbury, and ultimately to the Bishopric of Norwich. And notwithstanding his late elevation to the Episcopate, under the usages of the English establishment, we are ready to unite in the devout acknowledgment of the overruling providence of GOD. We are thankful that such a man, one of the brightest ornaments, not only of his University, but of his Church, was, by any train of events, placed in a situation, where he could apply himself, for a long time, with unremitting diligence, to the more important parts of those useful writings, by which, "he being dead yet speaketh."
The several successive steps of his promotion, therefore, are worthy of brief notice in this review of his life.
Having been admitted to Holy Orders in 1753, in the twenty-third year of his age, he was, in 1758, appointed Junior Proctor of the University of Oxford; an office, in which he was highly esteemed for his discretion, in combining strictness and mildness on all occasions. In 1759, ho took the degree of Bachelor of Divinity; and in 1764, was advanced to the Doctorship. This, as he was still quite young, and for several years afterwards in no official station entitling him to such a degree, may safely be considered as a signal honor bestowed upon him, for a testimony of his University to his singular ability and worth. In 1768, he was elected President of Magdalen College, and in 1776 was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University. In 1781, he was made Dean of Canterbury, having been for ten years previous, Chaplain in ordinary to the King. And finally, in 1790, but a short time before his death, Ire was promoted to an important Bishopric. From that time his increasing infirmities made rapid inroads upon his constitution. He was thus prevented from delivering his primary charge, which, as prepared by him, is preserved among his published works. Having entered the sixty-second year of his age, on the first of November, 1791 he died on the 17th of January following; in the fulness "of a reasonable, religious and holy hope" in CHRIST.
Of course, the Episcopate of Bishop Horne is the least important portion of his life. The principal incidents worthy of notice in it, are his forbearing, judicious course towards Mr. John Wesley, on an occasion of which Mr. Jones gives a full account, and his earnest advocacy of the cause of the Scotch Bishops. To both of these interesting incidents we have already sufficiently alluded. Did our space permit, we might properly corroborate, by an anecdote recorded by Mr. Jones, (p. 71,) and by his observations in several passages, the general description we have given of Bishop Horne's character and position as an excellent Prelate of the Church of England. But the object of this review requires chiefly some due notice of the previous part of his course, as a learned and diligent Presbyter; favored with high advantages and happy opportunities for the pursuit of important studies, to which his own taste and mental habits, not less than the circumstances of the times, inclined him.
Here we may, in passing, express our admiration of the good sense of Mr. Jones, in embellishing the biography of such a man as Bishop Horne with copious notices of many of those who were connected with him, in literary or theological pursuits; including some whose names and worthy deeds might otherwise have received no due meed of honor, at the hands of their fellow-laborers, or others.
But we can not wholly absolve Mr. Jones from a very common fault of biographers; namely, an effort to turn to their own account some peculiarities of those whom they extol. We cannot acquit him of all appearance of an undue desire to make much of Bishop Horne's sympathy with those who, in the prescriptive term of that day, were called Hutchinsonians. On this point, however, we shall but say a few words. The direct discussion of any topics pertaining to the theories of Hutchinson would be more appropriate in a review of the life and writings of Mr. Jones; who is manifestly his own client, as well as the advocate of the good Bishop, in much that he says on this subject, for the purpose of vindicating his honored friend.
So much it seems but just to say concerning the worthy Chaplain's merits as a biographer. We return to the details of his memoirs, which in the first place exhibit Mr. Horne as a scholar.
It was while he was quite young, that he wrote some of the Essays which have been published in all editions of his works; for instance, the "Fair, Candid and Impartial State of the Case between Sir Isaac Newton and Mr. Hutchinson." Of the argument of this Essay, Mr. Jones justly declares, that whatever becomes of it, the manner in which it is handled shows Mr. Horne, who, when he wrote it, was in his twenty-third year, to have been a very extraordinary young man. It is an interesting exhibition of the intellectual character of our author; whose excellent mental training in his boyhood had prepared him, even at an early age, to grasp with a manly grapple the greatest subjects of controversy, philosophical and theological, or to expatiate with skillful agility in the boundless range of scientific speculation. And this view of his intellectual character suggests all that we desire to say here upon the subject of his peculiar philosophy.
That philosophy is, indeed, obsolete, as a subject of serious discussion. But it might even now, by writers gifted with Mr. Horne's felicitous manner, or with the ingenuity of his admiring friend and fellow-laborer, Jones, be invested, as it was in their day, with an interest above its intrinsic importance. It is to be remembered here, that even Mr. Jones does not ascribe to Bishop Horne, nor acknowledge on his own part, a sympathy for all the etymological fancies of the Hutchinsonians. It must be borne in mind also, that while as yet the Newtonian theory of the Universe had been but recently adopted, ranting infidels and prating skeptics, puffed up with a mere smattering of its rudiments, were ready to boast, that nothing more than astronomical apparatus was any longer necessary to overthrow the Christian religion. It is not strange that, under such circumstances, some of those who were set for the defense of the Gospel were ready to avail themselves of a plausible "physico-theological" theory, to meet the onset of such assailants. And had all who sympathized in any degree with the theories of Hutchinson been content to insist chiefly on the indisputable consideration, that the grand system of Newton itself does not even purport to assign the causes of things in the economy of the Universe, their philosophy would doubtless have commanded the respect of sound scholars in all succeeding ages. But they went farther, and, in some instances, attempted to assign those causes by a theory of their own; and thus committed the common error of making a philosophical system, to a certain extent, the basis of Biblical interpretation. Their error in this respect, was indeed less prejudicial to the simplicity of Scriptural truth, than is that of the metaphysical systems, which have long been the very bane of dissenting theologians in England, and of the prevailing theologies of this country. But it is a singular fact, that some of the grounds on which the Hutchinsonians were ready to superadd their theory of causes to the Newtonian system of forces, for instance, the wonderful discoveries in electricity, then just published, are now relied on by the upstarts of materialism, for proof that the grand system of the prince of modern philosophers is yet to be superseded. So utterly insufficient and unsafe is any theory of natural science, as a basis for the interpretation of Holy Scripture: a remark applicable alike to the experiments of conceited chemists, the speculations of impertinent physiologists, and the grand schemes of boasting geologists; when they forget that the deductions of to-day may be set at naught by the discoveries of to-morrow; that many of the opinions now received as established principles of science may, ere long, be discarded as exploded theories; and that many of the facts upon which philosophers rely at any time for the support of certain systems, may be superseded in a day, or essentially modified, in some of-their bearings, by other more important facts, suddenly brought to light.
In connection with these remarks, therefore, it is important to observe how effectually Mr. Horne dealt with the opponents of Christianity in his later controversial writings, the Letter to Adam Smith, and the Letters on Infidelity. Evidently well aware of the ground on which the Bible, with all its holy, heavenly doctrine, stands sure and stedfast, namely, the firm, immutable foundation of historic testimony and internal credibility combined, and expressly maintaining that ground, as a foundation never to be shaken by any theories or demonstrations of philosophers, he yet wields occasionally with excellent effect, the weapons of scientific speculation, to which he had been accustomed, by his efforts to investigate the causes of things in the material system. And these parts of his works, characterized in the highest degree, by sound logic, keen, polished wit, and perspicuity of style, may be safely ranked among the best productions of their class, and placed at the side of Berkeley's Minute Philosopher, as effective allies of more complete treatises upon the Evidences of Christianity.
We must pass with a glance some writings of our author, which were rather of temporary interest, and derived their chief importance from the circumstances under which they were produced. Among such, however, the "Apology for certain gentlemen in the University of Oxford," contains a passage, which we may cite as still likely to be deeply interesting to American Churchmen. The Apology was written about the year 1760. In it Mr. Horne, having spoken in a very complimentary way of two Clergymen from America, who had been honored by the University of Oxford with the degree of Master of Arts, thus expresses the importance of the Episcopate to the Churchmen then in the colonies.
"O come that happy day, when GOD shall put it into the hearts of our governors to remember the groanings of such as are in captivity,'" &c. (Vol. ii, p. 458.)
"For whom this glorious work of establishing Episcopacy in America, is reserved, GOD only knows. Blessed is he whose heart shall conceive, and whose hands shall accomplish it; his works done in the faith, and for the love of his Master, 'shall praise him' when that Master sits in judgment in the gates of the New Jerusalem, and all generations rising from the dust shall call him blessed!" (Vol. ii, p. 459.)
A quarter of a century elapsed, and the momentous event of the American Revolution intervened, before the "glorious" work could be accomplished. And even then Mr. Horne was not on the Episcopal bench, where only he could have exerted an immediate influence in furthering that great work. But his earnest expressions are for this very reason the more interesting; especially in view of the suggestion of Mr. Jones, that the agitation of the question of Episcopacy, between Archbishop Seeker and Dr. Mayhew of Boston, precipitated the American Revolution. For, in the over-ruling providence of GOD, that great event, after all, insured a more favorable, if not also a more speedy introduction of the Episcopate into this country: a fact worthy to be remembered by all Americans, in connection with another which is no less interesting; namely, that for more than fifty years before the Revolution, the project of introducing Bishops into the colonies had been very unpopular with the laity, and obnoxious to the monarchs of Great Britain; from a prevailing notion that such a measure would tend to promote the independence of the colonies, and a very common suspicion, that this grand issue was contemplated by some of the most earnest advocates of the project. This important fact, too often overlooked, manifests itself repeatedly, in the most unequivocal manner, in the correspondence which was can-led on for half a century from the year 1724, between some of the more prominent missionaries here, especially the Rev. Dr. Johnson of Stratford, and Bishops Gibson, Berkeley, and Sherlock, Archbishop Secker and other distinguished divines of the mother country, including Dr. Horne. And under the instructive view thus presented of a matter of great moment in the ecclesiastical history of this country, the observations of Mr. Jones (p. 67) concerning Mr. Wesley's motives in commissioning his superintendents for America, Dr. Coke and Mr. Asbury, deserve to be pondered with all candor.
We turn, now, to the great work of Bishop Horne, his Commentary on the Psalms. This, with the exception of his Sermons, constitutes the larger part of his published works. It may be called, indeed, the work of his life. For almost twenty years it furnished the chief subject of his diligent study. And his first desire to undertake it had been raised in his mind while he was an undergraduate, before he had completed his twentieth year, by a sermon of his good friend, Mr. George Watson, upon the nineteenth Psalm.
Of this excellent work, so often commended and extolled by the most devout and earnest divines, from the time of its first publication, and so much admired and studied by many devout and earnest Christians, in every station of life, it is needless to speak particularly in the way of criticism, at this late day. We shall rest content, therefore, with a few words of general remark upon its value as a work of standard theology, and the merits of its author, as a commentator.
Bishop Horne, then, was peculiarly qualified, by his mild, contemplative piety, and his humble, but earnest aspirations after the "spiritual things" which "are spiritually discerned," for the great work of interpreting the sacred songs of the patriarch David; who, "being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn unto him with an oath, that he would raise up CHRIST to sit on his throne, spake of the resurrection of CHRIST, seeing this before." And we consider this single declaration of the New Testament a full sanction of the devout Bishop's scheme of interpretation. Nay, when we recollect how many similar declarations of CHRIST and his inspired Apostles are to be met with in every part of the New Testament, we marvel, that there should ever have been among Christians any difference of opinion, with respect to such a basis for a commentary on the Psalms. We regard this most important part of our author's writings as one of the most effectual instruments to be found in the whole range of our theology, for cherishing and increasing among us a spirit of vital, fruitful piety, and fervent, intense devotion. Probably there is no single work of our standard divines which more abounds in pregnant topics of discourse, and living germs of truly evangelical sermons; or that actually affords more substantial assistance to our most faithful and diligent preachers of the gospel. Certainly, there could not be any thing of the kind better suited to promote the edification of readers in general, "high and low," learned and illiterate, young and old, "rich and poor together."
We have, indeed, sometimes felt almost disposed to regret that so felicitous an interpreter did not deem it worth while to refer more frequently, for the purpose of explanation, to the old version of the Psalms retained in our Prayer Book; where, in many passages, it differs considerably either in expression or sentiment, from the more literal translation in our Bibles. Probably, however, it was judicious to rely mainly upon the latter; especially as, while this work was under his hand, he was earnestly engaged in opposing a project, which had in view, among other things, an untimely attempt to improve the authorized version of the Holy Scriptures. Too frequent reference to our Psalter, moreover, might have deprived his valuable commentary of its salutary influence upon many Christians of other names; among whom, recommending itself by its general attractiveness and its ever inoffensive tone, it has doubtless done effective service, in the promotion of some of our important distinctive principles; by accustoming such Christians, in some due degree, to the grand leading truth of all evangelical prophecy, that David, as King of Israel, was a great type of the Messiah, JESUS, the King of the Church under the new dispensation. This grand leading truth of ancient prophecy has a direct bearing upon the doctrine of Apostolical Succession in the Christian Ministry. For instance, in an instructive passage of the prophecies of Jeremiah, chap, xxxiii, verses 17-22, as surely as the declarations of the prophet concerning "the throne of David and the son of David reigning thereon," relate to the Messiah, the LORD JESUS,--and that they do, few if any Christians will deny,--so surely also do the declarations respecting "the Priests, the Levites, the Ministers of GOD," figuratively describe the perpetuity and uninterrupted succession of a regular, divinely authorized, uniform and exclusive ministry in the Church of CHRIST. At all events, this reference to an important prophecy, affords a conclusive scriptural illustration of the main point in the scheme of interpretation adopted by our author in his Commentary on the Psalms. And we trust it will not prejudice any against a work so truly evangelical and edifying in every paragraph and sentence; a work, which, like the immortal poem of Dr. Young, evidently one of our author's favorites, will be perused with constantly increasing interest, by all serious Christians, who have but once acquainted themselves with a few of its beauties. This admirable exposition of the Psalms is, as its author says of them, "calculated alike to profit and to please," to "inform the understanding, elevate the affections, and entertain the imagination." If, indeed, we may properly describe such a work by his expressive phrase, as one of "the fairest productions of human wit," we know not any other of such productions, more worthy of the elegant description which he applies to the subject of his comments. "He who hath once tasted its excellences, will desire to taste them again; and he who hath tasted them oftenest will relish them best." And we reckon it a happy circumstance that this choice, refreshing food for devout souls has hitherto been largely distributed among American Churchmen, not only by cheap editions of this Commentary, but also through that excellent work, Bishop Brownell's Commentary on the Book of Common Prayer.
We proceed to consider the character of Bishop Horne, as a preacher. Of his qualities in this respect, his biographer speaks in the highest terms, and in a very engaging manner. Mr. Horne, after his ordination at Oxford, an event which he considered "a very serious affair," and contemplated and met with the most earnest and solemn resolutions, went to preach his first sermon in the curacy of Finedon, Northamptonshire, then the residence of Mr. Jones. Of that sermon this excellent judge says,
"The discourse was admirable in respect of its composition and moral tendency. Give me an audience of well-disposed Christians, among whom there are no dry moralists, no fastidious critics, and I will stake my life upon the hazard of pleasing them all by the preaching of that sermon." (Vol. i, p. 43.)
Of a subsequent effort of his esteemed friend, perhaps we ought to say favorite, he speaks thus:
"With farther preparation, and a little more experience, he preached in a more public pulpit, before one of the largest and most polite congregations, at London. The preacher, whose place he supplied, but who attended in the Church on purpose to hear him, was so much affected by what he had heard, and the manner in which it was delivered, that when he visited me shortly after in the country, he was so full of this sermon, that he gave me the matter and the method of it by heart; pronouncing at the end of it what a writer of his life ought never to forget, that' George Horne was, without exception, the best preacher in England.' Which testimony was the more valuable, because it came from a person who had, with many people, the reputation of being such himself." (p. 44.)
And when Mr. Jones mentions the subject and text of the sermon, we are not inclined to dispute such testimony of the ardent admirers of a young preacher of great promise. We have long admired that earnest expostulation, founded on Rev. i, 7, and the great doctrine of the Second Advent, as one of the best of Bishop Horne's sermons; but we could almost wish that Mr. Jones had given some clue to the name of the man who had, with many people, the reputation of being the best preacher in England, and yet modestly gave that high praise to one who was then a very young man. We are not disposed to depreciate the strong testimony of Mr. Jones, to the excellence of Bishop Horne as a preacher. We heartily respond to the assertion that "in his sermons his sense is strong, his language sweet and clear, Ms devotion warm, but never inflated or affected; and from the editions through which they pass, it is plain the world does see, and will see, better every day, that they are not the discourses of a varnisher of visions;" a phrase suggested to Mr. Jones by the remark of an adversary of the Bishop, that he "diffused a coloring of elegance over the wild but not unlovely visions of enthusiasm." At the same time, we think the following description of his character as a preacher, in one of the Quarterly Reviews of twenty five years ago, equally just, and more complete:
"Bishop Horne, indeed, in some degree deviated from this unimpassioned and didactic style;" the style of Clarke and Butler. "With an elegance sometimes bordering on prettiness, with tenderness of feeling, rarely, if ever indulged beyond its proper limits; had his life been cast in a different sphere; if, instead of addressing an highly cultivated congregation in the University, he had undertaken the charge of a populous parish, it is probable that he would have felt the imperious necessity of increasing the power and energy, without detracting from the grace, of his language; that he would not have subdued himself to his uniform gentleness of manner, but taken a bolder flight; that, in short, his discourses might have ranked not only among the more elegant and attractive, but the more solid and eloquent, in the language."
This judgment of the reviewers respecting the characteristics of an excellent preacher, is fully sustained by Bishop Horne's remarks on "Eloquence" and "Preaching," in his "Essays and Thoughts on Various Subjects;" a portion of his works which we are by no means disposed to overlook, but rather to commend to the diligent study of every reader of those works. From the remarks to which we allude, and from the assertion of Mr. Jones, that the Bishop "was, both for matter and manner, one of the first orators and teachers that the Church of England could boast," it might be inferred that his sermons derived no little power and popularity from the great aid of a good delivery. Upon this important point, the biography by the learned chaplain is not very full. But an anonymous writer of the same period, very intelligent, and manifestly impartial, though claiming a share of the Bishop's friendship, as his regular correspondent for years; testifies, that notwithstanding the shortness of his sight, which deprived him of some of the graces of oratory--as in his youth, according to Mr. Jones, it had deprived him of the exercise of athletic sports, and kept him at his books and music--yet not only the excellence of his matter, and the simple elegance of his style, but also the sweetness of his voice, caused thousands of people, of very various descriptions, to hang with rapture on his lips, in the Cathedral and Metropolitan Churches. And whatever may be the judgment of any respecting his discourses, in comparison with those of other celebrated preachers of the last century, he may be safely regarded by theological students and young clergymen, as one of the best models furnished by that period. There are, indeed, peculiarities in the style of Bishop Horne, which, however becoming in him, can not be largely adopted by others, without betraying the servility of faulty imitation. But doubtless, his attractive example and admirable instructions, as preacher and President of Magdalen College, in conjunction with the similar example and efforts of other diligent promoters of earnest piety, at Cambridge as well as Oxford, contributed much to raise up in the Church of England a generation of excellent preachers; men, whose faithfulness and fervency in the ministry of the simple gospel of redemption and grace, have been, for half a century past, under God, rolling back the tide of dissent and disorder, which, toward the close of the preceding century, threatened to overwhelm or undermine that venerable Church. We must take, here, some farther view of the character of Bishop Horne, as a theologian. To a certain extent, the theologian is included in the preacher; but many persons of various shades of opinion, would pronounce the sermons of Bishop Horne defective, for want of a larger exhibition in them, of distinctive theology, according to some favorite system of doctrine or discipline. Indeed, his characteristic neglect of nice discussion of the more questionable tenets of various schools or systems, exposed his most elaborate discussion of such tenets, in the sermon on Jas. ii, 24, to a very plausible, but groundless objection of Mr. Wesley. A brief view of the matter will sufficiently illustrate and vindicate the character of Bishop Horne as a theologian. In the sermon, having made an unhappy, and for him, a most unwonted allusion, to "the new lights of the Tabernacle and Foundry," he says,
"It is by no means my design in the following discourse to endeavor to conduct you through all the windings and foldings of the polemical labyrinth of justification;" and presently speaks of "those happy times, when faith and a good life were synonymous terms." This gave Mr. Wesley opportunity for the remark, that "there never were such times, because faith is the root," and a good life "the tree springing therefrom." With what reason, however, an objection so nicely drawn was urged against the expressions of Mr. Horne, the following passages from the Apology already noticed, which sets forth plainly his theological views, then generally known, will show.
"We preach faith, the roof from whence they [moral duties] spring." Vol. ii, p. 453.
"The fruit receives its goodness from the tree, not the tree from the fruit, which does not make the tree good, but shows it to be so, because men do not gather grapes from thorns; so works receive all their goodness from faith, not faith from works, which do not themselves justify, but show a prior justification of the soul that produces them; as it is written, ' We know that we have passed--metabebhkamen--from death unto life, because we love the brethren.' 1 John, iii, 14." pp. 453-4.
"Faith has one intrinsic excellency, of which works are destitute; and that is, that it will justify a sinner, and carry him to Heaven, as it did the thief upon the cross: this, I think, gives it a vast pre-eminence over works, which can not justify, otherwise than as fruits, they evidence the faith that does: for we are justified by faith only, says the eleventh Article, upon the authority of Scripture." Vol. ii, p. 465.
Many similar brief statements of this and other important points of distinctive theology, might be cited, both from the early and the later writings of our author. Such, for instance, is his eloquent description of the "change from sin to righteousness, and from the world to Christ," in the sermon on Eph. v, 14. His charge also contains very decided remarks, showing "a justice and propriety in our being saved by faith rather than by works," as well as upon "the unedifying morality," which had in like manner just then been treated with zeal and earnestness by a learned and able prelate, Bishop Horsley, and upon "the Constitution and use of the Church of Christ." Vol. ii, pp. 568-9.
We have yet to consider Bishop Horne in the character of a politician. Unhappily, until of late, this was a part of the official character of all Bishops in the Church of England. Recently, however, we have been permitted to behold, in her colonial Bishops, a few successors of the Apostles, who, like them, are not burdened with the cares and policy of the kingdoms of this world. And we should hail with joy and thankfulness, any judicious arrangement, by which, through an increase of the number of dioceses in England, some Bishops might be appointed there, to have only the care of spiritual things. We doubt not that their position and influence would prove vastly beneficial, in every way, to the highest interests of the Church.
Bishop Horne, in his brief Episcopate, spent but a few months in the House of Lords. But, like most Bishops of the English establishment, he had been, while Dean, quite zealous and earnest in maintaining its claims. He did not, like some, hold moreover, exclusively, the divine right of kings. But the space which his sentiments, as a loyal Briton, occupy in some of his sermons, for anniversaries, fasts, and other special occasions, will render such sermons, to American Churchmen, the least interesting portion of his works. The grievous neglect, which, through the policy of the British government, in the middle of the last century, left them destitute of immediate Episcopal care, until the Revolution, taught them effectually that not all kings, though allied with the spiritual governors of the Church, are its nursing fathers. It is true, that a grateful recollection of the good will and watchful beneficence of many of the Bishops, Clergy, and Laity of the Mother Church, caused their brethren here to say, in the preface to our Book of Common Prayer, that the Protestant Episcopal Church in these States was indebted to the Church of England for a long continuance of nursing care and protection. But American Churchmen know how to distinguish between the Church of England, consisting of Bishops, Clergy, and Laity, as an integral part of the Catholic Church of Christ, and the English Ecclesiastical Establishment, with the king or queen of the British realms for its head. Our author, as we have seen, had, in one of his earliest publications, spoken nobly and earnestly of the wants and claims of Churchmen in the Colonies, with respect to the Episcopate. And yet, had we space left, we should be inclined to examine some of the fallacies, which he, in common with many other English divines, employs upon the subject of religious establishments. But we deem it more important, and equally appropriate, to notice briefly here, in connection with a farther reference to his life and works, the grand fallacy of most other writers, which is one that we have not observed in any of his arguments, upon this subject.
The fallacy, by which religious establishments are most plausibly advocated or defended is, that they render the ministers, of religion more independent of their hearers, than they can be under the voluntary system. But what is the nature of the independence conferred by an ecclesiastical establishment upon its Clergy? Is it adapted, in the least, to promote the cause of religion? What moral influence does a preacher gain among his people, or what real respect does he secure at their hands, by being independent of them merely through the power and patronage of the civil government? Can such independence give him any advantage but what is possessed by a mere magistrate? Surely, it is not to be compared, for a moment, with the effective moral influence, and the sincere, cordial respect, cheerfully conceded to men, who, though dependent upon the voluntary contributions of their hearers for their living, yet rise, by the help of divine grace, above the fear of their people by uniform faithfulness and boldness as preachers of the gospel and pastors of souls. The merely external independence, then, of freedom from the contingencies of popular caprice, as a privilege secured to preachers, by the acts of a locating power extraneous to their parishioners, can not be relied on to promote their proper in-fluence^ and the real, vital interests of religion, if we have regard to the feelings of the people. Whether such external independence of the ministers of an established religion has a tendency to increase their faithfulness and boldness, or their diligence and earnestness, is a question which may be safely submitted by the advocates of the voluntary system, to the ready decision of all ecclesiastical history. What was it but the enervating independence thus secured to the Clergy, and the evil influence of secular protectors of the Church, in promoting often to its best stations, men chiefly distinguished as partizans in politics, that laid such Bishops as the Gibsons, the Seekers, the Hornes, the Porteuses and the Horseleys of the last century, under the necessity of insisting strenuously upon reformation in the manners of many of their Clergy? It must be conceded by all, that the state of things in this respect was, in many instances, truly deplorable, even after all the earnest efforts of such prelates. What it was at an earlier period may be sufficiently shown by such remarks as the following, in one of Mr. Horne's Sermons, not published in all English editions of his works, but reprinted in this American edition, "from separate pamphlets."
"Is this a time, I say, for the servants of Jehovah to go preferment hunting? . . . GOD forbid there should, at such a time as this, be any frozen souls, afraid of preaching CHRIST, lest they should be called names, and lose the friendship of the world, which is enmity with GOD. . . . My brethren, the GOD whom we serve will certainly prefer us in heaven; if he sees it best for his Church and our souls, in spite of all the opposition made by the world, he can and he will prefer us here." (Vol. ii, p. 407.)
We might give more in the same strain. But we need not dwell longer on this point. It were, indeed, but justice to the venerable Church of England, which has made, under GOD, marvellous progress in the midst of manifold disadvantages, arising from its alliance with the state, as well as to its secular protectors during the last fifty years, whose influence in its affairs, however, has been for twenty years past materially modified and comparatively diminished, to add the strong, satisfactory testimony of many disinterested, we had almost said unwilling, witnesses to its present character; as, in the language of Mr. James, an eminent dissenting minister of England, "a Church, full of energy and earnestness," "instinct with life, and a great deal of it life of the best kind." Such testimony, however, is quite notorious. Much repetition of it, to Churchmen, might be injurious. And we must draw this article to a conclusion.
We could take pleasure in tracing more particularly the character of good Bishop Horne, as a Christian man; in holding up for the guidance of all professors of Christianity his exemplary diligence and devotion; his beautiful combination of decision and meekness, or forbearance; his uniform conscientiousness and unostentatious beneficence; and his becoming, moderate, subdued cheerfulness. Illustrations of all these qualities, as manifested in his important public career, are given by his excellent biographer in many interesting narratives, which we would have gladly cited in an article on a different plan.
We must close with a word to the worthy publishers. We thank them for making this addition to the many valuable publications, with which their excellent house, both by its former venerable firm, and the present, has enriched the libraries of American Churchmen. We may add, that among the typographical errors, mostly slight, to be corrected in the next issue, there is one rather important; which, having found place, so far we can ascertain, in all the English editions of Horne's Life and Works, even in that of 1818, by Riving-tons, London, has been, at last, transferred to the American. All these editions make the biographer of Bishop Horne to say, that he was consecrated to the See of Norwich "on the 7th of June, 1791;" although Mr. Jones had before said, that "Bishop" Horne "was on his circuit in the Diocese in the summer of 1790;" and that he sat "in the House of Lords, as Bishop of Norwich in February, 1791." (Vol. i, pp. 65,66.) Moreover, he died January 17th, 1792. The true date of his consecration, therefore is, doubtless, June, 1790: according to Rees' Cyclopedia and the "Georgian Era." It is also placed "in 1790" by the learned editor of "Standard Works, New York, 1831," Mr. (now Bishop) Whittingham. And the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, without intimating a reason for its apparent doubt, says, "we think in 1790." But Blake's Biographical Dictionary, Lempriere and the Penny Cyclopedia, on the other hand, antedate it by a year, "in 1789." And the London Cyclopedia says, that Dr. Horne "was elected Bishop of Norwich in 1781." This, to say the least, is rather bad, for an English authority.