SOME VOLUMES OF SERMONS.* CANON HOLLAND divides the twelve sermons
of his volume into three parts, respectively bearing the titles of " Concerning the Resurrection," " Concerning the Church," " Concerning Human Nature." We have seen nothing from his pen,—indeed, we may say, from the pen of any modern Christian apologist, surpassing, for close and logical argument, the first of these three divisions. It is eminently convenient that the argu- ment between those who accept and those who reject " Supernatural Religion" should be directed, for the time at least, to the doctrine of the Resurrection. From this the believer cannot recede ; losing this, he loses everything dis- tinctive in his faith ; holding it, he has practically all that he wants, and may regard with equanimity all the advances of criticism or science. " There can be no doubt at all," writes Canon Holland, "where the central, and originative, and dis- tinctive point is to be discovered in the Christian religion. St. Paul has signalised it for us, once for all, in words that can never lose their tingling force of truth : ' If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain ; ye are yet in your sins." Nor does this at all contradict the statement often made with equal distinctness, that the Cross, the Atonement, is the central point of Christianity. It may be said that the Cross is its centre in its sphere of a regenerating agency, the Resurrection in its sphere as a revelation. St. Paul desired to know nothing save Christ crucified" among the Corinthians, when he was preaching to them of righteousness and judgment to come; but the time came when, writing to these same Corinthians, he made the Resurrection his cardinal doctrine- He appealed to them by a different argument, because they themselves were different. They had yielded to the re- generating power of the Gospel ; but they needed to be con- firmed in the great supernatural fact which was its sanction. In his second sermon, headed " The Critical Dilemma," Canon Holland puts the case for belief with admirable eloquence and force. There are those who say to us,—Why cannot you be content with this matchless story of a pure, beneficent human life, without hampering it with this in- credible addition of a Resurrection P There are others who urge us to get rid of the historical records of the story of the human Christ, as the "legendary wrapping by which the Idea appealed to the earlier imagination and emotion." Thus we get what the preacher calls the "critical dilemma :"—
" If, assuming that the Resurrection is impossible, we go with the one critical school, and cling to the mere human story, then we are driven to omit, as husk, all the ideas and hopes which have been the very life-blood of the faith. If we go with the ether critical school, and hold fast to these life-giving hopes and ideas as the kernel of _the matter, then we must lose the gracious human figure, so winning and so tender, which is, they tell us, but the myth in which the Idea has been enwrapped. Are we caught in this horrible dilemma ? Is there no way out of the snare ? Ah ! poor bewildered soul, distracted with sore amaze- ment, there is one way, and one only, by which Christ need not be divided ; by which the two halves come together, making of twain one perfect man ; by which you retain both the forces which have, as a fact, built and established the faith—(1) the force of the spfritual ideal, (2) together with the force of the Gospel story. Both are yours, both are fused into one jet, both coalesce into a single simple fact, if only it be true, indeed, that the women did look int.) an empty tomb on that strange Easter morning long ago and saw no body there ; if it be true that two men did indeed rise out of their sorrow at the sudden news, and ran fast, and stooped down, and looked in, and saw the linen clothes lie, and the napkin that was round His head, not with the linen clothes, but laid rolled up by itself ; if, indeed, by the side of a weeping woman who was possessed with but one thought, how to find the dead body of her Lord, it be true that there stood One Who said to her, `Mary;' if, indeed, to two men journeying to Emmaus there was joined a third, Whose speech made their hearts burn, and Who was known in the breaking of bread; if, indeed, through doors and walls, amid the trembling friends in that upper chamber in * (1.) On Behalf. of Belief. By the Rev. H. S. Holland.—(2.) Sunlight and Shadow in the Chnstiae Life. By W. J. Knox Little, M.A. London: Kivingtons. 1689.—(34 Sermons Preached :a the Chapel of Keble College, Orford London : W. H. Allen and Co. 1.180.—(4.) Unspoken Sermons. By George MaeDenald. London: Long:mans. 1889. Jerusalem, there came again and yet again One Whose voice calmed them, Whose breath fell on them, Whose hands and side they saw ; if, indeed, by the lake, in the morning, there was a figure that drew near, and they knew it, and could not even ask themselves, in their wonder, ' Is it the Lord ?' knowing, as they did, that it was the Lord."
The argument is supplemented by a discussion of " The Gospel Witness ;" and this, again, is followed by a discourse on " The Elemental Enigmas,"—that is, the intellectual enigma, " We must know God, yet we cannot," and the moral enigma of seeing the better and doing the worse." From the rest of the volume, we would choose for special mention " The Nature of the Flesh " and " The Divine Sanction to Natural Law." From the latter we make a brief extract, a very clear and forcible exposition of the idea, of creation :-
" Creation is the act of will by which the material Itself, together with all its possibilities and conditions, comes into existence ; and creation, whatever else it may involve, however hard, however impossible, for us to picture or to explain, must at least be an exertion of energy which involves and implicates the reason, the will, the love of God Himself. It implicates His reason, which expresses itself in the processes by which the created life acquires and assumes its organic structure ; it involves His will, which comes out from Him to appear under the forms of motion and force, to make and build the fabric of life ; it implicates His love, which goes out from Him to fill the life with growth, and aspira- tion, and desire, and to set it all in upward movement towards an ideal and sufficient end."
Canon Knox Little is a preacher who addresses his appeals to the conscience and emotions rather than to the intellect of his hearers. Such appeals naturally owe much to the living voice, to action, to the impression of conviction and earnest purpose left by the speaker on his audience. But enough lives in the printed pages to make us sure that such sermons must be a veritable power for good. Perhaps three out of the four that deal with prominent figures in the scene of the Passion are the best in the volume, the three being, " Pilate the Sceptic," " Herod the Mocker," and " Judas the Traitor,"—the second of these being a remarkably powerful and plainly worded remonstrance against the sin of impurity, in which the preacher sees the cause of Herod's moral and intellectual ruin. We except the first of the four, " Caiaphas the Worldling," because it is founded on a mistake that is really surprising, seeing that it is made by one who must he supposed to be a daily student of the New Testament. The text is the saying of Caiaphas : —" It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people." " We know," writes the preacher, " that on the night of our Blessed iilaster's most holy Passion, on the night of the Agony, He was led to the palace of Caiaphas. We know that when He got there—passing through various ignominies, subject to various insults from hour to hour—Caiaphas gave the advice which is recorded in the text." Of course the fact is that the advice was given some considerable time—how long it is impossible to say—before the closing scene. The advice led to deliberate plans against Jesus, and then again to his withdrawal.
" Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews ; but went thence into a country near the wilderness." It is almost incredible that the event should have been interpolated into the story of the Passion.
The nature of the volume entitled Keble College Sermons is such that it might be noticed either at great length or very
briefly. Twenty-five discourses, delivered by ten different preachers, and dealing with a great variety of subjects, cannot be adequately treated in any space that we can give to them.
We can do little but express our general sense of the ability, the earnestness, the soberness, and moderation of judgment which characterise them. Passing by two discourses by the present Bishop of Chester, as having been University rather than College sermons, we would single out for special praise the first of the series (preached by the late Warden) on "Uni- versity Life, Self-regarding but not Selfish ;" and the ninth, by the Rev. W. Lock, on " Sunday," a sensible treatment of a difficult subject. We must not omit to mention a very plain and closely reasoned sermon on " Regeneration and Con- version." The conditions of the problem are perceived, and stated with much clearness and force, though it would be too much to say that the problem itself is solved. The difficulty is to reconcile the facts of life with the doctrine of regenera- tion in baptism.
It is as well, perhaps, that Mr. George MacDonald's sermons should remain "unspoken," but this does not prevent us from being glad that they should have been written and published. Such a treatise, for it is more this than a sermon, as that entitled " Justice " cannot be read without the greatest profit. Such a sentence as, " The one deepest, highest, truest, fittest, most wholesome suffering must be generated in the wicked by a vision, a true sight, more or less adequate, of the hideous- ness of their lives, of the horror of the wrongs they have done," expresses a great truth in a few words. We may think that in the sermon on " The Knowing of the Son," Mr. Mac- Donald pushes the doctrine of the "Inner Light" to an extreme ; we may wonder that he should put such a gloss on the words of Scripture as to maintain that " Moses put a veil upon his face that the people might not see the radiance fade ;" but we thankfully acknowledge that he is a most suggestive and instructive writer.