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THE RIGHT REVEREND
JOHN BIRD SUMNER, D.D.
LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER
(“NULLA ADULATIO PROCEDERE ULTRA HOC NOMEN POTEST,
QUAM UT FRATRES VOCEMUS ”),
THE FOLLOWING DISCOURSES
ARE, BY PERMISSION,
MOST RESPECTFULLY AND GRATEFULLY DEDICATED,
BY THEIR LORDSHIPS' MOST
OBEDIENT AND OBLIGED SERVANT,
* Quint. Declam. 321.
The writer of the following sermons has for the last thirteen years been in the habit of composing every month (with few exceptions), for a periodical work under his care, a short, plain, and practical Sermon for Family Reading. The following forty are selected from this number, at the request of many valued friends, who thought it might be useful to reprint a portion of the CHRISTIAN-OBSERVER Sermons in a separate volume, and with a larger type than that of a periodical publication. The want of Discourses adapted for Family perusal was greatly felt among religious members of the Church of England, at the time when the plan of inserting a sermon monthly in the Christian Observer originated, about twenty years since; and though, of late, volumes of sermons are constantly issuing from the press, highly valuable for the Scriptural character of their doctrine, and for their application to the life and conscience, and written by Clergymien warmly attached to our beloved Church; yet it is not in general found that Discourses originally composed for the pulpit are altogether fitted for perusal in the family circle. It is seldom that the whole of such an address is applicable to a private household ; and usually, in reading it, some things are passed over, while others require to be supplied. Many of the discussions, much of the classification of cha
racter, and some of the most pointed and pungent appeals, are couched in a style not adapted to the occasion; and even the beautiful pastoral appellation of “My brethren,” gives to a sermon read in a family an air which is not natural.
These considerations will perhaps lead the reader to account for, if not to justify, the usual plan of the following discourses. That they are brief, and are attempted to be simple, and easily intelligible, and seldom or never controversial, needs no apology. That they should be chiefly elementary, embracing the leading points of Christian doctrine and practice, is what the writer wished, at least, to attain. That they are too calm, too little conversant with the striking illustrations and never-forgotten words which are sometimes heard in the pulpit, is partly the writer's defect, but it is also partly incidental; for a sermon written expressly to be read in families—perhaps often by a son or daughter, the whole audience being only the parents, children, and servants-would be wholly unsuitable if composed in a style very proper for the pulpit. Denunciations must often become persuasions; fervent appeals to various classes of character must often become rather Scriptural statements respecting such classes of character, since either the originals may not be present, or, if present, the application might be improperly personal; the pastoral authoritative “you,” must sink into the modest "we;" and the whole assume the air of simple discussion, affectionate advice, gentle persuasion, and plain Scriptural instruction, rather than those elevated features which the family reader could not with propriety adopt, so as to make the sermon his own. This would be no excuse for want of faithfulness or earnestness, but it greatly modifies the style of conveying Scriptural truth.
The doctrines of these sermons correspond with those
which it has been the uniform object of the work in which they were inserted to maintain. It was thought that the chief topics for Family Sermons-and indeed all sermons—were such simple Scriptural points as the fallen, guilty, and helpless condition of mankind by nature; the love of God in Christ; the atonement; repentance; faith ; justification; the offices of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit; sanctification; peace with God; love to God; the forbearance of God; Christian obedience, and love to mankind ; death, and eternity; heaven, and kell: and that they should not be discussed controversially, but practically, with constant application to the conscience, and prayer for the blessing of God.
It gives the writer singular satisfaction to have been allowed to avail himself of the honour of dedicating his pages to two Right Reverend Prelates, whose names are so greatly beloved and revered by the best friends of our Church and our common Christianity. It is not often that two such near relatives have been seen sitting side by side among our Prelates ; brothers in office, as well as by birth, affection, and that higher brotherhood which shall never cease; and certainly in no instance has such a coincidence occurred more honourable to those who bore the office. But this is a topie on which the writer may not enter. It is not for him to echo the tribute of public respect and esteem so widely felt for that active zeal, those labours abundant, that professional ability, that amiable and courteous deportment, and, most of all, that deep and humble piety, and that attachment to the doctrines of the Gospel and the discipline of our revered Church, which have endeared the name of Sumner to every wise and good man ; and which filled the hearts of so many with gratitude to God, that the talents and spiritual virtues which had adorned subordinate stations in our ecclesiastical Zion were henceforth to be consecrated to the high and