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final word, is not the final word. The final and great word Jesus himself being witness — is God; and the spirit of God breathing in the human soul. Nothing offends me more than the extravagant claims of the Christian dogmatists, saying “ Nothing but Christ, nothing but Christ," — as if God were not; and the presence of God were nothing. No: it is not true that all religion lies within the compass, even of Christian dogma and institution. It comes also from the wayside of still meditation. It comes from the midnight stars. It comes from the clouds of eventide. It came so to Antoninus and Boethius, and many another, who, without written law, were a law to themselves. It comes from converse with good men's presence and example and heroic deeds. It comes from the biographic page, from poetic inspiration, from pictures of saints and martyrs, from the deeps of music; from wherever the spirit of God, like the unseen wind, breathes holy refreshment and healing life through the hearts of the children of men.
But I am dwelling too long upon this topic; and I have something yet to say of the Church and its ministrations, as the means of awakening and kindling a religious life in the people. I must limit myself to a few words upon the Church as a working institution (so to speak); upon preaching and the manner of the Great Preacher; and upon the Ordinance that commemorates him.
With regard to the Church as a working institution, I have often thought, that if I were the pastor of a church, in town or country, but especially in the latter, I should want a building of hardly less capacity than the Church itself, for various purposes. I should want a library-room, and a reading-room, and a lecture-room; which should also be a chapel for conference and other religious services; and also one or two rooms for charitable work. I would make this a rallying-place for the congregation, where they might find" books and work and healthful play” — of the intellect. Here I should like to talk to them, from time to time, of the works of Nature, of the world they live in, and try to make them understand something of it. I should like, too, to have lectures from the more intelligent members of the congregation, and discussions, conference, questions and answers upon these subjects; and also at times, deeper religious conference. And it seems as if something might be done here, to make the people acquainted with the intellectual world they live in. That grand outcome of the world's thought which we call Literature, what a sad default to reason, to common sense, for persons who can read, to pass through this life-sphere, and to know nothing of its sublimest oracles! Men read, read much perhaps ; but what ? Ephemeral trash, the last sensation novel, or the newspaper; and they know little or nothing of Plato or Epictetus, of Hooker or Addison, or Milton or Burke, hardly of Shakespeare, but that such persons have lived. And I firmly believe, that, if any pastor would take up this plan; if he did not preach so much; if, instead of wearing himself out with making formal visits, and writing so many sermons, - Dr. Chauncey said, two hundred were as many as any man should write ; if, I say, he would meet the people in this way, they would know him better, and he them; and altogether they might build themselves up in a culture, both of knowledge and religion, that, for a religious congregation, would be a new thing in the world.
Such gatherings of the people might be on one or two evenings of the week, or on Sunday afternoons. It would be better, I think, than to listen to a second sermon, which drives out the first, - a custom, too, which muddles the people's ideas about sermons altogether, so that they can tell less about them than of any thing else they hear or know. There is too much preaching. There is too much preaching for the preacher. There is too much preaching for the people.
But preaching, - this is the second point I am to notice. There is a sigh through all the land, over dull preaching. And when a man comes along, who touches and melts the heart of the people, it is an era to them: they remember it long after. I am speaking in the general. I know that we have interesting preachers among us, and a good many of them, - more, I believe, than any other people have. Still, there is a sad deficiency; and the question is, — and it is the greatest practical question I know, - How are we to pour a new and quickening life into the pulpit ?
But, first, what would that quickening life be ? I answer, simple earnestness, a profound impression and religious tenderness in the preacher, that would touch all hearts around him. I know what is said of gifts, of genius, of enthusiasm, as not belonging to everybody; and I admit all their value and charm. But I maintain, that there may be a deep feeling of religion without them. And he who should speak to me with that feeling, — he even who should so read a hymn, or a psalm of David, as to touch my heart, - would do more for me, of that for which I come to church, than the most splendid discourse without it. The splendid discourse I can read at home; but what I go to church for is impression,- to feel the power of religion. I recall now an aged man of the humblest ability and culture, - yet, when he stood up and prayed in the meeting, his slender frame and white locks trembling with emotion, like a holocaust of love and thanksgiving, — who made upon me more of that impression, than any other religious ministration that I remember in my youth. Mrs. Kemble, in her“ Georgian Journal,” relates of her reading the words of Jesus to the slaves. She said afterwards, speaking of it, " As I read those words, I wondered how anybody ever dared to make a commentary upon them." I do not doubt, that, for showing what those words meant, her reading was better than any commentary. I remember a simple woman teaching in a Sunday school, who so pronounced the word God, I do not recall any thing else she said, — but who with such a tender awe pronounced that word, that it was a sermon to me, such as few could equal. That was forty years ago; but it has been a blessed impression upon my mind ever since.
But how is this sense of things divine, this religious fervor, to be obtained; which makes the weak strong, and the simplehearted more than eloquent? For answer, I think we must go to our religious nurture, and to the very roots of it. It has been superstitious; it has been based on false ideas; it has lacked a genial and inspiring warmth. All this must be
changed. Religious nurture must be as simple and natural as that which awakens the love of knowledge, of art, of beauty, of all things lovely and beautiful. Then, if the education of our youth in school and college could be what it should be! Alas, it is not! But this being so, I will venture to say, that the object of our theological schools, should be, more than it has been, the nurture of a religious spirit. The learning obtained in them is well. But if our Theological Instructors
- I speak it with all respect for them — could gather their pupils together weekly in earnest religious conference, and pour an enkindling warmth into those meetings, so that all hearts should be touched by it, so that the latent and slumbering sensibility should be nursed into a holy fervor and joy, I believe it would be worth more than all the learning.
There has been one teacher — the great Teacher — at whose feet we sit; and his words, at which our hearts leap for joy or tremble with awe, were not delivered in the style of what is ordinarily called eloquence. How sober and quiet they were ! but what great words, and of what immense, of what unequalled, power! Gather the wisest men of all ages, and not one of them, nor all of them together, could do for us what he has done. A power lies in the simple record of what he said and did and suffered, which no criticism can shake,
- which even Renan's does not propose to disturb. It has not only pervaded, it has presided over, the civilization of nearly eighteen centuries; and if any thing on earth is of heaven, of the very providence of God, it is this.
A word now, in close, upon the Ordinances of the Church, which, to complete the view of Church influences, I ought to speak of.
Baptism has its fitness, – the birth-time rite, the celebration of a most momentous event, the thankful recognition of God's goodness, and the humble recognition, with prayer and consecration, of the most solemn trust that can be committed to mortals, - this is naturally fit and beautiful; though there be no express Christian warrant for it, except when applied to converts from heathenism. And why shall not the great Eucharistic Rite be regarded as naturally fit and beautiful, —
the affectionate commemoration of the ever-revered and beloved Master, - such visible homage to that wonderful being who stands alone in the world, in the thoughts of all who have ever read or known of him? It is natural to do this. Great men have often been so commemorated after death, — are now; for a few years the memory of them has been so kept alive. But this memorial has stood through all the Christian centuries. It seems to me a serious thing to lower it from its place, and lay it aside. Much difficulty as I feel about the too commonly mournful, constrained, and superstitious observance of it, I cannot do that. It may be said, that the Quakers have laid it aside, without any ill consequence. I doubt that. Quakerism is going out into intellectual disper. sion, for want of fixtures. A solemn memorial altar, standing in the world, may serve to bind men to the great Christian allegiance. I am as sensible as any one can be, of the mistaken ideas and manners with which the Lord's Supper has been surrounded: they have troubled me all my life. The notions of the communion, as a test or a profession of good. ness, rather than a help to it; as a mark on the sheep of the fold; or as something to be partaken in with preternatural awe, are as injurious as they are wrong. Cannot something be done to correct them? Cannot we as pastors, by a manner in this service free from all superstition, by a manner simple, natural, cheerful, affectionate, and earnest, do something to invest it with a new character? If I should hear of a company of disciples that came together in a cheerful heartiness and voluntariness, to spend an hour or an evening in the remembrance of Jesus; to sing hymns to him, perhaps, as of old; to sing anthems, to speak of him, to admire and to glorify the divinest man, — I should want to be there. But it is not so with our ordinary celebrations : the spirit, I mean, is not such. We are too literal. We fix our thoughts upon the symbols, when it were better that the symbols were lost sight of, in the feeling of what they mean. The letter killeth; the form killeth: but the spirit maketh alive.
But the spirit maketh alive, — this would be my final word, if I had any to offer. The letter killeth: in dogma, in form,