Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ever lingered around a little grave just this simple inscription:" To the upon the tablet of which there was memory of dear little Winnie."

"A Little Child shall Lead Them."

SERMONS e. LE

Our readers have probably heard of the lectures on preachers and preaching delivered last month, in Edinburgh, by Dean Ramsay, known in his immediate circle as a pious and energetic clergyman, and to all the world as the compiler of various books of anecdote and jest, illustrative of Scottish manners and of Scottish humour. His lectures on preachers were not particularly effective, being composed, in large measure, of after-dinner chitchat, but there occurred one passage towards their close whicli lins attracted a good deal of attention, and deserved it. It consisted of a calculation of the number of sermons preached annually in these realms, which number was found to be nearly four millions. The lecturer suggested that this might be a few too many. The suggestion was vehemently seconded by our weekly contemporary, the Spectator, and by way of giving precision to the somewhat vague hints at curtailment ventured on by the Dean, the figure of eighty, which happened in the calculation to come in handy at the end, was specified as indicating the proportion to the entire four millions' of those sermons to which "any reasonable man could be expected to listen." The Record took up the cudgels for the clergy; the Patriot for once gave its stroke on the same side with the Record; and the gentlemen of the press, who had dared to sneer at the gentlemen of the pulpit, were sternly called to account. The controversy is one of interest, and without formally pleading the cause of either party, we shall say a few words on its general merits.

The feeling prevails that sermons are a weariness. That is a fact,—to deny it is useless. Sensible preachers, instead of denying it, are keenly alive to its existence, and know that

Christian World Magazine. Ap

DING ARTICLES.

it bears hard upon them. They feel that they have to address audiences preached into listlessiiessand apathy, audiences which have been hearing sermons all their lives, which will probably be offended if they do not hear the usual commonplaces, and. if they do hear them, will still more probably fall asleep. Journalists constantly allege that the preacher has an immense advantage over themselves, inasmuch as his congregation must sit to hear him, and have no opportunity of controverting him. But they who write thus are shallow and superficial observers. In the first place, it is positively incorrect to say respecting a large proportion of the preachers of this country that their congregations must listen to them whether they will or not. In England, Scotland, and Wales, there are at least 10,1)00 ministers of unendowed denominations, and every man of these knows that, if his preaching is tiresome to his hearers they will not only go elsewhere, but render him conscious of a growing hollowness in that quarter in which clerical nature, and indeed human nature in general, most sincerely hates a vacuum, to wit. the breechespocket. To all curates who are not specially favoured by circumstance, a similar rule applies; if. in preaching, they turn out what is vulgarly called "sticks" they have the less chance of employment. But this is not all. Every man who addresses his fellow-men must be cheered and encouraged by their attention and pained by their indifference; and there is no department of the clerical profession. Church or Dissent, in which a man's reputation and advancement do not, , more or less, depend on his success as a preacher, using the word " success in that rough sense in which it is taken in this discussion. We have no

hesitation in saying that the criticism of a sermon by an audience reaches a minister more directly and with keener force than the criticism of a leading article by the public reaches its author. The latter has, in fact, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, no means of knowing how his piece has told upon readers; but the preacher who, with tingling pokes, sees a thousand eyes kindling with rapture at his words, or, on the other hand, meets nothing but cold, cynical, contemptuous glances, here and there a nodding head or an apathetic, somnolent face appearing in an expanse of empty pews, knows how present, how pressing, how terrible a thing is the criticism of a congregation.

We have said that there is no preaching in connection with which this does not more or less hold good, but there are preachers in England in relation to whom it has as little force as possible. We allude to country clergymen in remote localities; not curates, but incumbents. They hold their benefices for life. No freeholder in tho parish feels himself more securely planted on his land than the rector in his parsonage. The people who live in the village are all known to the preacher. The Church is probably very small, and it is as sure as the tolling of the bell that there will be a sufficient number of them in the pews to make a decent appearance. They are not of critical nature; they have but the smallest tincture of biblical knowledge; they have heard of Antichrist, Dr. Colenso, and the devil, and might have some difficulty in distinguishing between the three. In such circumstances the parson does not feel that he preaches much less comfortably when his twenty-minutes' sermon has cost him no trouble, than when he has really mastered his subject and put his thoughts upon it into the best language which, care and revision can command. The result is what those who know the clergy nf the established Church in remote districts have too often had occasion to observe. The text is taken probably from the lesson for the

c

day. Fifteen of the twenty minutes are occupied in diluting this lesson with the water of the preacher's own language, the narrative of Scripture, always brief, grand, natural, being dissolved and destroyed in a Hood of twaddle. Five minutes arc devoted to application and enforcement, the platitude being here more oppressive from the absence of the Scriptural undercurrent. If you asked a man who had heard such sermons for forty years how much he remembered of them, he would have to answer. Nothing. He could no more tell you what Dr. Dozer had been preacliing about than what wind blew on Ash Wednesday ten years ago. But his mind has not escaped influence. The sound, passing weekly over him, has lulled Ids brain into a deeper intellectual torpor. Forty years of sermons have done him ill. It is an awful thought that there may be the matter of 10,000 Dr. Dozera in England.

But this class, though large, is exceptional, and preachers of all denominations in towns ore under the influence of the stir and hurry of the times. The intellectual calibre of sermons preached in large cities is at least as high as that of leading articles in the cheap daily newspapers. What sermons can you hear in London more confused and stupid than the articles of the Standard, more silly than those of John Bull, more heavy and platitudinarian than those of the Record, more ranting and bombastic than those of the Telegraph } The pomposity, the oracular ex cathedra air, of certain preachers, is absurd; but what is there in the world more exquisitely ludicrous than the tone of omniscience assumed by every threadbare gentleman who indites leaders for a daily paper'' There is nothing in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, which this magnus Apollo, generally in a very bad hat. cannot discuss and determine. To see him turning the philosophy of Sir William Hamilton inside out, and explaining that tho greatest metaphysician of the century is henceforth extinct and annihilated,

Christian World Magazine, April, 186ft

is one of the finest things in modern manners. It would have thrown Swift or Rabelais, as it throws Carlyle, into roars of laughter. The fellows who write the kind of article we refer to would have little chance before an audience, and a large proportion of them are probably ministers who have preached their chapels empty, or who never got the length of having chapels to depopulate.

It is not our object, however, to institute a comparison between the press and the pulpit. To strike again into the line of remark with which we set out, we would observe that one important cause of the feeling of impatience and dissatisfaction with which sermons are regarded is that the task of the pulpit is now more difficult to perform than it was in those days when the pulpit first became great among modern institutions. At the time of the Reformation the knowledge of Scripture possessed by the commonalty was so slight, and the class influenced by literature so narrow that the pulpit was the grand vehicle of intellectual instruction as well as of moral improvement. What was communicated in the pulpit was new to the ears of men, and as books were almost, and newspapers altogether, unknown, there was nothing to blunt the eager curiosity with which sermons were listened to. The immense interest created by this new power had probably, in one respect, a pernicious influence upon the Protestant Churches. It rendered them comparatively indifferent to prayer and praise in worship, and produced the amazing conception, which three hundred years' acceptance does not care of its inherent and intense absurdity, that the principal part in an act of public worship of God is a dissertation by man. An arid intellectualism has been the bane of Christianity in the Protestant Churches. The preaching, not the worship, has been the affair considered. The pulpit is expected to create in the present day as much interest as it did at a time when it was the chief guide of public opinion and the principal instructor of the

Christian World Magazine, April, 18C6.

nation. Its topics are virtually curtailed; it has no political force ; an allusion to a public question in a sermon, unless very skilfully made, would be thought unbecoming; s preacher attempting to play the part of Knox, and clothe his political opinions in pulpit thunders, would be laughed at; and yet he is expected to afford, twice a week, to a cultivated, critical, cold, and clever generation, that powerful intellectual stimulant, that racy intellectual enjoyment, which sermons occasioned three hundred years ago. Genius, indeed, will triumph over every obstacle; and when a man of genius enters the pulpit he finds that the themes on which he has to expatiate are exhaustless in their variety and glorious in their character. He ranges over Scripture, touching upon subject after subject in its boundless multiplicity of topics, and making each the occasion of new and exquisite thought. But rules are not made for men of genius, and it must be admitted that there are not at present many men of genius in the pulpit. The average preacher feels that the labour of continually imparting interest to his pulpit ministrations is overwhelming, and we shall close with two hints, one or both of which may be of use to him.

In the first place let him impress his congregation with the idea that to the act of worship, strictly so called, the sermon is a mere adjunct. It is an accompaniment of worship, a seemly, appropriate, divinely sanctioned, and most beneficial accompaniment, but not worship itself. Ministers should accustom their people to look upon them as leaders in public worship rather than as preachers of sermons, and to blame themselves as well as their pastors, or more than their pastors, if worship is iinedifying. Attention also ought to be devoted to the securing of perfect order, decency, and comeliness in the externals of worship, by which we mean not a sensuous adorning of divine service to make it pleasing to man, but a natural and reverent preparation of the soul to do homage to its Creator. In the second place, let the preacher cultivate those legitimate sources of novelty and attraction in preaching which are accessible to him, and were not accessible to his fathers. No one who has any idea of the progress made in the knowledge of God's works, and in critical elucidation of Scripture, within the present century, can doubt that preachers who choose to make their sermons objects of intelligent study may render them interesting. With the sources of interest to which we refer many laymen are now acquainted, and it is highly probable that the existing dissatisfaction arises in large measure from the fact that laymen, familiar with the new lights which have

been thrown upon scriptural passages, find these passages constantly treated in the old hum-drum, cutaud-dry fashion. Ministers oughtat least to familiarise their hearers with those modifications in our acceptance of various statements in the Old Testament scriptures which undisputed discoveries of science have brought about. It is not safe in these days to eschew every difficulty, and the sceptic has a great advantage over the inexperienced mind when he startles it with objections which have been sedulously veiled from it in the pulpit.

Peter Bayne.

A SECOND GOSSIP ON MUSIC.

Secular music, what is it? I find the word " secular" to mean "worldly, not bound by vows :"' this is not very explicit, but I think we may take it that secular music is "worldly music." Where worldly music ends, and sacred begins, or vice verse, it is nearly or quite impossible to say —the two are so intimately blended. Look at our Tsalmody! the number of tunes taken from songs, glees, and actual dance-music, and •' adapted" to hymns, even in the present day, would astonish many good people.who think they are singing purely sacred music, if they knew it. The "Union Tune Book" contains many striking examples of this; a few will suffice. Near the beginning is a certain tune which is part of a once famous glee, "Drink to me only with thine eyes;" further on is an old Scotch ballad; then another glee ; then "The manly heart," &C., &c.! All these airs are very beautiful in their proper place, but are they in their proper place when used forpublic worship? Then, per contra, look at many of Mozart's and Haydn's "Gloria," or even Handel's Gloria Solos in the" Messiah," "Judas,"" Solomon," See.; who could tell from simply hearing them, that they were sacred? I confess I could not. The opera bears the same relation

to the secular school that the oratorio does to the sacred: the pre-eminence, however, is not so marked in the former as in the latter. I mean that no operatic composer towers above his fellows as did Handel over his compeers. The talent in this direction seems to me to be more equal; but it must require, I apprehend, as much ability and more ingenuity to construct an opera than an oratorio; for whereas the oratorio is for the cur only, the opera is both for the ear and eye.

I do not purpose to say much about the opera, as I know it is rather delicate ground to tread on in the " Christian World Magazine," but I suppose we none of us object to secular music out of the theatre and off the stage! One great use in secular music is, I should think, to prevent sacred from being used for illegitimate purposes, and thus becoming in time absolutelyprofaned.

Beethoven wrote several operas, but they are more of a classical nature than suits the prevailing taste. With the exception of perhaps Cherubini and Gluck. who wrote "Iphigenia," most of the old operatic masters are forgotten.

Come we now to more modern times. Of the "modern school" I would say that probably Meyerbeer

Chrittum IIVM Magacini, April, -, is first for grandeur, Rossini for melody, Auber for sweetness, and Verdi for general effect. It is thought that the first three are nearly equal in their method of construction, but Meyerbeer is more gorgeous in his accessories than Rossini, who is however more taking in his style. Auber is more plain than either. Verdi is, to tell the truth, rather rocco in his manner. Of the popularity of Verdi's music there can be no doubt. I believe that no composer of modern times has been sobc-drawing-roomed by young ladies, so be-played by street bands, and, so be-giound out by barrel organists!

Most of our songs now-n-days are really the veriest trash that e ver was —or, I hone, could be—written; they are nearly all made up to order, and out of other people's materials: the more senseless the words, especially of the "comic" variety, the better they sell. Of course there must be a certain amount of jingle of "ping, ping," and "ding, ding," but as for poetry or even rhyme, I don't believe it would be appreciated if it were even understood. The so-called "comic" is to me ghostly and dreary in the extreme: I can find nothing in it but a general flavour of impropriety and turn, turn. Then in the sentimental variety, look at "echo" songs. Goodness! what that poor young woman has to endure and is made to say! Why, words are put in her mouth which she never thought of even! I came across an absurd instance of this not long since. It was my province to look over a lot of "New and Popular Songs," one of which was an "echo" song, or rather duet. On the cover was, of course, a flaring illustration, a young lady in an appropriate dress of white satin—so very serviceable out of doors, you know—doing nothing, and a very insipid-looking young gentleman diligently helping her. Dramatised, the performance would be something like this—

Symphony, half a page.

Insipid Young Gentleman (sings) —" I am turn, turn, turn," &c, &c.

Insipid Young Lady (sings) —" I am turn, turn, turn," 4c.

Symphony, half a page.

C'»n«fian World ilagatiiu. Ami, Utl

I. Y. G. (sings)—" Will you, darling, love me ever, ever, ever, ever?"

To this unreasonable request I rejoice to say that "echo" is made to answer

I. Y. L. (sings)—".I will love thee darling, never, Never, «-ever, never."

Oh! dear printer s-angel! you were probably nearer the truth than the I. Y. G. bargained for: I bless you for once, but I should like to kick you often.

"Ladies, dear ladies." good music and sensible words will never obtain so long as you will only buy that which is easy and flashy, sickly and trashy! Please try and remember this minute piece of poetry when you go to purchase songs, and pray give the good ones a turn sometimes. That there are good ones is equally as true as that no one hardly ever sings them: really, is this not too bad, come now?

The instrumental secular for pianoforte is of a higher order generally than the vocal; many charming pieces are to had and learnt with only a very moderate amount of application.

I have come across the following as to the origin of the polka :—

"Somewhere about the year 1831 a young peasant girl, who was in the service of a citizen of Elbeteinitz. in Bohemia, performed a dance of her own invention one afternoon, for her own special delectation, and sang a suitable tune to it. The schoolmaster, Joseph Neruda, who happened to be present, wrote down the melody, and the new dance was soon after publicly performed for the first time in the before-mentioned town with a long name.

"About 1885 it first made its entrance into Prague, and then it obtained the name of polka, from the Bohemian word pulka, meaning half, from the half-step prevalent in it."

In some quarters quadrille and other dance music had rather extraordinary accompaniments to add to the echit or noise of their performance. The "Musical World" in 1830 says—" Musard, in Paris, contrived to smash the chairs, to fire off

« ElőzőTovább »