« ElőzőTovább »
He would not try to give effect to a hymn or chapter by his mode of reading, and usually tumbled into his sermon as if it was to be dispatched as soon as possible. But he soon showed that he felt his subject, and though he got no nearer to artificial oratory or elocution, there came an earnestness and often an awful solemnity in his tones which literally thrilled his audience. His voice was delightful, and to me more melting in pathetic parts than any I ever heard, excepting perhaps Jenny Lind's. Some of his long sentences, rolling on to a grand climax, occur to me, which have made me put my handkerchief to my mouth lest I should scream. It of course happens with his printed sermons, as with all others that were delivered with feeling and melody, that their effect can be realized only by those who are so familiar with his manner of delivery that they can hear Lim while they read.”
Rev. Dr. T. L. Cuyler thus describes the effect of his preaching in Philadelphia :
" The second evening, which now comes before me, was passed, not beside Dr. Alexander at the fireside, but before him in the pulpit. It was during that winter of 1847 when he supplied the pulpit of the Rev. Dr. Boardman, then travelling in Europe. All Philadelphia flocked to hear him. The most distinguished lawyers of that city were glad to find seats in the aisles, or a standingplace in the crowded vestibule. It was during that season that he delivered nearly all of his most celebrated and powerful discourses. Among them were his sermons on "The Faithful Saying,' 'The Broken and Contrite Heart,' 'Awake, Thou that Sleepest,' 'It doth not yet appear what we shall be,' and 'Remember Lot's Wife.' The first-mentioned of these was the most perfect; but the last ode was the most popular. The impressions produced by the matchless discourses of that series can never be effaced. Finer displays of concinnate exegesis, of bold imaginative flights, of soul-moving appeals, of rich, strong, arousing presentation of Calvary and Christ, the Presbyterian pulpit of our day has not heard. His manner, at that period of his life, was exceedingly animated. He was in his splendid prime. His voice often swelled into a volume that rolled through the lobbies of the church, and reached to the passers-by in the street. In pathetic passages, that same voice had the plaintive melody of a lute. The rising ivflection with which he was wont to close his sentences will at once occur to many of my readers. This peculiarity was sometimes insensibly imitated by the seminary students, who betrayed thus their Princeton origin by this rising Addisonian inflection. Well would it be if all the superb attributes of Professor Alexander's ministrations could be transferred to every pulpit in the land!
On the evening of which we write, his theme was 'The Broken Heart.' That whole marvellous discourse, with its pictures of the scenes 'behind the veil' where the sacrifices were being offered; with its wailing outcry of contrite spirits; with its melting exhibitions of the soul's penitence and the Saviour's love; all moved before us like one of the inspired panoramas of the Apocalypse. When the sermon was over, a clergyman whispered to me, “No such preaching as that has been heard since the days of Dr. Mason.'”
His biographer gives the following glowing account of his own experience under his uncle's preaching :VOL. XLII.-NO, I.
"One Sunday night, the preacher, who had been expected to officiate in the First Church in Princeton, was absent, or for some reason unable to speak, and Mr. (then Dr.) Addison Alexander was applied to take his place. Seeing at once how the matter stood, he swiftly ascended the steps of the pulpit, and after the preliminary services, in which he seemed to be altogether at his ease, poured out one of the most enrapturing and overwhelming discourses to which I ever had the privilege of listening. It was spoken of by some as an extempore effort, but was the famous sermon on the "City with Foundations,' which is printed in his works. He fairly ravished me with his enchanting imaginative pictures, and his wild bursts of music and pathos. He went through it as a summer wind goes through the trees before the outbreak of a thunderstorm. His voice was plaintive, but too low for the greatest popular impression. His tones, however, were diversified, and to him perfectly natural; though his intonation was singu. larly peculiar, and by the rules of rhetorical elocution, faulty. But it was the best manner for him, and with its wailing cadence and rising inflection was er. tensively copied by his students, much to their own detriment, and somewhat to the astonishment and amusement of their audiences. But there was no time to see or think of faults. The speaker was in breathless haste, and was going at • railroad speed.' Sometimes he would glide in nobly and gracefully to the end of a paragraph or period, very much as a locomotive glides in through a fair prospect to the swinging bell which indicates the next stop. Now and then he would suddenly lift his right hand with a sort of upward wave, and then drop it again. This was almost his only gesture. To change the figure used just now, the sermon was a widening and foaming torrent, and closed in a perfect cataract of glorious imagery and high religious feeling.
"Of all Mr. Alexander's sermons this one is the most imaginative, in the popular sense of that term, that is, the most ornate and highly wrought, the most full of rare and captivating fancy. It is, also, in the strictest sense of the term, a noble work of imagination. It is, from beginning to end, a mass of gorgeous imagery, describing the kindred yet opposite illusions of the saint and the world. ling. The peroration is descriptive of the rupture (fearful in the one case, and transcendent in the other) of these life-long deceptions. The Christian who had sought the glimmering city in the sky, with faint heart but steadfast purpose, finds that all beneath that city is shadow, and that this alone is substance. He awakes from his dream to pass an eternity in transport. The wicked man awakes from his dream also; he had thought the world was every thing, and had made light of the celestial vision as a puerile vanity. He awakes to shame and everlasting contempt.
“It is as sustained a description as any thing in Bunyan; but is not at all quaint, not primitive, not antique, homely, or crude. It is perfectly modern; and very rich in its elaborate coloring, as well as superb in its minute finish. The difference between the two in these respects is analogous to the difference between Perugino and Paul de la Roche. It was one of the earlier and more florid fforts for which, in after life, he had a supreme contempt. Macaulay thus ?spised the essay on Milton, and pronounced its poble ornaments gaudy."
Dr. Alexander's reputation as an interpreter of the Bible s, so far as his pupils are concerned, largely on the impres
sion made by his exegetical exercises in the seminary. They never can forget the clearness of his expositions, and the power which he possessed of unfolding the Word of God in its connections; nor can they ever lose the impression made on their minds of his reverence for the Scriptures, and his childlike submission to their authority. So far as the general public are concerned, his reputation must rest on his published commentaries. Of these, alas! he lived to complete only a small part of those which he intended to write. His works on Isaiah, on the Psalms, on the Acts of the Apostles, on the Gospel of Mark, and of the first sixteen chapters of Matthew, are enough to keep his name in grateful and perpetual remembrance. They evince great learning, accurate scholarship, great powers of analysis, sound judgment, wonderful clearness of statement and felicity of expression, and a devout and reverent spirit.
There are two kinds of commentaries. With the one the text and context are the immediate and special object; with the other, the truths the sacred writer intends to teach. The one is characteristical, verbal; the other doctrinal. These two methods can never be, or should never be, entirely dissociated. Grotius furnishes an example of the former, Calvin of the latter class of commentators. Dr. Alexander belongs to the former rather than to the latter. His work on the Psalms is the most verbal in its character. It is designed to give in English a fac-simile of the original. In his other commentaries his scope is wider ; but in all there is the strictest attention to verbal exposition, giving each word, tense, case, and particle its proper force. Besides this, however, the subject-matter is exhibited in the clearest light; and the hand of a master is visible throughout.
Dr. Addison Alexander was for a long course of years oue of the most frequent contributors to the Princeton Review. His contributions are on such a wide range of subjects, are so diversified in character, they exhibit such amplitude in his resources, such refined wit and sarcasm, such power of argument, such research, and such perfection of style, that many of his friends are disposed to think that they afford the best means for forming a correct estimate of the man-of his tastes, talents, and attainments. On this subject his biographer says:
“It is the judgment of some thorough Biblical scholars that Dr. Addison Alexander's contributions to the Review set forth his splendid literary abilities in a much stronger light than any of his other writings. It is very certain he wrote in the quarterlies and magazines with a bold, free hand which was somewhat fettered when engaged on the commentaries. He writes in the same free way in his newspaper-squibs, children's books, and some of his letters, and in his European journals. The greater part of what he did, however, in this reckless, slap-dash style, was not intended for preservation, and, though on merely literary grounds it is often exquisite, is for other but equally weighty reasons kept back from the eye of curious readers. The essays in the Repertory, on the whole, give one the best notion of the variety of his gifts and accomplishments as a writer of English. They give the best notion, too, of his masculine tastes, his general knowledge, his progressive moderation, his sterling good sense, his genial humor and true politeness, his fine wit, his facetious irony, his power (never used without provocation) of withering sarcasm, and the marvellous cunning of his diction. Viewed as an unbroken collection, these pieces certainly possess extraordinary merit; and all the more so that some of them were floated off as the veriest waifs."
By common consent of all who knew him, Addison Alexander was a 'man of profound and varied erudition; of extraordinary and manifold mental endowments; of sound judgment and practical wisdom; of elevated piety and of firm faith in the Divine authority of the Scriptures; he occupied a position in the first rank of teachers, of preachers, of commentators, and of reviewers or essayists. If there be any other man, whom our country has produced, of whom all this can be truthfully said, we do not know who he is. This man we lost in the maturity of his power and usefulness.
Arr. VIII.--The Presbyterian Church-its Position and
The feeling is general throughout the land that the Presbyterian Church, by the recent re-union of the two branches, has entered upon a new career of spiritual life and missionary labor. It must, however, be kept in mind that the mere con
junction of two smaller bodies will not in itself necessarily produce any marked change upon the character and operations of the enlarged organization.
A large body is not always the most efficient. In certain lines of duty and of effort, the co-existence of two similar yet independent churches may be weakness, but in others, they nay so act and react upon each other as to arouse a higher devotion to Christ's cause, call forth a larger amount of individual strength, and sustain greater endeavors for the promotion of truth and righteousness in the earth. Something more is needed for the accomplishment of any great enterprise or moral result than mere bulk. Inertia is a danger of large bodies. This the re-united church must at the outset understand, so as to comprehend the pressing duties of the present, and the dawning necessities of the future, and rise at once to meet them.
The present time is auspicious for enlarged spiritual efforts. The idea has grown up in the church, that the two portions coming together harmoniously can do more for the great benevolent movements of the age, than by acting apart. This is in itself a power. If real, it will soon assume shape and be clothed in deeds which will give a quickening impulse to thought and a broader sweep to endeavor. The achievements of the past and the practical forces of the present will not suffice. These, however grand in themselves, are not, under this prevailing sentiment, what the united body can content itself to simply sustain. Nobler deeds must mark its future, holier zeal its movements, and the flow of its benevolence must be more generous and deep. The change of vote, on the day of the union of the two branches, from one million to five inillions of dollars must be an index of the advanced position which the church is ready to take in regard to work. Upon this every thing must tell. The exuberant joy, the earnest desire, the hopeful wish, the doubting spirit of different individuals or parties must now commingle, and these, if rightly blended and properly directed, may be the means, in the hands of the Spirit, of giving higher vigor to the action of the body.
The similarity of views in all that enters into and sustains Christian life and aggressive action will do much to fulfil the