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and a re-creation in his pulpit; and when he descends, he should feel a mother's joy—the joy of one who, under God's blessing, has borne a child. Only when the sermon is thus a donble creation of the preacher, will it become a reality in his hearers. The discourses he has heard are way-marks in the life of a hearer, by which he determines how far and in what direction he has travelled.
It were much to be desired that more preachers were able to dispense with a full writing out and committing to memory; yet, it is not always necessary to discard this formal preparation. If the sermon has been born by the Spirit in the study, why should it not, under the breathing of the Spirit, live again in the pulpit? We should, however, preserve so much of our freedom that when we stand in the presence of the devout congregation, borne up by the collected feelings of the assembly, we may not reject what we receive anew from the Lord, but with free power of production, incorporate it with what we have already prepared. Mere extemporizing generally brings no salvation with it, and in our days, least of all to the educated. Even should our whole life and the entire range of our studies bear fruit for the text which we explain to the congregation, yet who can venture to trust so entirely to the
spur of the moment as to expect that these resources will always be at his command ?
The sermon thus inspired by the Spirit speaks to the whole man; it contains, first of all, a substantial doctrine, with the thoughts and conclusions suggested by it. Upon this point I cannot agree with the man in Kiel, who speaks with tongues, expressing himself slightingly of doctrine and the communication of knowledge from the pulpit. When the Holy Spirit once takes up his abode in the heart of a hearer, every accession of knowledge of the truth and every new application of it to the life will be an inward quickening power.
Well does Harms say of the instruction connected with confirmation—“if it only were what it should be !” If, indeed, it were this, would it not always be the principles of the doctrine of Christ—the foundation upon which perfection shonld be built ? In our time especially, when all hands are stretched out toward the tree of knowledge; when, even in the middle
classes, intelligence is more and more diffused, and the truth needs an attractive mediation-at such a time the continued study of the Scriptures, of theology, of literature, is indispensable in order to teach the principles of Christianity in a thorough manner and to assist the spring of thought to a new ont flow. Yet these principles should always be clothed with illustrations and quickened by feeling.
On this point we must explain ourselves farther, as what we demand might appear to contradict that which gives primarily to all Christian development its highest rank, a holy simplicity. We have here to do with those in whose eyes perfect intelligibleness and popularity are the highest predicates of a
This may seem a singular demand when the question is proposed how far Scripture satisfactorily meets it. Does then, the predicate of perfect intelligibleness belong, above many other books, to the Gospels of John and the Epistles of Paul ?
We are now told by quite a numerous class, that the range of subjects in the New Testament from which a preacher is allowed to select is very limited. The mysteries are stricken from the Word of God, and the caput mortuum of the so-called simple religion of Jesus, is delivered over to the preacher for him to hammer out as thin as possible.
“I should like," said one of the dictators, when Christianity was about to be introduced anew into France I should like a simple religion, with only a couple of dogmas." The atmosphere where there are no objects is clear, indeed, but at the same time empty and cold. With that illumination wl'ch assumes to itself the name of simplicity, we have nothing to do. But in respect to that which the counsel of God has revealed for the salvation of men, the preacher must be silent in nothing. Nor must he speak otherwise of divine things than God himself has spoken of them. If, however, we are careful to introduce Scripture correctly into our sermons, we may be permitted at the same time to drape them with imagination and feeling.
They are strangely mistaken who think that the people prefer from the pulpit the language and style they are accustomed to use in their hours of labor. When they go to church
they put on their Sunday dress; therefore it pleases theam that the sermon.which they hear should be clad in festal garments, only let the preacher not confound the festal garment with what the Scriptures call high sounding words, where the thirsty hearer is forced to exclaim with Augustine when he was in error: "Sed quid ad meam sitim pretiosorum poculorum decentissimus ministratur."
We do not commend him who walks on stilts. When the tongue goes upon stilts, reason spreads but half her sails. What Denham says of the Thames is applicable to the stream of words :
“Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing, full.”
We ask only for the simplicity of Scripture language; -for the illustrative, the sententious, the enigmatic, which more or less pervade all the books of the Old and New Testaments. This is the language of which it may be said, as a father of the church says of Scripture in general: “It is a stream in which an elephant can swim and a lamb not be drowned.” It is this language which is attractive to the educated,--this which belongs to the beauties of the Gospel.
Is the sermon a living reality of the preacher in the pulpit ? and has it been a living reality in his study? Then it will not be likely to want imagination and feeling. And if the full tide of words, as in a confidential, heart-to-heart intercourse with the hearer, breaks suddenly into the ordinary language of life, it will take so much the deeper hold.
It is not enough that one says the truth; it is also of essential importance how he says it. Can it be the perspicuity of the argument merely which obtains the victory in the English Parliament? The two political parties that oppose each other have, indeed, their clubs where their votes are prepared, yet the power and the gift of eloquence have now, as in the time of Demosthenes, their inalienable rights. “The secret of eloquence,” says Pope, “is the right word in the right place.”
Let no one think that it is only through the artistical arrangement of its sentences, as in battle array, that the ruling
mind gains the victory. Fox, the greatest of modern orators, conquered by means of feeling,—to whose impetuous torrent it was willingly forgiven that all the waves did not form waving lines. And if there, where the worldly interests of a commercial people cause the calculating understanding to spread all its sails,—if there the force of eloquence and the power of feeling obtain such conquests, how much greater will be the victory upon an arena where the orator has, in the hearts of his hearers, the Holy Spirit for an ally.
To all this, one thing more has to be added. The sermon should grow out of the circumstances of the flock. There are sermons which have their origin without the flock, and sermons which spring up within it. The first are those which the preacher forms in accordance with the common maxims of homiletics, and also with the idea of a Christian sermon of ecclesiastical times and seasons. Thus he will continue to do so long as no living reciprocity of relation exists between himself and his people.
It is otherwise when the Sabbath sermon is the echo of experiences which his visitings through the parish during the week have enabled him to gather. The more the sermon is the result of this, the more individual, the more local, the more pertinent will it be. As it has its origin in the life of the flock, it will also serve to increase still more that life. The first consideration I have named should not be excluded from the sermon, but it should embrace this second, or be connected with it. Then will preaching without the pulpit furnish the true enlivening material for preaching in the pulpit.
But here rises up again that grim spectre of the general rules of pulpit style and pulpit decorum, which frightens back every particular application springing up in the mind of the pastor. If, however, the preacher only bears the souls of his flock upon his heart,--if he sorrows and rejoices with them, he is in a condition to exclaim with Paul, “ Besides those
“ things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is offended and I burn not?” Then the monotonous, essay-like tones, soaring far above the heads and hearts of the people, will disappear; the sermon will cease to be a formal
preparation, and will become the voice of nature, an audible sigh of the warm, throbbing heart.
And oh! if, finally, all other gifts which we have here considered fail, let the sermon only be natural; let it be a fresh witness drawn from the life of the flock, and it will not be in vain. And for this, it is astonishing how little is necessary. For example, on certain festive occasions, to awaken emotion, let a mere faithful, unsupported word of truth be uttered ; let language be given to those feelings which the hearer has already brought with him. But when, instead of this, you present the formal preparation of the study—the essay, spun out in long-drawn, honeyed accents, like an old-fashioned beauty wrapped in a hundred envelopes, with her fan in her hand,--then, instead of a holy flame enkindled in the breast which needed only a few sparks, a frosty lethargy will chill the whole assembly. O ye full-souled men! Chrysostom and Augustine, Heinrich Müller and Harms, would that your spirit of life might breathe in our sermons !
If now, after this full utterance of the heart, I come to my own sermons, I remark, in the first place, that they are prepared according to the circumstances of the people before whom I preach; and, secondly, that they are prepared for an audience from the higher classes. But it has given me great pleasure that under this very preaching, if the sermons are not merely elaborately wrought as a logical or rhetorical piece of art, other classes need not go away empty. If, however, they do go away unprofited, I then conclude that however good the sermons may be as sermons, either they contain not the Gospel, or it has not been evangelically set forth.
I acknowledge, further, that I have by no means satisfactorily met the requisitions here exhibited; I confess that a certain timidity has withheld me, and still withholds me, from proceeding in respect to the whole structure as I might do, and as, under many circumstances, I should consider it more profitable to do. The unconstrained bomily, as Chrysostom used it, is the form most suited to my wants as a preacher, and in which, as I think, I could also obtain the best fruits, though I would by no means reject other forms.
In this prefatory discourse, however, I have conformed