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and the pulpit popular instruction. But Notre Dame, significantly enough at the neither Bible nor pulpit is necessarily very moment when Père Didon's "Life superseded, because each may now, owing of Christ” is rivalling the popularity to the growth of literature and the spread of Daudet's satires and Zola's offensive of education, resume its peculiar sphere, realisms. the one as instructor in righteousness, the In London, Mr. Spurgeon continues the other as the herald of salvation.
phenomenal feat, now performed for upNever was there a greater appetite for wards of thirty years, of attracting a conpulpit teaching than there is at the present gregation of six thousand people twice moment. What are the facts ? In spite every Sunday: of our defective system of training in the In New York, the interest attached to Church of England, yet here and there a pulpit utterances compels the Monday preacher occasionally emerges; whenever newspapers to insert long notices of the he appears, he is sure to attract crowds. best sermons preached Sunday by Sun. Think of Liddon at St. Paul's, Archdeacon day. Farrar at St. Margaret's or Westminster in the face of such facts, what becomes Abbey, Knox Little, Basil Wilberforce, of the parrot cry raised by some lively Archbishop Magee, the greatest orator on essayists that the pulpit has lost its hold a bench of bishops which can boast of the over the people?" I think I might paraeloquence of Moorhouse, Bishop of Man-phrase the common question and answer: chester, Boyd Carpenter, Bishop of Ripon, • Is life worth living ?" " That depends and Creighton, Bishop of Peterborough. upon the liver," with “Is the pulpit worth It is no doubt curiously true that the High- keeping ?” “ That depends upon the Church party at first underrated preach- preacher.” ing, but this was only because they had no Now two facts stare us in the face. The good preachers to boast of.
first is, that there is an indate appetite in Newman was not so much of a preacher all religious communities for sermons; as a personality ; those who had the key to the second is, that there is a great dearth him like Mr. Gladstone, found the spell of of wholesome and stimulating sermon his utterance unearthly and irresistible; food; and that whilst there is an abundant but he taught for years at Birmingham in supply as to quantity, in many cases the comparative obscurity.
hungry sheep look up and are not fed on Pusey had a sort of fascination for me account of the quality. when I was a boy on account of a certain Why are there so few good preachers? far-off rhapsody of manner; but many There are various reasons. Want of found him monotonous and dull.
conviction, want of training, want of free. Henry Gresley was listened to atten- dom ; but the greatest of these is want of tively at St. Paul's, Brighton, in those freedom. Without conviction, no one las days, simply because all the others were any business to preach at all; without so very poor.
capacity he may honestly try to preach, Keble the poet never attracted as a but he is sure to fail ; without training, be preacher, but as soon as the High Church is heavily handicapped (and how little got Luke Rivington, Body, Liddon, they training of any kind does the English changed their tone, and organized inter- Church provide for her clergy !). But minable preaching functions for their freedom and spontaneity in the pulpit is favorite orators, and High-Church depre. what we most miss. Here is a man who ciation of the pulpit at once ceased. will be sweet and kind to our children,
In Germany the pulpit has always kept chat sensibly with our wives, and discuss itself in touch with the people, not by with us the questions of the day with its advanced doctrinal character so much acumen and good sense; an excellent man as by its attention to local color, and its of business, too, and a scholar withal ; interest in politics and social movemenis reads books, perhaps bas a specialty in in season and out of season.
science or art; but when he gets up into Within the last few years the vitality of the pulpit he pitches bis voice on one high preaching in Italy has been evidenced by note, ard with the ceremonial nasal twang, the extraordinary and romantic career of familiar to us, begins his rapid and lifeFather Agostino da Montefeltro. Whilst less utterance : "Our holy mother the in Paris, all through the third empire, the the Church this day commands us to crown voices of Lacordaire, Ravignan, Félix, our beads with sacred chaplets in honor Hyacynthe, and at the present moment Le of the blessed St. James —it has been Pére Monsabre, have attracted enormous taught by the holy father, St. Augustine, crowds of men to the Conferences at etc. ;” or, if he be a Low Churcbman, he
ascends the pulpit, and after giving out abounded. Indeed, every department of his text begins to tell you everything it life was laid under contribution in turn by cannot possibly mean; then quotes other Christ, the divine teacher. The least texts like it to prove that it can only mean possible use was made by him of what just what every one knew it meant before had been up to that time the whole subjecthe began ; or, if the text is a hard one, he matter of sermons - the texts and Biblelabors to show that it would be presump- lore of the period – viz., Moses and the tuous for us to expect to understand it at prophets. When alluded to it was for the all; and then follow the usual platitudes sake of contrast, restatement, and someabout the virtue of believing what sounds times flat contradiction. "Moses said improbable or seems impossible.
this, but I say something quite different; Talk of this kind we know, and he knows in other words, “ Moses' instruction on very well, is not expected nor would it be this or that point is out of date.” That is tolerated by any one out of church; the the kind of freedom we want. How in clergyman himself does not attempt to discriminate must have seemed Jesus palm off upon his parishioners the kind of Christ's spontaneity! What a sensation nonsense which he thinks good enough for he must have made by his pungent alluthe pulpit when he goes his daily rounds. sions to “ Herod, that jackal,” or to the Hodge's atmosphere is too much for him, superiority of loose women and swindlers and he would feel discredited by twad- over the religious hypocrites of the pedling about the Athanasian Creed on his riod; or to the children's noisy games in own hearthrug to the local doctor, as he is the market-place, in which their very cries not ashamed to do in the pulpit.
and watch words were reproduced ; or to Yes, the great defect of current preach the absurdity of lighting a candle and puting, especially in the country, is want of ting it under a cover! We want these life and freedom. Men must leave off homely figures, calculated no doubt at saying things they don't believe to people times to excite a smile, we want to bring who don't believe them. They must not the pulpit near to daily life. Jesus was delude themselves with the notion that prodigal of commonplace allusions, and others can be interested by what has no the servant need not aspire to be above interest, perhaps even no meaning, for his Lord. “I tell you what it is, gentlethem, or made alive by what in their men,” said Wilberforce, the late Bishop mouths is not living doctrine, but mere of Oxford, turning round at a dull misdead dogma.
sionary meeting, and addressing a number The worst of it is, that as time goes on of clergy seated in a solemn row on the a school of pulpit dulness is formed platform, “ the Church of England is bethroughout the land. People expect the ing choked with its dignity. What you sermons to be dull; some even go to hear want is to take off your neckties and shake sermons in order to go to sleep. They the starch out of them ;” and be pretended resent anything unusual; they are sensi- to shake in the air an imaginary stiff necktive only to what makes a demand on their cloth, such as was at that time coinmonly attention, or has a tendency to excite worn by the clergy. thought. Thought is an unwelcome in- Every great religious revival, every liv. truder. The deep slumber of a decided ing period of the Church, has been marked opinion must not be disturbed. This ter- by a great outburst of spontaneity in the rible respectability, which puts on the pulpit. Wit and humor have been freely cloak of reverence and decorum, is truly used by all great preachers who happened appalling to a spiritually awakened mind. to be gifted with these rare gifts. The The forlorn words of the prophet ring in notion that the preacher should be invaour ears : “ The people love to have it so, riably what is called dignified and solemn and what will ye do in the end thereof?” is a modern notion, and belongs to a dead The end, thank God, never comes. A church. The corresponding idea, that all shaking of the dry bones comes instead, expression of feeling on the part of the and this brings me to the main point of my congregation is indecent and irreverent, is article.
also essentially modern, artificial, or char. Every great religious revival has been acteristic of apathy and lifelessness in the marked by an outburst, sometimes a very listeners. startling outburst, of pulpit freedom and When people broke out into applause at spontaneity, not only great plainness of the preaching of St. Chrysostom, it is true speech, but, as in our Lord's case, great that he checked them, but simply because fertility of resource; anecdote, satire, local be perceived that the applause was rather allusions, and personal applications have | in praise of himself than in evidence of
contrition or of enthusiasm for righteous continued: “If every man that hath be
The Père Félix in Paris used to guiled the king should make restitution check admiring murmurs at Nôtre Dame after this sort, it would cough the king for the same reason; he never rebuked £20,000. Alack! alack ! make restitution the expression of deep religious feeling, — for God's sake make restitution; you or the sympathetic response to a stroke of will cough in hell else, that all the devils bumor.
there will laugh at your coughing." No one who has attended Mr. Spur- Under Wesley's preaching, the emotion geon's ministrations could have failed to of the congregation was wont to reach notice the groans and murmurs of deep agony point, and men and women fell down sympathy which follow many of his more in convulsions. Under Irving's eloquence delicate and tender religious utterances, they broke out in tongues, and the phenor could any one with a heart attuned to nomena of the apostolic age were reproprayer wish to silence them.
duced. When Chalmers preached, it was At the Reformation, when doctrine was not uncommon for people to rise in their fire, and hearts were electrically sensitive seats and lean towards the preacher as alike for approval and disapproval, preach- though drawn magnetically. Some of us ers constantly allude to the expression of may remember the strange silence which congregational emotion." How they grunt fell on the dense congregation which and groan at the preaching of the Gospel,” Henry Melville was in the habit of adsaid Dr. James in a sermon at Hampton dressing in his best days, about 1845 to Court, alluding to the behavior of Roman- 1850, and the sudden rustle of silks and ists who were forced to frequent the Re- sighing all over the church as he paused formed Church services. Burton in 1589 at the end of each climax, having wound notices, on the other side, the irritable up the excitement whilst his voice scaled behavior of Protestants in churches where higher and higher till it almost cracked. they suspected a leaning towards Rome. I do not remember vocal comments, but
Some,” he says, are scraping with their the sensation was profound and startling feet, superstitiously conceited, when they enough. hear but the name of Jesus mentioned. When Chalmers preached for Rowlaod Many show the whole congregation their Hill, that popular and irresistible man backs by departing out of church.” placed himself as auditor in the front gal
At Paul's Cross the noise was some-lery opposite him, and as a loud murmur times so great that the preacher's voice of approval ran through the congregation could hardly be heard, whilst malcontents, at the close of an eloquent period, Row. whom Drant called “chattering choughs,' land Hill, unable to contain himself, "used to throw bills into the preaching thumped heavily on the book-board before place,” which occasionally hit the preach him, and cried aloud : “Well done, well er's person, and gave him just cause for done, Chalmers !” It is hard to realize complaint.
that any one in that excited and devout There was one kind of interruption assembly felt such a living echo of their viz., incessant coughing – of which preach. own thoughts and feelings irrevereot or ers do not seem to have been more tolerant out of place under the circumstances. then, than now; but a witty orator knew But it may be urged that deep emotion how to deal with it, and one great bishop is one thing, and buffoonery and laughter at least spared neither wit nor invective in church is quite another. Buffoonery is in his own self-defence. “ I have now always out of place in church, so is laughpreached three Lents,” cries Bishop Lat ter for the sake of laughter; but all laugh. imer to what seems to have been a rather ter is not trivial or irreverent; nothing unruly congregation; "the first time I could be more tragic, for instance, than the preached restitution. Restitution (quoth laughter of the tragedienne Rachel, or some), what should he preach of restitu- some of the hysterical climaxes of Mation? Let him preach of contrition, and dame Ristori ; but, quite apart from such let restitution alone; we can never make extreme and exceptional cases, the whole restitution ; (then say I) if thou wilt not question of smiling or laughing in church, make restitution thou shalt go to the devil in response to or in sympathy with what for it.” He then proceeds to tell how one is said or done in the pulpit, suggests the aud another, being moved by his words, serious - I had almost said the burning had made the king restitution £20, and - question, What is the function of wit next Lent £120 more, and here we may and humor in the pulpit ? Ought it to be suppose the coughing began louder than tolerated there? 'Has it any legitimate ever; the preacher, sticking to his point, | uses at all? For we know that it is open
to much abuse, and is apt to degenerate s session and practice of some of the greatest into jesting which is not convenient. preachers that ever lived.
Ever since Mr. Spurgeon in England, “I am surprised, Dr. South,” said the and Ward Beecher in America, boldly, bishop, " that you allow yourself to inclaimed the electric currents of bumor and dulge so freely in wit when you preach." the rapier thrusts of wit for the service of "Ab," said the ready divine, " your
' God, the question of wit and humor in the lordship was never tempted in that way; pulpit has been hotly, debated at intervals God never gave your lordship wit.”. in most religious circles, chiefly, however, No doubt there have been a great many by people unblest with a sense of either. fine preachers without much sense of wit "I wonder, Mr. Spurgeon,” said an old, or humor, but we do not remember a respected minister to that incomparable single case of a preacher who was also a orator, “that you allow yourself such free-humorist considering it worth while or dom, and discredit your sacred calling by even lawful to withbold so tremendous an making so many jokes in the pulpit.” | additional force from the service of reli66 Ah! replied Spurgeon," you would not gion in his arduous and many-sided pulpit wonder at all if you knew how many more struggles with the world, the flesh, and I kept to myself.” That exactly meets the devil. It would not be difficult to the point. Spurgeon's humor is part of find sturdy defenders of pulpit humor the man; it is his natural equipment. He even in the ranks of the gravest and most gives himself to God and his people. All sententious of the clergy. his wealth of illustration, all his experi- The great and solemn Dr. Barrow, in ence, all his flashes of inspiration, all one of his most ponderous and powerful his intense perception of contrasts - he orations, says of wit: “ It raiseth admirapushes his advantages, he hems the sinner tion as signifying a humble sagacity of in, he assails him with the shafts of irony, apprehension, a special felicity of inverhe pierces him with the darts of wit, he tion; it seemeth to argue a rare quickness subdues, paralyzes, and so leads him away of parts that one can fetch in remote cona captive for God, often after electrifying ceits applicable, and dexterously accomhim with an irresistible atmosphere of modate them to the purpose before him. humor.
It procureth delight by gratifying curiosity Ward Beecher says somewhere :“What with its rareness, and by seasoning mat. a blessed reconciling, all - subjugating ters, otherwise distasteful or ipsipid with power is humor! Once make a man laugh an unusual and thence grateful savor.” and he will listen to you, and let you do Porson used to say that “wit was the what you
like with him.” This I know is best sense in the world." I have dequite incomprehensible to some excellent scribed wit and humor in my lectures at people.
the Royal Institution thus : “ Humor is When poor Artemus Ward lectured at the electric atmosphere — wit is the flash. the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, there were a situation provides the atmospheric always present a certain number of persons humor, and with the culminating point who could see nothing in his jokes, and comes the flash.”. The situation of people looked as if they wanted their money back, crowding into church on a week-day to whilst all around them were convulsed get out of the rain was distinctly humorwith laughter. These are the sort.of peo- ous - there was the shock of incongruity, ple who will be sure to criticise this arti- which is indispensable to all humor; but cle – they will not be able to see the drift when Rowland Hill espied them and said, of it, they will not approve of its tendency: “ I have heard of people making a cloak Well, Artemus Ward "knew that man of their religion, but I have never before
he had a special sentence for him in his seen them make an umbrella of it," then printed programme. “Mr. Artemus Ward the electricity of the situation culminated will call on the citizens at their residences in a flash. and explain any jokes in his narrative It stands almost to reason that any pulwhich they may not understand.”
pit orator who has such a weapon at his No doubt it will be said, all this is very disposal, will be ure, sooner or later, to funny, but is it fit for church ? No one use it; especially as frequent experience ever said that a comic lecture was fit for will convince him that wit properly used church. The question is, whether there is moral, recreative, and stimulating in a is any legitimate sphere for wit and hu- high degree, and, moreover, that people mor in the pulpit?' And that is a ques: who do not blush at what is sinful can tion which has been answered over and often be made to feel ashamed of what is over again in the affirmative by the pro- ridiculous.
But, as every preacher kpows, the first highly sensitized and mediumistic; it is thing to do is to get people to listen at all. a battle between his magnetism and the “Sermons,” it is said, “are so dull.” So magnetism of the crowd — he wrestles strongly did Sydney Smith feel this, that with the mass to bring it under control, when asked what he considered to be the he must be master and win, or he must be sin against the Holy Ghost, he promptly routed and fail miserably. The pulpit is if rather profanely answered: “In a ser- a moral pillory or a throne. mon, sir, sin against the Holy Ghost is Any one person in the congregation can undoubtedly dulness. The devices used set himself to insult or worry the preacher, by even eminent preachers to prevent and unless the disturber promptly finds people going to sleep, or to arouse them, his match in the pulpit the preacher is would fill a volume. Dr. South, preaching humiliated and defeated. Active insolence before Charles II., and perceiving that is worse than passive sleep, and none but several of the worldly court circle were preachers know how often it has to be about napping, stopped and called loudly dealt with or let alone in despair. It is at to Lord Lauderdale by name : My lord, such crises that witty satire is the preachmy lord, I am sorry to interrupt your re-er's invaluable ally. pose, but I must beg of you not to snore Robinson, a famous dissenting minister quite so loud, lest you awaken bis Maj. of Cambridge, had frequently to face that esty.” But perhaps for dry and pungent most difficult audience, an audience of unhumor and keen satire, Déan Swift's fa- dergraduates, his chapel being frequented mous sermon “On Sleeping in Church,”in often by university men, sometimes hoswhich he takes the Eutychus episode in tile. He observed on one occasion a little Acts for his text, has never been equalled. knot of men who had evidently come in " I have chosen,” so he begins his sermon, out of malice prepense to interrupt and " these words with design, if possible, to annoy him. He wound his discourse disturb some part of this audience of round quite naturally to a subtle point in half an hour's sleep, for the convenience natural science, and fixing his eye on the and exercise thereof this place at this jibing intruders, remarked gravely: “ It season of the day is very much cele- has been long a disputed question among brated." He thus improves the text: philosophers whether there is such a thing “The preachers now in the world, how- as a vacuum in nature; but the difficulty ever much they may exceed St. Paul in bas at last been solved, it having been the art of setting men to sleep, do ex- ascertained that there is a vacuum in the tremely fall short of him in the power of | head of every undergraduate who disturbs working miracles; therefore hearers are a worshipping assembly in a dissenting become more cautious, so as to choose meeting-house.” more safe and convenient stations and Mr. Spurgeon has always been perfectly positions for their repose, without hazard appalling in his readiness to deal with in. of their persons, and upon the whole mat- solence in the house of God. The finest ter choose rather to trust their destruction case on record is perhaps one in which to a miracle than their safety."
three young fellows came in and settled It is commonly supposed by those that themselves conspicuously in the gallery sit in the pews that the preacher gets it with their hats on. In vain the officials all his own way, and that he has the people requested them to uncover.
Of course at his mercy; were they to change places Mr. Spurgeon's eye was soon upon them, with him they would be soon undeceived. and leading his discourse round to the
The preacher is really in a singularly respect which all Christians are bound to defenceless position ; if he be an orator, show for the feelings of others, “ My his temperament is nervous, and his brain friends,” he said, “ the other day I went is so sensitive that he feels all the cur-into a Jewish synagogue, and I naturally rents of wandering thoughts, of opposition uncovered my head; but on looking round as well as of lively sympathy, that fit to ! perceived that all the rest wore their and fro like electric brain-waves between bats; and so, not wishing to offend against him and his audience. His ear catches what I supposed to be their reverent prac. the faintest sound, he hears wbispering, tice, though contrary to my own, I conscraping, coughing, the rustling of a fan. formed to Jewish use and put on my hat. The wandering eye, the flourish of a I will now ask those three young Jews handkerchief - a thousand things, un- up in the gallery to show the same defer. perceived by others or by himself in his ence to our Christian practice in the house ordinary state, are grasped with intolerable of God as I was prepared to show them vividness; he is for the time, in fact, I when I visited their synagogue, and take