« AnteriorContinuar »
proper use is made of the Bible ; whether the discourse can be regarded as truly edifying. The character of the style in general and in particular sentences as it respects correctness, precision, clearness, simplicity, beauty, dignity, formation of periods, adaptation to popular effect ?
Again - in reference to the oral delivery.
1. Declamation. An estimate of the preacher's natural capabilities as a speaker; the means of cultivating his natural powers without doing violence to his peculiarities; notice of imitations, provincialisms, affectation. Was the discourse pronounced intelligibly, loud enough, in the proper time, with the requisite variations and correct intonations, with inward feeling and warmth ? Or did the preacher fall into the opposite errors?
2. Action and gesticulation. Decency and dignity in proceeding to the pulpit, and carriage of the body while there. Use of the arms and hands. Does the preacher fall into the usual failings of beginners — stiffness, artificialness, angularity, awkwardness? Was the imitative gesticulation carried too far?
3. Memory. Was the discourse perfectly and thoroughly committed ? Was it pronounced as something learned by heart, or was the memory only the means of a more graceful and effective delivery?
The teacher is to open the criticisms and indicate the points and the order which the students are to observe in their remarks. The critic appointed from the class then expresses his opinion, and afterwards all the members of the class in order. Then the teacher sums up the several views expressed, passes judgment upon them, and expresses his own opinion upon the several points and the reasons for it. The preacher is allowed to defend himself and to explain what may have been misunderstood, but the mutual conversation is by no means to degenerate into a dispute. All students are required in all their criticisms to observe the utmost impartiality and kindness of feeling. Whenever a student delivers a sermon, a written statement must be made out containing the names of the students present, the names of the preacher and of the student appointed to criticise, the text and subject of the sermon, and the concluding judgment of the teacher upon its composition and delivery.
Every student who is absent must hand in to the teacher his excuse fairly written on a half sheet of paper, which goes to the minister of public instruction.
In Prussia laws are made to be obey.ed. Whatever excel
lence there is in the laws cited above, is all brought out into vigorous and complete practical operation, by the vigilance of the government. It may be asked what is the result of all this training and all this exactness and unremitting strictness of discipline? In reply, I would observe, that I heard many preachers who had been trained in those schools, and they were all good sermonizers and good speakers — their thoughts were logical, their expressions neat, their elocution unembarrassed and in good taste. None of them made use of written notes in the pulpit, and yet they never blundered or fell into those inaccuracies of speech so common among extempore preachers in this country. It is the universal practice to write out the sermon in full and commit it to memory. All that instruction can do is done for the young preachers in Germany.
But it may again be asked, is the gospel, in the ministrations of those highly cultivated preachers, made the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation? I answer, in this respect it is the same in Germany as it is here. They who feel the value of the gospel themselves make their hearers feel it also; and they who have no feeling of the kind, can inspire their hearers with none. No education can enable a man to impart that which he never received ; and the gift of God is not to be conferred by unregenerate man. Still, education places those German students who are truly pious, on a vantage-ground to which few others attain. And the mild spirit of christian love, the humility and true liberality of feeling which I found among them, showed that they had learned too much to be self-conceited and censorious. Theological controversy there is not personal scandal and stale gossip, but a discussion of principles; and though they contend warmly and sometimes with embittered feelings, yet they seldom forget that they are philosophers and scholars, whatever they may be as Christians. The watchful, jealous spirit of their governments, and the entire want of union and concert among the different provinces, circumscribe and cramp benevolent action, and keep the German churches in this respect far behind those of Great Britain and America. God grant that they may gain their liberty without losing their good order, their learning, humility, and mildness !
A Plea for Voluntary Societies and a Defence of the Decisions of
the General Assembly of 1836. By a member of the Assembly. New York : John S. Taylor, 1837, pp. 187.
By the Editor.
The principal topic handled in this volume is one of common interest. Its connection with the conversion of the world is intimate and even fundamental. If ecclesiastical organizations are the most scriptural and efficient mode of conducting missions, every religious sect is deeply interested in the question. If voluntary societies are susceptible of all the bad consequences said to flow from them, they ought to be abandoned, and some safer channels sought for the diffusion of religious charities. Congregationalists and Presbyterians have a common concern in the subject. The former have been connected for a long time with
many of the latter, in mutual and strenuous efforts for the promotion of the kingdom of Christ. This connection, while it has not brought into hazard the peculiar rights and privileges of either denomination, nor impaired the stability of the christian doctrines, has cemented the bonds of affection; has concentrated a great amount of practical experience for the benefit of the world; and has communicated the delightful impression in pagan lands that the Christians of this country are anxious, not so much to diffuse denominational peculiarities, as the glorious gospel of our common Lord and Saviour.
We do not wish to forego these advantages. We are unwilling to break up this connection. We desire that this golden chain of affection may be lengthened and brightened. That the two denominations should be merged in one or two great associations is no plan or intention of ours.
Let them maintain their distinctive existence unimpaired. At the same time, why should they not join in exertions to diffuse widely the blessings which flow to them from their glorified Head ?
For these reasons, we undertake, in our humble way, the discussion of this matter.
We have no intention to give it a disproportionate share of attention, nor to plunge into an angry con
troversy. If it cannot be canvassed amicably, let it be thrown aside. Towards those who differ from us, we desire to entertain no other feelings but those of the most cordial good-will.
The argument in the volume before us is conducted, in our opinion, with uncommon fairness and candor. The writer is very careful to sustain every important statement by documentary evidence. Large and correct quotations from printed papers are given, showing the various aspects of interesting questions, and the conflicting views of various parties. For general ability, knowledge of the points at issue, and clear exhibition of facts, the book is worthy of particular commendation. We propose to examine some of the positions of the author. Our limits will not permit us to go into much detail, nor even notice all the important points.
The book begins with a definition of the christian church:
The church, whose instrumental agency is to achieve the emancipation of the world from bondage and its joyful reconciliation to God, is composed of all the sanctified in Christ Jesus, all converted men, associated by a public profession and covenants, under whatever form, for the maintenance of the worship of God and for the ad. vancement of his cause. It is wholly a spiritual society, for a spiritual work. This universal church of Christ exists elementarily in local organizations, with their members and officers for purposes
of edification, worship and discipline. But for more general purposes, and especially for those aggressive movements which are necessary for the subjugation of the world to Christ, associated action is indispensable. The work to be accomplished is not only the most im. portant, but the most arduous ever committed to men, -- requiring a greater amount of cultivated intellect, glowing zeal, exuberant munificence, practical wisdom, self-denying toil and effectual prayer, than the world has ever seen.
This definition seems to us to be clear and sufficiently comprehensive. It asserts the spiritual character of the church, and consequently the impropriety of her connection with the State, and the bloodless nature of her triumphs. It recognizes her relation to Christ as the source of sanctification. It implies the importance of a public profession of the faith and of a common covenant. It defines the church as, in one sense universal, having for its object by associated action, the subjugation of the world to Christ ; on the other hand, as existing in different denominations for discipline, worship, and the management of the whole internal economy.
Voluntary societies have sometimes been accused of interfering with the appropriate business of presbyteries, or of other ecclesiastical bodies. We admit that it is the presbytery alone, which, according to the Presbyterian form of government, has the right to give to any minister or evangelist, his authority as such, but further than this, we deny that the presbytery possesses any other of the powers sometimes claimed. They have a right, it is true, to conduct missions, under certain restrictions, but this is an entirely dis tinct matter from the ordination of evangelists, and the only paragraph in the “ Form of Government,” which recognizes this right, chap. 18, provides that all such missions shall be made with the consent of the parties appointed.” And, with the same " consent of the parties,” any body of men that please, may" send missions to any part. A voluntary society may do it, as well as a presbytery. It is not, therefore, a point of presbyterial order that all missionaries in the presbyterian church must be sent by presbyterians; and much less have these courts a right to say to any minister whom they have licensed or ordained, “ where he shall go, and where he shall remain.” The ministers are the Lord's freemen. They are licensed by the presbyteries, (we use the words of the Book, chap. 14,“ to preach the gospel, wherever God in his providence may call” them. And where they are ordained as evangelists, chap. 15, they are required to promise that they will “ discharge the duties which may be incumbent on them, in this character, as God shall give them strength.” In all this there is no authority conferred on the presbytery to determine where they shall go, and where they shall remain. They may go any where, may travel in any country, and reside in any State, provided they are about their Master's business, and honoring the credentials of the presbytery; and should the presbytery wish to employ them as missionaries, “in any part," it can be done only with their own consent.
The term, missions, then, as it is technically used in the presbyterian “ Form of Government,” and as it is generally understood, does by no means include the two very distinct functions, — the strictly ecclesiastical and the secular. The licensing and ordination of ministers is no part of the work of missions. These acts are nowhere treated or spoken of as such, in the book of discipline, and who does not know that ministers in the presbyterian church, having been ordained, are perfectly at liberty to labor as pastors, evangelists or ministers,