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If, now, it be thought that the evils which have been pointed out are made altogether too prominent, whose existence is rather in the abstract than in reality, it is because they are actual, and not abstract, that so much emphasis is laid upon them. So thoroughly are we persuaded of the truth of what has been said, that we believe many a noble and faithful man has been crippled, if not totally defeated, in his highest usefulness, by that ill-contrivance called the pulpit, which has unconsciously frozen up his heart and his lips — mastered by the conditions of the place instead of being master of them. Many a man has said again and again, I do not know why I can not get out of myself when I preach, when perhaps all he needed was to get out of the pulpit. “If you'd preach as you speak, you'd tear things,” said a leading gentleman to a distinguished minister who took the General Assembly by storm in a platform speech.
It would, of course, be absurd to attribute the many failures in preaching to this single agency. The object of this essay is simply to point out the crying evil against which ministers must contend in the present infelicitous arrangement of our churches, and we do not think the evil is overdrawn. It is far more insidious and operative than at first view might be thought admissible. True, its depressing influence is more marked on some minds than on others; a man of lively sensibility, emotional, mercurial, spontaneous in his niake-up, will more easily overflow the unnatural barrier that hems him in, than a man of heavy, phlegmatic nature will, who needs every device and temptation to call him forth, and spur him into full and successful action. Our best and most powerful preachers are of the former type, who have gained their large measure of success in spite of architectural draw-backs. And our most distinguished preachers, those who speak to packed audiences Sabbath after Sabbath, have adopted the platform arrangement; Beecher, in Plymouth Church, Storrs, in the Academy of Music, Fulton, in Tremont Temple, Talmadge, in his mammoth Tabernacle, and scores more, give us a hint what the preacher can do when left to free and easy movement. Christ
warned his disciples against putting a candle under a bushel ; the churches, many of them, have fallen into the absurdity of putting the preacher into a box.
It must be confessed that the growing tendency of choosing an architecture defective for speaking purposes, together with a blind and traditional love for the pulpit, must work adversely to the preacher's success. In our Congregational order, where the sermon is so marked a feature of religious service, we can not afford to subject him to such neutralizing forces, without impairing his efficiency and power as a public speaker. When the preacher's voice goes wandering up and down Gothic aisles and arches like a lost spirit, when hearers twist their necks in looking from behind clusters of pillars, or peering down from gloomy galleries, if he whom we style the “man of God” is cheerful, inspired, full of glow and fire, it is not “by might, nor by the will of man, but by the will of God.” But we protest against a stupidity that converts positive advantages into positive disadvantages. Strangest of all, this stupendous error is persisted in against the almost unanimous judgment of the ministers themselves.
The bearing of this discussion on the subject of extemporaneous preaching, a style which the age is clamoring for, or, at least, its equivalent, is too evident to need remark, like a battle-ship going into action, the first thing to be done is to clear the decks of rubbish.
AN EVENTFUL DECADE.
The year that has recently closed has been, in some respects, a very remarkable one, and would, of itself, furnish abundant material for study in its review; but it ends a decade as interesting, perhaps, as any other in the history of our race, in respect to the number of important events that have occurred. That decade has been notable for the development, to a most astonishing degree, of results from causes which have been silently working for centuries. The seeds of political and social revolution and improvement, sown long ago and apparently buried out of sight, have been germinating, and are now bursting forth and giving promise of abundant harvests in the future, the first fruits of which have already been gathered. God has been, according to the prediction of holy writ, overturning and overturning, to establish the Redeemer's kingdom, and the process will go on with increasing rapidity, until men shall stand astonished at the results witnessed. They will seem almost incredible to the most ardent devotee of the right, and the firmest believer in a Providence which is causing all things to work together for good in this hitherto misgoverned and oppressed planet. *
Taking a survey of the world at large for the past decade of years, we see much that is cheering in a religious point of view. Christianity, living Christianity, has made marked progress. Missions among the heathen have prospered, and new openings have been presented for the introduction of the gospel among the unevangelized, particularly in China and Japan, Italy, Spain, and the Spanish-American States. Correct views have been rapidly gaining ground in Great Britain
Since this article was penned, the writer has seen one in Harper's Mige azine for January, on the same subject, in part, entitled, “ The Seventh Decade of the Nineteenth Century.” It opens with the following passage:
With the 31st of December, 1870, closes a decade of years that can be suid, without exaggeration, to stand unrivalled “in the known account of time,” with respect to the importance of events which make up the sum of its history. There is a tendency in the human mind that leads men to consider their own time to be the most important of all time, and though they are right in holding such time to be the greatest of all days and years to them, inasmuch as they constitute their lives, yet it is certain that the real interest of history is concentrated around the few periods, during which events take place that forever after color and control the world's course. Such periods were the decade of years that began with the crossing of the Rubicon by Cæsar (B. C. 50-10); the decade in which occurred the fall of the Kingdom of Granada, the discovery of America, the first voyage to India by the Cape of Good Hope, the intermarriage of the royal bouses of Austria and Spain, and the invasion of Italy by the French (1490-1500), the decade that began with the meeting of the Long Parliament (1640–50); the decade that followed the passage of the Stamp Act (1765–1776); and that which followed the last meeting of the States General of France (1789–1799). All these periods were full of events, great in themselves, and greater in their consequences; and yet the most striking
and on the Continent of Europe, as to freedom of conscience and the proper attitude of the civil government towards religion and the church.
In Ireland the union of church and State has been dissolved, and there are clear indications that at no distant day the same consummation, most devoutly to be wished, will be · realized in England and Scotland. Austria, so recently one of the main pillars of the Papal system and of the supremacy of the Pope, has abolished the concordat with Rome, and sube stituted civil rule for ecclesiastical ascendancy. In Italy the principle of universal toleration is firmly established, and it has even been extended over Rome itself and the whole area of the States of the Church, while in Spain, once the very stronghold of intolerance, and the home of the infamous and cruel Inquisition, the land where so recently men were imprisoned, not only for reading the Scriptures, but for so much as having them in their houses, there is now enjoyed wonderful to tell — full liberty to possess, and read, and circulate freely the Bible, and to practice Protestant worship! There is as much freedom there now in this respect as in Great Britain or America.
In Mexico, Central America, and some of the South American States, there is no restraint upon the preaching of the Gospel, the organization of Protestant churches, and the distribution of the Word of God, and religious literature generally, and many laborers are engaged in the work. In Hungary great concessions have been made to the three millions of Protestants there, who have heretofore and so long been oppressed by Papal rulers, and the ministry and churches have awakened to a new and unwonted vitality. Meantime the temporal power of the Pope has been overthrown, and where he has held despotic sway for eleven centuries, and has shut out the direct rays of the light of God through his revealed word, and held the conscience under his own control, and subjected men to the dungeon and the tortures of the Inquisition for daring to think or pray except in accordance with his will, he can now no longer put the ban upon the Bible, and Protestant books and Protestant worship. Astonishing, indeed, is it that: so great a change should have occurred, in so short a space of time, at the very seat of Roman Catholic power.
of them all — that with which the fifteenth century closed — was pot so rich in events as the decade that is just now being added to the sum of departed time. There is harily anything that can move the sympathy of men, or excite their wonder, that has not occurred since the beginning of the year 1861. Migity empires bave been overi hrown, old dynasties have fallen, great interests have been uprooted, the most ancient temporal polities have ceased lo exist, new nat ons have been created, wars of unparalleled proportions have been waged, with new weapons, on new military principles, continental railways have been laid down, obstacles to maritime commerce have been cut through or removed, remote nations have been brought into daily intercourse througli telegraphic cables that lie at the bottom of seas over which men were once afraid to sail, and great discoveries in science and art have added vastly to the means at man's command to reclaim that earth over which he has the promise of dominion on condition that his exertions shall show him worthy of such a supremacy. To match the seventh decade of our century, it is probable that we should have to take the greatest of modern centuries, even the sixteenth, to which belongs the reformation, and which saw the beginning of those changes the fruition of which was reserved for our own time, and for the
The writer in Harper strangely overlooks the first century from the birth of Christ.
In a word, then, it may be truly said that the world has passed through few if any as eventful decades as that which has just closed. “The current of affairs," as was said in reference to another period of history,“ in both social and religious life, has rushed on with all the force and fullness of a mountain torrent which rains and melting snows have ewelled into a sweeping flood. Events have ripened fast, and prophecy lastens with rapid steps to its fulfillment. The forces that move society are stirred up from the lowest depths, The earth is shaken as if with volcanic throes; hidden fires, long pent up, find an outlet. Principles long dormant are now bursting forth into vigorous development. New and old ideas are in fierce collision. Meanwhile the Lord reigns, and is making all these events tend to the advancement of his kingdom. Prayer has ascended in increasing volume to the throne of grace, and abundant answers of peace prove that the Almighty is ready and willing to succor and save those who call upon him in truth.” The cause of real Christianity and