Imágenes de página



LITTLE GIANTS.- We have no reference to the late Stephen A. Douglas, or any like bim. Our thoughts do not run on politics or politicians. Paullo majora canamus. We are thinking of the Lilliputian reformers, philosophers and iconoclasts that lift up their voice from time to time, telling us that every tbing has been wrong till they were born, and that now all things are to be righted, — religious Clootzes, “orators of the human race.” One would gladly write their natural history, but alas, an ungrateful world mostly suffers their actual history to fade away. There have been great swarms of them, but for the most part their very names are as effectually lost as those of last year's May-flies. Their special forte is destruction; but they fail to destroy. Erostratus beat them, when in his yearnings for immortality" he burned down the Ephesian temple; for he both kindled a great fire, and Theopompus managed to hand down his name. A distinguished individual at the beginning of this century predicted that in fifty years there would not be a Bible in Virginia; but as that distinguished gentleman forgot to attach his card to his prediction, we are in doubt who he

There are exceptions to this oblivion. A witty and famous Frenchman somewhat earlier grew very tired of hearing how eleven men had revolutionized the world, and thought it advisable to put a stop to the thing. The statement, however, has been heard since. A little later came a distinguished English female, Mary Wolstonecraft, who published her“ vindication of the rights of woman”- rights to sbare man's exclusive functions and to abolish the “slavery" of wedlock. But the principal frnits of her life, we believe, were several forgotten books, and one child more than the law allowed. Several industrious Germans have endeavored for a generation or more to convince some millions of Christians, that the Christ who daily lives in their lives, is but a historic shadow. Their success bas been but indifferent. So when the late Theodore Parker had recorded his earnest purpose to put down “ this New England Orthodoxy," and sweetly bent all his energies thither,— the obstinate thing still resisted all his angelic persuasions.

There is one slight but notable infelicity in the labors of all these reformers, that they do not care so much to reconstruct the world as the Church and the Bible,- and good morals. There is also another practical infelicity,– that the profession is now altogether overstocked. There is no chance for a man in it. Singularity is no longer singular. Extravagance is impossible. A man may assail the decalogue throughout, or vindicate Satan or Jim Bludsoe ; and some man (or woman) will beat him easily,

and nobody cares which beats. Reformers are cheap. They are stale. They have pushed their way much like those Egyptian frogs, and their odor is growing similar. They reform our creeds and churches and Bibles and sermons, our political rights, our differences of sex, our marriage relations, our notions of right and wrong, our distinctions of vice and virtue,every thing but our vices. Such characters are most annoying, no doubt, when they get inside the precincts of orthodoxy; and as a general thing, they are cockerels that prefer to crow away from their own hillocks. But as the buzzing house-fly is tormented with parasites, so even heresy is now teased with entozoa. There are young Philistines coming forward in troops who are content with no form of orthodoxy or of heterodoxy. There is a young Titan whose“ fighting-weight,” however, is a ton, who proves to the world that John Brown was a greater man than Jesus Christ; and all whose readers may see that he is a greater than John Brown. When General Thomas Thumb mounts his cocked hat, his fiercely-gleaming epaulettes and his sanguinary sword, it is a dreadful sight to see. “The McGregor with his tail on,” as Dugald phrased it, is nothing to him. A late distinguished judge once told the story of a poodle that was in the habit, night after night, of going out and barking furiously at the moon, “but,” added the judge after a slight pause, “ the moon moved right on.”

THE NEW PURITANISM.-If American “Low Churchmen are driven into an independent position by Episcopal tyranny more readily than their English brethren, it is obviously due to the different circumstances of English and American Episcopalianism. Here there is no great State establishment, semi-religious, semi-political, to cling to, no national exchequer to be divorced from, no legal and civil rights at stake, no aristocratic social position to be ruined by going out or being forced out of “the church," no secular power over church and ministry to sustain, on appeal, one party against another in the possession of place, dignities, stipends, etc., etc. The Low Church party in England is in just as hopeless a case as the party in the United States. But it can hold its own better — by mere legal right, that is to say, in a thrice divided “church.” And Englishmen are consti. tutionally and historically timid about trusting themselves to the voluntary principle, as Americans are not. So it is the most natural thing in the world that while the strife between Evangelical Episcopalians and their foes at the two extremes — Ritualist and Rationalist -- began in Great Britain, it comes to a practical issue in our own country more readily than there. There is not only no hope of victory, but not cven of peace or tol. eration to an Orthodox Christian who is so unfortunate as to be an Episcopalian ; but that sort of Christians will find a happy issue out of all their troubles in Christian independency much sooner this side the sea. Silenced, deposed, expelled, robbed of their church property peradventure, we, who have experienced similar tyrannies at the hands of “ Mother Church " in Puritan times, and at the hands of Massachusetts Unitarianism in latter days, can not help sympathizing with the New Puritans whose tardy exit from the despotism of American Episcopacy, seems at last to be bastening.

It does not particularly trouble us that these brethren bring more or less of liturgy with them. If they had come out in an age of "anti-Christian darkness," as our fathers did, the result would be different. They have grown up Liturgists amidst great surrounding light. They can not be expected to see that the root of Ritualism lingers in a form of prayer. We can not make people entirely spontaneous and spiritual in their worship. Our Puritan fathers could not. We can only give them a chance to be so. Some of our own ministers fall into “unwritten liturgies.” Some English Congregational Churches use the Prayer Book. We can only protect the liberty of local churches against being compelled to formalism by others ; nobody can protect them against falling into an unconscious formalism of their own. We stand by the liberty of the local church. If it chooses an un printed ritualism, it it votes, in the exercise of the right of self-government, a liturgy or a semi-liturgy, we can only pray that it may be lead into a large liberty of prayer by the Providence and Grace of God, but we can not intermeddle. We can show our opinion, but we have no business to attempt to control, or to deny Christian fellowship.

If there be -- as some earnestly assert a great and really spiritual want and asking for a reformed, earnest, devout, liturgical, or partly liturgical service, this impending movement out of the Episcopal Church will prove it.

The hungering multitudes will crowd uponjthe ministry and worship of Dr. Cooper, Mr. Cheney, and their oppressed brethren, as they are successi vely driven into free churches. We shall see. How it will be we have an opinion, but we bide the facts.

It is more to our purpose to say, as Congregationalists, rejoicing in our own exemption from liturgical and hierarchal bonds, and honoring with increasing love and reverence our own Puritan fathers, who with a great sum obtained for us this freedom, that the movement in the present direction towards independent liturgical churches is far more wholesome and desirable than one from the opposite direction. Better from Episcopacy to LiturgicoIndependency, than from Congregationalism. If there be any such popular want as is referred to above, better that they should meet it who are to the manner born, than we.

It does not spoil an Episcopalian layman or "-to make that Exodus and landing place; it improves him vastly! But it does spoil a Congregationalist. It stiffens the joints of his religious life, cramps the devout spirit he has learned to express in simpler and freer ways, formalizes him, makes him fastidious about the religious utterances of those whose style of expression and culture differ from his own, blunts his discernment of real spiritual phenomena, which are only spiritually discerned, creates a tendency toward a narrow, rigid insistance on special

in devotion and work, puts taste above piety, and encourages a and bigoted spirit. A Churchman — coming from the opposite quar: ter of the ecclesiastical heavens- - on the other hand, comes into a more flexible, spontaneous, liberal, natural habit of soul, sloughs off exclusiveness and restriction, becomes pliant to real spiritual movements that are not after his kind,#gains in sympathy, charity, discernment, and appreciation,




ways hard

When the impending and final ecclesiastical stroke shall fall upon the head of the devout and devoted rector of Christ Church, it will be against all the laws of human nature if his earnest and useful ministry does not gain in living power, in intensity, in aptness, adaptation, directness, independence of method, in freedom and impulse. If these esteemed brethren shall demonstrate that there is a larger class of minds than we have ever imagined who shrink from what is purely spontaneous and presently-suggested in devotion; and crave the crutches of a liturgy to lean upon, and yet cannot away with the tyranny and semi-Romanism of the American Episcopal Church, we shall not mourn, we shall heartily bid them God speed. But we should have mourned sincerely if a few liturgically inclined sons of the Puritans had seemed to demonstrate that the outsiders, who affect none of our churches, could not be attracted by a simpler worship and instructive forcible preach. ing, but must be led off from the “ Congregational way” to ope blended with the formalities and artificialities their fathers and ours, for conscience sake and the Gospel's, once forsook.

THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD.- An ancient book, that is still quoted with respect, contains many such charges as these: “Be not conformed to this world.” “Let your conversation (conduct, deportment] be as becometh the gospel of Christ.” It gives a multitude of instructions which both imply and assert a difference in the outer, as well as the inner, lives of the church and “the world.” Will any one tell us wherein the difference consists? Or is it now one of the “lost arts"! Has the progress of the age obliterated all outward lines of demarkation, except at the communion table? Is the only external limitation on the Christian life an abstinence from actual vice? But a well-bred man of the world does not deem it a gentlemanly thing to be profane or to get intoxicated. Has the Celestial Railroad so smoothed all the rough places in the narrow way, that when both abstain from positive infractions of the Decalogue, the life of saint and sinner is undistinguishable? May a Christian run neck-and-neck with all the fashionable follies of the day? Luxury, extravagance in dress, entertainments, equipage; cards, dancing, theatres, wine; a life of giddiness, gaiety, display, ambition, vanity ;- are these the inheritance of the saints Is it their privilege to plunge into these things in a manner wholly undistinguishable from the men whose portion is below? And may a church also rush into the race of money-making and all manner of devices for that end which the unscrupulous employ? May a church Barnumize itself with lotteries, theatricals, and all that sort of tbing? And is the case mitigated at all when it is a means to accomplish some ambitious extravagance! It may be all in keeping with the theory or practice which substitutes for a gospel sermon a secular lecture. But it was not so in the beginning. We clearly recognize the difference between the position of the church in the midst of bitter adversaries, and in the midst of nominal friends. But we maintain that this very difference may become a snare. We go for no asceticism, no Phariseeism; but we do go for a consistent Christian life.


And we hold that there are few graver topics of consideration at present than this question of conformity to the world. If the church suffers itself to be thus cajoled into the fellowship of Christ with Belial, it will pay dearly and bitterly for its sin and folly.

AN IMPOSSIBLE EDUCATION.—The Nation, usually wise, is occasionally otherwise. On "Ministerial Education” it talks wildly — unless it be satirically. Its text is the utterance of Prof. Seeley on “ The Church as a Teacher of Morality,” and the Christian Union's comment, wherein the latter urges the preaching of morality with “system,” and as applied to all the details of daily life in all its forms. The Nation hereupon remarks on the preseot growing complications in questions of morals and casuistry, and proceeds : “Now just consider what this (injunction] means. Consider what are the trials, temptations, difficulties of a broker, or lawyer, or merchant, or railroad man, or banker, or commission merchant, in our day. Their name is legion; to understand them, one would need not only to have considerable knowledge of human nature, but a wide practical acquaintance with the political economy and customs of many trades and manufactures, and of the money-market, and a fair acquaintance with the practices of the courts and with legal history and legal principles. * * * * venture to assert that there are not ten ministers in the country who are able to collar a knavish lawyer or operator in their congregations, and drive him into a corner and put him to shame, or to meet a skulking, lazy, tonguey trades-unionist on the labor question," etc. “No man can, in short, be a successful moralist in our day, who is not a good deal of a jurist, and of an economist, and of a business man and a scientific man; and what is done to give ministers even an inkling of jurisprudence, or political economy, or finance, or natural science? We may say almost nothing."

Now this strain of remark (and it is carried out to great length) ought to be a clear reluctio ad absurdum, and to show all three of these writers that they are on a wrong track. Why stop with mastering these classes of business? This minister must know the mysteries of Peter Funk's auction room, and the proportion of chicory and Rio that go to make up the Mocha coffee of the spice mills, and so on to the end of the chapter. He must know every man's business as the man does himself. Omniscience must be his foible — as it is, perhaps, of the Nation. The truth is, it took the members of his own profession to “collar the lawyer,” David Dudley Field. And so it must be through the circle.

A successful minister must indeed know something of men and affairs. He must have good sense and a general education and intelligence — or he will be a failure. But his education must be primarily and even chiefly professional. He can not know all these other things. He is a dreamer to attempt it.

Ministers sometimes make themselves ridiculous by affecting the knowledge of experts, outside of their own sphere Secondly, fundamental morality can be taught and applied without casuistry. Thirdly, in teaching and applying morality, it is unnecessary to go into all its possible or actual

[ocr errors]


« AnteriorContinuar »