« AnteriorContinuar »
whole is gathered up in the conclusion and hurled at an audience, there shall be no appearance of incongruity between the end and the beginning. When the application is made it should appear that the preceding train of argument has led to it. A sermon will thus complete a natural and graceful circle, by returning to its beginning, without at all repeating itself. An argument should be clenched by the application. Then,
, like words of the wise, it will be “as nails fastened by masters of assemblies.” By an application we do not necessarily mean a formal application, made at the end of a sermon, but such a drift of discussion and appeal as will make each hearer feel, that means me, or that is what I need. That is eminently successful preaching which uniformly produces such an impression. “It was a common question among the hearers of the famous Shepard of Cambridge, (who was wont to say that his sermons cost him tears,) as they left church on the Sabbatlı, who was wrought upon to-day.” It is of the first importance, if we would be successful, that we make our hearers feel that, if they go to church on the Sabbath, they may expect to hear something which will apply to them. So it is eminently desirable that we select our themes, discuss and apply them, with reference to some known and pressing want of our people. Our preaching will not then be liable to lack definiteness.
That preaching is simply a caricature which habitually treats the pulpit as if it were an intellectual and a rhetorical arena upon which one may display his dexterity in the nice construction of sentences and arrangements of words, rather than as a place where solemn truths are to be proclaimed and applied with all possible power to the hearts of men. Elegance of style and manner is to be cultivated, but not simply for its own sake. It should and can be made an efficient servant of truth. That preaching which glides along easily over a dead level of classic words and smooth sentences, glows with figures and illustrations, and ends with a faultless period, but is not animated with one spark of living truth calculated to awaken men and sting their consciences into frenzy of painful remorse on account of sin, will lull them into a fatal moral sleep. A
sermon may be faultless in form, like Canova's Venus, but it is not a thing of living beauty till it bristles and is alive with truth. Of course this requires that a preacher know his theme and know his people. He must put himself in their place, and study and preach with them in view, so that he may urge them along with him to the end by the stress of his thought. Whoever can gain such control over his audience, has them at his will. In this has been the hiding of power of some of the most distinguished preachers. Those sermons which cost us tears are the ones which will carry our audiences.
It is quite true that men will sometimes wince under hot appeals from direct sermons. This is what men need. It is a sign that a preacher has aimed his serinon well, if men chate
a and smart under his vigorous blows. He will then know that his preaching is definite, just as the artillerist knows he has hit his mark, if, after the discharge, dust flies where it stood. There are men, in the church and out of it, who cherish darling sins. They persuade themselves that these things are not wrong, or not so wrong as to require reprimand from the pulpit. They are quite willing that a sermon shall apply to their neighbors; secure, as they think, in an armor of selfrighteousness, they love to look complacently over into the next pew and watch the effect of the preacher's searching words. If the occupant of that pew happens to be as selfsatisfied as they, they put on a solemn look as they reflect upon his hardness. All this is very pleasant; but if the truth happens to fasten to them, it is quite another thing, and they seek to shake it off. They are pleased with sermons which fire over their heads, or down at their feet, but not at their hearts; whose melodious sentences, like the strains of an Æolian, lull the moral sense into a sleep of calm security. They relish a closing passage of thrilling eloquence; but when a sermon is preached whose sentences, no less finished, are alive with truth, and whose discussion comes up slowly, like the gathering tempest, till the pent-up thunders of the theme burst upon the audience in an irresistible appeal, they start and shrink and flee lest they be disturbed in their peace. Direct preaching annoys them; unfaithful Christians are disturbed; a general confusion prevails, which, unless the Spirit of God interferes, is sometimes reduced to order by politely hinting to the pastor, through a diminished salary, that his presence and preaching are distastefil. Of course we would not have preachers take pains to make their appeals distasteful to their hearers. Yet it is their business faithfully to tell men truths which the carnal heart does not relish, and to apply them in a way which shall cause the carnal heart pain. Certain members of certain churches and congregations, in a city of a certain State, sought a safe retreat from all disturbance in the bosom of an Episcopal church, because the pastors were loyal and felt it their duty to say so in the hour of our country's peril. Did not the pastors do right, notwithstanding these results? Certainly. It was good riddance to them, but a fearful comment upon the rector. So it is the duty of preachers to tell the whole truth of the gospel, and make it fit men, whether they will hear or not.
Christians have a duty in this respect, and pastors have a right to exact its discharge. They ought to encourage pastors to preach the searching trutlis of the gospel plainly and directly. If any thrust comes near them, they ought not to seek to parry it; remembering that the preacher, if he is faithful, speaks as the ambassador of God. They ought to expect and demand from the pulpit, something besides mere drizzles of truth. As a rule, the pulpit will be likely to give what the pews demand of it. While the pulpit educates the pews, it is true that the Pews
have no small influence in educating the pulpit. Pulpits do and must keep pace with the demands of their times. The style of preaching to-day differs from that of fifty years ago, because the age demands the difference. But presentations of truth need not be less searching and effective. Men ought to demand that they shall not be. They go to hear the truth of God, and why should they suffer any human words to mitigate or soften it for their ears? It has been charged that the pulpit has lost efficiency. We do not believe it; but if this is true, the pews are largely accountable.
If the pews influence the pulpit, the pulpit has certainly much to do in educating the pews. Preachers have a duty to do in elevating the standard of pulpit efforts, and in educating the popular taste to crave direct, ungloved, presentations of truth. It may be well enough for those who proclaim what they call a liberal christianity, to spread feathery couches for sinners, and nurse them as if they were afflicted with disease rather than treat them as guilty. But those who profess to proclaim Christ's gospel were not ordained to be hospital nurses, but to go out with the armed battalions to war. The times demand that we aim our preaching straight at men. Popular sins call us away from pleasing generalities to plain, direct language. It is high time to plant gospel batteries upon every high position commanding the camp of the enemy, and rain upon it hot shot and shell till it yields. If we are few, and have only trumpets and pitchers and lamps for weapons, let our watchword be always, “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” Our preaching will then have definiteness of aim. Men will not be able to worm themselves out of the way of the truth we preach. We shall have something to say which will be of vital importance to men, and men will see that we are honest and earnest. God's Spirit will aid us if we go prayerfully to our work, and we shall be conscious that we have sown, not weeds and thistles and brambles, but the true seed, which God, in His own way and time, will water and make spring up and bear fruit, some thirty, some sixty, some an hundred fold.
THE ACADEMY AND ITS RELATIONS TO THE COLLEGE.
The past has been a jubilee year for the descendants of the Pilgrims. Advantage is taken of its associations to revive and strengthen Puritan principles and Puritan institutions throughout the land.
The Academy then—the relation of the academy to the college, is a most appropriate subject for discussion before the lineal descendents of New England Congregationalists. The academy, with reference to which many of us can adopt, with little change, the glowing language Cicero addressed to his early teacher, Archias, “looking back on past scenes, and recalling the earliest reminiscences of my childhood, I find it was this which inspired me first to enter upon a liberal course of study and directed me in it. If then, my tongue, under its instructions, has ever been useful to any, it is bound by all the ties of gratitude, to cherish that through which it has been enabled to save some and enrich others."
The academy and the college are both New England institutions,“ without a parallel," as Pres. Andrews has truly said, and “not transplants from England or Germany,” for although their names and germs were found in the mother country, they have acquired in the natural outgrowth of American habits, a character and position, sui generis.
The founders of the New England educational system were far-sighted, large-hearted men. They aimed to establish in the wilderness a pure church, and, therefore, education, as the handmaid of religion, engaged their earliest attention. The college and the preparatory school found a place together among them. They were twin born. In 1617, eleven years after the inception of Harvard College, the act was passed which, it is common to say, laid the foundation of free schools in Massachusetts, and on this continent. Every town contain