« VorigeDoorgaan »
state a class of men whose recognized power for the moment, hurrying people function it should be to instruct the peo- into committing themselves, but it is at ple, was, apart altogether from any con- once fused, and irrevocably distilled, as it sideration of what was to form the staple were, through the whole substance of one's subject of these instructions, a profound being. The way to make a thought do its mechanical improvement which, in the work in the shortest possible time is to very nature of things, must stand for ever kindle up the emotion simultaneously; and unrepealed, whatever exception may be Literature cannot do this so powerfully. taken by some to the precise form in which But if, again, it should be objected that the exigencies of the time compelled the even if the Pulpit were abolished, there invention to model itself, and especially to would still be afforded by our civilization the apparently inevitable existing conjunc- a thousand other ways in which this raunttion of two offices, in one fundamental re-ed power of the human voice could come spect so incompatible, as those of Priest and into active play; that, at present, there are Preacher. A profound improvement, truly, various recognized positions in which a even in the most abstract sociological point man could employ the instrumentality of of view; for it was nothing less than es- speech besides the Pulpit: that, again, the tablishing a permanent relation between an oratorical tendency of some thinkers, or educated class, and the mass of the popu- else a conviction like that which we have lation, and so, not only conferring the been stating, would lead them to have rebenefit of a ready means of instruction course to the plan of lecturing, in preferupon each successive generation, but also ence to the plan of publishing, or in conproviding a way by which there might junction with it; or, finally, that the orathenceforth be a less interval between the torical propensity, cut out of its profesfirst promulgation of a thought, and its sional means of gratification, could be complete social efflorescence,-a way by made to find vent in the exaggerated rewhich it might be possible so to soak and stitution of the plan of the ancient sages, slake the general mind of a generation with and the springing up of a class of converthe ideas of its best contemporaneous think- sationists,- we reply that this would be ers, as to make it governable in conformity overlooking the grand peculiarity in which with them. Thus civilization would go on the whole calculable effectiveness of the faster. Nor ought it to be objected, by way Pulpit lies, namely, its being a recognized of depreciating the theoretical efficacy of institution, representing itself to the eye in the pulpit in this point of view, that there buildings and other visible objects,-a thing are other established relations between ed- to which the feeling of antiquity can atucated minds and the mass of the popula- tach,-a power acting upon society with a tion. No doubt there are. The Printing regular stroke, and not dependent for its press represents the greatest of these. But existence on the mere oratorical propenif any one should choose to assert that Lit- sity, the mere principal of demand, or the erature, and especially Newspaper Litera- mere spirit of propagandism. No, no, conture, would constitute, or could be made to sidered merely as a mechanism for affectconstitute, a sufficiently and similarly pow-ing society, and not at all in its higher and erful mechanism of communication between more sacred aspect, the existing Pulpit, superior minds and the dependent masses, could not be done away with except on the even if the Pulpit were to be swept away, express condition of its being succeeded we beg to remind him that Oratory, or the by another. Neither the growing efficacy word spoken, is a million times more effec- and enlargement of the Printing-press, on tive for all the purposes here contemplated the one hand, nor the growing fondness than Literature, or the word written, -that among thinkers for the instrumentality of the voice of man, swelling and reverberat- public lectureships, on the other, can ever ing in a hall, or borne on the breeze along scythe away the footing or the functions of a bleak hill-side, has ever been found the sin- the preacher. What limitation is to be put gle instrument for grand, immediate effects, on the very natural exclamation, that the just because it has the enormous advantage great oratorical requisite of being in earnover all others, of being a mode of inject- est does not by any means go along with ing specific thoughts into the mind, after it the mere fact of belonging to the profeshas been excited by the power of sound to sion; in other words, how efficacious that high emotional pitch, at which not preaching is compatible with education for only has a thought a greatly increased the office, will yet appear. Meanwhile we
repeat, that as a mechanism for producing considered legitimate to express certain social effects, had it no higher protecting ideas when they occur, have all come down consideration, the Pulpit must last for ever. to the present generation of preachers It is a noble invention. It is the instru- through a period of more than two hundred ment which Christianity made choice of years. Once these topics and phrases were It has signalized its power in millions of really efficacious, because they laid hold of effects on individual characters. It has the strong feelings of the time; and so they originated great historical movements. It have been handed down as a stock-in-trade is a means of rapidly reducing new truths froin one generation of preachers to anointo the physical and moral condition of ther, each generation conceiving that there the people. It is an engine which works was no other way of being orthodox, or, at upon human nature at a higher emotional least, of preserving the reputation of being pitch than any other; and so it is capable orthodox, than that of saying the exact of more extensive and instantaneous effects things their predecessors said, in the exact than any other. It deserves the profound way they said them. For instance, what a attention and respect of all who have pro- common form of a sermon is it to begin jects of good for mankind on hand, requir- with the Fall, to go down thence to the ing a powerful instrumentality before they great Christian event, and, after circling can be realized; and they ought to require round it, to hie away on to Judgment and the habit of regarding it as sympathetic Eternity; concluding with an application with the age, so that affecting the one to three classes of mankind, the good, the should be tantamount in all calculations wicked, and the wavering. Now, this is a to affecting the other.
noble outline for a sermon! but it all deBut all this is true only of the conception pends on the filling up. Again, what an of the thing. There is a sad reversal of it eternal corso ricorso have we in sermons, of all when we turn to look at the Pulpit as it the old scholastic controversy between faith actually exists. We do not suppose there and works. We are far from saying either are two men capable of pronouncing a judg- that this is an ephemeral or an ignoble topic; ment on the matter, whose opinion, if fairly but what we say is, that, presented as it expressed, would not go in with the general generally is, in the old scholastic wording, affirmation, that in the present state of so- it neither hits a single existing feeling, nor ciety the Pulpit, in proportion to its faculty dissipates a single existing error of the huand its opportunities, is a sadly ineffective man mind. And so, in a thousand other engine. We know for a fact that there are instances, the Pulpit having at last, by dint men in whom this melancholy conviction is of perseverance in one set of phrases, come so strong, that, though they do not share in to exert no real and effective influence on the slightest degree the vulgar Radical an- the mass of society, no real and effective tipathy to what is ecclesiastical, they can influence except on a deteriorated kind of never meet a clergyman in the street with human nature with which it has surrounded out feeling a sharp pang go through their itself. The Pulpit, in fact, has lain upon body. “O man,” the feeling is, "what a the stream of human progress like a boat power you wield, and what a miserable thing on a river held back by a rope, the water you make of it." Now, when this feeling all the while flowing away from underneath of the inefficiency of the Pulpit settles down it. Now the thing to be done is, to find into any thing like a definite idea of what out what the rope is, and cut it, if possible. it is that the inefficiency consists in, the As far, then, as we have been able to invesassertion that one would infallibly make is, tigate the cause of the inefficiency of the that the Pulpit is out of gear with the age. Pulpit in the present state of civilization, it It is a piece of machinery wheeling away consists in a narrow and partial idea cherapparently for the mere pleasure of wheel- ished by the Pulpit itself respecting its ow ing, with its teeth fitting absolutely into end and function; of which narrow and nothing. In order to verify this observation partial idea the practical growth is an inesin a number of particulars, it is only neces- fective system of education. The method sary to listen analytically to a few sermons. of reorganization, therefore, will consist in By this process it will be found, that the the substitution, in the consciousness of the whole series of topics which have become Pulpit itself, of a truer and grander idea the standing property of sermons, the very of its own function, and in a correspondmode of arranging these topics in a dis- ing extension of the system of education course, nay, the very phrases in which it is for it,
The effective self-consciousness of the j has done this; for we are not ignorant of existing Pulpit embraces no more than the the fact, that in all nations there exists, or idea of its relation to individuals. The has existed, an Ecclesiastical Interest of great aim which it proposes to itself is that great social importance. What we mean of producing a certain defined effect on is, that the Pulpit is apt to conceire itself individual characters. If it produce this exclusively in the light of an apparatus for effect, it accounts itself to have succeeded; bringing certain fixed truths within actingif it do not, it accounts itself to have failed. distance of individual minds; whereas the The measure of success, of course, is dif- profound originality of the invention lies in ferent in different cases, according to the its having been destined to flourish at all nature and difficulty of the proposed effect. times as a recognised counter-agency to Most of those, however, who officiate in the whatsoever social evils might exist contemcapacity in question are understood and poraneously with it. In other words, the expected, by the charter of the institution Pulpit has hitherto aimed mere at seeing men to which they belong, to direct their efforts safe into the other world where there is no towards producing in as many individual Devil, than at driving the Devil out of this. minds as possible a certain state of belief Now, in the first place, this exclusive reor feeling, on the attainment of which, some cognition of its relation to individuals actime or other before death, it is conceived counts for that fixity of rhetoric into which that the future happiness of each individual we have resolved the alleged inefficiency of depends. Hence the whole anxiety of the the existing Pulpit. For, proposing to Pulpit is devoted to the finding out of con- itself as its single object, the bringing about siderations which will be effective upon of a certain crisis in as many individual particular dispositions, particular classes of minds as possible, its whole attention is individuals, particular states of feeling ; to monopolized by those one or two fixed the melting down of the obdurate heart by truths which are believed to be the appointthe most powerful moral applications that ed means for bringing about this crisis. It can be thought of; to the sweeping on of is constantly occupied with stating and deas many minds as possible, in a mingled fining these truths, and expressing them current of argument and emotion, to the with greater and greater precision. In this grand crisis which settles all, and consum- way the attitude of the Pulpit has come to mates all. Now it does not become us to be that of an institution stooping so intently utter one word of remark upon this sublime over a few truths, that it has unwittingly direction of human efforts, this sublime turned its back upon society, and can oboutgoing of human anxieties. The whole serve nothing of what is going on. But the world cannot furnish another enthusiasm effect of being intent for a long while on a half so grand and godlike as that which few objects is to deprive one of practical seeks to save the souls of men. O, if the talent. With the Pulpit, it is as if a man Pulpit would but give full swing and sway had been miraculously glued to a spot, lookto this sublime enthusiasm, which it is its ing at a flower in his hand, for two hundred glory even in its age of greatest degradation years, and at the end of that time suddenly never to have completely lost, and which it awakened to find a new generation gatherhas ever demanded, in words at least, of all led round him, to whon, in expounding who have offered it their services, we should the ideas he had derived from the flower, scarcely think of asking more; we should he could hardly make himself intelligible. scarcely need to do so—for then there would The only hope in such a case wculd be, if be such a going to and fro on errands of the man could induce society to look at the mercy, such a stirring of the heart of man flower all the while he was doing so himto its depths, such an eager mutual solici- self, so that he and they might keep pace tude among all who wear the human shape, with each other in the progress of their that the necessity of aught more general in ideas derived from the general circle of obthe intention would be superseded by the jects. This singular condition has been in more growing earnestness; and, as if soci- a great measure fulfilled in the case of the ety were on fire, at any rate, all social evils Scottish Pulpit, and hence its superior would be suffocated in their lurking-places. efficiency. It is this narrowing of the field But, as it is, we attribute, in a great mea-of contemplation, as we have remarked, that sure, the inefficiency of the Pulpit to the has made Pulpit phrases hereditary. Preachexclusive stress which it lays on its relationers conceive that the expressions most calto individuals. As a Pulpit, we mean, it culated to produce the effect on individual
character, which it is the express aim of all tion, to bring on a desired moral crisis. their efforts to produce, have been found But all the theology on earth will never out already, once and for ever. Now, lan- qualify for this.
Now, lan- qualify for this. Theology is but the speguage, to be effective, must be a compound cial science of the preacher, whence it is of the prevalent ideas and feelings of those understood he is to draw his propositions. over whom it is intended to exert an influ- He has to be qualified for the art of ence. A business-like language is that preaching by quite another training. Now, which recognizes every thing that is simul- as far as education will be effective in taneously going on; and to be occupied making a preacher (and, of course, all with a few objects, to be exclusively intent human effort, and all earnest reasoning upon the examination of a flower, disquali- proceed on the supposition that education fies for acting upon society or upon indivi- is of some use in every thing), that which dual minds, because it renders one insen- would be requisite for the preacher would sible to the march of ideas; unless, indeed, be a course of the first principles of all as we have said, it were possible to arrest sciences. Not such a course of studies in the march of ideas altogether, and stereo- the special sciences as generally precedes type language by persuading society to oc- the theological curriculum, but a contemcupy itself with the same objects, to keep poraneous course of what Bacon calls examining the same flower. But the worst Philosophia Prima, filling up about twoof all is, when a preacher uses the heredi-thirds of the curriculum. There is nothing tary language in the Pulpit, and a business- odd in this. Why it is the universal findlike language out of it. And this, alas! is ing of common life that a man is competent a very possible thing.
in any important relation, just in proporGoing farther on in this train of thought, tion to the extensiveness of his knowledge, we find that this inefficacy, this want of that is, to his acqnaintance with the geneharmony with the age, this fixity of rhet-ral principles, the most important facts, of oric, may be conclusively referred to a all the sciences. Only at present every defective system of education. Almost mother's son of us is left to pick up this the whole of the express education of a knowledge in whatever way we can, just preacher consists in the study of Thcology, as Shakspeare did. Of course, however, ihat is, in examining the flower for years. we do not consider a thing's having been Now, of course, in so far, this is as it ought done by the native power of one, a reason to be. If it be admitted, as it is, that for not going forward with any scheme there are positive truths in the application which promises to make the same thing of which to the human mind the function possible for a thousand. And even Shakof a preacher consists, then it is necessary speare himself, we venture to say, would above all things that he become profoundly have been a great deal better of a course acquainted with these truths. Else, there of the Philosophie Positive. Whatever could be no orthodoxy, nothing of that removes any thing out of the dominion of common agreement on a number of impor-chance is a triumph of the human mind; tant points without which neither a Pulpit, why then, if the contrary is possible, should nor any other institution, would be possi- an acquisition which is recognised as deble. Men cannot associate and co-operate termining the competency of a man to do merely on the strength of having similar whatever it can fall to the lot of man to aspirations; they must also have some do, the acquisition, namely, of the first conmon ideas. Hence philanthropists, as principles of all sciences, why should this such, could never co-operate in constituting acquisition continue to be a mere affair of a Pulpit. Any institution fulfilling the chance-pickings? Certainly the word Edutrue definition of a Pulpit must be indebted cation is a pretence, so long as this is the for its propositions to some special science case. Now all men whatever, all profesor other. Now Theology is the special sions whatever, more or less require this science of the existing Pulpit. But preach- general training : but above all, a professing is an art, and no science whatever is sion which operates so directly and imme. sufficient of itself to instruct in in its cor- diately on the human mind as the Pulpii. responding art. Preaching, according even A knowledge of the first principles of all to the existing understanding of it, is the sciences is the very thing for increasing art of expressing certain theological propo- that power of expression which constitutes sitions in the way most likely, as far as the capacity of dealing with human nature. the matter is a subject of human calcula- Native earnestness of character can do
much. Native earnestness of character, the consciousness of what he was and what conjoined with that general acquaintance he had to do, the Preacher would keep with all sorts of matters, which men of pace with the general progress. His lanability acquire in going through life, can guage would become more effective, more do more.
But the ne plus ultra of a hu- natural. He would have a wider choice man agent, the very perfection of an in- of topics. Not that the object of social strument in the Divine hands, the ideal regeneration would require an actually constitution of a man who is to go about different set of truths from the object of among his fellows, agitating, exciting, sooth- producing a crisis in individual character. ing, consoling, swaying them, is native ear- The two objects would march together. nestness of character coupled with a firm There would be no necessity for giving up grounding in the general principles of all the plan of Bible-texts. But only, without sciences. The earnestness can scarcely the foregoing of a single doctrine, a single be given : the scientific grounding can. It fundamental proposition in Theology, and includes every thing that can be given. without any hazard to the noble object of Persons who dislike the word science, may individual reformation, there would be call it a general acquaintance with the such an increase of the power of language, world, for this comes exactly to the same such an accession of moral influence, that thing. And, lastly, even where the per- with the splendid opportunities of producsonal earnestness is wanting, the faculty of ing a general and instantaneous effect apt and powerful expression, which it is the which the Pulpit possesses, society would effect of an acquaintance with scientific be reorganized at once. generalities to give, is the best substitute Plainly and decidedly the hope of such that can be obtained for it.
a reorganization lies in the Pulpit, more But a great deal might be done to exact than in any other existing institution. To ly the same effect, only in a less formal it all earnest men, all men capable of judgmanner, by impressing the mind of the ing, turn their anxious eyes. No instituPulpit itself with the grand idea of its re- tion possesses such immense mechanical lation to society. It would then lift its purchase. The only question is, whether eyes from the flower, and become conscious this Pulpit, or some other ; whether Priest of what was going on. It would no longer and Preacher are any longer compatible. be insensible to the general march of ideas. A Pulpit there must be. Oh! that the one It would turn its face to society. Social which exists could be roused to its duties evils would no longer push their cancerous and its powers, so that there might be a way through the various relations of man- question no longer. Man of God! Preachkind, and be merely lamented over by good er of the word ! on the face of this earth spiriis despairing of any instrumentality there exists not a function nobler than wherewith to resist them, a Pulpit, all the than thine. Great is thy responsibility, while, standing by, looking on upon the rich will be thy reward, or fearful will be meleé with no higher intention than that of thy condemnation. Oh! would to God picking out an individual here and there, that within the Pulpit itself there might and chasing him down; but the instant arise some man of might, commissioned the evils theinselves made any visible ap- once again not merely to be powerful bimpearance, they would be saluted and grap- self in proclaiming the truth, for many such pled with. What an awakening there there are, and when they die, their power would be, what an increase of practical is gone like a ripple on the water, but to talent! Implanting the idea of its relation prevent the Institution from going down, to the general mass of society in the con- to make it powerful too; oh! that from sciousness of the Pulpit itself would be on high there might be such a new and sufficient to effect a spontaneous educa- rich outpouring of the divine enthusiasm tional improvement. It would, as much upon all who preach the word, that this as any thing, supersede the necessity of a noble invention of Christianity might again course of the general principles of all resume its character and its efficacy; for sciences to accompany and counteract a then there would be righteousness and retheological course; for it would confer joicing over the earth, the wilderness and the spirit of generalities, the habit of study- the solitary place would be glad, and the ing every thing. Mere theological training desert would rejoice and blossom as the would no longer be considered the one thing needful. Carrying about with him