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indeed wonderful, the present is deserving of note, but the future will be big with deeper interest, and more portentous in its developments. Behold yonder aged maniac. His history is full of striking and thrilling scenes, and you hear with horror the record of his adventures and experiences. His disease began in the mildest form; a few trivial aberrations gave token that all was not right. Upon one and another occasion, his malady showed its slowly increasing power, as exhibited in still greater deeds of violence and recklessness. He must be threatened and confined; but he laughs wildly at the warning, and breaks away from his prison. He is chained; he tears his fetters, and, with a bruised body and exasperated mind, he menaces his supposed persecutors. All efforts to reclaim him to the path and possession of reason are unavailing. But now his disease approaches its crisis. The raging madness inflames his mind with unusual fury, and the fires of death glow intensely within his heated frame. All former acts of violence and desperation are eclipsed by more recent and extraordinary deeds. He cannot be restrained or softened. Life, to him, becomes but one living death; and the end of it is, that his protracted existence only renders the final scene of an inevitable dissolution the more horrible ; or that scene is prevented by the infliction of an immediate and violent death. So behold the great religious maniac of the world, whose disease, beginning in a gentle and harmless form, has gone onward during the progress of ages, from one stage of power and violence to another. Long ago it had become alarming. Long ago it had developed features, and indulged in excesses enough to make men tremble. Faithful history has stood by, and set down without malice all these events, and her record is preserved as our inheritance. Still the maniac lives; death has not come to his relief. His disease has now nearly reached its crisis; from year to year its developments have become worse. The past is terrible, the present is full of danger; we now stand on the threshold of the future, and in its prospective vistas we see the rampant madman still there, for there is none to chain him. When his long career ends, it will have solved a problem in moral therapeutics, worthy of the study of mankind during all coming ages.
RANGE OF TOPICS FOR THE PULPIT.
By Rev. JAMES ROWLAND, Circleville, Ohio.
To write a single paragraph, for the sake of convincing those who inherit the principles, as well as the blood, of the old Puritans, that the American Protestant pulpit is an engine of immense power, would be a waste of ink. They who doubt it can never have read the history of John Robinson, and his associates, and are ignorant of the remote causes that secured the triumph of free principles in America, and the coustitutional establishment of our National confederacy. That the modern pulpit has become less conspicuous in its bearing upon many of the great questions of morals and public policy, is not to be attributed so much to the ostracism of its ministers, by those who figure in "getting up" conventions, and mass meetings, and caucusses, as to the fact, that not a few of the ancient prerogatives of the pulpit are superseded by the press. But because the pulpit stands back in the interference with the strife of parties, or the discussion of political questions, or measures of public policy, it need not be inferred that it is less powerful for good than in the early days of the Republic, or in those days of strife and animosity that preceded our National existence. To whatever we may attribuite its more retiring habits—whether to the introduction of this new power of the press, or to the fact, as likely to be true as the others, that it has become more modest in its general claims, and prefers to confine its attention more exclusively to its primitive use, when, under Paul's administration, its great themes were “Christ and him crucified," we do in neither case admit any deterioration in its character or its moral power. Its character may be shadowed forth under other circumstances; but it was never more pure, more elevated, more dignified, than at the present moment, though it may have less of parade, and make less ostentatious display. The American Protestant pulpit has never learned to truckle to assumed authority, either civil or ecclesiastical; nor has it ever catered for vice, even the most fashionable. It claiins for itself—and its enemies concede to it, as a whole-genuine piety, severe morality, a high order of intelligence, no mean attainments in science, compared with the other professions, pure patriotism, and a love of liberty, chastened by that conservatism, which yields all homage to the "majesty of the law."
The pulpit is associated with, and seconded by, so many collateral institutions, which, if they do not owe their existence to it, are never found to exist apart from it, that it is impossible to place an exact estimate upon the extent of its moral power. But whatever this may be in its present exercise, there is legitamate room for the inquiry, whether the American pulpit may not be made to wield a far mightier influence in promoting the welfare of the people, both for this world and the next. That it should again have the relative standing which it occupied, when the hearts of the multitude were moved chiefly by oral communications, is not a matter to be desired. We only ask-may not its usefulness be greatly extended ?
The range of topics which are considered as legitimate themes for pulpit discussion, as this is extended or contracted, more than any single consideration, must ever affect the results of this species of intellectual labor. There are boundaries, even in morals, which the pulpit may not cross; but we know of nothing better fitted to destroy its infinence, than the confining of all its efforts to a few common themes. No matter how practical these may be, no matter how important, no matter how Scriptural. It is said that Paul was the most successful preacher, and the most perfect model, with which God has favored his church; and yet, , at Ephesus, it was the burden of all his labors to unfold 'the way of salvation, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. While at Corinth, he determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified; a theme, to say the least, quite kindred to that which engaged his attention at Ephesus.
Two things should be taken into the account, before any preacher of the Gospel feels bound to restrict himself to exact conformity to this example of Paul.
1. Does the preacher expect as short a residence in his field of labor, as Paul contemplated either at Corinth or at Ephesus?
2. Are the people to whom he preaches as ignorant of the vital points of true Christian faith, as were those whom Paul addressed? With us, the truths of the Gospel are instilled in early childhood, The labors of the pulpit, the instructions of the Sabbath-school, the expositions of the Bible class, united to the wide diffusion of religious truth from the press, impart a knowledge of the Gospel, which renders the whole circle of religious duties in a high degree familiar to even the youth in our congregations. To preach habitually the same truths which Paul preached, in the cases referred to, is the surest method of putting the conscience to sleep. The thunder-storm would have no terrors for one who had spent his entire life amid its roar; the tempest that blanches the check of the raw recruit, is music to the old weather-beaten tar. The peasant who cultivates the rugged sides of Vesuvius, so near to the burning crater as never to be beyond the glare of its lurid light, is unmoved by the deep rumbling occasioned by its hidden fires, while the stranger is terrified at every flash. So faith and repentance, Christ and him crucified, may fall upon the sinner's ear, till, like the dull monotony of a waterfall, the sound does more to hush him to sleep than to arouse his fears. It is sometimes said that every sermon should have enough of Gospel truth to lead a sinner to Christ, should he never listen again to a discourse from the pulpit. This might do for a preacher, who, like Whitefield, was to be ever on the wing. But let any pastor attempt this course, and he will soon either preach his hearers to sleep, or out of church. It is our solemn conviction, that the frequency with which the pastoral relation has been dissolved, for the last quarter of a century, may be atttributed, more than to any other cause, to the limited range of topics introduced for discussion in the pulpit. It has been the era of revivals, and the churches must have “revival sermons." The new pastor begins his work with the highest expectation on the part of his flock. His manner, his tones, his gestures, his style, are new; and if he take the themes on which his predecessor has annually rung some hundred and four changes, there is still enough of novelty to arrest attention, and the congregation are in raptures with their brightening prospects. But the tones grow monotonous; the manner becomes dull; the gestures are a mere see-saw; the style wearies; and the pastor has a gentle hint, that he might be more useful in some other field. In this stirring age, when old things are everywhere passing away, and all things are becoming new,--and the process is a daily one-there must be something new in the preacher, or he cannot long chain the attention of the same congregation. But the voice, the look, the gestures, the style of most men, may be said to be stereotyped. Few men, possessed of the gravity that becomes thc pulpit, can readily adopt the mimic style of a play-actor, and change their whole manner with the scene; nor would it become the dignity and solemnity of the pulpit were the skill posssesed. How then is the preacher to study, and how acquire that variety, which will enlist attention, and secure the listening ear, as the best means of gaining the consent of the heart? Can it be done elsewhere, than in giving variety to the topics selected for discussion? Can it be done in this way? It may be said truth will be sacrificed. Let us see.
In the first place, there may be a great variety in the use of those truths that are usually classed as experimental and practical. Much may be done in mere adaptation to existing circumstances. It was but the other day we read in a popular quarterly, conducted with great ability, the following sentiment, quoted as an approved apothegm: “People are never so wicked as during a general mortality, or the ravages of the plague: and sailors get drunk as the vessel sinks." For aught we know, the remark, as far as it relates to the effects of the Gospel, may convey a historic truth of common occurrence. We have heard it from our boyhood, and till we were so far persuaded of its truth as to cast about for the philosophy of the fact, that sinners never repent and turn to God in seasons of deep affliction. The facts may be so, but we believe, if they are, the ministry of reconciliation is fearfully responsible for their existence. When does a sermon result in the conviction or conversion of a sinner, unless the author of the discourse prepared and preached it in earnest expectation of such results ? Let it become a part of the philosophy of any pastor, that sickness and death, and the various calamities with which God visits men, are never to result in their immediate conversion, and there is the best of all reasons for the failure.
We might name the pastor of a church, who has, for a long series of years, made special efforts to adapt the truth to the circumstances,
the consciences of the families of his parish, whenever they have been visited with severe affliction, and almost ever with the happiest success. It is believed that he has realized more accessions to his church, in connexion with such instrumentalities, than from all other means. Let the pulpit seize upon every stirring incident, upon all distinguished blessings, upon every great calamity, whether individual or public, upon whatever, in passing events, even if it be but an ordinary political election, that enlists the feelings of his parish, and use it to illustrate and enforce divine truth, and man's obligation to God, and it will not be a vain attempt. As proof of the happy tendency of such adaptation of the discussions of the pulpit to awaken interest in the church, we might refer to a most excellent pastor of a church, in one of our large towns, who, immediately in connexion with the excitement of the political canvass of 1840, took occasion to urge upon his hearers the striking inconsistency that Christians exhibited, who manifested so great zeal in the cause of their country, and so little in the service of their God. This was done, with considerable variety of method, on successive Sabbaths. The result was a most interesting revival of religion, occurring under circumstances, and in connexion with a state of public excitement, on a subject quite foreign to vital piety, which probably disheartened most pastors from attempting any close, personal, pungent appeals.
It would be foreign to the design of this article to discuss those questions that are immediately connected with the best means of promoting revivals of religion, or prolonging their continuance. It will, however, be seen, that the remarks already made bear somewhat upon the question, whether the church ought to expect a state of anxiety and inquiry on the part of the impenitent, that shall result in frequent conversions, without interruption ?