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when once indulged the highest authority of scripture is scarcely able to remove. Again :
If the spirit as one of the trinity, and in reference to the doctrines of the trinity is confessedly a mystery and above our comprehension, is that a reason for making his influence with the sinner a mystery.
The one is a speculative subject, the latter practical and in which our salvation is much more concerned. As well might we ascribe mystery to God in all his dealings with man. On the same ground we may make religion an incomprehensible something altogether; and with all our piety will thus be left to question, until the judgment, whether we shall be saved or perish; thus robbing ourselves of all the comfort and satisfaction religion was designed to give its possessors on this important point. If this were so the religion of the bible would be but little raised above the old systems of Grecian philosophy, and do but little good; why we should therefore strive to make it all a mystery is only owing to the errors and delusions we have now been correcting. All this is not only without the sanction of the bible, but far from being expedient or a gain, to religion. Let those therefore who thus set up their fanciful notions instead of God's word as our guide in religion, take care how they not only deceive themselves, but thousands of others. Let them inquire whether they are prepared to take upon themselves the heavy responsibility, the doctrine that God by his spirit miraculously converts whom he will, whilst others are left to strive in vain, necessarily imposes; whilst the above inquiries it is hoped will show in what light the subject of irresistible spiritual influences, should be viewed, and correct the idea, that whatever men profess to experience in their miraculous conversions must be received as scriptural, and that theirs is the standard by which the piety of all must be judged, however much it may be destitute of any authority, but their own fanciful experience. L. E. R.
We have repeatedly been asked, to express our opinion upon the custom of reading sermons, instead of delivering them without the aid of notes, or at least with but a skeleton lying before the speaker. Discovering a difference of opinion among the Clergy as well as among Lay-men, and having a press of other matter to attend to, we did not feel it our duty to touch the subject earlier.
The people whose Minister is a talented, industrious and pious man, can certainly be edified though he reads his sermons and if he employs the week, in composing and writing them, they will receive truths, expressed in language correct and handsome. We do therefore very sincerely approve of the plan which has been ad
opted in districts, not supplied with a Minister, to appoint a pious Lay-man as a reader of approved sermons. And we would earnestly admonish all our people, who are visited by their Minister but once in a month, to appoint a member of known piety and that reads distinctly, to read one or more sermons in their church, every Sunday, rather than to keep it closed and be content with one or two sermons delivered by their Minister every third or fourth Sundayin the month.
But although reading sermons, can be profitable to hearers, and although upon particular occasions, they should be read, yet it is in our opinion a custom less calculated to interest an audience and to rouse sinners, than extempore speaking. We do not mean to say, that a minister is to appear before his audience without premeditation, and we admit, that want of system, vulgar, uncouth and incorrect language, must disgust enlightened hearers, and prevent the most important truths from having an effect. Every Minister should study his subject well, before he brings it before his people, and if he has time, let him write his sermon. If he has not borrowed too much, he can commit it to memory without much difficulty, and then he can deliver it feelingly. Such is the temperament of most persons, that, unless they believe that he who addresses them, feels what he says, they will not feel. An extempore speaker only, can cause his hearers to believe that he feels himself, the force of what he says. A General may read the most excellent composition, setting forth the necessity of the citizens, to arm themselves and to forsake their fire-sides, to engage the enemy of their country, without rousing them to action. They will speak of his scholarship, admire his rhetorical acquirements, and remain at home. But, when a General, carefully viewed the state of things, is master of his subject, and feels its importance intense. ly, and then comes before his fellow-citizens, declaring what he knows and feels, the people are roused and fired-old men and young men exempt by law, hasten to the scene of action. Thus do we believe, are different effects produced by Ministers. The Reader, will be admired and respected for his attainments, though he reads no better than a school boy, who often feels the weight of his teachers band for his deficiency, whilst the Speaker, rouses his hearers and enlists them to fight under the banners of a crucified Saviour.
Our opinion is, that the constant practice of reading sermons, by
Ministers, shonld be discountenanced by our people, and although they will no doubt bear with a young man for a while, yet the Council of the church ouht by all means to urge him, to prepare himself in his closet, in order that he may at an early day, be enabled to speak to them, as from the moment.
It may not be amiss, to give Cowper's description of a preacher. If Ministers and hearers reflect duly upon it, they will all profit.
Would I describe a preacher, such as Paul,
Were he on earth would hear, approve, and own,
And with a well-bred whisper close the scene!
The following is an extract from an article published in the Commercial Advertiser. We met with it, in a late number of the Christian Advocate and Journal, and we think with the Editor, that, without offending any one, it may be instructive and amusing.
"After the singing was concluded, the minister made a very decent prayer. In it he sought the Lord to lay plentifully to his hands of the food of souls, &c. Now, thinks I, we will have a preaching. Well, his prayer finished, without a blush on his face, he pulls from his pocket a roll of black leather, in form of a tobacco pouch. From this he unrolls about a sheet of paper, and without ever opening the Bible reads a text from the head of the sheet, and so reads on till he comes to Amen, at the end of the sheet. I wondered at the indecency (to call it no worse) of the man. Did he think he was addressing a stock or a stone that did not hear him? Did he suppose his Maker did not know that all the food he was about to deal out to the hungry souls before him was in his pocket? I have heard this same mode of prayer used by reading ministers in New-York. I hope, hereafter, they will pray for the blessing of light, and eye sight, and the use of their tongues; for
by this system of reading I had almost said they put it out of the power of God Almighty to help them. I have been to Guilford and Stonington, to Bambury and Lanbury-every where they read their sermons and sing Praise by proxy. It was harvest, and very warm. Saturday was fine for getting in the grain. It was at full moon. Many of the farmers kept their men servants and maid servants, their oxen and their jack asses, at work till one o'clock on Sunday morning. At half past ten they got all to church. The minister began to read off his task, but scarcely had he got to thirdby, when I looked around, and found they were all asleep, except a few old women, and about two dozen of Sunday scholars in the gallery, who were cutting sticks to make wind mills-observed the teachers, male and female, were asleep, as if the minister was reading the dead languages. To keep myself awake, my thoughts ran ahead in the following strain :-Before this I never could comprehend what was the employment of them chaps in Yale college, who are called professors of the dead languages. I now felt satisfied that it must be them who learn the young Yankees to read sermons; but what a pity the old farmers, their fathers, should squeeze and starve all the rest of the family to raise forty dollars per month to pay board, and fees, and fire, and candles, and pens, and paper, to learn a boy to read sermons in New-Heaven. Only send them to New-York, and Picket will learn them for ten shillings per month to read nearer to the points than many whom I heard; and Carville, corner of Pine-street and Broadway, for one hundred, will give them as many sermons as they can read in fifty years. This too would save a great deal of paper, for a sermon reads just well when printed as wrote. We have heard much of the march of intellect since the days of the pilgrims; but with regard to pulpit life, oratory, and eloquence, it has been in an awful retrograde line. Cotton Mather and his cotemporary champions of truth would preach hours on a stretch without a paper within à mile of them, except their Bible. The Edwards and Witherspoons, the Rogers and Linns, the Livingstons and Masons of our day made the souls of their hearers as well as the walls of their churches tremble with their extempore pulpit eloquence. Now we have boys fresh from the college-their beards as soft as the down on a mushroom top-green spectacles to hide their conscious shame, reading from a dead paper to a company of dead souls, and with a manner, too, as dead as the devil (who always attends church) could wish it. Why, if these men were to go into congress, the bench, or even the theatre, so, they would be kicked from the hall, or hissed from the stage. Is it not a shame, to say the least of it, that a man in congress, or in a court of justice, will speak hours to the purpose, and often in support of a doubtful point, without paper; and yet a minister of the gospel, who has the range of the three worlds, heaven, earth, and hell, with all the sublime doctrines of the Bible at his finger ends, can't speak forty minutes without a quire of paper held up as an extinguisher of truth between his eyes and the eyes of his hearers. If you want to convince
men in argument, they must see the fire of truth flash from your eyes. When Paul stood before Felix, and reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and a future judgment, his eyes kindled with the mighty theme, darting conviction through the eyes of the tyrant into the dark corners of his guilty, black, iron-bound soul case, which made him tremble on his throne. Yes, on his throne. Truth, when spoken, (not read,) will make any tyrant tremble. There is no excuse for this banisher of pulpit eloquence. Laziness is the cause. Forty years ago you would rarely have seen a paper in any pit in New-York. The abilities of our young men are as good now as they were then. Memory, like all faculties of the mind, will improve by using. Ministers only, of the public speakers, take neither pride nor pains to excel. Were I a minister, I would throw my paper into the fire, and say I will be second to none, were it only for the honour of the profession. The ministers in the devil's church deal out their fictions and lies in such a solemn strain of eloquent pathos, that they can chain the attention of their audience, and bathe them in tears for hours; but many of the ministers of the Most High deal out their solemn realities as if they were mere fictions, and they can barely keep the people from going to sleep. One sabbath evening, about seventeen years ago, I went into the brick meeting to hear Dr. -> from Connecticut preach. There he stood with all the insignia of office, white bands, silk cloak, and tassels enough to bedeck a modern hearse, a tall, fine looking man. I thought he was Boanerges personified. Out came his paper. He read along pretty well for about fifteen minutes. The thunder began to roll over Snake Hill in the Jerseys-the heavens were clothed in darkness-his spectacles failed-and he was obliged to sit down, till the sexton procured lighted candles. I thought this spoke more than volumes against the pernicious practice of reading. However, next day I learned that he had been a professor of theology for seven years previous, and being a man of a very charitable turn of mind, I thought it was probable he might have given away whatever little stock of divinity he once possessed, for the benefit of those young students whose heads he had been polishing, and thereby left nothing to himself."
Extract from a letter to the Editor. The writer is one of our zealous and useful Ministers, within the Jurisdiction of the E. Pennsylvania Synod.
"Though there is much desolation in Zion here to weep over; yet there are also some good features in the sad picture which afford some relief to the eyes of the spectator. The tone of Evangelical feelings and sentiments, is, I think, improving. I hope some good has been done in the name of the "Holy Child Jesus," and I flatter myself that much will yet be done in this part of zion. Amidst much opposition and in the face of the most bitter and unrelenting Vol. V. No. 7.