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effaced when the sermon was ended! The fact is, that such sermons belie their name. They are essays, or short lectures, or homilies; but they are not sermons—the living, earnest speech of one man to his fellow men. Slowly arranged—composed, piece by piece, under the influences of a fastidious or merely formal taste—they are made to be read, and not to be spoken. Their neat trains of argument—their well-balanced periods—their quiet flow of didactic sentiment and customary turns of serious expression—are well fitted to edify, and even please, in an hour of meditative leisure at home; but in the pulpit they want wholly the charm of a living personal communication. The speaker does not, or cannot, project himself into them. They are not his living speech, then and there, to the living audience around him; they are only, as it were, the echo of a speech that once lived. Powerful words they ought to be, and may be, in themselves; but they are repeated, not spoken. They recall old tones of truth that one has been hearing all his days, and greatly respects; but they do not excite a present interest. They do not, and cannot do so, in the hearer, because they do not seem to do so in the preacher.
Any preaching, however much it may offend against taste or the ordinary properties of manner, is better than preaching of this sort; for it is plain beyond any doubt that sermons, however excellent in a merely formal respect—which are destitute of any real elements of interest—which do not reach, or impress, or, in a word, hit the audience at some point—can be of no practical use. It may suit the instincts of professional decorum to speak well of such sermons, and they may have some uses; but they are not certainly of the kind desiderated. They may touch with a gentle movement the tepid spiritual life of the comfortable and well-todo, with whom such languid attention as they demand stands in place of religion; but, powerless to awaken the conscience and stir the common heart, they are wholly without influence as a general means of moral education.
Let it not be supposed that we advocate conclusively a kind of preaching whose constant aim is to arouse and alarm. On the contrary, we have, perhaps, less faith in such preaching than facts would seem to warrant. It may be, and doubtless often is, an instrument of great religious awakening; and religious results of an incontrovertible character are found to follow it. But in the very nature of the case, this manner of preaching can never be a general means of moral elevation and acceptance. From its very character it is addressed mainly to one state of mind—to one phase of spiritual condition; it is always touching the same chords —ringing on the same phrases—and, under this incessant iteration, sometimes breaking and enervating, as much as quickening and strengthening, the religious life in its true springs. Not only so, but for the most part this preaching manifests a tendency to pass into one, and that a very narrow, type of dogmatic expression; which, however truly it may mirror the spiritual facts in many cases, does not certainly mirror them in all; while in common handling it is apt to become mere coarseness and exaggeration of language, strongly repulsive to many minds. It is needless to say that we are not to take into account this repulsive antagonism of certain minds to such a style of preaching; that this opposition is the very essence of the Gospel,—it is the offence it bears to those who are too proud to receive it. There is truth in this, and yet it is not true in the present case. The offence of the Cross has not indeed ceased, and we must never try to mitigate this offence by hiding the Cross. We must not "prophesy smooth things" when we ought to speak sternly and strongly. But we are also to be "all things to all men, so that we may win some;" and especially we are not, by our weak exaggerations and vain repetitions, to create offence against the truth, when there may be a dawning love for it. And it is undeniable that there are those with genuine religious sympathies, who never realize the extremes of experience so familiarly spoken of by some preachers; nay, there arc those who less and less appreciate these extremes as they grow hi spiritual insight. They can understand and realize the depths of abhorred contrition and the heights of redemptive blessedness, spoken of by St Paul; but they do not feel, and no teaching can bring them to feel, that these are truly represented in the dogmatic crudities of certain popular theologians. Whatever may be the occasional effects, therefore, of this kind of preaching, and particularly over those whose religious susceptibilities, naturally coarse, have been long hardened and dead, it is far from being the highest kind of preaching, or that which is likely to prove most generally useful. It may prove awakening, but it is not educative; while in its very character it is limited in its range and influence. To suppose that, because some men, by strength of language, confidence of tone, and especially by unrelieved representations of human depravity, draw thousands to listen to them, that others have only to follow their example, and speak with the same loudness and authority, in order to insure tho same success, and do something of the same probable good, is quite unwarranted both by principle and fact. Tho minds which such men, after all, alone move, are minds cast in the same rough mould as their own minds; perhaps not deficient in power, but with feeble instincts both of taste and philosophy, and destitute for the most part of those higher spiritual sensibilities which, while they expose their possessor to the subtle entanglements of doubt, yet also cany bim into tbe highest region of Christian earnestness, and are capable of the noblest development of self-sacrifice. To such minds,
i>reachiug of this order is apt to seem, at the best, only so mucb oud and disgusting earnestness; never coming near to their own life, nor deepening the real love of the truth in them.
It is not, therefore, any special style of forcible preaching, and least of all the style which with many alone represents force and effect, that we are advocating. It is not mere "loudness," either of voice or manner, that is needed; but the old spirit of life, the hearty human feeling, the broad and manly earnestness, the fire of Divine conviction, which, from the time of Latimer downwards, has distinguished the best specimens of English teaching.
The higher Source of this spirit of life we need not speak of. It can only come from Him who is the Father of light and life, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift; unless this is recognized, it is the most obvious commonplace to remark, that no inferior means of diligence or culture can ever confer it. It is nevertheless only through such means, through certain processes of education and discipline, that in ordinary cases it is ever obtained. And the very first of these would seem to be an awakened cultivation of all the common sympathies and affections and interests of our nature, in contrast to the mere technical and professional education which our young Clergy, among both Episcopalians and Nonconformists, mainly receive. A more onesided training than that with which many of them enter their work, it would be difficult to imagine. It is not so much that their studies are partial, although this is also the fact; but it is the narrow and conventional spirit in which they are too commonly pursued, serving to narrow while it sharpens the mind, and to enfeeble while it refines it. Even in many of thoso who are scholars in the best sense, and who may be destined to attain literary or theological distinction, there is apt to be a certain uniform tone of mind, and (who has not heard it ?) even of speech, which sets the stamp of its monotony on all they say or do.
This dead professionalism of manner and of voice, stifling all true eloquence, comes undoubtedly of exclusiveness of education and of affection. The student passes from his books to the pulpit without ever having been thrown into the hearty interests of life, or having mingled at large with his fellow men. There cannot well be a more imperfect preparation for the great duties to winch the pastor is called; and finding himself in consequence plunged into these duties without an intelligent acquaintance or sympathy with them, he necessarily becomes a prey to prevailing mannerism and affectation. Set a man to do work for which he has no real calling or aptitude, and his very weakness is found to strengthen and stiffen in him all professional props—all cants associated with his work. Through help of these he tries to make up for his own want of power to look his work in the face, and deal with it freely and vigorously. All professions show numerous examples of this common result of incapacity, but none of them more numerous or melancholy examples than the clerical. If, on the other hand, the clergyman was to come to his office, not certainly with less purely professional culture, but with more thoroughly awakened energies of mind and feeling—a higher spirit of sympathy, and, above all, with a more free and hearty experience of life, springing from a wider and more varied intercourse with his fellow creatures, he would enter upon his duties in a wholly different temper, and with an ever freshening zeal and power which, if he had any capacity of speech at all, would give him a natural eloquence which no artifices of eloquence or study of models will ever give him. For he would speak then because he felt. He would tell what was in him—not what was deemed proper or becoming to say. lie would find, even with the richness of his culture and the true refinement of his Christian sympathies, points of contact between him and the rougher natures to whom it might be his function to minister, which would prove sources of constantly new interest to him, and seem to touch his lips with a constantly new fire. Knowledge of life, not in any outward, still less in any wrong sense, but in the deep and broad sense in which the words alone have their right meaning—knowledge of the common joys and sorrows of the human heart, of the realities of affection, passion, and interest which move it—of the loves, hopes, and trials which make the common lot. This knowledge, baptized by the Spirit of all good and chastened into a noble experience, would do more, generally to revive the power of the pulpit, than any other single influence whatever.
In connection with its wider and fresher knowledge of life, there is nothing probably that would do more for tbe pulpit than a more bcarty and living theology. We are told by not a few, that ono of the present weaknesses of the pulpit is the low and hesitating tone of its theology. Preachers are afraid any more to hold forth with clear decision the old doctrines which alone arc powerful to touch the popular mind and conscience. Modern culture shrinks from the" assertion of these doctrines in their native breadth and effect. The old Puritan method, on the contrary, which delighted to proclaim these doctrines right in the face of human sensitiveness and worldly pride, is the only key to popular success in the pulpit. There is great truth in all this. In so far as mere educational refinement ever tampers with the great Truth of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and tinctures and weakens it with its poor amalgam of ceremonialism or of moralism, it is undeniable that in this proportion the truth must lose its power. That which is no longer the ministry of the Spirit, but of the letter in some form or another, will never bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. The educative effects of a becoming ceremonialism, and of a high-toned system of Christian ethics, need not be overlooked. But either of these, in so far as it stands before and hides from clear view the blessed and eternal truth of "God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them," must be to this extent a weakening element in modern preaching. For while these themselves are comparatively ineffective to touch the heart, they prevent that which alone has a Divine power to move it, from finding a living entrance, and ruling it with a holy sway. Mediaevalism, therefore, and latitudinarianism of whatever type, are certainly hostile to the success of the pulpit. Whether tho truth be obscured from the congregation behind stained glass, or diluted to them within well-sounding moral or sentimental commonplaces, it is equally shorn of its strength, and becomes a mere echo of human pretensions, which will never become good news or a Gospel to any man.
But here, as before, there is an extreme which we must guard against. We must not confound mere " loudness" of doctrine with the energy of truth, any more than mere loudness of voice and manner with an effective earnestness. The truth of God, in its simple statement, is far more powerful than man's most elaborate representations of it; and even so the more scriptural our theology is, the more direct and purely drawn from the Divine source,—the less it is stiffened in mnemonic formula?, the more is it likely to animate our preaching, and give a practical emphasis it. While never evasive or latitudinarian, it should be as little as possible "confessional." Nothing can be further from the fact, than to identify tho revival of the pulpit with the assertion of any of the old extremes of our polemical creeds. Men have ceased to care for these extremes. The most cultivated, the most earnest Christian intelligence, everywhere has ceased to live on them. This or that article of abstruse Divinity may be true or otherwise—but the Gospel is not involved in such refinements, and all its clear and awful truth of love from God, grace to the sinner, and judgment in his sin, may be held forth irrespectively of them; and the more plainly and forcibly these truths are uttered, the less we regard the casuistries of the Creeds. In all lasting religious revival, the prime influence comes not from dogmatic statement, but from spiritual faith. It