Page images
PDF
EPUB

and sisters; the choir fanning most violently; and the very minister using all occasions of cessation from speech to fan himself, while his tumbler of iced water on the neat marble table within his lengthened rostrum is frequently resorted to in the progress of his discourse.

The buildings of the Reformed Dutch are probably on the exact model brought from Holland at first-nearly square; a façade of steps, on which are erected six dazzling white fluted pillars which support a pediment, forming a broad piazza, at the back of which open the wide folding-doors into the church. The pulpit, at the opposite end, consists also of a long range of steps to a platform, which in the centre has a frontage on which the desk is fixed, while it is without door or interruption, and has at the back, perhaps, a centre chair with a sofa at each side, or three chairs and a small movable table. This is graceful, admits a free circulation of air, and leaves the orator more at liberty than when he is shut up in something shaped like a tulip or a lily of the Nile, with a spiral stair by which to reach it, and an impending extinguisher called a sounding-board ; an arrangement which, to a troublesome imagination, calls up paintings of fairy revels, with Oberons and Titanias just emerging from bell-flowers.

Most of churches have an organ and a choir, which might be agreeable if every one would sing. But it is not right to praise God by proxy, nor even

wise to withdraw all the fine voices which would be naturally sprinkled over the church, and congregate them in one spot, thus leaving the imperfect musicians amongst the worshippers, afraid to make a “joyful noise” in the condescending ear of the Father of mercies, lest they make a discordant one in that of their brethren.

On our return to England, we landed on a Sabbathday. One of the freshest enjoyments of my return to my native land in safety, was on that evening uniting with the multitude in a good old psalm of praise, led by a single precentor. Every one sung their best, and filled the roof with sounds, if not so scientific, at least conveying more of the melody of hearty devotion, than if we had listened to an instrument, or whisperingly and timidly followed a choir.

It is painful to be disturbed during prayer, as sometimes happens, by the rustle of music sheets, and also by the whispered intercourse of singers during the sermon. This only occurs in churches where the choristers are hirelings, but it is much to be lamented. On the contrary, in some other churches, the amiable willingness to “help along," and the heartiness in the cause, so characteristic of the people, will induce persons of refinement and standing in society, and even married people, to forsake their own seat and join the choir. Should any casualty befall the organist, the instrument will not be left mute, but some gentleman or lady will assume the office with great cheerfulness and simplicity. This comes not only of natural good spirit, but of an independence of “what people will think,” which elsewhere paralyzes many who are well qualified for useful effort.

The method of introducing new church-members to the communion seems much the same in many denominations, varying only with the temperament of the pastor. I have heard the interesting duty gone through in a matter-of-fact cool manner; again, as in the case described, in a way of practical affectionate interest; and again, from a full heart, speaking a thousand welcomes, rejoicing over each soul as one that findeth great spoil, and longing to welcome ten thousand more. Whichever is the manner, the occasion is of profound, it may be of everlasting, interest. The frank outflowing character of the people has a very winning effect, as it leads them to hail each new member, and claim brotherhood with him. A lady mentioned that she came a lonely stranger to Philadelphia, and “heard around" in various churches till she felt sufficiently attracted, by the ministrations of one gentleman, to return repeatedly. When she had been observed about three times in the same place, a lady accosted her“Hoped she liked our minister—would she like to go to prayer-meeting in the lecture-room? she would be happy to guide her next evening would she like to be introduced to the Rev. Mr ?" &c. In short, she found herself taken up, and introduced as one of a goodly company, with whom she has taken sweet counsel now for years. How sociable and comforting this to the solitary and the stranger, and how fit an office for a mother in Israel !

CHAPTER XI.

A BEE.

EVERY community in the United States is open to every denomination, and therefore it is not unfrequent that more churches are formed in a new city or district than its population can sustain. Thus they may erect several churches, have several small flocks, and by consequence several poorly-paid pastors, when, had they limited themselves to two, both might have been in a thriving state. The extravagances of some men have brought even genuine revivals, at least as known by that name, into disrepute. Still the growth of the Church proceeds more in the revival form than it generally does in Great Britain. Any symptom of a time of refreshing is the means of calling for extra help; and in that case, ministers of various denominations come to each other's aid. The variety of assistants, who are made useful, this to one soul and that to another, sometimes occasions a little difficulty in “ housing the converts," as an intelligent and practical observer calls it; and in this way more denominations are

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »