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the ardor of his soul for the sake of avoiding a theatrical appearance, sacrifices himself as God made him, to the awkwardnesses of a conventional taste. It is disagreeable for him to manifest his own excitement before an audience who look with cold unmeaning eyes upon the spectacle; but let him disregard the repulsive stare, and heed the mandate, “be not afraid of their faces.” If he will not, as he should not, yield to the critical and derisive lip of the multitude, the multitude will yield to him. Nature will conquer in the end; life will prevail over deadness; and men who came to scoff will, through grace, remain to pray.
Here and there also the fear of being thought fanatical, puts a check upon the freedom of the minister. If he allow an unobstructed egress to the feelings of his soul, he expects to lose cast with orderly men, and to be regarded as an effervescing, but not as a solid or edifying preacher. Now the term fanaticism, al
. though often used as including the malignant principle, is employ. ed in this objection simply to denote a higher degree of excitement than is required by the objects calling it forth. This superfluity is an evil, but no worse than the opposite deficiency. Redundance of feeling is unnatural and so is coldness. That man is sure to fail, who preaches with the main design of avoiding excess of emotion. Higher, nobler, freer should be his aim, that of speaking as the Spirit giveth him utterance, and not as his reputation demands. No man can preach with power, unless he regulate his feelings by the nature of his theme, resigning himself to the influences of truth, and letting his emotions well upward and outward, according to their own sweet will. A minister must be childlike in the unveiling of his heart, if he would bring the hearts of his people into unison with his own.
He should smile or weep as his subject constrains him; and if he suppress his feelings or his tears through fear of attracting observation and provoking criticism, then he contendeth with himself; and 'no man goeth to a warfare' against his nature, 'except at his own charges :' then he steels his sensibilities against the truth, and no man ever hardened himself against God' or the divine word,' and prospered.'
Here and there also a minister abridges the freedom of his pulpit through fear of opposing the doctrinal views of his audience. When hearers have been long inured to one unvaried style of presenting truth, they are inclined to associate the very substance of truth with that specific form of statement. Any deviation from the popular phrase, is suspected of being a want of reverence to a fundamental doctrine. The preacher, therefore, who desires to
Freedom of the Pulpit.
win golden opinions for himself, is induced to melt down his natural style into the mould of some fashionable theory. He shrinks from expressing his true, spontaneous feelings, lest they should. not fit precisely what is looked upon as the standard measure. But this will never do. It is a good omen for men to be watchfal over their pastor's doctrine, his spirit and his style; but they should never make him an offender for a word, and he should never stifle his hearty faith from the vain love of being called by them Rabbi. His soul should be a fountain of living water springing up within himself, and flowing on from its own resources ; and should never be a mere reservoir of foreign streams, walled around and dammed up, pinched in time of drought, and stagnant when full. He must speak with a free heart what his Bible bids him.' If his people will hear, let him speak it; if they will not hear, let him speak it, in the hope of aid from on high. He may incur their dislike for a time. No minister ever moved his people with strong impulses by his theological discussions, without sometimes going athwart their previously cherished the. ories, and being suspected of harboring some false doctrine. It was so with Augustin and Calvin, Luther and Zwingle. It was so with John Owen and Richard Baxter. It was so with Andrew Fuller and Robert Hall. It was so with the two Edwardses, with Bellamy and Hopkins. It will be so while truth continues to be viewed as narrow and steelbound; while its various phases, its multiform relations, its diversified modes of exhibition are lightly esteemed; while the copious and affluent, ever old and ever new phraseology of the Bible is sacrificed to the shibboleths of contracted partizans. But our laymen are too generous to insist for a long time, on their pastor's surrendering his individuality and becoming a slave to their own habits of speculation. They choose that he utter forth with a good conscience, what his soul is penetrated with and stirred up with in its deep recesses. Thought has a spring in it which must not be coiled up too severely. When its elastic force is gone, it ceases to impel men, and for practical effect all is gone. If therefore there be an idea in the preacher's mind, which he regards as essential to the full and free expression of his own doctrine, let it come out. It may seem unwonted to his hearers, but let it come. It may cost him some trouble, some jealousy, perhaps some reproof; still let it come. A living opinion, even if it be a suspected one, is better than a dead formula. A word that gushes out of an honest heart, even if it give offence, has a vitality in it which gives it power. Every sermon
should be a transcript of the writer's own mind, should be free from guile, from all manoeuvres to gain the applause of a party, should never crook for a by-end, but simply and sincerely should move straight onward; and if this pure minded sermon be instinct with the spirit and the truth of Jesus, it will, so fully do we trust his good promises and his grace, it will be quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing through the philosophies of gainsaying men, even to the dividing asunder of the joints and the marrow.'
Passing by several other elements of power in the pulpit, I will only mention in the sixth and last place, an affectionateness, a simplicity and an humbleness of Christian feeling. Better were it for the preacher to have no kind of freedom if he fail of that “ liberty wherewith Christ maketh free.” He may violate all other rules with comparative harmlessness, but if he violate this first, second and third rule, that all his reasonings and all his exhortations be conceived in the spirit of a servant and son of God, it is in vain to prescribe for him anything further. He cannot have power, unless his discourses be radiant with evangelical truth; and piety is needful to guide him into the truth. He cannot have power, unless he compose his sermon with a hearty interest in its moral bearings; and piety is essential to the liveliness of such an interest. He cannot have power unless he utter his words with pathos and unction, nor can he attain this appropriate utterance without a depth, and a tenderness of Christian sympathy. The theologian, then, the rhetorician and the elocutionist all unite in requiring, that the preacher be enthusiastic in his religious love at all times, but in a special degree at the precise time of his addressing an auditory. The man of plain common sense, will urge the same requirement, perceiving at a single view, that if ministers would make religion attractive to others, they must be delighted with it themselves; if they would awaken a pious sympathy, they must have piety to be sympathized with, and must not say,“ Go to the Redeemer," but“Come to him,-come with us."
I have said that the spirit of the minister should be affectionate. Aristotle and Quinctilian and Cicero demand, that an orator manifest a kindly feeling to his audience. Had they written for the pulpit, they would have required that a preacher exhibit an earnest love to the souls of his people; that he feel and display an interest in their welfare for this world, much more for the world to come. It is very easy to translate the prescriptions of heathen rhetoricians into a virtual demand that the sacred orator,
113 aiming to persuade men to a holy life, shall exhibit a fellow-feel. ing with those whom he addresses, and win their confidence in his personal regard for them. The winds may blow, the lightning may strike, the tempest may beat upon an ice-mountain, but it remains a mountain of ice. Only the heat of the sun melts it away. It is the warmth of love that subdues the soul “ which laugheth at the shaking of a spear.” When the heathen poets feigned that Amphion moved the stones and raised the walls of Thebes by the sound of his lyre, and that Orpheus subdued the ferocity of beasts and attracted to him the mountains by the sweetness of his music, they nieant to describe the attractiveness, the persuasiveness of a refined benevolence expressed in its own alluring way. The cross of Christ is eloquent; for it shines upon our hearts with the warm radiance of his love. It is the goodness of God that does, as well as should lead us to repentance; much more then his grace; and therefore the minister must in fuse into his discourses this same element which works in the heart, as the heat of the sun operates on the plant, and gives life and beauty, the blossom and the fruit. His benevolence must flow downward to his hearers and upward to God, and thus with one hand at the hearts of his people, and the other upon the throne of the eternal, he must be the medium for the transmission of those influences which are conducted softly and silently from heaven to the bosom of the church. In a psychological view of Christian oratory it seems to be a fixed law, that although a minister have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; though he speak with the tongue of men and of angels, and yet have no real charity toward his hearers, and manifest no affectionate interest in them, he is become as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.'
I have said that the religion of the minister should be simple. There is a kind of piety which is exercised in agreement with human standards; it conforms to the practical rules of commentaries, and is governed by the example of certain good men. ways appears respectable, because it has the authority of churchworthies in its favor; but it is not so graceful nor winning as it is correct and safe. There is another kind of piety which is not har. bored because other men have done the same, but is indulged because it will rise in view of its appropriate objects. It is the simple-hearted love which comes forth at the fresh opening of one's own heart to the influences of one's own meditations. It does not learn from books whether and how it ought to be exercised, but it springs up without a calculating process and without a tasking of the imitative faculty. It is like the music of the Æolian harp, not hampered by rules, but sweeter than all the artificial symphonies of human contrivance. The religion of our Saviour is a winning specimen of that simplicity with which the feelings of a minister ought to flow out into a spontaneous expression. It was original, artless, unforced, ever new, always becoming. He did not borrow from the men whom he respected, but felt, as well as thought, for hiinself. He did not wait for a set formula of devotion before he could adore the Providence of God, but it was enough for him to see a field-flower, and that was a rich expression of a biblical truth. He did not enquire for the example of his predecessors, or for the probable opinion of the world, before he gave vent to his feelings in regard to the beloved city; but he looked upon it from the opposite hill, and wept over it, and cried, “ Oh Jerusalem, how often would 1,-even as a hen her chickens, but you would not.” He never consulted his own dignity by allying his kingdom with venerable priests, or the sacredness of local scenes; but he took little children in his arms, and ate with publicans, and extended his feet to be wiped by the hair of the head of a woman that was a sinner, and all not because he calculated that such things would work well, but because his simple piety was gratified by such unostentatious benevolence. Hence came his power. What he says we feel, because we know that he felt it. His tones were rich with earnest conviction, and were all his own, and therefore they linger and linger still and ever linger in our ears, making a strange melody. When we turn from his melting yet stimulating, his softened yet authoritative words, to the pages of his ministers, we feel that they are unlike him; they speak for effect, they speak so as to be esteemed, they are punctilious about rules of Rhetoric and of Logic, they copy after great men, they are faithful to a party, they are like each other, and therefore monotonous, they are constrained, frigid, inept, formal, we soon tire of reading them, there is little of nature in them, they are ashamed to be simple, they wish to have everything manly, and are afraid to be childlike, they are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, in the comparison with him who spake as never man spake, because he felt as never man felt.