« PreviousContinue »
though perhaps covert, self-gratification; and a specious but sinister utility will wear the honors which belong only to rectitude. How admirable were Christ's appeals, in that they were so happily balanced--to the heart, indeed, as we have said, but to the heart in fitting proportion ;-to the intellect and conscience in due measure also. To all the departments of our complex nature, but to all in perfect symmetry.
There is another, and that a crowning excellence of Christ's preaching, which we may not fail to notice. We refer to its affectionateness. Our readers are familiar with the ancient and oft-quoted maxim,
"Si vis me flere dolendum est
Primum ipsi tibi." “ If you wish me to weep, you must first manifest emotion yourself.” Most felicitously has Goethe expressed this same sentiment:
“Persuasion, friend, comes not by toil or art;
My worthy friend, is this :-to have one of your own !!!* To secure the highest ends of sacred eloquence, however, regard must be had to the kind, as well as the degree of emotion. It is very possible for the preacher to be highly excited, in view not so much of the truth he unfolds, in itself considered, or in its momentous applications, as of the intellectual processes to which he subjects it; the nice discrimination, the profound analysis, the lucid arrangement, the strict and conclusive ratiocination. He may be like the hireling painter, who feels little interest in the countenance before him, but is delighted with his own imitation of it, with the rapidity and perfectness with which he transfers it to the canvasș. Emotion of this sort will have little effect on the mass of hearers. The preacher's sympathies must pass beyond his subject, considered simply as such, to the
Translated by A. A. Everett. SECOND SERIES, VOL. IX. NO. 1.
souls he seeks to save.
He must show himself interested in their fearful state-not merely as a theme of discourse, but as an object of affecting contemplation-if he would hope to preach successfully. In other words, he must manifest in his preaching deep and unaffected love for souls. With what a charm does love invest even the simplest forms of speech! It makes the severest reproof comparatively grateful. Let a frown becloud your brow, and angry words fall from your lips, and however pointed and just your censure, however cogent your arguments for reform, they will be all in vain. You will meet with a cold, and perhaps disdainful repulse. But go to an erring fellow-man, under the strong impulses of benevolence, let your tones be tremulous with compassion, and the dew of kindness glisten in your eye; let your words be fraught with tenderness, and your whole demeanor bespeak deep and disinterested regard; and if the case be not utterly hopeless, your pleading will be prevalent. Oh, there is nothing like the eloquence of love! The doomed man in his dungeon, all blood-stained and hard-hearted, is melted by it, and becomes, the while, like a little child. You may sit by his side, and open before him the dark catalogue of his crimes ; you may expatiate upon them, you may appeal most powerfully to his slumbering conscience; all this you may do, though many a cold-hearted intruder has been driven with curses from his cell, if your tears do but fall while you speak. You can say to men, indeed, just what you please -you can do with them, we had almost added, just what you will—if they do but see evidence that you love them.
Now in the blessed and potent quality of kindness, the speech of Christ was unrivalled. He is in this respect, as well as others, a perfect model for the preacher. God is said to be love itself: and Christ was love incarnate. The savor of that same compassion which led him to the cross, was diffused through all his discourses. Well might the people wonder “ at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” Even with his most fearful rebukes, what expressions of tenderness were often linked ! It was on the same occasion when he said to the Jews, “ Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell,” that he exclaimed also, “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings !” How does the example of Christ forbid in
his ministers all harshness and bitterness of speech! How does it frown on a denunciatory spirit! With what sweet enforcement does it call for kindness and gentleness, for “ bowels of compassion," and pleadings fraught with love.
Such are some of the leading characteristics of our Lord's preaching. Such is the perfect and delightful pattern which the Bible holds forth to every minister of the gospel. How important to every preacher, we remark in conclusion, is intimate acquaintance with Christ! How desirable that he should so study the record of our Lord's ministry, as to catch the very spirit and manner of his preaching, just as by familiarity with some loved and venerated friend, we acquire often his very tones, and gestures, and forms of speech. Of other models of eloquence, he need not, he should not be ignorant. He may listen to the orators of ancient time. He may linger a while even in the heathen forum, and may give his ear to the more eloquent of the Christian fathers. He may seek improvement in the study of the more modern pulpit. No little advantage will he gain from familiarity with such eminent preachers as Baxter, and Howe, and Leighton, and Edwards, and Whitefield. But they are all imperfect models. He should turn from them all, at last, to him who spake as never man spake. With him he should commune, till as he opens his lips in the sacred desk, the very manner of his preaching shall remind his hearers of Christ, and they shall take knowledge of him that he has been with Jesus. The word of such a man is seldom in vain. It contains within itself the most potent elements of moral suasion : and according, as it does, with the mind of Christ, he delights to crown it with his blessing.
REVIEW OF LIFE AND WRITINGS OF EBENEZER PORTER MASON.
By Rev. William B. Sprague, Pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Albany.
Life and Writings of Ebenezer Porter Mason, interspersed with Hints to Parents and Instructors on the Training and Education of a Child of Genius. By Denison Olmstead, Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy in Yale College. New York: Dayton & Newman.
We are free to acknowledge that our interest in Biography has been, in these latter years, not a little diminished by the flood of insipid and trashy productions that has come in upon us in this department of our literature. It is within our recollection that a new biographical work was comparatively a rare thing; and the fact that an individual had a book written about him was regarded as some evidence that he was not a mere common-place character : but the aggregate amount of excellence belonging to these works has not increased in proportion to their number. If there are still some beautiful monuments erected to departed merit, there are not wanting pens that are ready to immortalize departed mediocrity, if not departed dull
The reasons of this are various. Sometimes it is to be traced to the indiscreet partiality of friendship; sometimes to the commendable wish to aid some young man in his education by the sale of the book; and possibly sometimes to a mistaken desire to figure on a small scale in the character of an author. There are some stars of this kind taking their places from time to time in our literary horizon, which we trust will shine for ages; but not a small part of these publications, instead of being stars, are mere fire-flies of the night, which shine only long enough to let us know they have existed.
We have two or three grounds of objection to this as it seems to us characteristic feature of the times. In the first place, admitting the character to possess no special interest, it is an act of injustice to the subject of the narrative that he should be dragged before the public after he is dead, just to receive a verdict of having done nothing and been nothing, that should
justify an attempt to blazon abroad his name or perpetuate his memory. And next, such a book is necessarily an imposition upon the public ; for those who buy it from their love of biography, with the impression that it is a good book, get cheated ; and those who read it to find out what it is, provided they are persons of intelligence and good judgment, are very likely to get vexed that they have thrown away their time as well as their money. Or if, for the sake of making an interesting volume, a tame character be metamorphosed under the biograpber's hand, into something which it never was and never could be, why here again there is manifest deception; and no wise man wishes to be gratified by receiving falsehood as truth. And last of all, we think this sort of book-making objectionable on the ground that it is fitted to inspire the sober and refleeting with a disrelish for biography in general; and that in consequence of this, many a gem in this department of literature will be comparatively overlooked because its brilliancy is obscured by the immense quantity of rubbish into which it is thrown.
While, therefore, we have no lack of interest in well executed biography, where the subject is worthy of such a notice, we acknowledge that there is nothing specially attractive to us in the announcement of the biography of an individual of whom we have never heard ; and hence, when we took up the life of Ebenezer Porter Mason, we should probably have never looked beyond the title-page, if the name of Professor Olmsted had not caught our eye-a name which would be regarded by every body as a sufficient pledge that the book was worth reading. And we had not advanced far in it, before we ceased to feel the need of the biographer's name to carry us forward ; and when we had read it once we read it again; and now, upon the most sober view we can take of it, we feel justified in saying that the character which it delineates is in some respects among the most remarkable that have come within our knowledge. The book is well written of course-is characterized throughout by good taste, good judgment, and good feeling, but we are sure that Professor Olmsted will agree with us that it derives its highest interest from the remarkable facts which it details. We subjoin an outline of the life of this youthful prodigy, not as a substitute for the book itself, but as an inducement to our readers to possess themselves of the work, as exhibiting a more ex