Page images
PDF
EPUB

horse-hair and stretched the fiddle-strings in the days of yore. They are asking for the music of the Bible once again. “Sing us the songs of Zion." And, thank God, the music is gradually gaining on the droning. In pulpit after pulpit the Cross of Christ is again lifted, Jesus Christ is again preached as the one hope of the world, and the disciples are glad because they see their Lord.

“He does nothing," cried Carlyle, in one of his dark moods. But even in our poor day Christ has done a great thing in England. He has united the Free Churches of the land. He has healed our sectarian strife. He has shown us the path to the higher unity. Men mocked at our divisions, when lo! Christ wrought a miracle. Without destroying a single denominational tenet, he has made the many into one; and instead of a wild tangle, we have to-day something liker Dante's “ Rose of souls " than we have ever had before.

As Congregationalists we have our own problems to face. Of course we have; we have always had them. God is good to us and gave us work, and will also give grace. Our denominational polity has helped us thus far. By it we have educated the state and helped the world, and if we are true to it, we shall again be helped and made helpful. It is a polity good for all the days, for Christ is in it, and we believe that he is about once more to show forth his glory. We believe that, like Mary, we are assisting at a new miracle, and our highest wisdom, like hers, is to do whatsoever he saith.

Christ is not dead but living, and since he lives his cause shall live also. His day shall not depart. There shall remain a Sabbathkeeping for the people of God. The Bible shall come again with great power. The angel of a new annunciation shall appear, God will overshadow his people, the power of the Most High will come upon them. The greater works shall be done. Jesus, in his body of believing people, will cast forth the devils of our civilization. He will heal the leprosy of lust. He will silence the winds of war and still the sea of confusion. He will open the eyes of science that it may see God. He shall be as a refiner's fire. He shall purify the son of Levi.

So we believe. So we wait and watch, believing. “In thee, O Lord, have we trusted. Let us never be confounded."

And to you, our brethren of the American churches, may I say that we look to you to wait and work and watch and pray with us. God, who according to the mystery of his will has left many nations as yet in darkness and silence, has drawn us into the light. He has chosen the Anglo-Saxon race. We are elect nations - selected to carry his word, proclaim his law, honor his day, and send forth the Gospel of his love. The sea divides, but the election unites us. The needs of mankind demand that we, being many, should be one in Christ Jesus, one in truth and love and service till he come.

DOES THE APPLICATION OF DOCTRINE TO PRACTICAL LIFE CONSTITUTE EFFECTIVE PREACHING? 1

REV. DAN F. BRADLEY, GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. Effective preaching is preaching that produces results. It may be assumed that good preaching is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end. “ It pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” There is no New Testament warrant for supposing that there should ever be a call for preaching which should not result in salvation. Effective preaching, then, is such preaching as shall save men, with all that may be involved in the word “save."

But“ salvation” being a very general term, it becomes necessary to consider what is involved in it. And we find it involving different things in different places. In the Pacific Islands it includes the covering of physical nakedness, the cleansing from physical uncleanness, the building of homes, the establishing of agricultural and industrial life, the creation of ethical principles, the rearrangement of the family upon the monogamic basis, the development of civil government, and the introduction of all those ways by which people become civilized, as well as the bringing of the individual soul into personal relations with Jesus Christ.

Salvation in Micronesia implies the reconstruction of savage society as well as the regeneration of the savage individual. No preaching is to be regarded as effective in Yap or Satoan which does not result in such salvation as I have described.

In China salvation means a different thing in detail though not in essence. The preacher who seeks to save a Chinaman finds a man already clothed, industrious, with well established family customs and a highly complex civil government constituting a civilization. He has also a fairly well rounded system of ethics and a more or less developed religion ; still the Chinaman needs to be saved from a civilization which is cruel, with a system of justice which is unequal, from a code of ethics which makes him a torturer of women and a murderer of infants, and from a religion which gives him a grotesque idea of God. Here again society needs reconstruction and the individual needs regeneration, and that will constitute effective preaching in China which brings about those two results.

1 Page 17.

Once more, let us take the case of Bohemia, where our preachers have gone "to save men by the foolishness of preaching.” The citizen of Austria also is a child of an ancient civilization, where industry prevails, and a highly developed code of ethics, and a religion which recognizes the one God, and Jesus Christ as his son and our Saviour. But the Bohemian is held in fetters of stark superstition. The way to God is hedged up by forms and ceremonies, and society is in bondage by reason of false interpretations of ethical truth and the perversion of religious truth, and the Bohemian needs to be made free in the social life, and free in the religious life, free to come unto God and to respond to the direct influences of God's spirit upon his conscience, and that constitutes salvation for him ; so, that will be effective preaching, which brings about that salvation.

Once more, the citizen of the State of Maine, rejoicing in an enlightened civilization, which cherishes the highest ideals, living under a government the most perfect yet known, and subscribing to ethical principles which have no superior, yet needs salvation for himself and for the society in which he lives. He needs to be saved from the selfishness which enjoys all these good gifts without gratitude, from a greed which tempts him to absorb the blessings of God without sharing them with his fellow-men, from an indifference to the spirit of God and to obligations of a loyalty to the Divine Son of man.

For he who is not contributing of his means, his time, his example, his prayer, to the building up of the kingdom of Christ in the world needs to be saved ; and that will be effective preaching which causes him to surrender himself wholly and completely to the service of Jesus Christ, to confess him in the church, and to acknowledge his responsibilities to his fellow-men. To save this man in Maine, and reconstruct whatever is defective in his social institutions, is the object of preaching here.

It will be seen that effective preaching, whether in Micronesia or China or Bohemia or Portland, will be preaching that saves the man from his sins, whether they be gross and material or spiritual and intellectual, — and saves society from its injustice and its defective organization.

This salvation will appear primarily in the regenerated man, and secondarily in the prosperity of the institutions that grow out of his regeneration. Effective preaching, then, will result, first, in holy character; second, in prosperous and growing churches and Sunday schools, in hospitals and libraries, in healthy and well governed cities, and in such other visible and tangible proofs of the activity of good men. From this point of view effective preaching is practical preaching. It is preaching with an end plainly in sight. It is preaching to accomplish a clear result, and that result is to be determined by the need of the particular human being for whose salvation the preaching is done.

Taken in those visible results that are most easy to discern, effective preaching by a pastor will result in building up strong, earnest characters in those who hear him, and in the maintenance of a vigorous church life. The church that enjoys effective preaching by a pastor will possess men and women who are sensible, liberal, devout, intelligent; and the church itself will be an active, growing, aggressive church, interested in every good word and work, and blessing the community in which it lives.

Effective preaching may be, in part, tested by reference to the Year Book. If in the proper columns reporting a given church there appears to be a reasonable number of persons uniting with it, if there is an appropriate enrolment in the Sunday school and Christian Endeavor Society, if the various blanks for benevolences are properly filled out with a suitable number of figures, and if from year to year these returns show more or less of gain and improvement, the church may be estimated to be vigorous, as a result of effective preaching.

If, on the other hand, these figures are small or entirely absent, and the proportion of home expenditures and benevolences shows too great a disparity in favor of the former, if the membership shows losses rather than gains; if the number of females in the membership exceeds the number of males in an unusual degree, then it may be assumed that the church has been suffering from preaching that is not effective. Yet these tests may not be entirely accurate, and there may be unusual circumstances which prevent the ingathering of members or the gathering up of gifts for the Master's causes in any given year. It is only as these figures are watched from year to year and from decade to decade that they may be regarded as showing the accurate test of preaching. So it is fair to assume further, that if a whole denomination scores, year after year, losses instead of gains in membership, as we have heard this afternoon, smaller receipts for benevolences, instead of larger, diminishing numbers of children in the schools, fewer men, as compared with women, - the preaching is ineffective, and the man in the pulpit is to blame. It is proper to ask, as one of our papers has recently asked, What is the matter with the minister ?

But how does doctrine affect the matter? To what extent may it affect the power of the pulpit in securing the results I have named?

To my own mind doctrine has everything to do with effective preaching, for all practical life depends upon doctrine. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he; and he thinks in his heart very much as the preacher is able to convince him or fails to convince him. I heard it said in Hartford, that the character of that city had been made by its ministers. Historically, the great preachers have been preachers of doctrine, and, what is more, each great preacher had had his own special doctrine which he emphasized.

We scarcely need to remind ourselves that Paul was a great doctrinal preacher; that the triumphs of the early church centred about doctrines; that Luther's great doctrine of justification by faith shook all Europe ; that the doctrine of free grace made John Wesley the power of God unto salvation for multitudes, and founded what is now the largest division of the church in Christendom; that Charles G. Finney made religion once more a thing of life by emphasizing better doctrine of divine sovereignty and free will in the churches of New York; and that Moody, by preaching the divine doctrines of Christendom in their simplest terms, brought about the most effective revivals of religion known in this country. Why, then, do men object to doctrinal preaching in these days, and speak as if it were an intolerable nuisance to be borne with scant patience by the ordinary hearer? Is it because of the hard-heartedness of the hearers and the unwillingness of men now to listen to the truth? Have they, with one accord, become diseased with itching ears? I think other reasons must be found for this widespread criticism and restiveness against the preaching of what are unfavorably known as “ docrinal sermons.”

« PreviousContinue »