« AnteriorContinuar »
In former ages and generations doubtless men have needed to come in from the field and factory, store and street, and, coming together in one spot, have sought to cleanse the grime from their garments, to sharpen the spiritual faculties, to cast out selfishness,. to test the deeds of life by Christ's principles, just as an artist, when his eye is jaded, tests the blue tint by the sapphire or the red by the ruby. But in these days many believe that church-going is no longer obligatory; that sermons have lost their juice and freshness, and, having gone to church once in a month, they feel that they have placed the Almighty under everlasting obligations. Gone now a certain sanctity of the Sabbath, a certain reverence for the church, a certain refinement of conscience, a certain clarity and purity of moral judgment. Gone, also, the old era when the beggar was unknown in the little Christian community, when children and youth grew up without ever having beheld a drunkard, a thief, or a murderer, and when the door of the house or the granary had no lock or bar. Now one-half of the community never crosses the threshold of a church, either Catholic or Protestant. Multitudes, also, decline the moral obligations, and there has come a time when the poorhouse overflows, when the jails are full, when judges must work day and night to overtake the criminals.
Well has a great editor just said that this republic needs tools and culture less than it needs a revival of the moral imperative. From the view point of the publicist, this writer expresses the wish that for a time this nation might have two Sundays a week, for toning up its jaded moral sense. A great multitude of our people have laid the ten commandments on the table by a two-thirds majority. Indeed, they seem to have written and revised the old commandments so that they now read: Thou shalt have gods of self and ease and pleasure before ship thine own imaginations as to houses and goods and
me; thou shalt wor
business, and bow down and serve them; thou shalt remember the Sabbath day, to see to it that all its hours are given to sloth and lounging and stuffing the body with rich foods, leaving the children of sorrow and ignorance to perish in their sodden misfortune; thou shalt kill and slay men by doing as little as possible thyself, and squeezing as much as possible out of others. Thou shalt look upon loveliness in womanhood to soil it with impurity. Thou shalt steal daily, the employer from the servant, and the servant from his employer, and the devil take the hindmost. Thou shalt get thy livelihood by weaving a great web of falsehoods and sheathing thyself in lies. Thou shalt covet thy neighbor's house to possess it for thyself; thou shalt covet his office and his farm, his goods and his fame, and everything that is his. And to crown all these laws, the devil has added a new commandment-Thou shalt hate thy brother as thou dost hate thyself..
Into this piteous lot have multitudes come. And there is restlessness in the heart, unhappiness in the home, hate in the task, anarchy in the street, whose end is chaos, destruction, and death. Plato has a pre-Christian statement as to the function of preaching, and its relation to social happiness and progress. "The things that destroy us are injustice, insolence, and foolish thoughts; and the things that save us are justice, self-command, and true thought, which things dwell in the living powers of God. Wherefore our battle is immortal. The angels and God fight with us as teachers, and we are their possessions."
In his Yale address ex-President White lamented that young men were turning from the learned professions to enter trade and commerce. Materialism, he thought, was an evil spirit that had given its cup of sorcery to youth, and beguiled them from the paths of noble scholarship and the intellectual life. Gone the poets Longfellow, Lowell, Bryant, Whittier. Gone the historians Bancroft, Motley,
Prescott. Gone the great orators and statesmen. Gone also the era when young men like Channing and Starr King, Swing and Beecher and Brooks, entered the ministry. And, remembering that in New England the clergymen have founded the academies and colleges, and that in scores of families like the Emersons there had been seven generations of clergymen who had wrought in the pulpit, the lecture-hall, or taken up the pen of author or editor, the great educator predicted disaster would befall our eager American society. But not the emoluments of commerce alone explain the drift of young men away from the ministry. The ministry is not an easy life. No profession makes demands so numerous or so stern upon nerve and brain, upon mind and heart. In former times, when books were scarce, religious newspapers unknown, and knowledge was not universal, preaching was not a difficult task, and it was easily possible for a clergyman to preach a sermon three hours long in the morning and repeat it at night without the congregation recognizing it. Now all the hearers have books and libraries, and the pew of to-day is wiser than the pulpit of yesterday. The time has come when the preacher must be a universal scholar. He must make himself an expert in social reform; master the facts as to illiteracy, vice, and crime; study the tenement-house question; all social movements in connection with settlements and methods of Christian work. He must carry his studies into physiology and hygiene to note how low and abnormal physical conditions affect the conscience and the spiritual state.
Giving up the theological reading with which the clergymen of a former generation have made the people acquainted, he must study history, politics, the rise of law, and free institutions, the movements of art, the history of philosophy, and, above all else, no facts in connection with science must be permitted to escape his notice. For his illustrations he must draw from the sciences of stars and
stones and animals and plants. To keep step with his work he must read each month some review that deals with the general plans, like the Forum or the North American Review, the review upon finance, upon reform, upon labor, upon education, upon his own special problems, not forgetting the foreign quarterlies and magazines. In addition to all this there will be at least a hundred volumes each year that he must go through thoroughly, if possible, or hurriedly if crowded. There are also public duties and demands. To-day he enters a home in which some woman, with little children clinging to her dress and crying bitterly, stands beside a young father, now dying. He returns home to find some youth, the child of poverty and orphanage, but of genius also, who needs help and assistance. When evening falls there comes the intellectual stress and task, with a thousand duties for which preparation must be made.
Immeasurable the demands upon nerve and brain. Now and then one arises who is called to the ministry by his distant ancestors, whose father loved moral themes, and had a vision and the outlook upon the realm invisible, whose mother had enthusiasm, imagination, and moral sentiment-gateways, these, through which God's angels come trooping-and father and mother, through heredity, call the child to the ministry. For such a one teaching is automatic and preaching is instinctive, and the work itself is medicinal and recuperative. But even upon these men like Robertson and Channing and Bushnell, the mere strain of delivery is such as to send them home from the pulpit in the state of nervous collapse from which they do not recover until Tuesday or Wednesday. With many the recoil dismounts the cannon. In these days no man would be equal to the difficulties of the ministry, were it not for the happiest of the professions bringing its own rewards, carrying medicine to cure its exhaustions.
No other occupation or profession offers such liberty and personal freedom. The politician is a thread caught in the texture of his party and has little freedom. The merchant must buy and sell what the people want, and must serve them. The lawyer must move in the groove digged by the mistake or sin of his client, while the clergyman is freely permitted to teach the great eternal principles of God, and he steers by the stars. Great is the power of the press. But the press writer has no personal contact with the reader; must report things evil often as well as good. Great is the power of the law. But law is litigious, and the jurist must struggle oftentimes for weeks or months to settle some quarrel or correct some injustice, dealing, as Webster said, with negatives oftentimes. Great is the power of the physician. But unfortunately, in influencing his patient, his personality must first of all work upon an abnormal condition, and when the patient is restored to health and ready to receive the physician's personality, his task is done. But this advantage adheres in the ministry. It emphasizes the great positive moralities, it handles the most powerful stimulants the world has ever knowneternal truths. It plies men with divine inspirations. It deals with the greatest themes life holds-God, Christ, conscience, reason, sin, salvation, culture, character, duty, immortal destiny. When all other arts have been secured, it teaches the art of right living. When all other sciences have been mastered, it teaches the home, the market, and the forum. It puts its stamp, not into wood that will rot, not into iron that will rust, not into colors that will fade, but into the minds and hearts that are immortal. Multiply the honors and emoluments of the other occupations one hundredfold and they need them all to compensate for the happiness and opportunity of the Christian ministry, seeking to make the church a college for the ignorant, a hospital for hurt hearts, an armory from
science of conduct at