Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of Kentucky, crowded the church at an early hour. They listened with great attention, to a discourse of about an hour and a quarter in length, as nearly as I can judge. To our New England readers this may seem a long sermon, but it is quite an usual thing for a western audience to listen with interest for two or three hours. No preacher, at all distinguished, ever satisfies himself with less than an hour. The western people have a real taste for oratory, and willingly listen to long harangues. And besides, there is in western speakers, a conversational ease of delivery, an absence of the pulpit monotone, a constant variety of intonation and emphasis, an exciting mode of statement and illustration, which keep the attention from flagging. There are earnestness and simplicity; and it is effectual oratory, for it engages and interests. Of this the speaker is sure; for he knows his audience would not scruple to get up and go out of the house, and leave him to talk to the walls, if he did not interest them.

I think that in this respect the western pulpit manner is much nearer the truth than the eastern. Yet a western speaker would probably be thought not reverential enough, by most New England Congregationalists. As an illustration of this, let me record the following anecdote. I was to speak one evening last summer, to a society in the vicinity of Boston. I endeavored to adopt, as far as I was able, the western natural conversational manner. After the service, while going home, I chanced to overhear the following criticism. “How did you like the preacher tonight?” “Not very well; I thought his voice was too uneven.” The good old lady missed the accustomed monotone. I was pleased with her remark, for I knew I had succeeded in my endeavor, and I was sure that, whatever criticism they might afterward make on my delivery, it had for the time the effect of interesting them in what I said, which was all I wanted.

I have heard several of the distinguished western pulpit speakers, and on the whole, I liked Mr. Campbell's manner as well if not better than that of any of them. Many are more imaginative and sublime in their language; he keeps a pretty even flight in this respect, never soaring very high. Many excel him in the inflections and management of voice, and gracefulness of gesture. He stands upright, his head a little back, his right hand leaning on a cane, with which he occasionally gives an emphatic rap on the floor; but most of his gestures are made with his left hand. The great excellence however of Campbell's delivery, consists in the feeling which it inspires, of his manly independence, entire conviction of the truth of what

he says, and entire understanding of his whole subject. He is plain, forcible, and self-possessed; he is not hurried away by his words or by his thoughts, but has the command of both.

This comprehensive view of his subject, enables him to bring out, in an emphatic way, the leading points. It is a fault of western speakers generally, to have no clear train and sequence of ideas, but to hurry backwards and forwards, round and round the field, showing great fleetness and power, but making no progress. Herein Campbell is superior. He has a view of his whole subject, while he is laying it down in parts. I have heard distinguished speakers divide their orations into two or three heads, and say exactly the same things under each of them.

In the present discourse, however, he introduced so many important topics which he had no time to dwell upon, and which came in incidentally, that it is not easy to give an accurate account of its contents. I will however recount the most important of the ideas.

His subject being Christian Union, he took the passage at the commencement of the fourth chapter of Ephesians, as the basis of his remarks. He first made some sound and important observations, on the right way of reading scripture; that it was doing it injustice to read it by piecemeal; that the Bible should be read like other books, with the use of our reason. He remarked that there was one point to each epistle, and to understand it, we must find what that point was.

He then proceeded, after some other remarks, to develop his great idea—the Union of Christians. He spoke of the evils of disunion, party spirit, sectarian rancor. He quoted our Saviour's declaration, that a house divided against itself could not stand. He said that considering the dissensions in the Christian church, it would have fallen long ago, were it not founded on a rock. But that by being divided it is shorn of its power, and can never convert the world. Your divisions, your sectarianism, said he, are producing infidelity, in a swelling flood. You must stop this warfare. I know what I say, I speak from personal knowledge, when I declare that there is a strong under-current of infidelity in all our churches. I know there is a great show of zeal, great bustle and activity; it is an age of missions and revivals; but there is not the power of godliness.

(These remarks reminded me and others very strongly of some, almost verbally the same, made by Dr. Wylie, of Indiana, in the First Presbyterian church, in this place, some time since. This shows that men of all parties are beginning to find out that sectarianism will not answer, and that there must be a reform.)

If I rightly understood him, he then went on to show the grounds of Christian Union, in the following manner. All Christians, who have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, should be united in spirit and fellowship. Now they all have one Lord, one faith, and one baptism; for even the quakers have a spiritual baptism or immersion. (These were his words.) And all Christians have the same faith. For what is faith? A belief of facts. The Bible is all facts, from beginning to end; there are no speculations or opinions in it. The creeds begin, *There is one God, immutable, infinite, without parts,” &c. This no one can understand. But the Bible begins, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And so it goes through, all facts. And I think it a proof that the creed which goes by the name of the Apostle's creed, is an ancient one, that it contains only facts, in which all Christians agree. How does faith operate? In this way. First, there must be something done; then a report of what has been done; then a belief of that report; and feelings and conduct follow from that belief. Suppose a mother receives a letter giving her an account of the dangerous illness of her son. She breaks it open and is exceedingly agitated. First came the fact, then a report of it; then a belief of that report; and then her heart was moved. Why? Because she had true faith.

If I was to divide the Bible anew into chapters, he continued, I should divide it into three: one of faith; one of piety; and one of morality. But now people have gone on and added two more chapters to it; one of opinions, and one of traditions. Now I have given you my definition of faith, I will give you my idea of opinion. Opinion is not knowledge; opinion is not faith; but merely speculation about facts not known or believed. I know I am standing here. I believe there is such a place as St. Petersburg; I do not know it; I believe it on the testimony of others. I think Saturn is inhabited. I do not know it; I have never been there. I do not believe it; no one has ever come from there to tell me. But it is my opinion drawn from speculation. Now I have my opinions on religious subjects as well as on other subjects. But they are my private property; no one has a right to take them from me, neither have I a right to impose them on any one as matters of faith. Then for traditions; they are simply the opinions of our fathers, consecrated and embalmed in creeds and symbols. These have been added to the Bible, and tend to make the word of God of none effect. But we are not so much to blame for this, as those from whom we received them. We are the creatures of creeds, not their authors. They made us, we did not make them.

Now we must, all of us, if we wish for union, give up our opinions and traditions. We must give up our episcopalianism, and our presbyterianism, and our methodism, our trinitarianism, our unitarianism, our baptistism too. (I understood him to say this, which is intelligible enough.) I am willing to compromise all my opinions and speculations, and demand the same of others. But some things I cannot compromise. I cannot compromise the seven unities mentioned by St. Paul, in the text. Something is due to peace, something also to truth.

I have thus endeavored to give a faithful view of the substance of Mr. Campbell's sermon. I do not know that I have not mistaken some parts, but I think the above statement in the main accurate. He asked me, after he had finished, whether he had gone too far for me. I told him no. I could agree to all he said, with my whole heart. It strikes me that all this ground, is exactly what Unitarians have always taken, plead, and prayed for. Another question comes, however: We are agreed in general principles; are we consistent in carrying them out in detail? There is an immense number of Christians who would agree with this view of essentials and unessentials. The great difficulty, after all, consists in applying it to points in dispute, to find out where controversy turns round an axis of facts, and where it floats on an element of opinion. To this question I will again recur, in a comparison of Campbellism and Unitarianism. Louisville, Ky.

J. F. c.

Art. IX.--WESTERN POETRY.–No. I. Under this head we intend, as occasion may serve, to notice such as have sung or may sing, in or of, this Western land. It ought to be one object of a western journal to encourage western literature. This is best done, by bringing those literary efforts which are worthy of notice, before the eye of the public, and by giving honor where honor is due, without waiting, till the critics of some distant region have found out that there is intellectual ability among us, before we utter words of sympathy and encouragement. This, in our limited sphere, and in subordination to the main object of our work, we mean to do.

In a new country, from the necessity of the case, there are few whose time is entirely devoted to literary pursuits. Least of all are those found, who can give up their time and hearts to poetry. Men among us are yet living, not writing poems. The description of what has been doing for the last fifty years—the common realities of life-will make the poetry of a century hence. What was Boone's life, from the time that he first dreamed of this great valley, and onward, as he scaled the mountain barrier of the West, and struggled with its savage inhabitants, till crowded by the thickening smokes of emigrants, he sought solitude and a free range beyond the Mississippi, -what was his life but a poem? What but a poem, is the life of the delicate woman, who leaves her home a thousand miles behind, and follows her husband into the wilderness-her sad memories soothed by a fonder loveher children growing up around her, in her hermit home-long struggles upborn by affection and hope, and religious trust—the sickness of those most dear to her-and the graves of her children dug by their father's hands,—what is her life but a poem? Nay; what but a poem has been the growth of this great inland empire, growing up-silentlyswiftly—while men slept-amid the shadows of the wilderness-like the coral walls of the Indian seas, expanding, rising to the ocean's surface—the basis of a continent?

The poems that have appeared in the West, have without exception, so far as we know, been the productions of men engaged in other pursuits-accidental outbreathings--written by the wayside, as they have paused for a moment on their dusty and busy journey. Yet among writings thus produced, there is many a specimen of purest poetry, not elaborate perhaps, or chiselled to the nail, yet containing faithful descriptions of nature, and outbursts of natural and noble feeling, which they who care for our literature will not willingly let perish from remembrance.

The last volume of western poetry that has fallen in our way, is by Wm. D. Gallagher.* His name is, we believe, at no distant day to hold a conspicuous rank in the estimation of his countrymen. The longest poem in the volume, is a tale of crime, remorse, and death. We quote from it as we shall from the writings of others, not for the purpose of criticism,—(of what peculiar utility, we would ask, is criticism to a poet, who always writes best, when he writes out his own conceptions and emotions, utterly forgetful that there was

* Erato, No. 1.

« AnteriorContinuar »