« AnteriorContinuar »
A FEW WORDS BETWEEN THE PEW AND THE PULPIT.
1. DINTS TO PREACHERS, RESPECTFULLY OFFERED FROM THE pew. Attend to the proper use of pauses. They prevent the mixture of ideas which ought to be kept separate. They give timely repose to the ear of the listener ; their effect being similar to that of the various rests in music.
Study modulation of voice. Monotony, by tiring the auditor, may spoil the effect of a sermon.
Acquire variety of phraseology. Get out of the old ruts sometimes. Your style will be enriched ; and, in picking up fresh words, you may pick up fresh ideas.
Use illustrations freely. They have an adhesive power, and may fasten on the mind a truth which might otherwise slip off. But remember that illustrations are not proofs.
Quotations from divines, poets, &c., might be more copiously introduced, with great improvement to many sermons; and passages from the liturgy would enrich the language of prayer.
A very frequent use of God's name,-a too familiar manner of treating the most sacred subjects,-a want of diffidence in treating doctrines upon which good and wise men differ,-a confident interpretation of the Almighty's intentions in the events of providence,—these are faults sometimes found in a cluster.
The evidences of religion might be more frequently set forth. Remarkable public events might be drawn upon for useful lessons. And the pulpit might oftener teach us the common duties of life : e. g., truthfulness of language in business ; honesty in servants and tradesmen ; the duty of bankrupts to their creditors ; intellectual improvement; moderation in eating, drinking, sleeping, and talking ; good temper and politeness.
Don't attempt an eloquence of style without an eloquence of ideas. This will expose you to ridicule.
Dr. Hugh Blair's “ Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres,” which were once highly popular, are still worthy of regard. The following brief extracts are offered for consideration :
" The first care of all such as wish either to write with reputation, or to speak in public so as to command attention, must be to extend their knowledge ; to lay in a rich store of ideas relating to those subjects of which the occasions of life may call them to discourse or write."
"Everyone who has the slightest acquaintance with composition knows that when he expresses himself ill on any subject,—when his arrangement is loose, and his sentences become feeble,—the defects of his style can, on almost every occasion, be traced back to his indistinct conception of the subject : so close is the connexion between thoughts and the words in which they are clothed.”
“ Nothing can be more contemptible than that tinsel splendour of language which some writers perpetually affect. It were well if this could
be ascribed to the real overflowing of a rich imagination. We should then have something to amuse us at least, if we found little to instruct us. But the worst is, that, with these frothy writers, it is a luxuriancy of words, not of fancy. It has escaped them altogether, that sobriety in ornament is one great secret for rendering it pleasing ; and that, without a foundation of good sense and solid thought, the most florid style is but a childish imposition on the public."
The following five rules are given, in substance, by the same author :1. Attend to the unity of a sermon. 2. Sermons are always the more striking, and commonly the more useful, the more precise and particular the subject of them is. 3. Never try to say all that can be said upon a subject. 4. Study, above all things, to render your instructions interesting to the hearers. 5. Let me add a caution against taking the model of preaching from particular fashions that chance to be in vogue. Lastly. Take these suggestions in good part.
II. REPLY, FROM THE PULPIT. Thanks to our friendly critic for his counsels. Several of them are, beyond question, valuable. The point is, however, to bring them home to the right quarter. Let the faults of a speaker be affectionately shown him, in private ; and the “ excellent oil” will neither break the head nor wound the heart. Young ministers, at least, may derive benefit from strictures offered by wise and good men.
The “hints” from the pew will, no doubt, be well received,—that is, both respectfully and cautiously. A word or two here for the defendant. In aiming at variety of style, he must consider what is suitable for the pulpit ; and herein, as in yet graver respects, must “ speak as the oracles of God.” While his themes are grander than those of the senator or the barrister, there is obvious reason why his eloquence should be chaster, and his illustrations more select. The value of figurative speech depends on its fitness either to throw new light on the subject, or to engrave it on the memory. But, however excellent, it should not be too copiously used. The eye
is dazzled by a succession of brilliancies, and turns to the soft green for repose. As to quotations, it seems most proper to ask that they be few and brief, but of surpassing quality. Otherwise, why admit them at all ? A single line of poetry, which aptly expresses what you mean, and in terms better than you can command, is a beauty in discourse ; but a lengthened recitation comes better from a schoolboy than from a preacher.-In dealing with “ evidences,” it would be most unwise to set forth and magnify objections to our most holy faith. This would serve but to give them currency, or to trouble minds which are hitherto at rest. Nor does any plea of logical fairness demand that such an advantage should be given to the infidel : inasmuch as a hundred objections do not set aside positive proof already in hand. The argument is, wholly, on the side of Christianity. Our shelves are laden with the works of great apologists, from Justin Martyr to Lardner and Butler, Paley and Watson; and from these to a host
of our contemporaries. But, let it be well marked, the great writers on evidences are unanswered. This being so, let us not talk in the pulpit, or out of it, as if nothing were settled. Let not every one be crying up Colenso or any other sceptic. But let us insinuate the answer to cavils that may be current, and provide, by the way, means for their refutation.Finally. The great aim must be, not merely to interest an audience, but to " persuade men,” to win souls, and build up the church. Dr. Blair's rules need to be supplemented. “ The unity of a sermon” is, doubtless, beautiful; but there is a unity of aim and purpose far more important. While, however, we plead for a constant preaching of Christ, we do not excuse any dull repetition of commonplaces. The old truth is what we want, but in new and powerful exposition.
One word more to certain occupants of the pew, who differ widely from our correspondent.—Don't sit there as censors. Don't indulge remarks at home on the preacher's manner, voice, language. Don't help Satan to do his work, by drawing off attention from that word which is “ able to save the soul.” Pray, pray always, that “ both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”
MOORISH PILGRIMS TO MECCA. From dawn to sunset, (writes Dr. Hanna, in the “ North British,” No. lxxviii.,) large boat-loads of the Hadji were poured on board, with their bars of millet, cracked wheat, and other grain, their little cooking-stoves and charcoal, and their water-bags, which often burst as they were chucked on deck: for the embarkation was roughly managed, and little ceremony observed in dealing with the goods and chattels of the pilgrims. Uttered in a language which none of the sailors understood, their directions, remonstrances, complaints, were of course unheeded. In vain they pointed, gesticulated, screamed out in most frantic style, as they and their goods were parted,—the latter pitched in a whirlpool of confusion on the deck. One of the mates, stick in hand, stood on the gangway to receive the tickets, and to seize and appropriate, at the same time, all guns, pistols, knives, &c., which their owners could not raanage to conceal. A very wise precaution We felt this to be, as we looked upon the state of passionate frenzy into which the poor creatures were driven as they were searching for their lost goods, and quarrelling about their places on the deck, which they were to take up as best they could. It was no fault of the sailors that such rough handling had to be given. So great a multitude could not otherwise have been embarked in so short a time. In the course of twelve hours, five hundred of them, with all their travelling gear, were hauled up the ship's sides, and thrown promiscuously upon the deck.
On returning to the “ Araxes,” we found the work of embarkation nearly completed; the deck and forecastle so densely packed that the only way of communication with the forward part of the ship was by the bridge or
plank gang way; and even upon it, when it broadened out near the forecastle, a small colony of Jews, consisting of two or three families, on their way, like ourselves, to Jerusalem, had established themselves, -kept thus apart from the Mohammedans below,—who had now squatted down in their oriental fashion, each man not under his own vine, but on the top of his own baggage. And nothing could be more striking than the quickness and completeness of the transition from the fierce excitement, the tumult of tempestuous passions, which reigned upon the deck while the men were struggling for their places, into the stillness of that profound torpor,-that sluggish and apparently undisturbable repose into which they settled down, -as dull and lifeless a mass of humanity as eye ever rested on. The great majority of them, coming from the interior of the country, had never been at sea; it was a desperate, and, to their faith, somewhat doubtful risk that they were running in committing themselves to the deep; but it was the will of Allah, and it was done. There they were to meet their fate, and a sad enough one that fate seemed about to be.
The night came on so boisterous that the captain had some difficulty in getting the ship safe out of the roadstead; and then, when she got into the open sea, the skies poured down torrents of rain ; and, as the gale rose, the burdened vessel plunged among the waves, shipping many heavy seas. Exposed, without any sort of protection, to the pelting of this pitiless storm, the poor creatures upon deck were drenched and soaked, their goods and provisions all thus damaged, many of them destroyed. As one sea heavier than the rest broke over the ship, and poured its tons of water on the deck, setting all who lay on the lee scuppers literally afloat, one loud and wild cry ran from the frightened multitude—a cry to Allah for help. The help came in the good ship making her way through all the rough elements, and carrying us safely into Gibraltar.
We left Gibraltar on Friday, March 13th, and all went well with us till Sunday afternoon, when the wind rose till at last it blew a whole gale. Many were the anxious visits to the barometer; it was still falling. Again, during the fitful and fearful gusts of the tempest, the aneroid began to vibrate visibly. The darkness was most appalling. Bright sheet-lightning astern, ahead, and on the beam, for a moment lit up the horizon; then back into that great darkness we were plunged. The gale increased. Above its howling rose the piteous cries of the Hadji, as the big seas broke over them. Everyone, sailors and passengers, were solemnized.
Our captain grew anxious; the lives of so many human beings were at stake. He knew, as many of us did, that if the ship broached to, or was pooped, hundreds of these poor pilgrims would be plunged into the deep, and on the ship would drive, while they were left to sink into the dark waters. Captain Jenkins, humane as he was intelligent, felt the responsibility, and calmly and resolutely did all that could be done. The long hours of that terrible night wore through, and with the dawn the gale subsided. Daylight showed the deck where the Hadji lay,-worn out and silent now, drenched with rain and salt water,-huddled together like heaps of wet and dirty flannel
rags. It was difficult to say what was a human being, and what a bale of goods. One poor fellow sat upon his saturated mat-bag of millet as upon an island, the water washing around him that the ship had taken in. Seeing himself noticed, he pointed piteously with both hands to the ruin of his earthly goods, gave a look of unutterable despair, drew the hood of his bernouse over his face, and resigned himself to his fate.
It is a point of duty with these pilgrims to carry no change of raiment with them. It can easily be imagined into what condition their unchauged and unwashed garments pass. But add to this the filth accumulated by five hundred of such creatures, men, women, and children, (for there were some of all ages,) kept closely packed for a fortnight together, with nothing provided but an extemporized stage of planks projecting from the vessel's side, upon which few landsmen would venture. Had the weather been fair, and calm, and warm, the nuisance of a deck so occupied must have become absolutely unbearable. Happily, as no evil is unmixed with good, the constant wash of the water carried away much of the filth, and prevented perhaps a still greater evil—the breaking out of infectious disease. Even as it was, we made a very narrow escape in this respect. We had often visited the sinall platform, on a level with the bridge on which the Jewish families were located. The infant of one of these families was seized with an alarming illness. Its little eyes were soon closed up; its swollen face became featureless; red spots covered its body; pustules appeared ; and small-pox at last and unmistakably revealed itself. We had a doctor among our cabin passengers, and every remedy that was at hand was tried, but tried in vain. True to the maternal instinct, the mother hugged what was fast becoming a mass of corruption closer and still closer to her bosom. The infant died. The mother who held that dead infant in her arms was surrounded by other mothers with their children in close and continual contact. The danger of infection was imminent. It was necessary that the child should be taken from the mother, and buried without delay. She did not oppose; but it was truly affecting to see her wailing and rocking in Jewish fashion in her bitter grief. With gentle hands the sailors took the little body, wound it in a piece of canvas, put a piece of iron in the bundle to make it sink, and then slid it upon a plank over the bow into the deep.
This happened the day before our arrival at Malta. No one told the captain of it. If known to hiin, he was bound to report it at the next port; and his doing so would put the vessel into quarantine, and detain her for many days. The former practice was for the authorities themselves at each port to count the number of the pilgrims, and in this way detect any death. This practice has been given up, and in its stead the responsibility is thrown upon the captain, who is called upon, under heavy penalty in case of deception, to declare what sickness or death has taken place. It is very unfair to subject the captains engaged in this disagreeable and inhuman traffic to the temptation to which they are thus exposed. They know the serious check to which the trade would be exposed, were all the sicknesses and deaths which actually occur reported. The sailors and the passengers know