« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ruddy beams of the night, and from the Atlantic wave clear across with eagle flight to the Pacific, that banner shall float, meaning all the liberty which it has ever meant. From the North, where snows and mountain ice stand solitary, clear to the glowing Tropics and the Gulf, that banner that has hitherto waved shall wave and wave for ever-every star, every band, every thread and fold significant of liberty.” But here he was interrupted by the most clamorous applause ever heard. The people were compelled to give vent in some way to their overflowing irresistible enthusiasm. Why, under the circumstances, it would have been utterly impossible for patriotic God-fearing persons to control themselves. And yet, because on such an occasion as that, under the spell of the greatest orator of the age, an assembly of Christian people did not refrain from demonstrations of applause, Plymouth Church is pronounced as a church that has no regard either for the sanctity of the Sabbath day or for the sacredness of the house of God. Is stolid indifference to the fate of a whole tribe of human beings a sign of piety? Does Christianity condemn patriotism, and the expression of it on proper occasions ? God forbid. It teaches us to be a hundred-fold more patriotic than we otherwise could be, and it encourages the most enthusiastic and demonstrative expression of patriotism when circumstances require.
We do not say this to justify applause in churches. We do not believe in it. Neither would we condemn it, under peculiar circumstances. It has been in the church from the beginning, but always a source of trouble and annoyance to those who were the objects of it. It existed in the time of Chrysostom, though he severely censured it. We find him saying: “Of what avail to me is this applause and tumult? One thing only I require of you—that you prove to me your approbation and obedience by your works. That will be praise for me-gain for yourselves; that will be to me a greater honour than the imperial crown.
I desire not your applause and clamour. I have but one wish—that you hear me with calmness and attention, and that ye practice my precepts." How similar in tone are these words of Mr. Beecher: “I know it is hard for men that are full of feeling
not to give expression to it; but excuse me if I request you to refrain from demonstrations of applause while I am speaking. It is not because I think Sunday too good a day, nor the church too holy a place for patriotic Christian men to express their feelings at such a time as this and in behalf of such sentiments, but because by too frequent repetition applause becomes stale and common, that I make this request. Besides, outward expression is not our way. We are rather of a silent stock. We let our feelings work inwardly, so that they may have deeper channels and fuller floods."
We have never heard applause of any kind, nor even laughter, in Plymouth Church. Mr. Beecher does not indulge in so many humorous remarks during these years as he did fifteen and twenty years ago. It would have been a sin, however, not to laugh under such conditions as the following. In order to illustrate the difference between an established character and occasional impulse, he went through a supposed dialogue, as follows: "A friend says to me, “What a selfish, hard, miserly man Mr. So-and-So is! He never does a generous act. I reply, 'Are you not mistaken ? Certainly you are, for I heard the other day of his giving a barrel of flour to a poor widow with six children.' "Yes, yes (with sceptical inflection), that may be so, but I reckon it's the first
, spark seen out of that man's chimney for twenty years.' Or, to take another illustration, he would not be a saint who could control his risibles under the following apt remark: “A rich man ought to be like a fire engine, which sucks in at one end and spurts out at the other (with accompanying upward gesture, dramatising the operation), putting out the fire of hell which the devil is always kindling. Such remarks are as natural to him as breathing, and he would be doing violence to his own nature not to utter them. Humour plays on his lips and dances in his eyes ; and he is oftentimes “humorous by feature or tone, when he is entirely unaware of it.”
Plymouth Church has its faults and shortcomings like all other churches, no doubt; but we have neither the time nor the inclination to dwell upon them. It is far more profitable and pleasant to think of its numerous merits, which no one with open eyes can fail to see. Within its sacred walls we
have been blessed as we have been nowhere else, and never shall we be able to forget it. Its minister, its members, known and unknown, its very walls are dear to our heart; and from the depth of our soul we pray, in the words of the Psalmist, “Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces."
HERE is a general impression abroad in the world that
He is a suspected man. Some maintain that he is an out-andout heretic, believing in absolutely nothing, having cast overboard all the fundamental, cardinal doctrines of the gospel ; others, that he is astray on one or two points only, while in the main perfectly sound ; and others still, that he is simply & superior teacher of ethics, an excellent, incomparable guide in the realm of morals, but not an evangelical preacher at all. Mr. Spurgeon and Dr. Talmage are known to be staunch believers in the old-style Calvinism, and they are not afraid to preach it to crowded audiences; but Mr. Beecher is supposed to be neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian, but an indefinite, nebulous, mystic, unreliable, dangerous, and mis. leading rhetorician. We are told that he holds all theologies in utter contempt, and speaks of theological systems with the tongue of a cynic. It is not our intention to allege that he is in thorough harmony with any existing school of belief; but we do hope to be able to convince our readers that hitherto he has been sadly misunderstood, and shamefully misrepresented by overwhelming majorities, both in England and America. Such has been the fate, alas ! of almost every superior man in every age and every country. Ignorance and prejudice are usually at the root of this mischief. When
we ask a friend, “What do you think of Mr. Beecher?” the answer generally is, “Oh, he is an able man, an oratorical star of the first magnitude; but then he is not orthodox." But should we press our friend to specify wherein he is heterodox, he might find it a somewhat difficult task to do so.
Mr. Beecher does not despise theology, as such. “I have often indulged myself,” he says, “in words that would seem to undervalue theologians; but you know I do not mean it. I profess to be a theologian myself; my father was a theologian ; my brothers are all theologians; and so are many men whom I revere, and who are the brightest lights of genius, I think, that have ever shone in the world. I believe in theologians, and yet I think it is perfectly fair to make game of them. I do not think there is anything in this world, whether it be man, or that which is beneath man, that is not legitimate food for innocent, unvicious fun; and if it should cast a ray of light on the truth, and alleviate the tediousness of a lecture now and then, to have a slant at theologians, why, I think they can stand it. It will not hurt them, and it may amuse us.
So let me speak freelythe more so, because I affirm that it is indispensable for every man who is to do a considerable religious work during a long period, or with any degree of self-consistency, to be a theologian. He must have method ; there must be a sequence of ideas in his thought. And if the work runs long enough and far enough, and embraces many things, there must be a system of applying means to ends, there must be a knowledge of instruments. These things are theology, in a sense—a part of it, at any rate.” In the same connection he says that “philosophising follows of necessity after culture, and is one of the fruits of intelligence," so that to merely know facts is to be no higher than an animal. He does not believe in a great many theological methods and systems which have prevailed in different ages, , but he does not despise them. He is conscious, indeed, that they have been of great service in helping to elucidate the truths of the Bible, and in inducing men to meditate upon the sublime and glorious principles of Revelation.
But, then, what does he mean when, in a burst of indignation, he exclaims, "Away with these theological systems,