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withal well versed in lexiphanicism, he is at once set down and loudly eulogised in flippant periodicals as a man of genius, an original character, a superior person, a grand and nobly gifted soul, and what not; whereas, in the true sense of the term, he is not a genius at all, but a poor parrot, retailing the thoughts and sentiments of others, a mere parasite, having no life-force of his own. Genius, like the ocean, is always full, and yet just as constantly letting out. Genius is inexhaustible. The bottom of it has never been sounded. The most extensive knowledge is limited, the profoundest learning can be fathomed: but genius is, like eternity, without a horizon, boundless, immeasurable, infinite. The Divine in the human, the Eternal incarcerated in the time-prison, the Immortal enswathed in a mortal body, that is genius. It is Heaven's gift to a chosen few. It is only one in a million that is entrusted with it; nay, if a century produces one true genius, we should be both satisfied and thankful. Carlyle tells us somewhere that the Germans used to assert that all the centuries of history had given birth to but three pure geniuses-namely, Homer, Shakespeare, and Goethe. At the time when our muchlamented literary king gave publicity to that severe opinion in England, it was, doubtless, very near the truth; but we of to-day feel that the German list is incomplete, and would venture to introduce two more names--Milton and Carlyle. These five were seers, prophets, oracles, whose mission it was and is to interpret nature and humanity to their fellow
They are destined to live on to the end of time. The nature of things has endowed them with the power of endless life, and therefore they cannot die. But even these mighty giants in literature were not all symmetrical and spiritually harmonised men. Some of them were notoriously small in the realm of character. The man in whom manhood and genius were most eminently united was our own native hero, Carlyle. The substratum of his genius was manhood, character, the moral force of his heart-qualities, or, in other words still, the quantity and quality of soul-fire with which he had been endowed, and which he himself was enabled to fan into all-consuming flames. Goethe had an eye that saw into the very core and essence of things, and that
disclosed to him the sublime beauties of the universe; but his heart was never baptised with the spirit of total submission to Him who is Judge and Father of all. When we come to study his moral character, we discover at once that some essential quality was absent. While his genius was all-towering, it is undeniable that his moral nature remained to the very end undeveloped, immatured, unillumined by any holy rays from the Sun of Righteousness. Carlyle, on the contrary, was undoubtedly greatest in heart-treasures,
in soul-beauties, in the sublime grandeur of his morality. The most noble trait in his character was his radiant piety, his absolute loyalty to God, his total self-surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. The secret of his greatness was the fulness and perfectness of his manhood.
The hero of this little book is pre-eminently great in the realm of manhood. Judged simply from a literary point of view, he is not entitled to stand in the first rank with Homer, Milton, Shakespeare, Goethe, and Carlyle; but looked at from the standpoint of morality, which is after all the highest standpoint, he shines with as glowing a lustre as any man in history. As a mere genius, though a nobleman of the realm, he is neither a prince nor a duke; but as a force in society, elevating the tone of its many transactions, and exciting its interest in the supremest questions, he wields the sceptre of a king. As a genius he greatly resembles Goethe, but possesses neither the depth nor the luminousness of the oracle of Weimar. His imagination is of the Shakespearean type ; and although not gifted with Shakespeare's penetration, he is evidently inspired by infinitely higher and nobler motives. In character he may be compared to Carlyle; and though he does not exhibit the same degree of fiery intensity and glowing earnestness as the Seer of Chelsea, yet he has a clearer conception of the real needs of mankind around him, and of the best way to deal with them, than was ever granted to that great man. In his own sphere, which is by no means a small or insignificant one, Mr. Beecher is truly a mighty prince. But the secret of his greatness is to be found in the weight and power of his personality, which is intensely original. Although all his mental faculties are large, and healthy, and surpassingly vigorous, he has not attained originality by the exercise of any of them singly. He is not an original thinker, and yet he invariably thinks well and to the point. Nor is he a poet, notwithstanding the fact that thousands of his utterances are highly poetical and exquisitely musical. His superiority has its origin at the centre of his being, where the faculties all meet, and blend, and fall down in glad, solemn worship at the feet of the Divine, which has its abode there. Such superiority, such greatness, is well-nigh omnipotent in its influence on the world. It represents the highest and best in man, and that again is a reflection of the highest and best in the universe—the Almighty. Is Mr. Beecher original, then? Yes, supremely original, in that he has entered into partnership with the Most High, and is coworking with Him in the redemptive economy. In this sense, he is one of the greatest men of modern times. His manhood is of the highest order, and employed exclusively for the elevation and spiritual improvement of mankind.
In the pulpit Mr. Beecher is without a compeer. He is unquestionably the most variously-endowed of living preachers. This is the estimate which all competent judges form of him. The North British Review called him, many years ago, “the greatest of living preachers.” The Rev. Dr. Parker, in his admirable little volume, entitled, “ Ad Celerum," pronounces him “ the greatest preacher that ever appeared in the world.” “His brilliant fancy," the worthy doctor adds, “his deep knowledge of human nature, his affluent language, and the many-sidedness of his noble mind, conspire to place him at the head of all Christian speakers. And he has maintained this distinction for the long period of thirty years. Some of those who know him simply by hearsay, speak of him as the Spurgeon of America, thinking the designation a great honour and compliment. But to those who have studied him somewhat closely, he is Henry Ward Beecher, and nobody else. Both Mr. Spurgeon and Dr. Talmage are deservedly popular; but to think of comparing either of them to Mr. Beecher, or vice versa, would be the very height of absurdity. Mr. Spurgeon is eloquent, and earnest, and evangelical; but is neither a theologian nor a philosopher. Dr. Talmage is imaginative, intense, fearless, and direct; but is neither didactic nor profound. But Mr. Beecher, while eminently earnest, intense, imaginative, and eloquent, is also argumentative and philosophical. He takes up a truth and examines it minutely in all its numerous relationships and ramifications, opens it out and invites us to gaze upon it in its inner essence, and then paints it with the exquisite brush of his fine imagination till it shines before our eyes with a beauty more irresistible than that of the rainbow. Mr. Spurgeon moves within the somewhat narrow limits of an antiquated creed, and hesitates not to repeat the ideas and, at times, even the very phrases and technical terms of the divines of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Indeed he often prides himself on his unquestioning, unequivocal, and full adherence to the theological dogmas and formulæ of the past, and is always impatient with those who claim to have outgrown the fetters of the creeds. In his opinion, to renounce orthodoxy is a sure indication of spiritual declension in the heart. Hence his popularity is in nowise the reward of any doctrinal novelty : it is rather the natural and necessary consequence of the subtle magnetism of his spiritual greatness. It is not his theology that draws, but himself, or Christ as reflected in him. His large warm heart, his intense burning zeal, his transparent simple pity, his tender, yearning sympathy with sinful man- —it is these that make Mr. Spurgeon such a mighty power in the world, and that, according to some of our liberal, progressive thinkers, in spite of the narrowness of his theology. He is, in truth, a man of God. His broad and lofty manhood is wholly suffused with the Divine Spirit. Professionally, Dr. Talmage is a Calvinist, but in his sermons there is no theology whatever. He is merely a skilful word-painter and scene-describer. His discourses are made up almost exclusively of vivid and graphic pictures of the stern realities of life. He preaches with much dramatic intonation and gesture. The strongest faculty in his mind seems to be the imagination, to which he frequently gives the rein to such an extent that it runs away with him. His great mission in the world, undoubtedly, is to startle and arouse the careless and indifferent, and lead them to the Saviour. Nearly all his sermons are solemn appeals to the unconverted. He very seldom, if ever, feeds the flock of Christ with the strong meat of doctrine, which is one reason why so many Christians fail to be edified under his ministry. Contemplative piety finds neither shelter nor encouragement in the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Dr. Talmage's only message to professing Christians is this :—"The world is perishing; come, let us go to its rescue in the name of the Master.” And his whole preaching may be reduced to two little words—“Repent and believe.” As a constant revivalist, Dr. Talmage has no equal. Mr. Beecher, on the other hand, is not tied down by any creed. Theologically he is as free as the air. He is a subscriber to no Confession of Faith, nor does he conform to any in his public ministrations. He addresses men as imperfect, sinful creatures, and tells them of that Divine love and sympathy which the Gospel reveals, and invites them to avail themselves without delay of the merciful provisions at their disposal. His popularity, again, is the result of no theological novelties, for he has introduced none; nor has it been secured through any form of sensationalism, for sensationalism of all forms he has always abhorred with fiery indignation. He is popular because of the surpassing nobility, magnificence, and spirituality of his manhood, and that, according to our strictest defenders of the faith, in spite of his alleged heterodoxy. One thing is now beyond dispute, that these three men are eminently original, and as unlike one another as nature could make them. Each carries his own credentials, and has no need to walk on crutches, and does not remind us of any of his brethren.
As a literary genius Mr. Beecher is far superior to both Mr. Spurgeon and Dr. Talmage. We have no sympathy whatever with Mr. Haweis, who compares Mr. Spurgeon to the last rose of summer, whose fragrance is undoubted, but who stands blooming alone. Facts stamp that comparison as utterly untrue and incorrect. It is mere dogmatism to assert that the great Baptist preacher is the “eloquent exponent of a dying tradition." To Mr. Haweis himself orthodoxy may be nothing but a tradition ; but to Mr. Spurgeon, and those who agree with him, it is anything but a tradition: in his soul it is a living, burning conviction.