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safely said that no man living exerts such a mighty influence over the people at large as Mr. Beecher. Be the weather what it may, hot or cold, dry or wet, Plymouth Church is always full. He is pre-eminently the “people's preacher.” New York merchants inform us that the majority of their customers, coming from all parts of the country, speak of attending Mr. Beecher's church as a necessary part of their trip East. “Are you going to hear Beecher?” is a question invariably put to every stranger in the city. Travellers make it a point to hear him either in the pulpit or at the prayer meeting. In fact there are in his congregation every Sabbath hundreds of strangers listening to him for the first time, and he never fails to impress every one of them that he is in thorough earnest about the business of preaching. Many who enter the church with a strong prejudice against him, depart with the conviction that he is neither a sensationalist nor a heretic, but a messenger for Christ, pleading with men in Christ's stead to become reconciled to God. Some time ago a New England clergyman went to hear him for the first time in his life. He was an elderly man, considerably over seventy, and had done good work in his day as a pastor in Eastern Connecticut. He had been actively engaged in a good many revivals, and had often advocated their utility and necessity. When he heard of the Plymouth pastor he was very greatly exercised about him, lest his preaching was not quite up, as the phrase was, to the “Gospel standard.” In his solicitude he came to hear him. Entering the church at the usual hour he was not a little surprised to find it filled to overflowing, and to be compelled himself to remain in the aisle throughout the service. But no sooner had the preacher began his discourse than our New England divine felt the subtle charm and power of his impassioned oratory; and it was not long until he was so absorbed as to forget himself and give manifest expression to his emotions. He was utterly overpowered. After the sermon he met one of the members of the church, a friend of former days, and said, “I came to hear your minister.”
Well, how do you like him ?” With distinctive emphasis he replied, “He is a godly man. Don't you have a revival here all the time?”
Good, honest, earnest, faithful preaching never fails to influence the human mind. Given a pious, God-fearing, able minister, and the prosperity of the church under his charge is secured. God never withholds His blessing from such a man. If asked, What is the secret of the wonderful success of Plymouth Church ? our answer would be, God's blessing on consecrated talent. Ministers, if divinely called and sent, are organs through which the Almighty works; and it is selfevident that, humanly speaking, the quantity of work done will correspond with the quality and power of the organ employed. A man of genius, one who is endowed with ten shining talents, if enriched withal by the grace of God, is in the very nature of things destined to be more successful in the Christian ministry than a man of one talent, however pious and eager and faithful he may be. In every age and country of the world, and under every dispensation, there has always been an aristocracy of talent, a noble peerage of power and efficiency, which is not in the power of man to annihilate. It is rooted in the very constitution of humanity, and all the laws of heaven and earth recognise and respect it. Mr. Beecher is an illustrious member of this God-ordained nobility. He is in very truth a superior man, and the Lord has employed him to do superior work in his own superior way. He is neither a heretic nor a sensationalist, but a truly great man bringing to bear upon his fellow-beings all the wealth of his nature in order to influence them for righteousness and truth. He is Christ's servant, and the grand object of his life is to magnify his Master's name.
He has consecrated all his energies, all the passion and poetry of his soul, to the glorious mission of preaching the everlasting gospel
. The secret of his success, therefore, is the sanctification of his genius by the Lord Jesus Christ. Speaking on this general question at a Friday evening service some time ago, he said : "I do not underrate the gifts of judgment and experience; but it seems to me that if I might be permitted to pass a judgment upon myself, I should say that, were I to have taken away from me the sense of living by faith in the Son of God, and the feeling that all I have been, all I am, and all I expect to be, I owe to the love of Christ; if I were to have taken away from me the sense which I have of immortality in Christ, and the consciousness that day by day I am drawing nearer to Him, that I work for Him, that I hang upon Him with all my heart, and that every hope I have culminates in Himif I were to have taken away from me that sense, I believe that all other things in me would collapse. I should be like Samson, shorn of his hair and powerless. It is from Christ I believe that I derive my strength to labour successfully among you.”
Again, referring to the church itself: “It would be affectation for any of us to attempt to disguise the fact that Plymouth Church is known throughout Christendom. Your name is known in the country of the Alps as well as in our own country. It is known throughout the kingdom of Great Britain as well as throughout the State of New York. The question is, What is the secret, what are the sources, of influence and power here in this church? There have been various theories about it. One thinks it is sensationalism. Another thinks it is a fervent domestic affection. Another thinks it is something else. I believe the secret and root of your history lies in one single word, and that is CHRIST. Far as you are from perfectness, far as we all are from representing Christ truly, I believe that in the services of the pulpit, in the services of the prayer-meetings, and in the private experience of home religion, to an unusual extent, and to an unusual degree of depth, the name of Christ has been precious. Nay, the heart of Christ has been powerful among us.
And this is what I should be glad to have known abroad, namely, that a church which is thronged, and a church whose name, although it is of comparatively recent establishment, is almost co-extensive with Christendom, derives its power primarily and chiefly from the living presence of Christ in its midst.”
Mr. Beecher’s whole business is preaching. He is not in any sense a pastor. In his Western parishes he no doubt visited extensively among the people ; but since he came to Brooklyn he has been compelled to relinquish pastoral visiting altogether, and devote himself entirely to the work of preaching and lecturing. He still believes, however, in the necessity and usefulness of pastoral visitation, and would practice it himself if circumstances allowed. Here is his own testimony on this interesting subject : “The great taxation of brain under which I am continually kept in the organisation of material for my ministerial work and for my public work outside of the pulpit, uses up my strength to such an extent that I cannot be a pastor. I cannot go from house to house. If I do, I cannot preach in the pulpit. I have strength enough to fill either the office of preacher or that of pastor, but not enough to fill both in so great a congregation as this; and I have simply not attempted the pastoral work.' But, though there are many disadvantages arising from this fact, it has not been so disastrous as it would have been, if it had not been for the fidelity of the brethren of the church.
a great many good women in the church who use their religious and social influence for the benefit of those who need succour and advice and help, and there are a great many brethren in the church who have been very faithful; so that, on an average, I think there has been as much pastoral work done in this church as in any ordinary church. And in thus making up for the want of a pastor, the brethren of this church are doing just what every Congregational church ought to do. The church is pastor in the sense that one member takes care of another. And I have looked upon the labours of the brethren during the past year with great gratitude to God.” His only concern is that the work is done, and done well. If the minister has the time to do it himself, let him by all means do it; but if his congregation is large, and his brain is taxed to its utmost capacity in organising material for his sermons, let him develop the talent of his members, and teach them to interest themselves in visiting those who need visitation, and making themselves generally useful in the kingdom of their Lord Christ. In any case, it would be suicidal to the life of a church to neglect the pastoral work. This work must be done; if not by the minister himself, then by somebody else. On the other hand, there are some ministers who are qualified only for the prosecution of the work of house-to-house visitation; and it might be well for some of them to secure help in the pulpit, either from among their own members or from some foreign source, and apply themselves almost exclusively to the task of instructing their people individually and personally at their own homes.
But, it may be asked, why does Mr. Beecher run so much
about the country lecturing on moral, literary, and political subjects? Why does he not stay at home and look more thoroughly after the interests of his church? Why does he edit a paper, write for magazines, keep a farm, and make novels, when there are sick to be visited, poor to be fed, and careless souls to be spoken to within the limits of his congregation? Is not the time he gives to these things so much time wasted, as far as the work of the ministry is concerned ? Here is his own answer to these inquiries: “Well, where a man stands in the pulpit, and all the streams run away from the pulpit down to those things, the pulpit will be very shallow and very dry ; but when a man opens these streams in the neighbouring hills as so many springs, and all the streams run down into the pulpit, he will have abundant supplies. There is a great deal of difference, whether you are working in the collaterals towards the pulpit or away from the pulpit.
“You can tell very quickly. If, when a man comes back from his garden, his lectures, his journeys, and his æsthetic studies, or from his scientific coteries and séances, he finds himself less interested in his proper work; if the Sabbath is getting to be rather a burdensome day to him, and it is irksome to be preaching, he must quit one or other of those things. The stream runs from the pulpit instead of into it. But if, when a man feels he is called to be an architect of men, an artist among men, in moulding them ; when one feels that his life-power is consecrated to transforming the human soul toward the higher ideal of character for time and eternity, he looks around upon the great forces of the world and says to them, “You are my servants ;' to the clouds, “Give me what you have of power;' to the hills, ‘Bring me of your treasures ;' to all that is beautiful, • Come and put your garment upon me;' and to all that is enjoyable, Fill me with force, and give abundance to the fulness of my feeling'—if a man makes himself master of the secrets of nature that he
power and strength to do his work—then he is not carrying on three or four kinds of business at the same time. He is carrying one business, and he collects from a hundred the materials and forces by which he does it."