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class car, while we are riding to heaven in the first-class. We have given them the first, and take our chances in the second.
“Now, where you organise disinterestedly in this way, and give the gospel, not in its lean, meagre development, in its poverty and wretchedness; where you give the gospel in its inflorescence, in that state in which it has had time to root and grow and blossom; where you embody the gospel in all its brightness and beauty, as the source of all that is joyous in your own house-take that down to them ; send with it your best children, your ripest and sweetest, your most disinterested. Let these make themselves at home with the poor, and be to them, week by week, their counsellors and advisers.
“Come in with me on Friday afternoon, which is the afternoon for prayer among the women and for telling of their wants. It is enough to melt a heart of stone. That little saintly woman that presides there, whose name I will not mention, is to them, as it were, what the Virgin Mary is to the more devout and intelligent Catholics. Her ears are open to all their troubles. If one has a sick child or a sick husband, if one has had a death in the family, if a husband has been abusive, if there is discouragement, if the boys have turned out badly—whatever their troubles, it is their privilege to come there on Friday afternoon and make known all their wants. This woman sympathises with them, counsels them, comforts them. And this work is going on all the time, from year's end to year's end.
There is no vacation in that school. Our Home School has a vacation, because our scholars are all children of prosperous parents ; but poverty knows no vacation. The grief and sorrow that come in the lower walks of life know no intermission. We always keep open this house of refuge, to which all the poor and the needy come. I tell you, it keeps the hearts of my people very soft and sweet. There is a revival feeling in the church all the time, coming very largely from the effects of our mission work.”
It would be quite easy to go on, to any length, with this enumeration of the good qualities of Plymouth Church, but enough has been said already to show that it is a church of great earnestness, vigour, and intensity in the discharge of
its various Christian duties. Its dominant virtue is benevolence. Its creed might be reduced to one word-CHRIST. It is continually sacrificing itself for the glory of God and the welfare of mankind. Its liberality is proverbial. Its charities are carried on the wings of the wind to all parts of the world. Its sympathies flow in all directions. For instance, at the time of the great Chicago fire in 1871, Mr. Beecher preached a characteristic sermon, and a collection was taken for the relief of the sufferers, which amounted to £1000. Its contributions to all good and benevolent societies are most generous. There is no stinginess in Plymouth Church. Paying its pastor the handsome salary of £5000 a year, it neglects no good cause whatever. It does not support him so royally at the expense of crippling its generosity in other quarters. And this extraordinary magnanimity is not the result of everlasting dinning and coaxing, and urging from the pulpit, but the spontaneous outflowing of hearts touched and subdued by the spirit of the Saviour. It is very seldom that Mr. Beecher makes an appeal for money. When money is wanted for any purpose, he has only to mention the fact, and the money is instantly forthcoming. But he knows the art of begging, yea, and of scolding too, when circumstances require. Many years ago, when Plymouth Church was not what it is to-day, he was obliged to make the following appeal, which explains itself: “Two weeks ago, I told you that three thousand dollars had got to be raised to pay for the repairs of this house. The plates were sent round, and about six hundred dollars were raised. I was heartily ashamed, and have not got over it yet. Last week the trustees came, and asked me if I would name the matter again, and I said, “No, I will not.' But this week, upon their renewed application, I have consented to speak once more.
If this does not do, you may pay your debt how you can; for I will never mention it again. I am not going to be a pump to be thrust into men's pockets to force up what ought to come up freely. When a surgeon comes to a place where he must cut, he had better cut. For more than a year I have seen that our plate-collections grew meaner and meaner. I did not want to face you with such things as I have got to say to-day, and I put it off as long
as I could. Now I shall speak plainly once for all, not having the face to bring the matter up again. This debt has got to be paid, and will you meet it honourably and pay it like men, or will you let it drip, drip, drip out of you reluctantly, a few dollars at a time? You can take your choice. I am not going to try to drill money out of you as I would drill stones. Our lecture-room holds about three hundred people, and we collect from thirty to eighty dollars there every time we pass the plate. Our best Christians attend the weekly meetings, and they are always the most generous. In this congregation, that numbers over three thousand, we do not average one cent. per head in our collections.
“While there are, thank God, many of His poor among us who cannot give Him a shilling 'without making a difference in all their arrangements for a whole week, there are hundreds of men here who ought to be ashamed ever to give anything but gold, or at least a bill. And they are ashamed to do it. Don't they, when the plate approaches, and they have put their fingers in their pockets and selected a quarter—the smoothest one that they can find—use admirable tact and skill in conveying to the plate, so that no one shall see what they give? Pious souls ! they do not allow their left hand to know what their right hand doeth. If they have two bills, one good, one broken, they will generally give the broken one to the Lord. The amount of meanness among respectable people is appalling. One needs to take a solar microscope in order to see some men. I am willing to give my share, to do what the trustees desire; I shall say no more.” And it is not likely that he had occasion to say any more on that subject. One genuine oldfashioned scolding like that ought to last for twenty years.
It is often alleged by casual attendants, and taken for granted by a few others who know absolutely nothing about the matter, that Plymouth Church is more like a theatre than a place of worship, that there are no signs of reverence and devoutness to be seen in the congregation, and that Mr. Beecher tolerates, if he does not encourage, certain practices which are a desecration of the Sabbath and a profanation of the house of God. This, certainly, is a very grave and
serious charge—in fact a more damaging charge could not be easily preferred; but can it be sustained and proved ? It is said, for instance, that every Sabbath morning before the service, newspapers are as general throughout the church as we sometimes fin hem to be at an evening entertainment in a public hall, and that the people read them with great avidity and supreme enjoyment until the preacher rises to offer the opening prayer. Now, in answer to this charge, made for the most part by those who are not friendly to Mr. Beecher, we have to say, first, that although we have attended Plymouth Church several times within the last twelve years, we have never witnessed such a practice. Newspapers are not commonly read in Plymouth Church. In the next place, Mr. Beecher has referred to this charge from the pulpit, and asserted that if newspapers are read in the church it is done by strangers, not by members of the congregation. It is true that both before and after the service the people exhibit a disposition to be sociable and friendly among themselves. Hand-shaking, noddings of recognition, audible salutations among those who are near one another—these things may be observed there every Sabbath in the year; but is there anything out of place in them? Is the Sabbath broken, or the sanctuary dishonoured by them? Are they contrary to any principle enunciated in the New Testament? Does Christianity countenance stiffness, rigidness, inflexibility, and coldness of manner in its adherents, or does it tend to inspire them with sympathy and love for one another, and a disposition to become interested in one another's affairs? Most assuredly the overwhelming majority of our churches make no endeavour to cultivate sociableness and unity and mutual affection among their members. Reverence is doubtless a transcendent grace, but even reverence, unaccompanied with other virtues, is, like faith, dead and of no account. On its right hand should always be found brotherly love, and on its left genial, spontaneous amiability. Let there be introduced, therefore, into every church more of the home feeling and of that genuine sympathy which would enable all the children of God to stand on the platform of perfect equality. Let there be no class distinctions ; let there be none of that formalism which obtains so disastrously in society, freezing up the tenderest and sweetest sentiments of which the human heart is capable, and let there be no unnatural reserve and false dignity in the church of Jesus Christ—and the result will be the beginning of the reign of prosperity and joy and happiness on the earth.
But it is maintained by some that the services themselves in Plymouth Church are not often conducted with that degree of solemnity and gravity which ought to characterise Divine worship. The word “levity” is sometimes mentioned in this connection. We are told that the indecent custom of applauding the preacher by acclamations, by clapping, and even occasionally by the waving of handkerchiefs, has prevailed there throughout the years. This charge, it must be confessed, is in a measure true; nor would Mr. Beecher himself have any wish to deny it. In years gone by, especially when the church used to be so deeply agitated and concerned about public and national questions, and the tide of popular feeling ran so very high and so very strong, and when Mr. Beecher
was so thoroughly roused, Plymouth Church was often made to ring with demonstrations of applause and with expressions of enthusiastic adherence to the eternal and unchangeable principles of truth and liberty, as disclosed in the gospel dispensation. On one occasion, at the time of the civil war, Mr. Beecher preached to two companies of the Brooklyn Fourteenth," many of whom were members of his church, just as they were on the point of starting for the field of battle. The state of feeling in the community may be easily imagined. He chose for his text these words of the Psalmist, “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth." He hastened over the history of the American flag, showing how God had given it to their fathers because they feared Him, and how they had handed it down from age to age to their children, that it might be displayed in the cause of righteousness and truth; but at this point he became as one inspired, and in a burst of impassioned eloquence exclaimed: “And displayed it shall be. Advanced full against the morning light, and borne with the growing and glowing day, it shall take the last