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and, viewing it as the medicina animæ, the word of eternal life, he aims to exhibit it so as to give it its full effect.
And here I must express it as my full conviction, with due deserence to many who entertain a different opinion, that the habit of depending mainly on a written preparation for the pulpit, is incompatible with the higliest success of the ministry. I believe no man can speak with as much energy, when confined to his notes, as he mighi have done if he had formed the habit of extemporaneous address. A constant attention to the manuscript, the turning over leaves, and depending upon the thoughts there arranged, not only represses feeling, but cramps the energies of the mind; and often a written preparation is a lazy substitute for that severe mental effort which would be necessary for extemporizing. The effect, as it regards mental discipline, upon the minister himself, during a course of years, must be very different,--the habit of constant writing, without much if any excitement, tending to produce tameness of thought; while the habit of reading creates, for the most part, a monotonous delivery, to which may be ascribed, in a great degree, the habit of sleeping in churches. Besides, the effect upon the hearers must be very different on another account. They feel that the man who is extemporizing is dealing directly with them; and the impression is often like that of a personal conversation—it moves and melts the heart, takes hold of the conscience, and, through the divine blessing, determines the will: whereas the man who reads, (exceptions are admitted,) seems to be mainly concerned with his manuscript; at least, this is so generally the case that many of the hearers will not be likely to apply the discourse to themselves. But theory apart--what is the fact? Whitefield's sermons were generally extemporaneous. They were often suggested by passing occurrences; his most striking illustrations were drawn from surrounding objects, or from the known circumstances of some of the congregation. The same is true of Thomas Scott, and Robert Hall. I have heard it remarked, that the revivals which have taken place in New England have been carried on, to a great extent, by meetings in lecture-rooms, and in private houses, where the speaking was extempore, and adapted to the occasion; and Dr. Payson expressed his full conviction, that if any good had been done by his preaching, it was mainly by his extemporaneous
This was his deliberate judgment at the close of his life. When Pearce was very weak," he proposed writing his sermons, that bis mind might not be at liberty to over-do his debilitated frame;" a pretty strong evidence that he considered it the general tendency of the practice to check sceling, and to produce ministerial dullness.
Let us see what were the sentiments of president Edwards on this subject. “He always wrote a considerable part of most of
his public discourses, and read the most that he had written ; yet he was not so confined to bis notes, but that if some thoughts were suggested while he was speaking, which did not occur when writing, and appeared to him pertinent and striking, he would deliver them, and that with as great propriety and fluency, and often with greater pathos, and attended with a more sensible good effect on his hearers, than all he had wrote.' “Yet,” continues his biographer," he was far from thinking this the best way of preaching in general; and looked upon his using his notes so much as he did, a deficiency and infirmity; and in the latter part of his life was inclined to think it had been better, if he had never accustomed bimself to use his notes at all. It appeared to him that preaching wholly without notes, agreeably to the custom in most protestant countries, and what seems evidently to have been the manner of the apostles and primitive ministers of the gospel, was by far the most natural way, and had the greatest tendency, on the whole, to answer the end of preaching. He would have the young preacher write all his sermons, or at least most of them, out at large ; and instead of reading them to his hearers, take pains to commit them to memory; which, though it would require a great deal of labor at first, yet would soon become easier by use, and help him to speak more correctly and freely, and be of great service to him all his days.”
In urging on his brethren the practice of extemporaneous preaching, the writer would by no means intimate, that a minister should wholly lay aside his pen. He is perfectly convinced, on the contrary, that no man can be an accomplished speaker, who does not write much. Such an exercise is necessary to secure correctness, to repress exuberance, and to embody the rich results of long protracted thought. But why need this exercise be suffered to encroach on the services of the pulpit? One of the most distinguished advocates of New England was accustomed, in early life, to write out the substance of every argument he was called upon to make; and then, (laying aside his manuscript,) to address the court or jury with all the accuracy and order resulting from such a preparation, and all the freshness and warmth of extemporaneous speaking. Would not our clergymen be better preachers, if they would learn to follow his example, and leave their sermons at home? To secure accuracy of style and compass of thought, it would be far more useful, also, for a minister to write occasionally for the press, under the excitement created by such an effort, than to go through the incessant drudgery of committing all his sermons to paper. It was thus that the late lamented John H. Rice preserved the pority of his style, and kept up through life the habit of condensing his thoughts; while his preaching had all the variety, and force, and native ease, which are sought for in vain except
in extemporaneous speaking. In view of these considerations, I hope I shall not be thought extravagant in expressing my earnest wish, that such a change may take place in public sentiment on this subject, that the reading of sermons in the pulpit will be no more tolerated than the reading of speeches at the bar, or on the door of congress. When this comes to pass, I have no doubt that distinguished preachers will be far more common than they are at present; and I feel confident that the ministry will—cæteris paribus —be far more efficient.
14. A high degree of enjoyment in the work of the ministry.
Paul and Silas in prison, and with their feet fast in the stocks, and stripes on their backs, were so happy that they could not sleep. At midnight they prayed and sang praises to God. Paul says at another time, “I am filled with comfort ; I am exceeding joyful. Thanks be to God who always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” Whitefield, speaking of a place in London where he and others held their prayer meetings, says, “It was a pentecost season indeed. Sometimes whole nights were spext in prayer. Often have we been filled as with new wine; and often have I seen them overwhelmed with the divine presence, and crying out will God indeed dwell with men upon earth ?' How dreadful is this place! This is no other than the house of God and the gate of heaven.” He says in his Journal, “I have been upon the stretch, preaching constantly for almost three weeks—my body is often extremely weak, but the joy of the Lord is my strength, and by the help of God I intend going on till I drop, or this poor carcase can hold out no more.” Again he complains of being sick, but says, “ The Redeemer fills me with comfort. I am determined in his strength to die fighting.” “Go where I will," says he, “in the Island of Bermuda, upon the least notice houses are crowded, and the
souls that follow are soon drenched in tears." Scotland," he says, “ thousands and thousands have I seen, before it was possible to catch it by sympathy, melted down under the word and power of God." With such scenes almost constantly before him, how could he be otherwise than happy ?
Brainerd, though naturally of a desponding cast of mind, had exalted enjoyment in his labors for the heathen, and seemed to be most successful when most happy. “I confided,” says he,“ in God that he would never leave me, though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It was then my meat and drink to be holy; to live to the Lord and die to the Lord; and I thought that I then enjoyed such a heaven, as far exceeded the most sublime conceptions of an unregenerate soul. I did not wonder that Peter said 'Lord, it is good to be here,' when thus refreshed with divine glories."
It is said of Pearce, that " he seemed to have learnt that heavenly
art, so conspicuous among the primitive christians, of converting every thing he met with into materials for love, and joy, and praise.
The constant happiness he enjoyed in God, was apparent in the effects of his sermons upon others. Whatever we feel ourselves, we shall, ordinarily, communicate to our hearers ; and it has been noticed that one of the distinguishing properties of his discourses was, that they inspired the serious mind with the liveliest sensations of happiness. They descended upon the audience, not indeed like a transporting food, but like a shower of dew, gently insinuating itself into the heart, insensibly dissipating its gloom, and gradually drawing forth the graces of faith, hope, love, and joy. While the countenance was brightened almost into a smile, tears of pleasure would rise, and glisten, and fall from the admiring eye.
“ Within these few years," says Andrew Fuller, “ my soul has not only recovered its former tone, but, blessed be God! a greater degree of spiritual strength, than at any former period; and I think my engagement in the work of the mission has, more than any thing, contributed to it. Before this, I did little but pore over my misery ; but since I have betaken myself to greater activity for God, my strength has been recovered, and my soul replenished. I have not been contented with ransacking for past evidences of love 10 God, but have been enabled 10 love and serve him afresh; looking for mercy to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.” At a subsequent period of his life he says, “I bless God I never enjoyed more peace and communion with him in my life, than within the last three quarters of a year. I find it of great use to my oun soul, to be engaged in some disinterested undertaking for promoting the kingdom of Christ.”
Much of Payson's experience was like that of Brainerd. After passing through many dark hours and painful conflicts, the scene brightens, and he was favored with seasons of ecstatic enjoyment, equal to any thing to be found in the records of experimental religion. “O what a Master do I serve!” says he: "I have known nothing, felt nothing all my days, even in comparison with what I now see in Him.
Never was preaching such sweet work as it is now.” “This good news,” (referring to some indications of a revival,) "filled me with joy and triumph. 0, I wanted, even then, to begin my eternal song; and excess of happiness became almost painful. Could scarcely sleep for joy.” At another time, he speaks of his having such a manifestation, that he says, “I would not have given a straw for the additional proof which a visible appearance of Christ would have afforded of his presence.” Again, towards the close of life, he says, “ If my happiness continues to increase, I cannot support it much longer.'
On being asked if his views of heaven were clearer and brighter than ever, ho said: “For a few moments I may have bad as bright, but for
merly my joys were tumultuous; now all is calm and peaceful.” “I think the happiness I enjoy is similar to that enjoyed by glorified spirits before the resurrection.” His letter to his sister will be remembered by all who have read his life, as one of the most astonishing productions ever dictated by man while clothed with the garments of mortality. “I can find no words to express my happiness; I seem to be swimming in a river of pleasure, which is carrying me on to the great fountain.” Thus he continued until his sun set in a flood of glory, and he died exclaiming, “peace! peace! victory! victory !" May the writer, and all who may read these pages, so live, that, through grace, we may end our lives thus triumphantly!
Art. II.—THE DIFFUSIVE NATURE
Jf the patronage of the public were demanded for some invention of our countryman Perkius, simply on the ground of bis ingenuity, and the practical utility of his other inventions, how would the demand be answered ? Doubtless the mere name of such a man would excite the favorable attention of the community. But is it credible, that the charm of a name could put to silence the inquiries of a people proverbially shrewd in matters of this kind, and introduce any invention into the manufacturing establishments of our land, before its utility had been demonstrated by examination and trial? It must depend on the nature of the invention itself, whether it be brought into general use.
A similar remark may be made respecting any human undertaking of a public nature. We commend the foresight of that man, who examines well into the intrinsic excellence of a work which he designs for the public eye, and its adaptedness to the taste and wants of the community. We advise him to trust to these qualities for success, rather than to the authority of his own name, or that of his friends. The authority of no man, and we think we may say it without irreverence, not even the authority of God himself, can force upon the world that which is unsuitable in its nature to the end for which it was designed. On the other hand, that which has a natural fitness will make its way by the force of its own authority.
This principle applies in matters of still higher moment. Why do the best statesmen maintain that the fundamental principles of republican government will, one day, be universally prevalent, if it is not because republicanism is suited to man, in the full and happy exercise of his faculties? The nature and fitness of this form of government is a pledge of its universality.