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dry and unprofitable. Illustrations of these remarks we might draw from all his discourses. It will suffice to select but one.
On a certain occasion a lawyer “ stood up and tempted him.” He begged to know how he could secure eternal life. Jesus, in reply, referred him to the divine law, and questioned him as to his knowledge of it. He answered discreetly, giving a summary of the decalogue, and our Lord made application of it to his conscience. Willing, however, to justify himself, and troubled especially, it would seem, by the second great commandment, he began to question Jesus in respect to the duty it enjoins. “Who is my neighbor ?” What is the nature and extent of the benevolence required? A great question this—a grand point in theology, proposed, too, by a learned and subtle man, and addressed to one “in whom are held all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” How, think you, did he reply? Let conjecture, for a moment, take the place of memory, and the thoughtworn theologue answer after his kind. “ He defined true benevolence, doubtless," methinks I hear one say, “ as the love of being in general.” “ Whatever else, he said,” another relies," he made this point clear, unquestionably, that of all specific, voluntary action, happiness is the ultimate end.” “Whatever view he took,” says another, “ he doubtless entered deeply into the nature of moral distinctions, and the ground of moral obligation; into the relations of man to his fellow-man, and the origin and scope of the social affections. His definitions, it may be presumed, were the most exact, his analysis profound and perfect, and his exposition of the whole subject-of its metaphysical aspects especially—clear, logical, and systematic.” Turn we now to the record, and not a single definition do we find, not a solitary analytical process, notone abstract statement, not the merest shadow of metaphysics. His response was but a simple allegory: “A certain man came down from Jerusalem unto Jericho, and fell among thieves.” We need not repeat the rest, it is fresh in the reader's recollection. Instead of defining, or analyzing, or abstracting benevolence, he painted it, he bade it live and move, in human form, as it were, before his cavilling auditor.
The great importance of simplicity in preaching, is apparent from various considerations. It is impossible without it to interest deeply the common people. By abstract and excessively analytic discourse, they are little moved, and less profited. They may admire, vaguely, the preacher's profoundness, but they understand him not, and weariness soon ensues. They care much less, indeed, for the recondite qualities of things, than for their obvious and practical nature. If truth interests them at all, it is in the living and palpable forms which the Bible gives it. If the water of life allures them, it is not as decomposed, but as it flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. And the common people, be it remembered, are the great mass of the people, the great majority of our hearers, and withal the most hopesul subjects of ministerial labor. It was so in the days of Christ. His ministry was chiefly attended by the plain people, and of that class were most of his followers. He had good reason, then, for adapting his preaching to such. And so have his ministers now. He of whom it cannot be said that the common people hear him gladly, may look for little success as a preacher of the gospel. He may be distinguished as a poet, or a critic, as a historian, an antiquarian, or a metaphysician, as deeply versed in theology even-but not as winning souls to Christ.
The wisdom of our Lord's example, in respect to the point in hand, may be still further evinced. Simplicity of discourse is quite as effective with the truly intellectual, as with the common people. It is no indication of feebleness or poverty of mind, but the very reverse. It is easy enough to make a plain subject dark, by pedantic and profitless distinctions and definitions; but it is one of the highest achievements of intellect to make a dark subject so plain, that all shall wonder it ever seemed otherwise. Never is learning so magnified, as when she passes over her processes, and gives you her simple results. So the truly learned judge. Hence they respect most highly the preacher who, other things being equal, is most eminent for simplicity of discourse. And the preaching of such a man, is to them, as well as the common people, the most impressive. The truth is, the commonest sympathies of our race, ihe most ordinary springs of action, are ever the mightiest. Ascertain what chord is of deepest tone in the hearts of the multitude, and you have learned what chord will vibrate most powerfully in the bosoms of the intellectual few.
Another leading characteristic of our Saviour's preaching was its directness. It is possible that pulpit discourse should fail in this point, even when in some good degree spiritual and simple. We mean by directness, such a manner of exhibiting truth, as makes the audience feel that they themselves are concerned in it. It is quite possible so to present human depravity, that even the attentive hearer shall hardly be reminded that he is depraved ; so to insist on penitence, that he shall hardly once think of it as a duty which he should perform. You may so speak of “the sinner," or of“ sinners," that you shall scarcely be suspected of the slightest reference to the persons present. And though your teaching be orthodox, and your announcements of coming wrath distinct and emphatic, every heart before you may be as quiet as if your discourse had related to the dwellers in some other planet. It was eminently otherwise with Christ. He always made his hearers feel, not only that his speech was to them, but that they were interested in the truths he uttered. He not only declared to Nicodemus the general doctrine of the new birth, but he said also, “ Ye must be born again.” “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things ?” To one who was curious to learn whether few or many would be saved, he said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate;" thus reminding bim that it should be his main object to secure his own salvation. In addressing the Scribes and Pharisees, his application of truth was often most pungent and terrible.
• Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men ; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” “Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.” As on a certain occasion he was uttering reproofs like these, one of the lawyers said to him, “ Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also." But so far from retracting or qualifying what he had uttered, our Lord promptly replied, “Wo unto you, also, ye lawyers !" It is said, in a certain place, that “when the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.” He so shaped his discourse on a particular occasion, that "they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last.” And the testimony of the woman of Samaria was, “ Come, see a man which told me all the things that ever I did.”
In all this he exhibited great fearlessness. For he knew full well it would give offence to many, and provoke, at times, the most violent opposition. And such, doubtless, to some extent, will be the result of a similar strain of preaching at the present day. It will be unhesitatingly adopted, however, by the wise and faithful minister. He can hope, otherwise, for but little success. A general statement of truth-a statement of it as relating to the world at large—the deceitful and selfflattering heart will be likely to disregard. It is only as “thou art the man,” rings in the perishing sinner's ear, that preaching does its perfect work. We are not, indeed, at liberty, as we have before remarked, to adopt the air of majesty, or the tone of awful severity, which sometimes marked our Lord's discourses. But our speech may, like his, abound in the second, rather than the third person. We may rest not till each hearer feels that he is intended. And as subservient to such a result, we should beware, as our Lord did, of needlessly qualifying truth. How broadly and boldly did he state it-in what paradoxes sometimes ! “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it be already kindled ?” “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” How unlike was his manner in this respect to a certain cautious and circumlocutory way of preaching. It is quite possible to utter the great verities of the gospel, with such qualifications, exceptions, limitations, provisos, and reserves, that though they may still retain in some sense their identity, they not only lose much of their appropriate force and beauty, but what is specially to be deplored, their application to individual cases is much less likely to be felt.
The excellence of our Lord's preaching is further manifest as we advert to its symmetry. By this we intend, generally, that every thing pertaining to his discourses was in due proportion. There was, in his ministry, no improper magnifying of any one doctrine or duty, no exclusive dwelling on any one topic. Nor was any one class of hearers regarded to the overlooking of others. He rightly divided the word, giving to every one a portion in due season. It would be a pleasant and edifying work, to review our Lord's discourses with reference either to the variety of topics presented, and the symmetrical development of each, or to the varieties of character and condition to which his instructions had appropriate reference. We shall confine ourselves, however, to another and somewhat less obvious view.
Our Lord's preaching may be regarded as of perfect symmetry, in respect to its wise adaptation to the whole nature of man, its due regard to all the departments of his complex being. Considered as the subject of pulpit ministrations, he may be described as made up of intellect, conscience, and heart. And preaching may be characterized from its bearing on these several parts of his compound nature. It is not affirmed, of course, that it is possible to address human beings on religious subjects without appealing, more or less, to all these conjoined capacities. But it is quite possible-as facts have abundantly shown-to give some one of them disproportionate attention. There are those who preach chiefly to the intellect, to the comparative neglect of the conscience and the heart. There are others who discourse mainly to the conscience, to the neglect of the heart and the intellect. And there are others still who address the heart chiefly, to the neglect of both the other departments of our being. Such faults, however, receive no countenance from the Saviour's ministry.
Preaching may be addressed, we have said, too exclusively to the intellect. Dry and unprofitable will such discourse be, whether of the topical or textual sort. Even when it keeps closest to the divine word—with its green pastures and still waters—it fails of furnishing appropriate spiritual nutriment. It is not under the attenuated, plodding metaphysician alone, that
“The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed." In like unhappy plight may be the flocks of some who value themselves greatly on their exegetical skill
. Preachers we have certainly heard, who reminded us forcibly of a quaint remark of Ralph Cudworth. “There is,” says he,“ a caro and a spiritus, a flesh and a spirit, a body and a soul, in all the writings of the Scriptures. It is but the flesh and body of divine truths that is printed upon paper, which many moths of books and libraries do only feed upon; many walking skeletons of knowledge, that bury and entomb truths in the living sepulchres of their souls, do only converse with ; such as never did any thing else but pick at the mere bark and rind of truths, and crack the shells of them.” But let us not be understood to decry the exercise of intellect in the pulpit, or the fullest appeal to the mental capacities. The human understanding is tasked to the utmost by the religion of Christ. And the gospel is eminently conducive to vigor and enlargement of mind. The wise preacher will beware, however, of that sort of discourse which
“ Plays round the head, but comes not to the heart.” He will beware of addressing the intellect to the neglect of