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to the children of light. It is the state religion, where there is any such ; and where there is not, it affects to be. It allies itself prudently with political power; it seeks precedence in clerical processions and at government institutions; it calls upon Governors to change their proclamations for Thanksgiving Days, and upon Presidents to modify their appointments for fasting and prayer. This is not a powerless religion. The greatest power the world ever witnessed was once wielded by it. Using such facilities as were within its control, the Asthetic Religion once went up to a standing place where it uncrowned kings at its pleasure; where it put whole provinces under ban; and where emperors stood all night barefoot at its door. We admit that liturgical forms and outward glories have been associated with great power; but it was not power of that kind which a true Christianity wields. There is a religion which not only rules men, but converts them; there is a religion that puts God's law into the mind and unites it in the heart; and with that kind of religion, all outward forms and dazzling glories are either made to contribute to the spiritual improvement of mankind, or are sent off from the field as camp followers that cumber the march.
One of the most prominent characteristics of such a religion is its respect for doctrine. The doctrines are the same to the Christian system, that the bones are to the human body, or the timbers to a ship. They form a solid framework, on which to build. If they are taken from the system, stripped of their appropriate covering, and presented in dry skeleton outline, they minister very little to either strength or beauty; and a great mistake has been made sometimes in the preaching of the doctrines by setting them forth in this uninviting and unspiritual way. But, when doctrine is put forward in living form, when it puts on flesh and blood and is animated with a living soul, it stands firm against all assaults, and goes forth to the noblest conquests. A man is fit for no work with his bones unjointed; neither can a ship battle successfully with a storm if its timbers hang loosely together. So neither can the church bear the shock and strain of her many encounters, unless she keeps the articles of her faith well bolted the one to the other. Take these away, and she is a spineless mass of pulp and poetry, fit enough to be passed over into the hands of the "doll's dress maker,” and to be played with by big children who must be kept out of mischief on Sunday, but absolutely good for nothing for either work or war.
And hence it will be observed that it is a characteristic of the religion of æsthetic proprieties and liturgical services, always to put the doctrines in a low place. This indeed is unavoidable; for doctrine is stiff and unyielding; in some of its aspects quite refusing to accommodate itself to the line of beauty; and here and there presenting some very angular forms. Doctrine appeals first to our sense of sin and our sense of God, treating our sense of the beautiful as a very subordinate consideration. It does not work in well therefore with a religion of art forms and ceremonial glories. For that, something more flexible is needed ; such a religion is better served by gothic arches and painted windows, by intoned responses and flowing vestments; and if anything more is wanted, a step further on you will come to the candles and crosses, the censers and the beads and the bells.
Hence it will be found true, as a matter of history, that whenever it is attempted to work up Christian worship as one of the fine arts, doctrine declines. The church of Rome, which probably presents the most perfect illustration of the ascendancy of the æsthetic in religion, which the world ever saw, equally illustrates the utter abandonment of the doctrines of the Gospel, by any people calling themselves Christians. That great communion, intent upon her pictures and processions, turns her back upon the Bible and cries out against the article of justification by faith, “ Anathema! Maranatha” ! And every attempt to follow her upon this career of outward forms, though it be only to follow her half way, results proportionally in the same neglect. A church that bases herself chiefly upon her liturgical performances, may have her articles of faith indeed, but it will make no difference whether they number “ Thirty nine" or thirty nine hundred; for she will be as unsettled in doctrine, as if she had expunged the whole from her prayer-book. In all her readings, which will be many, there will be no reading of “The Articles”; and her preaching will be quite as much in defiance as in defence of them. Such a church, beside presenting to the world along with much that is good, the strangely agglomerated “Calvinistic creed, Arminian clergy, and Popish ritual”; may raise up “Essayists and Reviewers” to wield their pens against the credibility of the New Testament miracles, and quite possibly turn out a missionary bishop or two who will write down the “Five Books of Moses”! In other communions, individual cases of apostasy may occur; but it takes a liturgical union to go over bodily against her own Articles, and to give us avowed infidels in the “Apostolic Succession.”
Now when we remember that doctrine is but another name for truth, we see how great a power æsthetic religion must always sacrifice; for there is nothing so mighty, and especially so mighty against opposition as truth. To use a homely illustration, taken at second hand, “truth is like a snow-ball”; if you create a genial atmosphere around it, the first
know it will perhaps have melted out of sight; but when you see its enemies casting it out into the cold, you have nothing further to fear for it. One good frosty night would make it as hard as a diamond; and if some one
shall now endeavor to kick it out of the world, you shall see it rolling up volume as it goes ; till, reaching some great precipice prepared for it by Providence, it shall thunder down with all the weight of an avalanche. Such a truth has been making such a leap quite lately in our country and the earth yet vibrates with the mighty concussion.
And when you take up not one truth, but many such, and combine them into one of those creeds which a late convention manifested so natural a fear of, you have still greater power. Union is strength, and the solid doctrines of a well digested system, like the several plates of a galvanic battery, generate a force by contact, which can not be found in any of them alone. The religion, therefore, that would be strong, must rib itself round with a consistent statement of doctrine.
Such a religion alone can fully avail itself of the power of the pulpit. Where doctrine is put out of sight, the pulpit has really very little of value to work upon; and the result is that in such communions it is made little account of." The Service! The Service! The Beautiful Service !” cry the admiring crowd ; and our Lord's command to go into all the world and preach,
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is quite omitted from the record. Corresponding to this assignment of an inferior place to preaching, you will find certain peculiarities in the church architecture of the liturgical sects. In the great Romish churches of Europe, the little receptacle designed for the preacher might be sought after by a Protestant for some time before he found it; and when he found it, he might be in doubt for what use it was intended. It is glued up against the wall in a corner; or it hangs like a bird's nest from a single pillar-in which act there is the clearest æsthetic propriety. It is said that in a large portion of the Greek church there is no preaching at all, the entire dependance being placed upon the liturgical forms. And there is another church, neither Romish nor Greek, though recently revealing some strong affinities for the latter, in which it is quite often insisted that people will never do well till they cease to go up to the sanctuary " to hear sermons.” Indeed, considerable anxiety is manifested at times, lest the pulpit should be made too prominent when we convene for Sabbath service. Perhaps it may. Perhaps we do not pay the attention we ought to the other exercises of thie sanctuary. Most ministers could make some improvement in the public reading of the Scriptures or even in the giving out of a hymn; a large number would do well to prepare themselves more thoroughly for leading their congregations in the service of prayer; and it need not be denied that some exercises might be introduced into many congregations with decided profit, which would seem to certain people half liturgical. This, however, is nothing to the purpose as affecting the question of preaching the Word. Let us bring the other exercises up if need be, but let us not bring that down; and let us take care not to allow the impression to prevail too inconsiderately, that preaching is in any sense an inferior exercise to prayer and praise. Our Saviour did not so reckon it when he gave out the great commission ; nor did the apostles so treat it in the fulfillment of their work. "Go ye into all the world and preach,” were their marching orders; and right well did they execute the command. We do not just now remember of an instance in which Paul is said to have "read service,” or in which Peter intoned the prayers.'
Trace these men where you will, among the wild men of Lycaonia, in the Jewish synagogues,
or among the cultured Greeks at Athens itself, it is all one thing. They are known and heard from as preachers; and in that character do they exert their great power for the Christian faith. Will not some one be so kind as to tell us where the notion came from that prayer and praise are more serious, more important, more acceptable to God than preaching the Word ? Is it nobler, wiser, better, more becoming, in us poor sinners, to always stand talking to God; or would it be as reverent and appropriate, sometimes to sit reverently down and wait to hear what he, by his appointed instrumentality, would say to us? God is great, and we do well to adore him; but he has something to say to us by the arrangement for preaching, and it is wise and well for us thoughtfully to attend upon it. Talk of bringing down the pulpit to a lower standard in such an age as this? of paying less attention to the very thing our Saviour set his ambassadors to do? You would damage the church beyond all estimate by such a movement. Satisfy this thinking American people with " reading service "; this people, so intense and eager in everything else, with elegant proprieties and imposing ceremonies? We have outgrown all that; those are the clothes that children wear. The only way to bring down the pulpit is to put men into it who will not study and who can not preachand when any denomination has pretty extensively applied that remedy already, their anxiety on the subject ought to be quieted. The world needs truth, strong, doctrinal truth, brought forth with all the energy of a heart in love with it, and with all the effectiveness of eloquent speech. "Go, teach all nations,” saith the Lord, and that church best fulfills its mission that adheres most closely to these terms.
That kind of religion, of which strength rather than beauty is the leading element, also has upon it the mark of purity. It is the nature of corruption to produce weakness. When it invades the human body it unfits one for work; and when it prevails in the church, her strength and her influence depart, and even her courage gives way. As a general rule it will also be observed, that a church is guarded against corruption by sound doctrine. "Sanctify them through thy truth,” said our Saviour; and sound doctrine applied by faithful preaching to all the concerns of life certainly makes men better. Thus it happens that whenever we