페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

This fact, of the direct contemplation of God in proper worship, of course enjoins the obligations of sincerity, purity, lowliness, and reverence, but these are not now in view so much as the claims of a true propriety. In a service addressed to God, as all may see, there is no place for the same colloquial freedom which is allowed in conference with men. The temper, the thought, the language, the voice, must be affected by this difference. There cannot be the same familiarity at the throne of grace as in conversation. There can be no defense for the minister who, according to a child's natural, just criticism, "prayed as if God were his cousin," or another who conducted family worship in such a manner that a boy asked, "Does God like such praying?"

Hence, too, prettinesses of expression, polite phrases, and flourishes of rhetoric, are out of place in prayers and hymns. As opposed to these things, simplicity is indispensable. The imagination, however naturally fervid, must be chastened as far as the presence of God is felt. The petitioner must not declaim.

In the same view, we object to what is called "preaching prayer," which aims directly aud consciously at effect upon the human hearers. The only effect that ought to be sought directly, is upon the divine hearer. It is true that this service has a most salutary influence upon the assembly, yet such an influence itself requires that it be not directly aimed at, but left to flow from a proper appeal to God. For the same reason the singing that is obviously designed, like an artistic performance, to please the assembly, belongs to a musical con. cert rather than to the worship of God. In fine, the end pro. posed, both in prayers and hymns, is the expression of devout affection; and impression is not a legitimate object except as it may be reached secondarily and incidentally, which, indeed, is the most effectual way of reaching it.

A second consideration is the fact that the minister is the organ of the worshiping congregation. He is a priest in this sense that he represents them before the divine throne. He conducts their worship. Hence, he says, " Let us pray;" and since such a relation must always be taken for granted, this simple form is better, because more simple, than "Let u» unite in prayer." So far, indeed, as the people may act for themselves, there is no reason why they should be only represented, and therefore congregational singing, as far as it can be had, answers more nearly than any other to the idea of public worship. There is the same argument for certain brief forms of prayer, such as the Lord's prayer, which may be conveniently uttered both by the minister and the people. It is as unreasonable to exclude all prescribed forms among the people, as to exclude all extemporaneous utterance on the part of the minister. The service, whether of the one sort or the other, is properly what it is called in the title of the Episcopal prayerbook, "Common Prayer," being common in the sense of the phrase, "the common salvation," since it purports to be the offering of the congregation, and not of the minister alone. For this reason, if we were treating now of the proprieties of the pews, we should insist on the people bearing some part in all the offices of worship, not only actively in praise, but at least in some posture of consent in prayer.

Since the minister stands in this relation, it becomes him, moreover, to conduct the service as though it were his prerogative, and were expected of him in his place. Hence we cannot like to hear him say, "The choir will please to sing," or "omit if you please," or "shall we sing?" or the like parlorphraseology, instead of, simply, as his office authorizes, "Let ns sing." Might he not as properly say, "Shall we pray?" or, "If you please, let us pray?" If we mistake not, there is in such usages an indication of what is still more plainly shown in other ways, the notion that singing is not as strictly as praying an act of worship.

But still more we insist, that as the organ of the church the minister must truly represent their condition, capacities, wants, and feelings. His confessions, petitions, and thanksgivings, must be such as they could utter with one voice, or as he can have their sympathy in uttering. Now it is generally acknowledged that his use of an unknown tongue, speaking for himself, but to them unintelligibly, would violate this rule. Yet he violates it no less if for any reason he is beyond or above the range of their sympathy in thought, or feeling, or language. It is for him to lead them; and, if possible, so to lead as to allure and advance them; but he must so lead that they can follow him, which certainly they cannot do up and down every by-way of fancy, or among the pyrotechnics of eccentric feeling, or in the rarified air of mysticism. A prayer may be strictly too poetical, in the better sense of the word i and still more unbecoming is rhapsody or sentimentalism. It has its admirers, yet they utterly mistake this canon of all criticism, that the worship which purports to come from the people must represent the people.

The same rule may be violated by a certain refined, elevated spirituality. High experiences, like subtle speculations, may belong to the minister's own exercises, but cannot become him as the organ of the church. His interior history, his individual type of piety, may have an interest as his own, but what have we to do with these when he and they—and they through him—are looking to God? Hi* idiosyncasy thus obtruded is an impertinence. Some would have the min ster sunk in the man: rather we would sink the man in the minister,—not in an official personage, yet in the living minister, whenever he represents the church, as when 'e says, "Let us pray."

In this connection occurs a caution against the excessive quaintness or originality—it will be called the one or the other as it is disliked or relished—whether in thought or language, which continually startles the worshipers. Two devout and cultivated persons were conversing on this general subject, the one a Baptist, the other an Episcopalian, and while the first complained that where prescribed forms were used he always knew what was coming next, the other complained that without them he never knew what was coming next. Either of the two contrary extremes thus described in the condition of the worshipers may impair the effect. Extempore prayer, which we have now in view, may the less expose them to inattention through familiarity, yet, on the other hand, it may be of such a sort as to surprise, or even bewilder or perplex them, so far as not the less to defeat its proper end, and this the more by reason of its ill-directed intellectual activity. Whatever other merits it may have, it must fail as public prayer if it cannot represent and lead their devotiors, if it moves them rather to wonder than to pray, rather to study the minister than to worship God.

For the same reason there should be in his drees and manners as little as possible to attract attention to his individuality. With this view we might concede some advantage in a simple garb, common to his class, though it is sometimes complained of for this very reason; since it may be suitable to the saeredness of his function, by hiding personal diversities among those who agree in that function if in nothing else, and hence diverting attention from himself. At any rate, eccentricity of personal appearance, however it may stimulate curiosity, diverts the minds of the worshipers from the very office which brings him at once nearest to them and to his master. It has been well said, that in preaching a man should hide himself behind the cross: no less in conducting public prayer he should hide himself at the foot of the throne.

We might add another consideration: public worship is a stated, frequent service. Hence it will naturally be marked with a certain equablenesss and self-possession which might not be expected of extraordinary occasions. To attempt to carry it forward in the manner of a specialty, or sensationally, uo if it were a camp-meeting or a Pentecostal festival, is foreign and uncongenial. The incidents of novelty, fresh excitement, surprise, and picturesqueness, do not give character to common, social life, and public worship is the common, social life of the church. Nor will they fail, if imported into it, to impair in the long run the interest they were expected to enhance.

In a similar way we might reason from the natural associations with which the minister's function and surroundings are invested, that they impose laws of propriety which may not jightly be set aside. But we have gone far enough to indicate at least the method for just criticism on this subject. It shonld be the concern of every minister, by the decency and order of his public services, as well as in his doctrine and life, to commend himself first indeed to his Master, but for that end to the judgments also of thoughtful, cultivated, Christian worshipers.

Article VII.—THE NEW CRITICISM.

Within the present century, there has come into being a description of criticism which is familiarly designated as the historical or philosophical criticism. Our libraries and bookshops are furnished with many books which are made up of criticisms of other books. Not only is there a countless number of essays devoted to the criticism and interpretation of single authors and even of single works, but whole volumes are occupied with the illustration of great authors or some one of their works. We have more than one series of essays, and even whole libraries, devoted to critiques upon single writers, as Homer, Goethe, and Shakespeare. Active controversies have arisen between the partisans of opposing theories. Indeed, critiques and counter critiques are so abundant, that it almost seems as though this was the age of nothing but criticism, and literature were nothing if not critical. In other words there now exists a special department of literature which is employed in the interpretation and judgment of literature itself. It has enlisted the services of many of the ablest writers of their time, some of whom have not only been distinguished as critics of the productions of men of surpassing genius, but have also themselves been known as the foremost writers of their generation. We need name only Goethe, the Schlegels, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Mad. deStael, St. Beuve, Wilson, and Matthew Arnold. Criticism itself has become a department of literature, and is justified in its claims by being also historical, philosophical, and almost creative of itself.

This new criticism, in the eminent sense of the phrase, may be said to be of German origin, though it has attained a vigorous growth on English soil. That it should first have taken form in Germany was natural. It is the natural outgrowth of extensive reading, joined with an appreciative imagination and reflective sagacity. It must necessarily have been somewhat late in its development. As men must act poems before they write them,—as one or many must act the hero, before

« 이전계속 »